Meeting mr Zappa.

In 1984, me, Mats and some friends of ours formed a band named Zappsteetoot in Umeå/Sweden. Our idea was to play the Music of Frank Zappa. We put a songlist together with our favorite Zappa material, and did a couple of tours and radio shows etc. We olso played at a Society Pages- meeting in Oslo, Norway, when the magazine was located there.
May 1 , 1988 - Johanneshovs Isstadion, Stockholm
In 1988 when Frank came to Stockholm with the Broadway the Hard Way- tour, me and Mats got to meet and play with Zappa on his gig in Stockholm, as guests ! Mats uncle (jazzpianist Bernt Egerbladh) had contacted Franks tour leader and informed him about us, that we were in this band called Zappsteetoot, that Mats had listened to Franks music since he was 8 years old, and that he knew all of his music. So when Frank got to hear about us, he said he wanted to meet us. Me and Mats sneaked in to Franks soundcheck and afterward Franks tour leader came out and told us Frank waiting for us backstage.
We walked to Frank’s room, and there he was - our teenage idol and major influence ! We shoock hands and sat down on a couch. Frank started to ask us how we were doing, which of his material we knew etc. Me and Mats ended up playing on our knees and singing. Frank said: "do you know this,...have you played that..." After a while he said: " well I’m amazed that two young guys from a little town called Umeå, knows so much about my music." Then turning to Mats he said : " you have listened to my music so much, - you should know what I look like." Frank took Mats hand and laid it on his forehead, and Mats began to feel how Frank looked ! And Frank said: " Don’t forgett the famous nose ! " Frank was so incredible nice to us and we had a wonderful time. We also gave him a tape with our own music, including one Zappa piece, T ' Mershi Duween ,which surprised Frank cause it wasn’t released at the time, but we knew it from a bootleg. Frank didn’t listen to the tape; there wasn’t even a tape recorder there, but he said: " Maybe we should do something...". We didn’t have a clue what he was thinking. He scratched his head and said :
" would you like to come up and play T ' Mershi Duween as guests ? We gonna do Big Swifty tonight, and in the middle section of the song there is this open part were everything can happen! So if you walk behind the stage when you hear the Big Swifty theme, I’ll introduce you after a while, - okey ?"
The thing was that it was only 30 min before the show, and the audience was already inside the hall, so no time to try the keyboards or the drums. What sound will be on the keyboard? What kind of sticks does Chad use? Questions natural for us to ask ourselves before going up on stage with Frank Zappa facing a crowd of 10.000 people.
To me, most part of Franks show was hard to enjoy, - I had other things on my mind. We were soon suppose to go up and play, and I couldn´t even remember the fucking song that well either, so I had to think about how it really went. We had only played it once before, a year earlier, - the version we gave to Frank on tape.
When the Big Swifty theme came we left our seats, and walked backstage. After convincing one of the guards that we were about to go up and play with Frank, my next problem was I desperately needed to go to the toilet. I had lost the ability to feel needs like that,- I had other things to think about. Another 5 min passed and I really had to go. I started to feel pain, I got totally confused; what would happen if Frank introduces us for 10 000 people, and I’m at the toilet unable to even hear him ? No thanks. I even asked a guy from the crew if I could make it. As if he would know !
But now I just had to do it, I was in such pain I probably wouldn’t even play properly. I told Mats: " I got to go, you wait here." Mats were sitting on a case just behind the stage. I ran backstage rooms and found a toilet. Finished my bussiness and just as I opened the door from the backstage rooms, I could hear Frank introducing us. I ran like a maniac, grabbed Mats arm and we went up on stage. Lucky us I was fast !
A huge round of applauds welcomed us. We were at home, and a lot of people knew about us. The applauds just got even louder as I walked Mats over to Bobby Martins keyboards. Bobby said: " here’s a yamaha dx-9, and here is the yamaha electric grand - good luck ! " The band kept a reggae beat going during our entrance, which was good; if it had just been silence it would have felt strange, but now we could sort of start our jam from the groove already going. I led Mats behind the keyboards and adjusted the mikestand a little, then I walked to the drum set. A guy from the crew came from nowhere and put a new pair of drumsticks in my hands. Luckily they were the same model I used to play at the time. When Chad saw me coming he stood up, but kept the beat on the hi-hat.
I sat down and continued where Chad left off, but me and Mats soon started to loosen in up to something else. We had to do our thing, so we just jammed for a couple minutes, like we always use to. The drums felt okay, the keyboards too, I think. I felt high up there, it was just totally amazing. I don’t like using standard phrases like "a religious feeling" but this was something else, it really was. I was in heaven. Much because of the fact I could see Frank standing in front of the drumset with a BIG smile holding his conductor stick. He really liked what we were doing, and that gave us a big kick. We missed a little during the T´Mershi Duween theme, but we had probably never played as good before as we did then. Scott played along a little and so did Ed and Mike. After we finished, I left the drumseat, and ran to get Mats away from the keyboards, cause the Big Swifty theme had just started again, and Bobby Martin was about to play again, but Mats were sitting in his way . Mats, who is blind, was waiting for me to pick him up ! I got Mats and passed Frank as we were leaving the stage. Frank stopped conducting just for a second to applaud us, and the audience followed with even more volume than before. We walked of the stage and got back to our seats to see the rest of the show.
At the end of the show, Frank introduced the band like he always use to, with a chord in the background, saying: " Ike Willis, Scott Thunes etc. AND...Mats Öberg & Morgan Ågren, thanks for coming to the show, hope you liked it. Good night! " We were sitting in the audience listening to Frank Zappa - introducing us !! When they came back for an encore, Frank grabbed the microphone and said: " Those guys were great !" So guess if we were excited !
After the encores we met in Franks room backstage again. He said we have to do this again sometime and we exchanged addresses. Frank told us that he was looking for a new drummer and keyboard player,and then he just kind of starred at us without really saying anything more. I think he wanted to tease us a little bit too, because he was obviously talking about me and Mats. Frank even wrote down some notes on a piece of paper witch showed his way of notating drums, he gave it to me and told me to get used to it. Then it was time to go home; go home and wait for the phone to ring...

Los Angeles, October 1990
The Broadway The Hardway- tour was then cancelled half way, and it would become the last tour Frank ever did. Two years later in October 1990 I went to Los Angeles hoping to connect with Frank, since we hadn’t heard from him in 2 years. I was in contact with a guy named Gerald Fialka, who worked at Barking Pumpkin. He said I could stay at his place if I planned to come over. So I did. I called Mike Keneally the day after my arrival and said hello. Mike called Frank and told him I was in town. Frank had said: " Great, take him over so we can listen to some tapes! "
Mike picked me up and gave me a ride to Franks house, called The House.
We stopped and I asked Mike: "which house is it?" Mike pointed at it, and to me it was hard to imagine that Frank Zappa himself really lived in that house, just looking like any house in the area. I didn’t expect anything big or small, it’s just that Franks music had meant so much to me so it was strange to me in a way. It’s like "his music is much greater than this house" if you know what I mean. I was still kind of young and very excited.
I walked with Mike to the entrance. A videocam zoomed us in behind the prisonlooking gate. Mike annunced in the housetelephone that we´d arrived, and the door opened. There was a lot of bushes and trees around the stairway and at the end of it, another big door opened, - and there was Frank !
I felt just like a little kid; - "Hello! " We hugged and walked in to the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen .
Frank said: " have a seat !" I can hardly explain how great it felt to be there. I had been waiting for two years to hear from him. Frank was ever so nice. There was music in the background; I’m pretty sure he was working on Civilization Phase lll .
A goldrecord of One Size Fits All laid on the floor as well as the original version of Zappa in New York. Frank was very welcoming, and in a good mood. He said he was going to introduce me to some girls upstairs. Mike replied: "I didn’t know that Morgan was gonna have his own fan club here..."
Frank said: " I’m sure he will ! " Two very pretty girls came down, giggling, and said hello and stood there for a couple of seconds before they ran upstairs again. I was told one of the girls was actually the daughter of the guy painted on the cover of Overnight Sensation. The guy with the two heads, showering. Pretty funny! I think her name was Lala.
Me, Mike & Frank listened through tapes for a couple of hours including our guest performance from the Stockholm -88 show. Just before it was time to go home Frank asked me were I was staying, and this particular night I wasn’t suppose to stay at Gerald’s house cause he had a date and I was going to spend the night in a youth hostel. Frank said I shouldn´t have to stay in a youth hostel, and picked up the phone and asked somebody upstairs if the guestroom was vacant. It was and I could stay.

Mike went home, and Frank showed me out to the guestroom, which is located outside, beside a pool. It was very dark outside and there were no lights working I think, and there was only this narrow path to walk. Frank told me to walk carefully and lit a lighter as I walked just behind him seeing barely nothing ! We found the guestroom, and the light was working there. Frank wanted me to hold the door open while he walked back, so it would be easier for him to see. Frank told me I had to wait until a certain time before I could enter the house in the morning, because of the alarmsystem. He had also told me it I was no problem for me to stay there, but that he wasn´t going to be so much of a company since he was about to continue working in the basement, as usual. Which I didn’t mind; I was happy just being around ! I was hoping to see him more later on, which I also did. He would come up for coffee or something now and then, and if I happened to be around we talked for a while, before he continued working.
Things that might have happened...
Just before going back to Sweden, Frank was asked to put a band together for an orchestral kind of project in Japan, were he wanted to involve me and Mats. But it was turned down due to financial reasons. Two years later, in 1993, we were once again about to get involved in a cool thing which was also cancelled. L Shankar had called Frank telling him that he was in need of a band to back him up. He was on tour with Peter Gabriel, and they wanted Shankar to be the opening act as well. Me and Mats were in New York doing The Music of F.Z. at the Avery Fisher Hall. We were supposed to go directly to LA from N.Y. and hook up with Frank and Shankar ! The tickets were booked and everything, but Shankar got the flue from hell or something, so we had to do it later. When Peter Gabriel came to Sweden Shankar called me and we met,changed some tapes and stuff, but an opening act was never put in the show.

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Morgan Ågren free drumsolo, France July 2010 (part 1)
Morgan Ågren free drumsolo, France July 2010 (part 2)