Zappa Tribute

It’s been a year in the making, and I’m proud to finally present Conceptual Continuity: A Cover Freak Tribute To Frank Zappa. This would never have happened without the very generous contribution of time and energy from the very talented musicians who took part in this project. If they have music for sale, buy it. If they’re playing a show near you, go hear them play.

I also need to thank everybody who helped spread the word about this project, especially Brian Ibbott over at Coverville and Heather West at Western Publicity. And of course I need to thank the lovely Mrs. Freak for putting up with me while I turned my musical obsession into reality.

You can download the entire album (including cover art) as a .zip file here, or you can listen to and download individual tracks below. Right-click (or command-click if you’re using a Mac) to download a track.

1. I Ain’t Got No Heart — Michael Lynch
1. I Ain’t Got No Heart — Michael Lynch
Michael Lynch is a New York garage-rock singer-songwriter who performs and records as a solo artist in addition to playing in various bands. As ‘Freak Out!’ has been one of this three favorite albums (along with ‘Revolver’ and ‘Let It Bleed’) since he was 17 (he grabbed his beloved copy one night in college during a middle-of-the-night fire alarm), Michael knew it would be one of the 1966 classic’s songs he’d choose to cover for this project. Having recorded a version of “I Ain’t Got No Heart” back then during those college days, he elected to give the song another try in 2010.

More of Michael’s work can be heard at

2. You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here — Mitch McNeil
2. You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here — Mitch McNeil
It was during the early 60s that Mitch McNeil’s musical education began in Moline, Illinois, at the home of a stern german emigré whose mission in life was preparing piano students for the conservatory. (Her husband, a flautist, was rumoured to have performed for Hitler and the Nazi high brass back in the good old days.) Mitch’s total immersion education in long hair piano technique was knocked way off the tracks by an acute case of Guitar Fixation (and all the trappings that came with it) in the early teen years. It was during this period that his mind was properly blown by The Mothers’ BROWN SHOES DON’T MAKE IT (“They can’t say THAT on a record, can they?”) – and his life was never the same.

From there it was on to classical guitar, then the requisite teen rock combos, a stint in a Javanese gamelan, hippie drum circles, a minimalist jazz rock chamber ensemble, a post-nuclear Casio cocktail trio, and other various off-the-beaten-path instrumental groupings, increasingly equatorial in nature. He’s currently guitarist/arranger for the Oak Park-based exotic instrumental ensemble, Alewife. Throughout Mitch’s musical odyssey, Frank has been out there on the psychic fringe, beacon in hand, pointing the way.

He chose YOU’RE PROBABLY WONDERING mostly because it’s simple enough to decode in 4/4 time, with the limitations of a guitar/bass/digi-drum arrangement. Secondly, he’s always loved the song and its cheesy teen/doo-wop vibe. The lyrics never fail to coax at least a happy smile from him. It remains the ultimate Zappa-esque put down. Plus it’s got kazoo.

3. Camarillo Brillo — Kittysneezes
3. Camarillo Brillo — Kittysneezes
We chose this one, quite honestly, because it looked like it was one of the few Zappa songs that didn’t necessarily REQUIRE a lot of technical skill. There aren’t a lot of those, actually, part of why FZ’s so cool. I really like this song a lot anyway — on the automation system at my college radio station, which was just a big, 60-CD changer, we had the “Left of the Dial” promo Zappa comp in there, and for whatever reason, the player really liked “Camarillo Brillo”, so if there wasn’t anyone in the booth, you had a pretty good chance of hearing that song. It kinda reminds me of the college radio station because of that. The next year, we went to an mp3 system for the automation, but I think we put “Camarillo Brillo” in there anyway. It’s an awesome song. On this version, I think on the verses I’m channelling David Liebe Hart a bit.

4. What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body? — Acoustic Ross
4. What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body? — Acoustic Ross
ACOUSTIC ROSS is an AntiFolk artist & music nerd who believes solo sounds need not be boring, quiet, or mellow – just good. Equal parts folk, punk, rock, blues, country, pop, with a dash of standup comedy to taste, ACOUSTIC ROSS assaults the stale & stagnant with intelligence & irreverence – high-energy Service with a Smirk.

In a record collection with every format from Victrola 78s to digital downloads, the first CD I ever owned was Zappa’s “We’re Only In It for the Money.” Zappa completists and no one else will be curious to know that it’s the “Lumpy Gravy” combo version with the scandalous Barrow/Wackerman overdubs, which I got in 1989, 6 months before owning anything to play it on. Ahem. Anyway. Four years later I’m starting to feel my way around my first 4-track, and between… uh, let’s call them ‘uninspired originals’… I record my own variation on “What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body?” just for something to sink my teeth into, and promptly do nothing with it when I’m finished. In September 2010 I dig it up, and with a little more percussion and megaphone work, this little artifact finally emerges from its 15-year exile. I guess I don’t hate it.

5. Dirty Love — John Dissed
5. Dirty Love — John Dissed
I chose the song because it’s my favorite Zappa song out of all the ones I’ve heard. I asked my friend Hector Ferreiro to help me produce and play bass/percussion. His ideas and performance gave the track its overall feel. Lastly I found singer Myra Washington through an online ad I placed, and she added a perfect sensuality to the mix.

Song credits:

John Dissed: Guitars, keyboards, lead vocals
Hector Ferreiro: Bass, percussion
Myra Washington: Background vocals
Produced by John Dissed and Hector Ferreiro
Mastered by Michael Wallace


John Dissed:

After years of various collaborations with vocalists, guitarist John Dissed began singing and recording his own songs in the fall of 2007.

As a guitarist, he spent 2005-2009 performing throughout the Southwest with Los Angeles female-fronted punks, Bull Lee.

A song co-written and co-produced by John (“Mr. Madness”, as performed by the artist Manda Mosher) was chosen as Rock Single of the Year by the Los Angeles Music Awards in 2006.

In January, 2008, he announced that he would unveil a new solo acoustic track per week for the entire year. Alternating between originals and covers by such artists as David Bowie, The Clash, Johnny Thunders, The Ramones, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, the songs were announced via Myspace Bulletins and Blog entries. The original songs comprise five solo EPs on the DIY Bull Lee Records label, distributed by CD Baby, iTunes and the other major online digital music retailers. The covers can be downloaded for free in exchange for signing his email list at

Dissed’s “Tables Turn” can be heard in 2010’s modern noir/thriller New Terminal Hotel, starring the late Corey Haim and Stephen Geoffreys (Fright Night).

He also hosts a weekly podcast called The Bull Pit, which features mostly DIY rock and occasional interviews.

Hector Ferreiro:!/profile.php?id=779409909

Hector Ferreiro is an electric bassist. He graduated from the National School of Art Instructors in Havana, Cuba, where he was a protégé of the legendary Carlos del Puerto. He is an encyclopedia of moods, authentically and effortlessly able to shift between hard rock, hip-hop, funk, jazz, and Latin styles.

After defecting to the U.S. in 1996, he had the good fortune to perform in a myriad of American cities and has shared stages with Bono, Jurassic 5, Los Lobos, Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades, Howie Day, Beth Hart, Sheila E, Stewart Copland and Flea, among others.

Hector was the bass player for RCA recording artist Charlotte Martin contributed bass tracks to her debut CD, on which he worked with producers Ken Andrews and Cliff Magnes.

He has also performed and recorded with artists such as singer/songwriter Terami Hirsch and the rock band Sabrosa Purr. As a member of LA’s The Frequency with whom he toured throughout the United States and Canada and appeared at a number of major summer festivals including 10,000 Lakes Festival, Quebec International Summer Music Festival, and the Wicker Park Music Festival, he shared the stage with artists as diverse as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Mutemath, The 1990’s, Benzos, and Lotus.

Myra Washington:

Myra Washington was born in Port Arthur, TX; home of Janis Joplin and rappers UGK. A child of two Pastors of a holiness church, Myra grew up in the church singing, directing the choir, playing the drums and loving God. She credits the church for her sultry voice. Myra has performed at some of Houston’s and LA’S finest and most memorable events including Apollo Theater, America’s Got Talent, Essence Music Fest 2006. She has opened for Brian McKnight, Kindred and the Family Soul , Chris Brown, Los Lonely Boys, the Village People, Leanne Rimes and Clint Black.

6. Later That Night — David T. Allen
6. Later That Night — David T. Allen
David .T Allen got into Zappa from his dad, who grew up with the Mothers. Just voice and Moog synthesizer, “Later That Night” remains strange, but adds just a touch of modernity to a period piece.

7. Willie The Pimp — Lumpy
7. Willie The Pimp — Lumpy
Lumpy is a moniker for musician Bryan Highhill.  He was born and raised in Edina, Minnesota, studied music at the University of Redlands in California, and is now living in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  On his website you can hear an eclectic collection of music that he’s recorded including many originals and covers. Lumpy’s premiere full-length album was un-officially and independently released December of ’09 and is available at .  More information can be found there as well as samples of music from the album.

I felt that Willie The Pimp would be a great song to manipulate from the original.  The main riff that gets repeated throughout the song sounded like it would be cool to swing and slow down, which is where I got the idea to make it a reggae song.  There is also an element of acting in the original vocals, which I thought would be fun to emulate.  The lengthy guitar solo has been replaced with a 3 piece horn section, followed by a trumpet then flugelhorn solo.

Instruments include: trumpet, flugelhorn, drums, guitar, piano, organ, bells, guiro, tamborine, and bike horn.  All performed by Lumpy.

8. Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow — Butt-Out
8. Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow — Butt-Out
I started playing music in the Boston area in the early 1980″s. While I was a student at music school I started to expand my musical taste with the exciting arrival of punk and the new wave sound. Even though the music that was influencing me at that time did not require a lot of technical theory and music “know how”, I related to the emotion and the new boundries that this new music brought to the forefront.

Prior to that point I was influenced by the popular music of that time but when I first went to a “Buzzcocks show I realized that there was more to rock and roll than the rock and roll.

As a result I feel that I always have been growing as a songwriter due to the fact that I have always felt that popular music of all genre’s came from one place and that was the blues.

When I heard the Stones…I heard the Blues. When I heard the Ramones …I heard the Blues…When I heard any popular music I always hear the blues. And that is true to this day. I now realize that when I play my guitar and write music ..I am always hearing the Blues.

I consider Frank Zappa to be one of the most inspiring artist of all times. He performed his craft his own way and he made no apologies for his brilliance. When I think of the variety of musicians that he recorded with and performed with during his career it speaks for itself. There is no better compliment than to be revered by the leaders of your art. All the giants in the industry wanted to share with Frank’s music. When I listened to “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” of course I felt the strong blues undertones to the tune, (my friend insisted it was more jazz).  So to no surprise my rendition definitely has a strong blues undertone.

9. Who Are The Brain Police? — Keshco
9. Who Are The Brain Police? — Keshco
We were delighted to take part in this tribute, but possibly our hardest task was considering the vast FZ catalogue: what song to tackle? In the end, the resonances won out. Who Are The Brain Police?has several significances for us as a band. The message of the lyric is as relevant now as ever (especially in these days when we’re led to believe we have limitless choice). Plus, it’s wonky as hell, which we like a lot. We’ve been flitting between styles as long as we’ve been together, with kind-meaning people suggesting we’d do fine if only we were to ditch the freakouts/folk/synths/costumes/etc. Each part is essential to making up the whole – it all feeds back. The eagle-eyed amongst you may also have noted that one of us is named Andy Brain. Listen to the answering machine tape pasted over the ending, and make up your own story.

We had a big dilemma deciding how to tackle this pretty beast. As the original was so good, we eventually plumped for a loose tribute incorporating some of our own sonic concerns. We recorded on our new bit of kit, a Korg D888 digital multitracker – at last, a chance to mic up the drums separately! To play in a different room from the computer! We’re cooking with francium now! (Personally I miss the days of recording onto a mono Spinney Tronic tape recorder with dirty heads.) The backing track has a couple of guitars in addition to the drums, with bass added later, then we all sang three sets of vocals (low, medium and high). We wanted something to replace the far-out echo effect at the end of each vocal line, and so got out our trusty Yamaha VSS200, a voice sampling keyboard which we’ve used since school.

The middle section brought a few options – should we segue into a second song, have a spoken word interlude, or even a minute of silence? We had fun with a wig-out moment on the backing track, then assembled a cut-up (digital, alas) plucked from bits and pieces spanning our last 16 years. Hope you enjoy it, or at the very least don’t descend into a homicidal rage. Toodle-pip!

10. Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder — Secret Abilities
10. Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder — Secret Abilities
Secret Abilities began in the late fall of 2007 in Davis county Utah with the original name “His Secret Ability is He Can Hit You From Anywhere”. Since then the name has been shortened. Playing house parties, radio shows, TV entertainment shows, and exciting audience friendly live gigs, S.A. has been adored by fans because of their passionate, honest, and wildly fun music and performance.

It’s definitely not your typical Frank Zappa song, We chose “Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder” because we really enjoyed the tongue in cheek doo-wop idea and this is a perfect example. We’ve been covering this song at live shows for the past year and have received a positive crowed response from it. It’s fun to listen to and even more fun to play.

11. Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance — Nacho Martinez
11. Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance — Nacho Martinez
I’m a musician from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Drummer by study, but I also play guitar, piano, bass guitar, flute, clarinet & trumpet. I currently have a band called El Kuelgue ( and also work as a free lance IT developer for different companies in Argentina and abroad.

At first I found this song quite difficult to interpret, basically because the lyrics inevitably (for me) have this ‘hippie’ feel about life and choices and other matters, and sometimes Frank has belittled some aspects of the Hippie movement (i.e. “Who needs the peace corps?”). Nevertheless I find this song very appealing and funny, and agree 100% with what it has to say. Besides, I had a lot of fun recording it.

Conceptual Continuity: A Cover Freak Tribute To Frank Zappa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.