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Frank Zappa: Dub Room Special

4.1 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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(Oct 18, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Previously released on VHS and Beta and only available through mail order, Frank Zappa’s Dub Room Special is an extremely rare TV special comprising two live performances from one of Rock’s great individuals. Zappa’s unparalleled abilities as a composer, guitarist, and absurdist/social commentator run rampant on The Dub Room Special - and it is a unique window on his willingness to push the envelope of what is possible no matter how improbable. Selections from two separate concerts, one, called A Token of His Extreme, shot in 1974 at Los Angeles public television station KCET and one in 1981 filmed at his annual New York Halloween show, are interspersed with then-cutting edge claymation/stop motion animation from Bruce Bickford and assorted comedy bits.

Since 1966, Zappa had established himself as perhaps the most fearless musician known to popular music. He incorporated modern classical music, blazing rock and blues and doo wop, guitar solos he called "air sculpture" and an extremely cynical point of view to forge a legacy that remains completely unique 12 years after his death.


Live performances by two very different groups led by the late Frank Zappa are the main attraction of Dub Room Special, a relatively rare DVD offering from one of contemporary music's most prolific and hard-to-classify figures. There were always two sides to Zappa (who died in 1993), from serious composer/musician to potty-mouthed frat boy, from innovator, iconoclast, and provocateur to juvenile shtick-meister. Both are on display here, but while there's plenty of fooling around, onstage and off, in the end it's Zappa's music that makes the more profound impression. The earlier of the two performances, recorded in 1974 and entitled "A Token of His Extreme," finds George Duke (keyboards), Chester Thompson (drums), the zany Napoleon Murphy Brock (woodwinds), and Ruth Underwood (mallet percussion) joining the guitarist for renditions of "Montana," "Florentine Pogen," "Inca Roads," and others, all showcasing both Zappa's warped sense of humor and the remarkable complexity and avant-garde flavor of his compositions; this is arguably the best band he ever assembled, and perhaps the best visual record of a Zappa gig. The second show, from Halloween 1981, is less distinguished. The musicians, though far less prominent than those from the earlier group (with the exception of hotshot guitarist Steve Vai), are excellent, but the material is weaker, and the entire proceeding is marred by "Stevie's Spanking," a moronic ode to Vai's visit with a kinky groupie. Elsewhere, Bruce Bickford's stop motion clay animation (also featured throughout Baby Snakes, a 2003 Zappa DVD release) is clever but somewhat overused; and there's little excuse for the bits featuring Italian "journalist" Massimo Bassoli (whose main talent seems to be picking his nose) or the inclusion of the very dated "Valley Girl" documentary, featuring Zappa's daughter Moon Unit. --Sam Graham

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Frank Zappa, George Duke, Ruth Underwood, Chester Thompson, Tom Fowler
  • Directors: Frank Zappa, Clark Santee, Dick Darley
  • Writers: Frank Zappa
  • Producers: Bennett Glotzer, Bill Boggs, Dick Barber, Karen McLaughlin
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Eagle Rock Ent
  • DVD Release Date: October 18, 2005
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000BC8SW4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,395 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Frank Zappa: Dub Room Special" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ivan Brantes Salinas on November 22, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I've been waiting for this release since it contain the only official performance of Zappa/Mothers in 74 (from the "A Token of his Extreme" show). I have seen it twice and I have to admit I'm quite dissappointed since there's no improvement on the vintage footage and the extra material it's absolutely useless (Moon Valley feature, discography,...). This is the SAME VHS or Beta(max) we all ordered from Zappa's mail order service back in the 80's, but packaged under a DVD mask.

Most of the tracks from 1974 and 1981 are edited, cut and/or mixed with additional images. Also there are lots of "noises" added to some tracks. Bootleggers who used to offer the 1974 performance must be very happy with this edited video.

I wish they had included a CLEAN, FULL and CONTINOUS live performance at KCTTV Culver City Studios on 08/07/1974 with Zappa / Mothers and SEPARATELY the 10/31/1981 New York Halloween Party concert at the Palladium. Also they could have put as a worth - having extra "The Amazing Mr Brickford" video (the man behind those great clay animation).

If you want an in deep review, here is:

Uncomplete: no intro. and there's fade at the end. Original film is heavily distorted with additional images (mostly from Brickford), video effects and external "noises". Nevertheless you can see for brief moments Frank playing drums with Ruth Underwood (former Ruth Kammanoff)

- (circa 1974) PORTIONS OF MR BRICKFORD: Formerly shown on Baby Snake VHS / DVD
- DIALOGUE AT COMPACT VIDEO (the place where this video was made)
Uncomplete: Maybe introduction is lost and there's CUT at the end. This is a classic Zappa talking - number.
Read more ›
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Format: DVD
Before I get started a couple of words to all of the "real Frank Zappa fans" out there. This is the same Dub Room Special you had deteriorating on VHS (either an original or copy) with all of those drop outs and lines running through the solo on "Inca Roads", as a clean DVD. In this day and age of bonus features; extra footage, interviews, and easter egg( the single most annoying feature ever) it seems like too many people expect extras with the VHS to DVD transfers. Plus there is NO fan base with a bigger sense if entitlement than Zappa fans who for some reason feel Gail Zappa should personally consult each and every one of them on what, when, and how things should be released. It's thrilling that the stuff is being released at all considering what a niche market Zappa's catalog is in this day and age of american idol. If you didn't like Dub Room then don't, don't buy it now, but if you did or have always wanted it, this is your golden opportunity. The more product you buy the better chance you have of getting the Holy Grail on DVD (and we all know what I speak of)

And now for my review, this is great stuff, reasonable price, nifty packaging, no episode of Simon and Simon in the runoff at the end. Who could ask for more?
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Format: DVD
Of all of my regrets in life (which are many), my one regret is that I never got to see a live Zappa show (though in all honesty I was born in 82 and so that severely limited my capabilities).

As a teenager I listened to Zappa's albums with fascination (spending hours trying to guess what time signature certain passages where in) and with absolute delight (it's hard to listen to Joe's Garage and not laugh at the reductio ad absurdum the he draws in relation to music censorship).

However, "The Dub Room Special" was my first introduction into witnessing FZ perform live, and I was absolutely blown away. I am still yet to find adequate words to describe it, but I want to world to know that the performances you see here defy all description.

I wish I could go into great detail (i.e. describing each song) about the disk, but I don't want to rant. My best advice to those who are familiar with Zappa's albums, but not his DVD's is to start here. And for those of you who have never gotten to hear him, take a chance and check out the Dub Room Special. You will not leave the same person.
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Format: DVD
All these reviews from people who have never seen the DVD of The Dub Room are utterly useless. I actually bought the disc (what a concept) so I can actually review it. Wow.

The disc includes selcection of performances from 1974 and 1982 tied together with bits by Zappa and Massimo Bassoli, though I have no idea why Zappa thought this guy is funny by picking his nose. Lets face it, Zappa is about music. The 1974 selections include a rather ordinary Montana and Cosmic Debris as well as a bit with Napoleon Murphy Brock called Room Service which goes nowhere. As they rip into Inca Road, just as we're trying to enjoy Zappa's great solo guitar work, we're subjected to Bruce Bickford's clay surreal animation which gets annoying really fast. A highlight from the '74 group is Approximate where the band plays the incredibly syncopated melody, then attempts to sing it, then dance it.

The '82 section fairs slightly better from a band perspective as they generally seem more alert and enjoying themselves but the selections are weaker. Florentine Pagen and Steve's Spanking come off as decent. The perk here is Flakes since it has so rarely recorded.

Also included in the disc is a six minute documentary recorded after Valley Girl became Zappa's biggest hit. It's a nice addition but really doesn't any additional insight to who Zappa was. On the plus side, the makers of the disc obviuosly put a lot of time into the audio remixing it in crisp and clear surround sound.

I can only moderately recommend this disc for the die-hard Zappaphite. For everyone else, I would suggest the DVD of "Does Humor Belong In Music?" where the band and track selections are much better and you really get the feel of a full Zappa show.
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