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Broadway the Hard Way is a 1988 Live Album by Frank Zappa. It is notable for being one of his most political, with the majority of tracks tackling the Reagan administration, televangelists, and the Iran-Contra scandal, but also people like Richard Nixon, Jesse Jackson, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson. The CD version adds more bonus tracks to the vinyl version. "Elvis Has Just Left the Building", "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk", "Dickie's Such an Asshole" and "Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel" have become fan favorites.

Tracklist

Side One

  1. "Elvis Has Just Left the Building" (2:24)
  2. "Planet of the Baritone Women" (2:48)
  3. "Any Kind of Pain" (5:42)
  4. "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk" (9:15) note 

Side Two

  1. "Dickie's Such an Asshole" (6:37) note 
  2. "When the Lie's So Big" (3:38) note 
  3. "Rhymin' Man" (3:51) note 
  4. "Promiscuous" (2:03) note 
  5. "The Untouchables" (3:05) note 
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The CD version adds "Why Don't You Like Me?", "Bacon Fat", "Stolen Moments", "Murder by Numbers", "Jezebel Boy", "Outside Now", "Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel", and "What Kind of Girl?" as bonus tracks.

Personnel

  • Frank Zappa: vocals, guitar, producer
  • Kurt McGettrick: baritone saxophone
  • Scott Thunes: bass guitar
  • Albert Wing: tenor saxophone
  • Ed Mann: percussion
  • Chad Wackerman: drums
  • Ike Willis: vocals, guitar
  • Eric Buxton: vocals
  • Paul Carman: alto saxophone
  • Walt Fowler: trumpet
  • Mike Keneally: vocals, guitar, synthesizer
  • Sting: lead vocal on "Murder by Numbers"
  • Bruce Fowler: trombone
  • Robert Martin: vocals, keyboards

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Hot Plate Tropes

  • Album Title Drop: "Any Kind of Pain"
    Broadway the hard way, ladies and gentlemen!
    Broadway the hard way
  • Alliterative Title: "Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel" and "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk".
  • Ambiguous Gender: "Why Don't You Like Me?"
    Michael is Janet, Janet is Michael
    I'm so confused now
    Who is Diana? note 
  • Anatomically Impossible Sex: "Elvis Has Just Left the Building"
    Had sex in his underpants, yes he had style!
  • As the Good Book Says...: "Jezebel Boy" references Jezebel, a biblical character.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: "When the Lie's So Big"
    With a big ol' lie
    And a flag and a pie
    And a mom and a bible
    Most folks are just liable
    To buy any line
    Any place, any time
    (...) People, wake up
    Figure it out
    Religious fanatics
    Around and about
    The Court House, The State House,
    The Congress, The White House
    Criminal saints
    With a "Heavenly Mission" —
    A nation enraptured
    By pure superstition
  • Boléro Effect: Heard during "When the Lie's So Big".
  • Call-Back and Continuity Nod:
    • "Elvis Has Just Left the Building" mentions Elvis Presley, who was namedropped in the influences list in Freak Out!.The line: "Bring back the King for the man in the street!" is similar to the line "God bless the mind of the man in the street" from "Strictly Genteel" from 200 Motels.
    • "Outside Now" appeared earlier on Joe's Garage.
    • "Why Don't You Like Me?" has the same melody as "Tell Me You Love Me" from Chunga's Revenge, only with different lyrics.
    • "What Kind of Girl?" appeared on Fillmore East, June 1971 before, but with different lyrics.
    • "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk" mentions "smelling the glove" again, a line from "Be in My Video" from Them Or US and weasels, which brings Weasels Ripped My Flesh to mind.
    • "Jezebel Boy" continues car imagery in Zappa's lyrics, by mentioning a Lincoln, a car brand mentioned before in "Bow Tie Daddy" from We're Only in It for the Money and "Billy the Mountain" from Just Another Band from L.A.. The line: "maybe I could make a good rock star" is a sample from US senator Ernest F. Hollings from the PMRC hearings and can be heard on "Porn Wars" from Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention, as well as in track "Any Kind of Pain" on "Broadway The Hardway". The song also mentions a sausage, an object ridiculed before in songs like "The Torture Never Stops" from Zoot Allures and "Dong Work for Yuda" from Joe's Garage.
    • "Bacon Fat" was referenced earlier on "Advance Romance" from Bongo Fury.
    • "The Untouchables" imagines the characters from The Untouchables arresting members of the Ronald Reagan government. Zappa mentioned actors from this TV series before note  in his influences list on Freak Out! (1966).
  • Corpsing: "Jezebel Boy" has the band members crack up a few times.
  • Corrupt Church: Televangelists Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson and Jim and Tammy Bakker are targeted in songs like "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk", "When the Lie's So Big", "Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel", "What Kind of Girl?" and "Murder by Numbers".
    • "What Kind of Girl?"
    Well, I get off being spooed upon
    By hypocritical TV preachers
    With close ties to the Republican Party,
    While Ed Meese wipes his ass on the U.S. Constitution
  • Corrupt Politician: Referenced in "The Untouchables", "When the Lie's So Big" "Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel" and "What Kind of Girl?".
    Republicans is fine,
    If you're a multi-millionaire
    Democrats is fair,
    If all you own is what you wear
    Neither of 'em's REALLY right,
    'Cause neither of 'em CARE
    'Bout that Hot-Plate Heaven,
    'Cause they ain't been there
    They really oughta go
    'N find out how the hall-way smell—
    They'd benefit to know
    'Bout what the bums in there could tell
    (I guess we're only dreamin',
    But I s'pose it's just as well
    That's ALL you get to dream
    Up in the Green Hotel)
  • Cover Version: "Stolen Moments" is a cover of an Oliver Nelson song. "Murder by Numbers" is a cover of The Police song from Synchronicity and actually features Sting on vocals! The CD version adds "Bacon Fat", an André Williams song.
  • The Ditz: "Any Kind of Pain"
    You'd take any kind of pain from me
    Wouldn't you, baby?
    Since you haven't got a brain
    Let me just explain
    Any kind of pain is never a maybe
  • Dream Team: His duet with Sting, covering "Murder By Numbers." It's spectacular, and arguably better than the original recording by The Police (which is already a high bar).
  • Epic Rocking: The 9:15 "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk", the 6:37 "Dickie's Such an Asshole" and the 6:40 "Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel".
  • Elvis Has Left the Planet: Kind of. "Elvis Has Just Left the Building" is a song about the fact that Elvis passed away to Heaven.
  • Elvis Lives: "Elvis Has Just Left the Building"
    Jesus, let him come back!
    We don't want Elvis dead!
  • Face on the Cover: Zappa in a suit.
  • Fan Disservice: "Elvis Has Just Left the Building"
    So what if he looks like a wart-hog in heat?
  • Fat Comic Relief: "Elvis Has Just Left the Building" pokes fun at Elvis' obesity later in life, especially after the line "those are his footprints right there", where upon two loud thuds can be heard.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: "Jezebel Boy" is about a male prostitute.
  • Intercourse with You: "What Kind of Girl"
    What kind of girl would suck his rod?
    A lazy prostitute!
    We wouldn't blow you just because you know "GOD"!
  • Jazz: "Stolen Moments" is a jazz standard by Oliver Nelson that Zappa liked.
  • The Klan: The Ku Klux Klan is a target in "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk" where Zappa predicts that the same kind of racist politics from the past could return if these televangelists get more political power.
  • Live Album: All tracks were lifted from Zappa's 1988 world tour.
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: US politics and society are criticized in all tracks, best summed up in this line from "The Untouchables"
    Reagan! You're asleep! Wake up! The country's in a mess!
  • No Name Given: "Any Kind of Pain"
    Since she hasn't got a name
    Let me just explain
    Any kind of pain is probably her hobby
  • One-Man Song: "Rhymin' Man", targeting politician Jesse Jackson.
  • One-Word Title: "Promiscuous".
  • Questioning Title?: "Why Don't You Like Me?" and "What Kind of Girl?"
  • Product Placement:
    • "Jezebel Boy"
    On the corner by the Technicolor processing plant
    (...) To drive up in his Lincoln
    • "Why Don't You Like Me?"
    Get me a Pepsi
  • Protest Song: The majority of songs on this album criticize the Ronald Reagan administration, televangelists and in only two songs Jesse Jackson and Michael Jackson too. Near the end of "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk" Zappa tells the audience:
    Ladies and gentlemen, this is intermission. Get your butt out there and register to vote! Would you please? See you in half an hour!
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Several songs are satirical attacks on President Ronald Reagan, televangelist scandals, Elvis Presley, the Iran-Contra scandal, Reverend Jesse Jackson and Michael Jackson. Zappa also mentions a "confinement loaf" in "Any Kind Of Pain" and "When The Lie's So Big". This is a bean by-product that is being administered to problematic prisoners. A ration of a troubled prisoner is a slice of confinement loaf and a glass of water. Apparently, this seems to mellow them down. After explaining this Zappa asks: "How long will it be before confinement loaf will find its way to US high schools?"
  • Record Producer: Frank Zappa.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: "Dickie's Such an Asshole" was a song that Zappa's band already played live in 1974, but never appeared on an official Zappa record before.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Zappa on the album cover.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Elvis Has Just Left the Building" refers to Elvis Presley's obesity, his bell-bottom jump-suit on stage and the fact that he gave away Cadillacs to people he just met. The line "so take down the foil from his hotel retreat" refers to the fact that Elvis slept during daytime and had aluminium foil covering the rooms of his walls to have complete darkness in his suite. The title itself is the famous That's All, Folks! closing statement people would make to let the audience know that the concert was over.
    • "Planet of the Baritone Women" provides a shout-out to "Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles:
    And sometimes they walk
    Like an E-GYP-TIAN
    (Ah-ha-ha-ha-hah! Hey!)
    • "Rhymin' Man" musically quotes from the theme from The Twilight Zone, Fryderyk Chopin's "Funeral March", the theme from Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables, "Mississippi Mud", "Happy Days Are Here Again", "Entry of the Gladiators" by Julius Fucik (which Zappa quoted before during "America Drinks" on Absolutely Free and "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary" on Studio Tan), "Hava Nagilah", "Hail to the Chief", "La cucaracha", "Frère Jacques", "My Sharona" and "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum".
    • "What Kind of Girl?" borrows a line from The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" from Magical Mystery Tour and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".
    • "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk" quotes from "Louie Louie", "Rock of Ages", Franz von Suppé's "Light Cavalry Overture" and the theme from The Twilight Zone. The line "What's that hangin' from a neighbor's tree? Why, it looks like 'colored folks' to me" is a reference to Billie Holiday's song "Strange Fruit", while "give me that old time religion" references "Moonlight on Vermont" on Trout Mask Replica. For some reason ''Godzilla and CNN journalist Tom Braden are also namedropped.
    • "When The Lie's So Big" quotes from Maurice Ravel's "Boléro".
    • "Jezebel Boy" quotes "Jingle Bells".
    • "Bacon Fat" and "Why Don't You Like Me?" both quote from "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson, from his album Thriller. The line "He's white, Jim" in "Why Don't You Like Me?" is a reference to "He's dead, Jim", a recurring phrase in Star Trek: The Original Series. The song also mentions Arnold Silvestri, Reagan's UN ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Star Wars character Lando Calrissian.
    • "Why Don't You Like Me?" is full with references to Michael Jackson, including his songs "Bad" and "Dirty Diana" from Bad and "Billie Jean" from Thriller. His changing skin color and smaller nose are addressed ("I thought he looked good -what happened to you?"), his troubling relationship with his parents ("I hate my mother, I hate my father"), his physical resemblance to his sisters LaToya and Janet Jackson ("I AM my sister"), brother Jermaine Jackson, the fact that he was raised a Jehovah's witness ("Please read this pamphlet"), Bubbles the chimpanzee and his llama, his Pepsi commercials and the Urban Legend that he slept in an oxygen tank.
    • "The Untouchables" mentions Rico and Youngblood, who are characters from the TV series The Untouchables. National Security Advisor John Poindexter is told to "get back on Felix the Cat where you belong", a reference to the character Poindexter on that show. The line "Book 'em, Dano" is a reference to Hawaii Five-O. Robin Leach is a TV presenter from the show "Lives of the Rich and Famous". The line "take me to the bridge!" is a reference to James Brown's classic call to his band.
  • Singer Name Drop: Done during "The Untouchables".
  • Special Guest: "Murder by Numbers" features an actual guest appearance by Sting.
  • Stock Sound Effects: "Jezebel Boy" makes us of police sirens.
  • Take That!:
    • "Elvis Has Just Left the Building" targets Elvis Presley, whose death ten years earlier was commemorated in 1987, while "Why Don't You Like Me?" does the same with Michael Jackson, easily Elvis' successor in terms of success and fame in the 1980s.
    • "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk", "What Kind of Girl", "When the Lie's So Big", "Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel" and "Murder by Numbers" are all satirical attacks on the sex and corruption scandals revolving around televangelists at the time. Jim and Tammy Bakker were involved in an embezzlement scandal for which Jim was convicted. His secretary Jessica Hahn also accused him of rape. Pat Robertson, whose ties with the ultraconservative Christian fundamentalists in the Republican Party are highly controversial and his very difficult to believe claim that he is not a "faith healer" is referenced too. Jimmy Swaggart was caught with a prostitute twice, a fact referenced in "What Kind of Girl?" and would be satirized again on The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life and Make a Jazz Noise Here.
    • Zappa references the Iran-Contra scandal in songs like "The Untouchables", "When the Lie's So Big", "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk" and "What Kind of Girl" . The Iran-Contra scandal revolved around the Ronald Reagan administration secretly faciliating the sale of arms to Iran, which was the subject of an arms embargo. The money was used to fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua who tried the overthrow the socialist government there. Chief convicts and suspects in the case are namedropped in several of the lyrics, including President Ronald Reagan, vice president George H. W. Bush, Ed Meese note , John Poindexter note , Oliver North note , William J. Casey note  and Michael Deaver and Lyn Nofziger note .
    • "Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel" also provides a take that towards Reagan's "trickled down" economics and the fact that he ate a lot of jellybeans.
    They hope we will forget
    The misery of 'TRICKLE DOWN',
    An' jelly-bean etiquette
    So you must have wanted me in office
    I've did you no harm
    I used to have twenty-five tapes note 
    Now I only got ten
    Can't remember what happened to the rest
    Musta gave 'em to a friend
    Gave a couple to Bebe Rebozo note 
    Gave a couple to Pat Boone note 
    Gave a couple to Ronald Reagan
    Gave a couple to the new vice-president
    He said he'd stick with me through thick and thin
    Even if I invaded Nicaragua note 
    You know I'm not a crook
    You know I'm not a crook
    I just wanna lie about one more thing right now ....
    • "When the Lie's So Big" satirizes the American Republican Party. The line "ketchup is a vegetable" is a reference to Ronald Reagan, who made this infamous wrong statement in 1981.
    When the lies get so big
    And the fog gets so thick
    And the facts disappear
    The Republican Trick
    Can be played out again
    People, please tell me when
    We'll be rid of these men?!
    • "Rhymin' Man" pokes fun at US preacher and Democratic politician Jesse Jackson, specifically his controversial statements that he supposedly wiped away the blood from Martin Luther King's shirt after he was assassinated. His friendship with notable antisemitic preacher Louis Farrakhan is also mentioned, as the fact that Jackson once called New York City "Hymie-Town" note , all facts that cost him his bid for the US presidential elections. The song also mentioned PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Fidel Castro. In a interview Zappa explained:
    An article raised some questions about whether or not Martin Luther King actually died in Jesse's arms. There were reports that Jackson dipped his hands into King's blood or even used chicken blood and rubbed it on his shirt, which we wore for a few days afterward as he met the media. So I did this song about the idea of communicating through nursery rhymes, as Jackson is prone to do. It rubs me the wrong way. I'm not saying that all of Jesse's ideas are bad; I agree with some of them. But I'm not confident that Jesse Jackson would be the person I would look to to implement any of them. I don't want to see any religious people in public office because they're working for another boss.
    • "Promiscuous" attacks US surgeon general C. Everett Koop, whose lectures against anal sex and theories about AIDS and cigarette smoking were contested by Zappa at the time.
    • "Murder by Numbers", sang by Sting starts off with an intro by the singer claiming that televangelist Jimmy Swaggart called the song "Satanic". Sting retorts:
    I wrote the fuckin' song, awright?
  • Time Marches On: Many songs directly reference late 1980s politics and pop culture and are nowadays very dated, if not mostly incomprehensible to younger audiences.

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