I’m adding a post that I did on a more depressing website a few years ago, and I’m doing it because I saw some Facebook comments from Henry Runkles recently and thoughts of the man warm my heart. I hope he is doing wonderfully and injecting his great personality into the lives of other young adults like he did mine.
We had this whole album re-conceptualized, with different members of the music faculty of the university we attended doing different tracks (for those considering college, imagine thinking up things like that last sentence; getting crushes on blossoming lesbians; and poisoning every organ of your body, including your skin, with clear alcohols mixed with Welch’s Strawberry soda. Sault.). I can’t remember who was picked for this little ditty, but my current choice would be Henry Runkles. He’d be in a white dinner jacket with a blue silk shirt, one lit Winston in his hand, nineteen more bulging out his breast pocket. This is probably how he’ll look in his coffin, too (Good Lord, did I write that? ).
What makes this song work, if not the whole album, is its sincerity. Yes, the whole album is a parody of the different cultures co-existing in California. Yes, Zappa probably despised Tin Pan Alley-type wooing tunes. Zappa had, however, 1)broad influences throughout his youth, and 2)musical ability to pull the essence of those types into his own style.
The prelude to this track, “Telephone Conversation”, involves someone, apparently a father, ready to “bump off” Zappa. Two paranoid ladies chat about him, trying not to get too freaked out. And then “daddy”‘s music comes on, with the appropriate timbre but lyrics that paint the “bow tie daddy” as out of touch and somewhat hypocritical. Also an out-of-place guitar part doubles along with the vocals, nearly drowning out the more suited backing track. Poor daddy, perhaps, but mommy gets hers next, with “Harry, You’re A Beast”, a song about out of touch and hypocritical women (Zappa loved this song so much, he would later fill his catalogue with about twenty billion more tunes about out of touch, hypocritical women).
In conclusion: Daddy is a beast. Mommy is a beast. Harry is a beast. Harry Runkles, however, is a saint. He once said he would play piano on an arrangement I was going to do of “Duke of Prunes”. He even sang a bit of it! It would have been perfect.