Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World of Zappa by Kevin Courrier
                                               ECW Press. 2002 

                                           Reviewed by Geoff Wills 

Does the world need a new Frank Zappa book? Yes, if it provides new information and insights. Does this book fulfil that brief? No, not really. Suspicions are immediately aroused by the blurb on the back cover, which tells us that the book explodes the myth that Zappa was a deranged drug addict. This myth was a dead issue years ago. To get the ball rolling quickly, factual errors commence on page 6, and continue to pop up at regular intervals from there. As an experienced cultural writer, broadcaster and worker at a Music Conservatory, Courrier ought to know better. He draws heavily on previous Zappa biographies, including those by David Walley, Michael Gray, Ben Watson and Neil Slaven, and quotes liberally from them. For instance, compare Courrier’s description of the 1988 band rehearsals with that of Neil Slaven in Electric Don Quixote. We’re presented with a familiar trawl through Zappa tours and albums, with track-by-track reviews.

To be fair, the book does give a decent general overview of Zappa’s life and career, and there’s a sympathetic and comprehensive account of his final years. Dangerous Kitchen has a nice cover, a collage including a photo of the young Edgard Varese looking uncannily like Dweezil – how’s that for conceptual continuity? – and it contains some little-seen photographs. But I can’t see the point of the book’s appearance at the present time, unless it’s some kind of vanity publication. If you’re not a Zappa completist, wait for the upcoming updates of Greg Russo’s Cosmik Debris and Nigey Lennon’s Being Frank.

A List of Errors

page 6.   Denny Walley did not play in the early ‘80s outfit.
             Marc Ziegenhagen comes from Minneapolis , not Sweden
page 33  “Through these works (The Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring), Stravinsky had forsaken the world of romanticism and forged a new style of neoclassicism.” This is wrong. Stravinsky initiated his neoclassical phase later, with his 1919-1920 composition Pulcinella.
page 37. “... beginning with Pulcinella (1920) (Stravinsky) started his foray into neoclassicism.” Here, Courrier unwittingly corrects and contradicts his statement of page 33.
page 54. “... xenochronous compositions like Brown Shoes Don’t Make It.” Xenochrony is the taking of instrumental passages from completely different songs (bass part from one song, drum part from another etc.) and fitting them together musically. This technique is not used in Brown Shoes Don’t Make It.
page 116. “ ‘ Brown Shoes Don’t Make It’ ... is about a middle-class American, just out of school ... looking to make a career for himself at City Hall.” This is wrong. As Neil Slaven correctly states in Electric Don Quixote, the song “contrasted the average American family’s humdrum existence ... (with) the corrupt minds of politicians ... and their triumphalism.”
page 131. Discussing Lumpy Gravy, Courrier states that, as the main theme Duodenum fades, “a bit of twelve-tone music (left over from the film Run Home Slow) leads us into an orchestral version of ... Oh No.”  The music is not twelve-tone, and it actually comes from The World’s Greatest Sinner.
page 188. Victoria Ironside should be Virginia Ironside.
page 197. On The Gumbo Variations Ian Underwood plays tenor sax, not alto sax.
page 211. “ ‘ The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue’  is a marvellous piece of solo horn work by Underwood and the Gardner brothers.” Grammatically and descriptively, this sentence is nonsense. Courrier may be attempting to say that Underwood and the Gardners state the theme together, and then perform bits of collective improvisation.
page 211. Eric Dolphy did not die from a brain tumour, and he was not the first jazz player to use the bass clarinet as a solo instrument. He died from undiagnosed diabetes, and the first musician to play solos on bass clarinet was probably Harry Carney with Duke Ellington, although Adrian Rollini may have beaten him to it.
page 249. Courrier states that The Grand Wazoo band broke up on September 24, 1972 , and omits to say that they transformed into the Petit Wazoo.
page 259. “Brock ... eventually joined the group for a three-day stint at the Roxy Theatre in L.A. ” Napoleon Murphy Brock actually joined Zappa in October 1973.
page 295. “Kenny McNabb” should be Kerry McNabb.
page 348. Courrier omits any mention of the first 1980 band with David Logeman.
page 460. “David Braxton” is actually David Raksin, the famous film composer previously referred to on page 205. 

(Geoff Wills, 2002 )