…Must Have Been the Wrong Time…

From Barry Miles’ Zappa: A Biography, regarding the Freak Out! sessions:

The session musicians were shocked to find out they had to play from charts: Frank set up a podium in the middle of the studio and showed up wearing a swallow-tailed conductor’s dinnner jacket, a red and yellow striped shirt and an Iron Cross. He whipped out his baton from under his coat and rapped on the music stand. ‘Hey, we’re really going to have to play,’ said one of the cello players. ‘This beatnik has written some music here!’ According to Tom Wilson: ‘Frank gave it the full Toscanini and conducted their asses off.’ Everything went smoothly as the arrangements were relatively easy.

Too easy for some people. There had been a new addition to the line-up before recording: pianist Marc Rebennak left Sonny and Cher to join the Mothers. He showed up at rehearsals with a joint in his mouth and his friend Elliot Ingber signalled to him behind Frank’s back to get rid of it. Rebennak had asssumed from Frank’s appearance thhat he was into drugs. He played on a couple of tracks, including ‘Return of Monster Magnet.’

Rebennak: ‘Everybody in the studio but Frank was wanderinng around high on acid. Frank had written me this part to play, five or six notes on the piano ovver and over—not much different thhan sonny and Cher. In the background, a twenty-voice choir croaked out monster sound effects, something like “Gggrrrrrrhhhhrrr!” When I had had about all I could take, Les McCann walked in and I asked him to hold down my chair, telling him I had to go to the bathroom. I walked out of there and never came back.’ Rebennak later reinvented himself as Dr. John the night Tripper, a musical voodoo shaman.

That’s right. This guy played on “Freak Out!”

2 thoughts on “…Must Have Been the Wrong Time…”

  1. Now imagine that in the Salt Lake City Tabernacle, with a few Nephite nubiles dancin’ along. Whoa

    Dr John/Rebennak played on all sorts of klassix albums (“Dr John plays Mac Rebennak” a tasty sampler of his Nawlins piano-playin’).

    I wager he has a story or two regarding Zappa’s occasional…narc-like tude ( not to question FZ’s genius…but he wasa bit uptight in ways).

  2. Charts

    that’s how you separate the men from the goys, er boys. Pro’s, even jazzy freaks who prefer Eric Dolphy or Zappa or Weather Report to broadway sap (tho some of that sap was not terrible…Jerome Kern in da house!) read charts, and the head, and know the harmonic structure not to say the proper scales, intervals, substitutions, etc. Real book-land. At the very least you’ve got to know the changes (including bassists. few things worse than bassists who can’t play arpeggios or walk lines–stick to like the Archies). Anyone wants to play Peaches in Regalia or Blessed Relief like properly needs the chart— merely from playing it 50 times from ear,like brown shoes, don’t make it (tho’ many a phony tries). That is, when real music still mattered.

    The usual rock jamband type hates charts, if he can read ’em at all–considers that cruise ship BS. Of course some musicos produce an intense sound wi’t little or no musical knowledge–chicago blues, Hendrix, even Beefheart (tho I suspect someone–FZ?, Fowlers?–was assisting with his mo’ advanced muzack)–but run out of ideas quickly. Thus the Hendrix-wannabes play Hey Joe or Free Bird–not Zappa or Mingus or Steely Dan– for an hour or so at the Simi sports bar of the mind, and if real lucky, win a pitcher of Oly, at times maybe even get Tweaky in the parking lot afterwards…ya wannabe a crew slut.

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