What The Fuck Is
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.
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
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
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
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
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.