THE BEST BAND YOU NEVER HEARD IN YOUR LIFE - MAKE A JAZZ NOISE HERE: LIVE COMPILATIONS #3
In 1987 preparations were made for Zappa's biggest tour effort. At first the rock band section rehearsed,
afterwards a brass section joined in, bringing the band's magnitude up to twelve members. In total it took four months
of practicing for a
program of five hours, enough for two completely different shows. Touring started in the east of the U.S.,
next Europe. The U.S. west and south coast, planned for the autumn, had to be cancelled however.
Tensions within the band had become too big to continue. Zappa let everybody vote whether
they could move on with bass player Scott Thunes and the general opinion was no, so in
Zappa's words the band self-destructed.
The financial loss was compensated by releasing as good as all material on CD. "Broadway the hard way"
was dealt with in the previous section. Here we continue with three examples
from the two double CDs that ensued from the tapes.
Right: Part of the original CD cover for "Make a jazz noise here" by Larry Grossman/Art Attack
featuring a night club in a desert landscape (copyright Barking Pumpkin Records).
Today's copies have a drawing by Cal Schenkel. I don't have a clue why it got replaced.
The 1988 "Heavy duty Judy" version opens "The best band you never heard in your life". It only overlaps
with its predecessor from "Shut up 'n play yer guitar" in reusing the vamp in 12/8, otherwise it's a new composition.
He might just as well have used a new title as "Son of Heavy duty Judy", as he had done several times before.
The brass section is used for creating an opening theme around the vamp. After up to two minutes Zappa falls
in with a sharp solo (in the midi file below some bars with repetitions are skipped).
The repeated bar 1 represents an intro for this version of "Heavy duty Judy". In bars 4-5 you've
got the characteristic vamp returning, beginning before beat at beat 4 in bar 4. Steve Vai describes it as "sort of
boppin'", using triplets if you would notate it in 4/4. At this point it's in a different key
compared to the original. Here it's in D Mixolydian with the progression I-II-VII. At bar 13
you get at an interlude without the vamp. Here the band gets to play through varying keys. The basic
chord progression in rock terms in staff 3 is Eb-F-Db-Eb-F#m. The bass moves downwards: Ab-G-Gb-F-E. In none
of these instances is the bass part of the 5th chords of staff 3, thus the bass enlarges the total sounding
chords. In bar 13 for instance to Ab9. In bar 20 we get at the vamp in its final key: E Mixolydian again as in the
original (same I-II-VII chord progression). Other than in the original the bass doesn't give an E as a pedal note,
but forms part of the chords.
Heavy duty Judy (1988), opening (midi file)
Heavy duty Judy (1988), opening (transcription).
Next is another variant upon "The black page #2" from "Make a jazz noise here", taking this composition a step further
regarding tempo changes, instrumentation and soloing. This "new age" version opens in a very slow relaxed
tempo with percussion embellishments, but later on everybody
accelerates to the original tempo. What used to be a quintuplet within a bar now gets spread out over four bars.
It begins with a sequence of mostly thirds in bars 1-4. The beginning of this sequence returns half-speed in bar 10-12.
After conducting the band, Zappa again falls in with a strong solo.
The black page (new age version), opening (midi file)
The black page (new age version), opening (transcription).
For the 1988 tour Zappa took the synclavier with him on stage. "Make a jazz noise here" contains three larger pieces
with combinations of written themes, solo improvisations and synclavier sections. You could see Zappa typing in the parameters
to set off stored music and modulate sampled sounds via the pc keyboard and the keys of the synclavier keyboard. The results
are bizarre collages. "When yuppies go to hell" opens with a synclavier theme made up of a 5th chord sequence of held notes. These chords
belong to varying keys, so the melody as a whole becomes chromatic.
The plain notes of the theme itself are rather simple. They get their special character by sound effects in the catalogue of
the machine, like (de-)crescendo, moving a sound from one type to another and various sampled emotional outbursts
of the human voice. The synclavier theme gets interrupted by written bars for the band with some irregular counterpoint
figures in varying meters. This part is also chromatic. After this little interlude the opening theme returns in another meter
and via 7th chords. Then
you get to the weird sounds collages, solos and little stored composed parts. Next is the opening theme:
When yuppies go to hell, theme (midi file)
When yuppies go to hell, theme (transcription).
As it comes to new compositions "The best band you never heard in your life" has only one unreleased song by Zappa himself,
the others are covers. More than on "Make a jazz noise here" it's the alternative bars and solos that make this collection
worthwhile, like the six minutes solo from "The torture never stops part two". Regarding the live versions of the original
studio songs from "Zoot allures", the themes are more brought back to their basic elements. In the case of "The torture
never stops the "Zoot allures" version has a lot more of adornal embellishments to it, and of course the moaning of Gail Zappa. You can
compare the black dots from the Zoot allures section with the one below. Biographer Neil Slaven states that he prefers
the group effort above Zappa playing most of the overdubbed parts on "Zoot allures", so there are people who don't see
this as a disadvantage. Zappa included "The torture never stops" in about every tour since it was written, each time
playing a larger solo in the middle of the song. Next is the main theme plus the opening of the guitar solo
from the 1988 version. This one is in A Dorian instead of G Dorian on the "Zoot allures" album. Zappa frequently
transposed his songs for his different tours. The harmony in bars 1-2 is also different. On "Zoot allures" it's I followed by
a blending of I and VII in G Dorian (bar 1). Here it's I 7th - I 9th in A Dorian (bars 1-2).
The torture never stops part two, opening (midi file)
The torture never stops part two, opening (transcription).
"Zomby woof" is present three times in Zappa's catalogue. The original studio version appeared on "Overnite sensation" in 1973.
Next you've got live versions from 1982 en 1988 on "YCDTOSA I" and "The best band you never heard in your life" respectively.
They differ in various minor elements. The bigger difference lies in the included guitar solo. Wolfgang Ludwig
transcribed the lead melody of the first minute for his study from 1992, whereas all of "Zomby woof" (1973 version) got published
in the Hal Leonard series (2011, transcr. Paul Pappas). It's a complex song, made up of a multitude of motifs, smaller
themes and riffs. The meters keep changing. The below follows the set up from 1988:
- 0:00. Instrumental opening theme of three bars, played in parallels. Bar 1 returns the most in this song and can be seen
as the central melodic element.
As for most of "Zomby woof" it's diatonic material from varying scales
without clear key notes. Ludwig and Pappas use different meter notations for most of their bars.
The first bar lasts 3/4, subdivided into four times 3/16. Wolfgang Ludwig notates this as actually four 3/8 bars,
while Paul Pappas chose for 3/4 with a syncope. Ludwig is using smaller units in most cases in a similar way (I'm here following
the Pappas meter notation).
- 0:05 Motif 1 (bar 4 in the example below) made up of five beats with quintuplets. The bass plays a chromatically descending line. You can see
this bar as polyscale, with a scale fragment per bar.
- 0:08 Motif 2, played four times (bars 5-8) with the instrumentation building up in layers.
Block with lyrics alternated with instrumental bars:
- 0:18 First sung theme ("300 years ago ..."). It's played over a bass riff.
- 0:28 One intermediary bar ("You know I ..."). Whereas the larger part of "Zomby woof" is relatively
monodic, without much chords,
or composed polyphonically, this bar has a clear chord present for the bass plus brass section (Dm7).
- 0:31 Motif 3 (bar 14) in 2/4, instrumental.
- 0:32 Motif 1 repeats.
- 0:35 Second sung theme, starting over motif 2 as a guitar/bass riff for the first two bars ("Seems to me ..."). Beat 4
of the riff gets augmented with one 16th note so that it now lasts a normal 4/4 bar instead of 15/16. In bars 15-16 you can see the
B-D motif of bar 1 returning.
- 0:45 Two bars (20-21) with instrumental improvisation.
- 0:51 Two bars from the second sung theme (bars 18-19) get repeated instrumentally. The first example ends here.
Zomby woof (1988), opening (midi file)
Zomby woof (1988), opening (transcription).
Second instrumental block:
- 0:57 Motif 1 gets varied upon. Here you've got a 6/4 and a 5/4 bar. The first one contains the melody of motif 1
identically followed by a one beat pause with some percussion. Bar 2 plays this melody backwards. Instead
of the quintuplets, Zappa is now using normal 16th notes, thus beats of 5/16 (Ludwig
notation). Paul Pappas chose to maintain the original quintuplet notation of motif 1 and then has to change the tempo:
it goes from the metronome tempo of a quarter note being 90 to being 76. Arithmetically the result is as good as the same: (90/76)*(4/5) is about 1.
- 1:05 Instrumental bars with a little chord progression and the bass riff for the next third sung theme.
Second block with lyrics alternated with instrumental bars:
- 1:15 Third sung theme over this bass riff ("I am the Zomby woof..."). It's a theme of four bars, played twice,
of which the first bar is a variation upon bar 9.
- 1:35 Fourth sung theme of two bars, of which the first is a variation upon bar 1 ("Tellin' you all ..."). These two
bars can also be interpreted as a free variation upon bars 18-19.
- 1:40 Motif 4, an instrumental sequence of 32nd notes, played four times.
- 1:46 The fourth sung theme returns once more.
- 1:52 Little theme of two bars, repeated four times with variations. The first contains two part
counterpoint and gets either
instrumentally played or sung ("Reety awrighty ..."). The second bar is monodic.
- 2:12 Two bars with a flatly sung fifth theme, that introduces the guitar solo ("They was awreety ...").
- 2:18 Guitar solo in A Dorian, played over a one bar bass vamp in 4/4. The original 1973 solo is played
over a bass pedal note, though also here you can discern the vamp in the first couple of bars.
Both the 1982 and 1988 solo are using the bass vamp from below all through. It comprises about half of the time the song lasts.
Zomby woof (1988), section (midi file)
Zomby woof (1988), section (transcription).
Third block with lyrics alternated with instrumental bars:
- 4:36 Polyphonic intrumental bars, not present in the 1973 version.
The brass and bass play a melody twice. It's made up of two bars in 4/4 over which
the guitar lets the figure from the second bar
of the little theme return, that started at point 1:52.
- 4:47 Sixth sung theme ("I gotta great big ..."). For the larger part it's sung with only accompaniment by the drummer.
- 5:09 Motif 3 returns in a 4/4 bar: the first two beats are motif 3 played identically, beats 3-4 are for the drummer.
- 5:12 The sixth sung theme continues, now sung over motif 2.
- 5:16 The fourth sung theme now returns as outro theme, followed by two bars with instrumental improvisation.
All four bars are played twice.
- 5:35 The instrumental opening now returns as the coda. It gets augmented by one beat where Zappa at last
seems to settle for a key: A Dorian.
- 5:41 End.
Let's make the water turn black (1988), opening (midi file)
Let's make the water turn black (1988) (notes/transcription).
On disc I of "Make a jazz noise here" Zappa returned to some of his sixties tunes, now with a brass arrangement and without lyrics. Above
is the opening of "Let's make the water turn black". It's in C, with altered notes in bars 6 and 9-10. It's another example of Zappa
using a fast reggae or ska rhythm, as he occasionally did during the eighties (see also "The black page (1984)" example from the YCDTOSA section).
The song starts with four bars with the Cadd2 chord, played as an arpeggio. The example begins with the last two of these arpeggio bars.
The guitar/keyboard chords from bar 3 onwards are the same as the ones used in the Songbook Vol. I. The brass arrangement is standard, playing
the lead melody mostly via parallel thirds, every now and then replaced by a fourth. "Let's make the water turn black" is also an example of a
song that is pressent in Zappa's catalogue in both an instrumental version and one with lyrics. The degree instrumental music is present in Zappa's
output is one of his distinctive features compared to standard pop albums. You've got many entirely instrumental compositions, many compositions
with instrumental sections and songs that have appeared on CD both instrumentally and with lyrics.
Just to mention a few:
- Oh no! (Lumpy gravy vs. Weasels ripped my flesh).
- Tuna sandwich suite/Bogus pump (200 Motels vs. LSO).
- Strictly genteel (200 Motels vs. LSO).
- Sofa #1 and #2 (One size fits all).
On some occasions ZFT releases have shown the existence of both versions where you might not have expected this:
- Think it over/The grand wazoo (Joe's domage vs. The grand wazoo).
- Farther O'blivion/Cucamonga (Imaginary diseases vs. Bongo fury).
- Envelopes (Odeon Hammersmith vs. LSO).
The guitar solos are of course by definition instrumental. The effect of the instrumental element in Zappa's music is that half of the examples
in my study are instrumental. Whether a Zappa song has lyrics appears is partially determined by the feasibility of singing the lead melody.
Also here Zappa could push things to the limits, like the second "Montana" example in my study, the part that Tina Turner and the Ikettes are singing.
The Barcelona concert of May 1988 got filmed for television and broadcasted several times by the Spanish TV entity
RTVE. Below is an announcement from their 2006 program. It says: "Live from
Barcelona the concert given by the composer and guitar player Frank Zappa, May 1988,
as part of his last tour as a rock musician. Frank Vincent Zappa (U.S.A., 1940-1993)
founded the group The Mothers of Invention in 1964, till he dissolved it in 1969, when he started
a long solo career. In 1973 he triumphed commercially with his records "Apostrophe (')"
and "Overnite sensation". Apart from being a musician Zappa also was a composer, who
had himself influenced by doo-wop, rhythm and blues and contemporary modern music, thus
his compositions include all modern styles: classic, rock, jazz, reggae, blues. His music
is characterised by the intensive use of instruments that are unconventional for a rock
band, like the marimba or the violin."