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An evening with the maestro  
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Drew51
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Post 2010-12-20 15:45   [Quote] 
Some asked if i would relate this story of Tom Brown and his visit to Frank's house. In his own words:

Thank you Arthur Barrow

Now that I've been asked to commit my visit with Frank at his house to text form, and being a hardcore Zappa fan since I first heard "Freak Out" in 1966, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I didn't write the time, day and year down in my imaginary diary (I've never kept one). However, I can tell you that it was probably early 1986 (just about the time that Joan Rivers had her late night talk show on Fox), and it was a week night because I couldn't wait to go to work the next day to brag about my good fortune to my fellow Rhino employees. About a week prior to this I received a call from my long-time friend Arthur Barrow, who asked me if I was interested in accompanying him to Frank's house so I would have the opportunity to meet my musical hero face to face. I had met Arthur in 1975, shortly after he moved to LA from Denton, Texas to await his chance to audition with his musical champion, and being a huge fan of Frank's musical endowment myself we had no problem at all relating to one another. It took three years for Arthur to achieve his dream, but in the interim we wound up playing in countless bad top 40 groups together (I'm a drummer), and other music projects too numerous to mention here. No one was happier than myself (except maybe Arthur), when he finally won the coveted position as Frank's bass player. I was even happier when I realized that this afforded me the chance to be invited to rehearsals, free tickets when FZ played LA and the occasional backstage pass. But being invited to visit Frank at his house had to be the icing on the proverbial cake.
The mystery visit date was then decided. I remember when the day arrived we left in the early afternoon (2:30 - 3:00), to wend our way up to Woodrow Wilson Dr. and admittedly I was feeling somewhat nervous. I had been in close proximity to Frank a number of times at rehearsals, but I seriously doubted that he was going to remember someone who had never made an effort to approach him, much less engage him in a conversation. Arriving at the house we were admitted by one of his studio employees who led us into the studio where FZ was reclining in his favorite chair, smoking as usual. After a friendly greeting (including the handshake ritual), Frank left the room with Arthur, while I was left in the studio with 3 of Frank's helpers, who proceeded to ignore me as they went about their business. I'm not about to pretend that It wasn't an absolutely glorious and wondrous experience to be standing in the midst of the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen. I'm a jaded kinda guy, but not that jaded. It was one of those "kid in a candy store" sorta moments. I stood there for a bit leering at the state of the art surroundings, including the multipurpose synclavier resting in the corner to the left of me before sitting on a small couch located against the back wall. I immediately looked down at the small table in front of me to find a beautifully rendered black and orange illustration of Frank and a scary looking black cat staring back at me. Very Halloweenish. I immediately assumed that this was planned to be the cover of an imminent live, Halloween extravaganza, but this was the first and last time I saw the creation. I probably could've asked Frank about it, but we were there as guests. We were not there for an in-depth interview. If Frank cared to talk about it, he would (he didn't). I continued to bask in the ambience of the surroundings for another 10 minutes before I was notified that everyone was leaving for the day, and I should vacate the premises to locate Frank and Arthur, and was given directions to an area at the front of the house. Traversing my way through a few smaller rooms I stepped into the designated threshold and entered to find Frank sitting 30 feet in front of me, cigarette dangling from his fingertips, with Arthur to his right. FZ was telling him something I didn't catch before I interrupted. "They kicked me out" I offered, while Frank gestured to take a seat on a small beige couch across from them. It was a large room that included the well known display of Zappa related license plates that his fans had sent him throughout the years, while three of the walls were covered with shelves containing a large quantity of tape boxes and film cans.
Picking up from where he left off, Frank continued his conversation with Arthur about his recent offer to take over the "Joan Rivers Show" slot on FOX. He was going to call it "Night School". Arthur had told me about this earlier that week, and that Frank planned to have a band on the show and wanted Arthur to be the clonemeister and musical director of sorts, as well as field questions from the audience. He had been asked to brush up on current events in preparation to take on the added responsibility. Frank knew exactly what he wanted to do...he wanted to have guests as dissimilar to one another as possible, and from all sides of the political spectrum as possible (shades of Bill Maher seven years before "Politically Incorrect"), interspersed with music from the band, and mentioned that he wanted to show the contemporary side of the naked female breast in an idea he had about comparing them with those of the tribal women one sees in National Geographic, and on PBS. Thus pointing out the ridiculousness that it was okay to show the American people one set of mammalian protuberances and not another. It was all explained in the usual FZ droll delivery, and it was impossible not to laugh. I wish I could remember his exact dialog but this was almost 25 years ago, so you'll have to forgive my lack of total recall. Frank seemed relaxed and although I might be imagining this, he became a little more animated and fun after Arthur and I responded with the appropriate laughter more than a few times. Feeling more comfortable by the minute I took the liberty of standing to take a closer look around the room which mainly included the shelf up against one of the walls that had the film cans stored in them. Inching my way over to my destination my curiosity was instantly rewarded. The cans were all labeled "Roxy". Goddamn. I had been in attendance for Frank's opening and closing night at the venue and had been dying to see the footage from it for too many years, and there was the raw footage close enough to reach out and touch, which really didn't do anything to alleviate the incessant yen (which still exists to this day, thanks for all your help, Gail), to actually view this legendary event. Looking back I should have probably asked him about his plans for a "Roxy" video, but I didn't. I wasn't going to take a chance and turn Frank off with a bunch of frothing fan-boy shit.
It wasn't long before Frank invited us back into the studio to show us a few things he was working on. As I mentioned earlier I had been a hardcore fan of Frank and his music since 1966, and I never imagined that I would ever have the opportunity to hang out with FZ at his house, much less be invited to tour the studio with the man. This was the one of the most serendipitous moments of my miserable corporate life. Can I get a big fucking "Great Googa Mooga!"?
Entering the studio which was now devoid of any crew people, we immediately proceeded to the synclavier where we were treated to a demonstration of its sampling ability at the hands of sir maestro. The pride and gratification he took with his presentation was obvious and Arthur and I were duly impressed, but not quite as impressed when he shared what it was capable of as a compositional tool by playing 2 tracks from his upcoming album "Jazz From Hell". Shame on me for not remembering what track he played us first, but the memory of it disappeared almost instantly the moment "G-Spot Tornado" blasted through the studio speakers literally pinning me to my seat. Arthur and I both offered our unadulterated approval as soon as the final note faded away (as if Frank needed anyone's approval for what he chose to do), but he graciously thanked us, before turning to Arthur to ask him if he could hear the latest project he had brought with him. The latest project in question turned out to be a version of "In the Mood", the song popularized by American bandleader Glenn Miller in 1939, to which Arthur had applied his synthesizer skills to produce an impeccable, pulsating, hi-tech rendition for MCA Records, who had released it as a 12" single b/w "Moonlight Serenade" performed by Thelma Houston. It was then that Frank admitted to us that he wasn't sure if he knew how to direct the signal from the turntable (remember them?), to a line-out so we might hear it in all its glory through the studio speakers. We didn't have to wait that long before FZ had figured it out and the first twelve bars of "In the Mood", played by Glenn Millers band emerged from the speakers before Arthur's synthesizer arrangement kicked in. Even after hearing "G-Spot" it remained an impressive achievement. Frank was nodding his head and smiling, which is the best compliment one can get coming from a musician and composer of Frank's talent. "You know what you're doing", he told Arthur when the song came to its conclusion. "Good job". Arthur revealed to me later how great it had been to receive a compliment from his mentor. It was a fine, fine moment for my good friend Arthur. In fact it was fine, fine moment for all of us thanks to Frank's congeniality and enthusiasm.
(Coincidently, I spoke with Arthur on the date of his 30th anniversary (12-11-10), which commemorated his last appearance on stage with FZ. The reminder was the backstage pass he has dangling from a piece of equipment used in his studio. We both remained upbeat during the conversation, but it was a stark and dramatic reminder of how short our lives truly are.)
Winding up in another room located between the studio and the den area, Frank thought we should hear another of his recent projects, while popping a cassette into one of the available machines, explaining that he had done this with Eric Bogosian and it was called "Blood On the Canvas". He bragged that this was never going to be heard on the radio because no one would have the guts to play it. To read the complete text version of this, including a bit of information re why it's never been officially released click on this link...

http://globalia.net/donlope/fz/related/Blood_On_The_Canvas.html

Twenty-four petulant and tortured, performance artist minutes later I was feeling luckier than ever to hear an extremely rare endeavor in Frank's presence not knowing that it was fated to non-release. This may have been the first and last time that I've heard this. I'm reasonably sure I got this from an old tape trader friend, but I don't remember making the effort to listen to it. As intriguing as it might sound (the premise involves a performance artist who is asked to sever his cock on stage and bleed to death), it was not an easy listen. It was entertaining to be sure, and Bogosian was perfect in his delivery, but this was never going to be accepted by a large audience (as with most of FZ's releases), and it certainly wasn't going to get any airplay as Frank had so deftly pointed out.
It was about this time when Gail put in an appearance (this was years before she grew to hate me). After our initial greeting she told us that she had just returned from picking up Ahmet at his acting class, and that he had been surrounded by 3 or 4 teenage girls. "You should have driven around the block a few times" Frank told her. "Give him some time to get a blow-job". Laughs ensued and Gail disappeared almost immediately after reporting in.
Somehow the conversation got around to the PMRC hearings which triggered Frank to tell us that he had actually invited Paula Hawkins over to the house several times. She was the senator that facetiously stated "I'd be interested in seeing what kind of toys your kids play with" at the PMRC hearings, to which Frank replied "Come on over to the house and I'll show em' to you", which had to be the funniest thing said all that day. That seemed to trigger more comments from el maestro re the hearings as he began to pontificate about Al Gore, who had also been present and one of the senators lording over the hearings. Referring to Al's statement..."I've been a big fan of your music", Frank took a long drag on his cigarette, raised an eyebrow and exhaled "It makes a guy wonder. What was he listening to? "Weasels Ripped My Flesh, Lumpy Gravy"?, as we all enjoyed a good laugh at the expense of Al Gore.
We spent another hour or so enjoying Frank's conversational skills and wry commentary on the state of the universe, music and things in general before Frank informed us that he had to go back to work. We both thanked him for having us over as he led us to the door, shaking our hands before we headed back to the real world. It had been a fans dream night. This incredibly smart, talented and funny man had spent six hours with us being as gracious as one could possibly hope for, and I'll never forget it. Frank would have been 70 on December 21, and I suspect that he would have not released a live 3 CD set, circa 1978, including a balloon and party hat/toilet covering to commemorate the event, but no one can really speculate on what he might have done had he lived. There will never be another like him. Frank Zappa was definitely one-of-a kind, and he remains my musical hero, while Arthur Barrow remains a true friend. He exudes integrity, generosity, intelligence, kindness and every other positive human quality one could wish for in a being, in addition to being "a pretty good musician". Had it not been for Arthur there would be no memory of my visit to Frank's, simply because it would never have happened. The only other opportunity I had to visit the house was in 1999, long after Frank's death, and although that visit also registers as a momentous occasion it wasn't exactly the same. Myself and two other individuals from Rhino Records went there to peruse the vault and to transcribe what material might be available for possible future releases. This was after Gail had approached Rhino and was offering to sell everything outside of the already existing catalog. I'll refrain from telling you what she was asking, but after carefully going over the recent sales figures of his catalog, it was determined that it would take years before a profit might appear. I'll tell you about it sometime.
But for now I'll leave you with these four very important words...
Thank you Arthur Barrow
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Mondolunch
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Post 2010-12-20 16:02   [Quote] 
Very Interesting.

Why does Gail hate him so much? I suppose it has something to do with Rhino....

Mondo

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alfonzo
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Post 2010-12-20 16:04   [Quote] 
Nice story Drew! Thanx for sharing... Smile
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Al Fresco
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Post 2010-12-20 16:24   [Quote] 
Many thanks, Drew & Tom for let us know it. Right on, man!
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WIU2B
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Post 2010-12-20 17:29   [Quote] 
Thank you for sharing this interesting inside story.

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hoops
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Post 2010-12-20 18:03   [Quote] 
Very cool story. Thanks to Drew & Tom for sharing it, (and Arthur, of course, for making it all possible!) Smile


Last edited by hoops on 2010-12-20 18:04; edited 1 time in total
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CheepnisAroma
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Post 2010-12-20 18:03   [Quote] 
Thanks for relaying this story Smile
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Drew51
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Post 2010-12-20 18:07   [Quote] 
I remember Tom calling me the next day after the visit, all hyped up. I remember little of our long conversation that day. I do remember thinking how cool that must have been!! I asked Tom to tell us the story of the vault inventory. hopefully, he will!

Tom is a writer, and has been trying to publish his first book. "Summer of Love, My Ass!" Tom spent time in federal prison as he refused to serve during the Vietnam War. The book relays his expierence being drafted, his trials and tribulations when he refused to go. He has been unable to find a publisher to take a chance. i have read several chapters of his book, it is awesome. He is a great writer and story teller. Any suggestions from the large amount of authors here is appreciated. I believe he has a forward by Pete Seeger, the legendary folk singer. Tom has played with Zoogz Rift, and is a good friend of his too. Tom is one of the best human beings I ever met on this earth.


Last edited by Drew51 on 2010-12-21 17:35; edited 2 times in total
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Mondolunch
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Post 2010-12-20 18:12   [Quote] 
Drew51,

awesome. hope he gets his book pubbed'.

Mondo

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hoops
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Post 2010-12-20 18:13   [Quote] 
With a title like that i'd read it Laughing

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CheepnisAroma
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Post 2010-12-20 18:21   [Quote] 
hoops wrote:
With a title like that i'd read it Laughing

Me too. That goes without saying Surprised
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poldino
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Post 2010-12-21 00:57   [Quote] 
Mondolunch wrote:
Very Interesting.

Why does Gail hate him so much? I suppose it has something to do with Rhino....

Mondo


That or just her being a ridiculous human being.
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HughGotIt
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Post 2010-12-21 06:38   [Quote] 
Great story Tom! Thank you for sharing Drew. Very Happy
Looking forward to the "Rhino Tale".
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robsam
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Post 2011-10-05 12:19   [Quote] 
Mondolunch wrote:
Very Interesting.

Why does Gail hate him so much? I suppose it has something to do with Rhino....

Mondo


Old thread, but I just found out about it thanks to Drew. I'm a friend of Tom's and he is the most hardcore of the hardcore Zappa fans. He's a great guy and through him I got to meet Arthur Barrow who is also a very nice person. Arthur's an amazing musician and my favorite Zappa bass player. I think he's over looked as one of the best musicians that Frank ever had in his band.

Anyway, why does Gail hate Tom so much? Simple...Gail hates all of us Zappa fans. She said so in so many words years ago. Mike Keneally was originally the vault meister before Joe Traverse during the time we were doing Society Pages. Mike had told me what shows he was listening to for possible future releases. We printed this hot poop in the magazine and when Gail found out she confronted Mike asking him why he would tell us such information. He said to her, "Because the fans want to know." To which Gail responded, "The fans?! I hate the fans!!!" Therefore it's easy to understand why Gail would hate Tom since he is such a hardcore Zappa fan.

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randolphr
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Post 2011-10-06 00:06   [Quote] 
Thanks for sharing this story guys and I too hope to see Tom's book published.
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