When Frank Zappa & Miles Davis Played a Drug Dealer and a Pimp on Miami Vice

For all the neon-Fer­rari-and-raw-silk gar­ish­ness the show now seems to embody, Mia­mi Vice (1984–1990) paid uncom­mon atten­tion to cul­tur­al detail. Music, for instance, did­n’t get thrown onto its sound­track, but care­ful­ly select­ed to reflect both the mid-80s zeit­geist and the aes­thet­ic of a par­tic­u­lar episode. Any time you tuned in, you could hear the likes of Devo, Phil Collins, The Tubes, Depeche Mode, or the Alan Par­sons project behind the action. Some­times you could also see musi­cians onscreen, involved in the action, albeit musi­cians of a some­what dif­fer­ent kind: the inno­v­a­tive exper­i­men­tal com­pos­er and rock­er Frank Zap­pa, for instance, once appeared as “weasel dust” deal­er Mario Fuente.

That hap­pened on “Pay­back,” the nine­teenth episode of Mia­mi Vice’s sec­ond sea­son which aired on March 14, 1986, a clip of which you can watch at the top of the post. (Nat­u­ral­ly, the scene takes place on a boat staffed with armed thugs and biki­ni girls.) If, after the cliffhang­er it ends on, you sim­ply must see the whole thing, you may be able to watch the full episode on Hulu, though unfor­tu­nate­ly Hulu only per­mits those in the Unit­ed States to view it. (Apolo­gies in advance to those who are geo-blocked.) The same goes for Novem­ber 8, 1985’s “Junk Love,” anoth­er episode from the same sea­son with no less dis­tin­guished a musi­cian guest star than Miles Davis.

miles on miami vice

“The idea is that Crock­ett and Tubbs arrest the own­er of a whore­house,” writes Dan­ger­ous Minds’ Mar­tin Schnei­der, “a dude named ‘Ivory Jones’ — played by Miles.” And while “most of Davis’ dia­logue is semi-incom­pre­hen­si­ble… you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the genius behind Bitch­es Brew croak, ‘Watch that big cab­in cruis­er, he has a thing about them.’ ” We’ve embed­ded the entire­ty of “Junk Love” on Hulu just below, which, since “Ivory is a scum­bag but col­lab­o­rat­ing with the local con­stab­u­lary,” offers “plen­ty of scenes of him hang­ing out with Crock­ett and Tubbs.” Add to this Leonard Cohen’s 1986 role as malev­o­lent French secret ser­vice agent Fran­cois Zolan, and you real­ize that Mia­mi Vice has turned out to cater straight to cul­tur­al­ly omniv­o­rous 21st cen­tu­ry view­ers: those who can appre­ci­ate Songs of Love and Hate as well as a neon Fer­rari, Freak Out! as much as raw silk, and Devo as much as Davis. You can view more com­plete episodes of Mia­mi Vice on Hulu here.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Frank Zap­pa Play Michael Nesmith on The Mon­kees (1967)

The Paint­ings of Miles Davis

Frank Zap­pa Debates Cen­sor­ship on CNN’s Cross­fire (1986)

Col­in Mar­shall writes else­where on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­maand the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future? Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Scraggler says:

    The episode with Zap­pa is one of the best of the series imo. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, that cliffhang­er is nev­er resolved since he became ill and could­n’t con­tin­ue act­ing. That hap­pened a few times on that show.

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