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.
APRIL 1 1988
[Warning/Guarantee: This is a BOGUS APRIL FOOLS ENTRY ghosted by Scott Chatfield with Mike's bemused permission, inspired by newsgroup comments that the diaries were too pedestrian and unexciting. The ensuing reaction and subsequent gradual awakening of readers to the hoax were pure joy for Mike and Scott to experience. It's re-posted here in the interests of curiosity, completeness and ridiculousness.]
It's now 4:37 a.m. Paris time on April first and I just got back from one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It's going to be hard to explain, but I want to do my best while it's all still bouncing around in my mind. Before I start doubting it myself. I seriously feel like recalculating my age from this moment on-- "well, that was Mike Keneally at 15 BZ, now he's at 3 AZ." A whole lot of other stuff has happened since last report, but tonight, or, more accurately last night and this morning, has blown most of it right out of my head! It's all pretty fucking mundane, anyway, compared to what just happened.
I'm in my own room at the Hotel Ritz. So, where to begin. Okay. Yesterday was yet another day off before the tour resumes on the 9th. Scott, Chad, [name deleted] and I were out exploring for most of the day, the highlight of which was when we were browsing inside the Virgin Megastore on the Champs-Elysees and [name deleted] decides he wants these two French-only Miles Davis/Jerry Lewis "Le Expo du Comique" CDs, but, of course, he's already blown his per diem and Chad, Scott and I are not going to give him any more of our cash; that's another story, anyway. So where was... oh yeah, [name deleted], instead of sliding the CDs down his pants or shirt or whatever, he holds 'em over his head and runs screaming "yeeee!" down a flight of stairs, through the front double doors and out into the street! Of course, we're just standing there, Scott and I. Chad was over in the Gospel section, I think. I'm shocked as hell, but Scott starts laughing softly, raising the volume until he sounds like some horror movie guy. Out of nowhere, one gendarme security guy hauls out the door after [name deleted] and another vaults up to me and Scott and starts yelling at us in French. By that time I'm half laughing and half trying to explain to the guy what's happening. It's all weird and funny, and both Scott and I have sort of instinctively put our hands in the air to show him that we're not trying to steal anything. Nobody bothers to say anything to us in English, the security guy pats us both down without asking, and they show us the door. And we didn't argue or anything, 'cause we know things could have been a whole lot worse. Of course, once we're outside there's no sign of [name deleted].
So we just head back to our own rooms at the hotel and I ordered a pretty good pizza and some bad French beer from room service and turn on the TV. There was something going on with some of the road crew and the locals in the hotel bar, but I just wasn't in the mood. Oh yeah, if I can get away tomorrow, or later today to be exact, I'm going to go back to Virgin and get this XTC B-sides CD I'd spotted before the afternoon's adventure started.
Anyway, I must have fallen asleep, 'cause next thing I know it's about 10:00 p.m. There were no messages for me, so I took a shower, then just decided to go for a walk. I'm walking down the hallway by some of the guys' rooms in case anybody's up for something and as I walk past this door that's half-open I hear what sounds like an acoustic guitar playing, then Frank's voice calls out "Mike! You got a minute?" Which took me a while to figure out, 'cause Frank doesn't usually even stay at the same hotel we do. I popped my head in the door and saw Frank sitting by himself on the bed, playing leads and arpeggios on his Martin acoustic. He motioned me in with his cigarette hand, but mostly kept his eyes on the fretboard. I sat on the other bed, facing him, and he asked me what I'd been up to today. I gave him the rough version and debated whether or not to tell him about [name deleted]'s fun and games at Virgin. He seemed really into what he was playing so I just glossed over it. Then he switched from his "Sleep Dirt" mode to just vamping around with straight chords. When I asked him if he had any words yet for the basic chords he was playing, he sang "The Tower of Pizza is tilting..." and kind of trailed off. He asked what I thought about it and what I really thought was that it was just a simple, stupid song fragment, but instead of answering I sang "Elvis has just left the building.." to the same chords. It just popped into my head. He laughed, but kept playing for a minute, then propped the guitar up against the bed.
He looked at me like he wanted to tell me something but wasn't quite sure I was the guy he wanted to tell it to. Then he told me he was thinking of running for President in four years. I could have laughed, but I knew he was totally serious-- between his PMRC crusade and the register to vote stuff, Frank in the White House didn't seem much of a leap. I think I said "wow" or something equally idiotic. He was watching my face the whole while. [sound of phone ringing] Hold on, back in a minute...
[Tape turns back on] That was Scott. He said he knew I wasn't sleeping and was asking me where I was last night. I told him I was hanging with Frank up in his room, so he yelled "SHIT!" and hung up on me. Haha.
It just occurred to me that I should try to be recounting my evening's experiences in present tense, so here goes.
Anyway, Frank wants to know what I think about him running for President. On one hand, I think it'll liven up a pretty predictable scene, but on the other, he probably wouldn't have much of a chance of winning. I chose to give him the "liven-things-up" answer, and asked who he'd want as his vice-president. He said either Daniel Schorr or some politician who could help the ticket, maybe Senator Gore of Tennessee, who he seems to respect despite Tipper's record-labeling crusade. Frank amazes me with his ability to speak seriously about what he thinks the political landscape will be in 1992, while keeping his sense of humor in reserve. He told me he thought that Bush was a shoe-in, but that without "Reagan's voodoo vibe," he'll probably be a one-term president, even though he'll "probably take credit for some pretty amazing stuff, like the fall of the Berlin Wall and a mideast skirmish or two." And that will leave things wide open for him, meaning Frank, who guesses that he'd be up against some "second-rate Republican" and one of "them southern governors who can't keep it in his pants." So I guess he's pretty serious about it then. I mean running. Then... this is the part I probably won't even believe myself tomorrow... he says that he'd want me to be involved in some way. I'm so flattered I can't speak, so I don't tell him so. Frank is kind enough to allow me some time to let it all sink in. Besides, I've never known him to whip up small talk just to fill space.
Despite the dreamlike quality of our little visit, I'm feeling less and less self-conscious and really starting to relax and enjoy myself. After a comfortable pause, I said something about it being a quiet night, meaning quiet as compared to most nights on the tour. Frank says "yeah, TOO quiet" like he's quoting a movie cliche and I swear to God right then a knock comes at the door. Frank slides off his bed without a hint of surprise and backs toward the door facing me. He takes a drag of his cigarette, exhales smoke from his mouth and nose, arches an eyebrow and opens the door in one move, never taking his eyes off me. Heading through the door come two amazing women that I think we saw in the hotel bar earlier. Frank says "And now for the entertainment portion of our program!" and drapes an arm around each of them.
They're both giggling, kind of looking at me, and leading him toward the bed. Now that I think of it, they sort of remind me of the steno pool in "Greggery Peccary." Anyway, at this point, my comfort bubble has pretty much burst, but I'm curious to see how far this goes with me in the room. I was busy thinking of a decent way to decline in case somebody asked me to play, 'cause my credo is that I don't indulge in that sort of recreation with a non-spousal unit. But nobody DID ask me, and it started going pretty far. Let's see, using the old baseball analogy, before long Frank had slid past third base, into home and was racking up the score. There is joy in Mudville. I couldn't help but notice that Frank ran the festivities in much the same way that he conducts us, the band-- a lot of confidence and obtuse gesturing. After a while I closed my eyes and laid on my back and listened to the funny, disgusting and sensual sounds they were all making. I thought I could make out certain patterns, and concentrated on figuring out the time signature of their activities. It sounded close to 13/16 to me. I actually memorized about 24 bars and I know I'll use it someday for something. I just won't know how to credit the music I make from the stuff I heard-- "Zappa-Groupie-Crewslut-Keneally"? There's music in everything if you listen carefully enough. So this keeps on for about 15 minutes, and when Frank's face is temporarily unoccupied he says "What's the matter, Mike? Never seen a Hoover demo before?" I laughed and told him it was time for bed; my kind of bed. Frank said "You sure? Plenty of orifi for everybody" and I laughed again. All three players took a moment to grunt goodnight as I headed out, but nobody seemed too disappointed that I was leaving. I guess that part was up to me.
So then what? Oh, yeah. I'm still buzzing with whatever the fuck that debauched energy put into me. So I got back to the room and wrote down the rhythms I snatched from Frank's frolics and I've just been sitting here thinking about how the tour's not even half over and how much cooler or weirder are things gonna get and if I did or didn't do the right thing up there and if I'll ever be the same again. And as far as I know, President Zappa and his bedroom cabinet are still going at it.
Well all right. Okay, now. European leg starts in a few days. Rehearsals tomorrow. I'm about as wasted as I've ever been after one beer and I don't feel like listening to any music right now. Not in Kansas anymore. So, as Ike would say, uh, over and out, mofos.
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