Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


Frank Zappa


From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Frank Zappa Joe's Garage, Act I album cover
4.13 | 621 ratings | 19 reviews | 44% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 1979

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Central Scrutinizer
2. Joe's Garage
3. Catholic Girls
4. Crew Slut
5. Wet T-Shirt Night
6. Toad O Line
7. Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?
8. Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up

Bonus track on 1987 Rykodisc remastered compilation:
1-9. Scrutinizer Postlude (1:35)

Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa / lead guitar, vocals, arranger, conductor & producer

- Ike Willis / lead vocals
- Al Malkin / vocals & chorus vocals
- Dale Bozzio / vocals & chorus vocals
- Geordie Hormel / chorus vocals
- Barbara Issak / chorus vocals
- Terry Bozzio / vocals
- Warren Cuccurullo / rhythm guitar, vocals & chorus vocals
- Denny Walley / slide guitar, vocals
- Tommy Mars / keyboards
- Peter Wolf / keyboards
- Craig Steward / harmonica
- Earl Dumler ("Marginal Chagrin") / baritone sax
- Jeff Hollie / tenor sax
- Bill "Stumuk" Nugent / bass sax
- Arthur Barrow / bass, guitar (2), vocals
- Vinnie Colaiuta / drums
- Ed Mann / percussion, vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Norm Seef (photo) with John Williams (art direction)

LP Zappa Records ‎- SRZ-1-1603 (1979, US)
2xCD Rykodisc ‎- RCD 10060/61 (1987, US) With a bonus track, and bundled with Joe's Garage Acts II & III, all remastered (see details on own entry in Compilations)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy FRANK ZAPPA Joe's Garage, Act I Music

FRANK ZAPPA Joe's Garage, Act I ratings distribution

(621 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(44%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(34%)
Good, but non-essential (15%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

FRANK ZAPPA Joe's Garage, Act I reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by daveconn
4 stars As airtight an excuse for a commercial crossover as you'll find in Frank's discography. ZAPPA conceived Joe's Garage as a cautionary tale (tongue firmly in cheek) exposing the evils of rock & roll and the pernicious part it plays in the lives of two young people, Joe and Mary. The composer was merely amplifying the conservative rhetoric of the right wing, who had begun discussing outloud the possibility that music was corrupting American youth (suggesting censorship as a possible palliative). An ardent supporter of free speech in art, ZAPPA flourishes in the role of the Central Scrooooooootinizer, pushing his two unsuspecting pawns (Joe and Mary) into the paths of prostitution (after a sort) and venereal disease. The real story here, however, is one of wonderfully accessible music. Imagine the best parts of "Sheik Yerbouti" distilled ("Bobby Brown Goes Down", "Jewish Princess") with the guitar solos and complex arrangements contained to short bursts, and you'll have the blueprint for Joe's Garage. The album generated a strong single in "Catholic Girls" -- which of course got limited airplay (who needs censorship?) -- and lots of fine, funny songs like "Wet T-Shirt Nite", "Joe's Garage" and "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?" You'd have to go pretty far back (say, Over-Nite Sensation) to find another ZAPPA album that combined the appealing with the appalling for such a palatable mixture. It's not that "Joe's Garage Act I" hits any higher highs than "Sheik Yerbouti" or Ship Arriving Too Late, it just hits them more consistently. Though it doesn't diminish the enjoyment of this album, Act I does end on a cliffhanger, so you'll need to pick up the double-elpee Acts II and III (released a few months later) to find out how Mary and Joe make out.
Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This record sounds complex American rhythmic pop rock: it is among the most accessible records from the Zappa's discography. There are tons of excellent & catchy lead & backing vocals. Some bits are really complex and loaded; there are some harmonica parts, some saxes arrangements and the percussion passages (xylophone) by Ed Mann are excellent, as always. The keyboards does not take too much room in order to let the rhythmic rock character take all its meaning. The "Wet T-shirt" song is entertained by Zappa himself in front of a crowd: Dale Bozzio (The Missing Persons' singer) is the sexy contestant: she is absolutely delightful with her chick's voice & laugh; the last part of this song contains one of the best Zappa's guitar solos: the sound is CLEAN & rich, and each note is amazingly well played, forming a melodic and structured solo. "Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up" is the model track for the next record: "Joe's garage acts 2 & 3": this song is more mellow, a bit "floating reggae" and it contains subtle & delicate guitar sounds. Zappa uses a whispering voice without any music during some intros and outros (Central Scrutinizer): this idea will be repeated on the second "Joe's garage" album.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Frank Zappa's stab at a concept album is strikingly crude and unusual when compared to his other works. It is very guitar oriented and features some of his best solos, it has his most straightforward and rough lyrics, and some of the weirdest dialogue/storylines that I've ever come across. Taking in the form of a 3 act Opera of sorts, Joe's Garage really is a telling of a youth who gets caught up in Rock and Roll and eventually loses everything he has. The Central Scrutinizer (voiced by Zappa) tells the tale of young Joe, from his humble days in the garage, to the final days at the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen. Featuring a plethora of guest musicians and vocalists, one cannot help but feel a bit overwhelmed at the virtuosity of this album. From Vinnie Colaiuta to Tommy Mars, all the Zappa elite are here and give top notch performances.

From the opening distorted voice of the Central Scrutinizer, to the arena rock-esque Why Does it Hurt When I Pee?, Frank really pulls out all the stops on this album. Act 1 is a magnificent effort that goes through all the classic Zappa forms, complicated time signatures, complex chords and progressions, operatic yet subtle vocals, and wicked and searing guitar solos. It almost seems too guitar oriented for Zappa. The highlights of the first Act are the single Catholic Girls, which has Zappa at his tackiest lyrically and a catchy riff, Joe's Garage, with great vocals and guitar play, and Why Does it Hurt When I Pee? for sheer bluntness and comedy.

Overall, Act 1 is a great opening to the Joe's Garage saga. More was to come in Acts II and III, but are they up to par with Act I? Act I itself is brilliant, and it really acts as a great prelude to Acts II and III. 5/5.

Review by LiquidEternity
3 stars I give the compilation disc of all three acts four stars but the two individual parts on three stars each? Preposterous.

In truth, however, there is a good reason for that. The problem with these releases being split is a matter of variety. Act I features some very interesting and exciting songs, but there is little variance and exploration on the disc compared to the other two acts. They even each other out, adding to each other, adding complicated pieces to simplistic pieces and experimental tracks to commercial ones. On its own, Act I is a fine album with some good music. The music is mostly in the vein of Skeik Yerbouti, being more straightforward and exciting.

I'm going to copy and paste from my review of the double disc compilation, so you don't have to go looking for what I have to say about the songs. Here we go:

The music on Act I is the most commercial and generally least progressive, though that's a silly way of looking at it, all told. Joe's Garage features a (surprise!) garage band sort of feel, with references to some golden oldies, such as the surfer classic Wipe-Out. The next few tracks are standard Zappa bits, with dirty jokes and unique little bits here and there. All have terribly catchy and terribly inappropriate melodies, I must add. And speaking of terribly catchy and terribly inappropriate melodies, the peak of all awkward Zappa tunes comes up here: Why Does It Hurt When I Pee? I swear, I have never come across a song so catchy or so unwise to sing out loud in front of people. It truly is a stellar track, devoid of unnecessary parts--just bare bones quality.

This album gets three stars from me, though it really is a good release. The reason lies in promotion. Which version should you get? The answer is the whole of Joe's Garage, not just Act I.

Review by Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
4 stars "It looks just like a Telefunken U-47."

It was almost as if Zappa was just warming up with Dinah Mo Hum and some of the stuff on Sheik Yerbouti, then with Joe's Garage he went and stuck it completely out.

Joe's Garage was released in 1979 as a three LP concept album set. Act I was offered up as a single disc with II and III being a double LP. I'm commenting on the whole piece here.

Sure, it starts out mildly enough with a little ditty about a garage band. The next thing you know we're into groupies, wet t-shirts, venereal disease, robot sex, prison sex, and it's all topped off with a little green rosetta. Let's just say you should probably keep this album away from children, with the possible exception of the instrumental, Watermelon In Easter Hay. Though I was in my teens when I first heard it, I don't think it has permanently warped me or anything, but then again...

Review by The Truth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars When compared to the next to acts, this album seems a little bit mediocre.

Whereas Act II and III are excellent music-wise, this one seems to mainly try to gain commercial success. The same humor is still in the music as the next two acts but the instrumentation is really not up to par with them. The songs are still catchy nontheless, Catholic Girls for instance, but they just aren't amazing like the ones on the other two acts.

The storyline seems to get really screwed up between the first appearance of The Central Scrutinizer and the last appearance and that really kind of irks me, the whole appliantology thing does really...

Nevertheless, it's a decent album, a great one for most artists and an OK one for Zappa.

3 stars.

Review by Prog Leviathan
5 stars "You'll love it; it's a way of life."

Joe's Garage opens to the threatening voice of Zappa as "the scrutinizer", enjoyably robotic and fun to the vamping of the rhythm section, with some sound effects thrown in there for good measure. Not so much music as it is an experiment to set the tone, which recurs throughout the album. This gives way to the first proper tune, the titular sing- along "Joe's Garage". Kind of zany and trite in a sardonic way (which I think might describe the entire album), this tune is smartly catchy and plays like something out of the musical Grease made manic with Zappa style-- it has more personality in the first two minutes than other artists try to cram into whole albums. "Catholic Girls" keeps the mood brisk and light-hearted, sounding like a parody or genre-mix-match of showtunes, lounge crooners, and the avant-garde. Lots of fun vocal interplay as well.

Sleezy guitar and harmonica follow with "Crew Slut", played with a western-feel while accompanying some very vulgar singing by Zappa. Great soloing here, but as a whole this song shows how some of the songs on this disc lose their appeal once the initial shock of their lyrics has worn off. "Wet-T Shirt Contest" picks the bouncy pace back up again (pun intended), with another catchy melody and trademark Zappa rock orchestration-- with heavy vibe work. Most will remember the dramatized contest itself though, with Zappa portraying the host. At this point the listener will be either completely turned off, embarassed, or laughing out loud. One's reaction is likely to determine whether or not they'll continue listening... because it only gets worse!

An extended and especially tasty guitar solo follows, a catchy song about VD, a surprisingly tender ballad, a unsubtle poke at new-age religion, disco beats to german lyrics, lots (and I mean lots) of sex with robotic-appliances, and lyrics which would make even a 14-year old boy queezy with embarassment. Sound like a Zappa album yet?

Part 1 to "Joe's Garage" ends upruptly, but I enjoyed the journey immensely. Very few albums in my collection are more fun to listen to, and although this is Zappa's most "accessible" album, it remains musically challenging and complex. There are layers of creativity hidden beneath the sleezery of the lyrics. Not to be missed, and a great place for fans to start exploring Zappa's rock style.

Songwriting: 5 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Review by VanVanVan
4 stars It seems funny to me that I think of this as some of Frank Zappa's later work when in actuality it came out in only 1979. Nonetheless, this is a different side of Frank Zappa then what appeared on his real early Mothers albums. The music is a little less weird, the lyrics are a little more scatological, but the energy and the "not-taking-itself-too-seriously" mentality that one can expect from Frank Zappa is definitely still here. "Joe's Garage" is a tongue-in-cheek concept album about the dangers of rock-and-roll, narrated by "The Central Scrutinizer," a kind of propagandistic character whose raspy words of warning appear throughout the album.

Speaking of The Central Scrutinizer, "Joe's Garage, Act I" begins with a track that bears his name. The track is really just an introduction, featuring about a few minutes of spoken word lyrics over an energetic, repeating groove. It sets the stage nicely and helps to establish the story, but in my opinion three and a half minutes is a little too long for a spoken word introduction.

"Joe's Garage" is next, and it's a darn good song. It almost has the feel of a very vintage kind of Americana, with some simple but charming lyrics and some fun instrumental breaks meant to represent the beginning attempts of "Joe's" band. It's a nice, pop-rock and roll track, and it's a hundred miles away from some of the experimental noise that appeared on the early Mothers albums. The track ends with about 30 seconds of narration from the Central Scrutinizer before transitioning into the next track.

"Catholic Girls" is that follow up, and it's thoroughly goofy. Featuring some hilariously exaggerated vocals and equally ridiculous lyrics, the song transitions between a more upbeat, doo-wop-ish section and a slower, more spaced-out section. It's still far more poppy than a lot of Zappa's past work, but the irreverent humor is thematically 100% Zappa.

And speaking of irreverent humor, "Crew Slut" fits that description pretty nicely. Starting off with a grooving and slightly sinister sounding guitar riff, "Crew Slut" develops around some driving bass-work into one of my favorite songs on the album. It's always amazing to me how Zappa can write songs with such goofy lyrics, through in some spoken word sections, and still make a better pop song than a whole lot of other artists who devoted their entire career to that genre.

"Wet T-Shirt Night" continues much in the same vein, which should be utterly unsurprising based on that title. It's an incredibly cheerful sounding song with a strange-but-cool instrumental towards the beginning that almost sounds like some kind of demented circus music, and I'm pretty sure at one points it quotes a brief bit of "Also Sprach Zarathustra." Like a lot of the album, it features a spoken word section, but it works pretty well here and doesn't detract from the song a bit.

"Toad O Line," which my copy lists as "On the Bus" is an instrumental that features Zappa's guitar prominently. Like all of Zappa's instrumental work it's absolutely amazing, and it's a perfect transition point in the album, providing an intense break from the absurd lyrics contained on the rest of the disk.

Fear not, though, as "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee" brings those lyrics back in top form, and it's actually hands down my favorite song on the album and might even be one of my favorite single Zappa songs ever. Musically it's amazing, with some incredibly intense guitar and some stellar keyboards as well. The frankly hilarious lyrics are delivered absolutely deadpan, which only makes them funnier.

"Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up" closes off the album. It's a spacey, smooth track with an excellent vocal performance and some psychedelic sound effects thrown in just for good measure. It's a great, comparatively restrained song, and it's a great closer.

I began this review with the intention of giving this album 3.5 stars, but after listening through it a couple more times I realize I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I called it anything less than excellent. If you need your lyrics serious then you probably won't enjoy this album, as the lyrics are pervasive and at the forefront of the music, but if you enjoy a bit of humor in your music then you owe it to yourself to hear this album. Certainly a bit poppy for Zappa, but when you can write songs as well as well as Mr. Zappa can then it really doesn't matter what genre you're writing in.


Latest members reviews

5 stars Probably one of the most overlooked albums of all time. Joe's Garage is amazing! And not just act one, I'm talking about 1,2, and even 3. This is his second best album behind One Size Fits All. It's funny, progressive, a d the story isn't that hard to follow. Sure, it may get a bit crude someti ... (read more)

Report this review (#1577026) | Posted by A_Flower | Thursday, June 9, 2016 | Review Permanlink

4 stars It's often refreshing to hear music that doesn't take itself too seriously. Zappa was a master of this. He made humourous, yet musically pleasant compositions to please anyone in that sort of mood for less serious music. Joe's Garage Act I is one of the better parts to find his more humourous ... (read more)

Report this review (#572627) | Posted by DisgruntledPorcupine | Monday, November 21, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Frank Zappa is a genius. Every song on this album is great. The first song I ever heard by Frank Zappa was Joe's Garage. I had read about him when I began reading about progressive rock with King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Yes, and Rush. I was watching the classic rock channel on tv when Frank Zappa ... (read more)

Report this review (#437879) | Posted by FloydZappa | Friday, April 22, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Haha, wow was my first impression of this entire epic concept album (with acts ii and iii as well) but for now i will just do the first act... i did enjoy this one more than the second disk, the songs were just a lot more in-your-face and it was just overall more concise than the second disc, son ... (read more)

Report this review (#289288) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Monday, July 5, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Joe's Garage was perhaps the FZ album that got me convinced that I had to be a Zappa follower! It's possibly the funniest album I have ever heard. Zappa as The Central Scrutinizer is simply genius. A lot of guitar soloing is on this album with Zappa depicting the main character Joe who is a guit ... (read more)

Report this review (#170141) | Posted by Devnoy | Wednesday, May 7, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Act I was the more musical of them all, and this is agreeably the beginning of Zappa's more...commercial, I suppose you could say, era. Maybe accessible is a better word. The late 70s and start of the 80s seems to be the general time things like that went down for everyone. Yet Zappa was still ext ... (read more)

Report this review (#132262) | Posted by Shakespeare | Wednesday, August 8, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars A morally troublesome work by the musical guiding star of my life. Some great songs(and one truly tremendous guitar solo) are on here, but the sexism of this at times gets more than a little off-putting. While giddy good spirits manage to carry the day in "Catholic Girls" and "Wet T-Shirt Ni ... (read more)

Report this review (#97728) | Posted by GregCameron | Wednesday, November 8, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Joe's Garage Act's 1,2 & 3 is one of the greatest concept albums ever recorded. The story of a guy who just wanted to play music but discovers just how sleazy the music industry is. Takes a good shot at Scientology along the way. Very humorous and very complex. I've been listening to this alb ... (read more)

Report this review (#72101) | Posted by telecranker | Friday, March 17, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars We like(love), we do not like(love). Even if I am not a fan of Zappa, I find that his preparatory initiative is interesting. In this album we find a lot of humor and musical mockery (that we also find in Sheik Yerbouti who is in the same lineage). I love more particularly "Catholic Girls" who ... (read more)

Report this review (#45418) | Posted by miedj | Sunday, September 4, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars With Joe's Garage Zappa finally brings it all together. This is Zappa on all cylinders, strap in and go along for the ride. From the straight ahead rock of "Joe's Garage" to the soul balladry of "Lucille", Zappa's backing bands have never sounded better or more polished than this. Zappa's pen ... (read more)

Report this review (#35248) | Posted by | Sunday, June 5, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Zappa at his best, Joe's garage, catholic girls, & crew slut, are all classics, while wet t-shirt nite, why does it hurt when i pee?, and lucille, are among some of his finestsongs ever. Brilliant guitar & lyrics, an exceedingly clever album as is the follow up acts ii & iii, by far the best album o ... (read more)

Report this review (#30267) | Posted by | Friday, May 6, 2005 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of FRANK ZAPPA "Joe's Garage, Act I"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.