The latest audio treasure to be excavated from Frank Zappa’s vast and legendary vault, Zappa/Erie, brings together an exciting trio of shows that the Maestro performed in Erie, Pa. and the surrounding area between 1974-76.
Due June 3 via Zappa Records/UMe, the new six-disc boxed set/digital collection contains more than seven hours of unreleased, electrifying live performances from Zappa and three different lineups of incredible musicians from this peak period. Of the 71 tracks, only 10 minutes have been released before, on Zappa’s classic 1974 live album, Roxy & Elsewhere, outside of the amateur recordings that have been passed around on the bootleg/tape trading circuit.
Overseen by the Zappa Trust and produced by Ahmet Zappa and Zappa Vaultmeister Joe Travers, Zappa/Erie boasts detailed liner notes about the shows and recordings from Travers, along with Erie, Pa. journalist, Dan Schell, author of the encyclopedic book, “9 Years Of Rock: The Story Of The Concerts At The Erie County Fieldhouse,” who provides some illuminating, behind-the scenes insight into the shows and venues.
The liners are rounded out with photos of Zappa by David Smith, images of the original tapes, and include original concert fliers, a newspaper review of one of the shows, and a scathing rebuttal to the review from a passionate fan.
The audio, which was professionally recorded on 4-track tape by Zappa’s team of engineers Bill Hennigh, Brian Krokus, Davey Moire and Claus Weideman, was newly mixed from the original tapes by longtime Zappa Trust associate Craig Parker Adams at Winslow Ct. Studios and mastered by John Polito at Audio Mechanics, who both also aided in restoring the audio as needed, to present these historical concerts as cleaned up as sonically possible.
Zappa/Erie is available to pre-order today exclusively via Zappa.com and will include a limited edition poster illustrated and designed by Fantoons that features various Easter eggs from Zappa’s unparalleled and uncompromising career. A version of the boxed set without the poster will be available to pre-order on April 22. Pre-order Zappa/Erie now here: http://frankzappa.lnk.to/zappaerie
The three complete shows included on Zappa/Erie are presented in chronological order and trace Zappa’s history with the Pennsylvanian lakeside suburb. The set kicks off with a concert at Edinboro State College, a local university outside of Erie, on May 8, 1974, and is followed by Zappa’s first proper concert in Erie at the Gannon Auditorium at the private, Catholic, Gannon University on November 12, 1974; and concludes with what would be his last Erie show, held at the Erie County Fieldhouse on November 12, 1976.
In addition to the full shows, several performances from South Bend, Ind.; Toledo, Ohio; and Montreal, QC, taken from the same time period, are included as bonus tracks.
The Edinboro concert in ‘74 was part of a small, month-long run of shows celebrating the 10th anniversary of Zappa’s ever-evolving seminal band, The Mothers, as well as his just-released album, Apostrophe (‘).
Zappa’s formidable band for the tour was made up of Bruce Fowler on trombone and vocals; Chester Thompson on drums and percussion; Don Preston on synthesizer; George Duke on keyboards, synthesizer, and vocals; Jeff Simmons on guitar and vocals; Napoleon Murphy Brock on tenor sax, flute and lead vocals; Ralph Humphrey on drums; Tom Fowler on bass; and Walt Fowler on trumpet. As Travers writes in the liners, “The addition of Walt Fowler on trumpet and Don Preston on keys really helped to expand the instrumentation of the band.
Another major factor, by this time, Frank had purchased two Ludwig Octa-Plus drum sets. This large drum set configuration was becoming extremely popular and it provided Chester Thompson and Ralph Humphrey a new wide range of tom-tom sizes to play on. The new sounds were cleverly integrated into Zappa’s compositions.”
Part of the song repertoire for the tour was a medley of songs that Zappa constructed from the Mothers of Invention’s 1966 debut album, Freak Out, and 1968’s We’re Only In It For The Money, but with significantly altered arrangements. Zappa/Erie marks the first time these renditions, as well as a full concert from the 10th anniversary tour, will be released. Spread across disc 1 and 2 of the collection, some of the concert’s many highlights include “Cosmik Debris,” a great, funky arrangement of “Pygmy Twylyte,” “Montana,” “Cheepnis,” “Inca Roads,” with a strong cowbell motif throughout, and the radically reconfigured versions of early Mothers tracks like “Hungry Freaks, Daddy,” “Wowie Zowie,” “How Could I Be Such A Fool,” “Harry, You’re A Beast,” and “The Idiot Bastard Son.
Although never officially released, the show has grown in stature thanks to a board cassette that leaked from Zappa’s inner circle and has been available in the bootleg world for many years.
It’s from this show that Zappa used segments from “Son Of Orange County” and “More Trouble Every Day,” for his beloved Roxy & Elsewhere album. Now, finally, nearly five decades later, the full concert mixed from the master tape is being made available.
When Zappa rolled into the Gannon Auditorium in Erie later that fall, he was backed by the slimmed down lineup of Thompson, Duke, Brock, and Fowler, with the venerable Ruth Underwood rejoining the group on percussion. Despite Zappa suffering from the flu, he soldiered through like the professional he was and delivered a strong performance with an equally strong band.
The setlist varied greatly from the previous show a few months earlier and highlights, found on discs 3 and 4, include the 1974 live arrangement of “Dinah-Moe Humm,” with Zappa singing the extra line that normally didn’t get sung, the constantly in flux “Inca Roads,” “Penguin In Bondage,” “Uncle Meat,” and “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow.
Zappa’s guitar improvisation during “Dupree’s Paradise” provides a glimpse of compositions to come, mainly “Zoot Allures,” and “Any Downers” Aside from battling illness, Zappa also grappled with an unruly audience who were clashing amongst themselves because the audience in the back were upset the people in the front wouldn’t sit down so they could see, which caused a lot of tension.
Because of this, Zappa stopped the show several times to get the crowd under control and fans get to hear how he handled the situation. Zappa himself released incidents like this such as “Geneva Farewell” on You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 5. so it continues the tradition. The bonus tracks on disc 3, “Montana” and “Get Down,” taken from South Bend, Ind. in ‘74 were hand-picked and mixed by Zappa but never released.
By November 12, 1976, when Zappa next came to Erie for what would ultimately be the last time, he was more popular than ever and had graduated to the Erie County Fieldhouse where the major touring acts played in town during the ‘70s.
Armed with a completely different line-up, the band consisted of Eddie Jobson on keyboards and violin; Patrick O’Hearn on bass and vocals; Ray White on guitar and vocals; Terry Bozzio on drums and vocals; and Lady Bianca on keyboards and vocals, who would leave the band a week later after only touring for a month. Although Zappa and the band put on a great performance, the show wasn’t without drama as a sudden blizzard threw a wrench into things, resulting in the light and sound equipment not making the show in time.
At the last minute, rented systems were acquired by the venue and it caused certain fans to complain to the box office that they “didn’t get their money’s worth.” Featured on discs 5 and 6, the setlist is mostly culled from tracks from the albums Apostrophe (‘), Over-Nite Sensation, and Zappa’s newest LP at the time, 1976’s Zoot Allures. Songs like “The Torture Never Stops” and “Black Napkins” showcase extraordinary, extended guitar workouts from Zappa on the then-brand new compositions.
An extra bonus performance of “Black Napkins,” from the Toledo, Ohio show the following night ends the set and exemplifies how Zappa would perform songs differently from show to show.
Assembling this new set, Zappa/Erie, was something of a passion project for Joe Travers who grew up in Erie. Although he had seen the tapes marked “Erie” in the Vault in his 27 years as the Vaultmeister, it wasn’t until the pandemic that he finally gave these shows a listen and realized they were too good to not release.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, I found myself, like so many others, with a lot of extra time on my hands,” Travers reveals in the liners. “Because of this, I threw myself even more deeply into archiving the fabulous vault of Mr.
Frank Zappa. During this time, it dawned on me that in all my years being the Vaultmeister for Zappa, I had never prioritized documenting the concerts FZ played in my hometown of Erie, Pa.” The Erie booklet includes an autographed polaroid of Zappa that Travers’ mother excitedly picked up for him at a local Erie garage sale sometime in the ‘90s.
For years it’s been tucked away for safe keeping, and only recently when working on this release, did Travers reexamine it only to realize it was most likely taken at the Erie County Fieldhouse in 1976. So now, more than 46 years after it was snapped and two decades after Travers mother gifted it to her son, it has made its way into the packaging chronicling Zappa’s Erie shows, bringing everything full circle.
Erie Track Listing
CD 1: LIVE FROM EDINBORO, PA – MAY 8, 1974
1. “Someone Has Just Asked Me…”
2. Cosmik Debris
3. Pygmy Twylyte
4. The Idiot Bastard Son
6. Inca Roads
8. Dupree’s Paradise (Intro)
CD 2: LIVE FROM EDINBORO, PA – MAY 8, 1974 (Cont’d)
1. Dupree’s Paradise
2. It Can’t Happen Here
3. Hungry Freaks, Daddy
4. You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here
5. How Could I Be Such A Fool
6. I Ain’t Got No Heart
7. I’m Not Satisfied
8. Wowie Zowie
9. Let’s Make The Water Turn Black
10. Harry, You’re A Beast
11. The Orange County Lumber Truck
12. Oh No
13. Son Of Orange County
14. More Trouble Every Day
15. Camarillo Brillo
CD 3: BONUS TRACKS: LIVE FROM SOUTH BEND, IN – MAY 12, 1974 (1-2)
LIVE FROM ERIE, PA – NOVEMBER 12, 1974 (3-14)
2. Get Down
3. Tush Tush Tush (A Token Of My Extreme)
6. Village Of The Sun
7. Echindna’s Arf (Of You)
8. Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?
9. Penguin In Bondage
10. T’Mershi Duween
11. The Dog Breath Variations
12. Uncle Meat
13. Building A Girl
14. Dinah-Moe Humm
CD 4: LIVE FROM ERIE, PA – NOVEMBER 12, 1974 (cont’d)
1. I’m Not Satisfied
3. Dupree’s Paradise (Intro)
4. Dupree’s Paradise
5. Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow
6. Tush Tush Tush (End Vamp)
7. Oh No
8. Son Of Orange County
9. More Trouble Every Day
CD 5: LIVE FROM ERIE, PA – NOVEMBER 12, 1976 (1-7)
LIVE FROM TOLEDO, OH – NOVEMBER 13, 1976 (8)
LIVE FROM ERIE, PA – NOVEMBER 12, 1976 (9-12)
1. The Purple Lagoon
3. The Poodle Lecture
4. Dirty Love
5. Wind Up Workin’ In A Gas Station
6. Tryin’ To Grow A Chin
7. The Torture Never Stops
8. City Of Tiny Lites
9. Pound For A Brown
10. You Didn’t Try To Call Me
11. Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A Drink
12. Would You Go All The Way?
CD 6: LIVE FROM ERIE, PA – NOVEMBER 12, 1976 (cont’d) (1-11)
BONUS TRACKS: LIVE FROM MONTREAL, QC, CANADA – NOVEMBER 10, 1976 (12)
LIVE FROM TOLEDO, OH – NOVEMBER 13, 1976 (13-14)
1. Black Napkins
2. Terry’s Erie ’76 Solo
3. Patrick’s Erie ’76 Solo
4. Wonderful Wino
5. The Purple Lagoon (Outro)
6. Stranded In The Jungle
7. Dinah-Moe Humm
8. The Purple Lagoon (Outro)
9. Camarillo Brillo
10. Muffin Man
11. The Purple Lagoon (Outro)
12. You Didn’t Try To Call Me
13. Black Napkins
14. The Purple Lagoon (Outro)