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.
FEBRUARY 19 1988
Hello! I'm watching "Dave" and it's a commercial so I thought I'd recount some of the events of the last couple of days.
Hi! It's February 19, 4:52 AM, I just got in from Scott's room where I spent the last bunch of hours. I have to fill you in on the 17th and 18th.
On the 17th, after turning off the tape recorder for the last entry, I went back to Ike's room and sat there for a long time talking to him and Colin and Colin's buddy. Ike was being terribly complimentary, saying that of all the puppies whom he has seen come and go, only Chad has rivalled me in terms of making a powerful first impression. Ike is taken with my abilities and my attitude, and lack of ego when it comes to being told by Frank to play something. I just play it like I'm supposed to do. No big deal to me, but apparently other people have bridled at the idea of playing the parts which are dictated to them without immediately embellishing upon them. I'm more than happy to play the stuff as written. So I was up late as always, went to sleep late, woke up late.
Got to the rehearsal. We rehearsed lots of stuff which we haven't played yet: "Find Her Finer" - which made the "regulars" at soundcheck applaud - and then "Eat That Question." We had rehearsed it before without the electric piano intro, but tonight Frank asked if I knew it. I'd never played it before, and I kind of ad-libbed my way through it. Frank had us play it two or three times so I could get comfortable with the intro. By the third time I still wasn't playing it anywhere near verbatim, but I had the feeling for it and he seemed satisfied. As I would later learn that evening, much to my surprise. After "Question" we rehearsed "Black Napkins" and Frank decided to combine the two as a medley. Then we started to rehearse "I Come From Nowhere", but a lot of the guys in the band didn't have any recollection of their parts because we hadn't played it in so long. I showed Ed the hard lick, but the horn guys were still struggling so Frank waved it to a halt and we did "Sharleena" instead. "Marqueson's Chicken" was next, sounded fine I thought. "Monde" which, amazingly, we haven't played yet on tour, considering we rehearsed the hell out of it.
(1998 comment: "Monde" is short for "Young And Monde", which was an earlier title for "Let's Move To Cleveland." Although it was renamed "Cleveland" for public consumption long before 1988, it was still referred to on setlists and by Frank as "Monde.")
Then "Sleep Dirt" in a very nice quartet arrangement, just Frank and me and Scott and Chad, very sweet. "Bacon Fat" with the "Confinement Loaf" lyrics into "Stolen Moments", and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" which has a lot of scary notes in it which we're not sure are the right ones or not. And Frank heard from the state of Ohio that they want to make him honorary Secretary of State, and he notified them that he would be very happy to be honorary Secretary of State as long as he gets to make major foreign policy decisions on their behalf.
Then we left the stage a little bit early and had dinner, and we came back and did the show. I thought it was a very nice show. Here's what it was...Set One: "Stink Foot", "Turning Again", "Alien Orifice" - Frank's really been getting into that one - "Why Don't You Like Me", "Bacon Fat/Confinement Loaf", "Stolen Moments", "Montana", "Tiny Lites", "Pound" and "Cosmik Debris." This was the first show where the Octapad was set up next to the Synclavier, so that Frank could play samples with drumsticks during "Pound." And that was a neat portion of the show which got people in the audience going "hoo-wa, hoo- wa." Although Frank's drumming was better in rehearsal. Set two was "Packard Goose", "Ain't Got No Heart", "Love Of My Life", "Any Kind Of Pain", "Torture/Lonesome" and the tour premieres of "Joe's Garage" and "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?". Which went over quite well. A lot of good jumping around and having fun on stage and fun with wigs; I wore Scott's wig while I sang the role of Mrs. Borg in "Joe's Garage." We returned for the first encore and Frank announced that, in keeping with the "Joe's Garage" theme, the first song would be "Watermelon In Easter Hay." And that was lovely, as always. And then "Peaches", a much more spirited version of "Peaches" than we did on Valentine's Day in Philly. The second encore for this evening was supposed to "Pogen", "Andy" and "Inca", which of course would have been wonderful, but then Frank decided he wanted to stick in "Eat That Question" and "Black Napkins" after having rehearsed it only once, and with me barely knowing the piano intro. But he displayed his faith in my ability to crank it out, and I did an acceptable job, and I received a number of comments from people who were glad to finally hear me featured on keyboard. And "Napkins" was the end of the show.
And Jill and her friend Sandy and her friend John were at the show. I stuck my head out the stage door and said "Is anyone hear to see Keneally?" and they came over and we talked for awhile. And Scott came down and said hi, and Ike gave Jill a big hug. As I was yelling for Jill to come over there was a small group of guys yelling "Mike, we're your fans" with one guy insisting that I was "better" than Steve Vai. That's a funny thing to hear.
Then I left on the van and came back to the hotel and hung out with Scott in his room, along with a friend of his, a guy with long hair and a beard and little round glasses who went to college with Scott, and a friend of his who Scott didn't know. Scott's friend has been coming to soundchecks and shows consistently since Albany, and he's going to be seeing the two shows in Boston and that's it for the tour for him. That's just about all he can afford, but he's definitely one of the regulars.
(1998 comment: The guy to which I'm referring was, I would later learn, Den Simms, one of the editors of the US edition of the Zappa fanzine Society Pages, no longer in publication. Den was also the guy who passed Frank the note in Philadelphia which led to all the dancing and Chad's singing and etc.)
We were listening to CDs in Scott's room. We listened to some Bartok and Hindemith, which was really lovely. Then Scott attempted to call up the El Torito across the street and his portion of the conversation was:
"Is the cocktail lounge open?
Is the restaurant open?
Well, what are you doing there?
Well, fuck you!" SLAM.
And then we went down to the lounge downstairs, and that was when Scott's long-haired, bespectacled friend became the third person to tell me that I was "better" than Steve Vai.
Back in Scott's room I watched a little bit of "Tai-Pan", and then I was back in my room.
I woke up at a reasonable hour this morning, about 9:00, and I had a slew of baked goods hand-delivered to my domicile and watched "Bonanza". Got my bags packed and got on the bus and rode to Boston while watching "Ruthless People." Got in the hotel and took a shower, and then Bob Stone and I hit the town. We went to the site of the Boston Tea Party where they had a nice replica of the Beaver, which was the name of the vessel involved. The exhibit was closed, actually, but they agreed nonetheless to let us look around for free - saved $3.25 there - because there was no guided tour and no museum, just a boat. We looked at the boat and read the plaques, and a guy said "Hello, welcome to the Bahstan Tea Patty." And he invited us to board the vessel and look around in there. We checked it all out. We continued on and saw a place that looked like it might have been a head shop called "Stairway To Heaven." The hotel kind of snuck up on us, we turned a corner and there it was all of a sudden, which is always a nice way to find home when you least expect it. I changed a hundred-dollar bill and went upstairs to The Lobster Trap, on the fifteenth floor of the Holiday Inn which is where we currently find ourselves, the Government Center Holiday Inn. I had fettucine primavera and salad, and Bob and I had a nice white wine, a lovely chamagne sorbet. Really nice, and Bob even picked up the tab. showed up just after Bob had been talking about how there was no way in the world that he could trust any longer because had been exaggerating and lying about certain things - Terry, the drum tech, has been fired. One of the reasons he got fired was that he got involved in a fight with Van, the keyboard tech, on stage. Bob, who was right there a few feet away, attests that it was Van who started the whole thing, Van who did all the screaming and physical threats and Van who delivered the first instance of physical contact. And Bob said that Terry was just trying to cool Van out. And apparently had it in for Terry all along, he didn't stand a chance. And Bob doesn't like that. We gossiped about everybody, lots of fun. And discussed the quality of the shows so far. And then showed up and we talked about the Beach Boys a bit, and he expressed surprise that Bob could have any qualms about the quality of the shows so far because has been amazed at their quality. He thinks they're "triffic."
After dinner I came down to my room here and took a little nap, and fortunately Viv called me, which was good because my incidentals bill in the last hotel was phenomenally high, and I needed my calling card number, which Viv called to tell me. Then I went over to Bob Stone's room around 10:00, and Scott was coming out of his room at the same time, and the three of us went to the USA Cinema One right next to the hotel here, and saw "The Last Emperor," which was a very good film. We then went to the Pizza Pad or the Pizza Pub or something like that, where we found Albert who told us that he'd also been in the theater watching the same film. Scott got a couple of slices of pizza and I got a couple of apple juices, and we went back to his room and listened to "Hollywood Night Shift", a Phil Austin-Frazier Smit-Michael C. Gwynne radio program, and I played a little of the Greaseman tape I got from Bruce, and then we listened to a bunch of Scott's stuff that he had recorded, and I got out my guitar and listened to the "Grand Wazoo" CD and learned the "Eat The Question" piano intro on guitar, so that tomorrow when I get to rehearsal I can learn it on keyboard. We talked about Gentle Giant and I played a bunch of Gentle Giant songs on guitar while Scott dug on it, and then he got out his four-track portastudio and played a song from his old band New Republicans, with his brother Derek playing a guitar solo which Scott had learned and recorded two harmony guitar tracks for. One of the passages had a particularly pungent harmony and Scott made me hear it over again and said "What is that from?" And after another listening I realized it was adapted from the distorted bass harmony section in "Fallen Angel" by King Crimson, and Scott confirmed that for me. It's always very touching to watch Scott listen to his brother playing on tape, because he knows every nuance of everything his brother ever played, and he closes his eyes and plays it in the air and grooves to high heaven, where Derek hopefully is. After four hours Scott said "it's too late even for you, Mike", and I had to admit that that was true. Now it's 5:09 AM and I have to take out my contacts and put them in enzyme water and kind of go to sleep for a while.
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