Sheik Yerbouti

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Sheik Yerbouti
Sheik Yerbouti.jpeg
Live album with studio elements by Frank Zappa
Released March 3, 1979
Recorded Mostly:
Jan. 24–28 & Feb. 24–28 1978 - Hammersmith Odeon, London;
Oct. 28–31, 1977 - The Palladium, New York
Genre Progressive rock, hard rock, instrumental rock, comedy rock, parody of disco and punk rock
Length 72:33
Label Zappa, CBS International
Producer Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa chronology
Sleep Dirt
Sheik Yerbouti
Orchestral Favorites
Singles from Sheik Yerbouti
  1. "Dancin' Fool"
    Released: 1979
  2. "Bobby Brown"
    Released: 1979

Sheik Yerbouti is a live double album with studio elements[1][2][3] by Frank Zappa made up of material recorded in 1977 and 1978. It was first released on March 3, 1979 as the first release on Zappa Records. This is Official Release #26.

Sound-icon.png (song sample, 600Kb)


Sheik Yerbouti represented a major turning point in Zappa's career. The first album to be released on his own eponymous label after his departure from Warner Bros. Records, it emphasized the comedic aspect of his lyrics more than ever before, beginning a period of increased record sales and mainstream media attention. Sheik Yerbouti remains Zappa's biggest selling album worldwide with over 2 million units sold to date.


The title is a play on words; Zappa appears on the cover in character in Arab headdress, and the name, meant to resemble an Arabic transcription, is pronounced like the title of KC and the Sunshine Band's 1976 disco hit "Shake Your Booty".

The album featured Zappa's satirical and otherwise humorous or offensive material. "Bobby Brown" is well-known worldwide, except for the USA, where it was banned from airplay due to its sexually explicit lyrics. "I Have Been in You" pokes fun at Peter Frampton's 1977 hit "I'm in You" while maintaining a sexually driven structure. "Dancin' Fool", a Grammy nominee, became a popular disco hit despite its obvious parodical reflection of disco music. "Flakes", about the lousiness of laborers in California, includes a parody of Bob Dylan. "Jewish Princess", a humorous look at Jewish stereotyping, attracted attention from the Anti-Defamation League, to which Zappa denied an apology, arguing: "Unlike the unicorn, such creatures do exist—and deserve to be 'commemorated' with their own special opus".[4]

Some of Zappa's solos from the album began life as improvisations from his earlier work. "Rat Tomago" was edited from a performance of "The Torture Never Stops", which originally appeared on Zoot Allures; "The Sheik Yerbouti Tango" likewise from a live "Little House I Used to Live In", originally a Burnt Weeny Sandwich track. The song "City of Tiny Lites" featured an animation video made by Bruce Bickford which was featured on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

Writing and recording[edit]

Most of the tracks were recorded live, then extensively overdubbed in the studio. "Rat Tomago" is bookended by two brief pieces of musique concrète, constructed of studio dialogue, sound effects, and assorted musical fragments. In making "Rubber Shirt", Zappa combined a track of Terry Bozzio playing drums in one musical setting with one of Patrick O'Hearn playing bass in another, and totally different, musical setting. The tracks differed in time signature and in tempo. Zappa referred to this technique as xenochrony. Nearly every song on the album features numerous overdubs.

The album was also notable for being the career break of noted producer and engineer Joe Chiccarelli.[5] In an interview with HitQuarters, Chiccarelli said: "[Zappa's] engineer couldn’t make the session and so he decided to take a chance on me. I’m so thankful ever since that day because he gave me a career."[5]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[6]
Rolling Stone (favorable)[7]
Robert Christgau (C)[8]

Initially, the album was met with mixed reviews, due to the controversy of its lyrical content. The album remains a cult favorite among Zappa fans to this day. The song "Bobby Brown" was extremely popular in Scandinavia. Zappa was reportedly so astounded by its success, that he wanted CBS to hire an anthropologist to study why the song became such a big hit.[9]

Track listing[edit]

All songs composed, written and arranged by Frank Zappa except where noted. Dates & venues infos from Information Is Not Knowledge

Side one
No. Title Recording dates and venues Length
1. "I Have Been in You"   January 25, 1978 - Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK 3:33
2. "Flakes"   January 25, 1978 - Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK 6:41
3. "Broken Hearts Are for Assholes"   January 27, 1978 - Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK 3:42
4. "I'm So Cute"   January 24–28 or February 27–28, 1978 - Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK. Ending cropped on CD reissues, reducing the run time to 3:09; restored on 2012 reissue. 4:27
Side two
No. Title Recording dates and venues Length
5. "Jones Crusher"   October 31, 1977 - The Palladium, NYC 2:49
6. "What Ever Happened to All the Fun in the World"     0:33
7. "Rat Tomago"   Guitar solo from "The Torture Never Stops" played live on February 15, 1978 - Deutschlandhalle, Berlin, Germany 5:17
8. "We've Got to Get into Something Real" (Listed under the title "Wait a Minute" on the CD version)   0:31
9. "Bobby Brown" (Listed under the title "Bobby Brown Goes Down" on the CD version) January 24–28 or February 27–28, 1978 - Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK 2:49
10. "Rubber Shirt" (Bozzio/O'Hearn/Zappa) Bass part: September 25, 1974 - Goteborg, Sweden 2:45
11. "The Sheik Yerbouti Tango"   Guitar solo from "The Little House I Used to Live In" played live on February 15, 1978 - Deutschlandhalle, Berlin, Germany 3:56
Side three
No. Title Recording dates and venues Length
12. "Baby Snakes"   February 28, 1978 - Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK 1:50
13. "Tryin' to Grow a Chin"   January 24–28 or February 27–28, 1978 - Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK 3:31
14. "City of Tiny Lites"   January 24–28 or February 27–28, 1978 - Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK 5:32
15. "Dancin' Fool"   February 28, 1978 - Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK 3:43
16. "Jewish Princess"   October 30, 1977 - The Palladium, NYC 3:16
Side four
No. Title Recording dates and venues Length
17. "Wild Love"   February 28, 1978 - Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK 4:09
18. "Yo' Mama"   Vocal sections February 28, 1978 - Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK; Guitar solo: February 25, 1978 - Hemmerleinhalle, Neunkirchen am Brand, Germany; Part of the backing track for the solo: January 27, 1978 - Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK 12:36



  • Frank Zappa – lead guitar, lead (1-3, 9, 12, 15-18) and backing vocals, arranger, composer, producer, remixing
  • Adrian Belew – rhythm guitar, lead (5, 14) and backing vocals, Bob Dylan impersonation (2)
  • Patrick O'Hearn – bass, lead (3, 6, 8) and backing vocals
  • Terry Bozzio – drums, lead (3, 4, 6, 8, 13, 17) and backing vocals
  • Ed Mann – percussion, backing vocals
  • Tommy Mars – keyboards, backing and lead (17) vocals
  • Peter Wolf – keyboards, butter, flora margarine
  • David Ocker – clarinet (17)
  • Davey Moire – lead (6, 8) and backing vocals, engineer
  • Andre Lewis – backing vocals
  • Napoleon Murphy Brock – lead (17) and backing vocals
  • Randy Thornton – lead (17) and backing vocals


Production staff[edit]

  • Bob Stone – digital remastering
  • Joe Chiccarelli – remixing, overdub engineer
  • Lynn Goldsmith – photography, cover photo
  • Peter Henderson – engineer
  • Jon Walls – engineer
  • Bob Ludwig – mastering engineer
  • Kerry McNabb – engineer
  • John Williams – art direction
  • Gail Zappa – photography
  • Amy Bernstein – artwork, layout design
  • Barbara Isaak – assistant


Album - Billboard (North America)

Year Chart Position
1979 Pop Albums 21[11]


  1. ^ Lowe, Kelly Fisher (2007). "The Words and Music of Frank Zappa". ISBN 0803260059. 
  2. ^ Norman, Katherine (1998-02-09). "Poetry of Reality". ISBN 9780203986387. 
  3. ^ Myers, Mitch (2008-07-08). "The Boy Who Cried Freebird". ISBN 9780061734199. 
  4. ^ The real Frank Zappa book
  5. ^ a b "Interview with Joe Chiccarelli". HitQuarters. 14 June 2010. Retrieved Aug 19, 2010. 
  6. ^ Huey, S. (2011). "Sheik Yerbouti - Frank Zappa | AllMusic". Retrieved 21 July 2011. 
  7. ^ Fricke, D. (2011). "Frank Zappa: Sheik Yerbouti : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Retrieved 21 July 2011. 
  8. ^ Christgau, R. (2011). "Robert Christgau: CG: Artist 4153". Retrieved 21 July 2011. 
  9. ^ "Zappa Interviews". Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Charts and Awards for Sheik Yerbouti". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-08-22.