‘Zappa ’88: The Last U.S. Show’ Documents End of Remarkable Era

Frank Zappa hadn’t toured since 1984, when his seven-man band played 109 shows, 36 in the U.S., 32 in Europe, and another 41 back in the States, all from July through December. When it was announced there would be a 1988 tour, there was much excitement.

Frank Zappa

Held over from the 1984 group were Bobby Martin, keyboards, synclavier, vocals; Ike Willis, rhythm guitar, vocals; Scott Thunes, bass, mini-moog; and Chad Wackerman, drums, electronic percussion. Also returning from the ’81 and ’82 campaigns was Ed Mann, percussion, synclavier, vocals. In the band for the first (and last) time was Mike Keneally, stunt guitar, keyboards, vocals. The real buzz, however, was about the five-man horn section, making this the largest band in Zappa history (excepting the brief Wazoo orchestra in 1972). Returning were the Fowler brothers — Walt, trumpet, flugelhorn, synclavier; and Bruce, trombone — plus three new members — Paul Carman, alto sax, soprano sax; Albert Wing, tenor sax; and Kurt McGettrick, baritone sax.

Frank Zappa 1988 horn section

The 12-member band played 37 shows from February 2 to March 25 of 1988 on the first leg of the U.S. tour. Next, they traveled to Europe, where from April 9 to June 9 they played 41 more dates. That first U.S. run was primarily all over the Northeast, with eight shows in the Midwest. Fans across the country, especially in the South and out West, were anticipating the second U.S. leg.

However, it was not to be. According to The Crux of the Biscuit:

By the ’88 tour, Zappa would appoint band members to act as a rehearsal leader or “Klonemeister” to rehearse the rest of the band in his absence. With Frank spinning many plates including his home video business and his dabbling in foreign trade the job fell on bassist Scott Thunes. Scott ruled rehearsals with an iron fist and rubbed a few of the horn players the wrong way.

According to an interview with Frank, a campaign was instigated by a couple of the horn players to rid the band of Scott Thunes on the grounds that he is a terrible bass player. After several displays of a complete lack of maturity on the part of the accusing musicians (culminating in someone scraping Scott’s name off of a cake that was presented to the band by a promoter in Germany), Frank asked the offending players if they couldn’t try to get along until the end of the summer leg of the tour. They said, “No way.” So, Frank canceled the rest of the tour and returned home to Los Angeles, never to tour again.

Zappa ’88: The Last U.S. Show is the next archival release from the Zappa Family Trust, documenting the show March 25 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale NY, a show that featured Dweezil Zappa, Eric Buxton, and Brother A. West. The 1988 band had been documented in official releases Broadway the Hard Way, The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life, and Make a Jazz Noise Here, but this constitutes the first complete show from the group.

The new album, to be released June 18, will also include two extras. “Whipping Post,” often used as the encore for shows on tours from 1981 through 1984, comes from Providence Civic Center on March 16, and “Stairway to Heaven” comes from the March 23 show at Towson Center in Towson MD. The Nassau Coliseum show features the first time the complete Beatles medley has been issued: “Norwegian Wood > Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds > Strawberry Fields Forever.”

From the new album liner notes by Zappa vault master Joe Travers:

“Sadly after the European run was over, Frank Zappa chose to disband the group and cancel the rest of the tour, reportedly forfeiting $400,000 in revenue and depriving additional audiences the opportunity to witness how special this group really was. With all of the time and money spent to prepare and promote the tour, not to mention the potential within the talented band and crew, now in 2021, it’s an even more historic loss considering FZ was to never tour again.”

Zappa ’88: The Last U.S. Show is now available for pre-order before the June 18 release date through the Zappa Family Trust. It will be available digitally or in a two-CD set. It will also be available as a four-LP 180-gram vinyl box, on black vinyl or as a limited-edition purple vinyl variant exclusively through the official Frank Zappa online store or uDiscover.

 

Zappa ’88: The Last U.S. Show 

DISC 1

01. “We Are Doing Voter Registration Here”
02. The Black Page (New Age Version)
03. I Ain’t Got No Heart
04. Love of My Life
05. Inca Roads
06. Sharleena
07. Who Needs the Peace Corps?
08. I Left My Heart in San Francisco
09. Dickie’s Such an Asshole
10. When the Lie’s So Big
11. Jesus Thinks You’re a Jerk
12. Sofa #1
13. One Man, One Vote
14. Happy Birthday, Chad!
15. Packard Goose Pt. 1
16. Royal March From “L’Histoire Du Soldat”
17. Theme From the Bartok Piano Concerto #3
18. Packard Goose Pt. II
19. The Torture Never Stops Pt. I
20. Theme From “Bonanza”

DISC 2

01. Lonesome Cowboy Burt
02. The Torture Never Stops Pt. II
03. City of Tiny Lites
04. Pound for a Brown
05. The Beatles Medley
06. Peaches En Regalia
07. Stairway to Heaven
08. I Am the Walrus
09. Whipping Post
10. Bolero
11. America the Beautiful

 

 

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