The Crux of the Biscuit – Apostrophe (‘) – Frank Zappa

“Now is that a real poncho or is that a Sears poncho?”

To say that Frank Zappa was a unique individual is like saying the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. It’s a given. The thing is – for me – that he had a ridiculously absurdist sense of play and humor, was a great musician and was extremely serious about his craft.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it wasn’t so much that he was a weirdo but that he enjoyed playing one. (And contrary to his image and every expectation of a Sixties guy, was so notoriously anti-substance that he neither drank nor did hard drugs. And admitted to having maybe 10 joints in his entire life. Alas, smoked cigarettes like a fiend which likely caused his early demise. He died in 1993 at 52 years of age.)

Zappa was, if nothing else, prolific. By the time Apostrophe (‘) was released in 1974, he had already released 17 albums. According to Wikipedia, if you include posthumous albums he has 112 releases! I don’t pretend to know every single Zappa release so maybe there is a better album. But for me, this is the epitome of all the crazy shit he pulled together in his lifetime.

Let me ask you this question. How many albums do you personally know that contain the following?

  • An Eskimo named Nanook
  • Pancake breakfast
  • Unmitigated audacity
  • Deadly yellow snow
  • Both Sugarcane Harris AND Jean-Luc Ponty
  • Not to mention Jack Bruce and Jim Gordon
  • Dominus vobiscum
  • Dog-doo snow cone
  • Abused sausage patties

That’s what I thought. If you ask what any of this means or why you should care you are decidedly on the wrong track if not the wrong planet. Zappa may well not be for you.

But if you go with the flow, I’m sure that you will enter the weird world of Frank Zappa and come out either A) irrevocably changed or 2) weasels having ripped your flesh. There is no middle ground.

I’ll let you listen to the opening suite while I go investigate an email I just got that says, “Invest in mining cryptocurrency $5000 once and get passive income of $7000 per month.” Sorry guys, it’s all mine. You snooze you lose.*

“Here it goes the circular motion – rub it!”

It’s almost impossible to not want to play the whole album. (Which you can do on the Spotify link.) So how can I avoid “Cosmik Debris” wherein Frank confronts and debunks a psychic? “But I got the crystal ball,” he said. A great song with a great, bluesy Zappa solo. (Have I mentioned that he was a terrific guitarist?)

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep
I said some mumbo-jumbo, then
I told him he was going to sleep
I robbed his rings and pocket watch
And everything else I found

I had that sucker hypnotized
He couldn’t even make a sound
I proceeded to tell him his future, then
As long as he was hanging around
I said the price of meat has just gone up
And your old lady has just gone down

Shanti…

*This turned out to be a dead end!!

16 thoughts on “The Crux of the Biscuit – Apostrophe (‘) – Frank Zappa

  1. His most commercially successful (U.S.) album, and I think for many Zappa fans, his silliest (along with Overnight Sensation). But a good starter point for those unfamiliar with him, especially younger listeners (“Don’t Eat That Yellow Snow”? Can we have some more potty humor, please?) . He made much better albums: Freak Out, We’re Only in it For the Money, Hot Rats, Roxy and Elsewhere, Zoot Allures, Joe’s Garage…

    But it’s nice that Frank made some good money with this one. What an awesome talent, and an amazing man!

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    1. Heh! But still, good music. I have an emotional attachment to this one. When it came out, I was sharing an apartment with a couple of guys in Philly. We were young, high most of the time (meth, pot, fucking Quaaludes booze). and had a succession of oddball visitors. One of them used to love to lie on our couch and listen to this album. Among many others it became one of our soundtrack albums, our background if you will. I recall one night we went out looking for jockeys to knock off of rich people’s lawns. And in an unrelated, but no less Zappa- inspired move, that same guy took a spin in a dryer and I answered the front door naked as a jaybird. Ah, yes, those were the days.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. His best stuff combined the stellar music of “Hot Rats” with the clever social satire of “Freak Out” and “Money.” I think he only hit this occasionally, with “Joe’s Garage” being a great example. But you’ll be happy to hear that your review drove me to YouTube, and I’m listening to “Apostrophe” now. I like it better than I did in ’74, especially the instrumental title cut.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I was very excited recently when a kid named Alfonso turned up at my daughter’s Playcentre on the same day as we were having pancakes in the morning. But it was one of those things that you just can’t explain to people in real life because it’s so arcane. I like a lot of his seventies stuff but have no idea what my favourite is. ‘Inca Roads’ is one of my favourite Zappa cuts.

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    1. How would you even begin to explain it? I work with a guy who is not a big Zappa fan and suggested he give this album a listen anyway. He’s run out of ways to dodge listening to it so I figured I’d let him off the hook.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Zappa appeals to me a whole lot, but, here’s the frustrating thing… I just haven’t ever full enjoyed what I’ve heard. What’s that about? Even now I’m thinking “aye… but…”.

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    1. Sure, well, I guess he’s an acquired taste. Not everything he does appeals to me. But then some things just grab me. A buddy of mine and I quote his stuff randomly. Great googly moogly!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. An absolute CB favorite (I think we might have met on the ‘Apostrophe’ take I did). His vocals on this are ingrained in my melon. You pointed out his guitar playing, that is “the crux of the biscuit” for me. I absolutely love it. The title song is music to my ears. I think I mentioned before how i could have taken a whole album of that power trio thing. Real well written piece Doc. Like so many things out there, people are lazy and pigeon hole things without investing the time of actually listening. Frank messed with people but when it comes down to it he was a serious musician who had a wealth of great musical ideas, from jazz to hard rock. So lighten up people.

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    1. I recall you did cover it. That had to be a while back. I tell you what’s music to MY ears – music. It is the biscuit of the crux for sure. My buddy Steve and I quote lines from this to each other all the time and it may have shown up in a certain novel you read. (Where the fuck is the screenplay?) I sometimes want to go back and listen to Zappa from A to Z but that could take a while.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do the A to Z thing all the time with my favorites. Frank’s is a long one with a wealth of great music and other assorted “madness” but if you’re “heading to Montana soon” you will have lots of time.
        (We have to get to that screen play soon)

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  5. You’d probably never guess he was an army brat from his music. Nor that he remained a strongly pro-military, pretty staunch authoritarian who despised hippies. For that matter, few would guess his father was a chemical warfare specialist at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland. Freaky comes in many flavours.

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