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Zappa Plays Zappa - Liverpool Echo Arena
By Ted Knight
It doesn't get much better than this. Dweezil Zappa bringing ZPZ to play at the spiritual home of Zappa in the UK. Get the fuck in.
As soon as word come out about this the tickets were snapped up, first day of sale. Boss specs, right in the middle, near the front. Then the editor went and snapped his ankle in a yarddog-related footy injury and had to be wheeled off into the biff section leaving two empty spaces next to us. A few of the other Zappa click confirmed attendence so that everyone who'se ever done a Zappa related article for Swine was in the house (bar Doughboy, inexplicably, what were you thinking lad ??).
No-one can explain the Zappa obsession in Liverpool. I've no idea where it comes from meself. But it's been going on for nearly thirty years, I know that much. I can remember ordering a vinyl copy of "Freak Out" from some Italian mail order gaff in 1982 - they used to advertise in the back of Sounds or one of them. That was the Mothers first album, and it was my first Zappa album and by track three (Hungry Freaks Daddy, I Ain't Got No Heart, Who Are The Brain Police) I was hooked. Deffo one of those life changing events.
Back then you couldn't get any of the early Mothers albums as they were deleted and Frank Zappa was trying to get ownership of his masters while they were out of print. I remember getting "Mothermania" ( a "best of" of the Mothers output on Verve records) from Backtrax when it used to be located on North John Street, and also "Weasels Ripped My Flesh", "Sheikh Yerbouti" and "Shut Up And Play Your Guitar" around that time as well. I had no idea about all the different bands Zappa put together and the chronology of everything, half the time selection was made based on how groovy the cover looked.
Over time you began to notice that Zappa heads were sprouting up at the match. For a while the T-Shirt with the cover of "Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch" was a fairly common sight at the match, it even ended up in the legendary "Nitto You Sigh" cockney divvy cartoon in The End. They used to sell it in HMV. I have seen other ones at the game as well, the "Porn Wars" one was fairly common too. Zappa also gets a mention in one of the Billy Bull (or was it "Rumourmen") articles in The End, talking about his rumoured appearance at the Royal Court! Something weird was deffo going on. As all the chongers started getting together pre-and-post match and tunes got discussed and albums started getting swapped and taped the whole thing took off. By 1985 the potheads were fully fledged acid heads as the blotters and microdots started doing the rounds and Zappa was one of the essential soundtracks to the night tripping. It depends whose ken you were at, but "Hot Rats", "Joes Garage", "Fillmore East" (an original vinyl copy no less, stolen from a student party by Big Fitzy - great work !), and "Sheikh Yerbouiti" all got heavy rotation. "Sheikh" used to be real popular, I have even heard "Bobby Brown" played in a nightclub in Liverpool as a slowy, and the spoken word bits from "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes" - "Wristwatch Crisco" etc were all learned off by heart. "Fillmore East" was always essential backing music to porn videos (see Swine archive "A Personal Journey Through Porn"). Even by the time tablets started taking off, Uncle Frank was still on the scene. I can still remember sitting off with the editor outside the Quad All Nighter, waiting for it to open, with "Joes Garage" on full blam while I was trying to wipe dogshit off my gearstick.....don't ask. My biggest regret was being out of the country working when Zappa did his final tour here in 1988. At the time you thought he'd be round again, little did anyone know that he'd be brown bread within five years. I can remember the news coming on the radio when I was driving to work and I had to pull over and shed some tiny sick tears on the hard shoulder.
The early 90s saw two big developments, one was that Frank acquired all the masters to his albums and Zappa Records started reissuing everything he did (later taken over by Rycodisk who did a great job) so everything was available, and just as important, the emergence of the Muffin Men as a live band that gave the local Zappa community a bit of focus. The Muffin Men came from a local band called The Tweezers (another Zappa in-joke) who used to play in the Cumberland boozer, a great pot head friendly gaff referenced a few times in the pages of Swine. We accidentally saw one of the very first Muffin Men performances when they played one night at the Black Horse And Rainbow boozer, it was probably around 1991. I can remember the editor saying to me "Can you hear "Peaches" ?" and we went over to see the band and so it was. Over the years the Muffin Men played about a dozen times at good little venues around Liverpool, but the stint they did at the original Lomax in the mid 90s (round the corner from the Cumbo) was sublime. They managed to get ex Zappa band member Jimmy Carl Black as a semi permanent member and also had Ike Willis with them on one tour. I had a slash next to Ike in the Lomax bogs once, it's up there with Istanbul for me that. They probably did the Lomax about five times and we saw them all. They're still going now and played Liverpool in May this year.
Another local Zappa related thing to mention was a lad who used to advertise Zappa memorabilia in the back of Mojo in the early 90s, with a 0151 phone number as the contact. I phoned him up on-spec and he was based in Fazak, near the new prison, and he invited me up. His ken was unbelievable, it was like a Zappa museum. He had pretty much every bootleg concert tape available in suitcases like you used to see at record fairs, every album ever released, posters, t-shirts, he had dozens of videos that you couldn't believe even existed (e.g. black and white footage of Zappa on the Steve Allen Show from 1962, playing a bicycle). He had a printed-up sheet detailing all the stuff you could get, and he'd put bespoke videos together for you from all his stuff. I ended up getting blitzed in his and coming home with a bootleg tape of The Mothers at Liverpool Stadium from 1973 (shit quality, sentimental value only) and about five videos worth of stuff which I've still got - Zappa with Jon Luc Ponty from 73 playing in Scandinavia with a boss tartan sports coat on, a Token Of His Extreme (since reissued semi officially), loads of Flo'nEddie stuff, Zappa in Barcelona from 1988 off Spanish telly, the Baby Snakes video (unavailable then, reissued now), Zappa on Saturday Night Live and a few other bits and bobs.
In 2006 word come out that on the Zappa grapevine that Dweezil was putting together an all star band of ex-Zappa band alumni to tour his dad's music. A few of us got tickets for the Manc Apollo show, and loads of the old scouse Zappa click were in attendance. He had Steve Vai and Napoleon Murphy Brock with him and they were great, but Dweezil had loads of problems with his guitar gear and it was a bit too genteel for us, too many old fart grebos in attendance, all afraid of getting up and doing the funky Alfonso. I may well have fired a few speculative emails to Dweezil urging him to swerve Manc and come to Liverpool instead, and low, in 2010 it came to pass. We all met up in the Baltic Fleet boozer over the road and tried to anticpate how full the Arena would be while getting a few pre-match calmers in. I was a bit dubious of the venue, but when we got in they had sorted it so that only the lower tiers were open so it looked like a good turnout. The difference in the crowd between here and Manc was obvious, loads more skinheads in attendance, loads more trainees and suedies and red eyed kites. They were supported by Edgar's band Free Piece but we were in the bar for all that so no idea. When Dweezil and the gang come on stage everyone just erupted, and I think he and they were genuinely taken aback by the reception. He's probably got no idea about a generation of stoner scals on another continent who worshipped his arl feller, it's round the bend really. They kicked off with "Big Swifty" and that was that, we just strapped in for the next two hours. A quick mention here for Dweeze himself - he's a pure meister on the guitar in his own right, but hats off to him for taking the time and effort to put something like this together. The band were unbelievably good and did all the tunes justice (Dweeze, if you ever end up reading this - arf, as if - sort the Roxy DVD out eh ?). They done a little selection of tunes off "Filmore East" and as I was sat with the lad who nicked the original vinyl from that student party twenty odd years previous, we got a little bit excited and broke out into a spot of "Blind Faith in Hyde Park 69" style loon dancing. As did quite a few others. One of the vocalists was buzzing off one bonehead at the front who resisted all attempts by the nazi stewards in there to get him to sit down. He stayed up all through and can be seen on one of the you tube links - good lad. Another lad was spotted getting legged by the stewards but he manged to dive in a seat and get away, he was probably guilty of thinking about smoking or something. Seriously - Echo Arena stewards, just fucking die. Another lad spent all concert shouting "My Guitar Wants To Kill Yer Mama", but he got jibbed. His mate who was shouting "Yo Mama" was luckier. The Ed's fave, "The Blue Light" got an outing as well, which reminded me of them sunny nights on the Megadrive playing John Madden with "Tinseltown Rebellion" on. The encore was great, but about three hours too short for my liking and the house lights came up with everyone still screaming. Dweezil came out after and quite a few got autographs, photos, plecs and that, good lad Dweeze (John from Birkenhead - ye spawny twat !), but unfortunately we'd already fucked off to go the Grapes to see the quite wonderful Jazz Confusion (led by a ex-Muffin Man horn player) playing two hours worth of groovy Tito Puente Latin Jazz. Get on them, they're ace and they're on every Sunday. Here's to the next ZPZ tour, and a earlly heads up that the Swine Zappa fan club will be attending the show in The Dam this time, it's only right.
Daddy Daddy Daddy
What Kind Of Girl...?
Little House I Used To Live In
Latex Solar Beef / Pimp / drum solo
Peaches En Regalia
Keep It Greasey
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