Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Frank Zappa Meets John Lennon on stage

John Lennon (Sitting with Guitar) Music Poster Print - 24x36 Poster Print, 24x36 Poster Print, 24x36 Frank Zappa - 1974, Art Poster by National Archive

Once upon a time, Frank Zappa and the Mothers collaborated with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It was in the early 1970s when artists worked together without checking with their record labels or attorneys. They just experimented together… musically that is. And the results were very joyous at times and a little tough to listen to at other times. This recording might fall into the latter category for most folks.

In the summer of 1969, Frank Zappa had broken up a previous incarnation of the Mothers and decided to form a new version of the group. The new band contained the core of the old Turtles – vocalists Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, along with their bass player Jim Pons. The Turtles, you will recall had a streak of hits including Happy Together and Elenore . Their streak of hits came to an abrupt halt around the time they played Tricia Nixon’s masked ball Inside the White House in 1969, only to be allegedly caught smoking weed in the Lincoln Bedroom and tossing equipment around. I wonder if President Nixon had anything to do with the Turtles removal from radio’s Top 40? Can you say political backlash? Anyway, by August, 1970, these Turtles were available to start a new gig with Zappa. 

The new lineup recorded several albums with Frank Zappa. The first one was called Chunga's Revenge
Chunga's Revenge 
Due to legal problems and royalty issues that embroiled Volman and Kaylan, the “suits” said they would have to be credited under different names. The names chosen were “Phlorescent Leech and Eddie”. This eventually got shortened to their more famous nicknames, “Flo and Eddie”.

In June of 1971 Zappa’s Mothers appeared in concert at New York’s Fillmore East. They played a set of Zappa classics and even made room for the Turtles’ “Happy Together”. The concert was eventually released as: Fillmore East - June 1971
Fillmore East - June 1971But the album was missing some of the tracks from that show.
The reason? Towards the end of the show, Zappa brought on John Lennon and Yoko Ono (and additional bass player Klaus Voormann) to jam. 
John Lennon and Yoko Ono Peace - Love In 24"x36" Art Print Poster 
They played either four songs by Lennon’s account or five by Zappa’s. Here is where it gets interesting. Lennon decided to release an album called Sometime in NYC, which contained a bonus live disc. 
Sometime in NYC 
The live disc contained tracks from two different concerts. Confused yet? 
Lennon released the jam set at the Fillmore with Zappa as the following:
1.      Well, (Baby Please Don’t Go)  (Walter Ward) 4:41
2.      Jamrag  (Lennon/Ono) 5:36
3.      Scumbag (Lennon/Ono/Zappa) 4:08
4.      Au (Lennon/Ono) 6:23

Lennon’s album of this collaboration was released June 12, 1972 in the US.

However, 20 years later in 1992, Frank Zappa decided to release his version of this concert collaboration. The album was called Playground Psychotics and contained this concert as well as other Zappa concerts all on a 2 cd package. 
 Playground PsychoticsZappa digitally remixed the concert with Lennon and Ono and changed some things along the way to fit with his reality of the concert. Can you spot the differences?

1.      Well (Ward) 4:43
2.      Say Please (Lennon/Ono/Zappa) 0:57
3.      Aawk (Lennon/Ono/Zappa) 2:59
4.      Scumbag (Lennon/Ono/Howard Kaylan/ Zappa) 5:53
5.      A Small Eternity with Yoko Ono (Lennon/Ono) 6:07

It is interesting to see Zappa’s title changes, especially the last one. And even the publishing credits changed. Also of note, Howard Kaylan can be heard in the Zappa remix version commenting about Yoko who gets in and out of her “bag” during the performances. 

For the record collector who has to have it all, you will need to track down all three albums to recreate this piece of live music history: Fillmore East for the part of the Zappa show prior to the Lennon’s coming on; Sometime In New York City   to hear the Lennon mix of their jam; and Playground Psychotics to hear Zappa’s remix of the jam. 

However, you may only listen to this concert one time before deciding to file it away for a long time.
Happy hunting from the Rock And Roll Detective…