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MOTHERS IN MANCHEST'R
"Hello boys and girls, welcome to our midnight concert dutifull applause greeting FRANK ZAPPA's opening remarks at his recent FREE TRADE HALL show. Zappa, dressed in sharp blue pants and with hair shorter than we have come to expect, announced their first number, 'ADVENTURES OF PALADIN' as being from their forthcoming 200 MOTELS album. Unlike the last MOTHERS concert, the material here was, for the most part, rather constricted. The free-form orchestration and electronic chamber music of the Black, Estrada, Gardner and Tripp band has degenerated into something of a "Look, we're playing our greatest hits" type of set. The pseudo Mothers (a poor substitute for the original band) in the first half played down to the crowd and ex-Turtle Mark Volman, despite some good vocal work the dildo of the group, was a pure embarrassment with his teen-orientated attempts at humour.
The second half was a marked improvement and the band, with Zappa dispensing some very tasty guitar-work, did a bizarre monologue on how to get a bit of 'Nucky' from chart-conscious groupies, the best clubs to score in (for English voyeurs—London's 'Speakeasy') and a fetish for the curious, namely 'Bognor Regis', 'Tewkesbury' etc.
The last set, a heavy rock jam, brought the audience to it's feet and ended with a ten-minute ovation for Zappa. But for this reviewer, the visual image that made the Mothers such a unique band was sadly lacking. No-one could accuse this present line-up of being nasty or unwholesome; only Zappa's leering at innuendo or moodily sitting cross-legged on his amplyfier was disquieting.
Contrary to the BRIAN ALDISS review in the American magazine "AMRA" on existential philosophy and John Ramsay Campbell's balls aching comments in "L'Incroyable Cinema", there's not much that can be said about "CHUNGA'S REVENGE", except is Zappa's terms the album is somewhat lightweight. He caricatures several Totem figures well enough. The Beatles 'Birthday' in "Tell Me You Love Me". The Coasters and R & B cliches are the forms of reference in 'Would You Let Me Go All The Way?'—which seems to be a lead into 'MY DICK IS A MONSTER' (or 'Penis Dimensions') again from The Motels album. Even the reliable SUGAR CANE HARRIS (remember DON & DEWEYS BIM BAM, JUNGLE HOP, FARMER JOHN and BIG BOY PETE) produces no surprises. All the vitriol social comment and musical dexterity of earlier albums is missing. A disappointing follow-up to 'WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH'.
Reviewed by Robert Holland.
HEY, MISTER SNAZZY EXECUTIVE! HERE IT IS! YOUR VERY OWN M.O.I. CUSTOMIZED PRESS KIT WITH THE ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS THAT HAVE PLAGUED YOU DAY & NIGHT FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS OF OUR CONTRACTUAL ASSOCIATION
From: FRANK ZAPPA
To: ALL WARNER/REPRISE AVANT-GARDE EXECUTIVES WHO MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE MERCHANDISING OF MOTHERS OF INVENTION PRODUCT
Attn: SNAZZY EXECS . . .
On behalf of The Mothers and Bizarre, I wish to thank you for doing such a marvellous job on the "Penzil Front" album (MS 2042). I'm sure its present sales success is a direct result of your unflagging loyalty and touching concern for our group and its work. How often has our jolly little band (and even Herbie) mused upon its great fortune being handled by your skillful aggressive technicians and your creative Burbank copy writers and that guy who picks our the gurly pictures of us that you use in 'Circular.' Any normal sort of teenage combo might have become enraged by something like Freddie Weintraub's exquisite 'Medicine Ball Caravan' ad campaign, where Warners stoops to the hiring of fake hippies ($10 a day, 10 days, $100 to "Get out there on the psychedelic bus and promote this groovy movie . . . . ."), and then sends a bunch to one of its concerts (like the one we played at Pauley Pavilion) to pass out crappy little leaflets. Some old ordinary group might get pissed off at stuff like that, but we just sit round and say how lucky we are. After all, it could be worse . . . we could still be with MGM. We don't even care about security leaks associated with merchandising strategy (like "The Junior Mintz" deal), even when such a tragically simplistic hoax became a necessity in order to motivate your own sales poeple. We don't care about that stuff. We just laugh about it. Up at the office we laugh. At rehearsals we laugh. I even laugh about it during interviews and with my family when I get home. You guys know . . . you know our reputation (merely a comedy group) . . . you know we just laugh about it.
Anyway, we thought it was so funny that we got together a modified EXECUTIVE EDUCATIONAL PRESS KIT, prepared in the hope that relations between our group and your merchan dising people will improve with proper understanding of the conceptual aspects of our 'development program.'
Consider this package as a response to your request for 'SOMETHING ABOUT US, WRITTEN BY US' for use in 'Circular'. In your layout for this special issue, kindly print the letter you are holding in your hand on the front cover.
Best regards, Frank Zappa
(for the MOI and Bizarre Inc).
In Case You've Never Heard of Our Group . . .
Hi! We're the MOI (Mothers Of Invention) or just plain Mothers. We like to make that clear so you don't get us confused with that "Mothers/Brothers" campaign that Herbie called you guys about and said "What's the deal?" . . . to make it very plaing, verging on Redundant: WE ARE NOT THE DOOBIE BROTHERS, NOR DO WE HAVE ANY CONNECTION WITH MOTHER EARTH, CAT MOTHER & THE ALL NIGHT NEWSBOYS, AND/OR EVERY MOTHER'S SON . . . (with all the rock and roll groups you got, we can understand the sort of lonely confusion a busy executive must experience while attempting to make rational judgements about things like good or bad taste in an ad campaign . . . we like you . . . we understand).
Our group has been together since late 1964. During the past 7 years we have released 10 albums, F.Z. has released 2, and MGM/Verve (that other company) has re-packaged 3 anthologies against our wishes.
Maybe you know (maybe you don't know) about our plan for the release of the historic 9-disc History and Collected Improvisations of The Mothers around Christmas or after the first of the year. Maybe if you're in the promotional areas of WB/Kinney entertainment factory and heard about this unprecedented release you might have scratched your head and mumbled to your buddies at lunch " . . . I never heard of these guys and I'm supposed to promote a NINE DISC HISTORY ALBUM. I mean 'I HEART OF THEM A LITTLE BIT,' but I mean I never HEARD of them . . . I mean so who else ever HEARD of them and THEY SHOULD CARE? Some group dumping NINE FUCKING ALBUMS? During the depression and everything?"
Maybe you talked to somebody else later at the office. Maybe you asked some more reasonable, intelligent questions (see specimen above). Maybe some of the other questions went like this:
What's So Special About This Group?
Perhaps the most unique aspect of The Mothers' work is the conceptual continuity of the group's output macrostructure. There is, and always has been, a conscious control of thematic and structural elements flowing through each album, live performance, and interview.
Do you know about Earth Works? Imagine the decades and the pile of stuff on them subjected to extensive long-range conceptual landscape modification. Houses, Offices. People live there and work there. They even make movies there. Imagine that you could be living there and working there and not even know it. Whether you can imagine it or not, that's what the deal is.
Listen. Nobody Puts Together a Pop Group, Simultaneously Planning Years of Absurdly Complicated Events, Lives out Those Events, Then Writes About It in a Press Kit and Expects Somebody to Believe It. You're Nuts.
The basic blueprints were executed in 1962-63. Preliminary experimentation in early and mid-1964. Construction of the project/object began in late 1964. Work is still in progress.
No Wonder You Guys Never Had a Hit Single.
I'm sure you realize that total control is neither possible, nor desirable (it takes the fun out of it). The project/object contains plans and non-plans also precisely calculated event-structures designed to accomodate the mechanics of fate and all bonus statistical improbabilites attendant thereto.
Yeah, Sure . . . I'm Supposed to Sell Records for You Guys, and I'm a Little Pressed for Time, So Why Don't You Just Tell Me Normal Stuff . . . Like What Your Group Sounds Like, Maybe . . .
What we sound like is more that what we sound like. We are part of the project/object. The project/object (maybe you like event/organism better) incorporates any available visual medium, consciousness of all participants (including audience), all perceptual deficiencies, God (as energy), The Big Note (as universal basic building material), and other things. We make a special art in an environment hostile to dreamers.
I Still Don't Get It . . . Art? What Art? Rolling Stone And All Other Groovy Important Publications Have Convinced Me That You Guys Are Nothing More Than A Bunch of Tone-Deaf Perverts, Faking It on the Fringe of the Real Rock & Roll World. All You Guys Do Is Play Comedy Music. So I Should Believe This Crap About a Conceptual Program Spanning Decades?
You Been Doing This Stuff For 7 Years . . .
Almost 10 years if you include pre-planning.
So Why Didn't I Ever Know About Any Of This Stuff? I'm Aware and Intelligent and Everything . . . How Come You Never Mentioned It?
There are several possible reasons:
- Maybe you never asked because you never heard any of the albums so perhaps the long-range continuity would not occur to you.
- Maybe you never asked because you never saw The Mothers perform live, and the conceptual aspects of this phase could not be described without you having seen many concerts.
- Maybe you never read any interviews where this phenomenon was briefly described producing varying degrees of semantic confusion.
- Maybe now is when you should know.
What is it? Like a Plot or Something?
Not exactly. What I'm trying to describe is the type of attention given to each lyric, melody, arrangement, improvisation, the sequence of these elements in an album, the cover art which is an extension of the musical material, the choice of what is recorded, released, and/or performed during a concert, the continuity or contrasts of material album to album, etc., etc., etc. . . all of these detail aspects are part of the Big Structure or The Main Body of Work. The smaller details comprise not only the contents of The Main Body of Work, but, because of the chronology of exection, give it a "shape" in an abstract sense.
So You Say You're Aware of the "Overall Shape" of the Group's Output So Far . . .
I say we're not only aware of it, we control it. It is an intentional design.
You Think This Makes The Mothers Better Than Some Other Group?
It makes The Mothers different, certainly. We do not claim that control of conceptual continuity automatically insures superiority on any level.
This is a silly analogy, however . . . Imagine the head of a pin. On the head of this pin is an amazingly detailed illustration of some sort. It might be a little thought or a feeling or, perhaps, an obscure symbol. It might just be a picture of a sky or something with birds in it . . . but it's on the head of this pin, remember, and it's infinitely detailed. Now, imagine this pin is not a pin . . . it's a musical note with a corresponding physical action, like the secret raising of an eyebrow to add special emphasis. Even in a recording studio where nobody can see you.
Now, imagine enough of these abstracted pins (with the needle part chopped off to save space) to fill an area as large as the North American Continent and most of Central Europe, piled to a depth of 80 feet. Now, imagine this area is not geometric space. Imagine a collection of decades (the exact number to be disclosed eventually). Pause.
The reason for explaining this process is to simply let you know it exists, and to give you, as an executive, some criteria by which to rationally judge what we do. It is not fair to our group to review detail aspects of our work without considering the placement of a detail in the larger structure.
Why Don't You Guys Just Play Rock & Roll Like Everybody Else and Forget All This Other Crap?
Sometimes we do play Rock & Roll like everybody else (sort of). Our basic stylistic determination is Rock, only sometimes it gets extrapolated into curious realms.
You Probably Get Into That "Classical Rock" . . . Real Intellectual With Ugly Chords and the Beat's No Good . . .
Any association we might have with "serious music" has to be considered from a Rock viewpoint because most of us are strictly Rock musicians. There is also the element of humor to consider.
You Guys Could Never Really Play Any Good Rock & Roll. You're Not Serious Enough. You Couldn't Even Play Any Good Serious Music 'Cause You're Not Serious Enough. Have You Even Considered Employment in Another Field?
I would like to bring to your attention at this time one of the basic tenets of our group philosophy: IT IS, IN SPITE OF ALL EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY, THEORETICALLY POSSIBLE TO BE 'HEAVY' AND STILL HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR. (We direct this specifically toward people who suffer feelings of ambivalence when given an opportunity to laugh at themselves).
And another precept which guides our work: SOMEBODY IN THAT AUDIENCE OUT THERE KNOWS WHAT WE'RE DOING, AND THAT PERSON IS GETTING OFF ON IT BEYOND HIS/HER WILDEST COMPREHENSIONS.
The 1955 Zappa
A RECENT article in The Times Literary Supplement refers us to an early story by Jorge Luis Borges called 'Pierre Menard, Autor Del Quijote', in which a writer attempts to write a book which will 'coincide in every particular with one which already exists', namely 'Don Quijote'.
The writer finds that it is impossible to think spontaneous 17th Century thoughts and that he will therefore be unable to write a copy of Cervantes' novel, he will have to produce a premeditated 20th Century reconstruction of it. (The TLS writer refers here to the infinite scale of this fulfilment in which time is the only impediment, and he therefore introduces us to the realm of monkeys typing Shakespeare given a typewriter and given enough time and therefore an understanding of present time in terms of the Indian interpretations of the Three Gunas.)
Precisely the same problem is present in the Mothers of Invention's latest album 'Cruising with Ruben and the Jets', Verve V6 5055S, in which Frank Zappa undertakes to make an album which will coincide musically with the rock and roll of the 1955 era. A more complex character than Menard, Zappa is also faced with the intrusion of 'Art' into his attempts at 1955 rock. Taking the position of Arp rather than Tzara in the face of pure chance as anti-art he introduces alien virtuosity and meaningful words into some numbers which tend to disturb the overall fabric and make the album less 'pure' than it could have been.
However, had he achieved his original aim the album would be redundant as the 1955 sound still exists in the original. Zappa, the master of editing, has achieved a perfect balance in the light of these problems. This album is almost a tribute to Ahmed Ertigun—The Shoobydoo, oo-wah school and the deep bass second vocal. Many obvious influences can be detecte, The Ad-Libs 'Boy From New York City'; Hank Ballard and the Midnighters 'Walk With Me Annie'; The Chords 'Sh-Boom'; The Diamonds, etc. A particularly good reference album to use with 'Ruben and the Jets' is volume 2 of the History of the Rhythm and Blues (Atlantic 587095) which covers the period 1953-5.
Then of course we should ask why?—What is Zappa up to? This record marks a tangent from his overall direction in that usually his words have been designed to make what he calls plastic people so uptight that they may see through the consumer society just for one second. He has often referred to 1955 music, using it as parody and as material for his collages thus giving them a historical depth and precluding the use of electronic sounds which have no such emotional meaning.
His overall direction has been that of the tradition of Stravinsky, Varese, and the serial composers and thus has been away from the main direction of pop. It is doubtful however if his words have even reached their target, good as they are: for example:
Ever take a minute just to show a real emotion
In between the moisture cream and velvet facial lotion?
Ever tell your kids you're glad that they can think?
Ever say you loved 'em? Ever let 'em watch you drink?
Ever wonder why your daughter looked so sad?
It's such a drag to have to love a plastic Mom & Dad.'
But this album marks a release to the complete environment of early pop and may therefore be taken as a second front attack on those who got away in the 50s. All the songs are to do with love and though presented in the most banal fashion they tend to correspond with his overall 'message'. He is working on many fronts and has wisely chosen to devote an album to each of them. This record also contains an excellent graduation photograph of the composer.
FRANCIS VINCENT ZAPPA & the ABNUCEALS EMUUKHA ELECTRIC SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS. VERVE V6-8741 LUMPY GRAVY.
With the guile and cunning of a Zaptieh, Zappa presents his first 'solo' record: a ballet, an opera, a collage of all the elements then present. (It should have been released 16 months ago when it was recorded.) A shifting of the musical grid, blending Cage's 'Fontana Mix' with John Carisi's 'Moon Taj' (Into The Hot—Impulse A9) with that degree of lyricism and cynicism peculiar to Zappa alone.
Music Verite—real-life recordings of conversations and monologues from the Kustom Kulchur of Stomberg 97's and Nerf Bars to giggling acid Koffee Klutches. The conversations sound loaded but Zappa's excursions into ultimate reality are masterpieces of editing, viz. the phone call on 'We're Only In It For The Money' or Jimmy Carl Black's recurring introduction. A non-vocal, sheer-amazement and strangeness record with many wonderful pieces.
Louis Malle parodies his film 'Les Amants' in 'Zazie Dans Le Metro' with an overhead shot of a couple with a string quartet sound-track. Zappa does likewise with a Muzak, Night-club (with bongos) version of 'Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance' thus elevating recorded music from reproduction of 'as was', little time-traps in plastic, to an art form complete with self-criticism and parody WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF ITS OWN MEDIA.
This was pioneered by Zappa in his treatment of early Rock & Roll 'classics' and styles in the past in which he stripped off all the nostalgia leaving???? (Inevitably) The Beatles also used this technique with their, 'She Loves You, Yea, Yea . . . ' refrain at the end of 'All You Need Is Love'. Seen from this angle, it is no longer suprising that Zappa never uses electronically realised sounds. If he did, his 'electronic music' pieces would lose the juxtaposed time elements which are so essential to his structures. He is manipulating the media itself and as he looks over his shoulder he sees that its already getting good in the back.
An evil scientist lusts for revenge after being laid off at a missile plant in the valley when the government contract is cancelled. Using equipment stolen from the plant over a period of years (assembled in a deserted Van Nuys garage) and some recipes for mystical potions from an old book, Uncle Meat and his Mexican slave, Bimbo, prepare to rule the universe with an army of mutant monsters.
A rock & roll combo is kidnapped from the Whisky A-Go-Go. Disguised as groupies. Uncle Meat and Bimbo lure the unsuspecting victims to their garage on the pretext of giving them a chance to expand their consciouness. They arrive at the garage and are given paper cups full of Kool-aid, which is drugged.
Uncle Meat and Bimbo place the victims on little mechanic's carts from under an old Nash in the corner and cover the limp bodies with the psychedelic posters they have used to conceal the lab equipment. They prepare to administer the serum.
Each victim is given a blast from a nasal mist squeezer. Uncle Meat (who never really cared for Bimbo) takes him by surprise, grabs his head and stuffs the unit up his nose. Bimbo collapses, unconscious on the floor. Uncle Meat explains to the audience that when he throws the switch on the wall, the minds of his victims will be completely reprogrammed with the details of his master plan. He pulls out a roll of computer tape and places it in the machine. The tape will be played directly into the brain through head gear placed on the victims. When the process is compelted not only will their consciousness be expanded, their brains will actually be enlarged. He explains that the human skull (a hard bone) doesn't really leave much room for the type of tissue growth the victims will experience here, and the the enlarged brain will extend though the sinus cavity into the noses of the group. This area has been softened by the nasal mist and will reshape itself to accommodate the extra brain cells.
He throws the switch. Under the posters, the noses become erect. Uncle Meat explains further that the mutants have been equipped with a secret mind-destroying vocal drone mechanism. The sounds attack the glandular system of the victim, destroying his will and forcing his body to quiver helplessly, while crazed fantasies race through his mind.
Uncle Meat drinks a potion that will make him immortal. The screen is lit with a stereotyped bolt of lightning. The rustle of the posters is heard off screen . . . the mutants are rising.
We see the streets of a city, (high angle shot) filled with conservatively dressed people bustling about. Suddenly, a woman screams, drops her purse and points into the sky. People gather around her and look up to see what's going on. A greenish shadow covers them . . . they are frozen with terror.
We see a reverse angle shot from their point of view . . . looking out toward the city's skyline. Towering above it, swaying titanically, snatting immense white-gloved fingers & lip-syncing their latest hit, Ruben & The Jets prepare to destroy everything that contemporary civilization stands for.
The crowd is hypnotised. They begin to writhe & quiver & huddle closer together. The moon & the stars come out. Brightly colored crepe paper streamers descend from the buildings all around. Men & women hug each other close & begin to dance in the street (super teenage romantic 1950 style). Zoom in on a couple as they kiss & dance . . . dissolve through distortion glass to a dream sequence of 1950's drive-ins, make out parties, high schools, the Korean War & "I Like Ike," intercut with the titanic Ruben & The Jets: brain-snouts flopping in slow motion.
Cut abruptly to an extreme close-up of Uncle Meat speaking directly to the audience: "Certain sounds at certain intensities have amazing effects on plants & vegetable. They'll never take me alive! Ha Ha Ha!" his laughter fades in echo as we dissolve to a starry night in the desert.
It is quiet except for a little light wind. We are traveling across the wasteland toward a huge hydro-electric dam. Dynamo hum increases as we near it. We cruise over the dam itself and appear to land on the top of one of the high voltage towers nearby. A shot from the ground level reveals a mysterious ice box white '39 Chevy taco wagon helicopter has come to rest at the top of the tower. The door opens and a white gloved hand reaches out with a giant snipper. It cuts THE BIG WIRE. Sparks fly all over & the wire falls to the ground.
The camera moves in to an E.C.U. of the hot wire as footsteps come crunching up out of the darkness. A gnarly hand reaches for the wire, picks it up and drags it away as the camera follows. The wire is dragged quite a distance until finally the dragger of the wire whips a giant ready-to-go electric plug out of his pocket, attaches it to the wire, and plugs it into an enormous female socket built into the ground. The sun is beginning to come up. We pull back for a wider view. Standing by the big wire & big plug & big socket is Uncle Meat. In the distance we can see the taco wagon helicopter lift off and float toward him in the sunrise.
Over the shoulder of the Chevy helicopter driver, through the chopped front windshield, we see Uncle Meat, surrounded by a lot of big wires, all plugged into the ground, some gigantic science-fiction type electrical switches nearby, and a truckload of large hotel lobby flower pots with leafy green plants in them. All this is poised on the edge of the Grand Canyon. The helicopter settles in the nest of plants. Uncle Meat runs over with a pair of microphones on short stands. He places them behind each of the Chevy's crimped exhaust pipes, and throws a big switch, converting the Grand Canyon into a gigantic amplifier. Ruben revs up the engine and backs off the pipes. Uncle Meat jumps in the Chevy. The sound of the pipes (amplified like the roar of a rocket engine) causes the plants to grow like Jack in the Beanstalk, lifting the Chevy into outer space. As the vines streak upward, large grotesque pods grow under the leaves and flop off on the ground near the big switches and into the canyon.
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Another instalment in the strange unfolding of the secrets of that peculiar instrument, the mind of Frank Zappa. With all the fury of the rampant, pungeant odour of a roadie's old underwear and the panoramic splendour of a cheap motel room, folks, this is a Very Funky Record.
It deserves a smell sachet attached, say Parmesan and Anchovy base with some spearmint in there for the hell of it. There are many lyrics, all salacious and amazin', like Sperm and Soda with Vanilla flavoured instrumental background. I suppose no one has any right to be surprised by each new form that the Mothers take as they cruise down the years, but this reviewer was expecting more tales of the Wazoo. Hah but no, flatfoot, this is all about Buttons and Zips and the furry, vibrant wonders that lie beneath.
Frank has assembled an Octet for the job and it includes the Underwoods doing things with flutes, marimbas, saxes and such, Jean Luc Ponty handles some nice violin breaks, Bruce Fowler plays trombone, his brother Tom handles bass, George Duke on keyboards and Ralph Humphrey is on the drums. They do everything competently enough and boogy when required. Frank and Sal Marquez and someone with the exotic tag of Ricky Lancelotti do the singing and there's a lot of words for them to get through.
Throughout Frank maintains a level of bizarre lewdness that although utterly unsavoury is sure to keep buzzing in your head while all the verbal implications and insinuations lock on to your receptor cells. 'Dirty Love' for example contains this charming verse:
'I'll ignore your cheap aroma
And your little Bo Peep Diploma
I'll just put you in a coma
With some Dirty Love'
Then comes the glorious refrain:
'The Poodle Bites, Come on Frenchy. The Poodle Chews It, Snap It, The Poodle Bites and so on. Yes it's that Dirty Love! Just like your Mama make that Nasty Poodle Chew'
and in the stricter, more rigidly suppressed zones of the world, I believe they still castrate men and force women into Nunneries for such behaviour. 'Dinah-Moh Humm' is another example of fully exposed, up front verbals, as is 'Camarillo Brillo' an inspired glandular delivery.
While the band bounces through some grotesque little riffs, Frank works his way through the highly flavoured tale of Dinah-Moh Humm, a story of such chauvinism and depravity as to redden the griddles beneath uptight sexual militants and delight all short forested toads that may be listening.
There's this delightful little chorus, sweet voices intoning between the spittle flecked lines:
'She was Buns up kneeling
BUNS UP KNEELING (chorus)
I was wheeling an' dealing
I WAS WHEELING AN' DEALING'
just bound to promote grins and chuckles down in the clubhouse. It's just a warm, wonderful tale of a modern foreskin and it's adventures in our troubled society. Whether it would provoke anyone to social outrage is hard to say, but being dubious of its efficacy in this direction I have tested it on visitors and primarily it raised smiles. Whatever dark, murky thoughts they may have had remained sheathed in convention: there were no disturbances.
As music, well, it's pretty well put together. Here and there it's exciting but not in the knockout fashion of Hot Rats or Weasels or even Wazoo, as I mentioned before, for most of the time we are obviously meant to be playing attention to the various and vile songs about all those lovely, soft, sticky, gooey, salt smelling, strange tasting plasms and secretions that the human body is just bursting with.
This testicular omelette with accompanying ovarian soup is all overshadowed by the stand-out track on the album: 'I'm the Slime'. A deep throaty rasp chug slowly along while intoning some sharpist lyrics about the slime from your TV set.
'You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don't need you
Don't go for help . . . no one will heed you.
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mould
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold'.
That's tellin' em, Frank.
The Story of Bizarre/Straight Records
Between late 1968 and late 1969 dozens of independent record labels were rising from the ashes of the psychedelic evolution, or devolution, depending entirely on one's sense of greasy history. It was a time when normality was bust and whatever happened to cross your mind became the password for existence.
The San Francisco music scene was swarming across the country on the underground railroad and laying waste to the waxy ear channels of concrete hardened city-criminals, groups like the Grateful Dead (blech), Janis Joplin and Big Brother, Quicksilver, etc. (if you wanna know any more names call up Ralph Gleason collect and he'll name at least a thousand—the old fart's still trying to sell that baby-puke) and there was even an underground to augment the underground, a musical cadre which bred on the entertaining aspects of intellectual paranoia and utter confusion.
Paramount amongst these mini-mutant masters was a band of maniacs called the Mothers of Invention. a constantly straining musical aggregation, or aggravation, which ran tantivy into the brick wall of established norms. Led by ace-cynic-cyanide-snide Frank Zappa, the Mothers became the foremost leaders of the under-the-underground counter-kulture.
They surfaced only on occasions like when they were asked to play on the Steve Allen Show. A true moment in the history of rockaroo. There sits Steverino reading the lyrics from "Hungry Freaks Daddy" tinkling his bell, tooting his horn, all the while espousing the musical completeness of Zappa and the Mothers. Zappa comes out and talks, real smart, very intelligent, a true spokesman for the race of hippydom. Then the Mothers play and blow away the entire studio. They scared a lot of people that night.
Quickly the group amassed enormous quantities of vinyl product. Only thing they weren't making any money, they were starving, and Frank started stealing ideas from members of the group. Eventually, they broke apart, like the proverbial marriage dish in some foreign countries, and became Little Feat, Geronimo Black, the Magic Band, etc.
But, Zappa continued the vision of his youth and kept the Mothers alive in various mutations which sprouted such ominous talents as Flo & Eddie, Aynsley Dunbar, Jean-Luc Ponty etc. Until we see the Mothers of today—pure diluted dog breath . . . Boy, I sure think Zappa oughta stick his geetar up his basick nasal retentive and go back to Lancaster where he belongs, chiding the tumbleweeds instead of insisting he's still as funny, or important, as he used to be, because he ain't . . .
But, whilst collecting his current brain-waves he managed to create one of the most inspirational independent recording labels since ESP records. Bizzare/Straight Records was Frankie's toy, a label which was totally dedicated to taking artists of momentary note and capturing them for the sake of documentation, for the sake of sociological history. And for that we owe Frank Zappa an incredible debt. His foresight, no matter how badly it was obscured by his continued insistence on taking these performers and producing them as if he were them instead of them being them, it was Zappa's version of what he thought they should sound like, not their vision of what they should sound like. No matter, Frank and his aptitude for collecting the essentials of freakdom, were important, are important, because nobody gave a spit-on-a-shine.
Throughout Bizarre/Straight's short, but fruitful career (the only reason they lasted longer than any of the other independent labels was the simple fact, that Herb Cohen, Frank's financial honcho, sold the distribution rights to Bizzare/Straight to the ever-important Warner Bros. label.
Besides producing one or two good Mothers lps on his label (my personal favorite, still, being Cruisin' with Rueben and the Jets, one of the most complex-simple records ever made, if you don't believe me just listen to the off-beat bass drum note which strains through a song called "Jelly Roll Gumdrop . . . ") Frank literally went out onto the streets of Hollywood to find such murky neomorphs as Wild Man Fischer; Alice Cooper; Capt. Beefheart; and the G.T.O.'s (perhaps his most important discovery in terms of sociological history).
Most of these groups, and people, had records out which have gone virtually unnoticed and can still be found moulding away in dusty bargin bins for prices varying from $1.99 to $.39. These albums are important, they should be had for the sake of time-capsule-cultural-backtracking. They're also pretty good. Some are exercises in incoherency, others exhilerating glimpses into a fourth dimension of surreelhood . . . dada, musical cubism; and sometimes sheer nonsense for the sake of sheer nonsense. Is everybody in? The stories about to begin:
No doubt the crowning achievement of Bizzare/Straight records was Trout Mask Replica by a soft-spoken absurdist genius called Capt. Beefheart. Beefheart had just come off a number of musically vivacious, financially disastrous outings with labels like Kama Sutra, and Blue Thumb, when he latched onto an old hombre from his hometown, Frank Zappa. Zappa and Beefheart spent many a dusty night jamming in the local bistros. Later, when Frank talked Don (aka Capt.) into recording yet another record, the Capt. sat down and jammed out all the songs for the session in something like two hours. With the help of his Magic Band, Zoot Horn Rollo, Rockette Morton, the Mascara Snake (Don's brother who was totally burned out by "thousands" of acid trips, which eventually led to Capt. to taking a hard line stance against drug abuse) and Antennae Jimmy Semens, he went into the studio and taught his band each of the looney toons to be recorded. The results is one of the finest records of the era, a monument to abstract lyricism, convoluted musical phrasings, and general all round mayhem. It was on "Trout Mask Replica" where the Capt. showed he's probably one of the finest poets of the century.
How can you argue with:
"I saw yuh dancin' in yer x-ray gingham dress
I knew you were under duress
I new you under yer dress
Just keep comin' Jesus
Yer the best dressed
You look dandy in the sky but you don't scare me
Cause I got you here in my eye
In this lifetime you got 'mhumangetsmeblues
With yer jaw hangin' slack in yer hair's curlin'
Like an ole navy fold stickin' in the sunset
The way you were dancin' I knew you'd never come back
You were strainin't keep yer
Old black cracked patent shoes
In this life time you got m'humangetsmeblues . . . "
. . . and that's not even one of his better efforts Others include, "Frownland" "The Dust Blows Foreward 'n The Dust Blows Back" "Dachau Blues" and how's 'bout ole "Ella Guru" interlaced with such antics as "Veteran's Day Poppie" and "The Old Fart was Smart" and the Rocky Jones blues jam on "China Pig" all rounded out like a nice shoulder of slaughtered lobster (the Capt.'s favorite fish-dish) with the supreme Beefheartism called, "Neon Meate Dream of an Octafish . . . " (Try this one on fer size all yo's aspiring poets . . . )
'Lucid tenacles test 'n sleeved
'N joined 'n jointed jade pointed
Diamond back patterns
Neon Meate Dream of an octafish
Artifact on rose petals
'N flesh petals 'n pots
Lack 'n feat 'n tubes tubs bulbs
'N jest incest injest injust in feast incest
'N specks 'n speckled speckled
Fedlocks waddlin' feasts
Archaic faces frenzy
Ceramic fists artificial deceased . . . "
Since the auspicious mega-lump of Trout Mask Replica has slipped into a vinyl slipstream, the Capt. has stayed with Warner Bros. and released many more such masterpieces. The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot— the Capt. slickest outing yet, produced by Ted Templemen, and sporting such classics as "Big Eyed Beans From Venus" "Too Much Time" and "Crazy Little Thing" this record has paved the way for the Captain's invasion of the common consciousness. His latest release, Unconditionally Guaranteed (Mercury) hailing Don's philosophy of "Love over Gold" shows him on the front cover clutching at handfuls of greasy greenbacks. Inside, the record is light, hard to get into, but eventually brilliant. Don, you're not getting older you're just getting a shade more "distempered grey."
That's one of the artists given a boost by Zappa and Bizzare. Another was a band of Detroit cultural d.p.'s going under the title of Alice Cooper. At that time Alice was sporting blond locks and spreading tales that he was really the reincarnation of a witch which had gotten herself burned at the stake during the heyday of Witch Hunting. The band was loosely knit and prone to extravagant jams in which Alice would bring out a portable window, give his evil stare, and wash the audience with an overwhelming sense of impending destruction.
I first met Alice the week Bizzare released their first Lp, Pretties for You and all we talked about was the absurdity of the rackjobbers insistence on putting a white strip of tape over an exposed pair of fem-panties on the cover, and the direction in which he wanted to go with the band "We wanna get into more electronic music . . . " "Pretties for You" is one of the forgotten Cooper creepers. It presents a now highly polished performer in a raw, more natural state, his voice wasn't smooth, the band made mistakes, they had no sense of cohesion, and they scared the piss outta a lot people. Side One of the record is relatively calm: the opening cut is entitled "Titanic Overture" and is to "Nearer My God to Thee" as Hendrix was to the "Star Spangled Banner." A lot of Lizt (no pun) ish organ grinding playing dirges for the mute green trances of the slowly drowning. All that in a minute/nine seconds. "Sing Low, Sweet Cherrio" begins with a low acoustic guitar only to be drowned out by the pulsing in-out rhythmic meanderings of the band and Alice's incoherent lyrical tribute to drunken suicide. At times they sound like a cross between the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and Ornett Coleman on a bad night. "Today Mueller" is simply an android Fandango, conjuring images of clean looking humanoids sitting in a dark cafe sipping sludge and staring at a computer. The side rounds out with a five minute opus called, "Fields of Regret"—this is where the first strains of the "Black JuJu" theme begin and that's all you need to know.
Flip it over and you find out why these guys became as big as they did. It's all there. Diluted, but still very evident. The main attractions here are, "Levity Ball" which was recorded live at the Club Cheetah—the only official live recording of the group incidentally; the AMPHETIMINE encrusted bluz-buster called "B.B. King on Mars"; followed by their first almost hit "Reflected." Judging where they're at now this record was essential, and is essential to own. So much has been written about these guys that it's useless to even go on, so I won't.
Another of the mutoids Zappa collected was a zany who called himself "Wild Man Fischer." His double-lp ramblings are so dense that I'm still trying to find out what's actually happening when it plops on my Edison machine.
All I can say is "I'm working For the Federal Bureau of Narcotics" and "Jennifer Jones" are the best songs (if ya can call 'em that) that I've ever had the occasion to wrestle with. For a detailed look at Wild Man Fischer dig up an old copy of PUNK magazine and read "springtime for golda meir"—I wrote that one so's why cover the same ground twice. Also of special note: Kim Fowley's introduction to Wild Man's import still stands as the best Fowley since "Good Clena Fun . . . " AND IT GOES LIKE THIS:
"Ladies and gentlemen, and those who aren't sure. The glorious day in pop music has thusly arrived. It has been decreed that a Jewish mother shall give birth, shall have given birth too, well, anyway a Jewish kid is gonna make it big, man. It is now time for the beautiful people like Donovan, Mickey Rooney and one of the Beatles, to set aside because a growling savage has hurled himslef from the precipice of the lavistine ledges of the Sunset Strip leaping out of the eating affair, a Jackass King storming through the petrols of the planetary galaxy, at last we have an idol, we have Wild Man Fischer, who is gonna take us from the darkness and out of the fog and dampness, he's gonna take us into bruises and cuts and bandages, baby, and iodine. Wild Man Fischer is gonna get us back in the parking lot, hitting each other where we belong, no more love and flowers, because Wild Man Fischer is standing naked . . . " well, you get the idea. That's only two minutes on the record and it's like a B-side compared to the chaos the Wild Man gets into.
Finally the object de art . . . the G.T.O.'s.
MOTHERS OF INVENTION
Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention were among the earliest west coast groups to play the Fillmore West and provided it with many of its furthest out moments. They also were among the last groups to play the Fillmore East and provided it with one of its greatest moments—the moment when Beatle John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, mounted the stage to jam with Zappa and fulfill one-fourth of Graham's dream of producing a Beatles concert. It was a fine night.
The Mothers' music, led by Zappa, falls into two categories. On one hand, Zappa was a devastating social satirist—half of his show were mock-fifties rock numbers, and a good part were devastating freaky lyrics making fun of everything, most especially the audience. The other part of Zappa was his love for avant-garde classical music which merged with rock into some extraordinary instrumentals. His musicians always had specifically written-out parts, although their stage manner was so freaky that the uninitiated might think they were just fooling around.
As for Lennon, his own combination of Fifties avant-gardism and satire was aking to Zappa's. The two met for the first time on the night of the concert. Each was surprised to see how clean-cut the other was, and they liked each other. Zappa invited Lennon and Yoko to come over to the Fillmore with them. The couple waited in the dressing room and listened to Zappa's set, Zappa invited them on when it was over and crowd was demanding an encore. Lennon was nervous but he accepted the invitation. Lennon and Yoko went on. And the crowd went crazy. And Bill Graham was happy. And they stayed on for 20 minutes with Zappa, and 20 more by themselves, and then they left. But the crowd pushed at them, hoping to see them, and they had to wait half an hour until the people thinned out enough for their limousine to pull away.
Frank Zappa at the Empire Pool Wembley
Zap!! The Merlin of Rock and Roll hit town in the wake of 'Over-nite Sensation'. Majestically waving a gnarled finger Frank took control of the massive hall.
Commander of the stage he flung his troops into battle with many an exulting gesture. Responding with fervour the instruments gave forth tunes which were new to the Zappa tuned ear. New pieces of rhythmic convolutions, flashing sound colour, mirrored leitmotifs, reflecting images which filled the air. The Mothers, splendid concise instrumentalists all, gave all of themselves to further Zappa's image of music. It was definitely one man's conception. An indication of the musical direction to come.
The maestro stood rigid and motionless on the stage, by his side a burly heavyweight boxer type bodyguard. A warning that this time he wasn't about to be hurled off stage by some jealous lunatic. His frame moved only when the rapid finger movements extended through his arm to his body. What a guitar playing dude. Though he occasionally lost control of the concept behind his music, and hid briefly behind flash formless flashes of techincal speed and virtuosity, the majority of his guitar work was worthy of immortality. The loss of control, which happened periodically, extended to the rest of the band. It was as if the musicians briefly lost their way, the master had lost his wand, and it was their humour which helped re-establish severed connections. Zappa, the genius freak conducting his band of zany loons to create a myriad of emotions, a kaleidoscope of sound.
Many thanks to Warner Brothers for the best Press seats I have ever occupied.
Zappa smirks at his not so meager triumph of convincing Grand Funk that singing through an ashtray will add exotic tonal effects while Mel works up nerve to ask Frank permission to go to the bathroom.
[...] himself musically and vocally uninteresting, a talented imagist but immature. Far more important are groups like the Mothers. Frank Zappa's compositions are not merely gouts, acid and gall in the face of American corruption; the college structure of his records offers a genuinely new perception, although the inevitable effects of menace (the threatening phone call on We're only in it for the money, the kangaroo dialogue on Lumpy Gravy implies that the evolution of perception is not yet all: society and States of America's one lp, where the electronic music expresses an aesthetic evolution beyond the decadent American perversions of which the lyrics treat.
Besides being the most exciting group of my experience, the Jefferson Airplane includes the scalpel-edged visions of Grace Slick, who has both the greatest vocal imagination in the [...]
[Let It Rock, June 1975]
Frank Zappa talks of faves, raves and composers in their graves.
- 'Supernaut': Black Sabbath. I think it's from Paranoid. I like it because I think it's prototypical of certain musical style, and I think it's well done. Also, I happen to like the guitar lick that's being played in the background.
- After The Gold Rush: Neil Young. The whole album; because it's very direct, it's very melodic, and it sounds like a bunch of demos.
- Between The Buttons: The Rolling Stones. The American release— I don't like the English version so much because it contains a totally different set of tunes. I understand that they don't like the album very much but I thought that it was an important piece of social comment at the time. I remember seeing Brian Jones very drunk in the Speakeasy one night and telling him I like it and thought it superior to Sergeant Pepper . . . whereupon he belched discreetly and turned around.
- The American issue of Abbey Road—which has nothing to do with the material on the album but because I think it's probably the best mastered, best engineered rock'n'roll record I've heard . . . except that I take exception to the choice of stereo placement.
- The first Muddy Waters album—because it's wonderful.
- The Devils Of Loudon: Zysztof [Krzysztof] Penderecki. Because it's also an extremely well-produced album and I think it's an excellent piece of dramatic music. And also because Tatiana Troyanos who plays the main nun sounds absolutely marvellous during the enema scena. The story is about a hunch-backed nun who's possessed by the Devil and has to have an exorcism. The exorcism involves the nun being given a hot herbal enema. In live performances the exorcism takes place behind a screen and you hear Tatiana singing and screecheing whilst an orchestra plays enema music. You also hear the Devil chuckling from inside the nun's bowel.
- The Complete Works Of Edgar Varese Vol. 1. As it was the first album I'd ever heard of any of Varese's music and it opened my weyes up to a lot of possibilities.
- 'Three Hours Past Midnight': Johnny 'Guitar' Watson. One of the best guitar solos on an old R&B record.
- 'Story Of My Life': Guitar Slim. Another of the best guitar solos on an old R&B record.
- 'Who Will Be Next?': Howlin' Wolf. Because it is very serious.
Not forgetting . . .
Recently I've been listening to Mott The Hoople's Mott The Hoople; I enjoy every cut except 'The Golden Age Of Rock'n'Roll'. 'Newly Wed' by the Orchids—one of my very favourite group vocal R&B tunes. 'My White Bicycle'—Tomorrow. Because it was one of the best-made singles of its time, and it may have been a little ahead of its time too. I also like the other side, 'Claramount Lake'—I like the guitar solo—oh, it's Steve Howe, is it? Well if you see him tell him I like the guitar solo on 'Claramount Lake'.
'Can I Come Over Tonight'—The Velours. Any musicologist that can find that record and listen to the bass singer . . . he's singing quintuplets and septulets. And considering where it came from and when it was made (it was on the East Coast Onyx label) it was amazing. 'Let's Start All Over Again'—The Paragons. Also prototypical and it has the unmitigated audacity to have the most moronic piano section I ever heard on any record—and it repeats it often enough to convince me that it's deliberate.
Anything that Richard Berry did. Without getting the credit for it he made so much of what happened in R&B possible and so many people wouldn't have been there at all without him. He was one of the most important secret sources behind the West Coast R&B in the fifties and now he's walking around trying to get a contract.
I interviewed him when I did a piece for Life magazine and he told me he sold the rights for 'Louie Louie' for 5,000 dollars. He was working with a Latin band at a place called the Harmony Park Ballroom and the band had an instrumental that went . . . (sings 'Louie Louie' rhythm) and he scribbled the lyrics out on a paper napkin in the dressing room. It's always been one of my favourite fantasies that songs like 'Woolly Bully' get written on a lunch bag in blue crayon.
(Giovanni Dadomo collected Zappa's thoughts during a recent interview.)
Newsweek, June 3, 1968
Zapping With Zappa
There is a method in their madness—in their obscene gestures and erotic shenanigans with dolls, in their seemingly random wanderings about the stage and in the mumbles, grunts, oinks and electronic twitters that course through their rock songs. This new race of hairy men, the nine Mothers of Invention, are not musical primitives stumbling through a Stone Age happening. They are missionaries with a message, first-line musicians using their gifts to reshape the minds of America's teen-agers. "It's electronic social work," explains hawk-nosed, spectral Frank Zappa, the 27-year-old who has made the Mothers the most radical and entertaining rock group in the United States.
This month, when the Mothers returned to Los Angeles, their musical birthplace, to celebrate what Zappa called "the beginning of our fourth unsuccessful year in the United States music business," 7,000 young followers packed Shrine Exposition Hall, a staggering figure since the Mothers' radical vision and raw language have cut them off from virtually all but underground radio exposure, the lifeline without which most groups sink. But four madcap albums and public exercises in studied mayhem have kept the Mothers afloat, so much so that Zappa has just been voted Pop Musician of the Year in Jazz and Pop magazine's annual poll.
The LP's deliver the gospel according to Zappa, a lyricist-composer who is, perhaps, second only to the Beatles' John Lennon as the leading creative talent in pop music. Zappa's pixilated preachments conceal beneath the surface a frontal assault on every aspect of conformity and deadness—from the imitation hippie and automatic hippie hater, to the plastic Mom and Dad who founder in face cream and liquor while discouraging their kids from thinking or wanting anything better.
Zappa and Mothers: Comes the revolution
Mosaic: A Mothers concert is a revival meeting in which Zappa, as conductor and stage director, socks his credo to 'em. Here style becomes content—a mosaic of Brechtian musical comments, oinks and monologues on carburetors by versatile Jim (Motor Head) Sherwood, who plays alto sax, drums and tambourine; extended cantatas like "King Kong" which has run up to 70 minutes; and infusions of electronic zaps and gurgles over a dozen amplifiers.
Even the hair styles and dress are part of the message, ranging from Sherwood's neatly combed shoulder-length hair and the beardless, spotless appearance of sax man Ian Underwood to the Ben-Gurion coiffure of organist Don Preston and wild-man presence of bearded Jim Black. "I don't tell the group what to wear," Zappa explained to Newsweek's Martin Kasindorf last week. "Our unorthodox appearance represents the free choice of everyone in the group. I don't want to control their private lives."
Gastric: But, as casual as it all appears, a Mothers concert is as tightly run and tactical as a revivalist tent show, all aimed at grabbing the audience. "If I notice interst waning," says Zappa, "I might give a finger signal and everybody sings the highest note he can for a split second. This refocuses attention for the next solo. Or I bring up Motor Head to talk about his car as we play and have his voice joined by the bass player talking about hamburger buns, whatever it takes to produce a certain amount of gastric activity in the audience." The show, as Zappa sees it, is one extended composition made like a piece of junk sculpture out of "bits of the environment, the sound of your transistor radio burped back at you, a panorama of American life."
Zappa hopes to counteract what he sees as the rise of herd instinct and mass passivity. His counterinsurgency to date has created the term "freak out" and wedded a Lenny Brucian language to a sophisticated musical style that echoes composers such as Stravinsky and Varese. From his headquarters in a huge log cabin built outside Los Angeles by Tom Mix, who buried his trusty horse Tony under it, Zappa lives with his young wife, Gail, infant daughter called Moon Unit, and a hippie "governess," Miss Christine. Here, he plots his spiritual revolution. "Half of America is under 25, yet there is no real youth representation in government," he says. "It's not my job to organize them. The best I can do is ask a few questions. If we reach a million, maybe 500 will become active and get out and influence the opinions of others. But those 500 could be dynamite. I'd be happy to have that."
Those Mothers Can Really Play
On The Town—Ralph J. Gleason
It is not enough to say that The Mothers of Invention, who appeared in concert Saturday night at the Berkeley Community Theater are funny. They are brilliant satirists and absolutely unique and first rate musically as well.
I went through several transformations of opinion at their concert. I had never liked that at the Fillmore and their impact is considerably less on records than in person (especially with such a successful show as Saturday's). At the Fillmore you could never really hear them and good sound is essential to what they are up to.
Then I thought they were the Spike Jones of rock but, while there are elements of Spike Jones madness in their performance, the Mothers are total where Jones was selective in his satire. They are closely akin to Lenny Bruce, not as flexible because of the nature of the material they work with, but just as ruthless in their attack on the hypocrisy of this world.
The next thing that hit me, during a long tenor saxophone solo, was these Mothers can really play!..
* * *
And they really can play. There are two good saxophone players in the band and the rhythm section swings and Zappa is a fine guitarist. (He is also an exceptiona; composer in a special kind of electronic music.) Truly the Mothers are the first electronic jazz band I have ever heard. They utilize piano and bass and they produce an incredible variety of sounds. Underneath Zappa's theatrical, deliberately non-stage presence and determined cynicism, a great deal of first-rate music is played.
They are a kind of total theater. They assault you with references to an assumed body of knowledge that details the 1950s with a documentary maker's touch. Their bit about "Louie Louie," for instance, is absolutely perfect. They set the entire thing up, discuss the kind of person who would ask for it, and what that implies with deadly accuracy.
* * *
At one point, responding to a call for the audience, Zappa brought the audience into the show in a kind of put-on of audience participation, the Living Theater and the rest. He explained his hand signals for the orchestra's vocal effects and then directed the audience to stand and make the indicated vocal sounds while the two side sections waved their arms and the center section grabbed their crotch. And they did!
"Don't we look foolish with the lights on?" he remarked and then told the people they were an audience again and would respond en masse to "hootenannies, politicians' promises and Madison Avenue, as well as instructions like this." A more devastating demonstration of his point could not have been made.
If the greater Los Angeles area plastic uptight America and the synthesis of what this country's ills consist of then the Mothers of Invention have correctly applied the non-sterilized needle of satire to the right place.
* * *
They assume the common Los Angeles and Orange County experience of the '50s, attack it with an almost demoniac gift for satirical lyrics, an hysterically funny talent for musical satire, and use it all, including the bizarre costumes, to cover up the fact that the music is first class.
The combination of instruments, electronics and voices is very well handled and Zappa's own conducting style is worth a column all by itself. One of his more frequently employed gestures is flipping the bird. It sums up his attitude, I suspect, to make this derogatory gesture so musically useful.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Mothers in every way. I hope they return soon. They came close to selling out the Berkeley Community Theater. Their audience can only increase on the basis of this performance.
Opposite page top, F.Z., Gail, and the M.O.I. (Viennese promoter Mr. Lieben on right) land 100 miles from Transylvanian border.
Rolling Stone, October 18, 1969
Mother's Day Has Finally Come
By Jerry Hopkins
LOS ANGELES—Frank Zappa, "tired of playing for people who clap for all the wrong reasons," has dissolved his Mothers of Invention.
The first indication that the revolutionary nine-member band was aproaching the end of its musical career came with an announcement that the Mothers had cancelled all bookings from now until the end of the year so Zappa could concentrate on other projects long in progress. A talk with Zappa revealed the break was more complete than that.
"It all started in Charlotte, North Carolina," he said. "We'd been booked by George Wein on a jazz concert date as bait to get the teenaged audience. We went into a 30,000 capacity auditorium with a 30-watt public address system, it was 95 degrees and 200 percent humidity, with a thunderstorm threatening. It was really horrendous.
"After that I had a meeting with the group and told them what I thought about the drudgery of grinding it out on the road. And then I came back took to LA and worked on Hot Rats (an upcoming solo album). Then we did one more tour—eight days in Canada. After that I said fuck it.
"I like to play, but I just got tired of beating my head against the wall. I got tired of playing for people who clap for all the wrong reasons. I thought it time to the people a chance to figure out what we've done already before we do any more.
"The last live Mothers performance was in Montreal. The last 'otherwise' performance was a television show in Ottawa the following night"—August 18th and 19th.
Which is not to say the Mothers are completely dead. The band will not be performing, or recording, as a group, but they will be seen on film. Three short films are now complete—two of them documentaries from Germany—and a fourth is in the works. All these, Zappa said, will be offered to colleges as a package in lieu of live performance, probably beginning in late Fall.
Zappa also said he had recorded material for a dozen full length LPs on the shelf in his Hollywood Hills home, records he hopes to release through a Mothers of Invention Record Club, now being planned. The albums cover the band's five-year development and were recorded on tour (in Europe as well as throughout North America) and in studios stretching from Los Angeles to New York.
Meanwhile, the individual members of the band are making plans of their own. Jimmy Carl Black, the drummer known as "the Indian in the group," for example, has formed a band of (as yet unnamed) an already has begun preliminary recording, while Don Preston, one of the Mothers' keyboard men, has gone to New York to work with a company that combines dance with electronic music.
At the same time, Zappa has holed up in his basement workshop to concentrate on:
- Captain Beefheart vs. The Grunt People! This is a feature-length film, presently in script form, written by Zappa in 1964. Zappa said that thanks in part to Easy Rider and the Woodstock Music & Art Fair—"two of several things finally showing the youth market really means business"—three major studios have made offers to back the flick. Zappa also said that if anyone had shown interest in the film five years ago, he would never have played rock and roll. His "ideal cast" includes parts for, among others, Don Van Vliet, who is better known as Captain Beefheart, an old high school chum of Zappa's; Chester Burnett, better known as Howlin' Wolf; several of the Mothers of Invention; and Grace Slick.
- An unnamed weekly television show. For this a major deal is imminent, too, he said, but details could not be discussed. He did say, however, the program would be a "music show" and not a talk or interview show.
- Continued activity in production of records for his own Bizarre and Straight record company labels. This includes final editing of the debut LP for the GTOs, recording of the second Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band LP for Straight, and final work on a new Mothers album called Burnt Weenie Sandwich, which relates to an 18 minute film just completed. (This film would be one of the four offered the colleges.) Zappa has additionally produced an album by Jean-Luc Ponty, an electric violinist from France, and has completed his own solo guitar debut, Hot Rats, to be released by Bizarre and distributed by Reprise in October.
- Supervision of planning the Mothers of Invention Record Club, which he said he hoped would be announced in (get ready) Playboy magazine. "Those are the people who need to listen to us most," he explained, adding that Mo Ostin, president of Reprise, was "working on it." The titles of the 12 LPs are Before the Beginning, The Cucamonga Era, Show and Tell, What Does it All Mean, Rustic Protrusion, Several Boogie, The Merely Entertaining Mothers of Invention Record, The Heavy Business Record, Soup and Old Clothes, Hotel Dixie, The Orange County Lumber Truck and The Weasel Music
Zappa mentioned one final project. He said he might be accompanying Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band to Europe in October—not as a musician, but as road manager.
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