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John Tabacco

Composer, Songwriter, Producer, Engineer & Recording Artist

Holiday in Bad Doberan, Germany (Full Blown)

Event : Zappanale 13
Purpose : Statue dedication and festival to honor composer Frank Zappa
Date : 07/25/02 – 07/28/02

Woke up. Didn’t fall out of bed since I slept too close the ground and I couldn’t drag a comb across my head since there’s not much hair up there anymore. Yes. It was Thursday, August 25th, 2002 and my mind was racing with anticipation about this trip to a foreign country. Would I ever come back? Should I make out my will that was lighter than air? Actually all I could think about was making copies of sheet music for certain band members who might live in the world of forgetfulness. I walked to the Stony Brook university library where I knew I could make cheap but effective copies of the music we were going to play in Bad Doberan, East Germany. Note that I did not make copies of the bass parts because our bass player, Paul Adamy was always so prepared. He even re-wrote some of the charts himself and put all the music in a neat folder underneath sheets of plastic. He wouldn’t forget his music right? Little did we know the irony that would be upon us at the Zappanale 13. Cut to 12:00pm.

Nigey Lennon picked me up in her car. Candy Zappa was there for the ride and I met Paul Greenstein who was an old friend of Nigey’s. He was going to be our German translator. Seemed like a nice guy with dirty fingernails. Around 1:30pm the cheap limo came by Nigey’s abode and took us to Jay Rozen’s house. There, we picked up Jay and his tuba and then headed out to JFK airport. We arrived with plenty of time to spare. In fact, sax man Joe Meo and big band arranger Ed Palermo were there about an hour earlier than us - talk about vacation enthusiasts!

The security was tight but not as crazy as I assumed considering all the terrorist threats that keep popping up every hour on the news.

We took the Air France flight to Paris. The food was tolerable and I had fun pushing the tiny video monitor in front of me while listening to random SA3mp3s on a portable mp3 player, all of which were songs that I love. The soundtrack began. Though I was encapsulated in my own little world with the headphones on I was quickly shaken back to this reality when the flight all of a sudden ran into some pointed turbulence. The pilot assured us this was normal midway through the trip. I glanced out the window. Water. Nothing but water. And we were in a big metal thing thirty thousand miles above it. Too bizarre. I phased it out of my mind focusing on the thrills that lay ahead. I can’t say the same for Candy Zappa. She needed a stewardess (or waitress as Nick DiMauro would joke) to calm her down. She was freaked out but in a bad way. They gave her some sugar pills and a shot of some mysterious alcohol. That did the trick.

It took about 6 hours to get to Paris - kind of an overcast day. Don’t remember much about it except paying $7.00 for a small ham and cheese sandwich that had my food nemesis, mayo on it. The woman at the counter had lied to me about the mayo but I was in no mood to go over and return the poisoned morsel once it was opened. Bummer. After an hour we boarded a small jet to Berlin. As I was walking on to the plane through one of these scary airtight corridors, I passed Joe Meo who was being searched with a metal detector. They had him take off his shoes and the security guard took his guitar case and made a machine gun gesture towards him. I boarded the small jet and listened to Jay Rozen complain about leg room and how happy he was to sit in an isle that had an open space in front for his legs. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he was actually sitting in my seat but it was ok. I spent some time going over the lyrics to the songs we were going to perform and then dosed off a bit among the snack interruptions. We arrived at the Berlin airport in an hour. The weather was a bit chilly, cloudy, and damp. Arthritis weather. Crew members from the Zappanale/ Arf Society - mostly kids in their early 20s greeted us and took us to the shuttle which lead us to the transportation to Bad Dobern. It was here I met the lovely Katerina who would be our main driver at the Zappanale. She was 21, a social worker who had a decent grasp of the English language and looked a little like Bob Ball’s wife Ann, which is not surprising since Ann is from Polish decent and Poland isn’t that far from Bad Doberan. Like most of the kids there, she was heavily into cell phone usage and she smoked a lot.

Due to an airport strike of sorts back in Paris, Air France didn’t send over Jay Rozen’s tuba.

Now of course it is a known fact that what makes a vacation interesting is the amount of missing luggage you have to deal with. In this case, I was spared the horror. That was not to be the case for two of our band members. Due to an airport strike of sorts back in Paris, Air France didn’t send over Jay Rozen’s tuba. Kind of hard to miss since it was in, as Ike Willis put it, in "Devo Packaging". Basically it was a big cardboard Yamaha box with lots of tape around it. The Paris airport also managed to forget a piece of luggage from our always prepared, rock solid bass player Paul Adamy. This was bad news because Paul’s baggage included all the bass sheet music for Ed Palermo’s arrangements as well as the music I wrote out for the Lennon, Tabacco and Zappa group. Paul, after talking to the authorities was promised that his luggage and the tuba would arrive sometime the next day. Suffice to say he went straight to bed after we arrived at the hotel. Irony at it’s best! Jay Rozen continued to be neurotic about the whole thing and rightly so. A tuba is an expensive device and he was going to lead the actual Zappa statue dedication with his acoustic arrangement of Frank Zappa’s song "Sofa". The orchestration of which was tenor sax, baritone sax and tuba.

The busing situation to take us to Bad Doberan was a little wacky and cramped but everyone managed to hop on a van or a Ford Euro. The trip to our final destination seemed to take forever and Katerina’s smoking didn’t ease the uncomfortable-ness. We drove for two and a half hours passing a myriad of farmland patches and dark forests feeling all crunched up and sweaty. I couldn’t wait to go to the bathroom. In the back of my mind I kept thinking of the day before leaving the States how I found some blood in my urine. That made me a bit uneasy as you can imagine, but it was too late to go visit a doctor. Since I was not in any pain I ignored it and I’ve been regular ever since.

The first day in Bad Dobern was rainy and rather gloomy. If this was the basic nature of this area in terms of weather I wasn’t pleased. The hotel we were staying in only had given each room one key and it looked liked I would have to share one small room with Paul Greenstein the trip’s sarcastic jester. It was rumored that Mark Berman and his girlfriend demanded a separate room for themselves and this would have made sleeping there for me a real nightmare. Fortunately, the Berman couple got their own suite and our hotel room had two separate rooms in it , so that was a plus. I let Mr. Greenstein sleep under the room with all the partying going on after midnight. I needed rest. The driver, Katerina came back for us and took us to Wolfhard Kutz’s abode for some lunch. Wolfhard was the brainchild behind this festival. Anyway, he and his lovely wife and their dangerous dogs greeted us outside. Everyone introduced themselves, shook hands etc…and we were lead into his quaint dining room with a big oval table. They offered us a make shift meal of clumpy white rice, some cheeses, carrots, grapes and some salami with rolls. This set the pace for most of our future meals at Bad Doberan. Not quite what I was expecting but we all had a nice broken English chat concerning freedom and listening to tales about Wolfhard’s problems with the German Gestapo policies; especially concerning the acquiring of Frank Zappa music which at one time was illegal, just like in "Joe’s Garage".

…Frank Zappa music which at one time was illegal
Afterwards, Wolfhard took us to see his Zappa, memorabilia / record collection which covered every known bootleg record or CD that concerned FZ. He even had an Eyeinhand Sampler CD that had the song I wrote with Nigey "It’s Just A Black Guitar" on it. Thirty minutes later we were on our way back to the hotel and then to the actual festival. I checked out a bit of the first Zappanale tribute bands and was impressed. They were called was "Cosmic Debris". Quite a good group of musicians who did not have to be coaxed to get into the spirit of FZ’s precise and comical music. Other than the bass being way too loud, the enthused crowd of around two thousand were fairly happy. The next group to play was Thana Harris and Bob Harris both of whom had worked with Zappa in the 80s. Thana performed FZ’s "Flambe" with Don Preston on keys. She sang it flawlessly. Better than the recording she did 20 years ago. I was impressed

Later both husband and wife performed the Steve Vai song "The Boy Girl Song" and then played an original number which had a nice CD 101 flavor to it. They ended with Jimmy Carl Black going up on stage singing Zappa’s doo-wop song "Love Of My Life". I went back stage after that and bumped into Thana Harris. I complimented her on her singing and her face totally lit up. She had a nice vibe. I met for a second time, Bobby Zappa - Frank’s brother and he introduced me to Bill Harris who is a Hollywood reporter for the Enquire. I recognized him as a film critic on TV. A pleasant guy who used to know the Zappa family from way back when. Who would have guessed? I was also greeted by Englishman Andrew Greenaway owner of the website called idiotbastardson.com. He had requested a month earlier I perform "Two Steps Forward / One Step Back". He would get his wish later. Amazingly, Andrew took a slight interest in my music and the Sa3mp3s I could make, but I could not chat with any intelligence with him due to the loud bass overtones emanating from the group on stage. I kind of slipped away discreetly hoping not to offend him. He was a bit sloshed anyway. I returned to our lodgings and quickly fell into a deep sleep.

Woke up early around 6:00am (no clock to speak of anywhere) to explore this little Disney World type town (Bad Doberan). Not much going on early Saturday morning so I put on a pair of headphones connected to my friend Paul Michael Barkan’s mp3 player. Plopped in a disc with 239 of my favorite existential mp3s on it and proceeded to walk about. Of course with a soundtrack around you, the whole landscape becomes a surreal movie and it really brings the experience to another level, especially if all the music you hear has heavy duty sentimental / nostalgic value. I proceeded to walk along many cobble stone roads. The main street that cut through the town had rail road tracks for a little train the locals call the Molli-Bahn. The The Molli-Bahn is a steam driven narrow gauge railway that comes by every hour starting at 9:30am and takes you to the Zappanale festival field and the Baltic sea beach. It’s kind of a Disney like trolley that travels no faster than 20 miles an hour. Very quaint - except for this real loud bell they ring to let you know the train is approaching. Not a sleep friendly bell if you get my drift, Anyway, I found my self somewhat able to read most of the signs in German and made my way to a landmark church that was originally constructed around 1100 A.D. I forget what music I was listening to when I first saw the church but it really enhanced the experience. As I cautiously creeped into the main entrance, Vince Guaraldi’s classic "The Great Pumpkin Waltz" came on and that instantly stirred up some really melancholy feelings. Had I been here before? Maybe I astral projected here once while living in Centerport. I started to sweat a bit. A few tourists began to enter the church and that woke me back to this reality. Time to leave. The weather was trying to clear up but it was still a bit moist and gloomy - real atmospheric.

The forest surrounding this place was the kind you think about when someone reads you "Hansel and Gretel": deep dark forests with only the tree growth visible on the top half of the tree. The bottom part is clean. All the trees are like this. It was a real healthy looking environment where all the animals that don’t use condiments live. I saw only a few birds but no road meat or squirrels and I also noticed that the insects there were easier to deal with. If they flew near you (even bees) you could scoot them away and they would leave you with no hassle. What’s that all about? After cutting through a maze of narrow paths with medieval gardens and broken down cloisterettes I decided to head back into town. After a few minutes I realized I was lost and a quick pang of panic (a feeling I haven’t felt in a long time) set in. This was stupid because the area in which I was walking is very close knit and circular. A comforting tune came on in the headphones and eventually I got my bearings. I finally made my way back into town and hung a left in to the outdoor restaurant that was an adjunct to the hotel I was staying at. There in a corner table by himself, reading a book, smoking some Pall Malls was none other than Ike Willis from Zappa’s band back in the 80s. The voice of Joe on "Joe’s Garage"; how wonderfully odd our paths should cross after twenty-two years of listening to this man sing. I saw some other fellow Ed Palermo Big Band members so I gravitated to them first. Eventually, Ed himself introduced me to Ike and he seemed liked a nice guy. His voice is of course what struck me first (very much the same way when I saw Terry Jones of Monty Python fame at Borders in Westbury. I remember hearing Terry yelling "Spam, Spam, Spam and Spam" in that ridiculous high female British voice and I almost cried because I had heard that voice for so long as a kid - and now there was it’s maker only three feet in front of me! – Great memory. But I digress. Ike did a fast, funny chat with us and he sounded just like he did on all those FZ records. "One Adam 12 see the Mammy Nun!" It was just too cool for words.

About this time Paul Greenstein decided that later he would take a train for a day to Berlin. Of course that made having one key to the hotel room less restricting. I walked around a bit soaking in the local color (mostly beige), buying some cheap razor blades, Tic-tacs and a few candy bars. Ed Palermo’s Band was going to perform that night and I was anxious to sing with them the Mother’s classic song about incest: "Magdalena". I went over the lyrics in my head a bunch of times. The airport finally delivered Jay Rozen’s tuba and Paul Adamy’s luggage containing the all the sheet music for the bass parts. Things were starting to look up.

That afternoon was when the FZ monument dedication / ceremony took place. I took a quick stroll down the main street. Suddenly, around the corner in front of me I saw Jimmy Carl Black, an original member of the Mothers Of Invention and Indian of the group. I raced up behind him and said: "Hey Mr. Black what’s going on?" "I’m John Tabacco from Nigey’s band." He immediately knew who I was.

That threw me for a loop. I confidently shook his hand and chatted briefly about the song Nigey Lennon wrote for him to sing called "Stolen Cadillac" which apparently he really dug. It’s a white trash country tune that he was going to sing with Candy Zappa. Perfect for his register and demeanor. He was curt but friendly and insisted we get together later for a quick run through of the tune. I said ok and raced off to the park. His mind was actually more focused on the dedication ceremony so that was understandable. I sat down near the mock Zappa museum they had constructed in some Gazebo shaped building in the park and chatted a bit with Don Preston the great Mother’s Of Invention keyboard player. I told him he was a big influence on my keyboard soloing and he just smiled. Sitting next to him was Pamela Des Barres the famous groupie from the 60’s who wrote a book called "I’m With The Band". Though she had sunglasses on I recognized her smile and superficially chatted with her a bit. Very intriguing vibe this woman puts out. She sticks out in a crowd. Of course what would you expect from the most famous groupie ever?

Of course what would you expect from the most famous groupie ever?
Pamela told me she was a bit surprised that the Arf society flew her out here but made very little use of her knowledge of FZ. Nigey Lennon was quick to notice our interaction and quickly steered me away from her. "She’s here to spy for Gail Zappa", Nigey whispered.

I don’t know how true that was, but I was soon distracted by the sight of ex-Mother, Napoleon Murphy Brock. Nigey introduced me to "Nappy" (as he is affectionately called), a very charismatic fellow who sported a white 70’s disco looking suit. He was very polite but a bit too busy for many questions. I asked him if he would sing the song "Village Of The Sun" with us but he diplomatically replied, " I never sing any thing unless I have a rehearsal". Fair enough I thought. He then handed me a flyer about his new CD that would be available real soon. There was something kind of sad about it but I refused to analyze my feelings. I quickly turned my attention to another ex-Zappa member, (one I had previously worked with back in L.A on Nigey’s CD) who walked by. Why it was Mike Keneally! We laughed and talked a bit. He looked a little heavier than I remember and a lot older. Soon after, Nigey and I tried to round up a few folks for a group acapella of "Love Of My Life" the 50’s Zappa classic which was quickly becoming the song I would most associate with this event. We talked to Thana and Bob Harris and some other folks, but the singing was not to be.

The dedication was beginning to take shape around 12:30pm and skies had cleared up. The weather was warm but not humid; actually quite lovely. A woman artiste began positioning various raw vegetables to spell out the word "Mothers" in the front of the "We’re Only In It For The Money" drum set on the center park stage. Don Preston (now 70 years old!) was asked several times if he would throw some vegetables during the ceremony. His reply was a firm "No way"! The trio of Joe Meo, Barbara Cifelli and Jay Rozen kicked off this illustrious event in 3/4 time with Zappa’s "Sofa". Totally suitable German sounding waltz nicely arranged by Mr. Rozen. I think Jay later said to me it was the high point of his musical career.

Oh pity the poor neglected under appreciated tuba player! The song came to a soulful end with Joe Meo wailing away and a bunch of speeches proceeded (expertly translated by Jim Cohen) concluding I think, with a rather funny one by movie critic Bill Harris. Eventually with all the remaining Mothers of Invention up on stage (except I think Mike Keneally) and lead by Don Preston, they huddled around one microphone and sang a wonderfully cranky version of "It Can’t Happen Here!" from the "Freak Out" album. Jimmy Carl Black then left the stage for something and there was a lull for a moment in the proceedings when all of a sudden a bunch of folks suggested we need someone to play the obligatory drum roll for the unveiling of the FZ statue. That someone was me. Though my technique was a bit rusty I managed to squeeze out a half way decent buzz roll and smash the cymbal and kick drum at the precise time. It was a very bizarre feeling and moment, but perhaps appropriate, considering Frank Zappa’s absolute influence on my life. With the unveiling of the statue, Candy and Bobby Zappa were invited up on the small stage to say a few words and admire FZ’s likeness in metal. But first, a blue, body painted Zappaesque look alike jumped on stage and put a crown of flowers on FZ's head and then another other guy saunter in and put a burning cigarette in his mouth. Now, FZ really looked authentic and mythological. Bobby started off with a short speech and then rubbed FZ’s nose for good luck. Candy quickly followed. The nose rubbing transcended from joke to tradition in a matter of seconds. So this is how traditions were born? Brilliant. Once the statute was placed in its exact location later that day (in front of where the Molli stops and the park begins), passer-bys were already seen rubbing FZ’s nose. It’s a great little tourist attraction. A hundred years from now who knows the condition of the nose? (Insert Woody Allen "Sleeper" gag here.)

The ceremony came to a close and people were waiting in line to see the FZ museum which was filled with rare Zappa paraphernalia like posters, old records, a sofa, surreal art work along and two walls worth of Zappa’s discography and biography. Somehow I found myself with Nigey and Eric strolling down a narrow alley back to where my hotel was. We met up with bass player Paul Adamy, Jay Rozen, Joe Meo and Paul Greenstein and had ourselves a nice meal at a tucked away cafe. The chicken I ate there was unbelievably tasty. Best meal so far during this trip. After we were sufficiently stuffed I went to see Nigey, Candy and Eric’s hotel about a mile from where I was staying. It turned out to be a hospital / re-cooperation place with some beautiful views of the surrounding German landscape. I swear I could see the Stony Brook Health Science Center! Very quite place - real peaceful. Candy needed to pretty herself up for the show and Nigey and Eric tried to communicate to the hospital’s front desk clerk that they needed some fresh towels and could not dial out from their room. The woman behind the desk did not understand and a frustrated N and E retreated back up to their room.

I stayed outside listening to music while casing the manicured surroundings. I noticed Bad Doberan and the festival itself were pretty free of floating garbage. No empty coke bottles or tossed fast food wrappers. It was a very clean place and this made my stay a lot more enjoyable. They don’t even have an imposed seat belt law here! I could dig that.

Around 4:30pm Katerina picked us up in the van and we made our way back to the festival. The first group I saw was from Italy, Ossi Duri. They were quite good. Some of the band members were still in their teens but they tackled very difficult Zappa material like "Sinister Foot Ware movement 2". Ike Willis conducted and sang with them. That really solidified their Zappaesque sound.

Ed Palermo’s skimmed down big band went on next and it was a blast. They played really well and the audience loved it. First Candy Zappa was invited up to sing for Ed the bluesy "Directly From My Heart To You" and the crowd loved it. Then ex-Zappa guitarist Mike Keneally came up and performed Zappa’s "Spider Of Destiny" with Ed’s band. A premiere performance! Suddenly it was my turn at bat. I drank my carbonated mineral water (uggh!) and jotted up on stage. The music starts and I’m automatically singing "Magdalena" in front of 2000 Zappa fanatics.

I’m automatically singing "Magdalena" in front of 2000 Zappa fanatics.
Too make things a little more surreal - when I get to the chorus I have Mike Keneally on my left singing harmonies and on my right singing with me is Mr. big voice himself, Ike Willis. It was a bit intimidating, and laughable but I made it through the song with only a few muffled lyrical mistakes. The last chord plays and the crowd let out a big roar. I passed the audition! Log that memory in. I got off stage in a daze and talked to various ex- Mothers. Drank more mineral water - peed in a forest off the banks of the festival and was driven to the hotel. The town was dead, so I went to bed.

The next morning I woke up and got my self a croissant and a sugar cookie. Headed for the hotel’s outside restaurant and hung out with Barbara Cifelli and her husband. Ike Willis showed up and we chatted a bit. He politely told me of his intentions to smoke and that he would move to another table and I told him I appreciated that. The previous night someone had given me some tickets to ride the Molli to the beach. I had divvied up a few tickets to other band members and left myself two. The Molli pulled in around 9:30am and I hopped on thinking about the future while crystal clear music was playing in my earphones. Unbeknownst to me, Barbara Cifelli, her husband, Mark Berman our keyboard player, his girlfriend and Joe Meo took the same train. We met up at the last stop and headed for the water. It was a nice walk through the tourist town and it was hot. We found ourselves an empty spot at this crowded beach and Joe Meo was the first to venture into the cold (slightly radioactive - missing subs went down there) Baltic Sea. For some reason there were all these tiny jelly fishes coming to shore, so I stayed away from the water and wandered off by myself to get some ice cream.

I walked the streets translating whatever I could (which surprisingly was a lot) and bought another mineral water. Again, all of this surrounded by the sentimental songs I had playing in the mp3 player. I ventured down a few painfully dull looking streets, got bored, had a great soft ice cream cone and headed back for the Molli. I cried a bit in a dark corner realizing the futility of my existence but quickly got over it as the train approached and the appropriate tune played. I found myself in Bad Doberan again and grabbed a ride to the festival.

Jelly Roll / Try To Call Me

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As our set approached I found myself not caring about much. I was just floating in the ether. I accepted the fact that the performance would not be up to my standards so I should try to tune that out and just have a good time. And I did just that. Things seemed to be going smoothly as the group before us ended (can’t remember much about them other than some weird bass noises generated). Candy, Jimmy Carl Black and Jay Rozen were in the back stage tent practicing "Stolen Cadillac". I don’t know how they did it with all that weird bass noise going on but they did. I left the tent, walked around, spoke to a few of the natives along with Bob Harris the ex-mother’s trumpet player. I told him how I loved that over the top falsetto he did on the Tinsel Town Rebellion version of "Love Of My Life". It still cracks me up every time I hear it. I think he took it the right way. The bass heavy band soon left the stage and it was time for Lennon / Tabacco and Zappa to do their thing! Everyone got on stage all right but unfortunately, there were no music stands to be found. A few crew members went racing around trying to track some down but I did not panic. In fact, I thought it was funny. Nigey and I wanted our band members to play the music without sheet music so maybe we were going to get our wish. No way! They rounded up the stands at the last moment and before I knew it I was out there singing the opening lines to Zappa’s "Let’s Make The Water Turn Black" with Joe Meo playing electric clean guitar. He didn’t quite have the feel I wanted but I went along with it. The band slowly kicked in as planned and we built to a slight frenzy right into "Jelly Roll Gumdrop Try To Call Me". This fast pace Zappa tune that I arranged as a sort of medley went over pretty good I think. It was definitely up. Nigey introduced the band after this and we broke into a song from my Boson Kabloona CD called "Swinging from the Rafters". It sounded pretty good even though there were some weird horn notes here and there.

The song ended (correctly for the first time) and Nigey and I talked briefly about the next two songs from a silly little musical we wrote called "The Mis-education Of Willie The Hill". Who knows if they understood anything we were saying. The band kicked into "Hot Headed Gal" with Nigey on vocal. It sounded reasonably good followed by a healthy rendition of "It’s Not My Fault". Some weird lyrical problems in the chorus of the latter between Ray Marchica’s wife Nina, myself and Nigey but I didn’t let it get to me. I was actually having fun. The crowd didn’t know the song so who cares?

It Must Be A Cigar (live)

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At least the piece ended mostly together and we did get applause. We did our rousing rendition of "Jupiter Moon" and I fucked up a lot of the lyrics but kept it together. I was pretty confident. The band had fun soloing on that one. We played more original stuff with lots of mistakes and just as I was feeling truly self indulgent we brought in Candy Zappa and we were back in the Zappanale focus. I played a little guitar on "Messin In The Kitchen" (I started off the song way too slow) and then we did Candy’s ode to the Jerry Springer show called "Springer Junkie" which was loose but sounded good. Ed Palermo played a wailing sax solo on it. We eventually got to " FZ’s "Cosmic Debris" with Ike Willis helping on vocals and that was a blast. One guy in the audience after we finished this particular cut yelled out "Hey play us something we know!" Considering "Cosmic Debris" was one of Zappa’s most well known songs, I’m not sure if he was joking or what. We then played an original Zappaesque instrumental entitled "It Must Be A Cigar". A flurry of wrong notes ensued but the vibe felt good. Everyone came in together at least on the recap of the tune. That was a first. We went into "All American Bumble Bat" which had a bizarre pre-ambled by Nigey Lennon. We then segued nicely into the instrumental "Dance Of The Genetically Angry Gelatinous Belly Worm". It sounded rather sloppy and I was slightly embarrassed for a few seconds but I got over it as we broke into "No Folks Left From The Old School" which has a solid chorus.

2 Steps Forward (live)

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I believe we ended the set with "Two Steps Forward/ One Step Back" which for the most part sounded great. I could finally hear myself so my vocals were spot on. I let the ending go on a bit too long because the groove sounded so good but we managed to end the song half way decently. The crowd liked the tune and it was Ed Palermo’s favorite as well. We were asked for an encore and with Ike Wills playing behind me on organ we did a confident version of Zappa’s "Fifty-Fifty". This was the most fun for me because I sang my ass off, Ike sang great and the band really dug into it. The crowd was pleased. I got off stage and received a few hugs from assorted Mothers and was generally feeling pretty good. Almost like I was a real musician! Ike even said he liked some of the original music. Bob Quaranta Ed Palermo's keyboardist, seemed surprised the originals were decent and Barbara Cifelli enjoyed them as well. That made it all worthwhile. Anyway, I had myself some potatoes and pea goulash and found a toilet to piss in.
Changed my tacky Hawaiian shirt for something more orange and waited for the next and last band - The original Mothers Of Invention - The Grand Mothers
Changed my tacky Hawaiian shirt for something more orange and waited for the next and last band - The original Mothers Of Invention - The Grand Mothers. I signed a few autographs but would have preferred doing an interview. Unfortunately, I’m just not well known and my face probably won’t sell any papers unless I was a terrorist, so I was ok with it.

The Grand Mothers came on and they were wonderful. I really enjoyed their set. They all turned in good performances, especially Nappy who was just as agile as in 1974. There was a very authentic Zappa vibe going on there. The Grandmothers ended the set by walking off stage singing the cute "Freak Out" classic "Wowie Zowie" (a nice touch).

Of course a bunch of encores ensued and I enjoyed the original song they played regarding questions people always ask them about Frank Zappa. The biggest question was whether he really took a shit on stage and ate it. It was a hilarious song. The last piece was again a rousing rendition of (you guessed it) "Love Of My Life" with everyone connected to FZ on stage. The whole thing was rather heart warming and I’m glad I could view it from the audience’s perspective. A good solid memory I won’t mind dredging up someday when I’m in hell. In fact, being the vicarious person I am, some of the best memories I have of this trip was watching Ed Palermo talking to some of the old Mothers. He was like a kid in a candy store with all his questions. Joe Meo grinning from ear to ear, playing a guitar solo with Ike Willis egging him on. Candy’s bewildered smile the first time the audience roared with delight as she soulfully ended a tune, etc. That was pure happiness happening. If I could have bottled it, I’d give to everyone for free.

After the show I found myself at the tent where they sell CDs. Some of mine were sold and Nigey was disputing with the guy behind the counter (an Arf society member) the number of CDs she gave them and what was left. Ike Willis was there signing away along with Thana Harris. I autographed a few CDs and joked a bit with Ike. I probably would have sold more CDs if the concession stand was open when we were playing and also I made the mistake of having them lay out a few CDs that did not have my name on them i.e, Fuzzy Gray Logic, Gear Head Freaks, Brian Rivera, Gateways…What a dope! Oh well. I made about 150.00 Euros and that was better than I can do here in the states. I walked out of the tent a few times and one time I saw Nappy and told him that he was great and that the whole thing of him being here and me talking to him was like a dream. He gave me a hug and said to me, "Thanks for living in my dream". Around this time Nigey came up to me and wanted us to talk to Wolfhard Kutz regarding money matters. Apparently there was a misunderstanding regarding unused tickets or some bullshit and he did not want to pay us what we originally agreed upon. Eric and Nigey started to have harsh words with Wolfhard and as you know I hate these kind of confrontations so being that I wasn’t getting paid much in the schemes of things anyway, I walked away. The sickness that I usually get once a month was starting to kick in. I had a bad headache from the smoking and that goulash did not sit right with my stomach. Somehow I managed to return to the backstage tent and chat somewhat coherently with Ed Palermo and crew. Eric Weaver soon showed up claiming a compromise in the money matter had been worked out. I quickly went to locate Nigey who was sitting by herself near the front of the stage (a real sad picture). I coaxed her over to the "money office". I ran back to the band tent with a now pounding headache and eventually Eric and Nigey showed up and doled out the cash. I didn’t stick around much. I needed a ride back to the hotel and fast. Somehow I located Katerina and we scooted away. I gave her a goodbye kiss and a twenty Euro tip, went inside and threw up. Bad acidity puke is the worst.

Good thing it was after I sang. I began to feel a little better. My headache was starting to dissipate and I went out like a speck of lightning. The following morning I bought a sandwich roll and waited for everyone to get up. We packed our luggage into an unmarked van. It drove off ahead of us while we proceeded to walk a half a mile to the bus depot. A sanitized Mercedes bus pulled up and the luggage van arrived. We said our goodbyes to Wolfhard and crew and drove off to the Berlin airport. The trip was rather pleasant and Nigey gave me a few more bucks from the gig. Wolfhard saw the error of his ways and paid us a better wage. They might even want us back next year. Who knows? Like I said, the trip going back to Berlin was comfortable so it seemed rather short compared to our initial ride to Bad Doberan.

I remember looking at the big windmills rotating in these huge fields of wheat and corn waiting for a UFO to land any second with Jim Dexter’s song "March Of Life" playing in my ears.
I remember looking at the big windmills rotating in these huge fields of wheat and corn waiting for a UFO to land any second with Jim Dexter’s song "March Of Life" playing in my ears. What a beautiful movie. This time boarding the plane was a breeze. Security wasn’t that crazy. I made friendly conversation with band members from the group Project Object. I especially liked Laura Eggplant Wilson with her charming smile and her friend Seahag, a fine guitar player. Nice people, so easy to get along with. However, the thing I will remember most on the trip back home is Ike Willis behind my plane seat whispering repeatedly in that deep, syrupy, black voice of his, "RING, TIP, SLEEVE". Oh, that was too surreal. Too surreal. And that’s the way I like it.

© 2002 by John Tabacco
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