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.
JANUARY 30 1988
Test, test...check, check, check...hi. It's January something...January 30. 1988. Second day of Zappa tour, USA, 1988 - um, the tour hasn't actually started yet, 'cause we haven't played a concert. On January 29, we left from LAX at around 1:00 PM, and Michael Keaton was on the flight. He wasn't the least bit zany. He didn't say anything funny. He just sat there with his son. We arrived at Pittsburgh 25 minutes early, around 7:30 or so. Stayed in Pittsburgh for an hour and a half. Went to the bookstore there and sat and read a book. I didn't buy a book. I just read one that I had brought with me. And then...we flew on to Albany. We got off the plane in Albany and were picked up by a blue van and a white car. The people who smoked went in the white car. They took us here to the Ramada Inn which is where I am now. Me and Scott and Bob Stone and Ed Mann all went to dinner and I had mozzarella sticks. And that was fun. Because I don't get much of a chance to talk with Ed at all. So hanging out with Ed was a good time. And that was the first day of Zappa tour 1988.
Ah, today, I was very tired. I caught a couple of naps, but managed to get up early enough to get the complimentary breakfast...we had gotten a breakfast voucher with our little schedule of which band members are in what rooms --- oh, last night we got our first per diem. That's 35 dollars a day and we're getting per diem every Friday. Um, today, I used my breakfast voucher that came in the envelope with the schedule of who is in what rooms, and went to the dining room here at the Ramada Inn in Albany. Had apple juice and milk and scrambled eggs and bacon and wheat toast. And that was very good. And then I put on my big blue down jacket and my funny gray hat and my big gloves and my big new boots, and walked for about four miles to see what's happening in Albany. Which is exactly nothing, but it's very pretty and there's some very nice houses up and down the streets here. And...came back and listened to a tape, fell asleep during the tape, it's the Midnight Oil album which is a little disappointing but, like I told Scott, I think I'll learn to enjoy it.
And then today was the very first rehearsal. We were picked up outside the hotel here by the blue bus and taken to the rehearsal. And it was remarkably smooth considering the vast task of moving and setting up this equipment for the first time. Hopefully this'll be indicative of the way things go along the tour, because it was really expedient and cool and everybody did a good job of setting up the equipment, except that Merl had changed the order of my effects in the chain so that I couldn't turn down the hum of my Super Charger when I had it on, so I had to rewire it so that I could use my volume pedal to turn down the idling hum when I wasn't playing. But that was exactly no trouble to do, and Merl was impressed that I could do it on my own, because most of the guitarists that he has worked for cannot tune a string much less change their signal path. So we got into rehearsal. We played for about two and a half hours, sounding really swell, it's really nice in the big hall. There's a lot more fullness to the sound than there was in Hollywood, and the horns sound heavenly with all the natural reverb of the big room. And I could hear my playing real well, which was sometimes a problem in the rehearsal hall. And everything seemed to be really nicely balanced. We played two hours, two and a half hours, and then had dinner. A catered type of affair, down in the dressing room, which is really crummy, and then we came back up and played until 9:00. Doing a really good job considering we had a week off and I figured everyone would forget their stuff.
And then Frank showed up and he was in a very good mood. He was smiling and joking and talking about his two days that he's been here so far as being eventful and he'll fill us in the details later, which he never did because of what followed. Which was: as soon as he lifted his arms to get the first song started, everyone seemed to forget what they were doing there, and the horn players were forgetting parts, and people were forgetting lyrics, and it just fell apart the moment Frank walked into the room. Amazingly he managed to keep his keep his good humor and not express too much dismay, although we're only three days from the start of the tour and everyone seems to not know what they're doing. So he said, "Is there any explanation for these memory lapses? What's going on? Can we pinpoint it so that we can remedy it?" And nobody was forthcoming as to why they might be doing what they were doing - some members of the band were drinking excessive amounts of beer, and that might have had something to do with it. I'm at a loss to explain what happened. It might just be fatigue, everyone's a little tired from all the traveling and stuff. But the early part of the part of the rehearsal was great, so that bodes well for the concerts, because concerts are only two, two and a half hours long, not eight hours long. There's not enough time for people to get too tired. Unfortunately there's just enough time for people to get warmed up, which I have discovered from these eight hour rehearsals, and comparing that to when we would occasionally run shows back at the rehearsal hall. About halfway through a rehearsal you finally feel like you're prepared to actually play. Unfortunately that's four hours in - two concerts. So that's something that the band is going to have to adapt to. Of course I don't have any of these problems, I'm just ready to go right from the start, but...hey. What can I say.
So we did that, and after rehearsal we went back to "Across The Street", which is the name of a little restaurant a little ways away, and I ordered a small pizza which was very delicious. But I admit to a certain amount of guilt because I'm supposed to be losing weight on this tour and I'm having a little too much fun eating, and every time somebody would come up to me on the airplane and offer some food, I said, "Sure", because I like eating on airplanes. But it's nothing to be alarmed about yet because I'm doing my pushups daily. I don't have my rowing machine with me, and they don't have a gym room here, and they probably won't have gym rooms in all the Ramada Inns and Holiday Inns and similar places in which we're staying all across this great land of ours. So I'm going to have to do pushups - self-propelled exercise instead of metal machinery.
So right now it's 2:16 AM, thirty-days-has-september, april-june-and-november, all-the-rest-have-thirty-one so it's January 31 right now, 2:16 AM. And I'm sort of tired. So I'm preparing to go to sleep. Good night.
One cool thing that I didn't mention was just being over at "Across The Street", that restaurant that we were at about a half hour ago, with Scott and Bobby Martin, another guy that I don't get much of a chance to talk to. And we were talking about his solo album, which I have and which he hates, and it was fun finding out about all the problems that he had with that. And also talking about some of the songs which he had played on as a session musician as a younger guy in the late sixties and early seventies in Philadelphia..."Betcha By Golly Wow", and a bunch of cool type of classic Philly soul singles which he played french horn on. And then we walked back to the hotel here together talking about his bar band days and stuff, and his dislike of the original released version of "Whipping Post" on "Them Or Us" as compared to later versions which came out on "Does Humor Belong In Music", the videotape and the CD. Just all this kind of cool inside stuff, and Bobby Martin is a very cool guy. And I just thought I should mention that. Okay. Take it easy.
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