Episode 195: The Cheap Zappa Trick

Episode 195: The Cheap Zappa Trick
Pat welcomes Frank Biernat (Pop Culture Beast Kickstarter winner) to the Co-Host chair as they play songs from 2 of their favorite artists... Frank Zappa and Cheap Trick. Come for the music stay for the bar fight story!
From April 9, 2015

With your host:

Pat Francis

00:00:00 Pat welcomes us to the show. Kyle was imbibing on some alcohol before the show began (a 10% alcohol beer) and since Kyle is slight of frame, he'll probably be feeling it in a few minutes. Tsk tsk, Kyle. Professionalism is key in the world of comedy music podcasts. But in any case, Pat welcomes today's special guest co-host. He donated to the Pop Culture Beast kickstarter to be here. Hailing from Switzerland, it's Frank Biernat!
Frank is a bit jet-lagged, as it was a 12 hour flight. He's also 6'3" with a shaved head, so chances are Frank is merely a Bond villain in waiting. But he's a friendly chap. Frank listens every week to the show. He discovered the podcast through Never Not Funny, back when Rock Solid was still a Never Not Funny production. He fell in love with it.
00:05:00 Frank's 3 favorite artists: Frank Zappa (who is one of the artists we will be focusing on today), The Who, and The Clash. He likes them for different reasons. Zappa is a music engineer. The Who is about Pete Townshend's emotions. And The Clash are angry young men. Frank mentions a documentary series about London art school bands like Roxy Music, The Specials, and The Clash. In one episode, a pre-Pogues Shane McGowan is seen in the audience. If anyone ever tries to debunk the stereotype that British people have bad teeth, just tell them to google Shane McGowan and they'll shut right up. Frank is bummed that he never saw The Who or The Clash live.
00:10:00 When Frank was young, he watched a German music show called Rockpalast. The Who were performing one of their first shows after Keith died. They played the first song that got Frank into The Who, "You Better You Bet." Pat had the same experience, more or less. Frank is seeing Roger and Pete in the Summer. Two days before he is seeing Billy Idol with his girlfriend. Pat gives the seal of approval on Billy Idol. John Entwistle died two weeks before Pat saw The Who in concert.
00:15:00 Frank is from Germany and has been in Switzerland for the past 8 years. He works at Apple, but he isn't in the know as to new stuff. But he is in the know on today's topic. Originally, Frank wanted to play Frank Zappa songs to try to convince Pat to get into Zappa, while Pat would play Bruce Springsteen songs to try to get Frank to like Bruce. Then Frank realized that he will never ever like Bruce Springsteen, so Pat would be wasting his time. It's the visual of Bruce singing in the "We Are the World" music video that puts him off. Pat names 5 friends who are diehard Bruce Springsteen fans. Pat is also a big Bruce fan, but he is not the kind of fan who thinks everything is a 10 out of 10. So instead of trying to convince each other, Frank will play great Frank Zappa songs and Pat will play great Cheap Trick songs in celebration of both.
00:20:00 Frank only knows a few Cheap Trick songs. They never stuck with him. With Zappa, Frank has his favorites and some stuff that he thinks Pat would like. Zappa has a LOT of albums, at least 70 including studio and live. There was a point when Frank only listened to Zappa. Pat respects Zappa, but thinks he is a bit too complex for him to get into. He feels that only smart people can get into Zappa. Well, Murray is a Zappa fan, so that theory goes right out the window.
00:25:00 Frank kept hearing about Zappa from his uncle. When he was 12, his friends brought a record player on a skiing trip and played the first Frank Zappa song that Frank heard: "Titties & Beer" off the live album Zappa in New York. The song is about a motorcycle man who loses his girlfriend and his beer to the devil (played by drummer Terry Bozio). Frank plays a scripted dialogue between Zappa and Terry, which includes a line about holding Terry's pickle. The remarkable thing is that even though he laughs, Terry never loses the high hat. You see, Kyle, that's professionalism.
00:30:00 Frank didn't know English slang back then, so he had to look up what "holding your pickle" means. Even at a young age, Frank got into the sophisticated Zappa. And he shares a name with the man, which is a bonus. With Cheap Trick, Pat just pulled a bunch of songs. The first pick is off the album Rockford. It's called "This Time You Got It". Pat is disappointed with his first choice of song, but it's too late now. Pat informs Frank about the Cheap Trick lineup. You've got your Robin Zander on vocals, the voice of an angel. You've got your Rick Nielsen strumming on the guitar. You've got Bun E. Carlos banging on the drums all day like nobody's business. And you've got Tom Petersson doing his thing on the bass.
00:35:00 Tom left the band for a few years because of some problems with the drugs. And Bun E. left the band a few years ago. Pat got into Cheap Trick with the At Budokan album. He liked their look, he liked their songs. The second time Pat saw them live, the band Krokus from Austria opened for them, which was a thing. (Editor's note: It turns out Krokus are actually from Switzerland.) Frank mentions that he was in prison in Austria. Wait... what? Before his Apple days, Frank was presenting products on the road with his friend Oliver. They went drinking, Oliver got sick, and threw up in the bathroom. When they got out, five guys, including the owner, demanded that they clean it up. Frank and Oliver tried explaining that there was nothing to clean up. The owner poked Oliver. Oliver warned the owner not to poke him. The owner poked Oliver again. Another warning. One last poke and a fight broke out with Frank's management looking on. It was an old school bar fight. Frank got locked outside with Oliver still inside, so Frank kicked the door down to save his friend. Someone wrenched Frank's arm back, so Frank instinctively threw a punch and saw a police cap go flying. Uh oh.
00:40:00 Oliver and Frank ran away and the Austrian SWAT team, named "Cobra" of all things, chased them down. They gently and politely captured the duo (and by "gently" I mean violently, and by "politely" I mean with heavy sticks). Cobra took them to the precinct basement and stripped them to their underwear. Frank was sitting handcuffed to a seat in his underwear, drunk and furious. The cops beat him. They beat him badly. Then they put him in a cell. Frank woke up with an eye swollen shut and he didn't know where he was because he was drunk the night before. Frank needed to blow his nose, but what he didn't realize is that he had a broken nose and the passage to his tear duct was fucked up. So when Frank blew his nose, his tear duct blew up like a balloon, rendering Frank blind. Long story short, Frank and Oliver got out on bail, the management vouched for them, and they were banned from Austria for ten years. And that is the story of Frank in Austria.
"Wait, was this the Dream Police?"
- Pat, with the line of the episode
00:45:00 Frank returns to the music with some more Zappa goodness. Off the live album You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 3, it's "Sharleena". Dweezil Zappa plays the solo at just 15 years old. Frank Zappa has been gone since 1993. His death was one of the worst days of Frank's life, he was devastated. He decides to play another song by Zappa off the album Sheik Yerbouti. At one point, Pat did one that album. Pat mentions that a lot of Zappa's songs sound like comedy songs. Frank talks about how Zappa was serious about his work, but he wanted to incorporate humor and fun into it too.
00:50:00 The song from Sheik Yerbouti that Frank plays is "Flakes". Zappa has a unique way of singing. He was even nominated for a Grammy for Best Male Pop Performance. When he was on SNL, no one liked Zappa except for John Belushi.
Pat's next Cheap Trick song was produced by George Martin. From the compilation album The Essential Cheap Trick, it's a song called "Everything Works If You Let It". Frank admires Pat's extensive knowledge about producers. That kind of stuff sticks in Pat's head and doesn't leave. If you asked Pat to remember his children's birthdays, he gets a little spotty. But if you asked him who produced Foreigner's Agent Provocateur, he'll spit a name in your face faster than you can say Alex Sadkin.
00:55:00 In 1984, Zappa released a soundtrack for a musical called Thing-Fish. The musical took a nice dump on show business, which is very Frank Zappa. Frank plays the song "You Are What You Is". Frank had a lot of fun preparing for this show. The music triggers a lot of memories for him. Pat feels the same way.
01:00:00 The next Zappa song on Frank's list is about Pat Robertson. It's the song "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk" off the album Broadway the Hard Way. Zappa would go on tour with 250 songs in the repertoire. He would call audibles during the concert, changing the styles of songs. Zappa also went in front of the PMRC because they blamed a teen's suicide on music. Zappa said that there was nothing that he could say or write down that would make someone kill themselves.
One of Pat's favorite Cheap Trick albums is Next Position Please, produced by Todd Rundgren. Pat plays the song "I Can't Take It".
01:05:00 Frank met Todd Rundgren in San Francisco in 1994 at a tech convention. There was a discussion between Todd, Herbie Hancock, Thomas Dolby, and author Douglas Adams. Frank had absolutely no idea who Todd was. Pat was listening to the latest Todd album on the way over. He finds his latest albums to be hit or miss.
Sometimes Zappa does covers and changes them up. Frank plays Zappa's version of "Stairway to Heaven" off the album The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life. The lead singer is a guy named Ike Willis, who is still kicking around.
01:10:00 They rearranged the guitar solo in "Stairway" into a horn solo. This version of Zappa's band broke up after six months of touring. Pat brings up Zappa's label Barking Pumpkin Records. He wonders who distributed the albums. Inspector Kyle does some research. Initially it was distributed by CBS, then by MCA, then by EMI, and then by mail-order. Mail-order must have been a lot harder without the internet. I guess you had to send a pigeon with a tote bag and a note requesting which album. Two pigeons if it was a double LP, by my estimation. Thankfully it's a lot easier nowadays with Amazon and iTunes.
01:15:00 Pat and Frank remember when iTunes, the iPod, and the iTunes store all came out. Pat couldn't believe that he could hold 500 songs in the palm of his hand. The first iPod was a brick, but it was cool and expensive. Pat's wife Pilar was a contestant on Hollywood Squares. She promised Pat that if she won at least $5,000, she would buy Pat an iPod. Pilar actually won $18,000, so Pat was a happy camper. In any event, Frank plays his next song. Off the album You Are What You Is, the song is called "Harder Than Your Husband". Kyle thinks Zappa focuses more on the music than he does on the lyrics. Frank says Zappa takes certain topics seriously, but he also infuses humor in it. It seems like Zappa was obsessed with music.
01:20:00 Frank says Zappa was also working on and experimenting with his music. Like Dweezil, he is his own island. All of Zappa's kids do what they want to do and are comfortable with the success that they have.
Pat's favorite Cheap Trick album is Heaven Tonight. He plays the song "On Top of the World". Frank notes that the bass line sounds like the one from "Planet Claire" by The B-52's. The song actually came out the year before "Planet Claire," but good ear on you, Frank.
01:25:00 Frank has a strange choice for his next Zappa song. It's a true story called "The Illinois Enema Bandit" off the album Zappa in New York. The song is about a criminal with a fetish for giving enemas to people. Why that copycatting son of a bitch, stealing my gimmick... I mean, oh man, what a strange guy. The song also has the late Don Pardo from SNL doing news announcements and spoken word lyrics. Following this, Frank plays a song called "I Don't Even Care" from the album Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention with Johnny "Guitar" Watson on lead vocals.
01:30:00 Here's a fun fact: Zappa never played guitar and sang at the same time. He needed to concentrate. Pat doesn't have a fun fact, but he does have another Cheap Trick song. He plays "My Obsession" off the album Special One. Pat realizes that his Cheap Trick picks are rather straightforward songs. Frank assures him that he's loving the songs dearly. Pat gives Frank an open invitation to come back and co-host the show. Perhaps a Who show. Frank assures Pat that despite his bald head and scary stature, he's gonna give him a big bear hug after the show.
01:35:00 Frank's next song is dedicated to his friend Jackie, who is one of the few females who know and like Frank Zappa. Off the album Hot Rats, it's a song called "Peaches en Regalia". Pat wonders how many Zappa songs are over 10 minutes long. Frank says quite a few, especially on the live albums. He engineered the songs so that they sounded complete. He composed classical music as well. Where did Zappa get the time? He was 52 at the time of his death. Who were his influences? Edgard Varese, Igor Stravinsky, classic jazz, R&B, funk. A lot of different starships were floating around the Frank Zappa space station.
01:40:00 Pat doesn't hear a lot of the musicians he listens to cite Zappa as an influence, probably because no one else could figure out what Zappa did. What would Zappa think of the music industry today? Not positively, most likely. Germany has been doing there version of American Idol for over a decade and no one is actually making music. Pat says that you can say what you want about Madonna, but she worked hard to get where she is. Frank thinks Madonna is an awful singer because of the Live 8 concert. The first Live Aid aired on Frank's 18th birthday.
01:45:00 Pat watched Live Aid on vacation with his parents, who wondered why he spent the whole day in the hotel room instead of outside. Anyways, you can find Frank Biernat on Twitter @FrankBiernat. Frank wants to do an episode of German artists singing German songs, but I highly doubt Pat knows any. Even Scorpions sing in English.
Pat's last Cheap Trick song is off the album Woke Up with a Monster. It's called "Never Run Out of Love".
01:50:00 Frank has a bunch of songs left in the cannon, but he can't get to them all due to time. His second-to-last pick is from the album You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 3. It's called "Nig Biz". There is a line in the song that Frank loves that goes "with my name up in lights and some custom made tights."
Thanks so much to Frank for coming on the show and enlightening us with some great Frank Zappa. Bond villain or not, he's a great guy for donating to Pop Culture Beast and the show. Frank takes us out with "Heavenly Bank Account" from the live album You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 1.
Time Song Album Artist Who
00:25:00 Titties & Beer Zappa in New York Frank Zappa Frank
00:30:00 This Time You Got It Rockford Cheap Trick Pat
00:45:00 Sharleena You Can’t Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 3 Frank Zappa Frank
00:50:00 Flakes Sheik Yerbouti Frank Zappa Frank
00:50:00 Everything Works If You Let It The Essential Cheap Trick Cheap Trick Pat
00:55:00 You Are What You Is Thing-Fish Frank Zappa Frank
01:00:00 Jesus Thinks You’re a Jerk Broadway the Hard Way Frank Zappa Frank
01:00:00 I Can’t Take It Next Position Please Cheap Trick Pat
01:05:00 Stairway to Heaven The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life Frank Zappa Frank
01:15:00 Harder Than Your Husband You Are What You Is Frank Zappa Frank
01:20:00 On Top of the World Heaven Tonight Cheap Trick Pat
01:25:00 The Illinois Enema Bandit Zappa in New York Frank Zappa Frank
01:25:00 I Don’t Even Care Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention Frank Zappa Frank
01:30:00 My Obsession Special One Cheap Trick Pat
01:35:00 Peaches en Regalia Hot Rats Frank Zappa Frank
01:45:00 Never Run Out of Love Woke Up with a Monster Cheap Trick Pat
01:50:00 Nig Biz You Can’t Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 3 Frank Zappa Frank
01:50:00 Heavenly Bank Account You Can’t Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 1 Frank Zappa Frank