Frank Zappa’s Studio Tan, first released in September 1978 on DiscReet Records, is an album that Zappa would probably not be keen on commemorating, as he was embroiled in a legal battle with Warner Bros. Records and his former manager Herb Cohen.
Artistic visions and record disputes aside, what is worth commemorating — especially when it’s Zappa — is the music itself, particularly the sublime, jazz-and-funk-influenced drumming of Chester Thompson and Paul Humphrey on the album.
Side one of Studio Tan is “The Adventures of Greggery Peccary,” a 20-minute-long epic about a pig moving up the corporate ladder, and one of the very few items to come up when one searches for “songs about pigs.” (Way to corner the market, three little pigs!)
Terry Bozzio, who also played on the album, gave an homage to Thompson in 2002:
“Chester Thompson is the master who played on most of it in the studio. You can kind of hear where I come in at the end where the trumpets play a Varese-like ‘scary movie’ type of motif, and the ambiance is distinctly different from the rest of the studio recorded track. This is because it was recorded at Royce Hall with the 40 piece orchestra.”
On side two, Humphrey keeps it playful, groovy, and absurdist on drums with “Let Me Take You To The Beach,” and then Thompson comes in again on “Revised Music For Guitar And Low-Budget Orchestra.” (An unreleased, alternate version of the song from the 1987 compilation The Guitar World According To Frank Zappa has drum overdubs by the inimitable Chad Wackerman.)
The album ends with the Thompson’s experimental, jazzy playing on “REDUNZL,” (also spelled RDNZL).
For more Zappa, and how drummer Ryan Brown keeps up with Zappa’s varied and extensive catalog on tour with Dweezil Zappa, see our recent feature.
And, test your chops with our Groove Analysis, which teaches you how to play Zappa faves “Who Are The Brain Police?” “The Grand Wazoo,” “Zombie Woof,” and more.
We hope your Sunday is full of, in the words of Greggary Peccary, “dancing with depraved abandon in the vicinity of a six-foot pile of transistor radios (each one tuned to a different station).”