Happy Birthday Frank Zappa: A Token Of His Extreme
Frank Zappa possessed one of the most creative and talented musical minds the world has ever known. He was also a passionate activist and deft satirist. Unfortunately, those things — if done well — don’t really jive with mass media, especially American network television in the mid-1970s.
That’s why Frank Zappa’s self-produced A Token Of His Extreme special — recorded on August 27, 1974 at KCET Hollywood — didn’t see a commercial release in the U.S. until six years ago. The program was shown “in primetime in France and Switzerland with marvelous results,” Frank said on the Mike Douglas Show in 1976. However, for years it remained “one of the most sought after Frank Zappa programs.”
Today marks what would have been Zappa’s 79th birthday. Although Frank died on December 4, 1993, his profound prolificness has provided a wellspring of “new” material for fans to enjoy of which A Token Of His Extreme is at the forefront. As always, the performance features an ace band consisting of Zappa (guitar, percussion, vocals), George Duke (keyboards, finger cymbals, tambourine, vocals), Napoleon Murphy Brock (sax, vocals), Ruth Underwood (percussion), Tom Fowler (bass) and Chester Thompson (drums).
But the program also sees visuals from legendary animator Bruce Bickford. Bickford, who worked primarily with stop motion clay animation, would go on to collaborate with Zappa on a number of projects including the concert films Baby Snakes and The Dub Room Special. To return the favor, Zappa released a film called The Amazing Mr. Bickford which featured Bickford’s claymation accompanied by some of Zappa’s orchestral compositions. Bickford recently passed away on April 28, 2019.
To remember Zappa and Bickford as well as to celebrate Frank’s birthday, check out videos of three songs from A Token Of His Extreme — “Montana,” “Inca Roads” and “Stink-Foot” — via Eagle Rock Entertainment below: