Bongo Fury

Muffin Man
  • Muffin Man
  • Frank Zappa & Captain Beefheart
  • Bongo Fury
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Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart were friends when they were kids, and in later years they found themselves working together now and then–Zappa produced Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica album, and Beeheart appeared on Zappa records like Hot Rats and Bongo Fury.  Here’s their song “Muffin Man,” in case your day needs a small dose of crazy and brilliant.

Debra Kadabra
  • Debra Kadabra
  • Frank Zappa & Captain Beefheart
  • Bongo Fury
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“Debra Kadabra” by Frank Zappa & Captain Beefheart

Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart were childhood friends–small world, right?  In fact, Don Vliet (he added the “Van” in later years) took his stage name Captain Beefheart from a science fiction movie he and Zappa had written and intended to film together.  In later years Zappa produced Beefheart’s masterpiece Trout Mask Replica, and Beefheart appeared on Zappa albums like Hot Rats and this one, Bongo Fury.  It’s a live album, from a tour they did together.  The story goes that Beefheart, ever the incorrigible five-year-old, would sit onstage and draw pictures when he wasn’t busy singing.  I guess it takes all kinds.  And it’s a good thing that these two weirdos were able to find each other again, because by this point most of The Magic Band was sick of Beefheart’s antics and had run off to form their own band, Mallard.

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Been on a Captain Beefheart kick, so here’s a little treat for you: a 1975 radio show where Zappa and the Captain hang out, play music and listen to records!

This was one of the first Zappa tapes I ever heard and I still think it’s one of the most interesting. Recorded while Zappa and Beefheart were still on speaking terms, it’s them playing a bunch of stuff they recorded back before either was famous and they were mostly just buddies who liked making crazy music together. It’s a fascinating look into their early history!

Granted, most of the material here has been officially released in one form or another. A bunch of these tracks ended up on The Lost Episodes or Mystery Disc in much better fidelity. And there’s a few songs that wound up on Bongo Fury, too. But what sets this apart is the Zappa/Beefheart aspect: they generally talk over the songs, explaining their history and what they think of them now (“Oh, that’s too distorted to play on the radio,” says Zappa as he yanks a song off the air).

Personally, my favourite part comes right at the beginning: Zappa asks Beefheart if he wants to do a song and they launch into Orange Claw Hammer, Beefheart doing a spirited version of his Trout Mask Replica-era poem, Zappa accompanying him on acoustic guitar. It’s a shame this version never found it’s way onto Bongo Fury or something. But then again, they had a falling out during the tour and never recorded anything together again in either’s lifetime.

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Muffin Man - Frank Zappa (Bongo Fury)

“Girl you thought he was a man
But he was a muffin
He hung around till you found
That he didn’t know nuthin’”

I was sittin’ in a breakfast room in Allentown, Pennsylvania,
six o'clock in the morning, got up too early, it was a terrible mistake…
sittin’ there face-to-face with a 75 cent glass of orange juice
about as big as my finger and a bowl of horribly foreshortened cornflakes,
and I said to myself: “This is the life!” …
— 

anywhere the wind blows…at six o'clock in the morning…

FZ, 200 years old, Bongo Fury