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Music / The Perfect Stranger

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Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger, aka The Perfect Stranger is a 1984 Classical Music album by Frank Zappa, made in collaboration with composer/conductor Pierre Boulez. Since Boulez' renowned status in classical music circles the album gave Zappa more attention and prominence in that world. On his debut album Freak Out Zappa had named Boulez one of his influences, so the respect was mutual.

On a somewhat more trivial note, this album was the first in Zappa's back-catalog to be officially released on the Compact Disc format, via EMI's classical music division and under the "EMI Digital" banner, owing to it being a fully digital recording, Zappa's first in his official discography. Zappa would continue to stick with digital recording and mixing technology for the remainder of his career, all the way until his death in 1993.


Side One

  1. "The Perfect Stranger" (12:42)
  2. "Naval Aviation in Art?" (2:28)
  3. "The Girl in The Magnesium Dress" (3:27)

Side Two

  1. "Outside Now Again" (4:06) note 
  2. "Love Story" (1:00)
  3. "Dupree's Paradise" (7:54) note 
  4. "Jonestown" (7:07)


  • Frank Zappa: composition
  • Pierre Boulez: conductor.
  • Ensemble Intercontemporain: orchestra.
  • Donald Roller Wilson: album cover design

Naval Aviation in Tropes?

  • All There in the Manual: The booklet inside the CD explains the concepts behind the tracks.
  • Anachronism Stew: The dog in 16th century clothing on the album cover is wearing Cool Shades.
  • Anatomically Impossible Sex: The couple in "Love Story".
  • And Starring: Pierre Boulez.
  • Classical Music: Three tracks are performed by a classical orchestra, Ensemble Intercontemporain, conducted by Pierre Boulez: "The Perfect Stranger", "Naval Aviation In Art?" and "Dupree's Paradise".
  • Call-Back and Continuity Nod:
    • "Outside Now" appeared earlier on Joe's Garage. "Naval Aviation In Art?" appeared earlier on Orchestral Favorites (1979) and would reappear again on L├Ąther (1996). "The Girl In The Magnesium Dress" would be performed again on The Yellow Shark (1993).
    • The same shades wearing dog would appear on the album cover of Zappa's Francesco Zappa (1984) and Them or Us (1984) albums. Also, dog imagery happened before in Zappa's lyrics.
  • Cool Old Guy: The old Republican couple in "Love Story". Never mind their political opinions: having sex while you're breakdancing? That's a pretty impressive feat.
  • Cool Shades: The ones the dog wears on the album cover.
  • Cult Colony: "Jonestown", about the real life murderous Jim Jones cult.
  • Dancing Is Serious Business: Subverted by "Love Story", where an old Republican couple tries to have sex while breakdancing.
  • Den of Iniquity: "Dupree's Paradise", as Zappa explained in the liner notes:
    Dupree's Paradise is about a bar on Avalon Boulevard in Watts at 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday in 1964, during the early morning jam session. For about seven minutes, the customers (winos, musicians, degenerates and policemen) do the things that set them apart from the rest of society.
  • Drinking the Kool-Aid: "Jonestown" is inspired by the Jim Jones cult, whose leader ordered his 800 members to drink a poisoned Kool Aid cocktail, killing them and himself off. This happened in a secluded place in the jungle of Guyana, called "Jonestown".
  • Epic Rocking: "The Perfect Stranger" and "Dupree's Paradise".
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: "The Girl in the Magnesium Dress" is about a girl who is able to kill men with her magnesium dress.
  • Instrumentals: All tracks are orchestral music.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Jonestown", a haunting instrumental piece inspired by the mass suicide of the members of Jim Jones' cult. It is also the final track.
  • Longest Song Goes First: The album opens with the 12:42 Title Track, the only song on the album to surpass ten minutes.
  • Miniscule Rocking: The one minute long "Love Story".
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: The haunting track "Jonestown".
  • One-Woman Song: "The Girl in the Magnesium Dress".
  • Packaged as Other Medium: The cover looks like a baroque painting.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: "Jonestown" was inspired by the 1978 Jonestown Massacre in Guyana, where cult leader Jim Jones forced the members of his group to drink Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. This lead to over 900 deaths, including women and children.
  • Singer Name Drop: "Dupree's Paradise" was named after one of the musicians in the orchestra, Duprez.
  • Stock Sound Effects: "The Perfect Stranger" starts with the sound of a doorbell.
  • Synthpop: "The Girl in the Magnesium Dress", "Outside Now Again", "Love Story" and "Jonestown" were recorded on a Synclavier computer, making them effectively Zappa's first official releases with that instrument. Francesco Zappa (1984) would be his first completely Synclavier played release.
  • Title Track: "The Perfect Stranger".
  • Writer's Block: The sailor in "Naval Aviation In Art?", who tries to paint while being aboard of a ship at night, but lacks inspiration.