Frank Zappa

Black Napkins

Song Review by

"Black Napkins" is a guitar-driven instrumental ballad that, starting in October 1975, popped up regularly in Frank Zappa's live shows. Its slow, melancholic theme establishes a rare emotional mood (another example in the man's book is "Watermelon in Easter Hay") and leaves a lot of room for guitar soloing. Three official recordings of the piece exist, all live, an excerpted recording under the name "Pink Napkins" on Shut Up 'n' Play Yer Guitar, and numerous bootleg versions. The first appearance of the piece on record was on the 1976 Zoot Allures. The only live track on this album, it was taken from a concert in Osaka, Japan, hence the Japanese characters on the front and back cover. Another 1976 rendition, performed at the same show that stemmed Zappa in New York, can be heard on You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore (great saxophone solo by Michael Brecker), and one from the 1988 tour on Make a Jazz Noise Here. "Black Napkins" was also used regularly in 1980-1981 as a show opener, often followed by "Montana." Performances remained the same throughout the years, but fans value the solos Zappa played on that song.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Zoot Allures 1976 Rykodisc 4:15
Joe's Camouflage 2014 Universal / Vaulter Native / Zappa Records 8:12
Poughkeepsie 2018 Chrome Dreams / Smokin' 5:12