The Black Page

Album: Zappa in New York (1978)

Songfacts®:

  • "The Black Page" is known for being extremely difficult to play and almost impossible to play well. Frank Zappa titled it "The Black Page" because the song's sheet music is so dense with writing.

    Zappa loved the technical aspect of music; when deciding whether or not he wanted to work with a musician, he would test their technical knowledge just as much as their artistic ability.

    In a November 1982 interview with Modern Drummer, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta recounted how Zappa tested his ability to read music, not just play it, during his audition for the Mothers of Invention. Zappa gave him a couple different pieces to try out on. One was "The Black Page." Colaiuta had already been working at transcribing the song and was able to play it well enough for Zappa, landing him the gig.

    The first drummer to take on the piece, though, was Terry Bozzio, who worked on 26 albums with Zappa over the course of his career. After writing "The Black Page," Zappa gave it to Bozzio and Bozzio got down to practicing it. He spent about 15 minutes a day for two weeks before the Mothers of Invention did their rehearsals, and eventually he got it down.

    Upon hearing Bozzio's mastery of the song, Zappa decided to expand on it with a melody.
  • Zappa performed this song for the first time on December 28, 1976, in New York City. This version is heard on the live album Zappa in New York. Over the years, he tinkered with different versions of the song, giving them different names. The original, most difficult, one he dubbed "The Black Page Drum Solo/Black Page #1." Another he called "The Black Page, Part 2, The Easy Teen-age new York Version," which he told the audience he made for those who wouldn't be able to master the original version. Another was called "The Black Page (new age version)," performed in 1988 and released in 1991 on Make a Jazz Noise Here.
  • As time has gone on, "The Black Page" has taken on a cult status. The legend of its complexity seems to grow every year. One can imagine Zappa would appreciate this.

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