Frank Zappa sadly died on this date in 1993 just 17 days before his 53rd birthday after a yearslong battle with cancer. The legendary composer, bandleader, guitarist and activist was born on December 21, 1940 in Baltimore. Zappa helped form The Mothers Of Invention in 1965 and the band’s 1966 double LP debut, Freak Out!, put FZ on the path to becoming one of the most prolific and influential artists of the 20th century.
While Zappa continued to create and record up until his death in 1993, The Maestro embarked on his final tour in 1988. While many fans consider it to be one of FZ’s finest, the tour was fraught with troubles and following a U.S. leg — which contained Frank’s final performance on American soil — Zappa disbanded his group halfway through the European leg of the tour. But not before FZ and what he famously called “The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life” made a stop at the Wiener Stadthalle in Vienna, Austria on May 8, 1988.
The 1988 lineup featured Frank Zappa (guitar/Synclavier/vocals), Ike Willis (rhythm guitar/vocals), Mike Keneally (stunt guitar/keyboards/vocals), Robert Martin (keyboards/Synclavier/ vocals), Ed Mann (percussion/Synclavier/vocals), Scott Thunes (bass/mini-moog), Chad Wackerman (drums/electronic percussion), Walt Fowler (trumpet/flugelhorn/Synclavier), Bruce Fowler (trombone), Paul Carman (alto/soprano sax), Albert Wing (tenor sax) and Kurt McGettrick (baritone sax).
Zappa and company kicked off the show in Vienna, where some of the greatest composers to ever live created their masterpieces, with one of his own masterpieces, “The Black Page,” widely considered one of FZ’s most difficult compositions to play. While the video below is missing the following nine songs, it picks back up with “Eat That Question” at the beginning of the second set and also contains classics like “Peaches En Regalia” and “Montana” along with covers of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” and The Allman Brothers Band’s “Whipping Post.”
To remember Frank Zappa, watch The Maestro perform in Vienna on his final tour below: