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Music / Bongo Fury

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Music from the other side of the fence...

Bongo Fury is a 1975 live collaboration album by Frank Zappa, Zappa's band The Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart. The album was made when Beefheart's career was in the dumps. His former albums hadn't sold well and even an attempt to go commercial failed miserably, causing even Beefheart himself to disown himself from the material. On top of that he was in a position where he couldn't record or tour without causing contractual problems. So Zappa helped his old high school buddy out by taking him on tour. The result of their collaboration was the Live Album Bongo Fury.

For fans this was the long anticipated collaboration between two giants of avantgarde rock. Expectations were high, maybe too high, because the album felt disappointing to most, despite some fan favorites like "Advance Romance" and "Muffin Man". Nevertheless this was reportedly the favorite Zappa album of Czech President Vaclav Havél, who tried to name Zappa his Cultural Ambassador in 1990.


Side One
  1. "Debra Kadabra" (3:54)
  2. "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy" (5:59)
  3. "Sam With the Showing Scalp Flat Top" (2:51)
  4. "Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead" (3:03)
  5. "200 Years Old" (4:32)

Side Two

  1. "Cucamonga" (2:24)
  2. "Advance Romance" (11:17)
  3. "Man with the Woman Head" (1:28)
  4. "Muffin Man" (5:33)


  • Frank Zappa: vocals, lead guitar
  • Captain Beefheart: vocals, harp, soprano sax
  • George Duke: vocals, keyboards
  • Napoleon Murphy Brock: vocals, sax
  • Bruce Fowler: trombone
  • Tom Fowler: bass
  • Denny Walley: vocals, slide guitar
  • Terry Bozzio: drums
  • Chester Thompson: drums
  • Robert "Frog" Camarena: vocals on "Debra Kadabra".

Advance tropes

  • Album Title Drop: "Sam With The Showing Flat Top".
    I wish I had a pair o' bongos! Bongo Fury!
  • All Women Are Lustful:
    • "Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy"
      Is this something new having people stomp on you?
      Is this what I need to do for your pleasure?
      What is this, a quiz?
      Don't you worry what it is
      It is merely just a moment I can treasure
    • "Advance Romance"
      Told her all he wanna do
      Was step up and say "Hi"
      Half an hour later
      She had frenched his fry
  • Ambiguous Gender: "The Man With The Woman Head".
    The man with the woman head
    Polynesian wallpaper made the face stand out,
    A mixture of oriental and early vaudeville jazz poofter,
    Forming a hard, beetle-like triangular chin much like a praying mantis.
    Smoky razor-cut, low on the ear neck profile.
    The face the color of a nicotine-stained hand.
    Dark circles collected under the wrinkled, folded eyes,
    Map-like from too much turquoise eyepaint.
  • Call-Back and Continuity Nod:
    • "Debra Kadabra" references "The Braniac", another monster movie reference in Zappa's work. The protagonist in the song adds some "Avon Cologna" (eau de cologne) to his face, which would be referenced again in "The Blue Light" from Tinseltown Rebellion (1981) as "Brut Cologne" and during several songs from Thing-Fish (1985). The "Pachuko Hop" is also referenced, which happened before in "Jelly Roll Gum Drop" from Cruising with Ruben & the Jets.
    • "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy" has the line: "there was dew out on the lawn/ in the sunrise", which brings up memories of "Uncle Remus" from Apostrophe (') (1973) in which the little jockeys are also knocked over early in the morning "down in the dew". Zappa also had a song called "Down In The Dew", released later on L├Ąther (1993). The song also mentions Carolina's shoes were "plastic leather, 14 Triple D", which references Zappa's conceptual continuity items plastic and leather again.
    • Zappa quotes "Louie Louie" again in "Sam With The Showing Scalp Flat Top".
    • Beefheart sings "We've all come out to show dem" in "Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead", which is a quote from his own song "Moonlight on Vermont" from Trout Mask Replica.
    • The line "Nanook-a no no" in "Cucamonga" is a callback to "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow" from Apostrophe (').
    • A character named Potato Headed Bobby is introduced in "Advance Romance". He would later reappear in the song "San Ber'dino" from One Size Fits All, "The Legend Of The Illinois Enema Bandit" in Zappa in New York and as a character in Thing-Fish (1985).
    • Beefheart calls the "Man with the Woman Head" "a mixture of Oriental and early vaudeville jazz poofter", which is a call back to "Poofter's Wroth Wyoming Plans Ahead".
    • "Muffin Man" refers to a man working in the utility muffin research kitchen making green rosetta's, which was referenced again during "A Little Green Rosetta" on Joe's Garage. The chrome spoon and an utensil have been part of Zappa's previous conceptual continuity.
    • "Debra Kadabra" mentions a "rancho granny shook her wrinkled fanny", while in "200 Years Old" another old woman is described. Even "The Man With The Woman Head" may be related to them. Also note that "Poofter's Wroth Wyoming Plans Ahead" handled the 200th birthday of the USA.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: In "Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Head". Zappa attacks the marketing around the bicentennial of the United States in 1976.
  • Confession Cam: Zappa and Beefheart are photographed from bird-eye's view on the album cover.
  • Crossover: For many Avant-Garde Music lovers this collaboration was close to a wet dream.
  • Did Not Do the Bloody Research: Zappa and Beefheart used the Australian word "poofter" in "Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead" without knowing the actual meaning behind it. They just thought it sounded funny and were amazed to find out later it was a derogatory term for "gay man".
  • Epic Rocking: "Advance Romance", which takes 11:17 minutes.
  • Face on the Cover: Zappa and Beefheart, though Beefheart looks down.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun:
    • In "Debra Cadabra" Beefheart sings: "Give me bas relief", a pun on the decorative molding/sculpture term "bas-relief".
    • In "Poofter's Wroth Wyoming Plans Ahead" Beefheart says: "This is "Buy-Cent-Any-All" salute, a pun on "bicentennial" and the fact that the 200th birthday of the USA was used for marketing purposes.
    • "She had frenched his fry" in "Advance Romance" is a pun on French fries.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man and Perspective Magic: From "Sam With The Showing Flat-Top":
    When I was knee high to a grasshopper
  • In the Style of: Zappa introduces and plays "Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead" as "a sort of a cowboy song".
  • It Came from Beverly Hills: Apparently "The Man With The Woman Head" is sitting in a drive-in restaurant in Hollywood.
  • Live Album: Most tracks were recorded live, except for "200 Years Old", "Cucamonga" and the intro of "Muffin Man", which were done in the studio.
  • Miniscule Rocking: "Man with the Woman Head" is only 1:28 long.
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: In "Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Head". Zappa attacks the marketing and merchandising around the 200th birthday of the United States in 1976.
  • One-Man Song: "Man with the Woman Head" (could count as an One-Woman Song too) and "Muffin Man".
  • One-Woman Song: "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy".
  • Product Placement:
    • "Carolina Hard-core Ecstasy"
      She wore a Milton Bradley crayon
    • "Advance Romance"
      It was a Timex too.
  • Really 700 Years Old: "She's 200 Years Old".
    She's 200 Years Old
    So mean she couldn't grow lips
  • The Rival: Zappa and Beefheart were childhood friends who both gained a reputation for making groundbreaking bizarre Avant-Garde Music. It was Zappa himself who started off Beefheart's career by having him record his voice in his studio. Beefheart tried his own career, but by 1969 he felt disillusioned about the Executive Meddling and lack of album sales. Zappa produced his next album Trout Mask Replica and gave him total creative freedom, but the record hardly sold and Beefheart blamed Zappa for this. For years they remained bitter towards each other until Beefheart found himself broke and contractually unable to record anything. Zappa took him up for the Bongo Fury (1975) tour, until they once again had a fall-out. Only when Zappa fell terminally ill with cancer in the 1990s did the two friends reconcile.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy" Zappa sings: "She put a The Doobie Brothers tape on", as his band quotes the Doobie Brothers' song "Listen to the Music". He also mentions he had a Roger Daltrey cape on. The final line: "It might seem strange to Herb and Dee" references Zappa's then manager Herb Cohen and his wife Dee.
    • "Sam With The Showing Flat Top" quotes from the song "Louie Louie".
    • The line "make me grow Braniac fingers" in "Debra Kadabra" is a reference to the 1962 Mexican horror movie "El barón del terror", nicknamed "The Braniac" in the USA. Zappa even quotes the soundtrack music, as he explained in an interview:
      "Oh the ultimate worst is in a Mexican science fiction movie called "The Brainiac". It's one of the worst movies ever made and when the monster appears, not only is the monster cheap, he's got a rubber mask that you can see over the collar of the guy's jacket and rubber gloves that don't quite much up the sleeves of his sport coat. When the monster appears there's this trumpet lick that isn't scary. It's not even out of tune, it's just exactly the wrong thing to put there it doesn't scare you, that's the greatest example I can think of. Did you ever hear the song 'Debra Kadabra'? That's what that song is about and when you hear in the background "DA-DA-DA-DA-DAHHH", that's making fun of that stupid trumpet line that's in the movie but nobody's seen it over here so you can't appreciate the humour of the song. When he's saying "Make me grow Brainiac fingers" that's what he's referring to, because Vliet and I have both seen that movie and it's fucking stupid. Mexican monster movies are great, "The Aztec Mummy's Ghost" that's a good one too." The song also references Channel 13, the horror TV show "Jeepers' Creepers Theater" and Chuck Higgins' song "Pachuko Hop".
    • In "Advance Romance" a shout-out is provided to Zappa singer and keyboardist George Duke: "Took George's watch like they always do. (It was a Timex too!)" The line "chicken was never like this!" is a quote from André Williams' song "Bacon Fat".
    • Both "Debra Kadabra" and "Advance Romance" musically quote "All Night Long" by jazz and R&B saxophonist Joe Houston, an artist Zappa named as an influence in the sleevenotes of his album Freak Out (1966).
  • Special Guest: Despite the album being credited as a collaboration between Zappa and Beefheart it's obvious that Beefheart is treated more as a guest musician. He sings and performs mouth harmonica during most of the material and only two tracks are written by him: "Sam With The Showing Scalp Flat Top" and "Man With The Woman Head".
  • Three-Quarters View and Top-Down View: Zappa and Beefheart are photographed from this viewpoint on the album cover.
  • Time Marches On: During the intro of "Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead" Zappa informs the audience that the song is about the "rapidly approaching 200th birthday of the United States", which happened in 1976.
  • Your Little Dismissive Diminutive: "Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead".
    Little packets full of jackets
    Little rackets, little rackets
    Little Poofter-Cloth Appointments
    Little Poofter's Froth Anointments
    Little hoods, little goods
    Little doo-dads from the woods