Frank Zappa

Sharleena

Song Review by

During his career, Frank Zappa released five different versions of "Sharleena." Even by this very prolific man's standards it's a high number, which goes to show how much he liked it. The song is a simple love story: Sharleena has left her boyfriend, leaving no address. He's crying his heart out and badgers her friends with attempts to locate her and bring her home. The music is as straightforward and unequivocal as the lyrics: a pop song with doo-wop influences and an R&B flavor which varies from one recording to the next. No-one knows when Zappa wrote "Sharleena," but the first recorded version dates from early 1970 and is probably a leftover from the Hot Rats sessions. It features very powerful R&B vocals by Sugar Cane Harris and remains the most poignant version. It was shelved back then and was only released in 1996 on the compilation The Lost Episodes. The first released recording of "Sharleena" was taped a few months later and is found on the 1970 LP Chunga's Revenge, featuring Flo & Eddie on vocals. This comfortable medium-tempo arrangement did not become a standard, as Zappa regularly toyed with the song. Playground Psychotics (live recordings from 1970-1971) contains a fast-paced example. The song vanished after 1971, but was resurrected in 1981 and became a standard feature in Zappa's show throughout the 1980s, even getting a new studio recording for the 1984 album Them or Us, this time closer to doo-wop with a little reggae feel. "Sharleena" is the kind of song some Zappa fans have a love/hate relationship with: it is clear the master loved it, but it's so straight (would someone risk the word "commercial"?) it gets confusing.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Chunga's Revenge 1970 Rykodisc 4:04
Them or Us 1984 Rykodisc 4:33
The Lost Episodes 1996 Rykodisc 11:54