Herewith the liner notes from Frank Zappa’s last album... released on November 2, 1993, one month and two days before his death from prostate cancer:
“It begins with L.A. artist Mark Beam, a longtime Zappa appreciator who felt compelled to anonymously bestow upon the Zappa family a Christmas present in 1988. Carved out of a surfboard, Beam’s ‘kind of a mutant fish” arrived unnanounced at the offices of Intercontinental Absurdities (Zappa HQ), and eventually found its way to Frank’s basement. A note inviting the owner to complete the piece of art by placing an item of choice into the fish’s bloody jaw was ignored.
“In the summer of 1991, one Andreas Moelich-Zebhauser, manager of the European contemporary music group, Ensemble Modern, sat in the basement with Zappa and EM conductor Peter Rundel, discussing the music the Ensemble had just commissioned from Frank for the 1992 Frankfurt Festival. Suddenly, Moelich-Zebhauser spied the fish. He took its sailfin for a dorsal.
“‘When I saw the yellow shark,’ Moellich-Zebhauser recalled in English he apologized for, ‘for me it was completely clear that it must become the symbol of our event, of our tour! Because the yellow shark, he’s so pregnant with some of Frank’s characteristics. He’s very hard and a little poison, but on the other hand he’s very friendly and charming. Two things which Frank can be very often: poison for bad people, charming for good ones! Of course, also it’s such a good logo.’
“Not realizing Moellich-Zebhauser's bizarre plot, Zappa generously gave the ‘shark’ to him, writing a ‘little deed’ in order to get it past any suspicious customs agents. The deed read: ‘This is to confirm to whom it may concern that this yellow shark is Andreas Moellich-Zebhauser’s personal fish, and he can do with it whatever he wants. - Frank Zappa.’ ‘Andreas would drool over that object,’ said Zappa. ‘He loved it. The next thing I know, the whole project is being called “The Yellow Shark,” which he said sounds really good in German (“Der Gelbe Hai”), and I said it sounds really dorky in English. People think the name of the music is “The Yellow Shark.” I said we’ll call the evening “The Yellow Shark.” What the fuck are you going to call it? Doesn’t make any difference.’”
The album that resulted from Zappa’s collaboration with Ensemble Modern, of course, was likewise dubbed “The Yellow Shark,” and I was reminded of it this afternoon as the Missus and I were at the OK Café grabbing a bite of lunch. This, you see, was hanging on the wall:
It resembled the logo for Zappa’s valedictory album more than just a little:
Is it too much to hope that Mark Beam had anything to do with the fish on the wall at the OK Café?