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At the Music Hall, last Wednesday

By Henry W. Mcgee iii

I was so innocent, so unprepared....I was one of the disbelievers, a skeptic....but let me start at the beginning.

There I was, exhausted in my seat, having just finished jumping and rocking to the beat of Chuck Berry. Suddenly, in the wings Mr. Bizarre Rock himself, Frank Zappa. In a flash everything was charged with a spectacular power and a bustle of activity. The Mothers were on stage, Taking cognizance of the audience only by saying. "Will you children please be quiet so we can tune up," a full quarter of an hour passed while the Mothers prepared, in Zappa's words, "their elaborate electronic paraphernalia."

With everyone finally in tune. Zappa opened the set by harranguing the audience with such statements as, "Some people say we're perverted, and they're right. And just to show you how perverted we really are, even though you're rude and obnoxious, we still love you!" The audience howled for more. But it wasn't more of Zappa the pervert they got, it was Zappa the musical genius.

To understand Zappa's genius, one must first realize the framework in which Zappa creates his music. He does not play with the Mothers, but he plays on them. They are his instruments, extensions of his musical ideas. On stage Zappa conducts the band as though they were an orchestra. The group faces Zappa, and he waves his fist, middle finger extended, giving them cues, changes in rhythm, and musical direction. Zappa becomes master of the musicians' movements. He molds them into one with himself. With this ability to control every note, Zappa is free to improvise, to expand musical boundaries. The effect is devastating.

Zappa started the concert with "A Pound for a Brown," a syncopated number that was the perfect vehicle for bridging the gap between the musicians and the audience. He had hardly finished before launching into another, and then again another number, finally completing the first part of the set with "Cruisin' for Burgers." The audience was on its feet.

For the second part of his performance. Zappa chose the story of "Billy the Mountain," a minirock opera that makes "Tommy" sound like "My Generation" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" seem a warmed-over-version of "The Lord's Prayer." It is a musical work of a complexity that jars the senses and shocks the mind. Musical ideas are clearly laid out and defined while themes occur and recur. The voices blend with tumultuous intensity while the instruments constantly expand until they finally obtain the feel of a full orchestra.

And the plot of "Billy the Mountain" is as intriguing as the music. Billy is a mountain very upset at being ripped off, i.e.,his picture has appeared on thousands of post cards but he has never received any royalties. However, one day, a man in a white Cadillac drives up and gives Billy his royalties. And Billy thus begins one of the great picaresque adventures of our time. (At one point offing two FBI agents on the way from Los Angeles to New York). Zappa exploits the theme to poke fun at just about everything from vacations to super-heroes, and even rock operas.

The satirical nature of Zappa's material reached its height in the third portion of the concert with the song "Mudshark." A parody of white rock groups who try to play soul music. "Mudshark" is hilarious. Masterfully done, the song is based on a genuinely soulful beat, but it is performed in such a way as to point out the essential ludicrousness of the situation. The highlight of the number came when the two lead singers (former members of the Turtles) showed the audience how to do the Mudshark, i.e., simulated anal intercourse (no surprise to those familiar with Zappa). But that wasn't all--the next song was "Bwana Dick" with lyrics like "My dick is a monster." The Music Hall resounded with catcalls and laughter.

"Willie the Pimp" followed, and it allowed all of the musicians to demonstrate their worth. Ian Underwood and Don Preston were brilliant on keyboards, but much of the credit for holding the music together belongs to Aynsley Dunbar, the drummer. Never missing a beat (an extremely difficult task, given the complexity of Zappa's music), Dunbar was the second star, over-shadowed only by Zappa himself.

There was time for one more poke at the world of rock as the Mothers plunged into "Happy Together," the old Turtles hit, played Zappa style. The audience was rolling in the aisles, begging for it not to end...but it did. Zappa politely thanked everyone for coming to the concert, and then left.

The crowd was in an uproar. My mind was in an uproar, as though weasles ripped my flesh,

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