Bubby wrote:I don't use any kind of spellcheck, i thought that was obvious
Okay then, I'll just have to blame your for the greatest part accurate spelling and generally consistent lack of grammatical solecisms on your being British
Which isn't precisely the same thing as blaming mine on me being an all-around freakazoid
Nice interview. I see there's also an interview with Scott Thunes on that site which i've bookmarked to read later. Should be interesting considering his (alledged) tyrannical assholery was the reason the band fell apart with most of the members hating his guts.
I read that interview and also this one, so after a bit of a Thunes-a-thon I think I have a general idea of what went down. Thunes is a very strong-minded person, very opinionated and perhaps a little full of himself. He's also extremely (almost absurdly, he protesteth-too-much) self-critical and like all harsh self-critics he's equally harsh on other people, with a snarky, sardonic sense of humor as well as a quick temper. So not your typical easygoing SoCal guy.
Been fired from a lot of bands, wound up doing working-class day jobs (construction, club doorman) and as of the most recent interview, looking for a computer industry gig.
That said, I didn't really get a sense that he's an asshole, more like a polarizing personality who's inward-directed enough not to care about alienating people. So Zappa synergizes this by making him the band Clonemeister, their name for the sargeant-at-arms or executive officer (or concertmaster) role amounting to the band disciplinarian -- the guy who makes sure everybody gets to rehearsals on time, fines those who aren't and yells at people for not having their parts down cold. In other words, the one guy in the band that everybody learns to hate.
There was also according to Thunes a musical disagreement. Thunes is a serious student of 20th century classical harmony whose sensibility in playing "outside" the chords meshed with Zappa's own, so Frank gave him an unprecedented amount of leeway to improvise in the arrangements, especially compared to the rhythm guitarists and keyboard players, and some of Zappa's musicians -- always beat on for not playing verbatim -- were uncomfortable with this, especially since it was usually Thunes himself (as Zappa's mouthpiece) doing the beating.
All this said, Frank's bands have always thrived on personality conflicts (you surely can't hear any of the bad blood in those three records); in fact, in the Mothers Zappa often turned them into performance art, and so it appears unfair to say that Thunes singlehandedly caused the disintegration of the '88 band (most of the band members have since reconciled with Thunes). The issues were much bigger; especially that Zappa was seriously ill then and kept it a secret.
The one guy who hadn't reconciled with Thunes was Ike Willis (who according to Thunes still owes him 93 bucks) who, a decade later, set about badmouthing Thunes and spreading the whole Thunes-destroyed-the-'88-band story on some internet forum, and we know how rumors like this can spread and stick. Frankly, if it's a choice between believing Frank's all-time favorite bassist and Thing-Fish, I personally don't have to think twice about who to credence.
I'm usually not one for much of Zappa's 'humour', but i find the Swaggart stuff funny because it's so childish rather than in spite of.
In order to get any of Zappa's humor, you have to buy into the concept of stupid-funny (even moronic-funny) and I have no problem with that at all. The Swaggart thing would've been fine, right in Zappa's wheelhouse, had it been a self-contained little number. But basing so much of that show around Zappa's perception of the US being bullied and terrorized by these shark-suited circus clowns is a little ludicrous; we had bigger problems in the Age of Reagan.
My beef here with Frank is of course much bigger than this. Frank's politics are just naïve, animated on the one hand by whiz-bang American Freudianism that was hugely influential in intellectual circles in the 50s and 60s which amounted to saying that all sexual repression is bad (Freud himself would beg to differ, calling repression the necessary price of civilization), and on the other by the simpleminded libertarian formula that if you just left everybody alone to do what they wanted then we'd all get along fine. These are both standard-issue 60s hippie cant that Frank simply never grew out of or managed to see in a larger or historical context. Shriekingly ironic when you consider two of Frank's least favorite things, the self-indulgent excesses of the counterculture and corporate greed run amok, spring from these ideas.
The lyrics for Lonesome Cowboy Jim sound like they were made up on the spot.
Well of course they're based on Lonesome Cowboy Burt, a feature in 200 Motels for the otherwise neglected Jimmy Carl Black (replaced in the Mothers by Aynsley Dunbar).
Then there's Texas Motel that i don't think was ever released (can't think why).
That was marginally amusing but I'm still very meh about it all. Part of it's that Frank's sexual politics are so rancid -- he's done whole albums about the lofty pursuit of rock bands scoring groupies (all the fallout with wives and girlfriends seems either to go unnoticed or get snickered at, as in The Jazz Discharge Party Hats) and so here's ol' Jimmy Swaggart caught with a prostitute. Goodness, the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker embezzlement scandal is a much more serious fish to fry, but gods, it's SEX so let's go after this tawdry little episode instead.
Zappa is going after someone who actually deserves the scorn and humiliation for once rather than the usual pc baiting shite
Oh, no sympathy for Jimmy Swaggart. It's just that in Frank's ideal universe, what Jimmy and Jessica Hahn did wouldn't rate comment because prostitution would be legal. Okay, nothing wrong with laughing at hypocritical human weakness but nothing much satirical about it, either. Laughing at Jimmy strikes no blow against televangelism because as long as he gets down on his scabby knees and begs forgiveness it's no longer an issue for his followers. So the whole idea of dangerous satire, of getting people to laugh at themselves, isn't operative here.
You know the Python with the rugged Ozzies in the outback blowing away bugs with a howitzer and skinning a mosquito alive with a machete? Zappa just ran that bit into the ground.
(Jumbo Go Away
Fine Girl and Pick Me I'm Clean aren't anything to write home about, either, but Jumbo Go Away is probably the single most vicious and mean-spirited song in Zappa's whole catalog.
and We're Turning Again are both utterly pathetic and not remotely funny or satirical)
I'd have to beg to differ with you there. I think We're Turning Again is a return to the kind of truly dangerous satire the MOI did so devastatingly on We're Only In It For The Money. Unlike Jimmy and that poor hapless overweight would-be groupie with the feminine hygiene issues, it's not directed at an individual but at a whole generation, which is fair game. Sure, it's sharp, it's scabrous; when Frank exonerates the cops and National Guard who abused, trampled on the rights of and even killed a few hippies because "they were full of all that shit that they believed in ... so-ho-ho WHAT THE F'CK" you go ooof! But I don't think Frank meant it literally.
It's an attack, after all, on one of my own favorite targets, which is baby boomer cultural hegemony. Frank should've mentioned that just because there are more of them than there are of everyone else doesn't give their music the right to dominate the airwaves now that they've entered their peak earning years and can buy back their entire adolescent record collections on CD. You forget how demoralizing the "classic rock" radio boom was in the late 80s to the already shaken-up prospects of new bands trying to break out in a world of disco, hair metal and castrated new wave. Maybe it wasn't the boomers's fault that there were so many of them so prosperous and thus were such an easy marketing target, maybe Zappa was being unfair to the young people who effectively ended the Vietnam War and jump-started the environmental movement by trampling on their idealism as empty-souled narcissism. Well, as I just said a minute ago, Zappa never really saw the connection between the values that he cherished and the youth culture he so loved to slam for acting on their natural impulses.
Edit: You two have got me tubin' for Zappa videos now.
A veritable whitewater rafting ride ...
I think the first i ever saw of him was this home video which i watched at a friends house aged about 14. I can't remember if i'd smoked some grass or not, but i remember being quite disturbed by some of the animation.
Ah, yes, the amazing Mr. Bickford. There's a lot of that in the Baby Snakes video, too. Bruce Bickford is indeed an amazingly imaginative claymation animator but frankly I'd much rather watch a clean clip of that well-recorded concert. Gimme shots of Ruth on a marimba any day.