Frank Zappa Appreciation Index: Titties and Beer – You Can’t Do That While Jogging Anymore

by July 24th, 2011 - Culture » Sounds »

I haven’t exactly been shy about my admiration for Frank Zappa, the great and voluminous composer, decent guitarist, master of concepts, counter-counter-counter-culture wizard of words, unrestrained and unpredictable humorist, tireless entrepreneur, and champion of free speech.

Frank Zappa’s is a massive, seemingly endless library of original content and alternate recordings that allows you great opportunity to find something new or even forget something in your own library and rediscover it with both newfound and remembered glee. To be sure, there are some albums, songs, recordings that are not music to my ears by any stretch; but there are some songs that I value more than the combined libraries of every other musician Dinah-moe Hum from Overnite Sensation is the most explicit, driving Karoke classic you’ll come across. It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal off of Waka Jawaka is a softly mind-altering unexpected change of pace scottish-country ballad; and Peaches En Regalia from Hot Rats is like a butterfly using a machine gun to shoot at my soul. In fact, the album Hot Rats itself is so good that following that same scale of measurement suggested above it might be extrapolated that that album is more valuable than the whole sum of the remainder of reality.

I could go on and on with poetic examples, but what particularly struck me today while jogging was the one-of-a-kind quality of the live recording of Titties and Beer from Zappa in New York. The song itself is a damn funny thing, for sure, but the performance that night had so many things go right and wrong…just right. Rather than just plowing through the song – as is sometimes the case with live recordings – Zappa and drummer Terry Bozzio really took their time and played with the narrative in the middle of the song, the back and forth between the titty-less, beer-less man and the devil who consumed both desires. The song has a simple architecture for this section that allows Zappa and Bozzio not only to perform the scripted narrative but to stray from it, throwing each other off balance, making them laugh while keeping on track even as Frank deftly incorporates an impromptu chicken-scratch note from the audience, turning back to wrap up the story without missing a beat before crashing back into the final chorus.

I take particular pleasure that I can state – with a straight face – that this recording of Titties and Beer is one of my favorite pieces of art.

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