Saturday, June 16, 2007

Anecdote # 828

Mr. Clean.
frank called him bald-headed John.
John Smothers was frank's body guard
ever since mr. zappa was tossed into
the orchestra pit by an irate fan.
(resulting in broken bones,
a lost year, lawsuits, the end of a band, etc.)

John looked like a black Mr. Clean.
tall, big build, smiling, bald, black man.
at a time when bald was weird.
john had a tight protruding belly
like Buddha.
he tried to seem ominous but he was
really a very sweet person.
a pussycat.

it was john's conversational skills
which defined him.
frank once told me he loved having
john around for the things he said.
john completely man-handled the english language.

I heared the equipment's being shipped out of chorus crispy, he said.
sitting down to breakfast he rejected coffee
ordering water instead,
I'll have a glass of HpO.

along with frank and our tour manager
(who deserves his own chapter)
john was the person I hung out with most.
sitting next to him on a plane
he would show me pictures of his girlfriend
boy she had 'em.
he would pull out his wallet stuffed with large bills,
look at this, abe, mister zappa pays me well,
he would say.

I loved john.

onstage he tried to be stone cold.
crossing his arms over one another
like the famous mussolini shots.

moving mr. zappa through a crowd
he held a threatening stick
that looked like a slender telescope.
"what is that, john," I asked him.
that's my polka, he would say.
"so what do you do with it?" I asked.
well, I pokes people with it, he told me.

the thing was, john never got my name right.
throughout the whole two month tour
he never got my name right.

he would start by calling me andrew
for a week or two,
then he'd shorten it to andy.
for a while.
then he'd move on to andre.
and stay with andre until I became
atrium, (my personal favorite).
it's nice to be architecture.

we were good with atrium for a time
until I simply became a.
that lasted for a while.

then one day john got all
philosophical on me,
started calling me
a nice biblical tome.

he shortened that to
(there may be an h in there somewhere,
I'm not sure of the spellings of my name
by this point.)

still not content
abrums begat abe.
finally after two months of daily conversation
that's where we left off.

honest abe belew.

no wait, I don't think he ever tried my last name.


  1. Atrium, too good.

    An irate fan? Not sure I had ever considered those words used together. Seem to contradict one another.

    I used to cook in a cafe outside Chi-town, two of my co-workers would often sing a song about Bald-Headed John while we worked. They loved Frank. I had never observed such musical/personal admiration before that experience. Nor Frank. They also introduced a young me to KC.

    I wonder if BHJ would have had the same issues with the name Steve. That's my given name, too. The Mexicans at that cafe used to call me 'ice tea' ...
    – abstracted from 'Hi Steve'.

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  3. I love that you are so people oriented and see the beauty in our differences. You relate your stories in a very non-judgmental way that shows your fascination with what makes us individuals. It's like the artist in you is always observing and studying the beauty of the world around you. Dang, I just realized how gushy that sounds. Back to our regularly scheduled programming. Happy Father's Day to you!

  4. Okay, that one made me laugh out loud. I'm glad my mouth wasn't full of coffee.

    Yes, John sounds like he was a sweetheart. (My sister once met someone like him to claimed to be friends with that great filmmaker "Steven Spiralberg.") I wonder what became of John...

    I don't think I'll be able to hear "atrium" again anytime soon without snickering.

    We're making blue pancakes here for Father's Day. I hope you get treated well today, Atrium.

  5. Oh yeah, if John got hold of your last name, you would have been "Atrium Blue," I guarantee.

  6. Having seen FZ a couple of times in the 70"s (most notably the Overnight Sensation band in 1972), I remember seeing John stalking the stage, even tossing a stoned-out kid back into the crowd at one point.

    But I remember thinking that he was probably a bit of a gentle giant. Thanks for confirming that for me Abe.

    Love the blog, btw...

  7. ...Actually I think that show was in '73. And to follow up on Marianne's comment, I think you should rename the power trio Atrium Blue,

  8. ...Or perhaps Andronicus Baleen.


    Always a pleasure to hear and see your work, A.B.

  9. it's nice to be architecture. Or it is nice to lead to someone backwards instead of forwards....i mean how did i end up here, how did i know you? I was sitting in my place, Buenos Aires city,(yes, iam from Argentina) and then sssssssssheeeeeeeeissusceptible and then ok, i knew i was supposed to like Crimson by default but i ve never heard them really....until a couple of months ago where that song was all the time suspended in the air in my apartment in Agronomia, 20 minutes far from the Obelisc. So then i said, who is the author, Belew was the answer. Ok, google has it all, you were there too, of course. I just felt in love with the song. being 29 years old, well, it seems that i re discovered the wheels right? But i mean, Borges said, argentinean writer,(hard to say that in english...let me think) he said something like this song in my context is like a new song, for this is the first time ive heard it so it is new somehow, as it was never heard for me before...or something like that.

    well, Abe, your Bio is amazing. Ive just met you so very nice to meet you. My name is Laura Szerman. I like the way you write, so the rest is merely obiquitous.

  10. Atrium Blue, works for me, I like it.

  11. Thanks, Atrium, for another great anecdote.

  12. I'm guessing John might not have said Atrium Blue, as 'Blue' sounds a little closer to the real thing than his attempts at your first name. So maybe something more like Atrium Balloon, or Abraham Ballyhoo....

  13. Abraham Ballyhoo....

    It's only talk...

  14. Today I spend my day at the recording studio. we was recording some guitar phrases in the Whole tone scale passing from 5/8 to 7/8, all day repiting the same phrases... I still hearing it, but is very satisfactory to hear the premix version of our new songs. Maybe in August we will finish this album, and I will give it you Mr.Belew, in thankful for be a great influence to me. Thank you and thank to KC.

    (Once again I'm sorry for my terrible english)

  15. Thanx for making room for the iron sausage!

  16. BHJ is the subject of the song "Dong Work for Yuda" on Mr. Zappa's Joe's Garage album.

    This is the story of Baldheaded John.

    (Dong work for Yuda, dong dong)

    He talks a lot and its usually wrong....

    The song is even funnier to me now that I know the origin! Thanks (again) Adrian!

    "This girl must be praketin' richcraft"

    "I just love the way these Copenhagens talks!"

    "Falcom, take me to the falcom!"