To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention’s final album, One Size Fits All
, Frank Zappa’s son Dweezil and his band (who perform as Zappa on Zappa) will play the wacky album in its entirety when they perform at the Kent Stage on Sept. 22. In addition, Zappa & Co. will perform an additional 70 to 75 minutes worth of music from Frank Zappa's vast catalog. Prior to the concert, Zappa will offer a “masterclass” during which he’ll “instruct, guide and share” insight with fans who want to learn to play guitar better. In a recent phone interview, Zappa, who has said the album is one of his favs because of its “incredible arrangements and instrumentation,” took us through the disc track-by-track.
It’s a song that is a fan favorite for a number of reasons. For me, the most ingenious thing about it is that it’s one of the pivotal pieces of music in my dad’s career. It’s the foundation for what he did frequently after that which was to make a song that has composed parts but is interwoven with things that are improvised. Sometimes, they even involve hand signals. When you have the combination of written and improvised parts, it means that every time you play the song it’ll be different. Much of his music is created that way, but this song set the foundation. At that phase of his career, it’s something that became really important. When he was touring, he didn’t want to play the same thing over and over. It has an insane melody and very tricky musical passages. It’s one of the hardest songs to play especially if you want to play it 100 percent accurate. It doesn’t easily roll off the fingers.
“Can't Afford No Shoes”
It’s a song that sounds least like any of his songs in his catalog. It has a really cool chord progression that keeps modulating. It’s an infectious and melodic part of the song. It’s one of those ones where if you hear it, you think it’s more simplistic song. But it’s really complicated. [Frank Zappa] plays fretless guitar that sounds like a slide guitar. There’s never a song where you can be on cruise control.
It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of music that sounds simple but has counterpoint and things that happen to create the arrangement. It’s just a really beautiful melody, but it does have some tricky parts to get in there because it’s in three-four sometimes so you don’t realize where the tricky parts happen. People will tap their feet to it in four and not know where they are.
It was constructed to reflect Frank’s disdain for people who were on tour playing the music but when they would get on the bus after a show, they were not very exciting individuals. They were doing crossword puzzles and wearing pajamas. This was an ode to the "po-jama people." It’s a groovy song that has some funky parts, and Frank plays a great solo on it with a mid-rangy pig-nose tone. Trying to recapture the sound and recreate the tone has been a challenge, but we’ve come up with something that’s pretty close.
That’s the name of a cookie. We use to have those cookies at the house. It’s kind of a praline cookie. One side is chocolate. There were versions that had fruit jelly as well, and we always hated those versions. They don’t make them in the U.S. anymore. I think you can still find them in Europe. The song is one of those heavily arranged songs with so many different parts. I remember when we were first learning it a long time ago, it was hard to keep track of what part goes where. We’ve played it a lot over the years, so it’s in our wheelhouse, but it’s one of those things that can bite you if you haven’t played it for a while.
“Evelyn, A Modified Dog”
That particular song is being performed live by us but Frank never played it live. It was never performed by him or by any version of his band. That’s one thing that’s different about this tour. You have the premiere of that song on this tour. It’s a studio track where a lot of Frank’s music has this quality where you think, “Why does this exist? How did this even happen?" This is one of those things. It’s recorded in really great detail too. I love the fact that something like this will get as much attention as any other song.
It has Johnny Guitar Watson on it kicking ass and providing classic vocal interjections. He had such an amazing voice and he’s a great guitarist and piano player too. That’s the closest thing to a roadhouse bar jam. It has some tricky bits in there. Again, it has great harmonies and melodies.
It’s a pretty intense arrangement as well that has more Johnny Guitar Watson. It has this rhythmic interplay between the bass and drums. It has percussion elements in there that are tricky. Most people wouldn’t be able to figure out what’s going on with it.
“Sofa No .2”
It’s basically the same track as Sofa No. 1 but it has German lyrics. Frank has this story of this sofa that God created. Obviously, his version of religion is different from other people’s versions of religions. There’s a whole story that’s written out in German. I don’t know why it’s in German but it is. It’s one of the least romantic sounding languages and then you put it with this beautiful melody as a joke. We sing it in German too.
Dweezil Zappa Guitar Masterclass- Dweezilla On The Road, 3 p.m. 175 East Main St., Kent, 330-677-5005. Tickets: $75, thekentstage.com.
Zappa on Zappa, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, Kent Stage, 175 East Main St., Kent, 330-677-5005. Tickets: $24-$66, thekentstage.com.