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Found Footage: Zappa on Allen

by Piers Rae

February 25, 2015

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It’s never been easier for people to generate video, of whatever they want and in staggering levels of detail and variety. One hundred hours of video are added to YouTube alone – every single minute. You could watch day and night, for a hundred lifetimes, and still see but a fraction. The bad news is it’s mostly terrible, and a good chunk of the terrible is being marketed pretty heavily at you.

Found Footage trawls through the internet’s endless sprawl to collect the best short films, sketches, home movies, ads, training videos, newscasts, cell phone footage, and other obscurities. We’re looking for the brightest gems and the strangest mundanity. We seek out the videos that fell through the cracks,  and missed out on the attention they so richly deserved.

FOOTAGE FOUND: Zappa and Allen Team-Up

March 4th, 1964 – An unrecognizable Frank Zappa, in conservative suit and without his trademark moustache, plays the bicycle as an instrument on the Steve Allen show.

Lots of thrilling little bits and pieces of television history here. The cameraman idling in shadow before the show begins. The microphone Steve Allen interviews Zappa with is a hefty relic, for example, and there’s only the one between the two of them. It’s so easy to forget how easy lav microphones make an interview like this now. Or something small, like Allen checking the pronunciation of “Zah-pah”.

Frank’s already a curious character by this point, no matter how sharply and dryly he’s dressed. He’s quiet, but still a little intense, and little eccentric moments keep popping up. Like his facial reaction to Steve Allen asking if he’s in the musicians union, or the tiny skipping dance he performs on his way to his bicycle. He’s also charmingly abashed by his most recent creative accomplishment, the score for “The World’s Greatest Sinner“. This is a new feature film that, judging by laughter from the audience and Allen, nobody present at the filming of this episode as heard of.

After ten minutes of discussion and explanation and build-up, Frank and Allen play 32 bars of insane cacophony. Allen is baffled, complimenting Zappa on his vision without saying he enjoyed it. Respectful, but detached. The whole thing is summed up when Allen’s assistant begins reciting a nursery rhyme at the height of the piece, and Allen stops in confusion. The assistant has to explain that Zappa had asked him to do this, at which point Allen steps back into professional mode, picks the piece right back up, and steps in with a limerick of his own.

Proof that TV can be, and has been, very, very interesting.

Have an amazing video we’ve missed, or a project you’d like to shed a little limelight on? Let us know. We’re happy to oblige.

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