Broadway the Hard Way is a 1988 Live Album by Frank Zappa, taken from his world tour that same year (which also ended up being his last; his diagnosis with terminal pancreatic cancer in 1990 caused him to dial back his live appearances to a considerable extent before his death in 1993). 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. Compared to the LP release, the CD features eight additional tracksnote and a considerably different running order; given these two factors in combination, both tracklists will be listed here for convenience.
"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, and Zappa's performance of The Police's "Murder By Numbers" with former Police frontman Sting on lead vocals is generally considered a highlight of both performers' careers.
Broadway the Hard Way is one of three live albums taken from Zappa's 1988 world tour. The other two, The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life and Make a Jazz Noise Here, were later released in 1991.
LP TracklistSide One
- "Elvis Has Just Left the Building" (2:24)
- "Planet of the Baritone Women" (2:48)
- "Any Kind of Pain" (5:42)
- "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk" (9:15)
- "Dickie's Such an Asshole" (6:37)
- "When the Lie's So Big" (3:38)
- "Rhymin' Man" (3:51)
- "Promiscuous" (2:03)
- "The Untouchables" (3:05)
- "Elvis Has Just Left the Building" (2:24)
- "Planet of the Baritone Women" (2:48)
- "Any Kind of Pain" (5:42)
- "Dickie's Such an Asshole (The San Clemente Magnetic Deviation)" (5:45)
- "When the Lie's So Big" (3:38)
- "Rhymin' Man" (3:50)
- "Promiscuous" (2:02)
- "The Untouchables" (2:26)
- "Why Don't You Like Me?" (2:57)
- "Bacon Fat" (1:29)
- "Stolen Moments" (2:58)
- "Murder by Numbers"note (5:37)
- "Jezebel Boy" (2:27)
- "Outside Now" (7:49)
- "Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel" (6:40)
- "What Kind of Girl?" (3:16)
- "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk" (9:15)
- 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
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?"I'm so confused nowWho is Diana? note
- Anatomically Impossible Sex: "Elvis Has Just Left the Building"Had sex in his underpants, yes he had style!
- Ass Shove: Suggested by Zappa in "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk":Jim and Pat should take a pole
Right up each saintly glory hole
- 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' lieAnd a flag and a pieAnd a mom and a bibleMost folks are just liableTo buy any lineAny place, any time(...) People, wake upFigure it outReligious fanaticsAround and aboutThe Court House, The State House,The Congress, The White HouseCriminal saintsWith a "Heavenly Mission" —A nation enrapturedBy pure superstition
- Black Comedy: "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk" at one point makes fun of religious fundamentalists opposed to abortion and points out their hypocrisy by having their excuse of respecting the sanctity of life juxtaposed with someone noticing that some black people have been lynched.
- 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).
- 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".
Well, I get off being spooed uponBy hypocritical TV preachersWith close ties to the Republican Party,While Ed Meese wipes his ass on the U.S. Constitution
- "What Kind of Girl?"
- 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-millionaireDemocrats is fair,If all you own is what you wearNeither of 'em's REALLY right,'Cause neither of 'em CARE'Bout that Hot-Plate Heaven,'Cause they ain't been thereThey 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 wellThat's ALL you get to dreamUp 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 the CD version of 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 meWouldn't you, baby?Since you haven't got a brainLet me just explainAny 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.
- Greedy Televangelist: One of the criticisms of religion that comes up in "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk" is how televangelists tend to manipulate people with religious beliefs into giving them money.
- 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.With a Ku-Klux muu-muu
In the back of the truck
If you ain't Born Again
They wanna mess you up
Screamin', "No abortion, no-siree!"
"Life's too precious, can't you see!"
What's that hangin' from a neighbor's tree?
Why, it looks like 'colored folks' to me—
(Would THEY do THAT?)
They've been doin' it for years!
- 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 nameLet me just explainAny kind of pain is probably her hobby
- One-Man Song: "Rhymin' Man", targeting politician Jesse Jackson.
- One-Word Title: "Promiscuous".
- Product Placement:
On the corner by the Technicolor processing plant(...) To drive up in his Lincoln
- "Jezebel Boy"
Get me a Pepsi
- "Why Don't You Like Me?"
- 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!
- Questioning Title?: "Why Don't You Like Me?" and "What Kind of Girl?"
- 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?"
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Zappa absolutely annihilates Pat Robertson during a spoken-word interlude in “Jesus Thinks You’re a Jerk” (which was already a Take That! toward televangelists in general.) For emphasis, each unsavory fact listed about Robertson is punctuated by a mechanical retching sound."Imagine, if you will, a multimillionaire TV evangelist saved from Korean combat duty by his father, a U.S. senator; studied law, but not qualified to practice it; father of a love child who, in adulthood, hosts the remnants of Papa’s religious propaganda program; claims not to be a faith healer but has, in the past, dealt sternly with everything from hemorrhoids to hurricanes; involved with funding for an undeclared war in Central America, claiming Ronald Reagan and Oliver North as close friends; involved in suspicious tax avoidance schemes under investigation for 16 months by the IRS; claims to be a MAN OF GOD, currently seeking the United States Presidency, hoping we will all follow him into... The Twilight Zone."
- 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.
And sometimes they walkLike an E-GYP-TIAN(Ah-ha-ha-ha-hah! Hey!)
- "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:
- "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!:
They hope we will forgetThe misery of 'TRICKLE DOWN',An' jelly-bean etiquette
- "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.
So you must have wanted me in officeI've did you no harmI used to have twenty-five tapes noteNow I only got tenCan't remember what happened to the restMusta gave 'em to a friendGave a couple to Bebe Rebozo noteGave a couple to Pat Boone noteGave a couple to Ronald ReaganGave a couple to the new vice-presidentHe said he'd stick with me through thick and thinEven if I invaded Nicaragua noteYou know I'm not a crookYou know I'm not a crookI just wanna lie about one more thing right now ....
- "Dickies's Such an Asshole" provides a Take That! towards Richard Nixon.
When the lies get so bigAnd the fog gets so thickAnd the facts disappearThe Republican TrickCan be played out againPeople, please tell me whenWe'll be rid of these men?!
- "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.
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.
- "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:
I wrote the fucking song, alright?
- "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:
- 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.
- Updated Re-release: The album was originally released as a truncated 9-track LP in 1988; it was later reissued on CD in 1989 with 8 additional songs (just barely maxing out the 74-minute limit of a Redbook-standard CD) and a reordered tracklist.