DECEMBER 21ST 1979
December 21, 1979
Victoria Theater, NYC, NY
VHS Video Released: 28 October 1987
Running time: 165 minutes
DVD Released: 9 December 2003
Format: DVD NTSC, Region 0 encoded, Dolby Surround 5.1, XBOX/PS2 compatible
Total Running Time: 2 hours, 44 minutes
A movie about people who do stuff that is not normal.
Written, produced, directed & music composed by: Frank Zappa
Animation by: Bruce Bickford
Music performed by: Terry Bozzio, Roy Estrada, Adrian Belew, Ed Mann, Patrick O'Hearn, Tommy Mars, Peter Wolf & Frank Zappa
Featuring: John Smothers & New York's Finest Crazy Persons
(From The Palladium, NYC, NY, October 28-31, 1977, except where indicated)
Baby Snakes (from Sheik Yerbouti)
The Revenge Of The Knick Knack People (from Läther)
The Poodle Lecture
City Of Tiny Lites
Basement Music #2 (from QuAUDIOPHILIAc)
Flakes (Village Recorders, 1978)
Pound For A Brown
I Have Been In You
I'm So Cute (from Sheik Yerbouti)
Titties 'N Beer
The Black Page #2
Broken Hearts Are For Assholes
FZ—lead guitar, vocals
Adrian Belew—guitar, vocals
Tommy Mars—keyboards, vocals
Ed Mann—percussion, vocals
Terry Bozzio—drums, vocals
Roy Estrada—vocals, gas mask
Written, Produced, Directed & Music Composed by:
(in order of appearance playing themselves):
Janet The Planet
Donna U Wanna
Decoding The Plan
On 21 December 1979, Baby Snakes premiered in New York City in Dolby Stereo. FZ set up a special PA system in the theater so it could sound just like a real concert. Cut to:
During Joe’s vault tour of duty 2002/3, he uncovered a 4-channel mix (that have existed for (20) years) for the movie soundtrack. This was a matter of great import. According to the vast knowledge that is (aka Joe’s booklet) this mix had never been issued - not even on the prints for theaters. Why? (It exists on 2-inch analog tape reels - 16 of them – & also on a 35 mm mag film - so says the box containing the reel. Yes, & but also in the vault, suddenly more 2-inch tapes labeled by FZ: “Quad Film Tracks” & dated “Sept. 5, 1979” – Dweezil’s 10th birthday. To Joe, the information on the track sheets suggested 4-channel mixes of material from the movie or possibly intended for the movie . . .??!! And the track sheets defined “Quad” as: Front left & right channels, center channel & mono surround channel. Hmmm. Is this not what later became known as Dolby Pro-Logic?). But, alas, UMRK was down. So was Joe.
You might be wondering, what does this mean? It means he was depressed because he could not listen to a fucking thing!
UMRK was down because it was being reconstituted to accommodate all of the challenges of l.o.r.d. retrieval systems (some have yet to be invented) as well as Futchum (red laser, blue ray and other highly ambient domains).
What else the studio audience doesn’t know is that when first we thought about re-releasing FZ films, the world was in laserdiscotech mode. Although FZ had made D2 Masters, the fates, like Thelma & Louise, took a left at Wednesday. (World turns a bunch here and dvd takes a big byte out of the ass & sample rate of the 12-inch laser.) These masters were edited and prepared by FZ for the laser format circa 1992. Later that nite, Baby Snakes, her very self, pink & wet, demanded to be the best kind of pet – full-blown! Even as archiving is a whole other universe of nightmares & problems across multifarious platforms & formats, it was then that we refused to be foiled by progeric technologies. With purposes and fingers crossed we nevertheless entered the dvd domain. (You might have noticed our thundering approach with the release of Halloween.)
Up go the shaving heads. At this point in the development of our plot, we decided to remaster the existing 2-trk mix & master the mystery 4-trk mix for academy consideration. The sixteen tapes were heat treated, Suzy Homemaker style, at Capitol Studios, then transported personally by Joe, his very self, to Future Disc. They’ve got the big honkin converters for the transfer from analog to digital. And they’ve got Steve. After the conversion the mastering could be done by Steve Hall. And then we won’t be small! What a grand idea thought everyone in unison. Oops! Down go the shaving heads. Steve’s Sonic Solutions addressed only 8 channels. We had at least 9. (Insert lyrics to the song Baby Snakes right now.) Back to Joe’s booklet – for Kent Huffnagle’s emergency phone number! And lo, he did emerge - with his portable ProTools rig at the ready, to synchronize and lock audio to smpte time code (one of the 9 channels) – the make-up, in its new digital format – the costume.
Nine reels into the transfer session the horrorful unrelenting truth ravelled. The mix fell apart. Joe did not. He was moved by an other Master. With his index finger fixed firmly in the upper margins of the effluvium he declared, pointedly & heroically & very unlike MacArthur, “I’m going to the Vault!” Mystery solved. The very bad (& the not so bad) tapes were returned to the dark ages from whence they shall ne’ermore return. Cluelessness is not an option. The lad searched the night for any tapes that could possibly contain a workable version of this mix. (As in a worthy version of the actual soundtrack in its entirety.)
What about those “Quad Film Track” reels, then? At Utility Muffin Research Kitchen (and at Capitol) Joe set about baking this new batch – the first step in the recipe for playback. This is the moment of greatest risk (and reward). Can it play? Maybe we have just this one shot to make the transfer. [Xfer = (2joe+ umrk) + (kent + rig)]. Can the data be retrieved? Will it be destroyed before we even know what we’ve lost? Something? Anything? Is it great? Is that all there is? Is it all there? These reels contain bitchen 4-track mixes of all of the concert performances in the film – and then some.
Here’s where the plot gets slippery. Ok. The tapes are great. It’s all FZ mixes. And it’s all the concert performances and even some rehearsals. But what it’s not: The Soundtrack to Baby Snakes. Intact. Ouch! What means this? Maybe the soundtrack would have to be completely rebuilt. And if from scratch, what the hell does that exist of?
But nothing (neither rain nor scratch) can deter our intrepid Vaultmeister from his appointment with destiny. Bring it! Armed with these transfers and a spiffy studio version of the song Baby Snakes from 1978 4-track mixes by FZ with Joe Chicarelli, and the original dolby stereo film track (for replacement parts that were not in evidence elsewhere) Joe, and the beamish buff, Huffnagle, verily set forth in service to Noblesse Assemblage. And therefore was it brought to the lowly & humble mixlab-h* of Kent. . And also was it brought the wondrous 21st century munitions: Mother’s Original Circus Animal Cookies & everpopular Snickers’ Pop’ables. Thusly bolstered, holstered & upholstered and with good taste did they use the original 2-track audio of the film. To mirror the soundtrack. To faithfully recreate each & every single edit made by FZ. From each and every music source. And to correct pitch - due to vast continental drift and frame rate tensile calisthenics. Three days of the condor later did our crusading chocolateers emerge.
The newly reconstituted Baby Snakes was delivered to Dweezil at the newly reconfigured UMRK.
Dateline Los Angeles: Dweezil mixes it up with Joe and Kent. Steve Hall remasters 2-track & masters 5.1 audio.
p.s. wherever we should have used capital letters and didn’t it’s because we’re on a budget and we can’t afford them.
* not to be confused with a canine breed.