Destination Jam: Our pick of the 5 best songs from Frank Zappa's iconic rock opera 'Joe's Garage'
On this day, November 19, minds were blown and Frank Zappa fans around the globe had all the more reason to rock out with a very special album indeed. Before said album's release, music lovers had been treated to an operatic blend of rock with bands like Queen, but when Zappa dropped 'Joe's Garage' in 1979, admiration for a genre that is typically seen as elite and untarnished turned to shock. The only rock opera by Zappa, this addresses themes of individualism, free will, censorship, music and human sexuality, while criticizing government and religion and satirizing Catholicism and Scientology, 'Joe's Garage' was initially seen as controversial but would go on to become widely influential, apart from successful.
On today's Destination Jam, we want to remember and introduce new listeners to some of the best tracks from the LP. Check out our top five songs from Zappa's legendary record below.
'Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?'
Like many rock opera projects, they're not to be judged entirely on a single track but to be seen as a whole that tells a story. Neither should Zappa's music be described as just "catchy," but worthy of a thesis for each iteration. We're limiting our listicle to five songs, so if any Zappa track should get such a description, it's this one. Reading the title alone and you already know you're in for a good time listening but Zappa takes it up a notch in the music with a swaggy rock jangle and then bursts into operatic chants of anguish and squeal at the close. Listen to 'Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?' below and, oh, be sure to pay attention to the lyrics.
'Watermelon In Easter Hay'
In rolls this nine-minute epic and signature song. 'Watermelon In Easter Hay' is the penultimate song on 'Joe's Garage' and has been described by Zappa himself as the best song on the album. Additionally, his son Dweezil has claimed the song features the best guitar solo his father ever played. While the album portrays a character that is faced with a world that bans all music, this song acts as the character's final goodbye to music as he moves on with his life
'The Central Scrutinizer'
'The Central Scrutinizer' is a bizarre, comically-toned instrumental with a voiceover from Zappa that explains that music leads to a "slippery slope" of drug use, disease, unusual sexual practices, prison and eventually, insanity. The "Central Scrutinizer", voiced by Zappa, acts as an enforcer of all the laws that haven't been introduced yet, especially those concerning that "horrible force" called music.
'A Token Of My Extreme'
If you thought things couldn't any weirder, Zappa then takes a satirical jab at Scientology. The LP's main character Joe, doubting his sanity, turns to a 'mystical advisor', L Ron Hoover, to ask what his problem is and is told that he is "a latent appliance-fetishist." Joe is then advised to "go into the closet, which turns out to be a bar in Los Angeles, where he can enjoy "a lot of fun" with sexual gratification from machines. The "machines" in The Closet are household appliances with marital aids stuck all over them and Joe is suggested that the best appliances speak foreign languages. It is such "extreme" creativity that got Zappa the recognition he deserves and 'A Token Of My Extreme' remains a classic.
'A Little Green Rosetta'
We wrap up our playlist with the actual final track on 'Joe's Garage'. The song performs as a conclusion to the album while, at the same time, its opening narration is nearly identical to the opening preamble to the 1975 song 'Muffin Man' from the collaborative Zappa-Mothers album 'Bongo Fury'. Lyrically, the album is strange and unpredictable yet with tracks like 'A Little Green Rosetta' and the entire LP's connectivity to other material subtly hints that Zappa's music calls for deeper attention behind the veil of comedy
Destination Jam is a daily list of songs that will keep you entertained and grooving up top in lieu of feeling drained and losing the plot. Look out for a fresh selection of great tunes from MEAWW to refresh your mood every day.