Joe's Garage: Acts I, II & III
is a 1979 rock opera
by Frank Zappa
. The album features Ike Willis
as the voice of "Joe", a stereotypical garage band
youth who unwittingly journeys through the miasma of the music business. Zappa provides the voice of the "Central Scrutinizer" character—a mechanical voice which narrates the story and haunts Joe's psyche with McCarthyistic
50s-era discouragement and "scrutiny."
The album was originally issued in two parts, the first part being a single LP of Act I, and the second part being a double-LP set of Acts II & III. All three acts were later issued together as a box set, and on compact disc as a double-CD. The major themes of the story include groupie migration, mockery of Scientology, appliance fetishism, garage bands, and above all censorship of music as an artform (eerily predicting the formation of the PMRC).
Joe's Garage is particularly noteworthy for its extensive use of Zappa's xenochrony technique, in which guitar solos from older, completely unrelated recordings were extracted and overdubbed onto new songs. With the exception of "Watermelon in Easter Hay" and "Crew Slut", all Zappa's solos on the album were constructed in this way.
The opera begins with the Central Scrutinizer's introduction. He explains that his job is to enforce laws which will be passed in the future—including the coming total illegalization of music. The Scrutinizer offers a "special presentation to show what can happen to you if you choose a career in music," introducing the opera's protagonist, Joe, who used to be a "nice boy" and cut his neighbors' grass. When he discovered rock music
, he would spend all his time playing loud music in his garage, where the neighbors would often call the cops on him. A "friendly counselor" at the police department tells Joe he should "stick closer to church-oriented social activities." Joe finds a new girlfriend named Mary, with whom he would "hold hands and think pure thoughts." However, Mary, a Roman Catholic
girl, abandons Joe in order to get a pass to see a band called "Toad-O
" with whom she goes on the road—having sex with the band's roadies
. Eventually, they abandon her in Miami
when she is too tired to do anything.
Mary enters a wet t-shirt contest to try to make enough money to get back home. Joe hears of her exploits, becomes depressed, falls in with a fast crowd, and has sex with a girl who works at the Jack-In-The-Box named Lucille, who gives him an "unpronounceable disease", although he claims it came from a toilet seat.
Joe turns to religion for help, and "pays a lot of money to L. Ron Hoover
at the First Church of Appliantology
." Hoover identifies Joe as a "latent appliance fetishist". When Joe asks if he should "come out of the closet" he is instead instructed to "go into the closet
" to achieve "sexual gratification through the use of machines". In the next song, we learn "The Closet" is the name of a club where humans can copulate with appliances. Joe locates a machine he likes, named Sy Borg, and they return to Sy's apartment. There Joe and Sy have a "groovy orgy" with Sy's roommate, a "modified Gay-Bob doll."
Joe ends up destroying Sy, (whom the Central Scrutinizer calls a "XQJ-37 Nuclear-Powered Pansexual
Roto-Plooker") with a golden shower. Joe is thrown in prison after being unable to pay for the damage (having given up all his money to the Church of Appliantology). In jail, Joe is repeatedly gang raped ("plooked") by former musicians and record executives when they're not snorting lines of detergent. This gang is led by a shockingly endowed former promotional agent of a major record company, known as "Bald-Headed John: King of the Plookers".
When Joe is released from prison, music has become illegal. He loses his sanity, and begins imagining all the guitar notes he cannot play and a journalist documenting his thoughts. Eventually, he comes to terms with the fact that music is gone, and gets a job at the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
, frosting muffins
- Central Scrutinizer, Larry, L. Ron Hoover, Father Riley & Buddy Jones – Frank Zappa
- Joe – Ike Willis
- Mary – Dale Bozzio
- Mrs. Borg – Denny Walley
- Officer Butzis – Al Malkin
- Sy Borg – Warren Cuccurullo & Ed Mann
- Bald-Headed John – Terry Bozzio
- The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen Chorus – Al Malkin, Warren Cucurullo, Dale Bozzio, Geordie Hormel, Barbara Issak & most of the people who work at Village Recorders (circa 1979).
All songs written, arranged, and conducted by Frank Zappa.
- "The Central Scrutinizer" – 3:28
- "Joe's Garage" – 6:10
- "Catholic Girls" – 4:26
- "Crew Slut" – 6:31
- "Fembot in a Wet T-Shirt" (aka "Wet T-Shirt Nite") – 4:45
- "On the Bus" (aka "Toad-O Line") – 4:19
- "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?" – 2:36
- "Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up" – 5:43
- "Scrutinizer Postlude" – 1:35
- On vinyl, "Lucille" and "Scrutinizer Postlude" were indexed as one track.
- "A Token of My Extreme" – 5:30
- "Stick It Out" – 4:34
- "Sy Borg" – 8:56
- "Dong Work for Yuda" – 5:03
- "Keep It Greasey" – 8:22
- "Outside Now" – 5:50
- "He Used to Cut the Grass" – 8:35
- "Packard Goose" – 11:34
- "Watermelon in Easter Hay" – 9:09
- "A Little Green Rosetta" – 8:15
- Frank Zappa – Vocals, guitar
- Warren Cuccurullo – Rhythm Guitar, Vocals, Choir, Chorus, Organ, Guitar
- Denny Walley – Vocals, Slide Guitar, Guitar
- Craig Twister Steward – Harmonica
- Jeff – Sax (Tenor)
- Marginal Chagrin – Sax (Baritone)
- Patrick O'Hearn – Wind, Bass
- Peter Wolf – Keyboards
- Stumuk – Sax (Baritone), Sax (Bass)
- Tommy Mars – Keyboards
- Vinnie Colaiuta – Drums, Percussion
- Arthur Barrow – Vocals, Bass
- Ed Mann – Vocals, Percussion
- Dale Bozzio – Vocals
- Al Malkin – Vocals
- Ike Willis – Vocals
- Barbara Isaak – Choir, Chorus, Assistant
- Geordie Hormel – Choir, Chorus
- Terry Bozzio – Guest Vocals
- Ferenc Dobronyi – Cover Design
- Steve Alsberg – Project Coordinator
- Joe Chiccarelli – Engineer, Mixing, Recording
- Norman Seeff – Photography, Cover Photo
- John Williams – Artwork
- Steve Nye – Remixing
- Mick Glossop – Remixing
- Stan Ricker – Mastering
- Jack Hunt – Mastering
- Thomas Nordegg – Assistant
- Tom Cummings – Assistant
On September 26, 2008, Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage premiered as a stage play at Open Fist Theater in Los Angeles, CA. The production featured a live band, choreography and performances that told the story, song-by-song, from beginning to end. This adaptation marked the first time The Zappa Family Trust released the rights to Frank Zappa's music on such a scale.
Joe's Garage Act I
Joe's Garage Acts II & III
Behind the Scenes -- Exclusive look at Frank Zappa's World Premiere Rock Opera - L.A. Splash