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With a discography that includes 109 albums (62 while alive, 47 posthumous), Frank Zappa was a veritable artistic genius—and like many geniuses, his artistry was tangled up with his enigmatic, oftentimes erratic, stage persona. Such behavior can be difficult to to capture, but thanks to the Paste Vault, we can watch the legendary performer in his prime without the use of a hologram.
During the early show at his double-header at the Capitol Theater in New Jersey on Oct. 13, 1978, a shirtless Zappa was playing to a sold-out crowd. For his second encore, the leader and his band launched into a triumphant “Dinah Moe Hum,” from his 1973 album, Over-Nite Sensation. The situation seems docile enough, with Zappa explaining to the audience that he’s happy to keep playing so long as they continue to sing along. He reasons, “Nobody wants to be schmuck, but remember, this is audience participation—during audience participation, everybody is a schmuck.” But he quickly turns the fun into a threat: “If I look out there in the audience and see one person who’s not singing when we go back to this ‘Dinah Moe Hum’ business, that’s it.”
The crowd erupts into a raucous refrain of the chorus, but Zappa quickly cuts off the music and singles out a man in the crowd. “See this guy right here? Look at this guy, with a Rolling Stones shirt on.” He demands a spotlight on the offender as the crowd starts to boo. Zappa continues, “Let me tell you something. I look down there and he wasn’t even moving his lips. You know what that means? That means, thanks a lot folks. We’ll be seeing you next time. Good night.” The music stops, Zappa returns his microphone to its stand, and the show unceremoniously ends. Watch the footage of Zappa punishing the fan below.
For the later show, Zappa was much tamer during his encore performance. Donning a wide-brimmed hat, he grabs a conductor’s baton and leads his band through a rendition of “Strictly Genteel,” from his album 200 Motels. Watch the legend in his prime. (Unless you’re that one guy and you’ve never gotten over it.)