Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Song of the Week 1/28/05

Frank Zappa - “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow”/”Nanook Rubs It”/”St. Alphonzo’s Pancake Breakfast”/”Father O’Blivion”

Ah, the first serious snowfall of the winter is always a wondrous time, especially if you’ve lived all your life in the Northeast. There’s always that initial burst of anticipation; the weather geeks get all excited about a “big winter event” and the TV stations go wall-to-wall with “Snow Team Coverage.” And finally when it starts falling, one can’t help but want to stand outside and watch it fall, erasing any evidence of garbage strewn across the sidewalks across New York. The storm that socked NYC on the 22nd was a sight to behold -- within two hours almost four inches of the stuff piled up on my front porch. It was the perfect night to go traipsing through the drifts and drink like a pack of St. Bernards had discovered us in the highest elevation of the Himalayas.

Alas, that initial rush always ends with the snow turning muddy from the sand on the streets -- and in the case of my neighborhood -- turning yellow in spots because of the numerous cats that roam free like they own the place. So as I attempted to tread to work two days after the storm (and having to walk 16 extra blocks because the train my neighborhood was not running), listening to this medley that opens Zappa’s 1974 album Apostrophe’ seemed perfect music to mush to:

“Dreamed I was an Eskimo
Frozen wind began to blow
Under my boots and around my toes
The frost that bit the ground below
It was a hundred degrees below zero... “

“And my mama cried
And my mama cried
Nanook, a-no-no
Nanook, a-no-no
Don't be a naughty Eskimo
Save your money, don't go to the show”

“Well I turned around and I said ‘Oh, oh’ Oh
Well I turned around and I said ‘Oh, oh’ Oh
Well I turned around and I said ‘Ho, Ho’
And the northern lights commenced to glow
And she said, with a tear in her eye
‘Watch out where the huskies go, and don't you eat that yellow snow’
‘Watch out where the huskies go, and don't you eat that yellow snow’”
(C) 1974 Munchkin Music

While the opening of the album lends itself to wintertime, there’s something else that makes it one of my quintessential snowstorm albums. I grasped the genius of this tale about Eskimo revenge and the power of urine-treated snow during the very first winter break I spent away from home. My friend Dave and I worked at the college station in Ithaca during the winter of 1988-89 and shared an apartment we borrowed from one of our friends. During one of those cold nights in that tiny garden apartment, he played me the disc that contained both Apostrophe’ and the 1973 album Overnite Sensation. This shit was dirty, funny, stupid, smart and had a great groove all at the same time -- and it was perfect for the brutal Central New York winter we had to trudge through everyday. And with our big coats, we probably looked just like Nanook. Except I never picked up the yellow snow, even in self defense.

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