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Drowning Witch

Notes and Comments

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And scary-lookin'
And then . . .
Cars could crash all over the place
As a result of
people with Hawaiian shirts on. . .
From: Evil Bob <>
  "People with Hawaiian shirts on" is a reference to tourists who often purchase the cheesiest, stupidest, loudest clothing offered in the places where they go on vacation. This archetypical tourist is often personified by a person wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt, non-matching shorts (often in some badly clashing plaid, checked, or striped colors), black socks with garters, black "sensible shoes", and an arsenal of Japanese photo gear.
  Of course you're hearing Hawaiian Punch ad lick right here Read more about it No Not Now
  About more Hawaiin Punch references
  what about the many use of the Hawaiian Punch theme music, such as in "dumb all over" on YCDTOSA 1 ("they can really go HAWAIIAN!!" *do-do-do DOO do-do DOOO*) it is also used at the very end of "strictly genteel" on MAJNH.
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Maybe a submarine could save her,
And bring her home to the Navy . . .
For some kind of
Oo-oo-oo-ah ah
Ah-oo-oo oo-oo-oo
Ritual sacrifice . . .
  Looks like another reference to beloved Stravinsky' The Rite Of Spring
Part II: The Sacrifice
13. Ritual Of Ancients
14. Sacrificial Dance (Chosen One)
  For more Igor's clues check out ABSOLUTELY FREE. Invocation And Ritual Dance of A Youg Pumpkin.
  Some strictly technical notes once again:-))
From: Cornelius Absurdius (
  Subject: Re: SV: Rite of Spring?
  There is another detail to find on SATLTSADW's "Drowning Witch". That one should be more obvious: Meanwhile Frank is singing "...for some kind of...ooh ooh ooh ahhh oooh ahh ritual sacrifice" the band actually play the "Ritual Sacrifice" section.
From: (Pat Buzby)
  The first Drowning Witch solo from this show (11/17/81) is the one that FZ used on the album version.
From: unknown
  But there was editing of different versions, which was also well documented. Plus, the title song from SATLTSADW which was taken from about 17 different concerts.
From: Patrick Neve (
  Do you have a listing of what those concerts were? And/or were the edits appear? It's not that I don't believe you... I'm just curious as to the sources of this amazing chunk of music.
From: (Pat Buzby)
  FZ said that "Drowning Witch" had 15 edits in it, and then he said that it was from 15 different cities. I think it's possible that the first statement is true and not the second. I've been listening to fall '81 tapes for a while to figure this out, and here's what I've found : the vocal ensemble is from Santa Monica 12-11-81, FZ's "meltdown" is from Chicago 11-27-81, the first solo is from the Ritz in NYC 11-17-81, and the first third of the second solo (as well as some of the transition beforehand) is from Chicago again. Incidentally, this second solo is the only case I know of where FZ edited together a solo for release from more than one show.
From: Tom Mulhern's 83 Guitar Player Zappa interview
  Q: What guitar did you use on "Drowning Witch"?
  FZ: I think both solos are with the Hendrix Strat.
  Q: How did you get the feedback that pervades throughout?
  FZ: It's live. Those were live tracks that were overdubbed. There are some equalizers in my guitar-- a parametric EQ with a little, narrow peak. And once you find the feedback range in the room, you can turn it up, and the guitar doesn't have to be loud to just feed back at that frequency.
  Q: Do you usually twiddle with it during a solo?
  FZ: Yeah. First I set it during the sound check, and then if the acoustics of the room change due to the audience, I can just reach over and tweeze it while I'm playing.
  Q: How do you synchronize parts from different performances for final mixing into one song?
  FZ: First of all, you start off with a band that is highly rehearsed, that maintains their tempo. They learn it at a certain tempo, then they'll play it the same way night after night. Do you know how many edits there are in "Drowning Witch"? Fifteen! That song is a basic track from 15 different cities. And some of the edits are like two bars long. And they're written parts -- all that fast stuff. It was very difficult for all the guys to play that correctly. Every once in a while somebody would hit the jackpot, but it's a very hard song to play. So there was no one perfect performance from any city. What I did was go through a whole tour's worth of tape and listen to every version of it and grab every section that was reasonably correct, put together a basic track, and then added the rest of the orchestration to it in the studio.
  Subject: Sinister Laughter
From: Jason M Arvey (
  All right, Conceptual Continuity buffs, here we go. On several albums, there's this sinister mechanical laughter that happens in the background (which incidentally sounds like laughter from a Halloween decoration my family owned a few years back) and it's kind of eerie. I can't remember where exactly it comes in, but I've heard it somewhere during the Drowning Witch Suite on SATLTSADW. My question is this: On what other albums/songs does this noise occur, what does it signify, and should this info be compiled somewhere?
From: AJ Wilkes (
  It appears twice on SATLTSADW, once in the Witch herself, and again on either Envelopes or Teenage Prostitute. The Drowning Witch appearance makes the passage even more sinister and cartoon-like than it already is; one of Zappa's finest moments.
  I think I know what you's in Tengo Na Minchia Tanta, also.
From: Patrick Neve (
  I think I know what it is. There used to be a novelty item available in the back of comic books called "Bag O' Laffs". It was a battery operated little box which laughed maniacally when you shook or disturbed it. This was contained in a little felt drawstring bag. It was a brainchild of dada toy design... a mysterious laughing bag. Anyways it sounded just like the laughing you describe, and I've always felt that's what they were using.
  Another example of toys onstage would be the police car that sounds a siren and threatening instructions to "come out with your hands up." That one must have gotten some milage, since it can be seen in the Baby Snakes movie and also heard from the '88 band.

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