Friday, May 13, 2011

90. Frank Zappa, "Transylvania Boogie" (1970)


There were a lot of guitar heroes cluttering up the joint in the late '60s and early '70s—Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Carlos Santana, Duane Allman, Jerry Garcia, etc., etc.—but I'm not sure Frank Zappa ever entirely got his due in this regard, probably because he was so much better known as sophisticated musical composer, rock savant, source of unbearable fart jokes, or most likely all of the above. The necessary evidence for all that is found on his best album, Hot Rats (minus the fart jokes, which as much as anything is the reason it's his best). But this five-minute workout, from his second solo effort (and one really not much different from other product released under the Mother of Inventions name), Chunga's Revenge, tends to be my single favorite track of all showcasing his guitar chops. It's got just about everything that made him a great player, including the ranges of tone he managed to draw, his fussy lyricism, his patience in the construction of a jam, and of course his facility with the wah-wah effect, perhaps his most signature element as guitarist. It's also got a strange and intriguing structure, with rhythms just slightly off-kilter, Aynsley Dunbar's drumkit pushed up in the mix and working the cymbals quite a bit, and Ian Underwood's spooky, nudging organ play that works like the current of a river, always nagging at you. "Transylvania Boogie" is not exactly something you can dance to, more like stand and bob your head or in concert hall situation sit and study dispassionately. Which might mean it lacks something in terms of guitar heroics, but in a way the clinical approach actually makes me like it even more, I think.


  1. look for "steve vai audition with frank zappa" on youtube. i laugh so hard everytime i watch it...