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Why I ❤️ Frank Zappa's Apostrophe ('), by Steve Harley

Steve Harley in front of the cover art of Frank Zappa's Apostrophe album
(Image credit: Frank Zappa: UMC | Steve Harley: Mark Holloway)

"When it came to spending the rest of my life on a desert island with a particular album, I was torn between Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde and my eventual choice. There were so many Frank Zappa albums to pick from, and eventually I plumped for Apostrophe ('), which came out in 1974. 

“Basically, this is an album that belongs in the record collection of any household to appreciate music from the highest echelons. With contributions from Jack Bruce, Aynsley Dunbar, Jim Gordon, George Duke, Tom Fowler… Jesus, it’s from the very top drawer. 

“Zappa was respected by every musician worthy of the moniker. He had the lot – the self-deprecating wit, a guitar technique from heaven, and such compositional skills. He also recorded himself, and on Apostrophe (') he’s so close to the microphone you can hear the saliva on his gums. 

“To this day, I still remember hearing it for the first time. The second version of Cockney Rebel, with Jim Cregan on guitar, happened to be touring America. Zappa was not unknown to me, as I already had Hot Rats [1969] and a few others of Frank’s, but I suppose I’d grown a bit out of touch with him. Jim Cregan used to take a portable record player out on tour, and each night my hotel suite would be set up as a post-gig party room. One night Jim played the vinyl LP of Apostrophe (') and it blew the entire room away."

“Although best-known for the surprise hit single Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow, it’s strong throughout. Frank’s guitar solo in Stink-Foot is unsurpassable; it’s got everything and is terribly, terribly good. Uncle Remus, which he wrote with George Duke, has the most incredible words. When he sings about ‘knockin’ the little jockeys off the rich people’s lawns’, he could still be talking about Beverley Hills today. His rhyming of ‘gawn’ – as in ‘gone’ – with ‘lawn’ still makes me laugh. 

“A very special man, Frank was admired by classical, jazz, blues and rock players. Everyone loved him… sometimes with famous results. I was at the Rainbow Theatre [in London] when he was pushed off the stage by the jealous boyfriend of a female fan, breaking his leg. 

“I never got to meet Frank before his sad death in 1993 – a fact that probably didn’t disappoint me too greatly. I’ve never really tried to get to know my heroes. That said, I did get to spend some time with Bob Dylan, which was an oddly pleasurable experience. 

“I’ll probably never, ever tire of hearing Apostrophe ('). It’s only just over half an hour long, but it’s still a fantastic record that I’d recommend to almost anyone."

Steve Harley was speaking with Dave Ling.

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.