It is hard to imagine a series called Famous Albums, which would not contain at least one part dedicated to Frank Zapp. Beloved, hated, admired, damned,… There are many adjectives attached to this musician. And as reductive as it is in many ways, let’s recall the “Over-nite Sensation” and “Apostrophe (‘)” records.
Telling the life and musician story of Frank Zappa would be released on a series of many works and choosing from more than a hundred (!) Studio albums only one or two is a very titanic task. The choice of the creators of the television series, the layout of which our articles follow, to focus on these recordings was quite clever. Not only did “Over-nite Sensation” and “Apostrophe (‘)” be released at essentially the same time, they are also a great and at their core accessible example of what Zapp’s music was, at least in the mid-1970s.
Frank Zappa, the musical visionary who composed where he went, was considered by his co-workers and family to be a calm man who lived his life surrounded by music. He came to the studio with a clear vision, building his band for various projects to suit the given intentions. More important for him was the realization of his own ideas and ideas, however, he was not a dictator who did not accept the opinions of others. Crucial for him were the concerts, which became a kind of sound laboratory to test new songs and the possibility for his teammates to add their own to his compositions. Almost everything was filmed and served as a basis for further work. “He liked to compose the guitar spontaneously. He prepared everything, he had a well-coordinated band at his disposal, where everyone performed what is expected of him,” Gail Zappa recalls in the show Famous Albums.
In the mid-1970s, Zappa built a new ensemble, which included not only guitars and rock rhythms but also a violin, vibraphone and wind section. “We were preparing new material before we went on tour. We rehearsed pretty hard. Six hours a day, five days a week.” describes Ralph Humphrey, Zappa’s drummer at the time. “So when we set off, we were ready.”
And after returning from the stands, the musicians locked themselves in the studio. During these recording frequencies, “Apostrophe (‘)” (which was presented as a solo album) and “Over-nite Sensation” were created as a collection with The Mothers of Invention. But the composition and the resulting sound are very similar. This is also due to the fact that, like many of Zapp’s other series, these (and “Apostrophe” in particular) were created as jigsaw puzzles of new and archival records. In the second part of the first mentioned album, we can find, for example, the parts created during the recording of the award-winning jazz-rock act “Hot Rats” from 1969. Zapp’s world was never easy – but it had a vision. Zappa himself stated in one of the interviews: “There’s only one thing consistent on my albums: they each seem to go in a different direction. But on closer inspection, you’ll find that they’re part of a larger whole. That’s the intention.”
Rock, jazz, r’n’b, avant-garde, the world of absurdity and crazy comedy, the spirit of experimentation and the immense desire to discover new musical bays that inspired many, including the Czechoslovak underground, meet in both mentioned studio studios. Despite this complexity, the album “Apostrophe (‘)” is the author’s greatest commercial success – it reached the tenth place in the American Billboard chart. But commercial success didn’t mean much to Zappa. After all, he preferred to compose mainly for himself and wanted to realize his visions. Even the most characteristic shot texts were a delight to the audience, he preferred to prefer instrumentals. Even after years, both works look fresh, timeless and are an ideal way to taste Frank Zappa’s work.
Behind the scenes of “Apostrophe (‘)” and “Over-nite Sensation”, but mainly the story of Zapp as such, offers another part of the Famous Albums series. It was broadcast by ČT art on Friday, November 5. For a week, the series continues with a reminder of the album “Who’s Next” by the band The Who.
A series of articles is created in cooperation with Czech Television.
We would like to say thanks to the author of this write-up for this remarkable material
FAMOUS ALBUM: “Over-nite Sensation” and “Apostrophe (‘)” or The Ideal Introduction to Frank Zappa’s Work