Frank Zappa – Dungeon Of Despair (Guitar Master GM – 004/005)

Dungeon Of Despair (Guitar Master GM – 004/005)

Isstadion, Stockholm, Sweden – May 1st, 1988

Disc 1 (69:43):  Tuning, Heavy Duty Judy, Packard Goose Medley, Any Kind Of Pain, More Trouble Every Day, Penguin In Bondage, Hot Plate Heaven At The Green Hotel, Cosmik Debris, Inca Roads, Advance Romance, Bobby Brown, Keep It Greasey

Disc 2 (76:44):  The Torture Never Stops Medley, Big Swifty w/Mats & Morgan (incl T’Mershi Duween), Joe’s Garage, Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?, Peaches En Regalia, Stairway To Heaven, Whippin’ Post w/Dweezil, I Am The Walrus, Loops Jam w/Dweezil, Sofa

Dungeon Of Despair contains an excellent quality soundboard recording of almost all of the show on May 1st, 1988 in Stockholm.  The excellent quality audience recording is used to fill in some of the small gaps, most notably in “Cosmik Debris” and “The Torture Never Stops” medley in seamless edits.  Coming on Zappa’s final tour, this show is notable for featuring the long improvisation on “The Torture Never Stops” with guest appearance by Mats Öberg and Morgan Ågren.  Also included is his reggae version of “Stairway To Heaven” and great covers of “Whipping Post” and “I Am The Walrus.”  A review of this show from the excellent The Frank Zappa 1988 Tour Project states:

If I had to pick one word to describe this show, it would be “Dragonmaster”. More than just a Secret Word, Dragonmaster is the all-pervasive Secret Theme of the night, terrorizing the show much like the winged lizards of ancient folklore terrorized those helpless medieval villages. Referring to a heavy metal parody the band sound checked earlier in the evening, Dragonmaster becomes the evening’s lyrical point of departure, resulting in the standard dragon substitutions, plus references to medieval villages, huts, fire, dragonfood, heavy metal, and a curious “Yoikes!”.

It all starts off innocently enough, with the second word out of Frank’s mouth being “Dragonmaster.” During the band introductions, it is obvious what kind of night it is going to be as each band member is introduced as a Dragonmaster- Ike “Dragonmaster” Willis, Bruce “Dragonmaster” Fowler, etc. For the first 90 minutes of the show, not a single song escapes the wrath of this lyrical beast. In “Any Kind of Pain”, our heroine “dines with actors and those Dragonmasters”. During “More Trouble Every Day”, we discover that “there is no way to stop that Dragon every day”, which is unfortunate, because during “Dragon in Bondage”, he has our singer “trembling like a medieval villager”. Things start to get even worse for “Bobby Brown”, because thanks to Freddy, “he’s a medieval spastic”, so “watch him now, he’s Dragon down.”

Of course, being in Sweden, no show would be complete without several Volvo, Fernando, and ABBA references, and sure enough, once the Dragon well appears to run dry, these start to pop up. Finally, as the early culmination to all this madness, “The Torture Never Stops” gets outright ridiculous. The Secret Word now becomes “butt-ugly,” as in “Tom Petty is the butt-ugliest human being ever to be involved in Rock ‘n’ Roll.” All decency is now gone, but the laughs keep coming. “If you sit on my face I might burn you”, warns Lonesome Cowboy Jim, before declaring “Opal, You Crispy Little Bitch!”

And then….they hit a brick wall. The Secret Words disappear. The inspired performances disappear. The song takes on a whole new conservative, standard, rather dull feeling. Musically speaking, the first 90 minutes are not that spectacular, though there are some interesting moments thanks to some rather dramatic Frank guitar solos. Due to the outrageous Secret Word usage, however, the music takes a back seat to the vocal antics of the band. But an hour-and-a-half into the show, when the laughter suddenly dies, one can only help but notice the music, and one quickly wishes the laughs would resume. Oddly enough, even through some ripe-for-Secret-Word-usage encores, nothing happens. Only a single lyrical mutation for the remaining fifty minutes of the show.

Sadly (for the band, not for us), the best part of the show (musically speaking) comes from the two guests. Swedish musicians Mats Öberg and Morgan Ågren come out during a quite dull “Big Swifty,” and whip out a keyboard/drums jam highly reminiscent of the Mars/Colaiuta ’78 jams. If you didn’t know any better, you would swear you were listening to a ’78 “Little House”. Mats even throws in some Tommy-style scat. This is easily one of the highlights of the tour. To top it off, they perform “T’Mershi Duween” (just the two of them) and it is Sweet!

Only the first 100 minutes of this show are worth hearing. Up through “The Torture Never Stops”, the laughs never stop, and the music serves as the perfect breather between chuckles. When the laughs finally die down, the two Swedes blow our little minds, and hopefully leave us with enough sense to turn off the tape and avoid the not-so-thrilling conclusion. 

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  1. It should be mentioned that there is a “hum” or “buzz” throughout the entire recording, heard mainly during the quieter moments of the show and in between songs


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