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Frank Zappa

Philm's notes on shooting the Chunga's Revenge Album Sleeve:

All Images Copyright © 1969 - 2023 Phil Franks, All Rights Reserved.

Authorized translation of this page in Spanish.

"Chunga's Revenge. What do a monastery in Sussex and Miss Pamela Des Barres have to do with this?"

Part One: The Press Reception.

"The night before the session I had been at Lady June's apartment while she suffered another of her bouts of "Linguistic Leprosy", racing around the place, muttering in rhyme under her breath, then reciting out loud to see the reaction of whoever happened to be there at the time. When she was like that all one could say was, "yeah June, that sounds great!" and fill her glass with cheap Spanish plonk and pass the spliff.

So I was quite happy with the promise of a day in the country at the invitation of Kinney Records, who had hired a whole fleet of buses to take just about every news hack in London to a medieval monastery converted into a Luxury Hotel/Conference Centre. I do believe that there was even a reporter from "The Meat Traders Journal". I bet that would've amused Frank, if he'd known! I've not yet met a journalist who says no to free nose-bag and quaff.

  [Photos © Phil Franks]
As soon as we got off the buses we were all offered a drink while the musos gathered on the lawn for the obligatory, "boring, standing-around-looking-bored" pix. There was, other than Zappa and his line-up, "Dr.John and his Night Trippers" and "Canned Heat". It wasn't my preferred way of working, but a photog's gotta do what a photog's gotta do, and I hate telling people to pose or do something that they wouldn't normally do.

[Photos © Phil Franks]   [Photos © Phil Franks]

I snapped off some of Frank showing-off the original artwork for "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" to a journo, and thought that under the circumstances, those and a few portraits and group shots, including Aynsley Dunbar, one of my all time fave bucket bashers, was about as good as I'd get.

By that time the musos had had enough, and everybody was drifting into the banqueting-hall for the lunch that the PR people had laid on to ensure their investments got good press. I guess that the Fleet Street guys thought that they had done their bit for the day, and descended on the food as if they hadn't eaten in a month. The light wasn't any use in the hall and I didn't like using flash, so I didn't but, I shot a nice profile of "Da Man" anyway and went to my place at the table.

[Photos © Phil Franks]   When it got to "coffee 'n' lick-yours" time, I spotted out of the corner of my eye, Frank wandering off through a side door followed by another photog, I left my cognac (don't worry, I went back for it later!) and slipped out another door, so as not to tip-off all the others too.

By the time I'd got around to the other side of the building there were at least another six cameramen there in a circle around this poor guy, who had thought he'd just maybe enjoy his Remy Martin with some fresh air and bird-song in the garden.

He looked pretty unhappy about being followed out, and he really wasn't into the idea of another "photo-opportunity". I was just focusing my portrait lens on him as he began to yawn, with my free eye I noticed the other guys lower their cameras... he'd been giving out some pretty heavy vibes since we'd all cornered him again and I think these guys felt intimidated, and anyway, they just wanted the standard kinda image for their picture editors.

Me?....I was "Friends/Frendz" staff photographer; we all did what the fuck we wanted at that rag, We never got paid anyway so at least we tried to get our rocks off when we could! When I saw that image in my view-finder it just screamed "FRANK ZAPPA!" at me... as I clicked the button I couldn't stop myself from yelling, "TOOFUCKIN'MUCH!!!"... Frank heard it and lightened up, I asked him to try putting the brandy glass between himself and the camera, he gave me a few more nice "eye to eye" shots. I thanked him very much, wished him a pleasant stay in Britain, and that was that until the pix appeared in the next issue of "Friends".

[Photos © Phil Franks]

Like just about every other photographer in the world, I'm a great admirer of Henri Cartier-Bresson's work, and his approach to photography. No way would I compare my work to his but he says, "To take photographs means to recognize -- simultaneously and within a fraction of a second -- both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one's head, one's eye and one's heart on the same axis." He talks about waiting for the picture to come to you, like a fisherman casts his line and baited hook and then waits, ready to strike. Sometimes that's what happens - you do what you can to create something, but in the end you just have to be in the right place at the right time. . . and empty enough to see. Zen! That's more my cup of Mµ tea!"

"... OK, that's what went down at the monastery, so what about Miss Pamela Des Barres?"

Go To - Philm Freax: Pamela Des Barres (Chunga's Revenge part 2)


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