Frank Zappa’s Apostrophe (‘) is probably his most commercially accessible albums. When discussing great albums that have been forgotten, you can point out numerous Zappa albums that would fit the criteria. Hell, the majority of his catalogue, which is prolific to say the least, rarely gets radio airplay. If you asked the average classic rock fan to name a Zappa song, I think they would be hard pressed. Some of the neglect has to do with the fact that Zappa dabbled in so many musical styles. Thus, it’s hard to pin down what period of Zappa’s career you’re interested in, and when you do, it will take some work. The bottom line though is that it took over ten years and twelve albums for Zappa to cut his first middle of the road album, Studio Tan. Even after Studio Tan, there are great albums. It doesn’t matter what Zappa you own as long as you own some Zappa. I go with Apostrophe (‘) here because it is a flat out great album, and it contains arguably his most famous song, “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow.” As always, the lyrics aren’t to be taken seriously. The first half of the album follows the story of Nanook the Eskimo and his defense of his favorite baby seal. The story never really seems to tie itself together as a finished piece, but each song stands alone as extremely interesting.
Apostrophe (‘) feels like a concept, but the concept of Nanook, his baby seal, and how it ties into Alfonzo’s pancake breakfast leaves me a little baffled. Honestly, I have no idea what the concept is except maybe weirdness. The real reason I love Zappa is for his guitar playing. The man is a forgotten and much overlooked guitar god. He’s overlooked due to the fact that the lion’s share of his musical output is commercially inaccessible and hard to follow for the average listener. If you’re going to be a Zappa fan, you’re going to have to put in some work. He was not marketable on purpose. Songs filled with doggie wee wee and yellow snow cones don’t find their way onto the air as much as they should. You’ll get an immature laugh from the lyrics though, and you’ll hair will blow back during all of the extended guitar solos.
Once you get past the first four songs on the album, you’ve finished with Nanook’s story. You quickly move onto “Cosmik Debris,” a song about an unnamed mystery man which plays out after a dirty guitar opening. The song features another phenomenal Zappa guitar solo with that signature tone that lies in the middle of Clapton’s clean edge and Hendrix’s frenzied fuzz. Side B features the instrumental “Apostrophe” featuring Cream’s Jack Bruce on bass. The album closes out with “Stink-Foot,” a jazzy rock number that could hang on par with anything Steely Dan ever cut. Zappa would later go onto experiment with what he would call “Jazz from Hell” with mixed results, but the jazz flavor he throws on Apostrophe (‘) has the perfect amount of rock thrown in.
On LP, all Zappa albums take a little work to find, but they are out there. When you do find Apostrophe (‘) it should cost you between $15 and $25. Other Zappa albums can get pretty expensive, but Apostrophe (‘) sold well enough that you shouldn’t have to pay too much and shouldn’t have to look too long.