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"A Nun Suit Painted on Some Old Boxes" and 71 Other Great Frank Zappa Song Titles

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The late Frank Zappa would have turned 72 today. Even if you don’t know much about Zappa, you may be aware of his penchant for creative naming. He famously named his four children the following:

- Moon Unit
- Dweezil
- Ahmet Emuukha Rodan
- Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen

Zappa also had a habit of giving his musical creations memorable titles. So let’s celebrate his 72nd birthday with a list of his 72 best song titles.

1. "A Nun Suit Painted on Some Old Boxes"
2. "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet"
3. "Half a Dozen Provocative Squats"
4. "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Momma"
5. "The Girl Wants to Fix Him Some Broth"
6. "Little Green Scratchy Sweaters & Corduroy Ponce"
7. "Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin"
8. "Son of Suzy Creamcheese"
9. "Harry, You're a Beast"
10. "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?"

11. "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body? (Reprise)"
12. "The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny"
13. "The Voice of Cheese"
14. "Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague"
15. "Sleeping in a Jar"
16. "Electric Aunt Jemima"
17. "Duke of Prunes"
18. "Hungry Freaks, Daddy"
19. "Willie the Pimp"
20. "It Must Be a Camel"
21. "Theme From Burnt Weeny Sandwich"
22. "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask"
23. "Toads of the Short Forest"
24. "Dwarf Nebula Processional March & Dwarf Nebula"
25. "This Town Is a Sealed Tuna Sandwich"
26. "Weasels Ripped My Flesh"
27. "Rudy Wants to Buy Yez a Drink"
28. "Latex Solar Beef"
29. "Lonesome Electric Turkey"
30. "Give Me Some Floor Covering Under This Fat, Floating Sofa"
31. "For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)"
32. "Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus"
33. "I’m the Slime"
34. "Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow"
35. "St. Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast"
36. "Father O'Blivion"
37. "Stink-Foot"
38. "Penguin in Bondage"
39. "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?"
40. "Evelyn, a Modified Dog"
41. "Sam with the Showing Scalp Flat Top"
42. "Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead"
43. "Man with the Woman Head"
44. "The Illinois Enema Bandit"
45. "Big Leg Emma"
46. "Help, I’m A Rock"
47. "Spider of Destiny"
48. "The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution"
49. "Tryin' to Grow a Chin"
50. "Yo' Mama"
51. "Pedro's Dowry"
52. "Naval Aviation in Art?"
53. "Watermelon in Easter Hay"
54. "Soup 'n Old Clothes"
55. "Gee, I Like Your Pants"
56. "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar"
57. "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar Some More"
58. "Return of the Son of Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar"
59. "Pinocchio's Furniture"
60. "Theme from the 3rd Movement of Sinister Footwear"
61. "Charlie's Enormous Mouth"
62. "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing"
63. "Tink Walks Amok"
64. "The Man From Utopia Meets Mary Lou"
65. "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats"
66. "The Girl in the Magnesium Dress"
67. "Hot-Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel"
68. "In-A-Gadda-Stravinsky"
69. "That's Not Really Reggae"
70. "Orrin Hatch on Skis"
71. "Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk"
72. "The Living Garbage Truck"

My favorites: 3, 12, 16, 22, 30, 55, 62, and 70. What are yours?

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between an Opera and a Musical?
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They both have narrative arcs set to song, so how are musicals different from operas?

For non-theater types, the word “musical” conjures up images of stylized Broadway performances—replete with high-kicks and punchy songs interspersed with dialogue—while operas are viewed as a musical's more melodramatic, highbrow cousin. That said, The New York Times chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini argues that these loose categorizations don't get to the heart of the matter. For example, for every Kinky Boots, there’s a work like Les Misérables—a somber, sung-through show that elicits more audience tears than laughs. Meanwhile, operas can contain dancing and/or conversation, too, and they range in quality from lowbrow to highbrow to straight-up middlebrow.

According to Tommasini, the real distinguishing detail between a musical and an opera is that “in opera, music is the driving force; in musical theater, words come first.” While listening to an opera, it typically doesn’t matter what language it’s sung in, so long as you know the basic plot—but in musical theater, the nuance comes from the lyrics.

When it comes down to it, Tommasini’s explanation clarifies why opera stars often sing in a different style than Broadway performers do, why operas and musicals tend to have their trademark subject matters, and why musical composition and orchestration differ between the two disciplines.

That said, we live in a hybrid-crazy world in which we can order Chinese-Indian food, purchase combination jeans/leggings, and, yes, watch a Broadway musical—like 2010's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark—that’s billed as “rock opera.” At the end of the day, the lack of hard, fast lines between opera and musical theater can lead composers from both camps to borrow from the other, thus blurring the line even further.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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History
Lost Gustav Holst Music Found in a New Zealand Symphony Archive
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English composer Gustav Holst became famous for his epic seven-piece suite "The Planets," but not all of his works were larger-than-life. Take "Folk Songs from Somerset," a collection of folk tunes composed by Holst in 1906 and largely forgotten in the decades since. Now, more than a century later, the music is finally attracting attention. As Atlas Obscura reports, manuscripts of the songs were rediscovered among a lost collection of sheet music handwritten by the musician.

The Holst originals were uncovered from the archives of a New Zealand symphony during a routine cleaning a few years ago. While throwing away old photocopies and other junk, the music director and the librarian of the Bay of Plenty (BOP) Symphonia came across two pieces of music by Holst. The scores were penned in the composer’s handwriting and labeled with his former address. Realizing the potential importance of their discovery, they stored the documents in a safe place, but it wasn't until recently that they were able to verify that the manuscripts were authentic.

For more than a century, the Holst works were thought to be lost for good. "These manuscripts are a remarkable find, particularly the ‘Folk Songs from Somerset’ which don’t exist elsewhere in this form," Colin Matthews of London's Holst Foundation said in a statement from the symphony.

How, exactly, the documents ended up in New Zealand remains a mystery. The BOP Symphonia suspects that the sheets were brought there by Stanley Farnsworth, a flutist who performed with an early version of the symphony in the 1960s. “We have clues that suggest the scores were used by Farnsworth,” orchestra member Bronya Dean said, “but we have no idea how Farnsworth came to have them, or what his connection was with Holst.”

The symphony plans to mark the discovery with a live show, including what will likely be the first performance of "Folk Songs from Somerset" in 100 years. Beyond that, BOP is considering finding a place for the artifacts in Holst’s home in England.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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