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Frank Zappa, John Cage, Patti Smith & others celebrate William S. Burroughs at the Nova Convention

Nova Convention
In 1978, after many years of living in London and Tangiers, William S. Burroughs decided to return to his home country. For a small group of artistic weirdos, this was a significant event, and a convention was held in his honor at the Entermedia Theater from November 30 through December 2, 1978, on Second Avenue and 12th Street in New York City (it’s no longer there). Much earlier, it had been announced that Keith Richards would be on hand, but after his heroin arrest in Toronto, his management calculated that it would not be wise to appear at a festival honoring the legendary deviant drug addict William S. Burroughs. Frank Zappa was enlisted to read the “Talking Asshole” section from Naked Lunch. Patti Smith, who wore “a glamorous black fur trench” in the words of Thurston Moore, objected mightily to having to follow Zappa and had to be placated by Burroughs confidant and organizer of the convention James Grauerholz, who explained to Smith that Zappa’s appearance was a last-minute necessity and not intended to show Smith up. You can listen to Smith’s contribution, in which she addresses Richards’ absence, here. At the “event party” for the convention, the musical performances included Suicide, The B-52s, and Debbie Harry and Chris Stein from Blondie. The inclusion of The B-52s is most fascinating, as they hadn’t even released their first album yet.
William S. Burroughs
Other participants included Terry Southern, Philip Glass, John Cage, Laurie Anderson and Allen Ginsburg. You can read a writeup of the event from the December 4, 1978, edition of the New York Times: “Of the other performers, Mr. Burroughs himself was the most appealing, and this had less to do with what he was reading than with how he read it. Although he has created some enduring characters, he is his own most interesting character, and he was in rare form, sitting at a desk in a business suit and bright green hat, shuffling papers and reading in his dry Midwestern accent.” An LP and cassette documenting the event were released in 1979 and they fetch top prices today at Discogs.

According to Ted Morgan in Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs,

The Nova Convention took place on November 30, December 1, and December 2, 1978, with the principal performances being held on the last two days at the Entermedia Theater, on Second Avenue and Twelfth Street, which had in the fifties been the fabled Phoenix Theater. Attending were an odd mixture of academics, publishers, writers, artists, punk rockers, counterculture groupies, and an influx of bridge-and-tunnel kids drawn by Keith Richards, who made the event a sellout.


Saturday night the Entermedia was packed, largely with young people waiting to see Keith Richards. There was a small hitch, however, which was that Keith Richards had cancelled. He was having problems as the result of a heroin bust in Toronto, and his office convinced him that appearing on the same program with Burroughs was bad publicity.

But the show had to go on, and the composer Philip Glass, playing one of his repetitive pieces on the synthesizer, was thrown to the wolves. The disappointed kids who wanted Keith Richards shouted and booed. Then Brion Gysin went on amid cries of “Where’s Keith?” and found himself hoping that the riot would not start until he had done his brief turn.

In a last-minute effort, James Grauerholz had recruited Frank Zappa to pinch-hit for Keith. He volunteered to read the “Talking Asshole” routine from Naked Lunch. But as Zappa was preparing to go on, Patti Smith had a fit of pique about following him. James did his best to make peace, saying “Frank has come in at the last minute, and he’s got to go on, and he’s doing it for William, not to show you up.” Patti Smith retreated to the privacy of her dressing room, and Zappa got a big hand, because that’s what they wanted, a rock star.

From July 1 through July 13, the Red Gallery in London is putting on an exhibition dedicated to the Nova Convention. The exhibition is curated by Thurston Moore and Eva Prinz; Moore, who was present at the event in 1978, supplies a short piece called “Nova Reflections” to the exhibition catalogue; here are some snippets of that:

What I remember of the Nova Convention, in my teenage potted reverie, was a palpable excitement of the importance of Burroughs’ return to NYC. He had been living and working in London for some time, and before that, was residing in Tangiers. My awareness of the poets and performers on the Nova Convention bill was obscure, but I did realise everyone there had experienced a history in connection to the man. The poet Eileen Myles performed, and I have a hazy memory of what she has since reminded me was a polarising moment that night: She and a femme cohort came out on stage and performed the so-called William Tell act where in 1951 Burroughs tragically sent a bullet through his wife Joan Vollmer’s skull, killing her instantly. According to Eileen she was hence persona non grata backstage, and frozen out from the coterie of avant lit celebrities shocked at her “reminder” performance.


Glass’s idiosyncratic high-speed minimalist pianistics was natural, gorgeous and sublime. Zappa came out and read a Burroughs excerpt “The Talking Asshole” which seemed appropriate and was mildly entertaining. Patti hit the stage in a glamorous black fur trench, purportedly on loan from some high-end clothier. She rambled on a bit, brazenly unscripted, testing the patience of the long night when out of the audience some fan-boy freako leapt on stage and bequeathed her with a Fender Duo-Sonic guitar. She accepted it cooly and before long was gone. And we stumbled into the 2nd Avenue night.

In his catalogue piece, Moore leads with an anecdote about photographer James Hamilton, whose astonishing pictures of rock icons are collected in the book (Moore was intergral in putting that book together as well) You Should Have Heard Just What I Seen. Hamilton was covering the event for the Village Voice, and while it’s not stated as such, presumably many of Hamilton’s photographs, are featured in the exhibition.
Here’s Timothy Leary, Les Levine, Robert Anton Wilson and Brion Gysin engaging in “conversations” about Burroughs’ work:

And here’s Frank Zappa reading “The Talking Asshole” from Naked Lunch:

Preview video of the “Nova Convention” exhibition at the Red Gallery:

via {feuilleton}

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa & The Mothers live in London, 1968: The Rejected Mexican Pope Leaves the Stage

Painting of The Mothers of Invention by the great Cal Schenkel
This is the footage that matches much of the Ahead of Their Time live album that came out in 1993. It’s essentially a comedy “play” featuring Zappa as “The Imaginary Director” with Mothers Don Preston, Jimmy Carl Black, Bunk Gardner, Roy Estrada, Ian Underwood, Euclid James “Motorhead” Sherwood, Arthur Dyer Tripp III and various members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Filmed on October 25th, 1968. Part of the long out-of-print Uncle Meat VHS release from 1987.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa solos furiously as Kenny Rogers, Jimmie “J.J.” Walker and Mike Douglas look on

Longtime afternoon TV talkshow host Mike Douglas was so square—and seemingly so self-aware of his basic squareness—that he ended up being one of the most unlikely “hip” people on American television in the 60s and 70s. Mike Douglas didn’t try to be “down” with John and Yoko, Malcolm X, The Rolling Stones, Sly Stone, The Vanilla Fudge, Angela Davis, Moby Grape or any of the other counterculture types who occasionally came on his normally staid Philadelphia talk show, but he was unfailingly friendly and cordial to them all and genuinely interested in what they had to say. That Patti Smith made a couple of early appearances on his show (she brought her mother, a huge fan of his, to one of the tapings) says much about how agreeable and open to new things the guy was, but he never pretended to be anything that he wasn’t. (Fun fact: Mike Douglas provided the singing voice of Prince Charming in Walt Disney’s Cinderella.)

A great example of the often incongruous people a viewer could tune in and see randomly assembled on a given day on The Mike Douglas Show occurred when Frank Zappa appeared to promote his Zoot Allures album on November 9th, 1976. The “Dy-no-mite!” co-host that week was Jimmie “J.J.” Walker star of Good Times and the other guest that day was Kenny Rogers. There’s a brief interview before Zappa, performing with the unseen house band, does a scorching “Black Napkins” one of his signature mid-period compositions. Then there’s more conversation before Frank shows an excerpt from A Token of His Extreme featuring Bruce Bickford’s freaky claymation.

Imagine how strange seeing this on TV after school was. But it wasn’t so much that it was strange as that it was the Seventies…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks The World’

The wah-wah guitar effect pedal makes a “cry baby” sound by filtering the electronic frequencies up and down controlled by the players foot. The first one was put on the market in 1967 by Warwick Electronics Inc./Thomas Organ Company, the somewhat accidental creation of Brad Plunkett, a junior electronics engineer at the company. Plunkett’s prototype used a volume pedal from a Vox Continental Organ and a transistorized mid-range booster, but his original goal had only been to switch from a finicky tube to a much cheaper, easier to use piece of solid state circuitry. (Chet Atkins had designed a somewhat similar device in the late 1950s, which you can hear on his “Hot Toddy” and “Slinkey” singles)

Almost immediately the Cry Baby wah-wah pedal was adopted by the most famous guitar slingers in rock. One of the first was Eric Clapton, who used the effect to great effect in “Tales of Brave Ulysses.” Frank Zappa was a huge fan of the effect and is said to have introduced Jimi Hendrix to the Cry Baby who used it on “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” and quite a bit after that. One of the most famous uses of the wah-wah pedal’s “wacka-wacka” effect is heard on Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft.”

In Joey Tosi and Max Baloian’s documentary Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks The World, the filmmakers explore the influence of the wah-wah pedal on popular music, talking to inventor Brad Plunkett, longtime Rolling Stone contributor Ben Fong-Torres, Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Buddy Guy, Art Thompson, Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Dweezil Zappa and Jim Dunlop, a man whose name is synonymous with the production of musical effects devices.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa as record label honcho in ‘From Straight to Bizarre’

By far the majority of artist-run record labels exist as mere vanity imprints, releasing an album or two by the musician/would-be entrepreneur him/herself, and that’s that. Noteworthy exceptions are certainly around—Trent Reznor’s Nothing Records and Null Corporation, Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe, and Jack White’s Third Man are a few artist-run labels that have achieved significant successes.

An early example of such an artist using his own label to bypass the strictures of major label deals is, unsurprisingly, the iconoclastically independent-minded Frank Zappa. In the late ‘60s, when Verve Records inexplicably missed their deadline to re-up Zappa’s contract, he and his manager Herb Cohen used that leverage to establish their own production company and label, to retain creative control, and to release artists they favored. The labels they established were Straight Records and Bizarre Records. Between them, in a mere five years of existence, the labels released albums by Lenny Bruce and Wild Man Fischer, and now-immortal recordings like Alice Cooper’s Love It to Death, Tim Buckley’s Starsailor, and Captain Beefheart essentials like Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals Off, Baby.

Tom O’Dell’s 2011 documentary From Straight to Bizarre tells the labels’ story in detail, through interviews with Pamela Des Barres, John “Drumbo” French, Sandy “Essra Mohawk” Hurvitz, Kim Fowley, Alice Cooper’s Dennis Dunaway and the Mothers of Invention’s Jeff Simmons, among many others. YouTube user Treble Clef has broken the feature-length doc into short chunks for your piecemeal viewing convenience. There’s a lot of illuminating stuff herein, so please, enjoy.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Classic rock conspiracy theory: ‘Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon,’ the dark heart of the hippie dream

The standard modus operandi of a work of “conspiracy theory” is fairly straightforward. The author/researcher takes some commonly accepted historical narrative, and lavishes scepticism upon it, while simultaneously maintaining an alternative understanding of what “really” happened, one that ostensibly better fits the considered facts.

While Dave McGowan’s Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon : Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops & The Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream, indubitably follows this approach, its focus is utterly unique. Not to put too fine a point on it, the book is no less than the Official Classic Rock Conspiracy Theory, with individual chapters tackling the unlikely subjects of Frank Zappa, the Doors, Love, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, Gram Parsons and more, the careers of which are scrutinized for the fingerprints of the secret state.

What you make of McGowan’s criteria in and of itself (which ranges fairly widely, and at times wildly, from a “tell-tale” preoccupation with the occult to heavy military-industrial family ties), to my mind the virtue of Weird Scenes dwells in the ensuing atmosphere of incredible fairy-tale strangeness—not unlike Joan Didion’s own famous look at California in the late sixties, The White Album. On almost every page, movie-star mansions, knitted with secret passages, spontaneously combust; murders, suicides and overdoses spread through the celebrity populace; cults spring up peopled with mobsters and spies… and all the while, this timeless, intriguing music keeps on geysering away. I contacted McGowan about his bizarre book earlier this week…

Thomas McGrath: Hi Dave. Could you begin please by telling us something about your previous work?

David McGowan: My work as a political/social critic began around 1997, when I began to see signs that the political landscape in this country was about to change in rather profound ways. That was also the time that I first ventured onto the internet, which opened up a wealth of new research possibilities. I put up my first website circa 1998, and an adaptation of that became my first book, Derailing Democracy, in 2000. That first book, now out of print, was a warning to the American people that all the changes we have seen since the events of September 11, 2001 – the attacks on civil rights, privacy rights, and due process rights; the militarization of the nation’s police forces; the waging of multiple wars; the rise of surveillance technology and data mining, etc. – were already in the works and just waiting for a provocation to justify their implementation. My second book, Understanding the F-Word, was a review of twentieth-century US history that attempted to answer the question: “if this is in fact where we’re headed, then how did we get here?” Since 9-11, I’ve spent a good deal of time researching the events of that day and looked into a wide range of other topics. My third book, Programmed to Kill, was a look at the reality and mythology of what exactly a serial killer is. For the past six years, I have spent most of my time digging into the 1960s and 1970s Laurel Canyon counterculture scene, which has now become my fourth book, Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon.

Thomas McGrath:  Am I right in presuming that you take it as a given fact that power networks are essentially infected by occultism? Are these cults essentially Satanic, or what?

David McGowan: Yes, I do believe that what you refer to as power networks, otherwise known as secret societies, are occult in nature. The symbolism can be seen everywhere, if you choose not to maneuver your way through the world deaf, dumb and blind. And I believe that it has been that way for a very long time. As for them being Satanic, I suppose it depends upon how you define Satanic. I personally don’t believe the teachings of either Satanism or Christianity, which are really just opposite sides of the same coin. I don’t believe that there is a God or a devil, and I don’t believe that those on the upper rungs of the ladder on either side believe so either. These are belief systems that are used to manipulate the minds of impressionable followers. In the case of Satanism, it is, to me, a way to covertly sell a fascist mindset, which is the direction the country, and the rest of the world, is moving. Those embracing the teachings think they are rebelling against the system, but they are in reality reinforcing it. Just as the hippies did. And just as so-called Patriots and Anarchists are. I don’t believe there has been a legitimate resistance movement in this country for a very long time.

Thomas McGrath: Tell us about Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon. What is this new book’s central thesis?

David McGowan: To the extent that it has a central thesis, I would say that it is that the music and counterculture scene that sprung to life in the 1960s was not the organic, grassroots resistance movement that it is generally perceived to be, but rather a movement that was essentially manufactured and steered. And a corollary to that would be that for a scene that was supposed to be all about peace, love and understanding, there was a very dark, violent underbelly that this book attempts to expose.

Thomas McGrath: How convinced are you by it and why?

David McGowan: Very convinced. It’s been a long journey and virtually everything I have discovered – including the military/intelligence family backgrounds of so many of those on the scene, both among the musicians and among their actor counterparts; the existence of a covert military facility right in the heart of the canyon; the prior connections among many of the most prominent stars; the fact that some of the guiding lights behind both the Rand Corporation and the Project for a New American Century were hanging out there at the time, as were the future governor and lieutenant governor of California, and, by some reports, J. Edgar Hoover and various other unnamed politicos and law enforcement personnel; and the uncanny number of violent deaths connected to the scene – all tend to indicate that the 1960s counterculture was an intelligence operation.

Thomas McGrath: You propose that hippie culture was established to neutralise the anti-war movement. But I also interpreted your book as suggesting that, as far as you’re concerned, there’s also some resonance between what you term “psychedelic occultism” (the hippie counterculture) and the “elite” philosophy/theology? You think this was a second reason for its dissemination?

David McGowan: Yes, I do. Hippie culture is now viewed as synonymous with the anti-war movement, but as the book points out, that wasn’t always the case. A thriving anti-war movement existed before the first hippie emerged on the scene, along with a women’s rights movement, a black empowerment/Black Panther movement, and various other movements aimed at bringing about major changes in society. All of that was eclipsed by and subsumed by the hippies and flower children, who put a face on those movements that was offensive to mainstream America and easy to demonize. And as you mentioned, a second purpose was served as well – indoctrinating the young and impressionable into a belief system that serves the agenda of the powers that be.

Thomas McGrath: One thing your book does very convincingly, I think, is argue that many if not most of the main movers in the sixties counterculture were, not to put too fine a point on it, horrendous, cynical degenerates. However, one might argue that a predilection for drugs, alcohol, and even things like violence and child abuse, does not make you a member of a government cult. You disagree?

David McGowan:  No. I’ve known a lot of people throughout my life with a predilection for drugs and alcohol, none of whom were involved in any cults, government or otherwise. And I don’t believe that a predilection for drugs makes one a degenerate. The focus on drug use in the book is to illustrate the point that none of the scene’s movers and shakers ever suffered any legal consequences for their rampant and very open use of, and sometimes trafficking of, illicit drugs. The question posed is why, if these people were really challenging the status quo, did the state not use its law enforcement powers to silence troublemakers? I do have zero tolerance for violence towards and abuse of children, which some people in this story were guilty of. But that again doesn’t make someone a member of a cult – though it does make them seriously morally challenged.

Thomas McGrath: You say in the book that you were always a fan of sixties music and culture. Weirdly, I found that, even while reading Weird Scenes, I was almost constantly listening to the artists you were denouncing. I mean, I found albums like Pet Sounds, Forever Changes, Return of the Grievous Angel,et al sounded especially weird in the context, but I still couldn’t resist sticking them on. I was wondering if you still listen to these records yourself?

David McGowan: Yes, I do. The very first rock concert I ever attended was Three Dog Night circa 1973 – a Laurel Canyon band, though I did not know that until about five years ago. To my mind, the greatest guitarist who ever lived was Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin was arguably the finest female vocalist – in terms of raw power and emotion – to ever take the stage. I don’t know that it is accurate to describe my book as “denouncing” various artists. Brian Wilson, who composed Pet Sounds, is described as the finest and most admired composer of his generation. The guys from Love, architects of Forever Changes, are presented as among the most talented musicians of the era. Frank Zappa is acknowledged as an immensely talented musician, composer and arranger. And so on. It is true that I believe that some of the most famed artists to emerge from Laurel Canyon are vastly overrated, with Jim Morrison and David Crosby quickly coming to mind. And it’s true that on some of the most loved albums that came out of the canyon, the musicians who interpreted the songs weren’t the ones on the album covers. And it’s also true that, unlike other books that have covered the Laurel Canyon scene, Weird Scenes doesn’t sugarcoat things. But the undeniable talent and artistry of many of the canyon’s luminaries is acknowledged. And the book also shines a little bit of light on some of the tragically forgotten figures from that era, like Judee Sill and David Blue, which could lead to readers rediscovering some of those artists and the talents that they had to offer.
Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon: Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops & The Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream is available now in special pre-release hardback only from Headpress. The paperback is out next month, and should be available from all strange bookshops.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Beyond the Doors: Conspiracy theories about the deaths of Jimi, Janis and Jim

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Leave a comment
Rock stars with their cats and dogs

Cool pictures of musicians with their pet dogs and cats, which show how even the most self-obsessed, narcissistic Rock god has a smidgen of humanity to care about someone other than themselves. Though admittedly, Iggy Pop looks like he’s about to eat his pet dog.
Patti Smith and stylist.
This is not a doggy bag, Iggy.
There’s a cat in there somewhere with Joey Ramone.
Tupac Shakur and a future internet meme.
Bjork and a kissing cousin.
O Superdog: Laurie Anderson and friend.
More cats and dogs and musicians, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Starring Frank Zappa as The Pope’ in Ren & Stimpy’s ‘Powdered Toast Man,’ 1992

Powdered Toast Man!
Early in the second season of Ren & Stimpy, there appeared a rollicking and utterly disrespectful segment called “Powdered Toast Man.” 1992. The character of Powdered Toast Man unified the clueless and self-important silliness of The Tick with the tendency to wreak havoc of, say, Inspector Clouseau or Maxwell Smart. Voiced by the incomparable Gary Owens—and you might not know the name, but if you’ve ever seen Laugh-In or Space Ghost, you sure as hell know his voice—Powdered Toast Man was the spokesman for, obviously, a product called Powdered Toast, which was billed as tasting “just like sawdust!” According to Wikipedia, he was based on the character of Studebacher Hoch, from the epic song “Billy The Mountain” of off the Mothers of Invention’s 1972 album Just Another Band from L.A. I frankly don’t quite see the connection, but anything’s possible.
Powdered Toast Man!
It’s kind of amazing just how dark and subversive the Powdered Toast bit is. The anti-advertising message is just the start of it. Tasked with saving a kitten from being run over by a truck, Powdered Toast Man causes a passing jetliner to crash into the truck, thus saving the kitten at the expense of who knows how many lives (the injured survivors cheer him on anyway). A few moments later, Powdered Toast Man thoughtlessly tosses the kitten out of frame, where he is apparently run over by a truck, to judge from the sound effects. Later on, he uses the Bill of Rights for kindling. He induces projectiles to emerge from his armpits by doing that “fart noise” maneuver, he uses his own tongue as a telephone…....... actually, you really need to see the video to believe it. The satire of the prevailing superhero ethos really couldn’t be more savage—or more entertaining.
Powdered Toast Man!
The Pope, “clinging tenaciously” to Powdered Toast Man’s buttocks
Appropriately enough, the role of the Pope was voiced by Frank Zappa. According to, it was the last time he would ever portray a fictional character (granted, he didn’t do this all that often). How did this come to pass? As often happens in showbiz, Zappa had expressed some admiration for the early Ren & Stimpy episodes, and ... one thing led to another. John Kricfalusi tells the story on the commentary track for the episode:

Yeah, Frank Zappa was a fan of the show, and I was a huge Frank Zappa fan growing up. I had all his records. and when I found out he was a fan, our mixer, one of the sound engineers, was also mixing some Frank Zappa records, and he ... handed the phone to me one day and it was Frank on the line. So Frank invited me to his house that weekend. ... and I went with Elinor Blake and Frank and his family and I, Moon Unit and Dweezil. We all sat around watching Ren & Stimpy cartoons all afternoon. He was laughing all through them, and after it was over I asked: “Hey Frank, you want to BE in a cartoon?” and he said: “Yeah, that’d be great” and I said: “You want to be the pope?” and he said: “Yeah, I always wanted to be the pope.”

(Note: Elinor Blake has had a successful musical career in her own right: After working as an animator on Ren & Stimpy, she released several albums under the name April March.) As it happens, Zappa has hardly any lines, but that’s all right.

Another interesting link between Zappa and the show: There was a recurring Ren & Stimpy segment called “Ask Dr. Stupid” in which Stimpy would respond to letters in an incredibly stupid way. Turns out, Zappa recorded a track called “Ask Dr. Stupid” all the way back in 1979.

The episode is available in full on The Ren & Stimpy Show: The First and Second Season (Uncut)

via Showbiz Imagery and Chicanery

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
On Missing Persons, Frank Zappa, and women in rock: Dale Bozzio speaks
08:52 am


Frank Zappa
Dale Bozzio
Missing Persons

Missing Persons were an acutely ‘80s band, made up of former Zappa sidemen who heard the siren call of the New Wave and crafted compellingly icy and anxious music. Drummer Terry and singer Dale Bozzio (a married couple), guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, and bassist Patrick O’Hearn met during the recording sessions for Zappa’s masterpiece, the epic rock opera Joe’s Garage, and were encouraged to form Missing Persons by Zappa himself. The representative early single “Mental Hopscotch” gained a ton of well-deserved attention for their debut EP. (Crate digger advisory: used vinyl copies of that can still be found fairly cheaply. I’d recommend giving it a listen. I still have mine from when I was 14, it holds up.)


Despite its collective musical chops, the band’s focal point was the kitschy but high-octane outer space sexuality of singer Dale Bozzio. As a former bunny at the Boston Playboy Club, Bozzio was comfortable flaunting her figure, and had a penchant for performing in things like plexiglass bikinis and bubble-wrap jackets, foreshadowing Lady Gaga’s costumery by decades. Her outlandish appearance far outpaced contemporaries like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, which made Missing Persons a darling of MTV, which in turn propelled their debut LP, Spring Session M to chart HUGENESS. The band continued past its initial burst of inspiration, though—their follow-up, Rhyme & Reason, was less musically exciting (perhaps the element of surprise had worn off), and it failed to crack the Top 40. 1986’s Color in Your Life fared even worse. Commercial failures and tension in the Bozzios’ marriage finally doomed the band. Cuccurullo went on to further success as Andy Taylor’s replacement in Duran Duran, and Terry Bozzio returned to high-profile session work.

Dale, however, has lately gone the “featuring” route, having yesterday released Missing In Action by “Missing Persons featuring Dale Bozzio.” Missing Persons is missing a lot of people—Bozzio is the only member from the original lineup to appear on the album, but casual fans are probably unlikely to care, as to most people she was the band. Her performance on the single “Hello Hello” is actually quite good. Her voice has lost a lot of flexibility (that’s not a criticism, age does that, so it goes), so all the idiosyncratic hiccuping accents she used to pull off aren’t to be heard here, but her singing has retained expressiveness and gained depth. The music, composed by latter-day Yes member Billy Sherwood, feels like it’s trying a bit too lazily to sound conspicuously early ‘80s. It would have been so much cooler if she’d hired someone like Trans Am to write the music, honestly.

Bozzio spoke illuminatingly about her life and career at last year’s Scion Music(less) Music Conference, and as it turns out, she’s a terrific storyteller, and seems like a hell of a cool lady. The whole interview is good, but for the impatient, there’s a kinda cute Hugh Hefner story in part 1, GREAT Zappa stuff in parts 2 & 3, and Missing Persons’ origin story is in part 4.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Sleeping in a Jar’: Amazing naughty Frank Zappa animation from the late 60s
02:44 pm


Frank Zappa

The advent of YouTube laid waste to the smug superiority that extreme Zappaphile fanboys had about their own deep knowledge of the history and collected improvisations of Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. No matter how much you thought you knew—and I include myself in this equation—even if you’d have read every single book ever written about the man, when YouTube launched, it became obvious that major gaps existed in nearly every Zappa otaku’s mental database and record collection.

This is especially true when it comes to things that appeared decades ago on European television (most unmentioned in the major Zappa biographies). Here’s one amazing little example, an animated short set to Uncle Meat‘s darkly surreal ditty “Sleeping in a Jar.” This seems like it might have been made for some sort of demo for Madison Avenue (it’s not dissimilar from the Clio Award-winning Luden’s Cough Drops commercial Zappa scored in 1967) but it’s kind of smutty for that purpose with that not-so-subtle carbonated cum shot.

Interestingly this racy animation aired on Swedish television in 1971 on a show called Spotlight. They say the Swedes are a liberated people sexually speaking and if this passed muster for TV back in 1971, well, that’s saying quite a lot. This wouldn’t be shown on American network television today.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Acne bacterium is named after Frank Zappa, immediately releases four albums in gratitude
12:02 pm


Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa
I lived in Austria for a while—I was living there in 1993 when the sad news of Frank Zappa’s death came down the pipe. It was striking to me how much more vital his fandom was there; intense Zappa fans were (and are) very, very common, you’d see casual references in the media to Zappa quite often. This quality he shares, I suppose, with Jerry Lewis and countless bebop heroes, he was more appreciated in Europe than in his native U.S. When he died he was truly mourned in the public sphere. I wasn’t in America at the time (obviously), but I doubt that it was quite as keenly felt here as it was in Europe.

So when I heard that some scientists had decided to name a strain of bacteria after Frank Zappa, I knew that they would turn out to be from Europe, and I was right about that. Italian microbiologist and ardent Zappa fan Andrea Campisano of the Edmund Mach Foundation is the lead author of the study published Tuesday in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution about P. acnes Zappae, “a formerly pimple-causing bacterium that apparently has moved from human skin to the bark of grape vines.”

The Italian word zappa means “hoe,” and the name of the new strain is also a reference to “the agrarian roots of the wine-related institute where the discovery was made.” Actually, Zappa has this in common with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The root “egge” in Arnold’s name means “harrow” or “back hoe,” and the word “Schwarzenegger” would translate as “black back-hoe man.”

Campisano said he played Zappa’s music regularly and kept a quote from the genre-bending rock musician displayed on his computer screen in the laboratory: “If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television … then you deserve it.”

Insofar as pimples and Frank Zappa albums share the trait of being incredibly common—Zappa released somewhere in the neighborhood 60 albums during his lifetime, and he died at the young age of 52—that’s another link.

And then there is this...

Here’s Frank and the Mothers of Invention, live at the Roxy in LA in 1973.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘All My Loving’: Stupendous 1968 music doc with The Who, Jimi, Zappa, Cream, Animals and Pink Floyd

Just how good a year for music was 1968? Consider this list of albums from that year:
The Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet
The Beatles, The White Album
The Kinks, The Village Green Preservation Society
Procol Harum, A Whiter Shade of Pale
The Band, Music From Big Pink
The Zombies, Odessey And Oracle
Janis Joplin, Cheap Thrills
Sly & The Family Stone, Dance to the Music
Cream, Wheels of Fire
Joni Mitchell, Song To a Seagull
Creedence Clearwater Revival, Creedence Clearwater Revival
Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland
Frank Zappa, We’re Only In It For the Money
Jeff Beck, Truth
Pink Floyd, A Saucerful of Secrets
The 13th Floor Elevators, Bull of the Woods
The Monkees, Head
Can, Delay 1968
The Doors, Waiting for the Sun
Jefferson Airplane, Crown of Creation
Eric Burdon and the Animals, The Twain Shall Meet
Harry Nilsson, Aerial Ballet
Iron Butterfly, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
If those titles hold any appeal to you at all, then you are definitely going to enjoy Tony Palmer’s stunning 1968 documentary All My Loving, which purportedly was made as the result of a gauntlet that John Lennon and Paul McCartney threw down to Palmer (whose films before that had—a bit like George Martin—focused on classical music), to make an hour-long movie that captured the state of the music world in 1968. What makes the movie work, quite aside from Palmer’s adventurous editing style, fondness for tight closeups, aural brio, and impressionistic chops, is the palpable sense that something really interesting was happening in society—crucially, before the post-Altamont, post-Manson hangover had set in. It was a perfect moment for a documentary of this kind. The musical personages in the movie, many of them legends, are treated as very interesting pop stars but not much more than that, and that relative impartiality is essential to what makes All My Loving so good.

It’s difficult to overstate how wonderful All My Loving is. Stylistically, it suggests an experimental movie produced by 60 Minutes (or the English equivalent, anyway). In other words, it’s loose in form but stentorian in tone (but never unsympathetic to the youth movement). The amount of astonishing footage that Palmer managed to cram into a mere hour boggles the mind. Palmer appears to have access to just about anyone he wanted, so we get brief statements or conversations with Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Donovan, Eric Burdon, Frank Zappa, Manfred Mann, Pete Townshend, George Martin, and so on. With the possible exception of Zappa, Burdon’s the most articulate of the bunch, pointing out the similarities between taking LSD and doing a stint in Vietnam.

The movie features truly scintillating performances from Cream (“I’m So Glad” and “We’re Going Wrong”), The Who (“Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand”), Pink Floyd (“Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”), Donovan (“The Lullaby of Spring”), Jimi Hendrix (“Wild Thing”), the Animals (“Good Times” and “When I Was Young”). There is some utterly fantastic close-up footage in which The Who destroy their instruments at the end of a gig at, of all places, the Peoria Opera House as well as some similar footage of Jimi Hendrix just shredding the entire concept of rock and roll right in front of your eyes. ALL of the performance footage is remarkable.
There are also some amusing interviews with a “sleazy” music publisher with a pencil mustache who by rights should be named Monty Python (his name is actually Eddie Rogers) and a self-confident “jingle executive” from America named Jim West (motto: “Selling Spoken Here”) who explains how to use advertising techniques to con teens into coming to see the Mona Lisa. There are a handful of other British music industry types who are barely identified and don’t have to be—they’re the local color. They also get some frankly inane comments of the dismissive variety from none other than Anthony Burgess.

Palmer made dozens of documentaries from the 1960s onward, and they cover a fascinating range of personalities, including Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, Rory Gallagher, Peter Sellers, Liberace, Hugh Hefner, Leonard Cohen, and on and on. He codirected 200 Motels with Frank Zappa. The governing tone of All My Loving is one of indulgent “concern,” of investigating a “problem” to be “solved”—we hear about the deafening volume of the new music and the possibly shallow values of the kids and so forth. There’s some startling imagery from Vietnam thrown in as well—never forget Vietnam. This movie goes all over the reservation to evoke 1968—and succeeds.

With its big, messy crescendo, the end of All My Loving somewhat resembles 2001: A Space Odyssey and “A Day in the Life,” and, to Palmer’s credit, the ending, which rapidly shows the breathtaking variety of images we’ve seen over the previous hour (scored to “Be-In (Hare Krishna)” from Hair), works marvelously. Set aside some time for All My Loving. You won’t regret it.

via Beatles Video of the Day

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Lost’ Frank Zappa student radio interview from 1978 is ‘a legend in awfulness’
12:37 pm


Frank Zappa


“Have you ever defecated onstage?”

Straight from the horse’s mouth, take it away Bob Andelman:

When I was a freshman at the University of Miami in 1978, I worked at WVUM 90.5 FM as an air personality. One day, the station manager, Bob “Bear” Mordente, was looking for someone willing to go out to the Royal Biscayne Hotel in Key Biscayne to interview musician and pop culture legend Frank Zappa.

I said I’d do it if no one else volunteered. Then, as now, I wasn’t afraid of interviewing anyone. Then it was foolish; I had no on-air experience and even less experience interviewing anyone for broadcast. Oh, and I knew absolutely zero—ZERO!—about Mr. Zappa.

A time was set for the next day and I went back to my dorm to see if anybody had any idea what I should ask the man. Lucky for me (not really) the drug dealers—I mean students—in the room next to me had piles of Zappa and the Mothers of Invention albums and purported to be experts on the man. Experts on the myth, as it turned out, but “urban legends” as a buzzphrase was still a good 20 years off. Anyway, these two knuckleheads filled me up with wide-eyed stories of ridiculous things that Zappa allegedly had done on stage over the years and I took copious notes.

The next day, Mordente and I drove out to the Royal Biscayne Hotel and our moment with destiny. Mordente handled recording the sound on a reel-to-reel machine so I could focus on Zappa and my litany of ludicrous questions.

I asked the most idiotic, moronic things of this brilliant American master and I must say that he treated me with great kindness in return, encouraging me to see him as a person, not some bizarre cartoon, and to just engage him in conversation. It was advice I remember and follow to this day, whether I’m talking to musicians, authors, politicians, athletes or entrepreneurs.

My unvarnished, unedited interview with Frank Zappa aired immediately on WVUM, was repeated often, and became a legend in awfulness.

Despite this, I had a blast working on the college radio station, mostly handling Friday and Saturday overnights, spinning deep album cuts, taking requests from my pals in the dorms and meeting some really bizarre stoner listeners in the greater Coral Gables community.

What survives from my day with Frank Zappa—we were together a couple of hours—is the edited, 30-minute recording you’re about to hear. Ladies and gentlemen, my day with Frank Zappa, September 14, 1978.


Below, Zappa a month later on October 13, 1978 at The Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ. Zappa is playing the famous burnt guitar that Jimi Hendrix gave him:


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
When Frank Zappa met John & Yoko, sometime in New York, 1971
06:52 pm


Yoko Ono
John Lennon
Frank Zappa

Martin Perlich interviewed Frank Zappa eight times on his “Electric Tongue” program on the Los Angeles progressive rock radio station KMET. Although Zappa was well-known to be a difficult interviewee, Perlich knew what he was talking about and always got the best out of him. In this excellent and wide-ranging 1972 talk, Perlich and Zappa discuss classical music, the philosophical role of music in society and “modernism” in a general sense. There is a great section where they discuss how to explain to kids what they’re seeing on television isn’t necessarily true and Zappa predicts that there will be another monumental media innovation within the next several decades that will will cause or require the human brain to have to rewire itself again in the same way that television had. Heady stuff and exactly what you want from a vintage Frank Zappa interview…

Interesting to note that Zappa sticks up for (the then chart-topping) Grand Funk Railroad more than once during the interview, a group he would later (improbably) go on to produce. Zappa also talks about the 20 piece orchestra that he would be performing with soon at the Hollywood Bowl (and recording The Grand Wazoo with) and tells the story of having a deranged “fan” push him into the orchestra pit at the Rainbow Theatre in London.

At a certain point, John Lennon and Yoko Ono come in for some withering comments regarding their “jam session” at the Fillmore East. For whatever reason, Lennon re-titled the Zappa composition “King Kong, ” the centerpiece of the Mothers’ live act for years and a song that took up an entire side of the Uncle Meat album, as “Jamrag” and credited it to Lennon/Ono on their 1972 Sometime In New York City live album. Zappa’s own mix of this material, radically different from the Phil Spector-produced tracks on John and Yoko’s record came out on his Playground Psychotics live set in 1992.  Zappa tells the full story in the interview.


Below, John Lennon and Yoko Ono onstage with The Mothers of Invention at the Fillmore East, June 4, 1971. The Mothers at this time were comprised of Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman on vocals; Bob Harris, keyboards; Don Preston, Minimoog; Ian Underwood, keyboards, alto sax; Jim Pons, bass, vocals; and Aynsley Dunbar on drums.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
When Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention were Lenny Bruce’s opening act, 1966
05:14 pm


Frank Zappa
Lenny Bruce
Mothers Of Invention

As regular readers of this blog know, I am a massive Mothers of Invention fan and also a huge Lenny Bruce aficionado. I’ve got a painting of the original Mothers above my desk as I type this and several pieces of rare Lenny Bruce memorabilia on the bookshelves behind me.

Last week when I found that wild recording of Lenny speaking to students at UCLA, I also found this gem. It’s had fewer than 75 plays.

What is “this” you ask? Why it’s a short live recording of Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, who were—on June 24th and 25th,1966—the opening act for Lenny Bruce at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. This is a record of one of those nights.

Zappa later wrote of meeting the great comedian (who he named-checked on the cover of Freak Out in the “These People Have Contributed Materially In Many Ways To Make Our Music What It Is. Please Do Not Hold It Against Them” list of his influences and heroes.)

“I had seen Lenny Bruce a number of times at Canter’s Deli, where he used to sit in a front booth with Phil Spector and eat knockwurst. I didn’t really talk with him until we opened for him at the Fillmore West in 1966. I met him in the lobby between sets and asked him to sign my draft card. He said no – he didn’t want to touch it.”

The YouTube poster claims the recording to be from a soundboard source and it does sound pretty good once it gets going. Certainly it’s one of the earliest live Mothers recordings in circulation (and news to me). It starts off with “Plastic People,” then goes into “Toads Of The Short Forest” and “I’m Not Satisfied” before the group launches into the sea shanty “Handsome Cabin Boy” and turn it into a guitar rave-up of epic proportions with Zappa’s axe making a noise that was probably quite novel sounding to the ears of those in attendance.

The MOI were but a five-piece at the time with Jimmy Carl Black on drums; Ray Collins on vocals; Roy Estrada on bass, Elliot Ingber on guitar and Frank Zappa on guitar and vocals.

The performance of “The Orange County Lumber Truck” that follows the “Handsome Cabin Boy” jam is not from the same show. I don’t see how it could be without Bunk Gardner, Don Preston, Motorhead Sherwood or Ian Underwood (who all seem to be present and accounted for by the sound of things). Which is not to say that it’s not absolutely amazeballs—because it most certainly is. I just don’t know what the provenance is.

And to keep the Frank Zappa/Lenny Bruce connection going, here’s The Berkeley Concert (recorded on December 12th of 1965) as originally released on Zappa and Herb Cohen’s Bizarre record label in 1969.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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