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Apostrophe (') is a 1974 album by Frank Zappa, often considered to be a Spiritual Successor to Over-Nite Sensation (1973). It has a similar heavy rock sound that helped it become a considerable bestseller among rock fans. In the USA it was his biggest commercial success.

The album is notable for "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow" which was a minor hit after a radio DJ in Pittsburgh edited "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow" and "Nanook Rubs It" together into one version. While touring in Europe Zappa heard of its success and edited his own version together to be released as a single. Other fan favorites are "Cosmik Debris" and "Stink-Foot".

Together with Over-Nite Sensation it was subject of an episode of the TV music documentary series Classic Albums.

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Tracklist

Side One

  1. "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow" (2:05)
  2. "Nanook Rubs It" (4:37)
  3. "St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast" (1:50)
  4. "Father O'Blivion" (2:18)
  5. "Cosmik Debris" (4:18)

Side Two

  1. "Excentrifugal Forz" (1:33)
  2. "Apostrophe'" (5:50)
  3. "Uncle Remus" (2:50)
  4. "Stink-Foot" (6:38)

Personnel

  • Frank Zappa: vocals, guitar, bass
  • Napoleon Murphy Brock: saxophone, backing vocals
  • George Duke: keyboard, synthesizer, backing vocals
  • Jack Bruce: bass
  • Robert "Frog" Camarena, Ray Collins, Debbie, Ruben Ladron de Guevara, Susie Glover, Kerry McNabb: backing vocals
  • Alex Dmochowski: bass
  • Tony Duran: rhythm guitar
  • Bruce Fowler: trombone
  • Tom Fowler: bass
  • Ralph Humphrey: drums
  • Aynsley Dunbar: drums
  • Jim Gordon: drums
  • Johnny Guerin: drums
  • Sal Marquez: trumpet, vocals
  • Jean-Luc Ponty: violin, baritone violin
  • Sugar Cane Harris: violin
  • Ian Underwood: flute, clarinet, alto & tenor sax
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  • Ruth Underwood: percussion

Watch out where the tropies go!

  • Album Title Drop: "Stink-Foot"
    Fido said: It should be easy to see/ the crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe.
  • Artistic License – Biology: How can someone who is blinded "trudge across the tundra mile after mile" to a specific destination without seeing where he is going?
  • Badass Preacher:
    • Father Vivian O' Blivion in "Father O' Blivion" bakes pancakes for breakfast and has a leprechaun who likes to stroke his private parts.
    • Subverted with the Mystery Man in "Cosmik Debris" who is exposed as a total fraud.
  • Bawdy Song: "Nanook Rubs It" about snow with urine, from "where the huskies go", rubbed in the eyes of a fur trapper. "St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast" with a handsome parish lady abusing "the sausage patty, why don't you treat me mean?" and "Father O' Blivion", in which a lecherous priest has all kinds of sexual deviant activities with a leprechaun. "Stink Foot" to conclude, is about smelly feet scaring a dog away.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Zappa is not fooled by "The Mystery Man" and his pseudo-mystical religious nonsense in "Cosmik Debris".
  • Blindness: The fur trapper in "Nanook Rubs It" is blinded by the urine drenched snow crystals Nanook rubs in his eyes.
  • Buddhism: "Cosmik Debris"
    For a nominal service charge I could reach Nirvana tonight
  • Call-Back and Continuity Nod:
    • The baby seal in "Nanook Rubs It" is "hit on the nose". In "Uncle Remus" Zappa also sings: "It's hard if it hits on your nose."
    • The yellow snow crystals are rubbed "with a vigorous circular motion hitherto unknown to the people of this area, but destined to take the place of the mud shark in your mythology". The mud shark references a famous rock 'n' roll Urban Legend about members of Led Zeppelin who supposedly once sexually gratified a groupie by penetrating her with a mudshark (in reality it were only drummer John Bonham, road manager Richard Cole and a member from the band Vanilla Fudge and the fish was actually a red snapper). Zappa wrote several songs on his album Fillmore East, June 1971 about this story and would namedrop this fish again during the live performance of "Find Her Finer" on The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life (1991).
    • Fido the poodle is called with the phrase "Here Fido" during "Nanook Rubs It" and "Stink-Foot". The phrase "the poodle bits, the poodle chews it" is a Call-Back to the end of the song "Dirty Love" from Over-Nite Sensation (1973). He made his first appearance on the album back cover of Absolutely Free, where one of the advertisements reads "Buy a Fydo fits swell". During "Call Any Vegetable" in the Just Another Band from L.A. (1972) version Howard asks: "Where can I go to get my poodle clipped in Burbank?" The dog and his call "Here Fido, Here Fido" would also reappear again during the track "Cheepnis" from Roxy & Elsewhere (1974).
    • A sausage is mentioned in "St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast", imagery that would evolve into the "iron sausage" in The Torture Never Stops from Zoot Allures (1976) and "Dong Work For Yuda" on Joe's Garage (1979).
    • St. Alphonso bakes pancakes, just like the father in "Magdalena" from Just Another Band from L.A. makes "maple syrup for the pancakes of his land."
    • "Hah! Good God! Get off the bus!" in "St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast" from Apostrophe (') (1974), evokes tour bus imagery, as happened before on "A Pound For A Brown On The Bus" from Uncle Meat (1969) and would happen again with "On The Bus" from Joe's Garage (1979).
    • The snow shoes used to beat up the seal in "Nanook Rubs It" are brought by Father O' Blivion to "her highness" in "Father O' Blivion".
    • "The dust of the Grand Wazoo" in "Cosmik Debris" is a reference to the Zappa album The Grand Wazoo (1972).
    • Zappa played "Cosmik Debris" live on The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life (1991).
    • The line "Dominus vobiscum et cum spiritu tuo" in "Father O' Blivion" would later return in "The Mammy Anthem" from Thing-Fish (1985).
    • "It set him off in such a frenzy" in "Father O' Blivion". A frenzy was referenced earlier during "Dirty Love" on Over-Nite Sensation (1973) and would return again in Zappa songs like "Honey Don't You Want A Man Like Me?" (from Zappa in New York (1978)), "Watermelon in Easter Hay" (from Joe's Garage (1979)), "Smell My Beard" (from "You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Volume 4" (1991).
    • "Now is that a real poncho or is that a Sears Poncho?" and "the toads of the short forest" in "Cosmik Debris" are a call back to "Camarillo Brillo" on Over-Nite Sensation (1973), with "toads of the short forest" being referenced earlier on Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970).
    • Uncle Remus refers to being "sprayed with a hose", a line that would later return in Be In My Video from Them or Us (1984). Another line, down in the dew, would later be the title of a track on Läther (1993).
    • The line "I can't wait 'til my 'fro is full grown" in "Uncle Remus" is reminscent of "oh my hair is getting good in the back" from We're Only in It for the Money and Lumpy Gravy.
    • Tennis shoes are mentioned in "Stink-Foot". This type of footwear was referenced earlier during "Magic Fingers" (beat you with a pair of tennis shoes) on 200 Motels (1971). "Or an occasional python boot" in "Stink-Foot" would get a Call-Back in "Inca Roads" from One Size Fits All (1975), where Napoleon Murphy Brock asks: "Whose python boot is that? That ain't my sh-What?"
  • Civil Rights Movement: "Uncle Remus", where the Afro-Americans being sprayed with hoses by white policemen and fighting back in The '60s now accept the hoses turned on them: "It ain't bad in the day/ If they squirt it your way/ 'Cept in the winter, when it's frozen/ An' it's hard if it hits/On yer nose". They are more occupied with growing a Funny Afro ("I can't wait 'til my 'fro is full-grown") and their main act of rebellion is knocking off little statues of black jockeys on the lawns of white people. This is why they ask Uncle Remus from Song of the South whether he has seen them?
  • Concept Album: The first four songs - originally most of the first side of the LP- are built around the same concept. An Eskimo fighting off a fur trapper for beating up his favorite baby seal. The rest of the album has nothing do with this North Pole concept whatsoever, though "Uncle Remus" refers to "winter when it's cold" and "Stinkfoot" also refers to the phrase "Here Fido!".
  • Cool Pet: Nanook's baby seal.
  • Corpsing:
    Right down to the parish of St. Alphonso (A-ha-ha-ha)
    • Before "Cosmik Debris" starts off a small interlude can be heard where a xylophone seems to miss a beat and Napoleon Murphy Brock laughs at it.
    • Zappa also cracks up during "Stink-Foot" when Fido comes to fetch the slippers and rushes off because of the horrible smell of the stinky feet.
  • Corrupt Church: "Father O' Blivion" is a lewd priest, "Cosmik Debris" shows that fortune tellers are Only in It for the Money.
  • Dirty Old Monk: Father O' Blivion certainly doesn't take his oath of chastity very seriously.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The fur trapper beats up Nanook's baby seal and in retribution Nanook blinds him by rubbing urine drenched snow in his eyes.
  • Dream Sequence: "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow".
    Dreamed I was an Eskimo...
  • Epic Rocking: "Apostrophe" and the first four tracks on the album, which could be considered one musical piece.
  • Eskimo Land: "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow" and "Nanook Rubs It" are full with references to a cliché version of the North Pole, with the Eskimo named "Nanook", living in an igloo and having a pet seal and huskies. The background music even evokes a polar night atmosphere, with reference to the Northern Light.
  • Face on the Cover: The album cover is just an close-up of Zappa's face.
  • Fading into the Next Song: The first four tracks all fade into each other and are one continuous story.
  • Find the Cure!: The fur trapper runs off to find a cure for his deflicted eyes. Zappa visits "The Mystery Men" in "Cosmik Debris" and is shown a miracle medicine that "will cure your astma too." In "Stink Foot" Zappa brings us to the "place where they keep the imaginary diseases".
  • Fortune Teller: "Cosmik Debris", though he turns out to be a fraud, naturally.
  • Gratuitous Latin:
    • Dominus vobiscum/ Et cum spiritu tuo in Father O' Blivion ("The Lord be with you: And also with you") is a traditional exchange from the Roman Catholic mass, it is most familiar in English post-Vatican II, the priest says, "The Lord be with you", the congregation replies "And also with you."
    • Now scientists call this disease "bromadrosis" - "Stinkfoot".
  • Hermit Guru: The Mystery man in "Cosmik Debris".
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "Father O' Blivion".
    A leprechaun had stroked his smock/ which set him off in such a frenzy/ he sang "Lock around the crock".
  • Instrumentals: "Apostrophe".
  • Left Hanging: "Nanook Rubs It"
    And it was at that precise moment that he remembered
    An ancient Eskimo legend
    Wherein it is written
    On whatever it is that they write it on up there.
  • Leprechaun: A leprechaun had stroked Father O' Blivion's "smock".
  • Location Song: "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow" and "Nanook Rubs It" are both comedic songs taking place at the Eskimo Land version of the North Pole.
  • Mickey Mousing: Every line in "Cosmik Debris" is accompanied by a musical illustration.
  • Mister Muffykins: "Stink-Foot" talks about a dog named Fido, of whom we know is a poodle. Zappa found the entire idea that humans would modify a poodle according to their own kitschy wishes ludicrous and disturbing.
  • Momma's Boy: Nanook's mum warns him "watch out where the huskies go and don't you eat that yellow snow".
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "Stink Foot", an epic song about smelly feet.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Subverted. A baby seal is hit "with a lead-filled snow shoe" in "Nanook Rubs It".
  • One-Man Song: "Father O'Blivion".
  • One-Word Title: "Apostrophe".
  • Pun-Based Title: "Father O' Blivion" was originally titled Further O' Blivion. For the non-English speakers "oblivion" is "obscurity/forgetability".
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: "Uncle Remus"
    We look pretty sharp in these clothes
  • Shout-Out:
    • Nanook the Eskimo is a reference to Nanook of the North.
    • "Father O' Blivion" references Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley and His Comets.
    • "Uncle Remus" references Uncle Remus from the Uncle Remus & Br'er Rabbit stories, made famous by the Disney movie Song of the South.
    • The 1995 Zappa compilation album "Strictly Commercial" took its title from a line in "Nanook Rubs It".
    • Fido the dog approaching the smelly feet in "Stink-Foot" is a reference to a 1970s tv commercial for Dr. Scholl's foot spray, in which a similar situation took place. Zappa explained this in an interview, though he confused the product with Mennen. [1]
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow" leads into "Nanook Rubs It", which leads into "St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast", which finally leads into "Father O'Blivion".
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: "Father O'Blivion".
    As he stumbled on his ___
  • Special Guest: Tina Turner and the Ikettes on background vocals.
  • Spiking the Camera: Zappa on the album cover.
  • Spoonerism:
    It set him off in such a frenzy, he sang Lock Around The Crock!
  • Sublime Rhyme: Vivian O' Blivion in "Father O'Blivion".
  • Talking Animal: A man and a dog talk in "Stinkfoot".
  • Title Track: "Apostrophe"
  • Toilet Humour: "Nanook Rubs It" has an Eskimo rubbing urine drenched snow in a fur trapper's eyes. "Father O' Blivion" has zany antics of a lecherous priest and his penis, while "Stinkfoot" is literally about smelly feet.
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: The fur trapper arrives at the parish of St. Alphonso, but that's the last we hear of him. We never learn whether he found a way to regain his vision there?
  • What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: "Cosmik Debris"
    ''Look here, brother, don't you waste your time on me."
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Excentrifugal Forz".
  • Yellow Snow: In "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow", Nanook is warned by his mother "Watch out where the huskies go, don't you eat that yellow snow!" He doesn't eat it, but in "Nanook Rubs It", he blinds the fur trapper who killed his pet seal with it.

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