personally am not in favour of people using Frank Zappa to cavort licentiously
in front of an audience of people who should know better." - Gail Zappa,
“…as for the sucker who will write the review…” - FZ, 1979
I always knew that nothing was going to
beat last year’s celeb fest that was lucky #13, but the 2003 Zappanale
gave it a pretty good run for its money. John Campbell joined Ian Day and me
this time and we each had a great time. Oh, yes. We took loads of photos, some
of which you can see here; these’ll give you a flavour for it, but nothing
beats actually being there. So if you weren’t, join us next year why dontcha? I
went to see the Zappatistas in
We arrived in Bad Doberan too late to
catch Ben Watson’s high-brow lecture (‘The Phenomenology of One Size
Fits All: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Frank Zappa’), but he seemed to
think it went okay – couldn’t see any trace of rotten tomato on his suit,
anyhoo. So we pitched our tents to the soothing stylings of Jazzprojekt
Hundehagen, and ordered our first beers to the sounds of
Now I’m very familiar with The Jack
& Jim Show and knew just what to expect. They had tears rolling down my
face by the second tune (‘Sprechen Sie Deutsche’, one my dear old mum used to
sing me as a lad – that, and ‘My Hat Has Three Corners’. All together now: just
the wimmin). As I looked around, I didn’t see quite the same reaction. An
acquired taste, I guess – but surely it’s hard to miss Jack’s genius? Their set
was unnecessarily interrupted by Herr Kutz’s beer-shifting barbershop interlude. Then Messrs Black & Chadbourne resumed for some FZ
(‘Willie The Pimp’, ‘Take Your Clothes Off’, ‘Concentration Moon’, and ‘My
Guitar’ with Mike Keneally), Beefheart (‘The Dust Blows’ and ‘Clear Spot’), and
‘The Girl From Al Qaeda’ & ‘I Support The Troops (And I Want My Money
Back)’. Too political for you? Shame. It must’ve been odd for Jimmy to walk off
the stage to make way for the Muffin Men, who started pretty much as
they have been doing on recent tours with him (‘Eat That Question’, ‘Peaches’,
‘My Guitar’). But then they introduced Napoleon Murphy Brock on sax
(‘Let’s Move To Cleveland’) and vox (‘Take Your Clothes Off’ and ‘Oh No’), then
Ike Willis on guitar and vox for ‘Willie The Pimp’…now you may by now
have spotted an exquisite little inconvenience that comes with these here
festivals: you get to hear some of the same songs over and over – couldn’t some
of the bands get together beforehand and/or adjust their sets to avoid this?
The silliest example came on the last day when the Paul Green School Of Rock
Music played the whole of the ‘Yellow Snow’ suite, as did Sex Without
Nail Bros immediately after them. Frank wrote so many great songs, but
there seems to be only so many that are deemed crowd pleasers. How many times
do you want to hear ‘Keep It Greasey’ and ‘Easy Meat’ over three days? For me,
highlights came when Keneally cantered through ‘Cucamonga’ (with welcome help
from Ike), and the aforementioned
Before the next act, we three visited Ulli’s stall and I ended up quizzing Mike Keneally for an eternity (sorry, Mike!) about, inter alia, his relationship with the Zappas and Mr Vai. The next day, Ian commented, “That was a really interesting interview you did with Mike. I just wish I could recall at least some of what you discussed!” As we hadn’t really been to sleep since Wednesday night, you can imagine that we were more than a little ‘tired and emotional’ (what with all the strong German beer sloshing around in our bellies and everything). So by the time Prawns With Horns hit the stage, at around 2300 on that Friday night, I don’t remember too much about them, either – other than they looked pretty colourful. And Ike was up there with them. FZ:OZzzzzz. So fast-forward to Saturday morning and English punks, Alternative TV – here at Uncle Ben’s behest. Twenty-six years ago, they were a vibrant happening entity, I imagine. But now in a field in the North of Germany – what’s that all about? Ben pogo-ed around, and they played ‘Why Dontcha Do Me Right?’ and ‘Plastic People’. But did Mark Perry really have to say, “The Nazis, they're still running your town”. Radical or silly? You decide.
Hey, hey it’s the Muffins! This time with Jimmy Carl Black on vocals (sometimes, yeah), and a bunch of Beatle bits. And so early, too. (Should’a been top of the Saturday bill.) They started with the coda from ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ with ‘King Kong’ overlaid – very effective, and even better than on ‘God Shave’ – and continued on with ‘Little House’, ‘Wonderful Wino’ and a stupendous ‘Big Swifty & Associates’ medley that concluded with a dynamite solo from Carlo. It’s been a little while since I saw a crowd react this wildly to one of his little outbursts, and it was right nice to see. Unfortunately we got our only bit of daytime rain during ‘Flower Punk’, but it was all over by the time Jimmy sang “Baby you can drive my car…over me”. The set ended with ‘King Kong’ proper, and I’ll let the learned Mr Gilliard tell you a little more about that - take it away, Roddie: “We had some basic plans for ‘King Kong’, which got somewhat confused when they held up a sign saying ‘5 minutes left’ during Doctor Chadbourne’s banjo solo. We had arranged for Mike Keneally to join us as soon as he arrived back at the site. Ben Watson was at hand ready to do some ‘urban jazz poetry’ - which we snook in. Then we were to do our ‘Green Muffin Awards’ in which we were gonna get you up to play bass [see why here], as I would have to deliver the announcements. You can imagine that we were a little miffed after cutting the thing short (missing out the complete reggae section) to be told that we could go back on and do another song. But at least we had the chance to get MK up (albeit, halfway through a song). Sadly, your bass playing premiere with us got lost in the chaos - really sorry about that!” Not a problem; at least I was awarded one of the sacred muffins. Martin & Friz quoted ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ during ‘KK’, and the encore with MK was the song that Scott Thunes refused to play with JCB last year. Having my name announced from the stage as a recipient of one of the muffins was a wonderful feeling, I can tell you. Did I mention that I got a green muffin? Next up was the many membered Sheik Yerbouti. Highlights of their set were ‘You Didn’t Try To Call Me’, the ‘Easy’ intro to a big band arrangement of ‘Joe’s Garage’, Mike Keneally’s solo during ‘Andy’, the inclusion of the ‘Hotel California’ guitar outro during ‘Trouble Every Day’, and a ‘Stairway/Whole Lotta Love’ duel during ‘Bamboozled By Love’. Oh, and the secret word – which was “sex machine”.
Since arriving in Bad Doberan we’d seen a big bearded guy strutting around the site. He had a backstage pass slung around his neck and we wondered who he was. It only turns out he’s Captain Beefheart, dunnit. Well, the lead singer of Dr Dark, anyways. He seemed a bit nervous on stage, but he certainly did a pretty good facsimile of DVV, both visually and vocally. I don’t think he naturally sings or speaks that way, so it must hurt his throat a tad. Anyway, those who dig CB really got off on this cover band, who were pretty much spot on. They didn’t give us any muffins though.
It took forever for the Sex Without Nail
Bros to get their (3) act(s) together, but it was almost worth the wait to see
their theatrical performance of ‘Joe’s Garage’. This wasn’t quite the
blow-by-blow re-creation of the album we were expecting (the psychotic Central
Scrutinizer spoke in Austrian-German and they used a synth, for instance). But
it was entertaining nonetheless. The guy who played Joe was really the star,
but the doll that played Mary was announced last and got the biggest cheer.
Okay, she did re-enact the Wet T-Shirt contest (looked like she had a couple of green
muffins with cherries atop stuffed up her jumper), but come on – she hardly
sang and was probably on stage for less time than anyone else. The evening
should have ended there, as Nina Hagen (the scheduled bill topper) was ill.
There were rumours that Iggy Pop had been asked to dep, but instead it was
Philip Boa from
On the third day, the doors of perception were torn asunder by the Lizard Kings – four guys who tried to recreate the sound of Jim Morrison and his popular beat combo. They were quite authentic (‘Ray Manzarek’ used his bass pedals, but the drums were miked a little too closely), fortunately the lead singer didn’t try to look too much like Jimbo though (but he would insist on punctuating things with a bit of the old “C’mon”, and “Awright”). I enjoyed their set, even though they ignored my request for ‘Tiny Sick Tears’. Next up, to further ween (hi, Mick) us away from too much FZ, was Stu Grimshaw and a performance of his ‘Der Fremde’, a musical not about green muffins for string quartet, keyboards and drums. The vocals were shared by fellow muffin-awardee Ike Willis and a cute-dimpled muffin-bereft girlie, and Stu and Ike broke out their guitars for one short movement. This was a nice laid back performance, and it was good to hear Ike sing something other than Frank – to prove that he’s still got it, like.
Now I remember someone on affz saying to expect Paul Greenmuffin’s
The return of the son of Sex Without Nails Bros promised to bring us ‘Roxy & Elsewhere’ with Napi. In fact they only played a bite-sized chunk of the album and padded it out with the likes of ‘Dirty Love’, ‘Sofa’, ‘Dancin’ Fool’ and ‘Bobby Brown’, with two stunt guitarists vying for position. I was really looking forward to hearing something a bit different. Enter the Right Honourable Lord Keneally of Uglytown. As he’d told me he would on the Friday night (see, I remembered some of what we’d discussed!), he played a mix of solo & FZ stuff. As a power trio. ‘My Dilemma’ followed by ‘You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here’, stuff from ‘Dancing’, the Cow trilogy (dazzling finger-stroke-vocal work here), a snippet from ‘Time Is Money’ blended with ‘Sleeping In A Jar’, a stonking ‘Yo Mama’ (where he played guitar and keyboards – he had to politely ask Ike to skedaddle), more songs from ‘Dancing’ (including the one about the Vaultmeister. Great album – get it). Then he too was told “five minutes”. Sweet guy that he is, he didn’t have a tantrum about having to wind-up so soon. Instead, he gave extry resonance to the “If it can get worse, I don’t wanna know” line in ‘Skull Bubbles’. During this tune, a young American by the name of Gabe was introduced to “fuck some shit up”; he did a bit of vocal scratching, which was fine but a little long. Then Mike played ‘Taster’ while everyone gathered on stage for the shambolic finale. If he’d been given more time, Mike would have played ‘Inca Discharge’ as an encore. Hi ho.
Later that night, Sir Roddie Gilliard formally presented me with my exalted green muffin. I slept with it held close. And then I flew home.
Good trick if you can do it.
Jazz objeckt paranoia leads to
Drill dreams of an octafish.
Affably, Mort gets his Barbie girl
Before barbed Jack’s
Banjo flute question with
Brass shrimps, brass shrimps,
And Zappo stands tall.
Sniffing glue, suited and booted
Ben, what’s on TV?
I want you over me
With your sex machine secret.
And sugar that spikes my
Cherry post haste boa.
There’s something about Mary;
No Phish-thing recreation
At Zappo’s stand/stall.
Tiny sick tears for Jimbo
And a girl called Bimbo.
Stu dapples on low strings
While Lionel barts his bits.
Axe hero at nine came
Thrashing and bowing.
While grooving with weird shit on top
He strangled the cow.
So that was fourteen. So that was fourteen.
I got my muffin and Zappo stood tall.
Thanks again, Wolfhard!
© Jacee Music Ltd.,
Words: The Idiot
Photos: Iandrew Greenaday