It's the story of a very large gorilla, who lived in the jungle, and he was doin' okay, until some Americans came by, and thought that they would take him home with them. They took him to the United States, and they made some money by using the gorilla. Then they killed him
It's actually the story of a large gorilla. You all know the story I'm sure. The gorilla is on an island, eats bananas, has a good time all day long. Plays out there in the bushes and uh, some Americans find out about the gorilla and they hear how big he is, you know. They're very impressed with the size of the beast. So they make it to the island, you know, they check out the gorilla. And they get a thing and they catch him, you know. They catch the gorilla, and they stick him in a boat and they bring him back to the United States. And they show him off to everybody. And they make a bunch of money on the gorilla, and then they kill him.
1968: "King Kong" represents the more straightforward of the Monster songs of this year. While "Little House I Used To Live In" frequently contains the more random and unpredictable improvisation, "King Kong" contains a more standard parade of conventional solos. As on "Uncle Meat" and "Ahead of Their Time", the songs begins with the main theme, and then proceeds into a long line of solos. Horn solos, keyboard solos, guitar solos- we get them all. The solos are typically interesting, but unfortunately the rhythm section typically is not. Throughout these lengthy jams, the drums lock into one groove, and ride the thing to death. There is very little rhythmic variation, and as a result, the solos suffer. Frank conducts the band through a variety of different rhythms during these extended outings, but within each rhythm, there is little variance and thus very little for the soloists to feed off. There are some excellent solos throughout the tour, do not get me wrong, but on the whole, the rhythm section proves to be a detriment in these Monster performances, and prevents this tune from rising to truly great heights.
1970 (Hot Rats Band): These two shows represent in my mind Frank's version of Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" period- concerts consisting of simply structured songs which essentially serve as vehicles for extended jamming. While Frank (because he is Frank) ends up with a more structured whole, this performance of "King Kong" represents just how exciting his music can be when he allows himself and the others to just play (Frank would adopt a similar attitude during the two '72 Wazoo tours, but those shows took on an even more structured atmosphere than these two shows.) After Ian ushers in this monster performance with the hastily played theme, he takes off on his first of many solos. It is a short one, but it allows the song to pick up momentum before Frank steps up and delivers his first effort of the song. This is a good solo- melodical and uplifting- yet with that typical Frank intensity. Ian's second keyboard solo emerges out of Frank's guitar composition, before we get an abrupt tempo shift that changes the musical landscape. Ian continues to solo over this new, slow blues vamp, returning to the main "King Kong" theme and basing his solo on many variations of the theme. Frank gives Ian lots of room here, and is content to sit back and play rhythm. As the keyboard solo progresses, Frank's rhythm work heightens in intensity, challenging Ian and pushing the solo to greater heights. The rest of the band follows Frank's lead, and eventually swallow Ian's solo, leading to several minutes of a solid, full band groove. Underwood's saxophone soars out of this musical stampede, with Frank answering this new challenge by taking his rhythm work into a more jazzy, "Chunga's"-esque direction. Frank finally steps forward, and whips out his second solo of the song. This second one is harder edged than the first, with a hint of "Transylvania Boogie" running through his angular lines. Dunbar gets a little once Frank is finished, giving all involved a chance to rest before returning to the main theme and ending this affair. Nineteen minutes of pure improvisation, and not a second wasted.
1970: The Monster Song of the tour. While the most monstrous of these performances did not come until the final date of the tour, this song frequently raised some eyebrows in the preceding dates. Essentially performed as on "Disconnected Synapsses" from Beat the Boots Volume II, this song provides us with the typical solos, coming from Duke, Ian, Frank, and unfortunately, Flo 'n' Eddie. Dunbar and Simmons are, of course, excellent throughout. For the 12/15 performance, Ponty sits in for this song, providing us with two rather tasty solos, made even better by the inspiring support provided by the Mothers. As I note above, this song also appears in a condensed version, wherein nothing but the main theme is played, with Frank then stepping up and annoncing the end of the show or a segue into another song. Nothing monstrous occurs in these short musical jaunts, but the theme is enjoyable nonetheless.
1971: The Monster Song of the tour, and a welcome relief from the tightly structured vaudevillian nature of the rest of the repertoire. The standard "King Kong" jam consists of an intense Preston mini-moog solo, a blistering Underwood saxophone solo, and a rather deliberate and slowly building Frank Zappa guitar creation (allowing for obvious differences in the performances marred by spontaneous disasters). As good as all these solos are (what a trio of musicians!), it is Dunbar's drumming that is truly insane. He is simply all over the place, yet somehow never manages to overshadow the soloist. The mark of a true drummer. The saxophone and guitar solos on the YCDTOSA Volume III "King Kong" are extracts from this tour. (Oh yeah, let's not forget the incredible vocal "soloing" by Flo 'n' Eddie. Wait- maybe we should?)
1973: Performed as part of the "Mr Green Genes-> King Kong-> Chunga's Revenge-> Mr. Green Genes" medley. It appears here in its fast version (similar to the "Uncle Meat" take, but without the opening vamp, and also as performed on the Spring '78 tour), and consists of the main theme followed by a torrent of solos. Ponty goes first, followed by the bass playing Fowler, the trombone playing Fowler, the keyboard playing Duke, and the trumpet playing Marquez. While these solos are quite good, it is Frank's active rhythm guitar that really stands out in these forays, providing support for the soloists while being interesting in its own right.
1973-74: Performed as part of the "Mr Green Genes-> King Kong-> Chunga's Revenge-> Mr. Green Genes" medley. It appears here in its fast version (similar to the "Uncle Meat" take, but without the opening vamp, and also as performed on the Spring '78 tour), and simply consists of the main theme followed by a Fowler and a Duke solo. A far cry from the Monster "King Kong" of other tours, though Fowler does provide some interesting moments.
1977: For this tour, this song debuted on 10/30, the performance of which can be seen on the "Baby Snakes" video. We get the fast version of the song this time around, with a Mann percussion solo, Phil "the Human Trombone " Kaufman, keyboard solos, some genuine Roy Estrada gas mask insanity, and the improvised "Toy police car" jam, which consists of Frank pushing the button on a toy police car while the band vamps behind it. In the weeks following this performance, this tune occasionally rears its ugly little head, appearing in the set lists where the instrumental "Conehead" would typically appear. I have not heard any of these later versions, but I have always assumed that they are guitar solo vehicles only, since they appear in what is typically a guitar solo only spot. Anyone help me on this?
1978: Another monster from this tour, this time round performed in an hyperactive, quite fast version. The band literally tears through the main theme, and drops us off right in the middle of the solo section before we even know what's happening. The typical solos included Mann's percussion, O'Hearn's very groove oriented bass, and the Mystery Word section sandwiched around O'Hearn's thumping ("White Person" from YCDTOSA Volume VI is from a 2/25 "King Kong"). Towards the end of tour, Frank started to deviate from this pattern, and would occasionally throw in an energetic guitar solo, some Mars' keyboard and scat action, and a little chaotic, full band orchestration.
1979: Played at least once- on 3/26. When I first posted this page, I had yet to hear this performance, so Jon Naurin contributed the following:"Here are my impressions of the 3/26 performance: Quite similar to the spring 1978 version. The head of the song is played at the fast pace, followed a xylophone (I think, but it might be marimba) solo by Ed. Then, the two keyboard players start trading solos, including some solo piano, but in the middle of a Wolf-solo, there's an unfortunate cut into a drum solo. After the drum solo, FZ starts noodling on his guitar, which turns into a vamp similar to the "Any Downers" one from 1975. Soon, the whole band joins the vamp and FZ takes a great solo. Quite a unique, on-the-spot composed event—you'd love it! All in all, a great version—especially the ending—and it definitely qualifies as a Monster Song!"] Then so be it- you are now a Monster Song. I have since heard this version, and it is great. Frank's solo is very melodic, and definitely reminds me of another song (but which one?). Plus, the end of Wolf's solo sounds quite similar to the "Pound for a Brown" jams from Fall '78, as can be heard on YCDTOSA Volume IV.
1981: A true monster, containing a little bit of everything. The main theme was essentially played as on YCDTOSA Volume III- the slow, reggae version. Ed Mann was typically first in line for solos, and seemed to be the leader in the occasional Mystery Word section (obviously conducted by Frank, though). The keyboardists were next- with both Bobby and Tommy exercising their vocal and scat skills when possible. Occasionally, Scott and Chad would get a chance to duel it out; and, of course, Papa Frank concluded the festivities with an always ferocious guitar solo over the tried-and-true King Kong vamp.
1982: Papa Frank concludes the festivities with an always ferocious guitar solo, which, for approximately the first month of the tour, is over the "It's Not Really A Shuffle" vamp. Then, with the arrival of "Marqueson's Chicken", the shuffle vamp is moved to it's new home, and we now get the tried-and-true King Kong vamp. Like all true Monster Songs, this song has an "anything goes" feel to it, and thus, we got a Moon Unit Valley Girl spiel at one show, and an "I-wanna-garden" reprise at another. "It Ain't Necessarily the Saint James Infirmary" from "Guitar" is a "King Kong" extract.
1984: Reared it's head several times in the middle of tour, before disappearing again until '88. This was NOT the monster jam that we had in '82 or would have again in '88. Instead, it was simply a Frank Zappa guitar solo surrounded by the reggae version of the main theme.
1988: The Monster Lives!! Terrorizing set lists from the beginning, the mother of all Monster songs concludes its glorious career with what is possibly its most impressive outing. This song and this band are simply made for each other. We get everything- horn solos, percussion solos, bass and drum madness, Synclavier excursions, random Frank orchestrations, musical chaos, lectures on dinosaurs, and, of course, some tasty Frank solos. From the damn-near perfect arrangement, to the always insane improvisations, this song best exemplifies the greatness that this band could occasionally achieve. [According to Keneally, Bruce's lecture during the 3/5 show (heard on MAJNH) was originally intended to be the first in a series of "When the Horn Players Talk" spoken pieces. Bruce did such a good job with the premiere performance, however, that no one wished to follow him. Thus, no one did. We did, however, get several segments of "When the Percussionist Talks", which featured some rather obtuse Ed Mann rantings.]
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