Sheik Yerbouti

Sheik Yerbouti is a double album[2][3][4] by Frank Zappa, first released in March 1979 as the first release on Zappa Records (distributed by Phonogram Inc.). It was later released on one CD. It is mostly made up of live material recorded in 1977 and 1978, with later overdubs in the studio.

Sheik Yerbouti
Sheik Yerbouti.jpeg
Live album with studio elements by
ReleasedMarch 3, 1979
Jan. 25–27 & Feb. 28 1978,
Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK;
Oct. 30–31, 1977,
The Palladium, NYC
LabelZappa, CBS International
ProducerFrank Zappa
Frank Zappa chronology
Sleep Dirt
Sheik Yerbouti
Orchestral Favorites
Singles from Sheik Yerbouti
  1. "Dancin' Fool"
    Released: 1979
  2. "Bobby Brown"
    Released: 1979


Sheik Yerbouti represented a major turning point in Zappa's career. It was the first album to be released on his own eponymous label after his departure from his DiscReet label, distributed by Warner Bros. It emphasized the comedic aspect of his lyrics more than ever before, beginning a period of increased record sales and mainstream media attention. Sheik Yerbouti remains Zappa's biggest selling album worldwide with over 2 million units sold to date.


The title is a play on words; Zappa appears on the cover in character in Arab headdress, and the name, meant to resemble an Arabic transcription (Djibouti is an Arabic-speaking republic in Africa) is pronounced like the title of KC and the Sunshine Band's 1976 disco hit "Shake Your Booty".

The album featured Zappa's satirical, humorous and otherwise offensive material. "Bobby Brown" is well known worldwide, except for the US[citation needed]. This is because the song was banned from airplay[citation needed] due to its sexually explicit lyrics. "I Have Been in You" pokes fun at Peter Frampton's 1977 hit "I'm in You" while maintaining a sexual meaning. "Dancin' Fool", a Grammy nominee, became a popular disco hit despite its obvious parodical reflection of disco music. "Flakes", about the lousiness of laborers in California, includes a parody of Bob Dylan. "Jewish Princess", a humorous look at Jewish stereotyping, attracted attention from the Anti-Defamation League, to which Zappa denied an apology, arguing: "Unlike the unicorn, such creatures do exist—and deserve to be 'commemorated' with their own special opus".[5]

Some of Zappa's solos from the album began life as improvisations from his earlier work. "Rat Tomago" was edited from a performance of "The Torture Never Stops", which originally appeared on Zoot Allures (1976); likewise, "The Sheik Yerbouti Tango" is taken from a live version of "Little House I Used to Live in", originally a Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1970) track. The song "City of Tiny Lites" featured an animation video made by Bruce Bickford which was featured on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

Writing and recordingEdit

Most of the tracks were recorded live and then extensively overdubbed in the studio. "Rat Tomago" is bookended by two brief pieces of musique concrète, constructed of studio dialogue, sound effects, and assorted musical fragments. In making "Rubber Shirt", Zappa combined a track of Terry Bozzio playing drums in one musical setting with one of Patrick O'Hearn playing the bass in another, and totally different, musical setting. The tracks differed in time signature and in tempo. Zappa referred to this technique as xenochrony. Nearly every song on the album features numerous overdubs.

The album was engineered by Joe Chiccarelli. In an interview with HitQuarters, Chiccarelli said: "[Zappa's] engineer couldn’t make the session and so he decided to take a chance on me. I’m so thankful ever since that day because he gave me a career."[6]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [7]
Christgau's Record GuideC[9]
Rolling Stone(favorable)[8]

Initially, the album was met with mixed reviews, due to the controversy of its lyrical content. Despite this, the album remains a cult favorite among Zappa fans to this day. The song "Bobby Brown" was extremely popular in Scandinavia. Zappa was reportedly so astounded by its success that he wanted CBS to hire an anthropologist to study why the song became such a big hit.[10]

Reviewing in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), Robert Christgau wrote: "If this be social 'satire,' how come its sole targets are ordinary citizens whose weirdnesses happen to diverge from those of the retentive gent at the control board? Or are we to read his new fixation on buggery as an indication of approval? Makes you wonder whether his primo guitar solo on 'Yo' Mama' and those as-unique-as-they-used-to-be rhythms and textures are as arid spiritually as he is. As if there were any question after all these years."[9]

Track listingEdit

All songs composed, written and arranged by Frank Zappa except where noted.[11] Dates & venues infos from Information Is Not Knowledge

Side one
No.TitleRecording dates and venuesLength
1."I Have Been in You"January 25, 1978 – Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK3:33
2."Flakes"January 25, 1978 – Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK6:41
3."Broken Hearts Are for Assholes"January 27, 1978 – Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK3:42
4."I'm So Cute"January 25–27 or February 28, 1978 – Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK. Ending cropped on CD reissues, reducing the run time to 3:09; restored on 2012 reissue.4:27
Side two
No.TitleRecording dates and venuesLength
5."Jones Crusher"October 31, 1977 – The Palladium, NYC2:49
6."What Ever Happened to All the Fun in the World"incl. a quotation from "I Have Seen The Pleated Gazelle", recorded at Pinewood Studios, London, January–February 19710:33
7."Rat Tomago" (Composition co-credited to Frank and Ahmet Zappa on the 2012 CD – a note states that "'Rat Tomago' is Ahmet Zappa's title")Guitar solo from "The Torture Never Stops" played live on February 15, 1978 – Deutschlandhalle, Berlin, Germany5:17
8."We've Got to Get into Something Real" (Listed under the title "Wait a Minute" on the CD version) 0:31
9."Bobby Brown" (Listed under the title "Bobby Brown Goes Down" on the CD version) January 27, 1978 – Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK2:49
10."Rubber Shirt" (Bozzio/O'Hearn/Zappa)Bass part: recorded for a studio overdub on a guitar solo from September 25, 1974 – Gothenburg, Sweden2:45
11."The Sheik Yerbouti Tango"Guitar solo from "The Little House I Used to Live in" played live on February 15, 1978 – Deutschlandhalle, Berlin, Germany3:56
Side three
No.TitleRecording dates and venuesLength
12."Baby Snakes"January 25, 1978 – Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK1:50
13."Tryin' to Grow a Chin"January 27, 1978 – Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK3:31
14."City of Tiny Lites" January 27, 1978 – Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK5:32
15."Dancin' Fool"February 28, 1978 – Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK3:43
16."Jewish Princess"October 30, 1977 – The Palladium, NYC3:16
Side four
No.TitleRecording dates and venuesLength
17."Wild Love"February 28, 1978 – Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK4:09
18."Yo' Mama"Vocal sections February 28, 1978 – Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK; Guitar solo: February 25, 1978 – Hemmerleinhalle, Neunkirchen am Brand, Germany; Part of the backing track for the solo: January 27, 1978 – Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK12:36



  • Frank Zappa – lead guitar, lead (1-3, 9, 12, 15–18) and backing vocals, arranger, composer, producer, remixing
  • Davey Moire – lead (6, 8) and backing vocals, engineer
  • Napoleon Murphy Brock – lead (17) and backing vocals
  • Andre Lewis – backing vocals
  • Randy Thornton – lead (17) and backing vocals
  • Adrian Belew – rhythm guitar, lead (5, 14) and backing vocals, Bob Dylan impersonation (2)
  • Tommy Mars – keyboards, backing and lead (17) vocals
  • Peter Wolf – keyboards, butter, Flora margarine
  • Patrick O'Hearn – bass, lead (3, 6, 8) and backing vocals
  • Terry Bozzio – drums, lead (3, 4, 6, 8, 13, 17) and backing vocals
  • Ed Mann – percussion, backing vocals
  • David Ocker – clarinet (17)[12]

Production staffEdit

  • Bob Stone – digital remastering
  • Joe Chiccarelli – remixing, overdub engineer
  • Lynn Goldsmith – photography, cover photo
  • Peter Henderson – engineer
  • Jon Walls – engineer
  • Bob Ludwig – mastering engineer
  • Kerry McNabb – engineer
  • John Williams – art direction
  • Gail Zappa – photography
  • Amy Bernstein – artwork, layout design
  • Barbara Isaak – assistant

Charts and certificationsEdit

Weekly chartsEdit

Chart (1979) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[13] 52
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[14] 6
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[15] 21
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[16] 10
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[17] 36
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[18] 5
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[19] 4
UK Albums (OCC)[20] 32
US Billboard 200[21] 21

Certifications and salesEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[22] Gold 50,000^
Germany (BVMI)[23] Gold 250,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Lowe, Kelly Fisher (2007). The Words and Music of Frank Zappa. ISBN 978-0803260054.
  3. ^ Norman, Katherine (1998-02-09). Poetry of Reality. ISBN 9780203986387.
  4. ^ Myers, Mitch (2008-07-08). The Boy Who Cried Freebird. Harper Collins. p. 189. ISBN 9780061734199. sheik yerbouti live.
  5. ^ The real Frank Zappa book
  6. ^ "Interview with Joe Chiccarelli". HitQuarters. 14 June 2010. Retrieved Aug 19, 2010.
  7. ^ Huey, S. (2011). "Sheik Yerbouti – Frank Zappa | AllMusic". Retrieved 21 July 2011.
  8. ^ Fricke, D. (2011). "Frank Zappa: Sheik Yerbouti : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Archived from the original on May 25, 2009. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
  9. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: Z". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 23, 2019 – via
  10. ^ "Zappa Interviews". Archived from the original on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  11. ^ "Official discography - Sheik Yerbouti". Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 348. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  14. ^ " – Frank Zappa – Sheik Yerbouti" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  15. ^ " – Frank Zappa – Sheik Yerbouti" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  16. ^ " – Frank Zappa – Sheik Yerbouti" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  17. ^ " – Frank Zappa – Sheik Yerbouti". Hung Medien. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  18. ^ " – Frank Zappa – Sheik Yerbouti". Hung Medien. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  19. ^ " – Frank Zappa – Sheik Yerbouti". Hung Medien. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  20. ^ "Frank Zappa | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  21. ^ "Frank Zappa Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  22. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Frank Zappa – Sheik Yerbouti". Music Canada. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  23. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Frank Zappa; 'Sheik Yerbouti')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved 9 October 2016.