Great Rock Albums of 1982: Frank Zappa- Ship Arriving Too Late To Save a Drowning Witch

Frank_Zappa_-_Ship_Arriving_Too_Late_to_Save_a_Drowning_Witch

It was true that Men At Work brought a fresh sense of humour to music in 1982, however, Frank Zappa had been bringing humour to music for nearly a decade and a half before that. In 1982, Frank gave us the album “Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch.” What’s more, this album gave him his only top forty single with the help of his daughter Moon Unit. “Valley Girl” made it to number 32 in the pop singles charts and to number 12 in the mainstream rock charts. It also had many girls and quite a few guys using the lingo from the song. Terms like “barf me out,” “gag me with a spoon” and “groady to the max” were all used quite liberally in 1982 and for the next few years after.

Moon Zappa

Moon Zappa

“Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch” only has six songs on it but they are all memorable ones, usually the case with Zappa. Except for the track “Envelopes,” which is an instrumental, the songs all have that trademark warped sense of humour that he possessed. They also have, the instrumental track included, the precise musicianship that a Zappa album always had. In the case of this particular album, a then little known guitar named Steve Vai makes an appearance, playing what is credited on the album as ‘credited guitar parts.’ What some people sometimes forget and I will keep shouting from the rooftops, is that Frank was a damn good guitarist himself. He really smokes the fingerboard on the title track of the album and does a similar job on “I Come From Nowhere.” In fact, after refamiliarising myself with this album, I am lead to draw the conclusion that with the possible exception of “Joe’s Garage Act 1,” “Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch” has the perfect balance of humour and musicianship for a Zappa album.

Steve Vai

Steve Vai

Track Listing:

1. No Not Now

2. Valley Girl

3. I Came From Nowhere

4. Drowning Witch

5. Envelopes

6. Teenage Prostitute

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa- vocals, lead guitar

Steve Vai- guitar (impossible guitar parts)

Ray White- rhythm guitar, vocals

Tommy Mars- keyboards

Bobby Martin- keyboards, saxophone

Ed Mann- percussion

Scott Thunes- bass (tracks 2,4,5,6)

Arthur Barrow- bass (tracks 1 and 3)

Patrick O’Hearn- bass on the guitar solo on track 3

Chris Wackerman- drums

Ike Willis- vocals

Roy Estrada- vocals

Bob Harris- vocals

Lisa Popeil- vocals on “Teenage Prostitute”

Moon Unit Zappa- vocals on “Valley Girl”

If you want humour and good musicianship, then a Frank Zappa album is the best way to get it. It just so happens that this album hits the right combination of both.

Next post: Utopia- Swing To the Right

To buy Rock and Roll Children, go to http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/RockAndRollChildren.html

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

 

Advertisements

8 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1982: Frank Zappa- Ship Arriving Too Late To Save a Drowning Witch”

  1. This is one of the Frank albums I own. I haven’t been able to give it the time I need in order to absorb it fully. I’ll have to do that again soon!

    I admit I chose this one on the shelves because I knew Steve Vai was on it.

    Like

  2. Although this one isn’t at the top of my Zappa list I’ve always enjoyed it, and your review has reminded me that it’s time to give it another listen (since it’s been at least a decade since the last one). One of my favorite aspects of this album is the cover art. I love how that simple image perfectly conveys the album title. Well done, Roger Price.

    Like

  3. A true genius of rock music – was never understood and never given enough credit-always put on a great show!

    Like

    • So true in every way! Frank Zappa may have been seen as weird to many people but he was always serious about his music. I saw him live once and it was a great experience!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: