A Pound For A Brown On The Bus

Notes and Comments

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From: (Jeff Rocca)
  Before playing "A Pound For A Brown On The Bus" at the 6/6/69 Royal Festival Hall show in London, England, Frank Zappa told the audience the legend behind the song. What follows is a transcription I made from a recording of this show.
  Frank Zappa: "In California, there's a cult known as surfers. And, some of you might know about surfers, a lot of you might have missed out on this part of your social history. Surfers are young people with bleach-blond hair and they have a sun tan -- you don't know what that is here -- and they have cut-off pants which makes them look sort of funky and authentic and nature-boy style. And they have rubber sandals called Birachies. And they have these things called surf boards which are made out wood and fiberglass, gayly painted. And of course they have the Woolly Wagon, which is an old station-wagon with wood panelling on the side, or if you're too cheap, you paint wooden panelling on the side. And you live this life where you like to go to the beach all the time, even if its freezing cold, jump out there and flop around in the water, and then swim out with your surf board and ride in on the waves. It's very thrilling and it gets you a lot of pussy with the surfer girls. And similar mating practices exist in all walks of life. Truck drivers have certain things they do to get laid. Newspaper writers. They all have their own little thing and there's girls that go along with each one of these stupid games. They're all broken down into little pockets of resistance. Anyway, we have these surfers and they have this curious thing called the Brown Out, which is part of their culture. Now, the Brown Out is the thing that you do to impress your surfer friends and to make other people's eyebrows go up and down. And what you do is you get the other person's attention -- you wave at them or you say something amusing -- and they turn around and look at you and then suddenly you reverse your position, drop your pants, and stick your buns out at them. That is a Brown Out. Also known as a Brown. And also known as Mooning on the East Coast. There are a number of variations on this procedure. If you Brown Out against a wire screen, its called a chipped beef. And if you do it against a plate glass window at a delicatessen, its called a pressed ham.
  Last year, before we did our Festival Hall show, we arrived at the airport and were provided with a touring bus with nice big windows so that everybody on the outside could see in and we could see out. The lovely ride from the airport to the Winton Hotel. During this trip, a wager was made between Jimmy Carl Black, the Indian of the group, and Bunk Gardner, our silver-haired tenor saxophone virtuoso. Jimmy Carl Black turned to Bunk Gardner and said "I'll bet you a pound you won't Brown Out on this here bus." Bunk Gardner, being the crafty silver-haired devil that he is, quickly computed the difference between a pound and a dollar and had his pants off before anybody knew what was happening.
  <Audience applauds> I can tell by the applause that you admire him for doing this. And I can tell that you are trying to project into it desperately, maybe even be able to identify with it. Who knows, on the street a new rash of social disturbances, maybe the thing to replace flower power? We know what will replace flower power -- The Revolution.
  This piece of music is program music because it tells you the story with pictures that go along with different parts of the music to evoke realistic scenes in your imagination. This is an inferior kind of music designed for audiences who can't stand to just listen to music, but need pictures. It was invented here in Europe a long time ago. The first part of the piece has the simulated effect of London traffic. We do this ingeniously by using actual horns which you squeeze with your hand, that go "oo-bah." The next thing that happens in the piece is a jolly little theme which gives the impression that the Mothers Of Invention love to go around the country-side in a bus with big windows. Followed by another abstruse-type section that simulates the conversation on the bus, the calculation of the monetary difference, and this leads up to a throbbing, and otherwise surging climax, wherein the pants come off and the buns are revealed. Followed by some low-grade rocking out and instrumental improvisation for about the next 20 minutes or something."

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