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Frank Zappa Songbook, Vol. 1 Underwood, Ian (transcription).
Frank Zappa Music, Inc and Munchkin Music Co., Los Angeles, Calif.
Pages: 127
Language: English Category: Songs


From: David Thomas <>
  The Frank Zappa Songbook, Vol. 1 is a collection of sheet music.... The Songbook contains piano transcriptions for

Brown Shoes Don't Make It,
Mother People,
Igor's Boogie,
Penis Dimension,
How Could I Be Such a Fool,
Let's Make the Water Turn Black,
Oh No,
America Drinks and Goes Home,
Son of Suzy Creamcheese,
Excerpt from Music for Electric Violin and Low-Budget Symphony Orchestra
(piano with concert pitch melody line),
Excerpt from Music for Electric Violin and Low-Budget Symphony Orchestra
(transposed Bb Clarinet part),
I'm Not Satisfied,
Mom & Dad,
Absolutely Free,
Uncle Meat,
The Idiot Bastard Son,
Piano Introduction to Little House I Used to Live In (revised)

 plus a section of FZ's manuscripts, which are labeled "of limited interest". That mostly means that they're not playable--I think they're quite interesting. The manuscripts include

A first sketch from the recording session of Waka=Jawaka,
(only one page, with coffee stains, which quickly degenerates
into scribbling).
Two extracts from the "Pleated Gazelles" section of 200 Motels:
"Nun Suit" (looks like piano + vocal) and "The Girl, In a Statement
to the Press, Explains" (full score).
The full score (orchestra) for "Can I Help You with this Dummy",
which was originally scheduled for use in 200 Motels.

From: (Gregory J. Sandell)
  While visiting my folk's place in Calif. for the holidays, I dug through an old drawer trying to find my old copy of the Frank Zappa Songbook which I got in the early seventies...and I found it! Since this item disappeared shortly after it came out (Nigey Lennon believes it had a run of only 5000 copies), I assume few have seen it, and many would appreciate a description.
  I enclose a straightforward, factual description of the contents, followed by some personal observations.

"The Frank Zappa Songbook Vol. 1"
Publ. 1973, Frank Zappa Music, Inc., and Munchkin Music Co., Los Angeles, Calif.;
distributed by "Big3", catalogue number B3-1146; price $5.95.
No addresses given anywhere in book.

 Cover by Cal Schenkel: color cartoon of FZ in his studio, writing a manuscript, with much recording equipment around, piles of tapes, and a "Aces High" pinball machine. This drawing has appeared on an album cover, I think, but I don't recall which album that is.
 Back cover: same as front cover, in negative Inside front and back cover: sinister-looking photo of FZ, highly processed Transcription credits: All piano arrangements by Ian Underwood, with one exception (Piano Intro to "Little House", by FZ).
 Photographs in book: Ray Leong, Terry Moore, Bernard Gardner, Alice Ochs, Ed Caraeff
 Illustrations in book: Leo Limon, Richard E. Brown, Corny Cole, Gary Lund

Table of Contents
[page number in book shown at left]:
11 Brown Shoes Don't Make it
30 Mother People
36 Igor's Boogie
39 Penis Dimension
46 How Could I Be Such a Fool
52 Let's Make the Water Turn Black
57 Oh No
62 America Drinks & Goes Home
65 Son of Suzy Creamcheese
69 Excerpt from "Music for Electric Violin and Low-Budget Symphony
Orchestra" (piano with concert pitch melody line)
74 Excerpt from "Music for Electric Violin and Low-Budget Symphony
Orchestra" (transposed Bb Clarinet part)
75 I'm Not Satisfied
84 Mom & Dad
90 Absolutely Free
98 Uncle Meat
103 The Idiot Bastard Son
107 Piano introduction to "Little House I Used to Live In" (revised)
113 Manuscripts

 Pages 7-9 are occupied with storylines from Ruben & The Jets, Uncle Meat and The Legend of Cletus Asreetus-Awrightus & His Grand Wazoo. [The same material which can be found in the albums.]
The "Manuscripts" consist of Zappa's manuscripts from:
1. Waka Jawaka (one page, just a sketch)
2. "Nun Suit" from side four of 200 Motels (vocal quartet score)
3. "The Girl, in a Statement to the Press, Explains" (full
orchestral score, from 200 Motels)
4. "Can I Help You With This Dummy" (full score, from 200 Motels)

 The first page of this section consists of the following in Zappa's handwritten scrawl (very much like that of the cover of the Fillmore album): "REAL-LIVE MANUSCRIPT SECTION (OF LIMITED INTEREST)". The next page identifies the items, with the same scrawl: "THE FIRST SKETCH FORM THE RECORDING SESSION OF WAKA-JAWAKA; 2 EXTRACTS FROM THE "PLEATED GAZELLE" SECTION OF 200 MOTELS; "CAN I HELP YOU..." WAS ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED FOR USE IN 200 MOTELS BUT WAS EXCLUDED DUE TO TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES BEYOND..."

Description of Photos/illustrations
[all B&W; page number in book shown at left]:
10 Closeup of Zappa's foot in a white tennis shoe
25 Freak Out-era Mothers posing with some kind of oil derrick
26-27 Uncle Meat-era Mothers in photo montage
28 Just Another Band From L.A.-era mothers in group photo, crouching
29 Just Another Band From L.A.-era mothers pretending to operate on
Mark Volman with saws, on fake operating table
35 drawing of anthropomorphized radio with legs, hands and face, snapping fingers
39 Drawing of a little man who has a large face for a's hands are pulling at the lips of the face as though masturbating
43 Drawing of a large nipple being bitten (appears at bottom of text to be read for Penis Dimension)
45 Drawing of a man with a Heart for a head laying on a surrealistic landscape
50-51 Dali-esque drawing (man with lampshade on head, crashing plane, floating chairs...dozens of details)
56 Photo of FZ hugging woman (certainly Gail) from behind, while a shovel is propped to look as though it may be penetrating FZ from behind
60-61 Expressionistic drawing of a drunk reaching for glass
65 Drawing of intistinguishable blob relating to previous drawing
71-73 Abstract drawing...somewhat Escher-like
76 FZ's high school graduation photo
82-83 Drawing of cannon firing at woman, while a man holds his ears and sheds a tear
89 Drawing of man licking stamps whose top of head looks like a towel being rung-out
96-97 Extreme closeup of newspaper-type photo of skull with number 1348 stamped on it
100-102 Drawing of fat whore and Nazi
108 Drawing of piano keys, closeup, with a house sitting on one of the keys and a man running away
111 Reverse image of previous drawing
127 Photos of Ian Underwood and Cal Schenkle (credits for transcriptions and cover/design)

Personal Comments
 All of the "songs" are traditional three-stave piano/vocal arrangements, with the top stave devoted to voice, and the lower two staves to piano accompaniment. The melody part of the voice is usually contained in the piano part too, so pianists can read through the tunes and hear the melody. Chords names with guitar fingerings appear above the top stave.
 The piano parts lay pretty well under the hand. They are of medium difficulty: only a few can be read by beginners, but they seldom require anything resembling "virtuoso" technique.
 Playing them through is fascinating stuff. Alot of FZ's harmony is so familiar to me, that I don't think of it as unusual. But seeing it on the page, I see that there are fairly complex (and very "20th century") harmonic constructs in there. "Oh No", for example heavily uses chords made of stacked fifths (which one might think of as ninth chords).
 The piano part to "America Drinks and Goes Home" is a quite accurate transcription of the cocktail piano playing on the album. Lots of fun to play!
 Likewise for "Piano Introduction to Little House", which has always been one of my favorite compositions...Zappa showing the influence of Schoenberg's early piano opuses (11, 19 and 25 in particular). It is *very* accurate, and fascinating to see how he notated it.
 To me, the very most valuable part is the manuscripts from 200 Motels. There we see the way FZ wrote for vocal ensembles, and for full orchestra. The vocal ensemble harmony fascinated me for years: I played it at the piano many times trying to understand where his harmonies came from. (It amazes me that he did not compose at the piano!) The full scores are worthy of even more hours or years of study. The amount of performance detail (muting, types of drum sticks to use, dynamic markings, crescendi) is fascinating, the amount of detail that goes into some of the background textures is incredible (I'd never previously noticed on the recording a complex, polyrhythmic trio of bassoons at the beginnging of "The Girl..."), and the way in which Zappa got the sounds he got by precisely notating them is ingenious (the rhythms of the spoken voice parts are *completely* notated, wild glissandi from note to note are carefully indicated, and "funny" sounds like "fraudulent fanfares" are written out with precise pitches). It must have been fascinating to watch Zappa rehearse the RPO on this work. I've always thought that 200 Motels was FZ's *single* greatest musical achievement.

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