1970: "I was singing 'Easy Meat' or something", and by golly, he actually was! This concert staple of Frank's later year's premieres on this tour, and amazingly enough, it sounds almost exactly as it would 8 years later when the Fall '78 band would revive it. The lyrics are all here- three verses, all the same. There's a lengthy guitar solo spot, with the Fall '78 opening riff used as the accompanying vamp. The only real differences in this version are, one, the song starts immediately with the vocals (i.e. no opening riff or setup), and two, due to the particular instrumentation of the band, the overall effect of the tune is that of psychedelic circus music (hey, that's what it sounds like). Special praise to the guitar solos, which sounds similar to the "Call Any Vegetable" solos from this tour. They start off slow, with rather casual rhythm accompaniment, and gradually work their way into a musical frenzy before returning us to the tune proper (which is more than we can say about the typical Fall '78 solo). This tune is also performed as a short musical snippet essentially serving as the closing riff to Frank's "Holiday in Berlin" solos. This is essentially an instrumental version of the eventual chorus, and can be heard on "Freaks and Motherfu*#@%!" from Beat the Boots Volume I.
1978: Essentially performed as on "Saarbrucken" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo.
1979: Essentially performed as on "Anyway the Wind Blows" from Beat the Boots Volume I, with the usual variation occurring in the solo. In my opinion, this was the most repetitive and potentially dull version of "Easy Meat" performed by any Zappa band- the same riff, over and over and over. Fortunately, Frank occasionally came up with some tasty solos, and Vinnie, as always, was brilliant. Note: the guitar solo on "Packard Goose" from the "Joe's Garage" album was taken from the April 1st performance of this song.
1980 Mar-Jul: Essentially performed as on "Tinseltown Rebellion", allowing for obvious differences in instrumentation, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo, and with one other major change- for the first half of the tour, the guitar solo vamp SUCKS. I do not know what else to say- it just sucks. It consists of a plodding drum beat, accompanied by a plodding bass riff, with Frank trying to find inspiration and solo over it. The inspiration is not there, and these early solos typically bore. Fortunately, this problem is amended by the European portion of the tour, where we get the standard '80's vamp, which is essentially a blank canvas from which Frank and the band can go wherever they please. These solos are hot. [Patrick Buzby has this to add- "Easy Meat" had a different (rather uneasy sounding) uptempo 4/4 vamp up until somewhere around 4/29 (the version on Crush All Boxes). Every version from then until '88 had the same vamp afterwards. I think Logeman is to blame for the plodding quality, since the other rhythm sections were working from the same pretext. (However, have you heard the 5/10/80 version w/FZ and Shankar trading solos? This is intense."]
1980 Sep-Dec: Essentially performed as on "Tinseltown Rebellion", with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. This version marks the beginning of an incredible three tour run that this tune would have. The Vai/Mars combination is deadly during the pre-solo classical part, and Zappa finally stumbled upon a solo vamp that would really let him explore his guitar to the fullest. Frank's playing on this tour, however, is not quite as experimental as it would be on the following two tours, and thus his solos are not as "out there" as they would eventually become. Nevertheless, the solos are consistently excellent, with the definite sense of possible greatness underlying even the weakest of the "Easy Meat" outings. An excellent improvement over the previous tour's "Easy Meat" excursions, which for some reason never really seemed to create much excitement (possibly because of that horrible Summer '80 vamp).
1981: Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume V, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. The Vai/Mars combination on the pre-solo "classical" part is deadly, and Frank's solos are simply all over the place. Another of those instances where Frank sounds as if he is torturing his guitar, with cries of pain and pleas for help escaping from the guitar's neck.
1982: Essentially performed as on YCDTOSA Volume V, with the standard deviation coming in Frank's solo. Another song that was in peak form on this tour. The Vai/Mars combination on the pre-solo "classical" part is deadly, and Frank's solos were simply all over the place. These solo sections remind me of tornados (this is not my original analogy, but it was the only one I could think of that was not strictly American). When you view a tornado, there are two you things you will notice- one, that it is moving forward in some direction (it is NOT motionless), and two, that it is centered around one spot (although that spot is moving.) Likewise, the "Easy Meat" solo sections. They are definitely moving forward (they are NOT static guitar solos), and they are centered around one spot, namely Frank's guitar; and although in both cases you are definitely concentrating on the motion of that one spot, you frequently find yourself distracted by other things. In the case of a tornado, you see random pieces of debris frequently fly out of the tornado funnel itself. Your eye is not concentrating on these pieces, but you cannot help but notice them. Likewise with the "Easy Meat" solos. Your ear is concentrating on Frank's guitar playing, but you cannot help but notice the musical debris continuously being thrown at you. Wackerman's brilliant drum work, Thunes' off-the-wall rhythmic support, Mars silly little keyboard riffs, or Vai's occasional but always effectual stunt work. However, I digress. This is a very active and unrestricted solo section, and if it had an actual physical presence, the wake of destruction it would leave behind would prove to be quite costly.
1984: Though we have no officially released version from this band, their performances of this tune basically sounded like the '82 bands version on YCDTOSA Volume V, noting of course that neither Bobby nor Alan could play the keyboards like Tommy (I'm not saying Tommy's better, just that sound). Occasionally, Frank would tease "Sinister Footwear III" to start off his solo, but for the most part, he just soloed. He used the "non-vamp" of the last two tours, but to my ears, his '84 Meat solos never got as interesting as they were in '81 and '82. "Variations on Sinister #3" from "Guitar" is an "Easy Meat" extract.
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