Frank Zappa - Joe's Menage (recorded 1975, released 2008)

Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?   3:57
The Illinois Enema Bandit   8:42
Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy   6:02
Lonely Little Girl   2:46
Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance   2:10
What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?     1:16
Chunga's Revenge 14:18
Zoot Allures   6:41
Total Time:45:52

Continuing the "Joe's Corsaga" (get it? The first one was called Joe's Corsage and the rest continue the saga...don't blame me, the Zappa Family Trust came up it), here comes Joe's Menage. Like its predecessors, this is a real low-budget affair, for absolutely fanatical, "gotta have every Zappa album ever released" type collectors and fans. The sound quality falls short of official release standards, but would be considered fairly good for a bootleg. The track listing doesn't include any songs that hard-core Zappa fans won't already have heard multiple versions of.

So what's the point of releasing this thing, making it part of the Joe's series and charging $16 for it? Well, the liner notes hint that it's because the concert featured a band line-up that hasn't seen much in the way of official releases. It's one of Frank's rare bands with a woman other than Ruth Underwood in it - Norma Jean Bell plays some saxophone and does some vocal improvising during Chunga. Most of the rest of the vocals are handled by Napoleon Murphy Brock (who also plays sax). The rest of the band is filled out by FZ (of course) on guitar and vocals, Andre Lewis on keyboards, Roy Estrada on bass and Terry Bozzio on drums. The recording comes from a performance at William and Mary college in Williamsburg, VA on November 1st, 1975.

This performance of Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me? is a very early version (Frank introduces it by saying that it's a brand new song that the audience hadn't heard before), and Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance is a reagge version with a weird keyboard freak-out in the middle. This version of Lonely Little Girl has a verse of lyrics that I had never heard before. The band do some odd vocal gyrations during What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body and the last 20 minutes feature the instrumental showcases Chunga's Revenge (complete with melodica solo) and Zoot Allures, so there are some interesting aspects to the performance. If it were a professional recording it would be a pretty good release, but this is pretty clearly just an above-average audience recording. On the other hand the somewhat "raw" audio quality makes the music sound a little more powerful.

So why was this released? Well, there's a fanatical Zappa follower in Denmark named Ole Lysgaard, and he tells his story in the liner notes. He puts it in nicer terms, but he basically stalked Frank whenever he came to Denmark in the 70s, and eventually got on relatively good terms with him. After a show in the late 70s, Frank gave Ole a few tapes of unreleased things he had lying around - a tape of Lather, a proto-You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore called "Impossible Concerts", and this William and Mary tape. The liner notes hint that "Impossible Concerts" may be released in the future.

Ole got in contact with Gail in the late 2000s, and informed her that he still had these tapes. He sent her copies, and I guess the thinking was that if Frank thought the performance was good enough to record, keep and give to a fan, then it must be good enough to release. A search was made through the vault to see if a better recording could be found, but in the end they just went with the audience "official bootleg" recording.

It's definitely a good performance of a semi-rare line-up, and the sound quality is listenable if not top notch. So if you think that sort of thing is worth dropping $16 on, then go for it. Otherwise you're not missing too much.

Album Cover

Image of the Joes's Menage album cover