What The Fuck Is THING-FISH?

From: I'll tell you
05-03-05 ::: 04:43:29 ::: infomania

Frank Zappa and Ike Willis

THING-FISH is a Frank Zappa triple LP boxed set album, recorded and released in 1984.

The form is a mutation of the Broadway musical, using massive quantities of Zappa classics, plus a spew of new tunes, including several negro spirituals with most of the classic black singers Zappa used throughout his career. All of the familiar material is seriously MUTATED, however, inkeeping with the overall theme of "dangerous mutations are out of control and the future looks black".

The main story line is constantly "explained" by de THING-FISH, the leader, and the largest, of a new master race of mutants known as The Mammy Nuns which "destroy the blues" and sing about a bunch of funny stuff. Of course, the whole thing is a government plot, to kill "highly rivmic individuals and sissy boys."

Zappa really went insane on THING-FISH. Very few of the musicians on it understand it NOW. When it was recorded, I remember bassist Arthur Barrow confiding in me, "I think Frank has finally lost his mind." He was serious, too.

The whole ball of wax got its impetus from Ike Willis talking like Kingfish from Amos and Andy, and Frank would just crack up, go giggly shit silly and slap happy NUTS laughing. He'd tell Ike dialog to say, Ike would say it like Kingfish, and Zappa really got a kick out of it.

This "mutation" occured during a technological turnover period for FZ, on one hand he had digital multitrack machines, and on the other he had his new pride and joy, the world's largest Synclavier. FZ was apparently in the process of transferring many of his analog masters to digital multitrack for archiving reasons, he started having lots of fun making clones of the backup archives and then replacing the vocals singing similar sounding lyrics, but with the subtext altered to relate the overall saga de THING-FISH was explainin'. And that's the show.

Its for hard core Zappaheads who know all the tunes and all the "right words", but they have to be open minded and willing to let go of the familiar, to make way for the New Mutations spearheaded by THING-FISH and The Mammy Nuns. All the Mammy Nuns are black singers associated with FZ, like Napoleon Murphy Brock, Ike Willis, Ray White, Johnny Guitar Watson, etc. so vocally, it KILLS!

I must mention that there are at least two musicians on THING-FISH that play Main Vocal Characters, and, unlike most of the people involved, I feel certain they "understood" what Frank had in mind, Ike Willis and Terry Bozzio. Their performances were impeccable. Bozzio is absolutely hilarious as the cum-guzzling HARRY. I'm saying this from the point of view of observation, many years of it, and a chance to take a long, hard, and close-up look at the sprawling mutant giant that is THING-FISH.

When asked for "outstanding highlights" from his career, Frank Zappa just about always mentioned THING-FISH first. Zappa created a whole new language for the production, a so-called "negrocious dialect", based on a Bald Headed John (Zappa's mush mouthed bodyguard) style "re-pronunciation" of the Kingfish from Amos and Andy style (racist radio drama).

The main thing a newbie to THING-FISH has to be ready for is EXTREME LAUGHING. Once you "get it", you ain't gonna believe you UNDERSTAND something so insane and impossible to describe, yet its always just a simple allegory in classic Zappa tradition.

The technical side alone could fill a small book. Massive quantities of Zappa lyrics are rewritten, and the behind the scenes "explanashums" by a cameo'ed THING-FISH are MIND DESTROYING.

They are so goddamn brilliant and so insane at the same time, its like anti-wisdom that blows your brain out of its socket. It makes you think differently. It makes you see more....

And it don't look pretty, unless you like a big giant masculine singin' mammy, with a potato head, and duck lips, who thinks he knows EVERYTHING, and wants you to pay close attention to the details of WHY its all happenin'.

Highly recommended for Zappaheads and complete strangers to FZ, works great either way, I've seen it with my own eyes. Yes, I experimented on LIVE human beings, using FZ's music for lab rat cheese.

music by popeye-x


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