On this day in music history: November 19, 1979 – “Joe’s Garage Acts II & III”, the twenty ninth studio album by Frank Zappa is released. Produced by Frank Zappa, it is recorded at Village Recorders, Studio B in Los Angeles, CA from September 17 – November 19, 1979. The second of two albums released just two months apart, the ten track double album is a rock opera centering around the character “Joe”, following his journey through the music business. Filled with Zappa’s stinging guitar work, tempered with his trademark satirical and often scatalogical humor. The album also takes sharp aim at religion (particularly the Catholic church and Scientology), and the censorship of music. The latter of which foreshadows the musicians’ opposition against the Parents Music Research Center (PMRC) formed by the wives of Washington senators and businessmen in the mid 80’s. “Garage” also features musical backing from members of what becomes the popular new wave band Missing Persons. “Joe’s Garage Acts II & III” peaks at number fifty three on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: October 10, 1969 – “Hot Rats”, the second solo album by Frank Zappa is released. Produced by Frank Zappa, it is recorded at T.T.G. Studios, Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood, CA, and Whitney Studios in Glendale, CA from July 18 – August 30, 1969. His first album since disbanding The Mothers Of Invention, it consists of largely instrumental jazz influenced material and feature guest musicians Shuggie Otis, Max Bennett, Don “Sugarcane” Harris, Jean-Luc Ponty and Captain Beefheart. Technologically more advanced than his previous works, it is Zappa’s first to be recorded on a 16-track multi-track recorder, which he utilizes the expanded technology to the fullest, overdubbing numerous keyboard and horn parts (played by musician Ian Underwood) as well as using techniques like varispeed to change the texture and sound of instruments. Dedicated to his new born son Dweezil, “Hot Rats” goes on to be one of Zappa’s most popular and acclaimed recordings. The albums enigmatic infrared cover photo taken by Andee Nathanson, features Miss Christine Ann Frka of the acapella girl group The GTO’s, peeping out of an empty lily pond on the estate of actor Errol Flynn. The artwork and photo collage on the inside gatefold of the LP is designed by Cal Schenkel, also responsible for the cover art on Zappa’s “Cruisin’ With Ruben And The Jets” and “Uncle Meat” albums. When the album is reissued on CD in 1987, Zappa extensively remixes and edits the tracks, making them longer than the first LP issue. Eventually, the original 1969 mixes are reissued on vinyl in 2009 and on CD in 2012. “Hot Rats” peaks at number one hundred seventy three on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: August 10, 1970 – “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” the ninth album by The Mothers Of Invention is released. Produced by Frank Zappa, it is recorded at Apostolic Studios, A&R Studios, and The Factory in New York City, T.T.G. Studios In Hollywood, CA, Whitney Studios in Glendale, CA, Philadelphia Arena in Philadelphia, PA, Royal Festival Hall in London, Town Hall in Birmingham, UK, Criteria Studios and Thee Image in Miami, FL from December 1967 – June 1969. The third release on Frank Zappa’s Bizarre Records imprint (through Warner/Reprise), the album consists of live and studio tracks recorded over a two year period, and is released after Zappa disbands The Mothers. The LP’s brilliantly subversive and iconic cover art is illustrated by artist Neon Park. Park’s painting is based on both the September 1956 issue of “Man’s Life” magazine depicting a man being attacked by weasels and a 1953 advertisement for Schick electric shavers. Originally released on CD in 1990, it is remastered and reissued in 2012 by The Zappa Family Trust on the re-established Zappa Records. The vinyl LP, out of print since the late 80’s, is also remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP in 2016. “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” peaks at number one hundred eighty nine on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: May 3, 1982 – “Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch”, the thirty fourth album by Frank Zappa is released. Produced by Frank Zappa, it is recorded at the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen in Los Angeles, CA (studio tracks) and in Various Locations with the UMRK Mobile Unit from September 1981 – Early 1982. Following the releases of the studio album “You Are What You Is” and the live albums “Tinsel Town Rebellion”, and “Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar” series, Zappa originally has his sights set on issuing another live set titled “Chalk Pie”. Those plans are scrapped when many of tracks surface as bootlegs before they can be released. Instead, he begins working on tracks in his home studio in Laurel Canyon, when his then fourteen year old daughter Moon leaves a note on the studio door, asking her workaholic musician father if they can spend some time together. Zappa invites his daughter into the studio and the end result is the song “Valley Girl” (#32 Pop). The send up of clueless, spoiled, materialistic teenage girls from the San Fernando Valley, becomes a surprise hit when it begins receiving airplay as an album cut on top 40 pop radio, a format that has almost completely ignored Zappa’s music in the past. It is only issued as a single after CBS Records (then Barking Pumpkin Records’ distributor) asks that it be released, after public demand. Thanks to the success of “Valley Girl”, “Witch” becomes one of best selling releases Frank Zappa’s career. The other half of the album features live material recorded during the tour in support of the “You Are What You Is” album. The track “Teenage Prostitute” features vocalist Lisa Popeil, the daughter of “Veg-O-Matic” and “Pocket Fisherman” inventor Ron Popeil. The distinctive artwork featured on the cover is an illustration by cartoonist Roger Price from his book “Droodles” with the album taking its title from the drawing. “Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch” peaks at number twenty three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
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On this day in music history: March 22, 1974 – “Apostrophe (‘)”, the eighteenth album by Frank Zappa is released. Produced by Frank Zappa, it is recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, Bolic Sound, Inglewood, CA and Paramount Studios in Hollywood, CA from Mid 1969 – Early 1974. The album is the follow up to the prolific guitarist and songwriter’s commercial breakthrough “Over-Nite Sensation”, featuring shorter, more tightly structured songs tinged with Zappa’s trademark humor. Like many Zappa projects, the material is culled from a number of different sources recorded at various times over a five year period, though the main sessions take place from mid 1973 to early 1974. Featuring his main band of the period that includes George Duke (keyboards), Ruth Underwood (percussion), Napoleon Murphy Brock (saxophone, vocals), and Ralph Humphrey (drums), it also features a number of guest musicians including Tina Turner and The Ikettes (background vocals), Jack Bruce (bass), Jim Gordon (drums), Jean-Luc Ponty (violin), Don “Sugarcane” Harris (violin) and John Guerin (drums). The album includes the classics “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow”, and “Nanook Rubs It”, and becomes Zappa’s best selling album to date. Originally released on CD in 1995, it is remastered and reissued on CD in 2012, and as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2014. In 2016, The Zappa Family Trust releases “The Crux Of The Biscuit”, an album comprised of alternate mixes, alternate takes and live versions of tracks from the album, including one track that first surfaced on the posthumous triple album set “Läther” in 1996. “Apostrophe (‘)” peaks at number ten on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: March 3, 1979 – “Sheik Yerbouti” by Frank Zappa is released. Produced by Frank Zappa, it is recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, The Palladium in New York City, Hemmerleinhalle, Neunkirchen am Brand, Germany, Deutschlandhalle in Berlin, Germany and Konserthuset Götaplatsen in Goteborg, Sweden from September 25, 1974, October 26 – 28, 1977, and January 24 – 28, February 24 – 28, 1978. The eighteen track double album is compiled mostly from live shows recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in London and The Palladium in New York City, which are then augmented with studio overdubs. It is the first album released on Zappa’s own label Zappa Records (distributed by Mercury/Phonogram). The songs are highly satirical and sexually explicit in nature including “Dancin’ Fool”, “Broken Hearts Are For Assholes”, “Baby Snakes” and “Bobby Brown Goes Down”. The albums title is a pun on the KC & The Sunshine Band hit “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty”, with the album cover featuring a photo of Zappa wearing a sheikh’s caftan and a keffiyeh (traditional Arab headdress). First reissued on CD in 1990, it is remastered and reissued in 1995 and again in 2012. The album is reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2015. “Sheik Yerbouti” peaks at number twenty one on the Billboard Top 200.
Born on this day: December 21, 1940 – Legendary guitarist and composer Frank Zappa (born Frank Vincent Zappa in Baltimore, MD). Happy Birthday to this musical visionary on what would have been his 78th Birthday.