Tomorrow would have been Frank Zappa's 70th birthday. To celebrate his I've put together a playlist of 70 songs which I'm listening to as I write this.

The first FZ album I heard was 'Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch' and I didn't fully get it at the time. Some years passed and then I heard the Yellow Shark album. This was orchestral music recorded when Frank was sick and near death. This album had a huge effect on me. It wasn't music I could imagine making myself and it pushed all sorts of buttons I hadn't been aware of before. When I checked the recording details I found Yellow Shark had been recorded at the Alter Oper in Frankfurt at a time when I was living in Neu Isenburg, on the city's outskirts. Every weekend I went to the Alter Oper to see whoever was playing there. One weekend I decided not to go, to save some money. To make sure I didn't go I avoided seeing who was on. It was, of course, the weekend the Ensemble Modern were playing and recording this amazing disc. I am still kicking myself.

After listening to Yellow Shark about four hundred times I started buying almost the whole FZ catalogue, working my way from the beginning, through the incredible stages of this insane canon. At one point I was in Cambridge, to buy a bass from the charming and talented Thomas Fichter. He was the bassist in the Ensemble Modern and, over dinner, told me fascinating stories about Yellow Shark and the experiences of working with Frank.

This week Frank Zappa's old classmate and occasional musical companion. Don Van Vliet (alias Captain Beefheart) died. So it's appropriate that I've included tracks from the wonderful 'Bongo Fury' which features both of them.

Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart are much missed, but they've left a lot to remember them by.


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