Frank Zappa

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Vox Populi, Aug 15, 2005.

  1. Vox Populi

    Vox Populi Reggae Loving Honkey

    Jan 27, 2004
    Poulsbo, WA
    ... As a bassist! Not just guitarist and musical visionary. I'm listening to Hot Rats right now, and I see that he's also credited in the liner notes for the excellent bass playing on this album.

    Zappa was an awesome man. I really wish he was still alive. :crying:

    By the way, anyone know what basses he used in recording? Something Fender, I'd imagine. Also, and pics of Frank playing bass?

    EDIT: Nevermind, it has Frank Zappa credited for bass, but later on it credits Max Bennet for most songs.
  2. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Yeah, I never liked that about Zappa, I noticed on the back of Apostrophe, there is credit for a group of bassists, including himself... but you don't know what tracks they played on... except Jack Bruce of course. ;)
  3. Tom Fowler, a very under-rated bassist, played with FZ for 25 years. See

    The only time I saw the Mothers of Invention live (here in Salt Lake City, where the Fowler's are from), there were three Fowler brothers onstage: Tom on bass, Bruce on trombone and Walt on trumpet.
  4. On "Peaches en Regalia" the electric-bass was played by Shuggie Otis (he was born in 1953, so he would have been ~15 or 16)

    - Wil
  5. I think it was Fowler who played those amazing lines on perhaps Zappa's most infamous album Overnite Sensation.

    Just brilliant.
  6. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Way back, I remember "the self-proclaimed Clapton down the street" lauding the talents of some young kid guitarist named Shuggie Otis(his dad was Johnny Otis).

    Max Bennett?
    IIRC, he used Fender P-basses back in the day. Check him(& Robben Ford) out on Tom Cat by Tom Scott & The LA Express.

    ...and Tom Fowler is happenin'.
  7. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    Another thing to keep in mind is that depending on what release of an album you have you might be hearing bass parts that Frank re-recorded himself, but 20 or more years later. This definitely happened on the remastered Uncle Meat, and Freak Out.

    Also, if you look around on the web you will find more detailed information about who played on which tracks. Frank was very particular about bass, and used a lot of players in the MOI recording sessions. Jim Fielder of BS&T is one of the guys that surprises some folks. The best source I know of is United Mutations musicians timeline which does a good job at tracking the players and when/what they were involved with.

    When I tell folks that I like Roy Estrada the best they think I must be nuts. I won't say he is the best bass player, just that I llike his playing and I think that he made the most of sheer hard work and knowing the material. Take a look at that list and see how many killer players are in there. Guys like Fowler, Pons, Barrow, and Thunes are all amazing players.
  8. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    You might notice that Tom didn't play with Zappa for 25 years! He played with Zappa for about 6 years and those recordings have been coming out ever since. He was in the "Roxy and Elsewhere" band, which you can hear in great form on YCDTOSA Vol.2, and he was in the Bongo Fury roadshow with Zappa/Beefheart. So his tenure really runs from about 1971 to 1976, and he may have been in and out of the studio before things got out of hand with WBros and then you have Patrick O'Hearn (another amazing player).
  9. Muzique Fann

    Muzique Fann Howzit brah

    Dec 8, 2003
    Kauai, HI
    I'll take Scott Thunes anyday over any other Zappa bassist.

    On a side note: Phish used to do a ripping cover of Peaches...

  10. +1!! He's a little bit of a pedantic pr*ck, but an amazing musician. Zappa's '88 band was my absolute favorite.
  11. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    I think I like Patrich O'hearn the best.
  12. Wayner


    May 7, 2004
    Maryland, USA
    Fowler's playing on FZ's live recordings and albums is outstanding - I'd love to know what kind of bass he played myself.

    As far as FZ himself goes, his creativity and musicianship continues to astonish me to this day. FZ also in my opinion used the bass in rock music as well or better than anyone I've ever heard.
  13. You're right, of course. I made the mistake of adding 2+2 and getting 5, which I'm perfectly capable of doing.
  14. mrcircle

    mrcircle peacenik Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2003
    Boise, ID
    When I attended a week-long intensive with Jeff at his Players School last March, he had the original bass parts (hand-written by FZ himself) for three compositions Jeff played on, beautifully framed and hanging on the school walls, like the works of art they are. I'm a great a great admirer of Frank's work but not a devout student, so I can't quite remember which tunes they were, but I remember thinking they were from earlier in his career, i.e. '70s. Very impressive, a challenge to any bassist's reading skills.
  15. Zappa's Halloween show DVD-Audio is also one of the few instances i've found where having two bassists playing simultaneously in a band has worked. I'm sure there's plenty out there I haven't heard, but i've tried it and know how hard it can be. That dvd is super-cool (as is Quaudiophiliac).
  16. Joe Garage

    Joe Garage

    Mar 13, 2005
    The Halloween DVD is amazing! I love the improvised opening track Ancient Armaments and the Black Napkins (the Deathless Horsie! I wonder if he dobble tracked the bass on any of his studio recordings?
  17. zombywoof5050


    Dec 20, 2001
    I've seen Tom Fowler (not in person but on videos, and on separate occasions) playing a Fender Precision, a Fender Jazz, and an Alembic Series bass (I don't recall if it was a I or a II). On the legendary Roxy video, soon to be released (but don't hold your breath, we've been waiting for decades now it seems), he's playing a Precision. Whether he plays any other basses on that one, I'll guess we'll see when the DVD finally comes out.

    Jeff Berlin once said in an interview that Frank's bass parts were the most challenging that he's ever had to learn.

    I'm aware that Jeff was sent some bass parts to learn (and I'm assuming that these are the challenging pieces that I just mentioned above), but I was not aware that any of Jeff's playing ever made it onto a record. I read that Vinnie (Colaiuta) and Jeff were trying to increase their payscale behind Frank's back and then got fired for it, and I thought that this happened before Jeff got to record anything. If anyone knows about any Zappa recordings with Jeff playing bass, I'd really like to know what they are.

    Oh, and I can't really pick a favorite Zappa bassist because I like them all.

    Oh, and back to the original topic....I have no idea what kind of bass Frank used when he played but I'd imagine a Fender. I'm sure he must have used a bit of processing too (like he was known to do), but I have no ideas on what he used. For a dose of Frank's bass playing, check out "Zoot Allures". Frank played the bass on all but two of the songs on that record, nothing particularly mind-blowing but still good and with some cool tone.
  18. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    I have an old vinyl copy of Hot Rats and I could swear it lists Max Bennett for all but the tune Shugie plays on. It's not uncommon for credits to change as CD's are reissued. And I guess even a chance I could be wrong ;)

    I met Tom Fowler once, he was a substitute teacher at BIT 20 years ago, he walked in, sat down, smoked a few hits off a small pipe and then taught class. It was a fun day.

    I'm not too familiar with Zappa's later work, could someone suggest a tune or two that highlights Scott Thunes playing?
  19. Vox Populi

    Vox Populi Reggae Loving Honkey

    Jan 27, 2004
    Poulsbo, WA
    It does credit Bennet for all the tunes but Peaches en Regalia. But it also credits Frank for "Bass Guitar" and doesn't list track names or anything. I think they probably mean he wrote the basslines, but Bennett and Otis played them.
  20. zombywoof5050


    Dec 20, 2001
    Listen to songs 10, 11, & 12 ("The Torture Never Stops part 2", "More Trouble every Day", & "Penguin In Bondage"), found on the live recording "The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life". These are some of my favorite examples of Scott's playing.