Saturday, August 21, 2010

Video From Hell

I used to own a dubbed version of this '87 VHS tape until a cat I worked with at RadioShack borrowed it from me, then moved. I just found one on Amazon. As Zappa videos go, it's not as exalted as Baby Snakes, Dub Room Special, or 200 Motels, but more interesting than Does Humor Belong In Music?, adopting as it does the collage format of a lot of his best records. Much of this stuff has been Youtube'd by now (FZ conducting the Australian TV audience, f'rinstance); the "official" vids of which this was supposed to be a sampling either were never released or are now long gone.

There's a lot of music from then-current releases, such as the MTV-banned vid for the title track from You Are What You Is. "G-Spot Tornado" from Jazz From Hell plays behind a dizzying montage of late night/carnival footage; the Synclavier sounds dated and cheesy compared to the warmer, woodier realizations FZ would achieve on Civilization Phaze III. "Night School" from the same album fares better, accompanied by footage from the filming of 200 Motels at Pinewood Studios (including a Live At Leeds-era Keith Moon). Jazz From Hell's live guitar solo "St. Etienne" appears with synced video, interrupted by footage of a French street performer eating cigarettes. There's also a live "Stevie's Spanking" which is inferior to the one on Dub Room Special because Steve Vai's guitar is more audible.

The original MOI are present in archival footage from the Garrick Theater, the We're Only In It for the Money photo shoot, and the road (no synced live performances, unfortunately, although a lot of European TV has surfaced since); Don Preston does a monologue from Uncle Meat. Some of the "sociology" (especially Al Malkin's interminable blowjob rap) is pretty worthless, but FZ's testimony before the Maryland legislature quoted in full in The Real Frank Zappa Book is interesting to watch, reminding us just how much the '80s were really the '50s redux, with uglier clothes. A real mixed bag.


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