Monday, March 24, 2014

40 Year Itch: Sleazy Pancakes

   On March 22, 1974 Frank Zappa released his 18th , most commercially successful and highest charting album, Apostrophe ('). Recorded at the same time as its predecessor Over-Nite Sensation, Apostrophe is filled out with outtakes from 1969's Hot Rats ("Excentrifugal Forz") and 1972's  Grand Wazoo ("Uncle Remus"). 

   The title cut is an instrumental jam featuring some very busy licks from Ex Cream bassist Jack Bruce and troubled drummer Jim Gordon ( who also played on most of the tracks on Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic).

   By 1974, Zappa had proven his musical prowess both on guitar and as a composer. Apostrophe, like Over-Nite Sensation, is a return to the satiric humor that originally brought fame to Zappa ( and his Mothers of Invention). The humor seems more puerile than hilarious to me, but that may be because I haven't been a Third Grader for decades --so piss-dyed snow, dog doo snow cones and masturbating leprechauns don't actually make me laugh out loud. My own Third Grader gives the album his highest compliment though. He says it's "weird".

   The highlight of Apostrophe, and the way most people get introduced to the music of Zappa, is the "Yellow Snow Suite" consisting of the first four tracks:  "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow", "Nanook Rubs It","St.Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast", and "Father O'Blivion." 
  Zappa credits the commercial success of the album to a Pittsburgh radio station that cut that suite into a three minute novelty number.

"But it was nothing that Warner Brothers ever foresaw, it was nothing that I could have foreseen as a guy at DiscReet Records, a subsidiary of a subsidiary of a subsidiary.  Who knew? The credit goes to the DJ. "

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