fz in electric don quixote wrote:
The simple thought behind Thing-Fish is that somebody manufactured a disease called AIDS and they tested it. They were developing it as a weapon and they tested it on convicts, the same way they used to do experiments on black inmates, using syphillis...
Between 1984 (Thing-Fish's release date) and 1988 (YCDTOSA Vol. 1's release date) I may have listened to Thing-Fish five times. I had heard most of the material before, and the new versions of the older pieces seemed unnecessary, tedious and soul-less. In the case of "You Are What You Is" and "No Not Now" in particular, Ike Willis' asides seemed distracting; I felt the same way about Johnny "Guitar" Watson's mutterings during "He's So Gay." Listening to "Thing-Fish" seemed like a big waste of time. I didn't allow it to register as an important work, just as a negligible exercise in a silliness I hadn't noticed from Zappa before.
As a result, "The Mammy Anthem" from YCDTOSA Vol. 1 resonated in my head as a stand-alone piece; I didn't relate it to Thing-Fish and as a result didn't listen to the piece with a mind toward the lyrics ("we be lookin' good wit de nakkin on," etc.) As a piece of music, "The Mammy Anthem" is one heck of a powerful, ballsy, distorted heavy guitar-saturated rock instrumental with interesting accent shifts in regular 4/4 time. Why on earth would Frank want to mess around with something so cool-sounding? Why would he want to suck the life out of this piece by adding vocals purportedly sung by actors portraying potato-headed beings dressed as nuns singing about their appearances?
It's because Frank's music is about the travesty of power. In "Thing-Fish" we can see his thought processes about "product" and "entertainment" more clearly than ever...
In "Thing-Fish" we can almost see Frank's artistic processes play out before our eyes. It seems that it was his intention to give his fans a one-time-only glimpse of his artistic mode of operation. Even if the music isn't suited to one's personal taste (and I believe this was an artistic consideration on the part of Frank, knowing that the subject matter and familiarity with the material would cause outright rejection by all but those who wish to catch a full view of Frank working...always working) one can appreciate the up-close, horrific, shocking view of The Evil Prince himself, unflinching and unbending in the face of the repercussions of digging it while it's happening.