Live From New York
FZ Essay by Arthur Barrow
I was in the band for the 1978 Saturday Nite Live appearance, with Frank Zappa as host - as well as musical guest. We performed "Dancin' Fool', "The Meek", "Rollo", and a jam with Samurai Rock and Roll guitar player John Belushi. One of the best parts of the experience was in the rehearsal with the Paul Schafer led Saturday Night Live band. Frank gave them horn charts for "Rollo" which were quite difficult. We ran through it once or twice with the horns, but they were not getting it right. Frank said to the horns something like - "Lay out this time and listen". Then, pointing to us, he said "Show them how it's supposed to go". We whipped it out, then tried it again with the horns. It still sucked. Frank said, "I guess it's not gonna work. Forget about the horns on this tune." Embarrassed, the horn guys said, "We'll take it home and shed it," which I guess they did because they nailed it on the air.
An interesting thing happened during the live telecast. Before the show, we were given copies of the schedule of events - which skit was coming next and when we were to play our songs. As the show was getting near the end, I looked at the schedule and noted that there was to be one more sketch, then we were to play "Rollo". I was looking around, trying to see which stage the skit was to be on, and Vinnie had just lit a cigarette, when suddenly Frank came running up to the stage, baton in hand! The lights came on, Frank leapt onto the stage, baton raised high, and when the baton came down and his feet hit the floor, we launched into Rollo. We are on the air! It turns out the show was running too long so the producers had cut out that sketch, but nobody had bothered to tell us.
Random Zappa thoughts...
Frank had a terrible diet. He would eat a piece of pie for breakfast. He consumed way too many cheeseburgers. And he had the coffee thing. Frank Zappa made the best fucking coffee I've ever tasted in my life. I've never before or since tasted coffee as good as I had at Frank's house. I asked him about it and he said it was some European blend that he had picked up. It was great! He'd say "I'm gonna go build a pot of coffee." He had the best coffee and we sure drank a lot of it.
One time we were in Belgium I think it was, we were served these big steaks, and Frank sat down and took one bite of his and pushed it aside and said, "That's horse meat! That's horsemeat! I'm not gonna eat it!" and he got up and left. He was absolutely convinced it was horsemeat and wasn't going to eat it. I don't know. I ate it. It was okay. I'm still here. It didn't hurt me.
Random Zappa quotes...
"Well, I'm glad you stayed in school." (FZ to me, in response to my saying to him that I never liked the fact that he had encouraged kids to drop out of school in the liner notes to "Freak Out", and that if I had not stayed in school and gone on to get a degree in music, I might not have been able to play his complex compositions.)
"You got to play 'Dinah Mo Hum' a lot of times to get one of these." (FZ to me, in reference to his then brand new million dollar home studio.)
"It has to make a guy wonder, you know, what albums was he listening to? Was it "Weasels Ripped My Flesh", or maybe "Lumpy Gravy", or what?" (FZ discussing the fact that during the PMRC senate hearings, Al Gore had mentioned having listened to some of Zappa's music.)
"It is my contention that each and every member of this band owes me a cheeseburger." (FZ to the band at a rehearsal, after we had misguidedly wagered we could play some outrageous musical idea he had concocted.)
"I can think of worse things to be influenced by." (FZ to me, with a grin, in response to my statement that the musical composition of mine that he was about to hear was somewhat Zappa influenced.)