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Music / Zoot Allures

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Good allures...

Zoot Allures is a 1976 album by Frank Zappa. Released during the height of a fierce legal battle with former manager Herb Cohen, it's notable for being Zappa's only official release on Warner (Bros.) Records. The lawsuit with Cohen placed a temporary freeze on Zappa's contract with DiscReet Records, and to get around this, his recording contract was briefly shifted directly to Warner themselves, who were DiscReet's main distributors. The end result is probably one of the most mutually cooperative efforts between Zappa and Warner since Apostrophe (').

The album was initially envisioned as a double-LP, only to be cut down to a single record by Zappa himself as production went on; some of these axed songs, featured on a test pressing of the double-LP draft, would eventually make their way onto Sleep Dirt and Läther, while the final single-record album would add in "Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station" and the Title Track. Zoot Allures is best known for his audience favorites "Black Napkins," "The Torture Never Stops," "Wonderful Wino," "Disco Boy" and "Zoot Allures," which became staples of his concerts for years to come.


Side One

  1. "Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station" (2:30)
  2. "Black Napkins" (4:15)
  3. "The Torture Never Stops" (9:46)
  4. "Ms. Pinky" (3:40)

Side Two

  1. "Find Her Finer" (4:07)
  2. "Friendly Little Finger" (4:17)
  3. "Wonderful Wino" (3:38)
  4. "Zoot Allures" (4:13)
  5. "Disco Boy" (5:10)


  • Frank Zappa: vocals, guitar, bass, synthesizer, keyboards.
  • Davey Moire: vocals
  • Andre Lewis: vocals, organ
  • Roy Estrada: vocals, bass
  • Ruben Ladron de Guevara: vocals
  • Napoleon Murphy Brock: vocals, sax
  • Terry Bozzio: vocals, drums
  • Lu Ann Neill: harp
  • Sparkie Parker: vocals
  • Dave Parlato: bass
  • Ruth Underwood: synthesizer, marimba
  • Captain Beefheart: harmonica

The Tropin' Never Stops...

  • The Alcoholic: The wino in "Wonderful Wino".
  • Alliterative Title: "Wind Up Workin' In A Gas Station", "Find Her Finer", "Friendly Little Finger", "Wonderful Wino".
  • Anti-Love Song: "Find Her Finer" implies that women don't like smart men, so you might as well act dumb.
    But believe me later on you'll find
    As you impress her with your mind
    That you would just be left behind
    For a wiser fool
  • Bawdy Song: "Mrs. Pinky" (about a sex doll), "Find Her Finer" (about fingering women for sexual gratification) and "Friendly Little Finger" (though the latter is instrumental).
  • Big Bad: The evil prince in "The Torture Never Stops"
    He's the best, of course, of all the worst.
    Some wrong been done he done it first
  • Book Ends: "Find Her Finer", about finding a woman's clitoris is followed by the instrumental track "Friendly Little Finger".
  • Broken Record: "The Torture Never Stops".
    All men be cursed!
  • Call-Back and Continuity Nod:
    • Zappa sings with a German accent near the end of "Wind Up Workin' In A Gas Station". He used German language often in his work. The song also attacks the American school system, a theme he touched before in his songs, most notably on Freak Out and Absolutely Free.
    • "Black Napkins" would later be reworked as "Pink Napkins" on ''Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar" (1981).
    • "The Torture Never Stops" was a popular staple of Zappa's live shows and can be heard live on Zappa in New York (1978) and The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life (1991). On the latter album "Find Her Finer" and the title track of "Zoot Allures" are also performed.
    • People being locked up in "The Torture Never Stops" brings back images of "Concentration Moon" and "The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny" from We're Only in It for the Money. Joe too is locked up halfway Joe's Garage (1979).
    • The iron sausage mentioned in "The Torture Never Stops" is a throwback to the sausage (penis) in "St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast" in Apostrophe (') (1974) and would be referenced again during "Dong Work For Yuda" on Joe's Garage (1979).
    • "Mrs. Pinky" is about a sex doll, a theme that Zappa would revisit later on Joe's Garage (1979) during the tracks "Stick It Out" and "Sy Borg", and on Thing-Fish (1985), during "Artificial Rhonda" . In the trailer for Baby Snakes (1979) an inflatable sex doll is described as "Mrs. Pinky's larger sister".
    • Near the end of "You Are What You Is" from You Are What You Is (1980) the line "give me a five dollar bill and an overcoat too" from "Wonderful Wino" is repeated.
    • The line "you never go doody/ that's what you think" in "Disco Boy" shares a similar theme with "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes" on Sheik Yerbouti, where Zappa sings: "Don't fool yerself girl, it's goin' right up yer poop chute." It's brought up again during "Crab-Grass Baby" on Thing-Fish (1985).
    • "Disco Boy" and "Dancin' Fool" from Sheik Yerbouti (1979) are both attacks on the then current disco trend.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: "The Torture Never Stops".
    Knives 'n spikes 'n guns 'n the likes of every tool of pain
    An' a sinister midget with a bucket an' a mop where the blood goes down the drain
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: A giant fire puffer in "The Torture Never Stops". Every "tool of pain" is there too.
  • Creepy Doll: "Ms. Pinky", a sex doll that Zappa once saw in a Finnish porn magazine and absolutely horrified him because it has a baby sized head.
  • Depraved Dwarf: One appears in "The Torture Never Stops".
    A sinister little midget with a bucket and a mop/ where the blood goes down the drain
  • Did Not Get the Girl: The disco boy in "Disco Boy" sees his friend leave with the girl he longed for. Zappa comforts him with the words:
    Thank the Lord that you still got hands that help you do that jerking that will blot out your disco sorrow.
  • The Dung Ages: "The Torture Never Stops" evokes all the clichés about medieval dungeons.
    Fifty ugly soldiers, man, holdin' spears by the iron door
    Knives 'n spikes 'n guns 'n the likes of every tool of pain
  • Epic Rocking: "The Torture Never Stops" is over 9:46 minutes long.
  • Evil Laugh: Heard at the start of "Find Her Finer".
  • Evil Prince: Character in "The Torture Never Stops".
  • Fading into the Next Song: The final scream from "The Torture Never Stops" rolls the listener in "Ms. Pinky".
  • Gratuitous French: "Zoot Allures" is actually a bilingual pun, on the French expression "zut alors" - which, if you're curious, is the closest expression the French have for "Gosh darn it!".
  • Gratuitous German: "Wind Up Workin' In A Gas Station" has Zappa fall in near the end, sing in a mock German accent.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: The screams of the tortured women in "The Torture Never Stops" hold the middle between screams of pain and orgasmic pleasure. Zappa advises the listeners during "Find Her Finer" to focus more on giving girls orgasms by finding their "finer" than trying to impress them with knowledge.
  • Instrumental: "Black Napkins", "Friendly Little Finger" and the title track.
  • Ironic Nursery Rhyme: The lines "show your thumb: are you dumb?" in "Wind Up Workin' In A Gas Station" reference a children's nursery rhyme.
  • Large Ham: Zappa seems to parody Vincent Price's voice while evoking his medieval torture imagery during "The Torture Never Stops".
  • Locked in the Dungeon: The protagonists in "The Torture Never Stops".
  • Loves the Sound of Screaming: Most of "The Torture Never Stops" is made up of two women screaming in agony and/or orgasmic ecstasy.
  • Mummy: "Find Her Finer"
    ''Wrap like a mummy 'til you finally unwind her"
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "Ms. Pinky" , a rollicking rock track about a sex doll.
  • Nobody Touches the Hair: The disco boy in "Disco Boy" keeps returning to the toilets to comb his hair into model.
    Leave his hair alone/ but you can kiss his comb.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The title doesn't appear in the lyrics. Though the wino in "Wonderful Wino" is wearing a zoot suit.
  • One-Man Song: "Disco Boy".
  • One-Woman Song: "Ms. Pinky", even though she is a doll.
  • Phony Degree: "Wind Up Workin' In A Gas Station".
    You oughta now know of all your education: you're gonna wind up working in a gas station
  • Product Placement:
    • The sex doll in "Mrs. Pinky" really existed and Zappa even names the price: $69.95.
    • "Wonderful Wino"
    ''Give me a five dollar bill and a Florscheim shoe"
    • "Disco Boy"
    Gonna fall for your line and feed you a box full of "Chicken Delight
  • Pun-Based Title: "Zoot Allures" is a pun on the French expression "zut alors" ("gosh darn it"). The track "Find Her Finer" is a Double Entendre on the finer of a photographic camera and a clitoris.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • "Black Napkins" was inspired by a real bad dinner, as Zappa explained:
    "Black Napkins" is a song I've had for year or more but it was finally named last Thanksgiving when we were having this horrible Thanksgiving dinner in Milwaukee. Sliced turkey roll with the fucking preservatives just gleaming off it, and this beat-up cranberry material. The final stroke to this ridiculous dinner was the black napkins, sitting next to the dishes. That really said the most about the dinner.
    • "Ms. Pinky" was written when a Finnish fan lend Zappa his favorite porno magazine, Kille. In it Zappa saw a picture of a truly awful looking sex toy. In his own words:
    There was an ad for Pinky. It was head with its mouth wide open and its eyes shut and a short haircut. And I thought : Hmmmmm, anyone who's gonna buy a plastic head to give himself a gum job is right out there. By the time we got to Amsterdam I sent Smothers out to buy one, to use on stage. Sure enough, for $69.95 he came back with Ms. Pinky. It was even worse than I had imagined. Not only is it a head, but it's the size of a child's head. The throat is sponge rubber and it's got the vibrator in it with battery pack and a two-speed motor. Sticking out of its neck is a nozzle with a squeeze bulb that makes the throat contract.
    • "Disco Boy" came about after Zappa visited a Danish discothéque called The Disc Club.
  • Sex Bot: "Mrs. Pinky".
  • Shout-Out:
    • The "stones weeping greenish drops" line in "The Torture Never Stops" is a shout-out to Béla Bartók's opera Duke Bluebeard's Castle, in which the walls of the castle cry green tears.
    • "Friendly Little Finger" ends with a quote from the Christian song "Bringing In The Sheaves", which leads to "Wino Man".
    • "Disco Boy" references the advertising slogan for "Chicken Delight".
    • The title "Wonderful Wino" is from a George Carlin bit.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Manny the Camper in "Wind Up Workin' In A Gas Station". All Zappa ever said about him was that he was just anybody named Manny who had an RV (...) It's probably bullet-proof. One more thing is maybe he'll return to Managua. You could go unnoticed in such a place.note  (Quoted from "They're Doing the Interview of the Century, Part 1", 1993 interview by Den Simms and Eric Buxton.)
  • Special Guest:
    • Lady Bianca (Bianca Odin) sings the high vocals of "Wind Up Workin' In A Gas Station". She only toured with Zappa's band for about a year and this track was her only official contribution to a regular Zappa studio album.
    • Gail, Zappa's wife and a friend of hers are heard moaning during "The Torture Never Stops". In an interview with "The Daily Mirror" from February 14, 1977 Zappa said: "The sound effects to 'The Torture Never Stops' were an evening's work. We did most of it in the bedroom of my house. There were two chicks there – one was my wife – plus myself. I think they enjoyed it very much. We got four hours on tape and then cut it down to just under ten minutes. My friend opens up with a the first grunt and it carries on from there. Er, I don't think it's worth telling you precisely what went on ... you wouldn't be allowed to publish it."
    • Captain Beefheart performing mouth harmonica during "Mrs. Pinky" and "Find Her Finer".
  • Spelling Song: "Mrs. Pinky"
    And her name is P-I-N-K-Y
    P-I-N, I cry
    K-Y, don't be shy
  • Step Up to the Microphone: The squealing women in "The Torture Never Stops" are apparently Zappa's wife Gail and a friend of hers.
  • Take That, Audience!:
    • "Wind Up Working In A Gas Station".
    This here song might offend you some
    If it does it's because you're dumb.
    • "Find Her Finer":
    Now maybe you might think this is crude
    And maybe you might think I am rude
    And maybe this approach I have spewed
    Is not the one for you
  • Take That!:
    • "Mrs. Pinky" pokes fun at sex toys and the kind of people who enjoy using them.
    • "Wonderful Wino" depicts wine lovers as pathetic losers.
    • "Disco Boy" is aimed at Disco.
    • "The Torture Never Stops" started as an attack on Captain Beefheart called "Why Doesn't Someone Get Him A Pepsi?", mocking Beefheart for sitting in his mom's house listening to R&B and demanding a Pepsi from his mother. The only bit left from the original version is the lines about the evil prince.
  • Torture Cellar: "The Torture Never Stops" takes place in a dungeon.
  • Torture for Fun and Information: This seems to be Zappa's motivation in writing the song and that of the Evil Prince and his torturers.
  • Toilet Humour: See Bawdy Song.
    • When Zappa played "Black Napkins" in Ljubliana, Yugoslavia note , on November 22, 1975 he introduced it with the following words:
    This is an instrumental song, it's a tender, slow, moving ballad sort of song that cares with it the implied message that the complete woman must also have an asshole...
    • The wino in "Wonderful Wino" loses "control of his body functions on a roller-headed lady's front lawn".
    • The disco boy thinks "he never go doody", but Zappa adds: "That's what you think."
  • Torture Chamber Episode and Torture Cellar: "The Torture Never Stops" evokes medieval dungeon imagery.
  • Torture Porn: The female screams in "The Torture Never Stops" often sound like orgasmic moaning.
  • Torture Technician: "The Torture Never Stops"
    His carving style is well rehearsed.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    • "Find Her Finer"
    Find her Finer
    • "Mrs. Pinky"
    You can poot it/ you plook it
  • Wine Is Classy: Averted in "Wonderful Wino", the wine drinker describes himself as having bugs in his zoot suit and stenching like a dog, as well as drinking under a table.
  • Wolf Whistle: "Find Her Finer"
    If you should see a girl on the street (wolf whistle)...