Liaison of the Spiders


The type treatment for the title is a pastiche of the William Shatner turkey Kingdom of the Spiders. I’m pointing this out because no one would have noticed otherwise.

I do not kill spiders. I can’t have that shit on my conscience. I will go out of my way, often to the point of danger, to relocate them outside. Being frightened of spiders is fine; murdering them for your convenience is another matter. As a child, I was bitten by spiders so badly that my ear looked like that of a Smurf’s (without the blue), and the back of my hand swelled up to the point that I couldn’t bend my fingers. I hold no grudge. It was my fault for sleeping on the back porch, which was spider territory.

Frank Zappa wrote an unfinished opera called Hunchentoot, about a giant, mystical spider. Parts of it emerged on the albums Sleep Dirt and Läther. I didn’t care for the female vocals on Sleep Dirt, so I spliced in the instrumentals from Läther and made my own version. I’m always surprised when I hear the vocal parts. By the way- the umlaut over the “a” means that it’s pronounced like “leather”, a word commonly spoken through much of Zappa’s 1970s recordings. Adds a whole new conceptual layer, yes?

Here is the official story.

Zappa wanted to create an eight-sided album. Warner Brothers wanted Zappa to fulfill his contractual obligation with four more albums. As with Prince and DEVO, WB got their way. The brilliant Gary Panter was called in to do covers, placing him in an awkward historical position. Four albums were slapped together and consecutively released. Frank drove to a little old radio station in Pasadena with some beers, handed the Läther master to the deejay, and delivered a not-that-bitter introduction to listeners, instructing them to ready a tape recorder. They were about to receive his fated eight-sided album, in full, for free. This is why Läther existed in bootleg form, until Rykodisc did the world a favor and released it on compact disc, the way Frank Zappa intended, in 1995.

“This is an eight-sided album. They don’t happen very often. I had my nerve, didn’t I?” -FZ

If you look closely, you can see that DEVO and Prince also put out big fat healthy box sets after parting with Warner Brothers. In the liners for the essential DEVO Live: The Mongoloid Years, the band’s lucrative yet crippling union with WB was described thusly: “we bend over and bed down with Bugs Bunny.” It gives the corporate-parody aesthetic of their 1979 masterwork Duty Now For The Future so much more impact, does it not?

Corporate slavery in exchange for fame and fortune. That’s why Prince wrote “SLAVE” on his forehead, years ago, in concert. That’s why Trent Reznor wrote “Happiness In Slavery”. I know it’s redundant to express awe and adulation for Prince Rogers Nelson, but the man got the world to adopt a unique symbol as his name. That’s god mode, my friends.

When the world recognizes your mark outside of corporate trademarks, you’ve won. Red dome hat = DEVO. Mustache and soul patch = Frank Zappa. It can still be done, even in the over-corporatized colony that enslaves us.

You can simply draw a spider, and frighten most people just as much as a real one. That is the root of the power of the symbol.

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Filed under Bad Influences, Comix Classic & Current, Zappalogy