Inca Roads (song)

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"Inca Roads"
Song by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention
from the album One Size Fits All
Released1975
Genre
Length8:45
LabelDiscReet
Songwriter(s)Frank Zappa
Producer(s)Frank Zappa

"Inca Roads" is the opening track of the Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention 1975 album, One Size Fits All. The song features unusual time signatures, lyrics and vocals. The marimba-playing of Zappa's percussionist Ruth Underwood is featured prominently. The song was played in concert from 1973 to 1976, 1979 and 1988.[4]

Themes[edit]

"Inca Roads" for the most part explores the stereotypes of aliens encountering the Incan civilization. These themes, like the album cover of One Size Fits All seem to parody the spirituality of many progressive rock albums around the same era. The lyrics "Did a vehicle come from somewhere out there, just to land in the Andes? Was it round and did it have a motor or was it something different?" imply that a UFO is landing in the Andes mountains. As the song progresses, the lyrics become sillier and seem to mock the beginning of the song. An example of this is "...or did someone build a place or leave a space for Chester's thing to land (Chester's thing... on Ruth). Did a booger-bear come from somewhere out there..." The non-serious nature of these lyrics and even the music itself seem to be mocking other progressive rock bands and their possibly forced divine depth.[3][5]

Song structure[edit]

"Inca Roads" uses mixed meter. The time signatures include 2
4
, 3
4
, 4
4
, 5
4
, 6
4
, 3
8
, 7
8
, 3
16
, 5
16
, 7
16
, 11
16
, and possibly others.[citation needed]

The song starts with dominant vocals, drums, and marimba, but soon features a massive, iconic guitar solo performed by Zappa in late September 1974 at a live performance in Helsinki, Finland. An edited version of this solo recording (and part of the bass and drums accompaniment) was "grafted" onto a performance of the song from August 27, 1974 at KCET in Los Angeles. This combination of performances forms the backbone of the album version from One Size Fits All. Later, George Duke plays an equally complex solo in 7
16
. In the video of the KCET performance, entitled A Token of His Extreme, Zappa is seen smiling gleefully as Duke plays his solo, as he plays the backup chords. After a short marimba solo, "Inca Roads" reprises its snappy intro. The song ends with the lyrics "On Ruth, on Ruth, that's Ruth!", acknowledging Underwood for her leading on the marimba.[5][6]

In an interview vocalist and keyboard player George Duke said that Zappa pushed for him to sing on "Inca Roads" and that beforehand Duke had no intentions of singing professionally and was only there to play keyboards. He went on to explain how Zappa had bought him a synthesizer (an instrument which Duke had disliked) and told him he could play around with it if he wanted. This led to Duke playing the synth part on "Inca Roads" as well.[7]

The skip[edit]

Many early LP copies contain a skip during "Inca Roads" at approximately 4:40 into the track (the end of the solo from Helsinki).[citation needed] This error was a manufacturing defect not caught during the test pressing stage. The album was recalled after the mistake was caught, but a significant number had already been sold. The highly complex nature of the music made it difficult to recognize the error without comparing it to the correct version.

Legacy[edit]

In 2018, Prog magazine named "Inca Roads" at hundredth position in their list "The 100 Greatest Prog Songs Of All Time."[8]

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Couture, François. "One Size Fits All - Frank Zappa, The Mothers of Invention | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  2. ^ Nicholson, Stuart (1998). Jazz Rock: A History. Schirmer Books. p. 263. ISBN 978-0-02864-679-4.
  3. ^ a b Kelly Fisher Lowe (2007). The Words and Music of Frank Zappa. U of Nebraska Press. pp. 119–120. ISBN 0-8032-6005-9.
  4. ^ Couture, François. "Inca Roads - The Mothers of Invention,Frank Zappa | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Frank Zappa - Inca Roads Lyrics". MetroLyrics. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  6. ^ "Time signatures". www.zappateers.com. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  7. ^ "Zappadan 2012, Day 2: George Duke and Inca Roads". Two Putty Tommy. December 5, 2012. Archived from the original on March 8, 2016. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  8. ^ "The 100 Greatest Prog Songs Of All Time". Prog Magazine. March 26, 2018. Retrieved June 17, 2019.