Frank Zappa – Joe’s Garage ——- Songs that reference The Beatles

Got matching suits ‘N’ Beatle Boots

Frank didn’t get played on commercial radio often. This is one of the few tracks that did get some airplay.  The album peaked at #27 in the Billboard 100 in 1979.

I’m not familiar with a lot of Zappa’s catalog. The first song I remember liking by him was Catholic Girls off of this album. A friend of mine heavily into Zappa played me this concept album. The triple album came out as a double album and then a single album.

It’s pretty easy to see why it didn’t get radio play as the lyrics were full of profanity. The music is great… Zappa was one of the best guitarists around as well as a great all-around musician and songwriter.

From Songfacts about the album.

Running to 6 minutes 10 seconds, the title track of this triple concept album was obviously written from the heart, even though it is one of the few such songs which does not resort to out and out profanity. The song itself is fairly straightforward, but the uptempo music is both entertaining and witty. At the end, Joe is arrested for the crime of playing music. Zappa never got much airplay, but the few stations that played him often had this song in rotation.

Joe’s Garage is a popular name for real garages, though it remains to be seen if this is out of homage to Zappa or due to a lot of mechanics being Christened Joe! 

In the liner notes to the album, Zappa makes a barely-passing reference to music being censored in Iran, which led some folks to believe the song was inspired by the Iran Hostage Crisis, but the American hostages weren’t taken until months after the album was released.

Zappa was an extremely outspoken enemy of religion, government, commercialism, and just about anything else, so this song and album are right in character. Joe’s Garage has parodies of a broad range of subjects – there’s “L. Ron Hoover” and the “First Church of Appliantology,” the Roman Catholic and Christian churches, lots of references to kinky sex (he also mocked that a lot), the “Central Scrutinizer” is kind of like Orwell’s Big Brother – referencing government censorship, making fun of “dope and LSD” and snorting lines of detergent, the music industry in general… you get the picture.

The ban-on-music thing in the story stems from the government’s “Total Criminalization” policy, where this new philosophy passes the legislation that states that “all humans are inherently criminals” and it’s the government’s job to keep making up laws to give them an excuse to throw everybody in jail.

Bottom line: You can’t narrow the theme of the album down to one thing. If anything, it was more Zappa’s general mockery of the whole capitalist-industrial military-religion complex, and mentioning Iran was just his way of saying “Look what could happen here! It happened there, after all.” Seeing as how this came out before the PMRC targeted Zappa for obscenity in lyrics which led to parental advisory stickers on the album, that kind of makes him a prophet.

Joe’s Garage

A boring old garage in a residential area with a teen-age band
rehearsing in it. JOE (the main character in the CENTRAL
SCRUTINIZER’S Special Presentation) sings to us of the trials and
tribulations of garage-band husbandry.

Central Scrutinizer:
We take you now, to a garage, in Canoga Park.

Frank Zappa:
(It makes it’s own sauce…)

Joe:
It wasn’t very large
There was just enough room to cram the drums
In the corner over by the Dodge
It was a fifty-four
With a mashed up door
And a cheesy little amp
With a sign on the front said “Fender Champ”
And a second hand guitar
It was a Stratocaster with a whammy bar

At this point, LARRY (a guy who will eventually give up music and
earn a respectable living as a roadie for a group called Toad-O)
joins in the song…

Larry:
We could jam in Joe’s Garage
His mama was screamin’
His dad was mad
We was playin’ the same old song
In the afternoon ‘n’ sometimes we would
Play it all night long
It was all we knew, ‘n’ easy too
So we wouldn’t get it wrong
All we did was bend the string like…
Hey!
Down in Joe’s Garage
We didn’t have no dope or LSD
But a coupla quartsa beer
Would fix it so the intonation
Would not offend yer ear
And the same old chords goin’ over ‘n’ over
Became a symphony
We would play it again ‘n’ again ‘n’ again
‘Cause it sounded good to me
ONE MORE TIME!
We could jam in Joe’s Garage
His mama was screamin’,
“TURN IT DOWN!”
We was playing’ the same old song
In the afternoon ‘n’ sometimes we would
Play it all night long
It was all we knew, and easy too
So we wouldn’t get it wrong
Even if you played it on a saxophone
We thought we was pretty good
We talked about keepin’ the band together
‘N’ we figured that we should
‘Cause about this time we was gettin’ the eye
From the girls in the neighborhood
They’d all come over ‘n’ dance around
like…

Twenty teen-age girls dash
in and go STOMP-CLAP,
STOMP-CLAP-CLAP…

So we picked out a stupid name
Had some cards printed up for a coupla bucks
‘N’ we was on our way to fame
Got matching suits ‘N’ Beatle Boots
‘N’ a sign on the back of the car
‘N’ we was ready to work in a GO-GO Bar

ONE TWO THREE FOUR
LET’S SEE IF YOU GOT SOME MORE!

People seemed to like our song
They got up ‘n’ danced ‘n’ made a lotta noise
An’ it wasn’t ‘fore very long
A guy from a company we can’t name
Said we oughta take his pen
‘N’ sign on the line for a real good time
But he didn’t tell us when
These “good times” would be somethin’
That was really happenin’
So the band broke up
An’ it looks like
We will never play again…

Joe:
Guess you only get one chance in life
To play a song that goes like…

(And, as the band plays their little song,
MRS. BORG (who keeps her son SY,
in the closet with the vacuum cleaner)
screams out the window…

Mrs. Borg:
Turn it down!
Turn it DOWN!
I have children sleeping here…
Don’t you boys know any nice songs?

Joe:
(Speculating on the future)
Well the years was rollin’ by, yeah
Heavy Metal ‘n’ Glitter Rock
Had caught the public eye, yeah
Snotty boys with lipstick on
Was really flyin’ high, yeah
‘N’ then they got that Disco thing
‘N’ New Wave came along
‘N’ all of a sudden I thought the time
Had come for that old song
We used to play in “Joe’s Garage”
And if I am not wrong
You will soon be dancin’ to…

Central Scrutinizer:
The WHITE ZONE is
for loading and
unloading only. If you
gotta load or unload,
go to the WHITE
ZONE. You’ll love it…

Joe:
Well the years was rollin’ by (etc.)…

Mrs. Borg:
I’m calling THE POLICE!
I did it! They’ll be here… shortly!

Officer Butzis:
This is the Police…

Mrs. Borg:
I’m not joking around anymore

Officer Butzis:
We have the garage surrounded
If you give yourself up
We will not harm you
Or hurt you neither

Mrs. Borg:
You’ll see them

Officer Butzis:
This is the Police

Mrs. Borg:
There they are, they’re coming!

Officer Butzis:
Give yourself up
We will not harm you

Mrs. Borg:
Listen to that mess, would you?

Officer Butzis:
This is the Police
Give yourself up
We have the garage surrounded

Mrs. Borg:
Everday this goes on around here!

Officer Butzis:
We will not harm you, or maim you
(SWAT Team 4, move in!)

Mrs. Borg:
He used cut my grass…
He was very nice boy…
That’s DISGUSTING!

Central Scrutinizer:
This is the CENTRAL SCRUTINIZER…
That was Joe’s first confrontation with The Law.
Naturally, we were easy on him.
One of our friendly counselors gave him
A do-nut… and told him to
Stick closer to church-oriented social activities.