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Music / Sheik Yerbouti

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Recommended for dancin' fools.

Sheik Yerbouti is a 1979 music album by Frank Zappa, released through Zappa Records in North America and CBS Records internationally. The album was Zappa's first release through the former label, which Zappa established through Phonogram as a vanity imprint following a lengthy legal battle with ex-manager Herb Cohen and Warner (Bros.) Records.

A mostly live album with studio embellishments and heralding a visibly increased comedic emphasis, it was the first album released after winning the rights to all his songs in a court case against his former label Warner Brothers. It remains the best-selling album in his catalogue, especially in Europe, where "Bobby Brown" (no relation to the musician) even became a Number One hit in Norway. Other fan favorites are "I Have Been In You", "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes", "I'm So Cute", "Baby Snakes", "City Of Tiny Lites", "Dancin' Fool", "Jewish Princess" and "Yo' Mama".


LP One

Side One
  1. "I Have Been in You" (3:34)
  2. "Flakes" (6:42)
  3. "Broken Hearts Are for Assholes" (3:42)
  4. "I'm So Cute" (3:09)

Side Two

  1. "Jones Crusher" (2:50)
  2. "What Ever Happened to All the Fun in the World?" (0:33)
  3. "Rat Tomago" (5:16)
  4. "We Gotta Get Into Something Real/Wait a Minute" (0:33)
  5. "Bobby Brown" (2:49)note 
  6. "Rubber Shirt" (2:45)
  7. "The Sheik Yerbouti Tango" (3:56)

LP Two

Side Three
  1. "Baby Snakes" (1:50)
  2. "Tryin' to Grow a Chin" (3:31)
  3. "City of Tiny Lites" (5:32)
  4. "Dancin' Fool" (3:44)
  5. "Jewish Princess" (3:17)

Side Four

  1. "Wild Love" (4:10)
  2. "Yo' Mama" (12:37)

CD reissues are on a single disc


  • Frank Zappa: vocals, guitar
  • Adrian Belew: vocals, rhythm guitar
  • Tommy Mars: vocals, keyboards
  • Peter Wolf: keyboards
  • Patrick O'Hearn: vocals, bass
  • Ed Mann: percussion, vocals
  • Terry Bozzio: vocals, drums
  • David Ocker: clarinet
  • Napoleon Murphy Brock: vocals
  • Andre Lewis: vocals
  • Randy Thornton: vocals
  • Davey Moire: vocals

Whatever happened to all the tropes in the world?

  • Age-Progression Song: "Bobby Brown (Goes Down)" has Bobby transform from an arrogant, misogynistic high school boy into an adult closeted-homosexual S&M radio DJ. "Wild Love" compares "wild love" in old days and nowadays.
  • Ambiguously Gay:
    • Dagmar in "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes".
    Yet he was a beautiful lady
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: Zappa's outfit on the album cover.
  • Artistic License Engineering: The chances of a toilet blowing up, like what happened in "Flakes", are pretty scarce.
  • Call-Back and Continuity Nod:
    • "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes" shares similar themes with the line "you never go doody/ that's what you think" in "Disco Boy" from Zoot Allures (1976).
    • "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes" and "Wait A Minute" both mention "leather", a conceptual continuity phrase in Zappa's work, referenced earlier during "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy" on Bongo Fury (1975).
    • "I'm So Cute" refers to Terry Ted "watch the way he keeps the beat", while the protagonist in "Dancin' Fool" also tries to keep up with it, but "the beat goes on and I'm so wrong".
    • "I'm So Cute" and "Tryin' To Grow A Chin" are basically the same type of punk songs, about an Emo Teen desperately crying for attention.
    • We hear Louis Cuneo's turkey laugh in "What Ever Happened To All The Fun In World?". His infamous way of laughing was introduced to Zappa fans earlier on Lumpy Gravy (1968).
    • "Wait A Minute" mentions leather, a conceptual continuity word in Zappa's oeuvre.
    • "Dancin' Fool" is a a satire on Disco, a trend Zappa attacked before in "Disco Boy" from Zoot Allures (1976). The fool says that "one of his feet is shorter than the other", a Call-Back to "Zomby Woof" from Over-Nite Sensation (1973), where the similar line "My right foot's bigger than my other foot is" could be heard. The "What's a girl like you doin' in a place like this?" line also appeared earlier on "Flower Punk" from We're Only in It for the Money (1968), "What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are?" from Fillmore East, June 1971 (1971) and would reappear again during "Stick It Out" on Joe's Garage (1979) and "Artificial Rhonda" on Thing-Fish (1985). Near the end the protagonist meets a Jewish girl, which will receive a continuity nod in the next track "Jewish Princess".
    • Jewish Princess has the first example of "Hi-ho, Silver! Away" in a Zappa song, a Running Gag his band member Ike Willis kept going for years and would return on "Massaggio Galore" from Jazz from Hell. As Zappa explained in a 1993 interview with the magazine Pulse
    We had a lot of laughs. For example, one night in Seattle, in the middle of the show, (guitarist) Ike Willis started to do an imitation of The Lone Ranger, blurting out, 'Hi, ho, Silver!'. I still don't know why it happened, but I cracked up every time he did it. It must have been road fatigue. He'd keep yelling in the most inappropriate places. The whole show was riddled with bad Lone Ranger jokes and me not being able to sing the right words. I enjoyed that night.
    • "Jewish Princess" also references "aroma", a conceptual continuity word that he used before in "Dirty Love" from Over-Nite Sensation (1973), "Dental Hygiene Dilemma" from 200 Motels and "For The Young Sophisticate" on Tinseltown Rebellion (1981).
  • Coming-Out Story: "Bobby Brown Goes Down", where Bobby starts off as a heterosexual guy in high school, but halfway starts having sex with men (although he is still closeted).
  • Covers Always Lie: At first glance when seeing Zappa in his sheik headgear on the front and back album cover you assume there will be an Arabic theme going on. But no, it's not a Concept Album and no references to Sheik Yerbouti are made on the entire album, except for the instrumental "Sheik Yerbouti Tango".
  • Dancing Is Serious Business: To the fool in "Dancin' Fool" it is, but not to Zappa or the listeners.
  • Dance Sensation: "Dancin' Fool", a jab at Disco.
  • Dream Land: The "City of Tiny Lites" is implied to be a place you can only see when you are drunk or drugged.
    You can see it anytime
    When you get the squints
    From your downers and your wine
  • Emo Teen: The 14 year old punker in "Tryin' To Grow Me A Chin" and the one in "I'm So Cute".
  • Epic Rocking: The 6:42 "Flakes" and the 12:38 "Yo' Mama".
  • Everything Has Rhythm: Except for the "Dancin' Fool", who dances to "the beat" and "I'm so wrong".
  • Face on the Cover: Zappa in Arabian headgear, his face filling up the entire album cover.
  • Fading into the Next Song: All tracks do, most notably between "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes" and "I'm So Cute".
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Tryin' To Grow A Chin" appears to end, but then Terry Bozzio sings: "One more time for the world", whereupon the song has one final rock-out.
  • Gag Nose: "Jewish Princess":
    With a brand new nose, who knows where it goes.
  • Gentile Jew-Chaser: "Jewish Princess".
    I don't want no troll
    I just want a Yemenite hole
  • George Lucas Altered Version: "Wait A Minute" originally had a much longer title on the LP version: "We Gotta Get Into Something Real".
  • Get Out!: "Yo' Mama".
    Maybe you should stay with yo' mama
  • Grief Song: "Whatever Happened To All The Fun In The World?", a spoken word track where we are informed that "Larry's not with us anymore", because he apparently "bit the big one". The others find this hilarious, though. Larry Fanoga was the alter ego of Zappa band member Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood.
  • Henpecked Husband: The man in "Flakes":
    I'm a moron 'n' this is my wife! [whip lashes are heard on the background]
  • Ikea Erotica: "I Have Been In You".
    I'm goin' in you again, ahhhh
    In you again, ah
    I'm goin' in you again, ahhhh
    In you again, ah
    I'm goin' in you again, ahhhh
    In you again, ah
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "Tryin' To Grow A Chin":
    Lord, he's my next of kin/ he's a mex-i-kin.
  • Instrumentals: "Rat Tomago", "Rubber Shirt" and "Sheik Yerbouti Tango".
  • Intercourse with You and Bawdy Song: "I Have Been In You", "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes", "Bobby Brown Goes Down", "Jones' Crusher", "Jewish Princess" and "Wild Love". Basically, half the album.
  • Insane Troll Logic: "I'm So Cute" uses this to prove that ugly people end up in Hell.
  • "I Want" Song and Jewish American Princess: "Jewish Princess".
    I want a nasty little Jewish princess
  • Jive Turkey: "Flakes"
    Wanna buy some Mandies, Bob? (Mandies is slang for the sedative drug "Mandrax".)
  • Live Album: Certain tracks were recorded live, with a lot of overdubs. The only implication can be found near the end of "Yo' Mama", where Zappa names his band members and thanks the audience for coming to the show.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: The album closes out with "Yo' Mama", which at twelve and a half minutes takes up most of side four.
  • Man on Fire: "Yo' Mama".
    And you should never smoke in pajamas/ you might start a fire and burn yer face.
  • Misogyny Song: "Jewish Princess" was accused of being antisemitic, while Zappa defended himself that the subject he sang about did in fact exist, and therefore he didn't apologize for it. He did, however, write a song poking fun at his own religious background called "Catholic Girls" on his next album Joe's Garage (1979).
    • "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes":
      And ladies: you can be an asshole too
      You might pretend you ain't got one on the bottom of you
      But don't fool yourself, girl, it's winking at you
      But don't fool yourself, girl, it's blinking at you
      But don't fool yourself, girl, it's winking at you
      I'm gonna ram it, ram it, ram it, ram it, up your poop chute
    • "Bobby Brown Goes Down", in which Bobby "lets" a cheerleader do "all the work for his paper" and maybe he'll "rape her later". He also describes Women's Liberation as "creepin' across the nation" and "fucked a dyke". Arguably justified, on a purely psychological level, if you regard Bobby as having been a self-hating closeted gay man all along: homophobia and misogyny generally go together, and as soon as Bobby accepts his sexuality and starts having sex with guys, he stops being so nasty about women.
  • Momma's Boy: "Yo' Mama"
    Maybe you should stay with yo' mama.
  • Mr Fix It: Subverted in "Flakes", in which Zappa complains about incompetent repair men.
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting:
    • "Flakes"
      All what we got here is American made/ it's a little bit cheesy, but it's nicely displayed
    • "Bobby Goes Brown"
      Oh god, oh god, I'm the American dream/ I do not think I'm too obscene
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Sheik Yerbouti" is only referenced once on the album, in the title track "Sheik Yerbouti's Tango", which is an instrumental track.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: "Bobby Brown Goes Down", "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes".
  • One-Man Song: "Bobby Brown Goes Down".
  • One-Woman Song: "Jones Crusher" and "Jewish Princess".
  • One-Word Title: "Flakes"
  • Painful Rhyme: Played for laughs, in that Zappa clearly needed something funny to rhyme with "empty" and could only come up with SMPTE, a reference to the standard timecode used to label individual frames of video or film.
    They live in a hole
    Which is usually empty
    They live by a code
    That is usually SMPTE
    Which stands for:
    "Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers"
  • The Parody:
    • "I Have Been In You" is a parody of Peter Frampton's "I'm In You".
    • "I'm So Cute" and "Tryin' To Grow Me A Chin" are a parody of Punk Rock.
    • During the middle of "Flakes" Bob Dylan is parodied. Zappa member Adrian Belew explained how this came about:
      I went home with Frank, and he was showing me an upcoming song called "Flakes." Now, a little known fact about Frank is that he really couldn't play and sing at the same time. One of the reasons he hired me, he told me, was because he liked the fact that I sang and played together so well. On a lot of the music, I would double what Frank was doing. I'd double his vocals for him exactly, or I'd be doubling his guitar parts so he could be free to do either one. When he played "Flakes" for me, he also had to sing it. It was kind of unusual. It sounded so bad it sounded like him doing a Bob Dylan impression to me. It sounded like a folk song, which it was anything but. So jokingly I started singing along with it in a Bob Dylan imitation, and he said, "That's it, that's in the show, you're gonna be doing that." - Interview in Gadfly, May 1999.
    • "Wild Love" parodies crooner singers.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: "Jewish Princess"
    So long as she does it with four on the floor
  • Pun-Based Title: On KC & The Sunshine Band's hit "Shake Your Booty", which also gives us the trope Shaking the Rump.
  • Questioning Title?: "Whatever Happened To All The Fun In The World?"
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Yo' Mama".
    You ain't really made for bein' out in the street
    Ain't much hope for a fool like you
    'Cause if you play the game, you will get beat
  • Self-Deprecation: The line "one of my legs is shorter than they other" in "Dancin' Fool" references Zappa's own accident in 1971, when he was pushed off stage by an idiot and had to spent months in the hospital. It caused his voice to be much lower than before and one his legs to be a bit shorter than the other.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: "Bobby Brown Goes Down"
    I'm dressin' sharp 'n I'm actin' cool.
  • Shining City: "City Of Tiny Lites".
  • Shout-Out:
    • Zappa would later name his Concert Film Baby Snakes, after one of the songs on this album.
    • "I Have Been In You" is a stab at Peter Frampton's "I'm In You". The song was also used in the film Happy Together by Wong Kar-Wai, along with "Chunga's Revenge" from the eponymous album.
    • "Flakes" has a Bob Dylan parody half way.
    • "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes" references The Gong Show.
      But you came back on Sunday for the Gong Show
    • "I'm So Cute" starts off with the chant One two three four!, a reference to The Ramones.
    • "Jewish Princess" has the line "Hi-ho, Silver! Away!", a reference to the Catchphrase of the cowboy The Lone Ranger, a character where comedian Lenny Bruce- one of Zappa's influences- once did a routine about too.
    • "Yo' Mama" has a shout-out to Managua, capital of Nicaragua.
  • So You Were Saying...?: "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes" has a mid-section interlude where Zappa and Patrick O'Hearn start trading lines that are apparently a description of upcoming events in some kind of BDSM club. After a while the singer returns to his original point again: "But you forgot what I was saying..."
  • Spoken Word in Music: "What Ever Happened To All The Fun In The World?" and "Wait A Minute" are short interludes between Zappa band members. "The Sheik Yerbouti Tango" has an introduction by Patrick O' Hearn: "Why don't you take it down to C-sharp, Ernie?" "Rat Tomago" ends with O' Hearn laughing: "Oh-ooh-h, listen to him go!" "Dancin' Fool" also ends with a conversation between Zappa and a girl, though we only hear him talking.
  • Title Track: "The Sheik Yerbouti Tango", which is an instrumental.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Rubber Shirt" for a condom.
  • Vagina Dentata: "Jones' Crusher" about a girl who's able to crush male private parts during sex- which isn't exactly this trope, but still worth mentioning.
  • What's an X Like You Doing in a Y Like This?: Phrase heard during "Dancin' Fool".
  • When I Was Your Age...: "Wild Love" compares relationships and dating in both the past and present.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Certain songs are certainly this, including "Baby Snakes".
  • Your Little Dismissive Diminutive: "City Of Tiny Lites".
    • "Dancin' Fool"
      So smoke your little smoke, drink your little drink