“Where Were You?” Frank Zappa at Louisville Gardens, Louisville KY [11-10-77]

After a string of mid-80’s concerts in California, and then bouncing back to the local scene in Louisville, Kentucky, with my last post – I thought it time to go back to the year that I purchased my camera and dig out some early attempts at this concert photography “thing” of mine, back in ‘77.

So, this was the one time I caught Frank Zappa on the road, with a then-current crop of newcomers to his band.  My buddies and I had been listening to a number of his recent releases [principally “Over-nite Sensation”, “One Size Fits All”, “Roxy & Elsewhere” and a whole lot to the “Apostrophe (‘)” and “Zoot Allures” lps, which had actually gotten some decent airplay on the local FM stations], and try as I might, to convince them to go to the show with me, for one reason or another they opted not to go.

We were first introduced to the music of Zappa & the Mothers of Invention, in a roundabout way: after discovering Alice Cooper in 1971, and reading up on the history of the band and their early recordings for his “Bizarre Label”.  That initially led to the purchase of “Live at the Fillmore, 1971” by one of our circle, Greg, and the combination of great riffs and humor found on that, soon led to checking out “Hot Rats”, and “Freak Out!”, as well as “Absolutely Free”, before long.

As most people who do, when digging into the catalogue of Zappa releases, they soon discover that while certain elements of the compositions remain constant, there are going to be others which need repeated listenings to “get it”.  That would be the case with several of the other LPs not mentioned earlier, for me….. but I had been repeatedly listening to the “Apostrophe (‘)” album, from the time it had been released, and was very keen to see this show, since it was the first time he’d been through the area, in some time.

The first thing I noticed, upon arriving, was that the show was not sold out, and sure enough, the forums over at the official Zappa Website, confirm that, with a figure that states it was about 2/3 of capacity: Zappa.com Forums – Tour Attendances/Grosses.  That was fine by me, as it meant more freedom to move about and try to get different angles to shoot from, as it was a general admission affair. While it was not sold out, there were some rather vocal, and rowdy people down in front, which made it difficult to capture clear, unobstructed photos at times….

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Frank Zappa solos dark closeup [Frank Za

Frank Zappa soloing, and a fresh-faced Adrian Belew with spinning-light-helmet on, over his shoulder. The head in the left corner diminished the light that might have been shed on both…

That being a bit of a problem, I still worked my way from side-to side, and tried my best to get what I could, while becoming absorbed by the playing of the second guitarist, who was making all manner of sounds with feedback, and it was the first time I would witness a guitarist playing slide guitar with the finger-slide overhand on the neck…

I would not come to know who this interesting fellow was, until a couple of years went by, and he started popping up all over the place with other groups and performers that I was also listening to – and would eventually see live – such as David Bowie, Talking Heads, and later, King Crimson.

My “mission” at most performances, in addition to enjoying the music, was to try and get frames of as many of the band members as possible.  In this case, I was never able to get a good sight-line on Terry Bozzio, and barely any for the remaining musicians.  I lucked out with Frank, because he seemed to notice the flash of the camera, and made his way to the side of the stage where I was, on a couple of occasions.  I say, “seemed to”, because he was a real showman, working the crowd from side to side when he wasn’t playing the guitar.


Michael Conen - [PROOF] Frank Zappa moving toward PA stack [Fran

Frank Zappa makes his way to the side stage for a closer peek at the crowd. Additional info: the sticker on the PA reads, “ICA – Intercontinental Absurdities

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Frank Zappa & Tommy Mars horizontal outl

The only frame I managed to get Tommy Mars into

At the start of the performance, the group played strictly instrumentals, which was sounding great to these ears, but as soon as the numbers wound down, the rowdies up front started to make a lot of noise and attempted to goad Zappa into playing this song, or that song, rather than just let the concert proceed. Well, the banter began, and then the crowd at the front got even more worked up…


I distinctly remember that it was only about 15 to 20 minutes before Zappa started to ridicule the louder members of the audience, in his own inimitable way:

“I can see that we’re not getting through to you….”

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Frank Zappa dark [Frank Zappa - Louisvil

“… So, we’re going to have to play something, so simple….”

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Frank Zappa closeup with mic no 2 [Frank

“..So simple! That even YOU can understand the words!…”

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Frank Zappa closeup with mic [Frank Zapp

“.. This little number is called ‘Tommy Brown Is Going Down’…. Repeat after me….’Tommy Brown Is Going Down’…. And after that, we’ll do another simple song for you, called ‘Brown Shoes Don’t Make It’…..”

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Frank Zappa thumb gesture [Frank Zappa -

Of course, that got the crowd going even more, until the music kicked in, anyway!

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Frank Zappa & Adrian Belew cross-eyed [F

The only really clear shot I managed of Adrian Belew, featuring that overhand slide guitar form. He was often moving around as much as Zappa, between sight gags, and heading back to use the amps for feedback fun.

Two frames which captured Ed Mann on percussion; one fairly clear, while the other features the larger pieces in his collection of instruments.

Looking at the marginally helpful website, Setlist.FM, this particular show is not listed – Frank Zappa’s 1977 Tour – some setlists

But performances from days before and after detail much of the song selection that was done on this night, with some variations, as I remember it. They pretty much came on stage, and without much ado, kicked into playing [“Peaches and Regalia” sounds about right… it’s been so long ago! … and for some reason, I somehow believe they did “Wind Up Working In a Gas Station”, even though it doesn’t appear on the aforementioned setlists].

The between-song banter that I quoted, is something I remember very, very well, since it really riled up a few drunken members of the crowd, but they calmed down somewhat after the lengthy workouts that followed.

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Adrian Belew & Patrick O'Hearn horizonta

Adrian Belew and Patrick O’Hearn under the bright lights

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Frank Zappa & guitar gazing upward horiz

Frank Zappa with a toy horn in one hand; his trusty police car behind him, above the small keyboard; and Adrian Belew probably working the feedback from his amps, in the right corner

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Frank Zappa surveys the crowd bright [Fr

Frank Zappa works the stage

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Frank Zappa solos horizontal with flash

Frank Zappa soloing. Just managed to avoid a punter’s head

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Frank Zappa solos [Frank Zappa - Louisvi

You may have noticed the cute little band around Frank’s leg, featuring a photo of the man on it – it was thrown to him by a female admirer, early on.

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Adrian Belew & Frank Zappa's bodyguard [

Frank Zappa’s bodyguard watching the band from the wings

It was a great show, in spite of the crowd, and I ended up with a handful of satisfying images, thanks to my restless nature to find that frame, or angle..

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Frank Zappa & Adrian Belew behind [Frank

Adrian Belew with Frank Zappa in motion

To conclude: my favorite, if imperfect frame, from this performance…

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Frank Zappa solos "the shot" [Frank Zapp

Frank Zappa and his SG, with a bride’s garter sporting his image wrapped around his leg

More information on Frank Zappa‘s long and distinctive career can be found over at the official website, run by the remaining members of his family –

Zappa.com – Official site

And, by the way, did I mention that after going back and really listening to the early Mothers of Invention, this composition would turn out to be the one most hard-wired in my mind?  It is simply – the Truth [and a great modern blues song, to boot]:

The Mothers of Invention “Trouble Every Day”

*Also:  Photographs of Adrian Belew, with his co-horts, The Bears, will appear on my blog, sometime in the near future, so, stay tuned!


While many of you who arrive here, to look at these photographs may get turned off to my use of watermarks [thinking they ruin the image], let me explain why I choose to do this.

No one paid for my camera equipment but me. No one paid for the film I used to take these photographs.  On occasion, when I free-lanced for a free monthly newsletter, and they published a photo of mine, the payment for each photograph barely paid for the fuel to get my vehicle to the show [when I *did* have a vehicle], and the film I used on that night. 

Not too many of my photos were published, at the time, because the artists I chose to capture images of, were not hugely popular then.  Hence, the old dictum, “Supply and Demand”; I had the supply, but the demand [pre-Internet], was not there. You can argue the relative merits of the quality of my work, and that is precisely what a blog offers:  a venue for discussion.

Back to the watermarks: no one is subsidizing my time to scan and then clean up the images I am presenting here. Start to finish, each negative will take approximately an hour-and-a-half to reach “proof” quality – which is what you will see here.  This is my labor of love, and until there is some measurable return on my efforts, what you see is what you get.



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