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Newly hired stunt guitarist Mike Keneally kept an audio journal during most of Frank Zappa's 1988 "Broadway The Hard Way" tour that included set lists, backstage goings-on and many personal observations. Here are the transcripts of Mike's diaries, originally posted in chronological order on their 10-year anniversary dates.

1988 logo

FEBRUARY 13 1988

Let's see, right now it's Friday night, Saturday morning...it's actually Saturday morning but I'm watching "Friday Night Video". Can you hear that in the background? (Music is heard) That is Rick Springfield, whom Van, my keyboard tech, knows and he says I can probably get a job in Rick Springfield's band when the Zappa tour is over. Oh boy. And today is February 12th if you think it's Friday and February 13th if you think it's Saturday, which it is, 2:19 in the morning. And I've got about three days worth of stuff to catch up on.

February 10th, which would be the third day of the Washington D.C gigs, I was awakened by a phone call from either Vivian or Bruce, and then I went to Dupont Circle and got on the Metro, very clean, took that to Metro Center, got off the red line and got on the blue line toward National Airport and got off at the Roslyn exit, where I went to a newsstand and bought a Village Voice which contained a review of our first New York City show at the Beacon. The review was not great. The writer does not agree ideologically with Frank's views or with Frank's method of presenting voter registration messages on stage..."over-simplistic" and all the rest...you've heard it all before. He devoted perhaps two paragraphs to the actual music, and got Walt and Bruce Fowler confused with one another. The usual tale. But I bought it, and here it is now with me.

Then Bruce (Warren) showed up and we went to a Roy Rogers. I read him the review and we had a very nice conversation. Then we walked back to the station and he bade me goodbye, that was the last I would see of him on this tour, most likely. Took the Metro back to the Holiday Inn and relaxed, took a shower, then it was off to the show.

At which point we rehearsed "Sinister Footwear" again --- to prove Bob Stone wrong; it sounded much better, quite acceptable and definitely performable for that evening's shows.

Oh, something I should have mentioned last time --- on February 8, the first night of the Washington run, there was a news crew that had come to interview Frank. It was a live feed, direct from the theatre to television viewers citywide. As a backdrop to the interview the band stood on stage rocking and rolling relentlessly, but without actually producing any sound. The whole band was clumped up at the front of the stage rocking out, without actually doing anything. And of course Frank told me to get on my knees in front and do my rock star stuff. That would be something to get a tape of.

Back to February 19th, Washington D.C.: Daniel Shorr sat in with the band during the first part of the show. Daniel sat in on the "Huddle" before the show; the Huddle occurs before every concert, that's when the whole band gets in a room with Frank and he goes over the setlist and discusses the segues from one song into the next, and any special-type information that needs to be mentioned regarding the festivities to come. So Daniel Shorr was in on it, and we discussed tempos and cues with him, and found out what would be the best key for him "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "Summertime". And the show began with us playing the vamp from "It Ain't Necessarily So", which was in G minor and went "Dunnn, duh-dun Dunt Dunnn, Dunnn duh-dun Dunt Dunnn...". But then it got transposed to C minor because Daniel couldn't sing it in G.

(1998 comment: this was the first time I'd heard this vamp but Frank had used it before: you can hear it, in C# minor, on "It Ain't Necessarily The St. James Infirmary" on the "Guitar" album.)

And then Frank introduced Daniel Shorr and we went into about one and three- quarters bars of "Danny Boy" to accompany him walking onto the stage, which got a big laugh, and then Daniel made a voter registration pitch and then sang "It Ain't Necessarily So", and then left the stage while we played the bridge to "It Ain't Necessarily So" which I don't think was the real bridge, at which point we segued into "Summertime" and he came running back onto the stage to sing a few bars of "Summertime" and then he left. When that was done we went into our "Readers' Digest-Condensed 'No Unwanted Melodies' Medley" of "Aida", "Lohengrin", "Carmen" and "The 1812 Overture" with "There Goes My Baby" being sung over the top of it. "1812" with "There's Goes My Baby" over the top of it means that while the horns were going "Dut-dut-dut-dut-dut-dut Dut Dunt Duhhhn", which I think Bobby was also playing French Horn on, Paul Carmen and I were playing the slow counter-melody under that, and while those things were going on Frank and Ike were on top singing "There goes my baby". It was cool. Probably a one-shot deal. It went straight from there into "Peaches", and then into the "Republican Retrospective Medley" of "Dickie", "Lies", "Baritone", "Pain" and "Jesus". From now on instead of reading off all of those titles I'll just refer to it as the "Republican Retrospective Medley" since that's what Frank has been calling it on stage. This of course usually goes into "Sofa" and this particular evening was no exception. But it doesn't ALWAYS go into "Sofa", so when I say "Republican Retrospective Medley" from now on, it is not "Sofa"-inclusive, it just goes from "Dickie" to "Jesus". After "Sofa" we played the "Orange County" medley, which goes from "Let's Make The Water Turn Black" to "Lumpy Gravy", and that was Set One. Very well- received.

(1998 comment: another version of the "Readers' Digest" medley, minus "There Goes My Baby", can be heard as part of "Big Swifty" on "Make A Jazz Noise Here".)

Back we came to start Set Two with the bet-busting "Sinister Footwear". It started out wonderfully, all the ensemble unison passages were as tight as pie, everything was terrific until Frank strapped on his guitar and tried to plunge into a solo, and something wasn't happening, probably with his transmitter, so it was no go on the guitar solo and he quickly pointed at Paul to take up the slack. From that point on it started to crumble around the edges; Frank forgot how long this one particular section was supposed to last, and some members of the group forged ahead into the next section while others stayed where they were, and so instead of going seamlessly from one section to the next we just kind of melted from thing to thing. It probably sounded very interesting. The melody on the second half was well-performed, as I recall. I know I didn't hit any wrong notes. From that it went into "Bacon Fat" which we haven't played so far on the tour, but it wasn't "Bacon Fat", it's been changed to "Confinement Loaf". Now, I don't think I've discussed what confinement loaf is yet on this tape, but it was a unifying thread between the three Washington shows, as well as tonight's first show in Pittsburgh --- not Pittsburgh, where am I? Philadelphia. I'm in Philadelphia right now. It's true, it's true, what they say about being on the road, you forget where you are. Um, confinement loaf is something that Ike had seen a report about on CNN, which is some kind of bean by-product mixed with water, and formed into a loaf shape as if to resemble meat loaf. And this is served to problem inmates in prisons, people with behavioral maladjustments, and this stuff, whatever it is, bean curd, is supposed to calm them down. The bad attitude people get taken care of right away. And the name of this stuff is confinement loaf, although I think that might have been just the name which Ike invented to describe it, I'm not totally straight on that. Ike told Frank about it and this was naturally right up Frank's alley, so many lyrics were suitably altered. So for "Bacon Fat" Frank completely rewrote the lyrics, and it also contained references to "CBS News Nightwatch" - I'm trying to remember how the second verse went: "Then I went and did some network T.V./His name was Charlie and he listened to me/He said "What about this song about Pat?"/I said "He's lame, can we agree upon that?"/"If that is so, then who should we back?"/I said "Let's get Mario and watch those Nazis react". 'Cause Frank likes Mario Cuomo. I'm trying to remember how the first verse went, it had something to do with some people not wanting Frank to play in their town because he is an "oaf", they don't like the political views of this "oaf", we should get him a corner and give him "loaf" or something like that.

(1998 comment: the version of "Confinement Loaf" which was released under the name "Bacon Fat" on the "Broadway The Hard Way" CD contains only the first verse which I was just trying to remember, omitting the entire second verse quoted above, as well as virtually all (except for the final bar) of a new second chorus which was added later in the tour: "We oughta be draftin' him, draftin' him, draftin' him, draftin' him, draftin' him, draftin' him, draftin' him, draftin' him, NOW." This is the source of the single word "NOW" which closes the released version of the song. The "Charlie" in the omitted second verse is Charlie Rose, who was then the anchor of "CBS News Nightwatch".)

It went from "Bacon Fat" into "Stolen Moments", which was the first time we've played that on the tour, and once again, while Frank was tossing solos around from guy to guy, his guitar didn't work, he had kicked in his two guitar loops and was getting prepared to do his loop solo, and the guitar didn't work, so he pointed over at me to do a solo. I thought I was going to be playing over the loops and I did for a few seconds but then he unceremoniously stomped them to a halt and I was left on my own. I didn't have any time at all to think about the solo, so naturally it turned out unusually okay. After the show Dweezil told me it was a really good solo, and I mentioned how easy it is at times with that backing on stage to lapse into "Frankisms" during a solo. And he noticed a couple, but we both agreed that there are times when those are just the best notes you can possibly play during those moments. Which in this instance were literally stolen. So went from that into "What's New In Baltimore", first time we played that one also. Possibly a touch too fast, no thanks to me, as Ed and Chad and I discussed after the show, but still pretty good for its first performance of the tour. From "Baltimore" to "Peace Corps" to "Trouble/Lonesome" to "Penguin" to "Green Hotel" and that was the second set. First encore: "Whipping Post" and "Walrus". During "Whipping Post" Scott frantically motioned for me to stand in a line with him, Frank and Ike at the front of the stage during the harmonized guitar lines so that it would look like rock and roll. Second encore was "Stairway" and "Genteel". Lately "Stairway" has not been the very last song of the set, so when I'm on my back on the floor I have to get up in a fucking hurry so I can hit the downbeat of "Genteel". I have definitely noticed a larger crowd response when Frank has been introducing me lately, even at the beginning of the show, so either the shows are filled with people who have seen us already, or people are telling their friends that the new guy is OK to applaud for.

After that show we went back to the hotel, where nothing happened.

The morning of February 11, 1988, the last day in Washington, D.C., I put the bags by the door, room service brought up an omelette and "Speedway" with Elvis Presley was on Showtime on channel 6. At the end of "Speedway" there was a cartoon by John and Faith Hubley who did all those neat odd cartoons in the sixties with people doing improvised dialogue, and this particular one was called "The Hat" with Dizzy Gillespie and Dudley Moore improvising the dialogue, and also the music. I was already a few minutes into it when the phone rang and Scott said "Channel 6. CLICK." So when we met in the lobby we discussed how cool a little cartoon it was. And then Bobby Ward said "everybody get in the bus" and it didn't even register to me that he said "bus" and not "van", but when we got out to the curb there was a real live cool painted-up rock and roll tour bus, just like Dire Straits uses, waiting there for us.

(1998 comment: Bobby Ward was our road manager. This was the first time I'd ever been inside a tour bus. Isn't that precious?)

Sure enough, there's the TV and the steeereo and the twelve bunks and places to sit and stuff to drink, and it's just really cool. And I was tired still so I staked out my bunk and got a little bit of sleep, but mostly just relaxed and read some of "The Glencannon Omnibus" which I'm enjoying quite a bit. The guys up front were watching "Robocop" while I was in the back reading the book and then I listened to one of the tapes I made for the tour. A very pleasant ride from Washington D.C. to Philadephia, which is where we are now. Then we got off the bus and Scott and Bob Stone and I made plans to meet later in the lobby and go looking for history. Which is what we did after putting our stuff in our room. We bundled up, walked out in the very cold, and checked out the City Hall, and a big old shopping mall - Scott needed socks so we went into a JC Penney's but when we came out the other end of the JC Penney's there was a huge, 200-store mall which wasn't visible from where we first entered. So that was neat. Bob Stone has a habit of going into dark alleys and stuff so we had no choice but to follow him, past homeless people and varying degrees of degradation, which is all over the place here in Philadelphia. We went to Independence Hall and we saw the Liberty Bell, which is surrounded by this really dopey, out of place-looking modern structure now, it has nothing to do with liberty, or bells, but I actually felt some kind of physical effect of seeing something significant when I looked at the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, which I don't often get from tourist attractions. After we had walked far enough away from the hotel looking for history, we decided it would be smart to take the subway back. So we did that, with plans to meet another three hours later for dinner.

So three hours later we met downstairs for dinner, and took a taxi to South Street. Earlier Scott had asked an immaculately-attired gentleman where the best restaurants were and he told us "South Street". So we got there expecting some serious swank, and instead got Philly cheese steak joints and pizza parlors and bars. We were surprised that that was that guy considered the hot restaurants, but in retrospect he probably just thought it was the sort of thing we were looking for, the effete bastard. We continued walking towards the waterfront and found a bunch of places which would have been fine, but Bob Stone kept wanting to move on and on, so on and on we moved. Finally we ended up at a place called O'Neil's, which Scott said his girlfriend had eaten at in New York City and recommended it highly. It had very nice ambience, tres sportif, and we had a real good time there. We had a lot of local beer and Chicken McMitchell and mushroom fries, which were actually fried mushrooms. In the restaurant there was a local paper with a big Zappa article in, and I took that with me. And we kept walking after that, sort of aimlessly, I guess we were looking for a taxi but we just kept walking and walking and it was snowing pretty good. There was a bookstore which we checked out, it also had a record annex in the back - fortunately there was nothing I needed to buy back there. I bought the book "Heroes And Villains" about the Beach Boys, by Steven Gaines, the same guy who co-wrote "The Love You Make" about the Beatles I believe. Something about these tell-all books about rock stars, I enjoy reading them when I'm on the road; last year when I did those shows in Mammoth I had "Hammer Of The Gods" with me. I don't why, I think...I don't know why, I just like reading them. So we finally got a taxi and came back to the hotel, and I read quite a bit of that book. And also that day I received a package from Vivian containing a Musician magazine, and the new Mother People, and Rolling Stone, and lots of thermal underwear, and an eyeglass case, and a Chunky, and my new checks from the new account, and Zappa clippings, and a planner, and a laundry marker, and several notes, and a lot of styrofoam popcorn. And finally I went to sleep, very late of course, as is my wont.

Then it was today, or what is now yesterday, but close enough to today to call it that. Friday, February 12th, the first day at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia. I got a call from Bobby Ward saying "come get your perdiem", so I got that and submitted a list of ticket requests. We left for soundcheck a half-hour later than usual, to give the crew more time to get accustomed to the new surroundings. Got there, did the usual running about. We practiced "Uncle Remus" today. I'm still playing the solo intro to that on my little electric piano synth patch, it should be done with an acoustic piano sound but Bobby Martin hasn't learned it yet. Frank asked if I knew "Wonderful Wino" and we did an impromptu version of that. I don't know if that's going to be an addition to the repertoire or not.

(1998 comment: It wasn't.)

And there were some fans in the seats while we were rehearsing, and they had a big applause-fest when we started "Wonderful Wino", so apparently that is a crowd-pleaser, it pleased a crowd of four hippies so it should do the same for 3,000 of them. We ate lamb, and then it was showtime. And tonight's show consisted of: Black Page, The Republican Retrospective Medley into What's New In Baltimore which was taken at a much more leisurely trot this evening - Ed was pleased with it, then Trouble and Penguin and Green Hotel and that was Set One. Set Two was Peace Corps, Tiny Lites, Pound For A Brown, Lucille, Bamboozled by Love and Orange County. I was in a real bouncy mood tonight, I was jumping up and down all over the place, having a real good time. And Scott overcame whatever moroseness has been hindering his usual jovial jubilance; his performances have been pretty muted so far on the tour, but for the last show in Washington and tonight's show he was having a great old time, and therefore we had a lot of interaction on stage. The clothesline on stage is really shaping up, there's all kinds of underwear on there, and it's arranged over my keyboard in such a way so that it doesn't hinder me at all, I'm actually kind of framed by brassieres on either side of the keyboard, and Bob Rice was kind enough to rig up the clothesline tall enough so that I'm not being obscured in any way. It's kind of sweet. Bobby was a little put off before the show because Philadelphia is his home town, and the only song that he sang lead on was "Tiny Lites", but Scott consoled him by reminding him that it's a three-day stand and Bobby was fine. Encore number one was "Uncle Remus", for the first time on the tour --- in fact I've never heard any live version of the song, so I don't know whether Frank's done it before or not. Then "Catholic Girls" and "Crew Slut". Encore number two: "Bobby Brown", "Stairway To Heaven" and "Sofa". At the end of "Stairway" I was flat on my back, and while I was running back to my spot for the beginning of "Sofa" I knocked over a mic stand holding a microphone which was recording audience noise, which will sound wonderful on the tape. After the show Bobby Ward and I went to Rex Style Pizza to get sandwiches. And that's all for today.

Next episode:
FEBRUARY 14 1988

Last episode:
FEBRUARY 10 1988

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