The Man from Utopia

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The Man from Utopia
Studio album by Frank Zappa
Released March 28, 1983
Recorded October 1980 - October 1982
Genre Hard rock, progressive rock, art rock, comedy rock
Length 40:21
Label Barking Pumpkin
Producer Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa chronology
Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch
(1982)
The Man from Utopia
(1983)
Baby Snakes
(1983)
Singles from The Man from Utopia
  1. "The Man from Utopia Meets Mary Lou"
    Released: 1983
  2. "Cocaine Decisions"
    Released: 1983
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2/5 stars[1]

The Man from Utopia is a 1983 album by Frank Zappa. The album is named after a 1950s song, written by Donald and Doris Woods, which Zappa covers as part of "The Man from Utopia Meets Mary Lou".[2]

Production[edit]

"The Dangerous Kitchen", "Mōggio" and "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats" were all prepared for Zappa's unreleased album Chalk Pie, which was scrapped after it had been bootlegged.

The sleeve art features the work of RanXerox artist Tanino Liberatore. It portrays Zappa on stage trying to kill mosquitos. That is a reference of a concert held in Italy in 1982, the year before the release of the album, on the 7th of July at Parco Redecesio (which is also referred in a street sign on the album cover) in Segrate, near Milan. While Zappa was playing a huge number of mosquitos began flying on stage and gave the band a hard time. The back cover shows the audience as seen from the stage during the 1982 concert in Palermo, Italy, ended in a riot. The album was the second of two to credit Steve Vai with "impossible guitar parts" (the first being the preceding album Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch).

Music and lyrics[edit]

The album's opening track "Cocaine Decisions", with its groove redolent of skiffle washboards, is an angry, disgusted attack on drug-influenced businessmen and features an ironically cheerful harmonica. "The Dangerous Kitchen" satirizes dirty, unkempt kitchens, specifically the one in the Zappa household at the time. "Stick Together" is a deeply passionate attack on all unions in general, especially those controlled by organized crime. "The Radio Is Broken" satirizes 1950's sci-fi B-movies. "SEX" is a blunt, crude song which unabashedly celebrates the title topic; lyrics include "Maybe you could use a protein surprise" and "The bigger the cushion, the better the pushin'". The "Mary Lou/Man From Utopia" medley finds Zappa returning to his beloved doo-wop roots in a completely sincere style; no satire included.

"Kitchen", "Radio", and "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats" all feature Zappa's "meltdown" style of generally pre-written but sometimes improvised singing/speaking. For "Jazz" and "Kitchen", Zappa had guitarist Steve Vai overdub complex guitar parts for the entire length of the songs, which perfectly copied Frank's every word and syllable. Vai considers it to be one of his most difficult assignments as a musician; it required him to detune his guitar at times to match Frank's varying pitches. This unique type of overdub was a one-time experiment that Zappa never repeated. Peter Eötvös composer said in an interview:[3]

"Dangerous Kitchen", off the album "The Man From Utopia", grew to become a basic piece for me, especially in later years, after I began working on operas. The technique that he uses in this particular song is very interesting: it's this half-sung, half-spoken performing method that's not quite like Sprechgesang, but what makes it so interesting is that he accompanies it with an instrumental solo. I was very surprised to find out that the guitar part was recorded separately. As it seemed so synchronous, I was convinced that Zappa had sung and played at the same time. Nevertheless the technique itself, the idea of "the singing instrument" comes from "Dangerous Kitchen".

"Jazz" became semi-infamous in Zappa circles for its extremely scatological subject matter: certain substances found in a woman's discarded underwear, and what certain band members did with those substances while at a hotel pool late one night in Albuquerque, NM. The song was written to humorously explain to audiences the origin of why certain band members occasionally wore underwear on their heads onstage.

The original album had instrumentals ending each side: "Mōggio" and "We Are Not Alone" featuring Marty Krystall on overdubbed baritone saxophones. A third instrumental, "Tink Walks Amok", gets its clever name from bass player Arthur Barrow's nickname (Tink), and a term (walking amok) for what 'out of control robots' do in old sci-fi films, hence its thematic sequencing next to "Radio". 'Walk' in the title has additional significance because it musically refers to a style of bass playing, and since Barrow plays multiple and highly unusual bass parts on the song, he is indeed "walking amok" at times.

Release history[edit]

The album was originally released on vinyl in 1983. An unauthorized CD of this edition (with the exception of a remixed "Moggio") was issued by EMI in the UK in 1986. The album was issued (in remixed and resequenced form) on CD in 1993 by Barking Pumpkin. The later 1995 Rykodisc edition is identical.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written, composed and arranged by Frank Zappa, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Cocaine Decisions"   2:56
2. "The Dangerous Kitchen"   2:51
3. "Tink Walks Amok"   3:40
4. "The Radio is Broken"   5:52
5. "Mōggio"   3:05
Side two
No. Title Length
6. "The Man From Utopia Meets Mary Lou" (Donald and Doris Woods, Obie Jessie) 3:19
7. "Stick Together"   3:50
8. "SEX"   3:00
9. "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats"   4:30
10. "We Are Not Alone"   3:31
CD release
No. Title Length
1. "Cocaine Decisions"   3:53
2. "SEX"   3:44
3. "Tink Walks Amok"   3:39
4. "The Radio is Broken"   5:51
5. "We Are Not Alone"   3:18
6. "The Dangerous Kitchen"   2:51
7. "The Man from Utopia Meets Mary Lou"   3:22
8. "Stick Together"   3:14
9. "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats"   4:29
10. "Luigi & the Wise Guys" (bonus track) 3:25
11. "Mōggio"   2:35

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Album - Billboard (North America)

Year Chart Position
1983 Pop Albums 153[4]

References[edit]