Thing-Fish

Thing-Fish

Infobox Album |
Name = Thing-Fish
Type = Album
Artist = Frank Zappa


Released = December 21 1984
Recorded = 1980 1984
Genre = Progressive rock, art rock, experimental rock, hard rock
Length = 90:58
Label = Barking Pumpkin Records
Capitol Records
Producer = Frank Zappa
Reviews =
*Allmusic Rating|3|5 [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:3avsa9ugb23g link]
Last album = "Them or Us"
(1984)
This album = "Thing-Fish"
(1984)
Next album = "Francesco Zappa"
(1984)

"Thing-Fish" is a 1984 album by Frank Zappa. Released as an "original cast recording," it is a concept album loosely based on the Tuskegee Experiment, where the effect of syphilis was noted in a poor, black community. The album's story comprises the soundtrack to an unproduced Broadway musical and contains many references to famous plays. Originally released as a triple-vinyl box set, much of the album's material originates from heavily overdubbed versions of recordings originally released on albums like "Tinsel Town Rebellion," "Zoot Allures," "You Are What You Is," and "Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch." [cite web |url=http://globalia.net/donlope/fz/lyrics/Thing-Fish.html |title="Thing-Fish" lyrics. |accessdate=2007-11-02 |last= |first= |coauthors= |date= |work= |publisher=Information Is Not Knowledge ]

In promotion of the album and proposed musical, a layout was prepared for "Hustler" magazine in 1983. Larry Flynt paid a total of $55,000 for the spread and for the Thing-Fish mask and Ob'Dewlla 'X' doll. [cite web |url=http://home.online.no/~corneliu/thingfish2.html |title=THING-FISH Online! |accessdate=2007-11-02 |last= |first= |coauthors= |date= |work= |publisher=The First Church of APPLIANTOLOGY] Zappa also appeared on "Late Night with David Letterman" to promote the musical, showing photos of the unfinished mask and doll.The David Letterman interview can be viewed on [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRhZPqQ66L0 YouTube] ] [ [http://globalia.net/donlope/fz/videography/1981-84.html#Letterman3 Frank Zappa Videography] ] In 2001, a group of students performed a section of Thing-Fish as final year project at LIPA in Liverpool. This production took place with the express permission of Gail Zappa (Frank's widow). Three of these students formed the company Stagecraft Entertainment Ltd. and managed to get Zappa's permission to perform an adaptation of the Musical in London in 2003. [cite web |url=http://www.idiotbastard.supanet.com/you-call-that-news-/THINGFISH.htm |title="Thing-Fish" |accessdate=2007-11-02 |last= |first= |coauthors= |date= |work= |publisher=The Idiot Bastard Son of T’Mershi Duween] [cite web |url=http://www.stagecraftentertainment.com/prdctns/thngfsh.html |title=An authorized production of Frank Zappa's "Thing-Fish" |accessdate=2007-11-02 |last= |first= |coauthors= |date= |work= |publisher=Stagecraft Entertainment]

tory

The government has experimented on inmates of "San Quentim" penitentiary, turning them into hideous, unknown creatures known as "Mammy-Nuns". The story is narrated by The Thing-Fish, who is ostensibly some sort of leader amongst the Mammy Nuns. This was done using a substance known as "Galoot Cologne" (cuh-LOG-nuh) which was invented by an Evil Prince (and part-time theater critic) living underneath Virginia, to get rid of selected "highly-rhythmic individj'lls" (blacks) "an' sissy-boys" (gays). Before long, members of both groups "be droppin' off like flies". Being unable to return to their original jobs (because "they nackins growin out they bodies"), the Mutant Mammy-Nuns are forced to perform in a Broadway musical about their plight. During a stage show of the Mammy-Nuns, Harry and Rhonda (your average white, middle-class couple) are invited on stage an put in chains by Mammy-Nuns and are forced to witness and perform many twisted things. At one point, the racist evil prince performs a riveting operatic number with a group of "broadway zombies" explaining that the Mammy Nuns ending up on broadway is a terrible thing because "all the best music on broadway is native". Since he is a part time theatre critic, he explains his plan to write a terrible review of the work, to ensure that only traditional broadway entertainment remains on broadway. In "flashback" segments, we learn that as a boy, Harry briefly became homosexual after he lost all desire for intercourse with females because of the women's liberation movement, before falling in love with a rubber sex doll called "Artificial Rhonda." Harry also suffered from an addiction to sniffing glue, and was a fan of the Grateful Dead. Rhonda is impregnated by Quentin, a service station employee, the son of Quentin Robert DeNameland, a video preacher, working out of Las Vegas, Nevada. After this occurs, she gives birth to The Crab Grass Baby, who is an apparently robotic infant with a broad vocabulary and large genitalia. As rebuke for Rhonda's cheating, Harry works a brief stint as a truck-driver, running string beans to Utah. During this time, Rhonda becomes engrossed in her career, and participates in the wide-spread female conspiracy known as the women's liberation movement. She becomes infatuated with her job, and seems to have a severe personality disorder which leaves her split between being a stereotype of a little girl, interested in cute flowers and potpourri, and a deranged, sex-crazed brief-case fetishist. During "Briefcase Boogie" Rhonda embarks on a 7 minutes masturbation sequence during which she has sex with her briefcase, and verbally abuses her husband for being "a cocksucker" and "a worm, a fucking worm". The bizarre conclusion occurs when The Thing-Fish meets the evil prince, who has taken some of the Galoot Cologne, in an attempt to see if he is immune to it. He is turned into what sounds like a partial Mammy Nun, for the reason that he begins speaking "de vernacuhluh". Thing-Fish and Evil Prince chat about "tater husbandry" at their old Alma Mater, and the work ends with a public service announcement against using Galoot Cologne, and a backwards rendition of the track No Not Now.

Cultural Relevance

The story of the Thing-Fish surrounds the creation, presumably by the US government, of an insidious substance, which is to be added to the water supply to kill off blacks and gays. Directly, this is a reference to the Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiment, however this is also a reference to the conspiracy theory that AIDS was unleashed on the population of the world to eliminate, minority groups, and further that it originated in the United States government. While this is perhaps far-fetched, it, and the Tuskeegee Experiment reference reflect Zappa's distaste for the US government, and with the culture of the time. Racist and homophobic sentiments were common the group subject to parody by Harry and Rhonda, during this time period, and blacks and gays were an oddity, viewed as exotic, unsettling, and dangerous. Zappa created this work to harshly satire these views, as well as to take a stab at the world of Broadway which he viewed as bland, uninspired, and formulaic. Several this formula is discussed during the Thing Fish -- "I want faeries on a string! I want wind rushing down the plain!" -- and then as though to deliberately insubstantiate them, bizarre, unsettling acts occur, with the disclaimer that the Mammy Nuns will have "faeries on a string for your ass a little later". Clearly, little respect was given by this work to the broadway tradition up to this point.

Another point of interest is Zappa's odd portrayal of the women's liberation movement. While it is possible to consider the views expressed as misogynist (women becoming career-crazed unlovable, deranged machines upon finding their careers) As satire, Zappa is highlighting, in an extreme way, the personality changes that can occur in people when they become deeply involved in a career. In addition, this component of the thing fish conveys the type of confusion or proneness to indulgence which could result from a person living an oppressed life (as many women were forced to do), and then being given freedom to pursue individual goals. This shift, as is the focal point of this aspect of the Thing-Fish, could result in a person beginning to go beyond a healthy infatuation with their new life in compensation for years of forced repression.

Track listing

On the original 1986 CD issues, the tracks "The Massive Improve'lence" and "Artificial Rhonda" were at the beginning of Disc 2, rather than the end of Disc 1. The 1995 track listing is closer to the way the songs would appear in a performance of the musical, "Artificial Rhonda" being the end of the first act. There were two versions of the 1986 Rykodisc CD release—later pressings fix some sound quality problems and add some additional comments by Brown Moses (Johnny "Guitar" Watson) to the song "He's So Gay." The same commentary also appears on a rare EP version of "Won Ton On." Earlier pressings feature the original vinyl mixes of three tracks ("Prologue," "Harry-As-A-Boy" and "He's So Gay"), but are otherwise identical to later pressings.

Original release (vinyl box set)

ide one

# "Prologue" – 2:56
# "Mammy Nuns" – 3:31
# "Harry and Rhonda" – 3:36
# "Galoot Up-Date" – 5:27

ide two

# "'Torchum' Never Stops" – 10:32
# "That Evil Prince" – 1:17
# "You Are What You Is"" – 4:31

ide three

# "Mudd Club" – 3:17
# "Meek Shall Inherit Nothing" – 3:14
# "Clowns on Velvet" – 1:51
# "Harry-as-a-Boy" – 2:34
# "He's So Gay" – 2:44

ide four

# "Massive Improve'lence" – 5:07
# "Artificial Rhonda" – 3:32
# "Crab-Grass Baby" – 3:48
# "White Boy Troubles" – 3:34

ide five

# "No Not Now" – 5:49
# "Briefcase Boogie" – 4:10
# "Brown Moses" – 3:01

ide six

# "Wistful Wit a Fist-Full" – 4:00
# "Drop Dead" – 7:56
# "Won Ton On" – 4:19

Re-release (1995 on CD)

Disc 1 (Part I)

# "Prologue" – 2:56
# "Mammy Nuns" – 3:31
# "Harry and Rhonda" – 3:36
# "Galoot Up-Date" – 5:27
# "'Torchum' Never Stops" – 10:32
# "That Evil Prince" – 1:17
# "You Are What You Is" – 4:31
# "Mudd Club" – 3:17
# "Meek Shall Inherit Nothing" – 3:14
# "Clowns on Velvet" – 1:51
# "Harry-as-a-Boy" – 2:34
# "He's So Gay" – 2:44
# "Massive Improve'lence" – 5:07
# "Artificial Rhonda" – 3:32

Disc 2 (Part II)

# "Crab-Grass Baby" – 3:48
# "White Boy Troubles" – 3:34
# "No Not Now" – 5:49
# "Briefcase Boogie" – 4:10
# "Brown Moses" – 3:01
# "Wistful Wit a Fist-Full" – 4:00
# "Drop Dead" – 7:56
# "Won Ton On" – 4:19

Personnel

Cast

*Thing-Fish—Ike Willis
*Harry—Terry Bozzio
*Rhonda—Dale Bozzio
*The Evil Prince—Napoleon Murphy Brock
*Harry-As-A-Boy—Bob Harris
*Brown Moses—Johnny "Guitar" Watson
*Owl-Gonkwin-Jane Cowhoon—Ray White

Musicians

* Frank Zappa – arranger, composer, director, vocals, producer, Synclavier, guitar
* Tommy Mars – keyboards, vocals
* David Ocker – Synclavier
* Mark Pinske – engineer
* Scott Thunes – vocals, bass guitar
* Johnny "Guitar" Watson – vocals, cast
* Ray White – vocals, cast, guitar
* Chuck Wild – piano
* Jay Anderson – string bass
* Ed Mann – percussion
* Chad Wackermandrums, vocals
* Ike Willis – vocals, cast, guitar
* Dale Bozzio – vocals, cast
* Arthur Barrow – bass guitar
* Terry Bozzio – drums, vocals, cast
* Napoleon Murphy Brock – vocals, cast
* Steve DeFuria – Synclavier
* Bob Harris – keyboards, vocals, cast
* Steve Vai – guitar

Production staff

* Bob Fletcher – costume design
* Ladi Von Jansky – photography, cover photo
* Bob Stone – engineer

References

External links

* [http://www.lukpac.org/~handmade/patio/vinylvscds/thing-fish.html Release details]


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