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Frank Zappa producing Dylan’s ‘Infidels’; how would it have sounded?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by ajsmith, Jul 8, 2018.

  1. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Glasgow
    Zappa recounted several times the absurd tale of the night in late 1982 when Bob Dylan doorstepped him with a proposition of producing his next album which became ‘Infidels’.
    Zappa was game, but Dylan never followed up the whim. But how do people think a Zappa - produced Infidels would have sounded? Would Zappa have played it straight or poured his own eccentricities over proceedings? And what sound exactly did Dylan have in mind when he approached Zappa? Maybe I’m ignorant, but to me he s never seemed like a guy with much interest in production. Was he looking to emulate the sound of any particular Zappa production, or was he more seeking an artistic collaborator in Zappa? Be interested if anyone has any insight or speculation.
     
  2. cs2003

    cs2003 Forum Resident

    But how do people think a Zappa - produced Infidels would have sounded?
    Thin Wild Mercury ?
     
  3. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Glasgow
    Bumpo!
     
  4. pbuzby

    pbuzby Senior Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    I haven't heard much of the Grand Funk album Zappa produced in 1976 but I think it mostly sounded like a typical Grand Funk album (although there is a CD bonus track "Rubberneck" that sounds like a Zappa song). I don't know if there is much to go on guessing how a Dylan album would have sounded.
     
    ajsmith likes this.
  5. Emil Zatopek

    Emil Zatopek Forum Resident

    Location:
    Almost there
    In his book Zappa says he liked the songs, and would have hired Giorgio Moroder to arrange the backing tracks.
     
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  6. cublowell

    cublowell Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    The production on the released version of Infidels is pretty terrible, so lifeless & dull. Maybe Zappa would have breathed some excitement into those songs.
     
  7. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley 5.1 should be mandatory for my favourite albums

    A good producer will help translate an artists ideas to a recorded product.
    Unless dylan was looking for zappa to write with him, the songs wouldn't be much different. Perhaps a slightly different sound, but essentially the same album.
     
  8. Say It Right

    Say It Right Not for the Hearing Impaired

    Location:
    Niagara Falls
    Can't think of anything to say, yourself?

    Well, somebody's got to offer an opinion. So, here goes. If this encounter actually took place, it was just floating the idea. Since it apparently never got further, Dylan must have had several other such conversations with other musicians/producers over the course of his career.

    On the surface, this doesn't seem to be a good match. Zappa was used to being in complete control. Dylan was susceptible to record company interference. The execs at Sony no doubt were livid with the Born Again phase, and rock critics blasted it in unison, despite the fact that the period contained some great material.

    Sometimes chemistry develops from unexpected combinations, such as this, but the odds don't favor it. This album was his most commercial-sounding in years, which was not by accident. Zappa would not have aided that cause one bit.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
  9. Black Elk

    Black Elk Music Lover

    Location:
    Bay Area, U.S.A.
    Curious Breeze and ajsmith like this.
  10. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley 5.1 should be mandatory for my favourite albums

    So sadly Zappa's intolerance ruined an interesting idea.
    I am a Zappa fan by the way
     
  11. boboquisp

    boboquisp Magic Prism Eye

    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Maybe Frank could've got Bob to do a cover of "Flakes"? Otherwise, this seems like a very bad idea to me.
     
    stewedandkeefed likes this.
  12. davebush

    davebush New Test Leper

    Location:
    St. Catharines, ON
    Are we listening to the same album?
     
  13. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Well, there you have it. Eleven songs, synthesizers with harmonica and guitar on top. Thank goodness it didn't happen.

    Thank you for the link, by the way. Very interesting.
     
  14. fallbreaks

    fallbreaks Forum Resident

    Well I would like to hear that cassette!

    11 songs, whereas Infidels contains only 8. There are lots of other Dylan originals from that era, so I wonder which songs he played for Zappa, and if any of them even showed up on Infidels.

    Actually, Giorgio Moroder synthesizer tracks with guitar and harmonica over it sounds pretty cool to me.
     
    Moth likes this.
  15. pbuzby

    pbuzby Senior Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    Judging from Zappa's own albums of the time, it is likely the Dylan album would have sounded very 80's, if it had happened.
     
  16. Zongadude

    Zongadude Music is the best

    Location:
    France
    Yeah, Zappa said: "I said he should subcontract out the songs to Giorgio Moroder to do a complete synthesizer track and Dylan should play guitar and harmonica over the top. It would be fantastic!".

    I've always wondered how that would have sounded, and although there is no harmonica, the closest existing album that would fit more or less such a description, is Thom Yorke's "The eraser" album, from 2006. Think about it: a very human and organic voice set against a backdrop of electronics bleeps and beats. I always think of the the Dylan/Zappa encounter when I listen to that album :)
     
    ajsmith likes this.
  17. soniclovenoize

    soniclovenoize Forum Resident

    Location:
    Minneapolis, MN
    "When I took him upstairs to give him a sandwich, my dog barked at him. I told him to watch out, my dog doesn't like Christians. And he didn't laugh."

    Priceless.
     
  18. mongo

    mongo Forum Resident

    Yes, we are but apparently someone harbors a long standing disdain for Infidels.
    Personally it was a blind buy for me and I still love it.
    Having Mark Knopfler on board was a stroke of genius.
    Classic album on all levels.
    Really don't care about the potential Zappa connection.
    There are a zillion what-if stories like this and this is one of the least interesting I've never heard about.
     
    stax o' wax likes this.
  19. cublowell

    cublowell Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I like most of the songs on Infidels, I just dislike the production. The slick sound doesn't fit the songs. I don't care for the production on Slow Train Coming for the same reason.
     
  20. DeeThomaz

    DeeThomaz Senior Member

    Location:
    In The Felony Room
    Elvis Costello was also approached to produce the album, but reportedly had to decline due to tour obligations. Considering his hot streak of early to mid 80’s productions (The Specials, Squeeze, The Pogues), it might have been a very interesting prospect.
     
    Maurice, PJayBe, smoke and 2 others like this.
  21. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Glasgow
    Thanks, all the Mark Pinske stuff was new to me!

    I didn’t realise the meeting was A) taped and B) included Zappa/Dylan jamming/songwriting attempts! Considering Zappa was such a meticulous self - documenter, it seems unusual to me that copies were just run off and he didn’t keep a master for his own archive. It also seems odd to me that this tape isn’t more of a Holy Grail for both fandoms! Has Tommy Mars ever been asked about this? Fascinating.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
    Curious Breeze likes this.
  22. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Glasgow
    Oh yeah? Well, it’s one of the most interesting I’ve ever heard about! How’d ya like them apples?
     
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  23. I333I

    I333I Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ventura
    I beg to differ.
     
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  24. Black Elk

    Black Elk Music Lover

    Location:
    Bay Area, U.S.A.
  25. It would have been called Outfidels and featured between-track banter between Bob and Suzy Creamcheese. Damn, what a missed opportunity.
     
    ajsmith likes this.

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