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Frank Zappa and the Paper Bag

Frank Zappa (1940-1993) probably never heard of the Paper Bag., but I bet he would have enjoyed it. Much of what happens on stage at the Bag is a product of me listening to Frank Zappa's music, watching him on film and reading about him. I bought his first album, Freak Out, when it came out in 1967. It is a double LP (for those of you under a certain age, that means 2 big black records with music on both sides). My favorite Zappa album is his second, Absolutely Free, also released in 1967. I listened to it so much that I know every word of every song, still … now … more than 40 years later. I also harbor a certain fondness for the song "Billy the Mountain" recorded in 1971 featuring Flo and Eddie from the Turtles.

Frank was a very interesting human being. Fascinating, actually. His most well known songs are the ones with the funny, absurd lyrics. The bulk of his music is very 20th century, full of rarely used dissonances and rhythms. Looking back now 40 some odd years later, those first two albums contain all the elements that Frank would develop in his music throughout his career. If you like his music, go back and relisten to Freak Out and Absolutely Free. It's all there: the sarcasm, the love-hate relationship with doo-wop music, the unique-and-dissonant-but-clearly-Zappa harmonic structures, the snarling guitar solos.

Anyway, Paper Bag percussionist and retired-musician-free-to-explore-the-universe Don Larsen has sent me these scans of a program from a Mother's of Invention concert. I am guessing 1967-68 because their 3rd album on Verve records, We're Only in It for the Money, came out in 1968. Jimmy Carl Black (the indian of the group) is being honored at Bag #32 as a member of the Body Bag. I felt this artwork should be shared with the Bag universe. As I struggle for a way to close this short essay I can only think of this - to truly understand the Paper Bag at its purest level, you must understand Frank Zappa. Go to the library or to the bookstore and read a "The Real Frank Zappa Book" by Frank himself and a biography of Frank written by someone else. (I recommend "Zappa" by Barry Miles). Then go listen to his music. It's ok if you stick to the funny disgusting stuff and skip the weird stuff with no singing. It's ok.

Now, scope out this cool concert program. Thanks to Don


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