Frank Zappa Song By Song Thread (1966-96)*

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Zoot Marimba, Aug 21, 2018.

  1. Zoot Marimba

    Zoot Marimba And I’m The Critic Of The Group Thread Starter

    He Used To Cut The Grass:

    We now come to Joe’s release from prison, as he imagines guitar notes all throughout his day. This is the second of two tracks to feature Patrick O’Hearn on bass.
    I know a lot of people criticize this track and the following ones for ignoring the plot, but I actually think this and other ones serve the plot perfectly, as it captures Joe denying the illegality of music in his land. He’s already experienced it, and there’s no truly purging music. It’s a natural and inherit part of our being, it’s Joe-and by extension, Frank-were born to do. And so even without a physical guitar or amplification, Joe’s mind will still flood with musical ideas and pieces, much like Frank always did in life. Even the oppressive voice of the Central Scrutinizer is just barely able to compete with the music to be heard, showing just how powerful it really is.
    I love this track immensely.
     
  2. Fastnbulbous

    Fastnbulbous Doubleplus Ungood

    Location:
    Washington DC USA
    Another on my increasingly unwieldy list of great guitar moments from Zappa. This one is close to my heart because, as Zoot notes, it puts a sock in the CS and overpowers Mrs. Borg with stupid little guitar notes. Great bass work by O'Hearn.
     
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  3. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Pick up a fast car, burn my name in the road

    From this point on is where part 2 and 3 really are so very special to me. Sure some of the lyrics may irritate some folks, but for me they work in context with the story..... for me from here on the music is sensational, and we get ample doses of Frank playing some great guitar.
    Outside now is so bizarre in its ability to meld beauty and ugliness all in the same spot. As Zoot said Ike just makes this song so poignant and real and it makes this such an unusual song ... when you consider the first line is "These executives have plooked the f*#& out of me" and I can take this seriously, as a fantastic song.... that is an achievement all of itself.
     
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  4. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Pick up a fast car, burn my name in the road

    This is almost like a magic coda to Outside Now.
    It is fantastic and I have no a bad thing to say about anything coming up. Transcendent beauty, with musicianship to die for.
     
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  5. pbuzby

    pbuzby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    Great guitar on "He Used To Cut The Grass" and it is the only solo (not counting "Watermelon" which is from the studio) with no corresponding live recording available yet to collectors.
     
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  6. Zoot Marimba

    Zoot Marimba And I’m The Critic Of The Group Thread Starter

  7. Zoot Marimba

    Zoot Marimba And I’m The Critic Of The Group Thread Starter

  8. Fastnbulbous

    Fastnbulbous Doubleplus Ungood

    Location:
    Washington DC USA
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  9. Zoot Marimba

    Zoot Marimba And I’m The Critic Of The Group Thread Starter

    Can’t blame you, and Cosmik against Florentine was a tough one as well.
     
  10. Zoot Marimba

    Zoot Marimba And I’m The Critic Of The Group Thread Starter

    Apologies for the delays, here is “Packard Goose”:
    Packard Goose:

    Here we are at “Packard Goose”, which is Joe’s declaration to be unapologetic of who or what he is.
    We start with some funk riffage by Barrow mixed in with the Zappa orchestral flair via Ed’s marimba work. And Ike? He’s Ike, nuff said, always killer. And the song is genuinely a well crafted tune, with a fair few hooks to keep you interested, all the great time changes in this track really keeping it interesting.
    At 2:30, we go into a softer section in which Ike gives a sense of vulnerability before Mary comes in to preach some wisdom, and delivers the famous refrain...
    The solo by Frank, derived from a performance of “Easy Meat” on April Fools Day, 1979 in Switzerland. Notes perfectly placed, gorgeous tone, takes you through a cosmic battle against ominous forces, and then Vinnie perfectly compliments Frank, with his drums descending off before the song resumes as normal.
    Fantastic track, an absolute gem that sadly gets overlooked compared to the other guitar tracks on here.
     
  11. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    ‘Packard Goose’ is an absolutely key song on the album; Heresy to many I’m sure, but I would say it, and not the following ‘Watermelon In Easter Hay’ is the albums emotional climax. (In crass cinematic thematic terms I’d say ‘Goose’ functions as the ‘films’ valedictory and intense final action scene, ‘Watermelon’ is the reflective after-burn, our exhausted heroes watching the enemy base/world explode from a safe vantage point, ‘Green Rosetta’ is the ‘Where are they now?’ credits roll and blooper reel) but then I’ve always been more of a vocal melody/pop tune guy than a guitar solo maven. The main tune is so stirring and exactly what I feel the second half of the album really needs to lift it at this point. Lyrically if really conveys this truly epic righteous indignation, although lyrically what should be Joe railing against the debasement and destruction of music in general gets mixed up with what are clearly 1979 Zappa’s opinions on new wave and the music press. Although these concerns are somewhat petty compared to what Joe should really be angry about, in a way I don’t mind it cos it shows Zappa’s real voice coming through, and he seems genuinely indignant and hurt, not his usual snarky self. It helps give the whole piece this whole kind of Marvel Movie Team Up ‘This is serious now, this is our most important battle yet’ end of the universe epic scale, as the Great Satirist drops his defences and seems genuinely raw.

    That’s before we even get to the bit where Joe gets reflective about Mary, and that archetypal stereotype catholic girl, music fan and latterly groupie, the kind who’d been and would be satirised with an indulgent smirk time and again throughout Zappa’s career before and after, gets reinvented as this almost holy presence appearing from on high to deliver the greatest, most heartfelt revelation that Zappa ever lyrically expressed. It’s a truly brilliant subversion of the usual rules of Zappa’s own universe, and again to use the crass ‘action movie’ comparison has the same thematic effect as a third act ‘all seemed lost until....’ intervention by God/a higher power/a ‘reborn’ character from earlier on acting as the cavalry delivering a higher truth that puts everything else in perspective. It has all the more power for being such a rare, nay I’d say unique moment in Zappa’s catalogue, one instance where to me he truly completely lets his guard down and let’s you into his heart in his own strange way.
     
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  12. gd0

    gd0 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies

    Location:
    Golden Gate
    ^ Great post.

    Packard Goose is the centerpiece of Joe's Garage as far as I'm concerned. And paired with Watermelon, this is arguably the strongest one-two punch in Frank's entire catalog.
     
  13. edenofflowers

    edenofflowers A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular!

    Location:
    UK


    Music IS the best. THIS music to be precise.
     
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  14. Anthrax

    Anthrax Forum Resident

    Location:
    Europe
    Your analysis is right on the money, and I for one enjoyed the movie comparisons.

    This album does have depth when you look past the jokes and, even though it's long, it never loses steam. Makes its own sauce!

    By the way... I've always got a kick out of the 200 Motels reference near the end of Packard Goose. :laugh:
     
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  15. pbuzby

    pbuzby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    ^^ 1988 version where FZ replaced the guitar solo with excerpts from Stravinsky and Bartok. On the live album FZ chose to edit out the song and only include the Stravinsky/Bartok section.
     
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  16. mBen989

    mBen989 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scranton, PA
    "He Used to Cut the Grass"
    The only track on the album that meets my definition of "filler".

    "Packard Goose"
    Zappa's retort to his critics that folds in rather well into the "narrative".
     
  17. Zoot Marimba

    Zoot Marimba And I’m The Critic Of The Group Thread Starter

    Watermelon In Easter Hay:

    We now come to one of the most iconic solos by Frank, named for how he felt about trying to solo while with many of his bands. This is also the point where Joe has realized these solos only exist in his head.
    And man, what a beautiful piece it is. So full of sadness, realizing that the music is fading away from Joe, and he knows it will perhaps never return. There’s also this sense of acceptance, be it the loss of physical music, or that no matter what anybody else has to say, he will still have it to himself. The music only truly dies when everybody forgets it. And many have, but not Joe. It’s pretty fitting to write these words on the anniversary of Frank’s passing, because he himself may be gone forever, but his words and his work live on forever. Indeed, I think that though he might have not cared about rather or not he would be remembered, I do think he at least wanted the music to live on.
    I also have to give it up to Ed, his marimba flourishes are just so tasteful, so perfect for the song. And the rest of the band perfectly stays low key for Frank’s notes to speak for themselves.
    One of Frank’s finest efforts from his whole career and my favorite guitar track of his for certain. Over “Muffin Man”, over “Black Napkins”, over “Willie The Pimp”, over “Rat Tomago”, even “Zoot Allures”.
     
  18. Fastnbulbous

    Fastnbulbous Doubleplus Ungood

    Location:
    Washington DC USA
    One of the most ecstatic concert moments of my life was at a Zappa concert in Norfolk, Va. in 1980 when Frank played "Watermelon" for what seemed like 20 minutes. Hell, it may have actually been 20 minutes. The crowd kept urging him on, and he kept bringing it. Is it better than "Inca Roads", "Zomby Woof", "Black Napkins", "Son of Orange County" or a dozen others that I've thought were his "best" at one time or another? Maybe! It's certainly on the list. I agree with Zoot that there's a certain melancholy and wistfulness that you don't find on the others.
     
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  19. SJR

    SJR Senior Member

    Watermelon In Easter Hay — maybe my favourite instrumental of all time. Beautiful. Sublime. Frank's guitar work is so passionate. Great track :righton:
     
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  20. gd0

    gd0 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies

    Location:
    Golden Gate
    I had a similar experience, also in '80('79?). In Berkeley. Frank played it in the style featured on Guitar, with lotsa soaring sustains. When he finished, the crowd exploded and roared for several minutes. There was no stopping them. Frank appeared uncharacteristically moved; he just kinda stood there, hung his head, and let the crowd have their say. When it was over, he offered up a compelling snark-free thank-you.

    Watermelon obviously meant as much to him as it does to us.
     
  21. Pines Brook

    Pines Brook That sums up Squatter for me

    Location:
    New York, NY
    So well put. FZ would never have thrown that "music is the best" section into any old song on the first side of some single album of his. With Joe's Garage, it's almost like both FZ and the listener have to sift through all of FZ's surface grievances and concerns and mockeries; from Catholic girls to groupies to record companies to trendy religions to censorship, just so by the end after two albums+ worth of material, he can finally just open up with relative vulnerability, and for the most part, shut up and play his guitar, because after all the crap in the world, music is still the best. He (through the voice of Mary) immediately goes into that "French phonetic corruption" thing right after, to twist it back to some degree of insightful absurdity, but the next verse, he (through Ike Willis) quite uncynically expresses appreciation for his audience (even if it's in the context of throwing a righteous dig at music critics.)
     
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  22. Fastnbulbous

    Fastnbulbous Doubleplus Ungood

    Location:
    Washington DC USA
    Well said. I've never been to a tent revival, but that show was pretty close to what I image the experience to be like. There was definitely something holy about it. We would've held rattlesnakes for the man after that number.
     
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  23. mBen989

    mBen989 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scranton, PA
    "Watermelon in Easter Hay"

    Wow!
     
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  24. Zoot Marimba

    Zoot Marimba And I’m The Critic Of The Group Thread Starter

    Here’s to the man himself...
    [​IMG]
     
  25. Fastnbulbous

    Fastnbulbous Doubleplus Ungood

    Location:
    Washington DC USA
    Can't see your image Zoot.
     
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