Great Rock Albums of 1979: Frank Zappa- Sheik Yerbouti

It may have been down to the success of “Zappa in New York,” but whatever the case, in 1979, Frank Zappa put out another live album in the form of “Sheik Yerbouti.” This turned out to be Zappa’s most commercially successful album and I am not surprised at this. As was the case with his previous live album, Zappa has always been brilliant live, just ask anyone who has seen him and while a live album can’t actually truly capture the same feeling as actually being there, this one comes pretty close.

“Sheik Yerbouti” was the first album made after Zappa parted with Warner Bros records and set up his own label, Zappa Records. Not being under the constraints of a corporate record company definitely paid dividends for him with this album. He was free to record what he wanted, even if some prudes out there thought he was being too risque. As a result, many of the songs not only push the boundaries, they shatter them. I still remember the shock/horror I had when I first heard the track, “Bobby Brown,” which is about a man who becomes homosexual. However, after the intial shock, I laughed my rear end off through it. It was the same with “Dancin Fool,” a song that takes the piss out of the 70s disco scene and “Jewish Princess” landed him in some hot water, but if you don’t take it seriously, the song is a great laugh. “Sheik Yerbouti” has some of my favourite Zappa tunes on it.

Track Listing:

1. I Have Been in You

2. Flakes

3. Broken Hearts are for Assholes

4. I’m So Cute

5. Jones Crusher

6. Whatever Happened to All the Fun in the World

7. Rat Tomago

8. Wait a Minute

9. Bobby Brown

10. Rubber Shirt

11. The Sheik Yerbouti Tango

12. Baby Snakes

13. Trying to Grow a Chin

14. City of Tiny Lites

15. Dancin’ Fool

16. Jewish Princess

17. Wild Love

18. Yo Mama

Frank Zappa- lead guitar, lead vocals, arranging, composer

Adrian Belew- rhythm guitar, vocals

Patrick O’Hearn- bass, vocals

Terry Bozio- drums, vocals

Ed Mann- percussion, vocals

Tommy Mars- keyboards, backing vocals

Andre Lewis- keyboards, backing vocals

Peter Wolf- keyboards

David Ocker- clarinet

Napolean Murphy Brock- backing vocals

Randy Thornton- backing vocals

“Sheik Yerbouti” not only marked a major turning point in Frank Zappa’s career, it proved that, given the freedom, he could make music fun. It’s another reason why listening to Zappa was practically a requirement at my high school.

With all the many condolensces pouring in, I would also like to express my grief at the recent passing of Deep Purple keyboard player, Jon Lord. Out of respect, I made sure I listened to the classic “Smoke on the Water,” which he co-wrote. I saw him play with DP mark II in 85 and I was mesmerised by his keyboard solo that night. I only wish I did it more justice in my account of the concert in “Rock And Roll Children.”

Next post: ELO- Discovery

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to

Also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Froogle and on sale at Foyles Book Shop in London


2 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1979: Frank Zappa- Sheik Yerbouti”

  1. You can read the previous reviews to get the story on this album, so I won’t repeat it. I will cut to the chase to explain why you should get this.There are some different versions of some songs, and some different mixes of others (most notably the “Sleep Dirt” stuff without the added vocals), but basically they’re songs available on 4 previously released albums. Those 4 were packaged by Warner Brothers thematically – live songs on one album, orchestral on another, instrumental on another, etc. From the very first one, Zappa’s albums were more than a collection of songs. If you listen to 200 Motels or Uncle Meat, you get a wonderful mix of all kinds of different styles, live and studio recordings, and other juxtapositions, sometimes in the same song. He often did deliberately harsh and abrupt edits. Zappa hated it when people tried to pigeon-hole his music (good luck, anyway!). That is precisely the beauty of “Lather”. As a whole, it is a masterpiece.If you don’t own this music in any form, buy this first, because you will get a clearer sense of what the artist intended to do. Eventually you will want the other albums because there is some music not found on Lather. If you already own the other 4 albums, you are probably a big enough Zappa freak that you’ll want to get it anyway, for the reasons I mentioned.


    • You make some great points here. I would never try to pigeon hole Zappa, his music was too diverse and that’s what made him great. Thanks for the comments silver account


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