Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Frank Finale – December 28, 2007

The embittered state of the Zappa community at this moment in history, and the rift with the ZFT has me pining for a simpler time – when Frank was in charge, making music and the wars were with the tyrannical record companies, not between the fans and the Zappa family, of all things.

Reading about the various Frank-celebrating musical endeavors that are in peril because of letters like Barry at KUR got is heartbreaking. Musicians go and learn wonderful Frank music, take the trouble to play it live for an eager public and are made to feel like war criminals, intentionally or not, for this wholesome activity.

There's a case to be made that Gail ought to deal with the fans as allies, and personally rather than through attorneys and impersonal letters. Because that's what we are, really. Doing so would be a more fitting and effective way to accomplish the ZFT's intellectual property protection issues. And not piss everyone off so dang much.

But you know what? Just as the present-day composer refuses to die, The Year of the Freak is imminent. What I get out of that is, no matter what, we still have the great music and no one can wreck our relationship with it.

So, for the Dec. 28, 2007 Zappa's Grubby Chamber, the last show of the year, I'm just going to spin a bunch of meat-and-potatoes great FZ tunes willy nilly over the air, with only the rhyme and reason Frank imbued into them.

As we end another broadcast year, it's back to being about the Zappa music rather than the politics of Zappa music.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

That's College Rhythm – December 21, 2007

Jesse Alm & Gianni Bisio at the KHUM studio
before the Dec. 21, 2007 Zappa's Grubby Chamber.

One of Dweezil's missions with the Zappa Plays Zappa tours is to expose younger people to Frank's music. A noble endeavor, to be sure.

But you know what? By some mystical process, younger musically-intense folk who need Zappa do find their way to him and his incomparable repertoire, even without adult proselytising.

Some "Get in Touch With [Their] Inner Zappa" via the academic route, while others make contact with once-young case of arrested development accidentally placed in charge of a venerable radio show.

The serious young musicians intuitively equivilate the really good shit – Radiohead, Jethro Tull, Zappa – regardless of the decade in which it was produced.

In my travels, I've come to know two college-age guys who grok the greatness of Frank. They'll both be on the show tomorrow night – in fact, they're running it.

In alphabetical order:

Jesse Alm, 19, is the Arcata Eye's Glances editor, and a brilliant (my opinion) young writer and journalist. A student at the University of California San Diego, Jesse's majoring in International Studies with a minor in Political Science. He plays cello and piano, listens to "a lot of jazz," and particularly enjoys Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock and Medeski, Martin & Wood. His musical guilty pleasure is reggae. He likes to play frisbee, too.

Jesse likes Frank to the extent of e-mailing me during the show requesting Frank covers by other bands that I don't even know about.

Jesse co-hosts the show with a man two years his senior, Mr. Gianni Bisio. Gianni used to be a checker at Murphy's Sunny Brae Market, and knows more about '70s prog than I do, in molecular detail, even though I freaking lived through it. I'd go in to buy my deplorable groceries, and we'd end up in a half-hour discussion of John Wetton's career in the salad dressing aisle. Now he's a Psychology major at Sacramento State.

Asked to name three main musical influences, Gianni lists Jimi Hendrix, the Moody Blues and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Again, he's 21. Note that Gianni can tell you everything about Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, and probably even Marillion - probably more than the guys who were in those bands. I've never really successfully gotten him into Tull, though – it just never took. (Update: He's WAAAY into Tull - my mistake!) But he understands Frank, and that's really all that matters.

So, the premise of this week's show is College Rhythm. My goal is to have Jesse and Gianni do most of the song selection and commentary. I'm extending the charter of the show beyond Frank tunes, to include other musicks that these guys know about that might appeal to Frank fans. We'll have them play tunes, then talk about their cosmic significance in Zappa's universe.

Call or write during the show if you want; you know how.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gail's Side – December 15, 2007

Note: below is my inquiry to Gail Zappa and her reply. – KLH


Since I'm a newspaper editor, I know all too well that it's unwise to opine before hearing all sides.

If you were able to shed any light at all on the reasoning behind the lawyer letter to Barry at KUR, I'm sure it would be helpful to many.

Zappa's Grubby Chamber



I am going to take you at your word (without proof or a reason to do so) and answer your question. Thanks for asking. If you want to do the actual research it takes to understand the evolution of this particular circumstance, be my guest. I am not going to recount it for you.

Apart from any real, new, or naive fans seeing our properties on various sites and somehow having the idea that we are supporting these or authorizing them by virtue of their 'use', among other of the many problems that we continue to face as the rights owners of all things Zappa is how to protect our copyrights and what is the risk of failure to do so. This always means spending dollars to chase virtual pennies. Not a great or rewarding plan.

(Oh yes, and they always claim they are spending so much money to honor FZ. Cacadoody. It is the Music, not gossip and fiction and innuendo that bring fans to Zappa.)

My favorite idea of a good time in these instances would be to be able to authorize these "fan" sites and work with them as part of the education and cooperation process - even though that is time-consuming. In the main, these people NEVER write or contact us up front to ask permission. (Considerate fans do.)

Unfortunately it is not always fans - but rather people who have their own agenda and do not wish it to be interfered with. There are so many that cast themselves as 'god' and then cast FZ in their own image. This is not fun for us. Ignorance is ignorable to a degree. But when you see the abuse level increase with the posting of obviously copyrighted material where no permission was sought or even contemplated and when that expands to include the posting of bit torrents or links to them, including work that we just published, the lines get drawn pretty swiftly.

It should be noted that some of this is done on an autopilot basis - in the sense that some of the letters generated by our legal representatives and others happen without being able to advance the possibilities of a resolution. Lately however, as our ability to increase the output from the Vault expands, we are more dismayed than ever at how rude, crude and insensitive these purported "fans" can be. And the proof that they are actually not fans is in their utter disregard for FZ's works and their meanness toward my (FZ's/our) family that they express - along with the considerable abuse of copyrighted materials and trademarks. Real fans do not do that.

The idea that these types are doing us any favors is preposterous. The idea that anyone thinks these properties were created for them to use as they wish is preposterous. But the idea that they have the self-appointed right to to so is against the law as protected under the Constitution of the United States of America and enforced by whatever legal means available to us and to Frank Zappa during his lifetime.

We did not write these laws but they have made it possible for FZ to make a living and to provide for his family doing the very thing he loved - writing Music. And they have made it possible for us to continue to survive preserving those very works. Consider if we could not do so - there would be no Vault.

Since his death people can (and do) make any claim they wish as to what they think FZ would do - or say or think. But I do not wish to waste my time on this. I still work for FZ. And my promise, my duty and my obligation remains - to protect the integrity of the work and the intent of the Composer and in service to this purpose I will defend his identity and the right for his name (image & likeness) to be associated with his work - and the right for the work to remain unaltered, and unabused by others. I will continue to do this for my grandchildren and my children, for all the people who love the music, for all the potential in all those with the ears and insight to hear it - and first, last and always for Frank Zappa. Long may we all laugh.

Music is the Best!


Don't Be A Lawyer – December 21, 2007

Well, this sucks.

It's hard, on the face of it, to see how Barry's definitive Zappa resource harms Frank's memory or the Zappa Family Trust, but I'll refrain from judgment until we hear Gail's reasoning.

What I do know is that Kill Ugly Radio is, like Frank's music, THE BEST.

However, beware. It can happen here, too. If the hammer comes down on our tiny enterprise, whatever shall we do?

Remember when

27-Jul 1984, Greek Theater, Berkeley, CA
Soundcheck: 54 min, Aud, C/C-
Drowning Witch, ???, The Deathless Horsie, Black Page, guitar solo, guitar solo (q: Let's Move To Cleveland), You Are What You Is, Mudd Club, The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing, The Dangerous Kitchen, Cocaine Decisions, Nig Biz
100 min, Aud, B+
Zoot Allures, Tinseltown Rebellion, Oh No, Son Of Orange County, More Trouble Every Day, Penguin In Bondage, Hot Plate Heaven At The Green Hotel, Dumb All Over, Evil Prince, Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy, Advance Romance, He's So Gay, Bobby Brown, Keep It Greasey, Honey Don't You Want A Man Like Me?, Carol You Fool, Chana In De Bushwop, Let's Move To Cleveland, Why Don't You Like Me?, Be In My Video, Cosmik Debris, The Illinois Enema Bandit

DS: The secret word definitely was brought to new highs during that tour, huh?

FZ: That's true.

DS: "Tell Me You Love Me" kind of has gone through some evolutions. Obviously, it evolved into "Why Don't You Like Me". Before that in '84, there was somethin' sort of in-between...

FZ: "Don't Be A Lawyer". [24]

DS: "Don't Be A Lawyer". (FZ laughs) I'm not really too familiar with the lyrics of that, but what's the basic gist of... I know what the other two mean. I'm familiar with those lyrics, but what's the basic gist of "Don't Be A Lawyer"? What's that song about?

FZ: Well, basically we have too many lawyers in the United States, and most of the things that are wrong with the, well, let's look at it this way. If you had the belief that living, when you, let's see, how do I say this? Let's say you're a regular person and you have a regular life and you just wanna do your regular stuff. Hanging over your head is the possibility that you could run afoul of the law, laws which you don't even know exist. There's always a chance that the government, in some way, is going to give you a bad time. This leads to the belief, the widespread belief, I feel in the United States, that the average guy can't get a fair deal, because there is no fair deal available anymore, and that always, there lurks the possibility that in order for you to survive, just to stay out of jail or to stay out of bankruptcy, you're gonna have to use the services of a lawyer. Well, the lawyer is not your friend, because the lawyers are the people who created the situation where there are so many laws that it makes your life miserable. It's a self-perpetuating monstrosity, and we have too many lawyers dispensing bad law, actually participating in the creation of bad law at the point where they become legislators. I think that it's time for some social engineering to steer people away from the legal profession. There are just too many lawyers for our own good. These guys have to earn a living, too, and so you wind up with people suggesting that you sue somebody else. That's how they earn their money, by generating paperwork. You will pay them money
to make somebody else's life miserable and vice-versa. That's what's lurking beneath the surface of American life right now.

DS: It's a (Den pronounces it wrong) litigious society.

FZ: Yeah. You pronounce it litigious.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Nuance-Crazed – December 14, 2007

Does your girlfriend like Frank? Tolerate him, maybe? If so, consider yourself fortunate. Many well-dressed people in several locations may share everything from sensitive poetry to various fluids, but all too frequently, the Zappa coffee-and-cigarette energy eludes joint assimilation. In other words, she don't like it.

If you think about the few Zappa tunes that have penetrated the morass of sameness that constitutes mass-market music (I don't need to name these songs for you), you understand why the lay perception of Frank has to do with brashness and bombast. Don't eat the yellow snow, hyuk, hyuk!

But we know that Zappa music comes in a full range of colors, textures and temperatures, from searing to shimmering and often, quite subtle. That's the kind of thing I plan to play on the Dec. 13, 2007 Zappa's Grubby Chamber.

The reason is, near the end of last week's "Smell the Glove" show, Julie e-mailed in a request for "Black Napkins." But I already had the final theme tunes loaded up and timed out to the top of the hour, so I wasn't able to play it. That song has some real mega-nuanced guitar "licks" (all over), as does its even more subtle companion piece, "Pink Napkins" (I think of them as related, anyway). And what else?

"Lucille," "I Promise Not To Come In Your Mouth," "Watermelon in Easter Hay," "Spider of Destiny""Rubber Shirt," "Outside Now," "Canarsie," "Stucco Homes," "While You Were Art II," "The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution," "Blessed Relief," "One Man, One Vote," "Tink Walks Amok," "Jonestown," "Damp Ankles," "Project X," "St. Etienne," "Canard Du Jour" and even "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" all come to mind, and might get played.

I'm not saying this music is romantic, but it's got some aspects of that Zappa guy that your average "Valley Girl" fan might not know about. Or even your girlfriend.

Meanwhile, last week

Every week I write down a list of the songs I played, and then do nothing at all with it. Henceforth, I shall make an effort to jot down here what the last show consisted of, apart from ads, announcements and extraneous occurrences.

Dec. 7 was a good show (for me, anyway). I wasn't sure how the "Smell the Glove" theme would come together, but it did, and quite smoothly.

Torrid tuneage consisted of:

  • Be In My Video
  • Mudd Club
  • Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A Drink
  • We're Turning Again (FZMTMOP)
  • We're Turning Again (YCDTOSA6)
  • Is That Guy Kidding Or What?
  • I Have Been In You (Sheik Yerbouti)
  • I Have Been In you (YCDTOSA6)
  • Carolina Hard-Core Ecstacy (Bongo Fury)
  • Carolina Hard-Core Ecstacy (YCDTOSA4)
  • Tinseltown Rebellion (Tinseltown Rebellion)
  • Tinseltown Rebellion (DHBIM?)
  • Mud Shark/What Kind of Girl Do You Think We Are?/Bwana Dik/Latex Solar Beef/Do You Like My New Car?/Happy Together
  • Punky's Whips (ZINY)
  • Punky's Whips (Baby Snakes)
  • Purple Haze/Sunshine Of Your Love

Monday, December 3, 2007

Smell the Glove – December 7, 2007 (Updated)

Frank wasn't shy about mentioning his musical contemporaries in songs, or of plugging in their more appealing/revolting verbiage and musical hooks for non sequitur purposes.

The photo above incorporates two 1980s pop culture references – Michael Jackson's idiotic single glove fashion statement, and Spinal Tap's legendary but nonexistent "Smell the Glove" album. (Sorry it's such a crappy pic.)

Without even looking in Barry's Zappa Wiki Jawaka, I can easily think of a dozen or more rock stars mentioned in Frank's music, either by name or with musical quotes: Suzi Quatro, Peter Frampton, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Jimi Hendrix, Boy George, Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Roger Daltrey, Janis Joplin, Donovan, Punky Meadows, Cream, Jeff Beck, Al DiMeola, Alvin Lee...

And what about the Beatles? Frank performed with John Lennon and Yoko that time, and Ringo played Frank in 200 Motels. When We're Only In It For The Money came out, there was some legal dispute over the cover, which riffed on Sgt. Pepper. Frank called Paul McCartney to see if he would let the Mothers put out their parody, and Paul said something like, "That's what we have lawyers for." Frank, as I recall, told Paul in so many words that actually, the lawyers do work for us and we can tell them what to do.

The weakest Beatle link would be George Harrison. No known contact. But George did mention Frank in his song, "Blood From A Clone." Can you think of two more dissimilar guitar players than Frank and George?

By the way, "Oh No" is about John Lennon, isn't it?

So anyway, for the December 7, 2007 Zappa's Grubby Chamber, I'll play lots of songs that include pop culture references, mentioning other musicians either by name or by hook.

Update, Friday night: 'Twas in October that Chocolate Bob, aka "Bob in Tempe" dropped off the entirely splendid interpretation of Frank's pouting rictus by artist Connie Fisher at the station. I told him it reminded me of an old John Lennon poster I have up in my office. I'm just getting around to taking a pic of them side by side, and here it is:
This week's post seems like the perfect place to have two of my favorite guys, John and Frank, side by side. Yes, that is a set o' Dweezil-signed Zappanties dangling from the Casio electronic sax-o-phone to the left, and to the lefter is a Joe Jackson "Beat Crazy" poster. On the right is the edge of the classic Asia poster as seen in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Thanks, Chocolate Bob in Tempe, Arizona!

OK, headed out the door to the studio to bungle a bunch of segues... see you on the radio!