The eight-man group, led by Frank Zappa, a 26-year-old composer [...], is currently appearing here.
[...] The larger than usual rock group uses a wide range of instruments. Besides two sets of standard drums and the usual electric guitars, the Mothers of Invention manipulate kettle drums, something that looks like an electric piccolo, an electric clavichord, an electric bassoon, flutes, saxophones, tongs and a finely tuned truck spring.
[...] Picking out the delicate but frank subtleties, can be an enrapturing experience. The three guitars, for example, create a transcendant quality which, if listened to inattentively, suggests they are playing three different songs.
Some of the lyrics are equally fascinating ("Go ahead and scratch your pie, I don't love you any more.")
Listening to the Mothers is an adventure. It takes a few hours for the sound to get out of your ears after leaving the New Penelope.
[...] In effect, Zappa has become a sort of Marshall McLuhan of the rock scene. And like McLuhan, even he is not quite sure what the electronic message is all about.
"In fact," he says. "We're not even sure who plays the drums."
LR: Is it true that Zappa, halfway into the job, suggested changes . . .
FD: That, I have no memory of . . .
LR: Gary supposedly said "Oh! Well when they came to set up their equipment—because they were playing there for two weeks anyway—not just a one-nighter—He said: "no, no, gotta change that, that and that." Now, I don't know if he was talking about sound equipment of the way the stage was set-up and all that . . .
FD: No, I would think that, with regards to re-setting the layout that could be done for sure. There was a lot of flexibility in that. So, regarding that, no problem. So changes were only for the sound system, to avoid reverberations.
FD: As you recall, this wasn't an enormous contract. It had to be done on a shoe-string budget. Was that the reason for having wooden benches and scaffolding or scaffolding style?
FD: No, it was really because he didn't have a lot of money, so I opted for that sort of system, a simple system of bleachers. A very simple system of scaffolding that could be set-up, taken apart, and a totally flexible lighting system, with classic, traditional lighting [ACTUAL MECHANIC LIGHTS].
LR: Did you have the opportunity to see Frank Zappa during those first shows, just to see how it all worked out?
FD: Yes, I saw all that, but I don't really have any recollections of that. In that era, Zappa mingled with everybody, young people, etc . . . and me, I was with my girlfriend and would just relax.
The club was called the New Penelope. The owner had come down to the Balloon Farm to see us play and hired us for the two weeks up there. [...]
We also did some recording for the Canadian Film Board while we were there. I think it was for a movie or documentary.
After we finished in Montreal and flew back to L.A., Jim Fielder left the band—he hadn't been too happy playing second guitar.
Informant: Denis Griffin
Herb had arranged for us to rehearse at the Lindy for two weeks before the big show we wer going to do there, as it wasn't being used at that time. I remember Van Dyke Parks would often come down to those rehearsals, as he was a big fan of the Mothers. One time, he walked in with Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. Brian seemed like a nice guy—he was very quiet and pleasant and seemed to be interested in what we were doing.
That's when we rehearsed "Lonesome Cowboy Burt" for the first time. God, we rehearsed that thing for about two weeks. It was exactly the same arrangement as we did later on in 200 Motels.
A 'return' gig was arranged at the Lindy Opera House, 5214 Wilshire for February 3/4 and advertised in Freep. "Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Policemen and Tourists . . . ! The MOTHERS return to play for what's left of the LA underground. We'll mention the Police and Gov't and we can all nod our heads together while we all cop out. We've been rehearsing a whole bunch of new numbers like 'BROWN SHOES DON'T MAKE IT', 'I'M LOSING STATUS AT THE HIGH SCHOOL', and a new Funset Strip version of 'WHO ARE THE BRAIN POLICE?' that is guaranteed to titillate your Liberal backgrounds."
Another, this time full-page, ad appeared in the next issue with the headline, "HEAR THE NEW M.O.I. SONGBOOK". The "Songs Of Love" were 'Duke Of Prunes' and 'Memories Of El Monte'; "Songs Of Spiritual Significance", the original 'Electric Banana'—'At last you too can know what Donovan picked upon . . .', and 'Call Any Vegetable'; "Songs We're Sick Of Playing" included almost all of Freak Out!; and "Songs We Just Learned This Week That Will Sound Crappy" were 'Agency Man' 'Wherein RONALD REAGAN is elected to the PRESIDENCY because nobody took the time to stop him' and 'Archie's Home'—'What if Archie Shepp could play an ELECTRIC BASSOON?'
Address shown for 06/09-10/66, 06/21/66, 07/04-05/66, 11/15-18/66, 02/13/67 sessions: 8404 Kirkwood, L.A.
Two weeks after we did the Lindy show, we went back to San Francisco and did the Fillmore again with The Blues Project and Canned Heat. We did the debut of "Lonesome Cowboy Burt" and Herb came up to Frank at the end of that show and said, "If you ever play that song again, you can forget me as manager!"
Their guest spot was rescheduled on The Smothers Brothers Show, with taping set for February 17th. Jim [Fielder] was still a member of the Mothers of Invention and had yet to serve out his notice. His unavailability necessitated another substitution . . . Jim Fielder made his debut with the group on February 22 at the Valley Music Theater [...]
Born in Denton, Texas on October 4th, 1947 but raised in Anaheim, California from age seven, Jim Fielder was only 19 when he joined the Springfield. His stint with the Mothers had not proved satisfying, so when the Springfield came calling, Jim jumped ship. "I wasn't playing bass, which was the reason I left," states Jim. "They had me playing electric twelve string guitar. It was a great musical experience but no much business-wise. It wasn't what I wanted to do. When the offer came through from the Springfield, I took it because I wanted to play bass. I had always been very close to them through the Maston and Brewer and Barry Friedman connection . . . Dewey approached me because I was the logical choice. I was in town, available, I knew the guys and their material. All I needed was a haircut, going from being a Mother to a Springfield."
Informant: Charles Ulrich.
(NOTE: Frank Zappa played the piano on "Softly Softly". Dink Kaplan's older brother was the lead guitarist for the Mothers of Invention and this association led to Zappa's contribution).
Session #14299 (Mike Chain, Larry Gould, Dink Kaplan and Pug Baker; Produced by Nick Venet and Engineered by John Krauss)
Los Angeles, February 28,1967
57212 Softly, Softly (Capitol 5889; piano by Frank Zappa)
From correspondence with Michael Chain, founder and lead singer of The Knack:
Frank DID play on piano for me on Softly Softly (the only non-member of the group to play on a KNACK record). Frank was recording next door to me in studio B at Capitol (I think he was working on Lumpy Gravy) . . . Frank was a great guy and played on Softly as a favor because I didn't want Capitol Records bringing in an outside studio cat who might influence my sound.
Address shown for 03/06/67, 03/14-16/67 sessions: 8455 Brier, Hollywood
In '66, I used to live in this little house on Kirkwood, and I was renting this place, and this right about the time [Nick] Venet offered me this opportunity to write this music. I thought "Whoa! This is fabulous. I'll just dive in there and start composing my little buns off, and I'll get this performance." Well, shortly after receiving this commission, the landlord notifies me that his son, who is a dentist from the Midwest, is moving back to California, and we should get out of the house, so he can have his son move in. So, I got evicted. I have to move. I've got a deadline to do the recording session, I've got all this music to write, and I've got no place to do it. So Lumpy Gravy, all the music to that was written in these locations: the office adjoining Nick Venet's office at Capitol Records, after six PM, 'cause they had a little piano in there, and I would go down there, and work in there for a few hours; then I wrote part of it at the Tropicana Motel, with no piano, because we had to live there; and then, um, I took a short-term rental on another house in the Canyon, just prior to the recording sessions, and I was writing around the clock, and I had copyists coming over there at three o'clock in the morning and pick up chunks of the score, and go off, and copy the parts, OK?
We had visual effects that would snuff anything that anyone is doing today but we were doing it in a 300-seat theatre. We would do all kinds of weird things in there but you can only do it in a situation where everyone can see it. I think that when you play in big halls the type of effects that you have to use are prohibitively expensive, they're not musical and I don't find them particularly amusing. Whereas the stuff we were doing at the Garrick Theatre happened on a lot of different levels, it was a personalised thing for the people that were there at the time and we used to change it every night. It used to be . . . strange, truly strange. [...]
The thing that you've got to understand is that New York is a unique place and the people who were there were just right for that kind of thing. If we had spent 1967 in Texas it would have been a totally different story but we were in New York. The people there were just right and it was not just me doing my stuff. It was me and the people of New York doing these weird things together. In fact there's a whole generation of kids that are there right now of the same mentality and they would probably really like it. The unfortunate thing is I can't afford to go in to a 300-seat theatre now.
We performed a couple of marriages on stage. We pulled people out of the audience and made them make speeches. On time we brought thirty people up on stage and some of them took our instruments and the rest of them sang "Louie Louie" as we left.
Gail and I moved to New York in 1967 to play in the Garrick Theater on Bleecker Street. The first place we stayed, before we could find an apartment, was the Hotel Van Rensselaer on Eleventh Street. We were living in a small room on one of the upper floors. I was working on the album cover illustration for Absolutely Free at a desk by the window. I remember the place being so dirty I couldn't keep the soot off the artwork.
We lived on sandwiches and coffee from the Smiler's Deli around the corner. It was cold enough that a container of milk left on the outside windowsill wouldn't go bad for days (but when you brought it back in it was covered with soot). The Fugs, who were also working in the Village then, tried to launch a protest against Con Ed (the suspected source of this evil) by urging concerned citizens to mail their snot to the head office.
Thursday, March 23—Monday, April 3, 1967: The Mothers Of Invention, Tim Buckley (23-29 only), Richie Havens (30-31, 1-3 only)
There was a small theatre above the Café au Go Go, at the same address on 152 Bleecker Street. Howard and Elly Solomon also owned this theatre, called The Garrick Theatre. The first artist to play at this new venue were The Mothers Of Invention, the legendary Los Angeles rock band led by music genius Frank Zappa.
The connections between Jimi [Hendrix] and Frank [Zappa] started this month, although at this point in time they had not actually met. Frank Zappa had invented a character, Suzy Creamcheese, who started to live a life of her own. Suzy Creamcheese, or rather Pamela Zarubica—her real name—arrived in England a few months before the Mothers of Invention would come over (September 1967). By coincidence, Suzy appeared on the 19 April 1967 edition of the BBC2 TV program Late Night Line Up—which included the Jimi Hendrix Experience performing a live version of "Purple Haze" (taped two days earlier in Kingsway, London).
Thursday, April 6—Wednesday, April 19, 1967: The Mothers Of Invention
Shows were held at the Garrick Theatre, upstairs the Café au Go Go.
The Mothers of Invention played the Garrick Theatre in New York for six months, two shows a night, six nights a week and on Fridays and Saturdays we would do three shows a night. In order to keep from getting totally bored of playing this place, we started to get theatrical . . .
The Mothers' extended New York stay at the Garrick Theatre in 1967 was one such jolt. Like a drop kick in the crotch, the band hit New York with two shows a night, six nights a week for six months with Zappa's freewheeling soundtrack for the Great American Abomination. Zappa explains that the Mothers first went to New York because they were literally kicked out of Los Angeles. This was the time of the Sunset Strip riots, when property owners along the Strip attributed falling real estate values to bands of freaks cruising up and down Sunset Boulevard and got City Hall to do something about it.
"The net result was illegal police roundups, with no warrants, of people on the street. They'd show up with a bus and just herd 20 or 30 people in a bus, arrest them, take them downtown, and let 'em go. It was pure harassment."
Subsequently, Sunset Strip clubs stopped booking the bands which attracted the crowds, the scene dried up faster than a prune in the sun, and the Mothers tried New York as an alternative. After a pair of gigs at the old Balloon Farm off St. Mark's Place, the band happened on the 300-seat Garrick Theatre, moving in for a two-week Easter vacation gig in '67. The Garrick shows—originally titled "Pigs and Repugnant," later changed to "Absolutely Free"—did turn away business for those first two weeks. Flushed with success, Zappa decided to stick around, snaring a lease at the Garrick through Labor Day in the hope that the rest of New York was dying to witness the Mothers mixmaster their own unique combination of metaphorical stage violence, Top 40 avant-garde sounds, and underground rock oratorios.
"Of course, after Easter vacation, the crowds dwindled to zilch. Some nights there were three, maybe five people in there and we'd still play. But we would do it just for them. In fact, there was one night when there were just a few people in the audience. Now the Garrick Theatre was located right above the Cafe Au-Go-Go and there was a connecting passageway down to the Au-Go-Go. So all the guys in the band went downstairs and got some hot cider and coffee and stuff, put little napkins over their arms, and each guy in the band went up, sat down next to each person and served them a drink, talking with them for an hour-and-a-half. That was the entire show."
All the students were out of school, because of the Easter holidays and were coming into the city. There were lines of people wanting to get in and sometimes, especially on the weekends, we were having to play three shows a night because the theater only seated about 250 people. Richie Havens would open for us and play about 35 minutes and then we'd play for about one hour. They would empty the theater out after the first show and there would be about a thirty-minute intermission. Then Richie would start playing all over again and on and on. It was $3 admission on a weekend and I think $2 during the week. Some guys would get in line and buy tickets again—it seemed to me that they couldn't get enough of us.
Right after Easter, we shut down the theater for one night and took a bus to the University Of Maryland to play an audition for the college circuit.
Eventually, we would get some good work out of it because later on we played Princeton, Colgate and Harvard Colleges. During the Garrick run, we'd close for the occasional night and would go and play one of those gigs.
After we had done the Easter run is when Frank and Herb decided, "Well, if it's going this well, let's do an extended run for as long as we can do it!"
[...] We had all been staying at the Hotel Albert but now we all started looking for flats, which in New York City are not easy to find. [...] Bunk, Don and Roy got a flat together.
Dick Barber and Bobby Zappa came out from L.A. to join us after we had decided that we were going to make the Garrick Theater our base for a while. Bobby was responsible for taking the money at the ticket booth and Dick became kind of like the road manager, like the bouncer, like the gofer. [...]
After we had decided to stay on, Frank started changing the arrangements to some of the songs and we started to improvise a lot more too. That would be about the time that we started doing a lot more of the extended things like "King Kong."
Frank persuaded me to go down and buy a trumpet. I hadn't played it for many years but I got my "chops" sort of back. I bought a bass trumpet because it was easier to play and had a bigger mouthpiece.
Monday, April 24—Sunday, April 30, 1967: The Mothers Of Invention
This shows were held at the Garrick Theatre, upstairs the Café au Go Go.
We pulled into New York City [...]. On our nights off, or even after our shows, the whole group would head off to Greenwich Village to hang with the hippies and smoke pot in Washington Square. Our pals from L.A., the Mothers of Invention, were playing ridiculous shows at the Garrick Theatre, and we'd hang there night after night.
Monday, May 1—Sunday, May 21, 1967: The Mothers Of Invention, The Joe Beck Jazz Ensemble and strings (18 only)
Shows were held at the Garrick Theatre, upstairs the Café au Go Go.
Wednesday, May 24—Wednesday, May 31, 1967: The Mothers Of Invention
Shows were held at the Garrick Theatre, upstairs the Café au Go Go.
"ABSOLUTELY FREEEE," which opened at the Garrick Theater last night, will cost you threeee dollars a ticket. Whether you find the money well-spent will depend a great deal on how old you are, or wish you were.
Although a good many strange and wonderful things were promised by the advance publicity for this show under its former name, "Pigs and Repugnant," it turns out to be nothing more nor less than a concert by a seven-man group called The Mothers of Invention.
Thursday, June 1—Friday, June 30, 1967: The Mothers Of Invention, Eric Andersen (4 only), Luke and The Apostles (4 only)
Shows were held at the Garrick Theatre, upstairs the Café au Go Go.
While in New York we play the Cafe' Au Go-Go. Zappa's group is there too, they have this glorious room upstairs and we are down in the basement in a long narrow room with a brick wall right in front of us. There's nothing worse than a full electric band blaring up against a brick wall. At the sound check we despair, but when the place fills up, the audience soaks up the sound and it becomes bearable. However, the racket from that wall is so loud it bounces all the way up the stairs. Frank Zappa complains! Turn it down! But our audience wants it turned up. We are forced to stagger our sets.
Zappa is a jerk about the whole thing. Instead of coming down himself, he gets the manager and demands we turn our amps down. He has top billing! Later on I come to dig his music., but at the time I think this guy is a phony and no good to boot (not that we're much better). [...]
People think Zappa is so hip he must be high on acid (he contributed to this illusion by calling his first album The Mothers of Invention Freak Out), but he's actually vehemently antidrug, not only in regard to himself but toward everybody else in his band as well.
Zappa warns them not to hang out with the Grateful Dead. He sniffs their clothes like a custom's dog. And these are Latinos from East L.A., very funny guys who talk like Cheech Marin. We're in the same hotel and we're up all night smoking, half of them have passed out, and when the phone rings they hide under the bed.
"Don't answer it maaan, if he finds us here we got to rehearse extra!"
At least that's one problem we don't have!
TOM WILSON, host of MGM Records' new "Music Factory" radio show on WABC-FM, New York, talks with Frank Zappa, center, of the Mothers of Invention and Howard Solomon, right, owner of the Garrick Theater and Cafe Au Go Go in New York. Verve/Forecast Records' Mothers of Invention have been performing at the Garrick.
Frank wanted to produce an album for Richie [Havens] but there was a disagreement about the title of the album. Frank wanted to call it "The Mad Gummer" because Richie was missing his whole top row of teeth. Cal [Schenkel] even designed the album coer showing a cut-away of Richie's jaw without teeth.
But Richie didn't think that was how he wanted to be known to his audience so, sadly, the project never got off the ground.
As we crossed 51st Street I saw a large man with long grey hair and beard. He was wearing what looked like a bearskin coat and a helmet with horns.
He was holding a staff and a tin cup, and sporting sunglasses.
I couldn't imagine how he was able to stand the heat in that getup but he seemed perfectly comfortable. Frank walked up to him and put a five-dollar bill in his cup.
The man said, "Thanks, Frank," and Frank replied, "What's happening, Moondog?"
Frank had not said a word to the man before giving him money. The man was obviously blind yet somehow he knew it was Frank.
Listen, we had three Marines in full-dress uniform on stage one night with us.
I'll tell you the story. A Marine was killed in the Village, remember? And there was a rumor that every Marine within shooting distance was coming down to beat up everybody they found with long hair. The week following that rumor, we're rehearsing in the theatre and in walk three full-dress Marines. So I said, "Oh, hello there, why don't you come in and sit down." I just went on with our rehearsal; we didn't pay any attention to them. When we were done, they said, "We just bought your album and we really like it." These kids, nineteen years old, stationed on the carrier Wasp at shore here, clean, you know? I said, "Well, I'm glad you do. Hey, listen, how would you guys like to work with us a tonight?" They were really turned on. I said, "Can you sing?" They said, "Yeah." "What do you know?" "Well, I know, Everybody Must Get 'I Stoned and House of the Rising Sun. So we went across the street to have dinner; I ate and they practiced their songs. Come back, we do this number. I said, "Now look, there's one little thing I want you to do. When I give you the signal, I want all three of you guys to lunge for the microphone and start screaming 'Kill!'" So we played like that "Archie" [Shepp], weirdness, with the dissonant chords and all that, and on cue they ran right to the mikes, started screaming "Kill!" The audience just went—they couldn't handle it. Then when it was over, they clapped. So I said to the audience, "Thank you"; and then Ray [Collins] says to the audience, "Thank you"; and then when I pointed to the Marines to have them say "Thank you," the first one walks up to the mike and says: "Eat the apple, fuck the core" [i.e., Corps]. And everybody went, "Whew!" Oh wow. And then the second one, he comes up and says: "Eat the apple, fuck the core." Point to the third one; he goes up, he says: "Hey, you know, I feel the same way as my other two buddies: Eat the apple, fuck the core. Some of us love our mothers more." Full-dress blues, man—they just burned a dozen flags.
Court-martial city, all right? So then, we took an intermission and they stuck around. I said, "Do you guys know . . . ?" "I don't care, man. They can only get you once." All right, go back on. I told Gail to get the doll. This is the first time we ever used the doll. We had this doll that somebody gave us, it was really shitty—big plastic doll. Bring it down and I say, "Hey, ladies an' gennlemen, the guys are, uh, gonna sing Everybody Must Get Stoned." They go through all that shit and I says, "Now, we're gonna have basic training. Uh, ladies an' gennlemen, this is a gook baby; and the Marines are going to mutilate it before your very eyes. Kill it!" Tossed it to them, they ripped the arms off, beat it up, stomped on it, and just completely tore it apart. After they're all done, the music got real quiet, the lights went down, and I held it by the hair and showed the audience all the damaged parts of the doll's body, pretending. . . . There was one guy in the front row, a Negro cat just come back from Vietnam, was crying. It was awful and I ended the show there.
You know, "Thank you. Good-bye." It was an atrocity, it was the most . . .
During that summer, Greenwich Village was absurd. Any rumor, no matter how stupid, could turn out to be true—so, at one point, rumor had it that a hippie had killed a Marine.
Stories circulated that the Marines were going to come to the Village and kill all the hippies. Everybody who was hippie-looking had their eyes peeled for people who looked like Marines. Everyone figured they wouldn't really come in dressed like Marines, so they were also on the lookout for anyone with hair that was too short, or who had clean fingernails.
In the midst of this, we were working the Garrick, six nights a week, two shows a night, and rehearsing in the afternoon.
[...] Anyway, we were in there every afternoon, rehearsing. One day, three Marines, in full dress uniform, came through the door, sat down in the front row—and didn't say anything. I asked them how they were doing and, of course, did they want to sit in?
I asked them if they knew any songs. One of the guys said that, yeah, they knew "House of the Rising Sun" and "Everybody Must Get Stoned." I said, "That's great. Would you guys like to sing with us tonight? We'd just LOVE to have Marines singing on stage with us." They said, yeah, they would.
I said, "Go across the street to the Tin Angel, have a few drinks, and come back when the show is on."
When they came back, I brought them up on stage—although it must have been against regulations for them to do this kind of thing in full dress—and had them sing "Everybody Must Get Stoned." By that time they were pretty well wrecked, so I suggested, "Why don't you show the folks in the audience what you guys do for a living."
I handed them a big baby doll and said, "Suppose you just pretend that this is a 'gook baby.'" They proceeded to rip and mutilate the doll while we played. It was truly horrible. After it was over, I thanked them and, with a quiet musical accompaniment, showed the ruined parts of the doll to the audience. Nobody was laughing.
New York weather in the summertime is pretty disgusting. Sometime around the first of June, the air conditioner died and the owner of the theater (David Lee Roth's Dad, I'm told) decided that it would be too expensive to fix it.
Picture a room like a long, narrow tunnel (actually, a former 'art movie' theater) that holds three hundred people; easily 102 degrees at all times, totally humid, and no air circulating.
[...] One day, on my way to lunch at the T.A., a guy wearing a buckskin suit—in July—with a black scraggly beard and hair sticking out all over the place, came up to me and said, "I want to be in your band."
"What do you play?" I asked. "Nothing," he answered. "Okay," I said, "you've got the job." The guy's name was Sal Lombardo.
Later that night, I handed him some maracas and a tambourine—he didn't get paid, but he got to stand onstage and 'be in the band.'
Part of our show included the concept of nightly 'enforced recreation' —sort of like audience participation, only more dangerous.
We'd be playing something and I'd lean over and say, "Sal, see that guy over there? Go get him." Sal would then snatch the guy out of the audience and drag him onstage. It was then my privilege to invent 'recreational activities' for these hapless individuals, inducing them to 'participate.' You can see Sal in the video of Uncle Meat. He's the guy lying on his back with a corncob in his mouth, having whipped cream squirted in his face during 'Mr. Green Genes." That night his entire buckskin suit was covered with real whipped cream. He never had it cleaned. Do you know what real whipped cream smells like on BO buckskin at 100-plus degrees? We're talking bestiality here.
[...] The floor of that stage had a green rug on it. When we filmed the "Mr. Green Genes" video, the people on stage had stomped a bunch of vegetables and whipped cream into it, and it never got cleaned.
The stuffed giraffe and the other toys we used in the show lived in a box on the side of the stage, along with chunks of dead vegetables. All organic matter in the theater had begun to reproduce itself, and was producing 'a bad smell.'
These three beautiful girls gave us this stuffed giraffe that was about three and a half feet tall. One day, out of boredom, Ray Collins and I wired that giraffe for the evening's performance, with a half inch clear plastic tube, running up its leg and right underneath its tail, which could be construed as the exit of the animal. We got behind the piano; the band were whipping into some frenzy. I was playing trumpet and drums and singing and going all over the stage at that time, so they didn't miss me and they didn't miss Ray. They were playing some instrumental. We got about ten cans of pressurised whipped cream from the Cafe-a-Go-Go, right down below the Garrick Theatre; real pressurised cans. We started squirting those cans down that tube from behind the piano, and they levelled the first three rows of the people in the studio. They had this white stuff, flying out of this giraffe's ass, hitting people in the face, and we sprayed at least five cans. People were splitting and Frank was on the ground. He had to stop playing he was laughing so hard. He'll never forget that one.
[...] The air conditioner broke down and for three weeks, six nights a week, in the middle of the Summer, in Greenwich Village, New York City, that theatre started getting rather rancid from all that whipped cream that was all over the place that they never bothered to clean up. The studio smelled like puke for three weeks, and pretty heavy duty puke. But yet, they still kept coming.
[FZ] with Billy Mundi and Sal Lombardo, backstage at Cafe Au Go Go, New York, 1967.
Photograph by David Gahr.
Special thanks to Charles Ulrich and Javier Marcote.
[Del Casher] persuaded Mr. [Joe] Benaron to let him record a demo to be given out in guitar stores to show what the wah-wah pedal could do. "They thought I was a crackpot, but they humored me," Mr. Casher says.
The record hit stores in February 1967. [...]
How did Mr. [Jimi] Hendrix learn about the pedal? From Frank Zappa, according to Mr. Casher, who says he had given him one.
Casher also began work on what would become the wah-wah pedal. "Dick Denney at Vox U.K. invented the original prototype, the midrange boost switch. When it was converted to transistors, they put a variable switch on it." Now that the midrange boost could be more precisely controlled, Casher had a flash of inspiration. "I thought, 'Let's put it on a pedal.' We got one from a Vox organ, and it fit very nicely. After I demonstrated it to all these engineers and music producers, everyone said, 'This will be the greatest thing—the trumpet players are going to love it!'"
[...] "I wanted to use it for guitar, but they said no. Everyone thought I was just a crazy kid," Casher says. [...]
But the wah was a hard sell, even to musicians who would later embrace it. [...] "I mean, my conventional people who I worked for, Gene Autry, Lawrence Welk, you know, the suits, I couldn't even try to use the wah with them—it was too weird, way out for them. I called Frank [Zappa] and said, 'I'm having a problem getting people to use it,' and of course he took one. He was playing it in New York, and Jimi Hendrix heard it and asked him about it, so we made sure he got one. In '67, Jimi was just getting started with his recording. He used it brilliantly, but it wasn't until Jimi played it in the rain at Woodstock that everyone just went crazy for it. The rest is history."
Off duty, Mitch spent his time trying to hear Gene Krupa play in a bar uptown and Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie in the village. Jimi and Noel went down to the village to see the Mothers of Invention at the Garrick.
Saturday, July 1—Tuesday, September 5, 1967: The Mothers Of Invention, Meredith Monk (only in July)
This show was held at the Garrick Theatre, upstairs the Café au Go Go. Friday night, July 7, JIMI HENDRIX AND BASSIST NOEL REDDING OF THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE WERE IN THE AUDIENCE.
New York City, "Mayfair Recording Studio Inc.," 701 Seventh Avenue—JHE studio recordings for "The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp." Noel: "Recorded new single again."
New York City, "Garrick Theatre," Greenwich Village—Jimi and Noel attend a Frank Zappa concert (who performed three shows). Frank Zappa: "He [Jimi] came over and sat in with us at the Garrick Theatre that night..." (Guitar Player, January 1977).
New York City, "Mayfair Recording Studio Inc."—JHE studio recordings. Noel: "Finished number."
Where "The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam's Dice" came to life during these [June 28-30, 1967] Los Angeles sessions, the first traces of "The Burning of the Midnight Lamp" had appeared during the May 1967 sessions at Olympic [in London], when Hendrix toyed with the song's melody on the harpsichord stored in Studio A. A demo recording was made, and Hendrix took away a reel-to-reel copy for further study. In Los Angeles, Redding took credit for inspiring the song's introduction, as he remembers being intrigued with the sounds he had made playing a twelve-string guitar hooked up to a wah-wah pedal.
I think I was one of the first people to use the wah-wah pedal. I'd never even heard of Jimi Hendrix at the time I bought mine; I didn't even know who he was. I had used wah-wah on the Clavinet, guitar, and saxophone when we were doing We're Only in It for the Money in '67, and that was just before I met Hendrix. He came over and sat in with us at the Garrick Theater that night and was using all the stuff we had onstage. Seems like every time I went to Manny's there'd be some new gizmo that we'd try out, so we were always into the hardware of the rock and roll industry.
John Scialli: Did you invent the wah-wah peddle?
FZ: No I did not. I was one of the first people to buy it and use it but I . . . The first wah-wah peddle I saw was a Vox wah-wah peddle that had on the bottom of it "The Clyde McCoy Wah-Wah Peddle'' 'cause I think they probably had to . . . they felt they had to license the idea of "wah-wah'' from Clyde McCoy who was a trumpet player who used to use a wah-wah mute on his trumpet. That was 1967 when I got that . . . but I did not invent it.
The Vox wah-wah promotional paper record, recorded by Del Casher, is dated February, 1967. This was recorded with the original, prototype wah. Working back from that date, 30 days to figure production start-up (according to former Thomas employees), puts possible creation of the wah in January of 1967, or perhaps December of 1966.
Zappa and Hendrix didn't meet until July 7, 1967, long after Jimi's image was set and he'd released AYE? and made his US debut. Jimi also used a handcranked wah-wah prior to meeting or seeing Zappa, but it was indeed Zappa who introduced Jimi to the pedal version, and at the Garrick Theater.
Recording for "Burning" began on July 6, the evening before Hendrix and Zappa met. The basic track was probably finished on the 6th, then after his encounter with Zappa Jimi may have taken a wah-wah into the studio at Mayfair to experiment with on the evening of the 7th (I'm not sure Mitch and Noel were even present for the session, although Noel did attend the Zappa concert with Jimi—and in mid-1967, it was a bit unusual for even a JHE session to begin so late. Later of course it became standard, but I think this time he was simply inspired by his experience at the Garrick Theater to go in and play with the wah for a few hours.) The obvious thing to do, once he'd noodled a bit, was use the wah-wah as an effect on an actual song and "Burning" was just sitting there waiting for him.
Page 117 of Keith Shadwick's Musician, left column, a little over half way down:
"In between sessions, Hendrix and Redding checked out Frank Zappa at Greenwich Village's Garrick Theater, while Mitchell went to see Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie elsewhere in the Village. Hendrix immediately became fixated on Zappa's use of a wah-wah pedal for his guitar and used one the same evening for overdubs on the new single."
Frank Zappa admired Jimi, probably even more than Jimi admired him. Their first actual encounter took place in the summer of 1967, when The Experience returned to New York City after their success at the 'Monterey International Pop Festival.' Michael Whale reported for Melody Maker (22 July 1967) that on 7 July 1967, "Off duty, Mitch spent his time trying to hear Gene Krupa play in a bar uptown, and Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie in the village. Jimi and Noel went down to the village to see the Mothers of Invention at the Garrick."
Over the previous days, the Jimi Hendrix Experience had been recording "The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp", Jimi's first song in which he used a Wah-Wah pedal to great effect. According to Noel, Jimi had picked up this pedal in England during June, just before the Experience set off for America.
I thought Hendrix was great. But the very first time I saw him I had the incredible misfortune to be sitting real close to him at the Au Go Go in New York City, and he had a whole stack of Marshalls and I was right in front of it. I was physically ill—I couldn't get out, it was so packed I couldn't escape. And although it was great, I didn't see how anybody could inflict that kind of volume on himself let alone other people. That particular show he ended by taking the guitar and impaling it in the low ceiling of the club. Just walked away and left it squealing.
We went out one night to hear Jimi Hendrix, and [FZ] was supposed to be on the guest list, and he wasn't, and he never used his ego and insist that he should have been on the guest list or anything. He just paid for himself and me to get in and never said a word. He just always showed class all the time.
[...] We saw Hendrix stick his guitar up through the roof. His guitar was moving back and forth with the strings hittin' it. It was quite amazing. I had no idea who the guy was, and Frank took me to see him. He was in a little club; it was called The Dom. Richie Havens was the closer, and Hendrix was the opener, it started at seven in the evening, and Richie came on at about nine o'clock. It was like a dollar and a quarter.
Frank said he wanted me to go to a club with him so I could hear this guy play guitar. I agreed. When we neared the club I heard this thundering sound coming out of the place even though the door was closed. I touched the door handle to open it and it was literally vibrating.
We walked inside and there were three guys playing on a small stage, making more noise than I'd ever heard in my life. When I use the word "noise" I mean it in the most positive way. I looked at Frank and smiled my approval and Frank yelled in my ear, "This guy's going to be the next Elvis Presley." He was referring to his growing popularity not the sound. "What's his name?" I yelled back. "Jimi Hendrix! His name is Jimi Hendrix!"
After seeing and hearing Hendrix on that muggy afternoon in the Village Frank took me to the Le Figaro Cafe nearby to introduce me to Jimi, but when we got there Hendrix was already at a table with two or three girls and otherwise occupied. The place was pretty empty so even from across the room you could see everybody who was in the place. At one point Hendrix looked up and caught sight of Frank and me and acknowledged Frank's presence with a smile and a wave. He was so loaded, that at best, it was a half hearted attempt to be cordial. I told Frank it was ok and that it was obvious that he was in no shape to meet the likes of me or anybody else at the time. "It's cool Frank," I said, "I don't think he needs to be interrupted right now." Frank agreed and we left the Le Figaro and I carried away my memory of Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and me, on that hot muggy afternoon in Greenwich Village, New York in 1967.
HENDRIX THEN RETURNED TO THE GARRICK, THIS TIME WITH HIS OTHER EXPERIENCE'S BAND MATE DRUMMER MITCH MITCHELL, ON JULY 21 OR 22 OR 23 (NO ONE REMEMBERS THE EXACT DAY!). JIMI AND MITCH WATCHED THE SHOW AND AT SOME POINT ALSO SAT-IN TO JAM WITH FRANK ZAPPA'S BAND.
[I played with Jimi Hendrix] twice. We (the MOI) used to work at a place called the Garrick Theater where we played 2 shows a night, 6 nights a week in a 300 seat theater. This was in 1967 and we were there for about four or five months. And, we used to have people come in and play with us on stage. And one night, working at a club right next door called the Cafe A-Go-Go, we invited him to come and play with us. So he went on stage and played at that event and also, a few moths later we were working together at a pop festival in Miami. I guess we were there for about a week and one night, after the daytime events, there was a jam session in a bar of a motel called Castaways. Those were the two times.
On 24 February 1986, UniVibes subscriber Alain Chauvat interviewed Frank Zappa and asked if he ever played with Jimi Hendrix. Zappa replied . . . "I played with Hendrix twice . . . One night he played in a club right next door called the Cafe Au Go Go [21-23 July 1967] and we invited him to come and play with us. So we shared the stage that time . . . And there was a jam session in Miami."
Mitch Mitchell in his book The Jimi Hendrix Experience . . . "We did a couple of nights at the Cafe Au Go Go. I remember that because Zappa and The Mothers were in the upstairs bit, the Garrick Theater . . . I sat in with them once and I think Jimi may well have too . . . " (Pyramid Books, London, 1990, p. 69). (Note . . . There was a corridor between both venues.)
[Jimi Hendrix] sat in with us at the Garrick Theater. In fact, he played my hollowbody through a Fender Twin and got feedback out of that. All I know is he was working downstairs at this place. The Cafe Au Go Go, and we invited him to sit in and he came upstairs and I let him use my guitar and he got feedback and went ape. I saw him at the Cafe Au Go Go when he played with us and at a pop festival in Miami where we worked with him. [...] Yeah, I think he was good. I enjoyed playing with him. He also came over to the house one time with Buddy Miles and he said, "Hi, this is my friend Buddy" and I said "Great, pleased to meet you Buddy" and Buddy says "Hi, Frank" and sits down on the sofa and nods out. His head went back, his mouth fell open and he was snoring for two hours while I continued to talk with Jimi.
On another occasion, Jimi Hendrix sat in with us. I didn't know him before then, and I can't remember how I was introduced to him—probably met him at the Tin Angel. A few days later he came to visit our cubicle on Charles Street with his friend, drummer Buddy Miles. Jimi was wearing green velvet pants—all decked out—on his way to a party with Buddy. (The only thing that Buddy said was "Hi, Frank," after which he sat on the couch, leaned back and passed out, snoring.) They were there for about an hour and a half. Buddy had a nice nap, and Hendrix ripped his pants at the crotch while demonstrating a dance step. Gail sewed them up for him. When it was time to leave he said, "Come on, Buddy." The snoring stopped, and they left.
Saturday, July 1—Tuesday, September 5, 1967: The Mothers Of Invention, Meredith Monk (only in July)
This show was held at the Garrick Theatre, upstairs the Café au Go Go. [...] Also, in the month of July, American composer, performer, director, vocalist, bassist, drummer, filmmaker, and choreographer, Meredith Monk, opening some shows of The Mothers, backed by The Mothers' electric organist Don Preston. One of Monk and Preston's shows were also recorded and a song titled "Candy Bullets And Moon" was released as a one-side single that year, credited to Aunt Jamina and The United Pancakes (!!).
[Denny] Walley played his first gigs while still in high school [back in New York], alongside bassist Tom Leavey (his future brother-in-law). They continued after graduation, spending most of the 1960s performing at clubs in and around New York and touring nationally as the Detours. "I'd lost connection with the Zappas," says Walley. "The next time I saw Frank was when I was playing with the Detours in Greenwich Village. It was the same time that Frank was playing at the Garrick Theater. I went over and saw Bobby Zappa in the lobby. I told him I'd love to see Frank."
The Village at that time was an epicenter of late-'60s counterculture. The vibe was heavy, and Zappa was an established figure. Walley went to visit him still dressed for work with the Detours—tuxedo, cufflinks, pinky ring—in other words, clean-cut and square. He didn't look cool—and Zappa didn't even know he was a musician. "I went upstairs and saw Frank," Walley remembers. "He was with Allen Ginsberg, Tuli Kupferberg from the Fugs—all these deep thinkers. I walked in and said, 'Hey Frank, remember me?' Oh God, was that awkward."
I was working for [FZ] then, and he and The Mothers were doing a show in Greenwich Village. That's the year I realized I didn't have the temperament for the music business and made the hard decision to leave him in New York. We still stayed close for the rest of his life.
It didn't take long for Dick Barber to establish himself as a valuable asset to Frank and the band. His vast technical knowledge and mechanical skills were exceeded only by his calm, professional disposition. Frank realized that about Dick early in our time with him.
Bill [Harris] and I, on the other hand, weren't fitting into The Mother's organizational structure. [...] By the end of August, I told Frank that we would be going home.
Frank Zappa, lead man of the Mothers of Invention, has opened his own advertising agency and producing organization. He's also planning to establish his own label. The Mothers of Invention record for Verve Records.
Zapp's ad firm is called The Nifty Agency and is located in Greenwich Village. Zappa's manager, Herb Cohen, is affiliated with the agency as an artist.
Zappa's producing plans including working with a West Coast group to be known as Uncle Meat and the CIA, and an as yet unnamed group of four boys including Zappa's brother, Bob.
The producing firm will be known as Bizarre Productions with Zappa as president. He also plans to produce disks by his sister, Candy Zappa.
In addition to his commercial work, Zappa composed a full-length ballet called "Lumpy Gravy," which was recorded for a Capitol album release.
The Mothers of Invention have two LP's on Verve as well as a single.
The Mothers has formed its own record company, and for starters has signed on Ravi Shankar.
About six months ago we took over the account from the Schneider Advertising Agency which has a whole MGM company uh—you know, they take care of advertise for MGM Films and MGM Records, all spectrum of work is all done by Schneider. And I didn't feel they were competent to advertise what we do, because they were advertising it in a really huckster level.
I'm back in Philly. Had been since summer , living in an old brick townhouse with Sandy [Hurvitz, aka Essra Mohawk]. She had had a few songs produced by Shadow Morton and was kind of a low key local success. Meanwhile the Mothers were in New York playing an extended gig at the Garrick Theater (a seedy little place over the Café a Go Go in Greenwich Village). Sandy went up one night and started singing with them. Motorhead nicknamed her "Uncle Meat" and she "joined the group" (for a couple of weeks).
I was visiting NY with two friends from LA that I had met in Philly when they came to see Cal Schenkel. We were walking down Bleeker Street in the Village when we saw Frank Zappa coming our way. He was headed towards the Garrick Theater, where he and the Mothers were playing every night. The LA girls yelled out, "Ben Frank's!, [Canter's]!", two popular hangs in LA that Frank was familiar with, so he let us all in for free and that's how we met!
[...] [Ray Collins is] who came up with the name 'Uncle Meat' at one of our rehearsals, telling Frank that he thought it was a great name for a rock star. Frank immediately spun around and pointing at me, he proclaimed, "You're Uncle Meat!"
[...] The song we began recording [for my album] was the one we performed every night at the Garrick: "Archgodliness Of Purpleful Magic." I can still remember Frank's guitar line [...]. It was quite an honour to have my song included in the Mothers' set. The only other song in the set not written by Frank, was a beautiful instrumental called "Epistle To Thomas" composed by keyboardist Don Preston in memory of his son who had died as an infant.
[...] It's because Don didn't feel well when the new keyboard arrived that Frank asked me to play it for him so he could hear how it sounded. The only music I knew how to play was my own. As I began playing, I started to sing along. That's all Frank had to hear. He instantly recruited me for the Mothers!
What [Essra] Mohawk came up with was due to a chance meeting with Frank Zappa in 1967 in Greenwich Village. "Frank asked me to try out a new electric piano he'd just purchased, as the Mothers of Invention's keyboard player was ill. When Frank heard me play and sing my songs, he hired me on the spot."
Mohawk became a Mother, performing as Uncle Meat. "One day at rehearsal, Ray Collins, the Mothers' lead singer, said to Frank, 'How about 'Uncle Meat' for the name of a rock star?' Frank spun around, pointing at me, and announced, 'You're Uncle Meat!' "
Zappa started to produce her first album, Sandy's Album Is Here at Last!, but she walked out of the studio when he "said something that humiliated me." Zappa left the producer's chair. "We remained friends long after the fact," she says, "but never discussed what happened that ended up changing the course of my first album."
It begins with a medley of "My Boy friend's Back" ("a rock-and-roll song which some of you may have gotten pregnant to"), followed by "I'm Gonna Bust His Head," and "Ninety-six Tears." Ray is singing and making literal, illustrative gestures. [...]
In the middle of the show Zappa introduces "this strange little person in her mod clothes," who is called Uncle Meat. She is a very young, expressionless girl with silky hair, who sings, sometimes in duet with Ray. They stand with their arms around each other rubbing chests and looking tender and mournful. They even dance with each other, separated by a century of style. Uncle Meat also gazes through a kaleidoscope or rattles a hypnotic rhythm on the tambourine or parries Ray's carrot swordplay using a lettuce leaf for a shield.
They are much more fun to watch than listen to, so that towards the end, when they begin to tire and the singing becomes sporadic and the kidding around loses its fervor, the music becomes relentless.
He calls his group "The Mothers of Invention," and the lineup looks like this: Frank Zappa, composer / arranger / conductor / guitar; Ray Collins, lungs / ingenuity; Bunk Gardner, piccolo / flute / clarinet / bass clarinet / bassoon / soprano sax / alto sax / tenor sax; Jim Black, percussion / bass trumpet / vocals & rain dance; Don Preston, piano / electric organ / organ / electric clavichord / bass clarinet / auxiliary percussion / nuclear effects; Ray Estrada, electric bass / arcane gestures; Billy Mundi, percussion /vocals / high-pitched noises. And a soulful little girl with tattered jeans who submits to being smeared with rotten oranges, being almost raped, and goosed into singing odd snatches of unintelligible lyrics; she goes by the name of Uncle Meat.
Sandy started to play with us a little bit. She was very young at the time and was still in her teens. She was given the stage name "Uncle Meat." She liked to hang with us quite a lot, especially with Don and Bunk!
Essra Mohawk first encountered Frank Zappa in 1967, walking down Bleecker Street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. She was 19, visiting New York City from her home in Philadelphia with two female friends from Los Angeles. She loved Zappa's album Freak Out!, which had just been released, and when her friends spotted the lanky Zappa walking down the street with his trademark long curls, Fu Manchu moustache and soul patch, her friends started shouting out the names of L.A. locations where they'd seen him hanging out.
Zappa was on his way to the Garrick Theater, where his band, the Mothers of Invention, was amid a legendary six-month residency. "He let us in for free," recalls Mohawk, still known by her given name, Sandy Hurvitz, at the time. "We became fast friends. He started calling me 'the strange little person from Philadelphia.' "
[...] When Mohawk met Zappa, she'd already released a pop single, "The Boy With the Way" backed with "Memory of Your Voice" on Liberty Records at age 16. She'd been offered a songwriting contract by top music publisher Charles Koppleman, and she had been courted by producer Shadow Morton, who had provided her songs to the Shangri-Las ("I'll Never Learn") and Vanilla Fudge ("The Spell That Comes After").
After meeting Zappa, she left the pop world for something infinitely different. Not long after they met, Zappa ordered a new electric piano. The day it arrived, Mothers' keyboardist Don Preston was ill. Zappa remembered Mohawk played piano, so he set it up on the Garrick stage and asked her to test it.
"I started playing and singing one of my songs, and Frank jumped up and put a microphone in front of me," she says. "Then he jumped back into the theater and listened for a bit. Then he jumped back onstage and said, 'Step into my office.' He walked over to the second row of seats and pointed, so I sat down. He looked at me and said, 'How would you like to be a Mother?' "
Playing solo on piano, Mohawk began opening shows for the Mothers of Invention, staying onstage to sing harmony during the band's set. Zappa had her sing her own song, "Archgodliness of Purplefull Magic," during the band's set, only one of two non-Zappa songs featured during the Mothers' concerts in the year-and-a-half Mohawk performed with the band.
"The first band I was in was my favorite band," she says. "I have to say, it's been all downhill from there!" She then cracks up, leaning forward as she guffaws in her high, childlike tone, showing no bitterness.
Gail went out to look for an apartment near the Garrick and finally found a place at 180 Thompson Street (apartment 3-C), right around the corner from the theater. I took a break from rehearsal and went with her to look at it. When we got to the door, we found that a wino had passed out, pissed himself, and was wedged against it. In 1967, this was what you got in New York City for two hundred dollars a month.
Our New Home had a bedroom, a living room-kitchenette and a bathroom—with a view of a brick wall out the window. We lived there for several months.
When we moved to New York in '67, we had this miserable fucking apartment on Thompson Street, but it was a block away from Varèse's house. He was already dead by that time, but I used to walk by there and see that little red door and just try to imagine what it would be like to be trapped in that apartment not writing music for 25 years.
Frank and Gail were living in a flat in the Village. Cal [Schenkel] ended up living there, along with Dick [Barber] and Bobby [Zappa]. I think Motorhead was there part of the time and Pam [Zarubica] was also staying there too. She had just come back from Europe and was full blown pregnant.
Ray Collins quit in New York when we were doing Absolutely Free and went to California for five or six months. Don Preston quit for about three months, and then they came back around the time that we started doing We're Only In It For The Money.
In July, Ray and Don quit the band and went back to L.A. As usual, Ray quit because he couldn't take Frank anymore. Don also quit because he couldn't take it anymore and he said he'd been away from his wife Rowena, and the two kids for too long.
I think that's when Sandy was sitting in with us and Ian was playing a little bit of keyboards as well. [...]
When Don arrived back in L.A., he went to the house, knocked on the door and there was this big black guy, living there with his wife. Don just turned right back around, marched out of the house and went straight on the phone to Frank, "Do you mind if I rejoin the band?" So Don was only gone for about a week.
During the time we lived in the Thompson Street cracker-box, my brother visited me from Los Angeles, along with Dick Barber, his friend from high school (who eventually became our road manager) and another friend, Bill Harris (now a prominent film critic). The three of them were sleeping on the living room floor.
About that time I got the idea for the We're Only In It for the Money album, and was looking for an artist capable of creating the ultimate parody of the Sgt. Pepper cover. I heard about Cal Schenkel, a former boyfriend of the girl who was our opening act at the Garrick. He came up from Philadelphia and showed me his portfolio. The stuff was great, but the only way to hire him was to find a place for him to stay in New York. (And guess where it was?) So it was Bobby, Bill, Calvin and Dick, on the floor, in sleeping bags.
One night I go to the Garrick to see Sandy and meet Frank to show him some of the work I'm doing. I had this one piece that I did for my portfolio, which was a design for an album cover—a collage of a group playing bananas (I think Frank liked that, so he hired me). Actually the first artwork that I did for him was a display in front of the Garrick—"PIGS PIGS Look: . . . and, also"—spray painted onto some brown craft paper.
[...] As soon as classes [in Philadelphia] were finished I packed up my stuff, stuck it in a U-Haul and stowed it at Frank's apartment on Thompson St., around the corner from the Garrick. Frank was never there, so he didn't care but Gail was none too thrilled when she arrived from California to find that Redondo had eaten her parakeet. So I found a place on 25th st. and moved in and tore the plaster off the walls.
At the end of April 1967 I was in Pomona, California finishing my sophomore year in college when Frank called me from New York and said, "Hey, do you want to come work for me this summer?"
[...] I mentioned my friends Bill Harris and Dick Barber, whom Frank knew from our days in Claremont in the early 1960s.
[...] When I finished my sophomore year in college that June, Bill, Dick, and I set out for New York in a friend's VW Beetle.
[...] We went looking for Frank's apartment. We found the building on Thompson Street.
[...] Frank said, "You can start work by coming to the show and you'll stay at Calvin [Schenkel's] apartment for tonight."
[...] Calvin's place was on 49th street. In those days, Hell's Kitchen was about as nice as its name implied.
Underwood was a recent graduate of the University of California in Berkeley, with a master's degree in composition, when he saw the Mothers at the Garrick that summer. "I had no idea who they were, and there were about ten people in the audience," he says now. But what he saw and heard—"Varèse, Stravinsky, and the long jazz tunes, the pop numbers and satires, the jumps from complete randomness to organized sound"—inspired Underwood to go up to Zappa after the show. "I said I'd like to play with him." Zappa told him to be at Mayfair Studios, where Money was in progress, the next day.
When he got there, Underwood says, "there was nobody else there. There was something he had recorded that he wanted me to put keyboard parts on. There is a piano introduction"—he hums the opening of "Let's Make the Water Turn Black"—"that was one of the first things I did. It wasn't written down. Frank said, 'What would you do on this?' I did something—and there it is."
I had graduated from the master's program in composition from the University of California at Berkeley. Then I was in New York, unemployed. I happened to drop by the Mothers performance at the Garrick Theater. I had never heard of the Mothers; this was the first time I had any exposure to them at all. But they were doing just the kind of thing I was interested in. It wasn't just classical, it wasn't just jazz. And there was a lot of humor. In those days, Ray Collins and Motorhead Jim Sherwood were doing a lot of interplay. They had their own routines, which were mostly made up at the time.
I hadn't really hit on any work at that point, so I simply went up after the show, told Frank that I liked it very much, and wondered if I could play with them. Frank said he was interested. He asked me to come up to the recording studio, which was in midtown on the west side [Mayfair Studios, 701 7th Av, NYC]. I did, and Frank hired me because I could play keyboards and woodwinds, and I could read. At that point, nobody in the band was an accomplished reader, although Bunk Gardner could read. But I was able to let Frank hear the notes he wanted to hear. Plus I had a background in jazz, so I could improvise. So I fit in.
[...] I didn't have any keyboards of my own when I joined the band. Don Preston was playing Rhodes and Minimoog, so we would spell each other on those. I think we also got a Kalamazoo organ, which I played onstage and on the recordings.
When Ian joined the group Frank needed some new publicity photos so I took these one night in his Thompson St. apartment with a nikon and a bare lightbulb
[The Rolling Stones' Flowers was released June 26, 1967]
[Don Preston, Bunk Gardner, Billy Mundi, Roy Estrada, JCB, Ian Underwood, FZ; no Ray Collins]
IAN UNDERWOOD—all keyboard instruments, saxophone, clarinet, flute and guitar—has an M.A. in music and was a child prodigy at the piano. He joined the Mothers in September of 1967.
Around August, we were only doing about three nights a week. We had cut it down to Thursday, Friday and Saturday because the rest of the week we were in Mayfair Studios recording a bunch of the new material for We're Only In It For The Money. Herb and Frank took a four-day trip to London and started setting up the press reviews for our first European tour which was going to be in September.
The day I met Frank Zappa began like every other day over the previous five years. [...] On that dull, drizzly August afternoon in 1967, I had no idea.
[...] On that particular day, 16 August, [...] when the telephone rang I answered it. The concierge said, "Royal Garden Hotel here. We have a client who wants a typist at six-thirty. [...] It's for Mr. Zappa. Room 412."
[...] Mr. Zappa said, "What I want you to do is type the lyrics from the tape. I need them by tomorrow."
[...] Tom Wilson, Mr. Zappa's record producer, had just arrived, it seemed, after a delayed flight.
Photo by Robert Davidson.
I was asked to take publicity pictures of Frank Zappa [...]. I was invited to go and take pictures of Frank at the Royal Garden Hotel in London—it was a press call, there were 10 photographers, 25 reporters, all into a tiny room, very hot day. He was talking, and as he entered the room, I knew I was in the presence of someone exceptional. One of the three greatest men I've ever met.
[...] He goes to the lavatory and dissapeared—it was a very hot day, he had already taken off his top. And I'm the sort of person who just follows. Two minutes later I followed him to the bathroom [...]. He dissapeared round the corner to the bathroom. I followed two minutes later. And the bathroom door was open. He was sitting on the lavatory doing what everybody does and also he was talking to his wife, Gail, on the telephone—it was a very expensive London hotel. And the door was open, he was sitting naked, and I walked thus and went, "Ah! There is the best picture I have ever seen!" So I said to him, "Frank, please, may I take a picture of you?" And he said to Gail, "There's some limey here who wants to take a picture of me sitting on the john." I'm sure he didn't sound like that. And he said, "Yes, that's fine." So, I took the picture.
I had no idea there was ever gonna be a poster. That picture was taken in a toilet in the Royal Garden Hotel in London and it was part of a publicity campaign for our first appearance in England. And so, the guy that took it just decided to make a poster out of it. And due to the copyright laws in England, the photographer owns the photographs. Here, the photographer owns the photograph, but he doesn't own the right for your image on it unless you give him a release. There they don't need a release, so he took the thing and went out and made a poster out of it. Well, it pissed me off, and I couldn't do anything about it, because they had a whole bunch of them on the market. And it's probably one of the best-selling posters of all time, although I haven't seen any money at all from it. It's bootlegged all over the place; somebody makes a poster of it, somebody else'll take a photograph of that poster and print up his own. There are two or three different varieties of it that are circulating all over Europe.
I met [Bobby Davidson] in 2006 at the Mighty Baby concert at the Borderline. He knew the band when they were the earlier 'The Action'. He lost out as he claimed to me that Zappas bodyguard took the rolls of film. He might be referring to Herb Cohen.
Rock and roll photographer Robert Davidson [...] claims he was strong-armed out of a set of iconic rock pictures almost 50 years ago [...].
The poster picture of US rocker Frank Zappa sitting naked on a lavatory has adorned posters, T-shirts and mugs since it was taken by Mr Davidson in a London hotel room in 1967.
Yet Mr Davidson has hardly made a penny from it, after, he claims, he was forced to hand over the negatives to Zappa's manager following a mix up over royalty payments. A year ago he managed to buy them back on eBay for just £66.
We found a sublet near Seventh Avenue on Charles Street, the ground floor of a brown-stone.
At the end of the summer in 1967 Frank and Gail moved from the Thompson St. apartment to a basement flat on Charles St. in the more fashionalbe west Village. This place was a lot nicer than the garlick elevatored Thompson St. There even was a backyard.
[Frank] was always more interested being at 54 Charles Street (his home then), where he was writing music like crazy and planning the strategy of the whole band.
Everything was arranged for our first European tour. Billy Mundi and I left Woodstock on 13th September and everybody met at Frank's place on Charles Street.
Besides all the guys in the band, there was Dick Barber, Sandy and Pamela, Herb and his wife Suzy, Howie Solomon and his wife, and Tom Wilson. They'd chartered a bus to take us to the airport with all our equipment. Dick Barber was now officially our road manager and he had quite a job because it was quite an entourage. Fifteen of us went to Europe.
The Mothers of Invention arrived on 18 September. A photograph in the Evening Standard showed a hairy bunch with a girl, Suzy Creamcheese, standing among them. The journalist asked Frank, "Is she your girlfriend or something?" Frank replied, "Or something."
Frank and Herb went to London on an exploratory trip to set up the first European tour. Boy, was I surprised to learn that I was going on the tour as official photographer. We rented a Nikon and a Hassleblad (which I never used). Meanwhile the original "Suzy Creamcheese" arrived in New York for much the same reason, to accompany The Mothers as spokeswoman or something. Europe was a lot of fun and I didn't work very hard, but I didn't get paid either, which was a general point of disagreement between the entire entourage and Hurby. I got pissed off because of this and decided to stay in Denmark when the group came home. Alas I soon ran out of Kroner or whatever the hell they use there and came home myself (but not before getting lost hitch-hiking through Germany—another story).
We never did shows that duplicated records or other gigs. Originally it was almost free-form; you never knew what was going to come up. Then, just after I joined and we started touring Europe, we began getting larger audiences. This meant that they couldn't be as close to us, so the kinds of off-the-wall things that would be easy to get into at the Garrick Theater really wouldn't work anymore. You couldn't do something free-form that might not work when you've got a lot of people who have paid money to listen to you. So, more and more, a balance was struck in favor of being more organized, based on doing things that were more likely to work consistently well. Then, if other free things came along in the middle of those pieces, that would be okay too.
This didn't drastically change the way we worked, but we did start having more music to rehearse. Sometimes there would be different arrangements of tunes that the Mothers had done earlier. Then there were new, classically-oriented pieces that Frank would bring in. They were pretty complicated, but they weren't different in kind from what we had done before. There was more of a difference in scale and amount, because Frank always loved to write this way.
A lot of people identified with Suzy Creamcheese and then when we were ready to go to Europe the first time, we discovered that people there were more interested in seeing Suzy Creamcheese than they were in seeing us. Not quite, but it was at a hysteria peak in certain areas. So we decided that it would be best to bring along a Suzy Creamcheese replica who would demonstrate once and for all the veracity of such a beast. So, I checked around to see who would be willing to go along with the gag and, uh, Pamela [Zarubica] was willing and, uh, she was available and . . . [...] Anyway, there was no way to get a hold of Jeannie Vassar and, um, Pamela was available and was interested in the concept, so I said, "Okay, here's your ticket, come on." And so she did the tour with us in Europe and has maintained the title ever since.
That little story on the Freak Out! album was just something I made up, and shortly after that I had people coming up to me in droves introducing themselves as Suzy Creamcheese. When we did our first British tour, we had a specific request—from the British promoter, I believe it was—that we manifest some sort of Suzy Creamcheese on the stage. So I hired a girl named Pamela Lee Zarubica to be Suzy Creamcheese. All she did was sit on the stage when we played the Albert Hall—didn't do anything!
Frank called me and said that there was a great desire to see Suzy Creamcheese because the people in Europe couldn't imagine what kind of a chick to associate with the picture they had seen of these guys [...]. He said, "I'm going to Europe and they want Suzy Creamcheese, you come and stay with Gail," and I said "Come and stay with Gail? I am Suzy Creamcheese and I'm going with you because if you take some asshole who doesn't know how to talk to the press [...], that doesn't know how to talk to people, you're never going to talk to anybody, period."
I met [Pamela Zarubica] when Frank took her to Europe on the first tour as Suzy Creamcheese (I went along as photographer.) We hung out together, mostly when everybody else was at rehearsal. And then in NYC when we got back she stayed at Charles St., this was just after Moon was born, she & Gail were pretty good friends at the time. She lived at the log cabin for a while too & my friend jeff tried to jump her bones but I don't think she went for it. Haven't seen her since around then. I heard she was in London.
Preparations for the European tour included summoning Pamela Zarubica, herself just back from her prolonged stay in Europe during which she'd become pregnant, to look after Gail while Frank was away. [...] When Pamela learned that Frank had been asked to bring along Suzy Creamcheese on the tour, she made it very plain that the role was hers. Herb Cohen didn't like the idea much but Pamela, and thus also Frank, was adamant.
I joined the crowds shuffling into the Albert Hall. [...] Someone near my seat in the raised section at the side pointed to the front stalls and said, "There's Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck."
[...] Then [FZ] introduced ten musicians from the London Philharmonic Orchestra who wandered on looking embarrassed.
[...] When one of the Mothers climbed the walls to the mighty Albert Hall organ and played the opening strains of "Louie, Louie," the audience erupted.
[...] Suzy Creamcheese stood to the side tapping a tambourine. [...] At one point, she spoke out the words to "Mellow Yellow" and later, when the orchestra played chamber-like music and some people slow handclapped, she said into the microphone, "Maybe you're not ready for this kind of music yet."
[...] Frank swivelled round to Calvin [Schenkel]. "Did you get some good shots?"
"During the concert? No."
Frank turned further in his seat to check he'd heard correctly.
"I was hungry. I went out to eat," Calvin explained.
"You went out to eat?"
I expected Frank to explode. Instead, he raised his eyebrows and said quietly, "I brought you three thousand miles to do one fucking thing—take photographs of the show—and you go out to eat? How long does it take to eat?"
"We couldn't find anywhere. It took a while."
Jimi Hendrix and I once went to the Royal Albert Hall to see Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. During the intermission, we spotted Brian Jones up in one of the boxes, and we wanted to go and get high with Brian. So, we got up from our seats, and we started to move along the seats and a spotlight found us. Now, quite frankly we were both on acid, so this bright light hitting us in the face when we thought that we were invisible was quite shocking to us, but we managed to make it all the way to Brian, to the box that Brian was in, and we managed to get higher than we were.
I remember when the Royal Albert was off-limits to rock music, and somehow The Mothers Of Invention managed to get booked there. It was a fantastic show, and for an encore Frank Zappa's keyboard player, Don Preston, known as "Mother Don," broke into the hall's organ keyboard, which was locked behind two glass doors, and played a raucous version of "Louie Louie" that brought the house down.
Jimi [Hendrix] had not missed the chance to see The Mothers perform. As was reported in the issue of Disc and Music Echo of 30 September 1967 . . . "Jimi Hendrix dug Zappa's guitar-playing at London's Albert Hall." What's more, when Zappa noticed Jimi entering the venue, he immediately went into a parody of "Hey Joe" (or "Flower Punk" perhaps?).
The first news conference I ever went to was in Hamburg, Germany at the press club which is at the top of a skyscraper overlooking the . . . [...] Oh god, that was ridiculous. [...] It was the first time we'd ever been to Germany. They had movie cameras all over the place and people who didn't speak English too good, and guys in the band who didn't speak German at all. And these people had no idea . . . . [...]
And I remember that because Don Preston had a little tiny deck of Tarot cards in his pocket. And we were all sitting around answering obtuse questions from these guys. And he zipped off to the side with one chick and he was telling her fortune with these Tarot cards on the side. That's one way to get into a German journalist's pants, with Tarot cards. Remember that if you ever go over there.
Frank flew back to Copenhagen for the third European concert.
After that concert, just as they were about to leave for Gothenburg, news came through from New York that Gail had given birth.
Denmark Falkoner Theatret
Sweden Konserthallen, Liseberg
Then we flew to Copenhagen and we had four or five days off [...]. Frank and Herb flew to Italy for a meeting with Roger Vadim as he was making the Barbarella movie. There were some discussions about using some of Frank's music in the film.
We travelled to Gothenburg where we were meeting back up with Frank, to play the first gig in Sweden. [...] We played the gig and noticed that Frank wasn't feeling too good. He had eaten some food while he was in Italy and devoloped food poisoning.
The next day we flew to Stockholm and by this time Frank was getting really ill. [...] He played the first half of the show but he was so fuckin' ill that he couldn't go back on, so we went out and did the second part without Frank. [...]
The next day we flew back to Copenhagen to play at the Falkoner Theater. [...] [Frank] was very weak but at least he was OK. Motorhead was travelling with the gear and a Dutch truck driver we had hired. Something happened to the van. We got there in time for the gig but the equipment wasn't there. We ended up using equipment borrowed from John Mayall and The Blues Breakers. [...]
There was one more show left, so we took the ferryboat back across to Sweden and played at the University of Lund. We travelled back on the ferry, spent the night in the hotel and went to Copenhagen airport to fly back to London. That's where we met Peter Sellers, in the airport. [...] Then we flew on to New York and I went straight back out to Woodstock.
[JCB, Pamela Zarubica, FZ.]
[Ray Collins, FZ, JCB, Ian Underwood, Pamela Zarubica.]
[FZ, Pamela Zarubica, Ray Collins.]
[Billy Mundi, JCB, Ray Collins, FZ.]
Suzy Creamcheese arrived from Los Angeles and got rooms at the White House, a short-let apartment hotel just by Great Portland Street tube station. Hoppy met her on the day the first issue of IT was published, 14 October . She telephoned the printers, looking for Donovan, but by the end of the day she was with Hoppy back at the White House. Suzy Creamcheese was a generic name that Frank Zappa gave to the group of Jewish girls, fans of the Mothers of Invention, who hung out at Ratner's Dairy Restaurant on Fairfax. The girls did publicity for the band, danced at the front of their gigs to get the crowds going, and performed other, unspecified services. The Suzy on the Freak Out record was Pamela Zarubica, who also moved to London, but the one Hoppy was to marry was Susan Zeiger, whose father [Hal Zeiger] owned the Zeiger ballrooms where the Mothers often performed.
Mystery always surrounded Suzy Creamcheese (née Zieger). [...] She did have these conservative parents somewhere in California, who were so appalled by her free-form lifestyle that they kept having her committed to various expensive mental institutions, causing Hoppy to array himself in a ninja outfit to break in and spend the night with her while she was so incarcerated.
Hoppy was energised when a unique woman dropped into his life in October . Fancy dress and flowers were second nature to Suzy Creamcheese (Susan Ziegler). In Los Angeles, she formed part of the auxiliary cadre surrounding Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention at the Ziegler Ballrooms her father owned.
I can offer you a vaguely relevant anecdote. In the small and incestuous world of the London "underground" in 1968 or thereabouts, there was a fairly prominent American woman who called herself "Suzy Creamcheese" and claimed to be Zappa's original inspiration. Her real name was Suzy Zeiger. No-one was sure how true her claim was, so there was much interest when Zappa and the Mothers played the Albert Hall, and Suzy appeared in a prominent position in the audience.
Between songs, she shrieked. "Hi, Frank! It's Suzy", and the following dialog ensued:
"You've got nice tits."
This was the same gig where the Mothers played "Louie, Louie", using the Albert Hall's own pipe organ, and were banned from playing there ever again.
Suzy Creamcheese, that happy American hippie in London, became Mrs. Hoppy Hopkins on her third attempt to marry the Old Rugbeian leader of London's Underground movement. [...]
Suzy Creamcheese, born Zieger, called queen of London's hippies, is a California export to the British Isles and had to promise to get married within a week so that immigration authorities would allow her to remain.
[...] Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins spent the first evening of their married life with Suzy's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Irving Zieger of Los Angeles, at the movies.
Informants: Bill Lantz, Charles Ulrich, Javier Marcote, Avo Raup
On October 23, 1967, in New York, singer Nico sang with The Velvet Underground. Chris Darrow of the magazine Kaleidoscope recalled: "The opening night was very crowded and Zappa and members of the Mothers of Invention showed up to show their support. [...] Nico's delivery of her material was very flat, deadpan, and expressionless, and she played as though all of her songs were dirges. She seemed as though she was trying to resurrect the ennui and decadence of Weimar, pre-Hitler Germany. Her icy, Nordic image also added to the detachment of her delivery. [...] The audience was on her side, as she was in her element and the Warhol contingent was very prominent that night. However, what happened next is what sticks in my mind the most from that night. In between sets, Frank Zappa got up from his seat and walked up on the stage and sat behind the keyboard of Nico's B-3 organ. He proceeded to place his hands indiscriminately on the keyboard in a total, atonal fashion and screamed at the top of his lungs, doing a caricature of Nico's set, the one he had just seen. The words to his impromptu song were the names of vegetables like broccolli, cabbage, asparagus . . . This "song" kept going for about a minute or so and then suddenly stopped. He walked off the stage and the show moved on. It was one of the greatest pieces of rock 'n roll theater that I have ever seen."
[Maltese] enjoys reminiscing while looking at the old photos. "The first band I ever shot was Frank Zappa," he said. "It was a concert given at Johns Hopkins, but they performed in a high school auditorium because everyone thought it was too radical."
We flew back out to California and did three nights at the Fillmore West, and shows in Pasadena and Santa Monica and we even went back and played at the Whisky one night which was more of a favor to Val than anything else. We would often see Mark and Howie from The Turtles sitting out in the front because they always like to come and see the Mothers.
More of a homecoming celebration [...], the Mothers of Invention performed Saturday, 9 December, at the Pasadena Civic [...], bassist Roy Estrada, drummer Billy Mundi, and vocalist Ray Collins (who was reunited with Zappa & Co. for the concert) [...], Bunk Gardner and Ian Underwood, "keyboard wizard" (Zappa's half facetious description) Don Preston, who also recently rejoined the band, and trumpeter-percussionist-vocalist Jimmy Carl Black ("he's the Indian in the band") [...].
The newest (and youngest) Mother is Ian Underwood, who joined originally as a replacement for organist-pianist Don Preston when Don quit to return to L.A. Now that Don is back, Ian is playing alto saxophone—he is one of the most persuasive of the young white "avant-garde" saxophonists I've come across—and doubling on flute. [...]
For this concert appearance, the only one in Southern California for several months, Zappa wisely decided to avoid material already available on LP [...]. Instead, the program was divided between devastatingly funny renditions of rock-and-roll Moldy Oldies (and moldy they were: Gee, Blue Suede Shoes, Houn' Dog, Shotgun, and a version of Babylove choreographed a la those somethin' else Supremes) and some very extended and complex instrumentals that gave ample blowing room to all the soloists in the band. Zappa himself played an exceptionally fine improvisation on the last of these, a composition he announced (seriously?) as Orange County Lumber Truck, for which he put the seldom heard (because it is difficult to master) Vox wah-wah pedal to good use.
Just before Christmas, we played at the New York Town Hall [...]. The opening act for that gig was The Hamilton Face Band, which featured Ruth Komanoff on drums. That was the first time that I actually me Ruth.
Last week we were playing in Philadelphia and we got seven requests, so we played them all at once. It was fantastic. Sherwood was playing the sax part to one song: the whole thing, even the rests. It was really great. But nobody knew what we were playing. They couldn't even tell the songs apart. Half the time, when we're really doing something, the audience doesn't know what it is. Sometimes the guys in the band don't know.
In 1967, we—meaning Mom, Dad, Carl and I—moved to Jacksonville, Florida.
Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos