Dennis Cozzalio’s post about the long-overdue stage debut of Joe’s Garage started me on a weeklong Frank Zappa tear, which inevitably led to long stretches of my morning commute in which I am juggling CDs in order to revisit some of Zappa’s greatest guitar solos. I remain convinced that “Watermelon in Easter Hay” (above), the penultimate track in Joe’s Garage, is Zappa’s finest solo showcase, if only because it marks one of the few times Zappa stepped out from behind his wall of sarcasm and satire to express something poignant and lyrical.
While “Watermelon in Easter Hay” is at the top of my list, it’s closely followed by the extended wah-wah workout that closes “Willie the Pimp” on Hot Rats. Zappaphiles can debate this question for hours: just type the search phrase “zappa’s best guitar solos” on YouTube and see what you get. And while you’re at it, you can wonder what might have happened if Bob Dylan had followed through on his initial impulse and hired Zappa to produce Infidels. The collision between Zappa’s infinitely picky production methods and Dylan’s off-the-cuff recording style probably would have resulted in a train wreck, but still . . . you do have to wonder what it would have been like.