Bongo Fury review by Ed Ward

This review for the Zappa / Mothers / Beefheart collaboration originally appeared in the January 1976 edition of Creem.

A classic Cal Schenkel cover surrounds one of the most listenable Zappa / Mothers records since the old days, but anyone coming to this set to hear Beefheart will be semi-disappointed. Semi because he does a lot of singing on Bongo Fury, but what he’s singing are the same old Zappa lyrics, which deal with the same old Zappa hang-ups. It’s a strange experience to listen to the album’s first cut, “Debra Kadabra,” and hear Beefheart singing like Beefheart, but realize a little way into the song that he’s singing what is essentially a continuation of that ridiculous schtick about the poncho. Beefheart singing about pimples? Shudder.

Zappa’s stuff here features good playing, little talking, and fine singing from his new band. No noise, in other words. But I am still tired of his sourness. But the good Cap gets two recitations, and they so outshine Zappa’s sour bullshit that if I were Zappa I’d have left them off the album. “Sam With the Showing Scalp Flat Top” and “Man With the Woman Head” show that Beefheart still has a lot of good material nobody’s heard. Maybe the next album from this collaboration will reverse itself and have as much Zappa on it as this one has Beefheart. Yeah – more Beefheart and I’ll keep the next album.


  1. The “Debra Kadabra” lyrics are about Don (and Frank) when they were in high school.

  2. Sam with the showing scalp flat top,
    Particular about the point it made.
    Why, when I was knee-high to a grasshopper,
    This black juice came out on a hard shelled chin.
    And they called that ‘tobacco juice’.
    I used to fiddle with my back feet music for a black onyx.
    My entire room absorbed every echo.
    The music was . . . thud like.
    The music was . . . thud like.
    I usually played such things as rough-neck and thug.
    Opaque melodies that would bug most people.
    Music from the other side of the fence

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