Frank Zappa

Charlie's Enormous Mouth

Song Review by

"Charlie's Enormous Mouth" was never performed or recorded by itself. Instead it was embedded in a sequence of songs that opens with "Society Pages," "I'm a Beautiful Guy," and "Beauty Knows No Pain," and continues with "Any Downers?" and "Conehead." This suite (so to speak -- it lacks thematic unity to really form a single composition) was performed in its entirety in 1980 and released following the same order of appearance on the 1981 studio album You Are What You Is, comprising the whole of side two of the original two-LP set. Later performances in 1981 concluded with "Charlie's Enormous Mouth," omitting the last two selections.

This song has for a central character a girl named Charlie. She could be the one described as "modern 'n empty 'n totally vain" in "I'm a Beautiful Guy." Things start with a description of her mouth -- it's extra large. The addition at the end of this verse of the line "Kinda young, kinda wow," a quote from "Catholic Sluts," gives more meaning to the whole verse. From the mouth, we move to the nose -- it's all white, because she does cocaine. And now the quote is changed to "Kinda young, kinda dead." The third verse focuses on her brain -- it's all black. Pushed by her "extra dumb" friends, she took "an extra hit" of drug. Result: "She got a very dead brain, it won't come back." Her grave will provide the setting for the next song in the sequence, "Any Downers?," and the best (as in "less forced") transition in this set.

Frank Zappa's position on drugs was always very clear. Although he would make a stronger stand against the white powder in "Cocaine Decisions," this song links their use to the yuppie lifestyle of the early '80s while blending brutal lyrics with lively pop music. Moreover, it addresses hypocrisy in high-class white American society (social standing vs. inner desires), a central topic in his work, ever since "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" and "Brown Shoes Don't Make It."

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
You Are What You Is 1981 Rykodisc 3:36