Baby Snakes

Notes and Comments

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  A little comment from Tommy Mars himself. Keyboard mag. June, 1980 (reprinted latter in A Definitive Tribute To Frank Zappa)
  - Was Sheik Yerbouti the first album that you did with him?
  - Yes, the first thing that I was involved with.
  - A lot of that was recorded live with various overdubs added after the fact.
  - Various, very loosely. From my experience, I would say that the overdubs on that particular album were at least equally balanced with the live tracks. We worked for months on that. For instance, on the song "Baby Snakes", I was watching a Twilight Zone on TV late one night and got this phone call from Frank. He said, "Hi, Tommi, how are you? Feel like doing a littel singing tonight?" And I said, "Sure". I came down to Cherokee Studios and did "Baby Snakes" that night about six times, my own voice on one line, no harmonies, just straight linear thing"
  To Album Refs
To Global Refs
They live in a ho-ho-hole
(Tiny hole)
That is usually empty
(usually empty, tiny too)
They live by a code
(Dit dit dit dit)
That is usually
From: (YoYo)
  SMPTE codes are electronic timing blips that are used to sync soundtracks up with films. Use of the synclavier would have familiarized FZ with them.
From: (Gary Worsham)
  Actually it probably would have pre-dated the synclavier. SMPTE code also tells you where you are on a professional video tape, such as the ones used in the "Dub Room". I enjoy this tape since the Ampex VPR-2 shown is what I used to worship in front of during my first year of work at Ampex. SMPTE codes are also used for time-telling on pro tape recorders, whether or not it's being sync'ed to anything. They have a nice feature in that they function even when the tape is going very slow or very fast.
From: Scott <>
  on SMPTE: as others have mentioned, it is a timing reference. it was originally created i think in 1968 as a better way to synchronize video and audio for "motion pictures". a separate track of the master tape is striped with (usually, in USA) 30 frames per second of timing marks. anything synced to this would read the hours/minutes/seconds/frames/subframes and synch it's driving motor to the master. prior to this, film and audio were synched by counting tachometer pulses as the reels turned. this was only good for short periods of time, as the tape would slip, and tighten/loosen. simply counting how many times the reels turned wasn't very accurate. this is the reason that in many old movies, the longer the scene, the further out of sync the lips and words can get. with SMPTE, the master can start at any place, and the slaves will "chase" (fast forward/rewind) until they match perfectly, and then will march right along together. in the Bruce Bickford claymation scenes, you can see lots of readouts with SMPTE hours/minutes/seconds/frames. this reference to SMPTE in the song made me scream out loud with delight at the obscurity that FZ was displaying. as a life-long zappa-head, i had started a small home studio in the 80's, and was dealing with the subtle timing differences of SMPTE sync with a rack of synths in my living room on a daily basis. FZ inspired me to make the music i liked, who cares if anyone else likes it. it wasn't particularly great, but "As long as it makes the guy in my chair happy, that's all that counts."
  To Album Refs
To Global Refs
Which stands for
*Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers*
Maybe I think
That is what keeps them in sync
They're wet 'n' they're pink
I think I'll give 'em a, give 'em a,
Give 'em a drink

Baby Sna-a-a-a-a-akesss
From: Bartosz Blacha
  There has been some discussion about this, but the best guess seems to be "clitori."
From: (Robert Garvey)
  Uh, way off, not even close. Being an incredible hardware head, Frank wrote the song about equipment. He was talking about cables, as evidenced by the following lines (dredged up from memory).
"They live by a code that is usually SMPTE
which stands for Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers
Maybe I think that is what keeps them in synch..."
From: (Brian Hyde)
  I disagree. If you disregard just the SMPTE lines from the song, the first guess is right on target. I think Frank just threw in the SMPTE lines because "code" and "SMPTE" came close enough to rhyming with "hole" and "empty" and also that the SMPTE lines were entertaining in their own right. After all, "pink and wet" cables generally are not used in modern musical equipment... :)
From: (Martin H. Booda)
  Assuming that Baby Snakes=equipment cables, and that "giving 'em a drink" means what I think it does, shouldn't Frank have prefaced this with "Kids, don't try this at home!"? ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZTTTTTTZZZZAPPPA!
From: (Eric Pepke)
  I think that's a bit of a metaphor. Remember that he also talks about them as being pink and wet and giving them a drink.
  I've done a reasonable amount of stuff that involved using cables for video, audio, Genlock, and time codes SMPTE and otherwise, and I have rarely met an electrical connector with the named attributes or one that was not harmed by being given a drink, unless one construes a drink to be liquid Freon.
  On the other hand, Philip K. Dick has a book with a portable tape recorder that uses a Ganymedan organism as an audio transponder, with a special hole in the recorder for adding water to keep it alive and healthy.
From: (Paul Hinrichs)
  Perhaps he meant spraying the patch bay with Quietrol for less noisy connections?
From: (Tmalchow)
  Baby snakes, by the way, I always took to be penises as well. They live in a hole that is usually empty, get it? Sure you know what I'm talking about.
From: (Matthew T. Isom)
  There's so much foreshadowing in FZ's conceptual continuity that I don't see why Baby Snakes can't refer simultaneously to genetalia AND worms, a psychic glimpse of things to come in "Jumbo Go Away."
  Given the concurrent discussion of SMPTE (sp?)codes, bearing the possible implication of cables or wires, consider the (remote) possibility that "snakes" may derive in part from the "hissing" implicit in tape recording. Then again, never mind--It's really early in the morning.
From: (YoYo)
  So much of FZ's stuff is double, triple, and quadruple ententres. Why can't all the explanations be correct and contribute to the BIG PICTURE?

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