Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Frank Zappa 34: Baby Snakes

Frank had lots of grand ambitions, and often spoke of big projects and productions that would inevitably evolve as time went on and money ran out, and would almost as inevitably go unfinished. One of the few that did happen was Baby Snakes, filmed during the Halloween run in 1977 at New York’s Palladium, released about two years later with claymation segments another other hijinks edited in. The soundtrack companion appeared about four years after that, on a picture disc via mail order.
Basically we have about 36 minutes of music from a film that ran over four times as long, fitting chronologically just before Sheik Yerbouti. In fact, the title song is merely an edit of the album track. “Titties & Beer” gets a mild edge of over its previously heard version due to the modified exchange between Frank and Terry Bozzio—to wit, Frank says he’s been through hell already, having been “signed with Warner Bros. for eight f—kin’ years!” “The Black Page #2” (sans drum solo) provides a transition to “Jones Crusher”, well sung by Adrian Belew.
“Dinah-Moe-Humm” was always a crowd-pleaser, yet this version follows Zappa’s wearying trend of inviting excitable audience members up to dance and be ridiculed, and loses a lot without the visuals. “Punky’s Whips”, though familiar from the Zappa In New York CD, was not included on the album, so it makes its first appearance here. So we get even more vocalizing from Terry Bozzio, in between some decent musical interludes (including the quote from “Isn’t It Romantic”, but somehow not “Sunshine Of Your Love”, which pops up repeatedly elsewhere).
Due to its length and despite its relative obscurity, Baby Snakes was always something of a minor but not disposable album. 1988’s CD added a minute or so of dialogue at the top, and removed the gap between the two album sides, and that was it for extras. The film itself was available on VHS in both its full version and a 90-minute edit, and many years later, for one of their periodic birthday tributes, the Zappa Family Trust offered all 164 minutes of the audio as Baby Snakes—The Compleat Soundtrack for download. If that wasn’t enough, the fortieth anniversary of the concerts brought forth Halloween 77, offered in a package with a Zappa costume and mask and a USB stick with all six shows from the run. The October 31 show, from which much of the original Baby Snakes album was compiled, was simultaneously released as a three-CD set, with bonus tracks from the show the night before.

Frank Zappa Baby Snakes (1983)—3

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