All Yesterday’s Parties – Halloween Edition

Ladies and Gents, boys and girls, all aboard the Yesterday’s Parties Time Capsule as we set the controls for Halloween 1978, New York City.

Frank Zappa, composer, guitarist, filmmaker and genius satirist performs the final in a six show run at the Palladium, culminating in a four hour long October 31st spookfest.

A little too early and too close to home to impersonate The Son of Sam, its easy to pick out some would be classic costumes in the crowd. From Christopher Reeve’s interpretation of Superman, to the carnivorous sea creature, Jaws to grey toupee clad Jimmy Carter look alikes, the audience is as much of a spectacle as the performers and the stage set up.

Gibson SG in hand, Zappa and his band run the Gamut from Pound for a Brown to Peaches en Regalia, and enrobe themselves and the audience in a sonic array of musical outfits.

Zappa’s music is eclectic and filled with various musical tricks and treats, from doo wop, to pure rock n’ roll, to hints of music from the far east.

Some musical highlights of this, possibly the greatest of Zappa’s 20 Halloween appearances reference a who’s who of musical traditions of the past.

Denny Walley, playing sweet, luscious notes on the slide guitar, washing over the rhythm section like the waters of the Mississippi river. Against the backdrop of FZ’s modern aesthetic, at times Mr. Walley is equal parts Delta Blues and bright lights of Los Angeles.

On the heavier side, Zappa’s guitar solos from this particular night were the stuff of legend. Head banging for the entirety of “Easy Meat” is actually doable with only a minimal amount of whiplash suffered before the gears shift and yet another musical costume is worn.

Hold out your pillowcase for some Charleston Chews, because next we visit the Doo Wop styles of the 1950’s during, “Go Cry On Someone Else’s Shoulder.” Although the tune itself is a satire of the genre, it’s clear that Zappa has a deep knowledge and understanding of the nuances of the music.

Listening to Zappa is not unlike being at a costume party or being out trick or treating. Part of the fun is playing spot the musical style and examining FZ’s hilarious twist on the past impressions of a rich musical tradition.