Frank Zappa - Tinseltown Rebellion (1981)

Fine Girl 3:29
Easy Meat 9:19
For the Young Sophisticate 2:36
Love of My Life 2:15
I Ain't Got No Heart 1:59
Panty Rap 4:35
Tell Me You Love Me 2:07
Now You See It - Now You Don't   5:01
Dance Contest 3:00
The Blue Light 5:26
Tinsel Town Rebellion 4:35
Pick Me, I'm Clean 5:00
Bamboozled By Love 5:46
Brown Shoes Don't Make It 7:14
Peaches III 4:56
Total Time: 67 min, 19 sec

Another double album released as a single CD, and the beginning of Zappa's "80s period". After an unusually quiet 1980 (the first year with no official Zappa releases since the first Mothers album - between 1966 and 1979 Frank averaged two or three albums a year), the mail-order-only Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar was released, but Tinseltown was the first Zappa album available in stores in the 80s. Primarily a live album, most of the tracks are so overdubbed that they sound like studio pieces. (Note: I was corrected on this point by someone who emailed me and pointed out that only Easy Meat is overdubbed, and only Fine Girl is a studio track. All the rest are straight live recordings, although the precision with which they were played and the lack of audience noise makes them sound like studio tracks.)

Many fans feel that Zappa went downhill in the 80s, and to some extent I agree with them. There was still plenty of good stuff being released, but the 80s albums just don't seem to be quite as consistently good as the 60s and 70s albums. On Tinseltown Rebellion, some songs that Zappa had been performing in concert finally got released (including Easy Meat, parts of which had been performed live since the Flo and Eddie period). There are live versions of a few oldies like I Ain't Got No Heart, Brown Shoes Don't Make It and Peaches En Regalia, and some good new songs like For the Young Sophisticate and the title track, which is an excellent slam on manufactured punk and glam bands.

Unfortunately there's also a lot of filler. Panty Rap is a spoken word track in which Zappa explains that he's collecting panties from female members of the audience, for an artist who was going to turn them into a big quilt (the quilt did eventually get made - a web search will probably turn up pictures of it). Dance Contest is just what the title says. These two tracks are amusing to hear once or twice, but probably don't really deserve the seven and a half minutes of disc space they take up.

Now You See It... is a guitar solo track that I could probably live without. The Blue Light is a very strange track of obtuse music and non-sequitur lyrics that rambles on for five minutes but seems much longer - some fans like it but it doesn't do much for me. Bamboozled By Love is OK (although some people get upset about the violence towards women depicted by the lyrics), personally I like the version on the Stage series better.

The album's cover is in the style of the We're Only In It For the Money Beatles' cover parody. This one features a big ballroom/bar full of partying people and cartoons, all of whom were cut and pasted or drawn into the picture. On the stage, Zappa appears to be playing guitar with members of three different bands. And for those interested in trivial tidbits - this album was originally going to be a single record called Crush All Boxes. If you look closely under the final title, you can still read the old name.

In summary, I'd say this is one of the less essential Zappa CDs. It was one of the last ones I picked up, and I don't feel like I missed much by waiting before buying it. I probably would have liked the Crush All Boxes version of the album better, assuming the weaker bits were edited out and it was trimmed down to a single album.

Album Cover

Image of the Tinseltown Rebellion album cover