After the Rainbow, did you want to keep those Mothers together, or were you going to disband them anyway?
I didn't have much choice in the matter. I couldn't work so I couldn't employ them. What could I offer them if we couldn't go out on the road? But even before that last tour we were getting into some kind of recording contract with Mark and Howard so that they could do their own album, however they chose not to mention the fact that we (Zappa and manager Herb Cohen) fought to get them out of their previous recording contract so . . .
Really? And then they put you down in their press interview.
Well. I would imagine that that's just the beginning of it, and that there'll probably be a lot more of that shit. But I find that distinctly unethical because what happened when we got back to Los Angeles was that I started figuring out ways that I could get the guys some money, because our tour was cut short and we didn't do about six jobs, and also the insurance money on our equipment that got burned in Montreux only got settled last week—they haven't given us the cheque yet, but we've agreed on an amount.
So while I was in Los Angeles I tried to find a way to give them some bread, and I happened to have a tape of a concert we did just prior to the European tour, so I decided to release that as an album and I managed to work a deal where I got each member of the group an advance payment of 2,000 dollars, which is way in excess of what they would have gotten if I'd just done it under normal circumstances. I find no mention of that in their press releases. And another thing they've been garbling about in some of the papers in Los Angeles is that I didn't call them up or go to see them or anything. Shit. I'm sitting up in my house in a wheelchair with my leg up in the air. and they never bother to come over and see me either. I think the attitude they've shown so far ha s been strictly commercial.
1972 -LA. Mixed media on paper, animation cel; burger airbrushed by Sherm. Asleep at the wheel fast food visions (see interior). Interior photo self-portrait in my fake bedroom studio in Eagle Rock.
95RR-inlay: Billy the Mtn. hisself—fabricated storyboard drawing (slightly visible over my head in interior photo).
When we did the Pauley Pavilion recording I had just bought this Scully four-track, and that was the first of the four-track recordings that we did. We recorded four-track for, I guess, ten years, nine years.
The same time that I did the Just Another Band From LA album, that was the first one done with my own equipment, well actually, there were some examples of things done before that on Weasels Ripped My Flesh about 1968 or '69, before the first bunch of guys broke up, we had an engineer that used to travel with us, named Dick Kunc. He had this little mixing board in a briefcase, four or five microphones, and a Uher recorder, and we used to go around and make live recordings with that. But when we did Just Another Band From LA, that was a four-track recording on a Scully four-track, the first professional machine I owned. I've got hundreds and hundreds of tapes made in that medium and the next thing that I bought was an eight-track machine, there too is a few hundred tapes. Then we carried around a 24, and then I bought a truck that had three 24-track machines in it. We did two tours with that. Now that we don't tour anymore, that's the end of it. Still got the truck.
I'm really proud of this recording. I recorded the band using just two microphones. Instead of using dozens of mics, I set the mix using the volume controls of the band's instrument amplifiers. I told them if they needed to hear their instrument with more volume, they had to call in a roadie and have their amplifier moved higher or closer to them. The point was, if they turned up their amp, the album would be ruined. They trusted me completely. As a result, the album's sound is their sound—not a studio mix. I recorded direct to a four track. Frank and I then simply mixed 4-to-2 at Ike Turner's "Bolic Sound" studio in Inglewood. That was some night. I'm sure all of us remember it well.
Frank was still recovering from his injuries from the mishap at the Rainbow Theater in London. With a broken leg, I was transporting him to the studio on a mattress I'd put in the back of my '47 Chevy panel truck. [...] I moved him from the Chevy to his wheel chair and rolled him into the recording studio to supervise as I mixed Just Another Band From LA.
The four tracks we had were stage left, stage right, vocals and one track of room sound (recorded by a KM86 at stage center, facing away from the stage). I put the room sound mono track thru a mono-to-stereo converter, mixed in the band and vocals and we were done. We then ran the whole show thru this system onto a 2-track. This was mastered into the Just Another Band From LA album. Easy as pie.
The easiest mix of all was Just Another Band From L.A. 'cause it was recorded 4-track and it took about a day.
[The Fillmore album] was done 10-track. But you know the Pauley Pavillion album—JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM LA? That was recorded on the [Scully 4-track] machine. [...] It's liver than you'd wanna believe. I'll tell you what's on the tape. One track is the PA system, and then two channels are mikes on stage with the instruments and one channel was audience. That's what JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM LA was mixed from.
The TRUE story....
I had for many many years a Test Pressing for what was LP 1 one of the set which I got from a former FZ employee (keeping all true names outta this). I got it in 1978.
Many MANY years later, figure 1991 or 1992 I was hanging with my pal TB (apparantly some of you know who he is by his initials, good enough) and flipping through HIS collection of cassettes, and he had an unlabled mystery tape that seemed to include parts of Billy The Mountain as well as many other 'solos.' I borrowed it, listened and realised he had a cassette of the second LP! My Test Pressing is way chewed up, and his cassette wasn't much better, but together they represented the only known version of the TWO LP Just Another Band to be in existence.
Cut ahead a few more years to the late 90's, and some guy on alt.fan.FZ was wondering if such a thing in fact existed. I wrote him back in confidence that not only did it exist, but I would run him a copy of the complete set with the understanding he offer it up to anyone who wants a copy.
He never did, but apparantly he made SOMEONE the second LP.
Keep in mind that by combining the official release with this second LP you still will NOT have the complete 2 LP version. Billy The Mountain on LP1 the
test pressing is longer than how it was officially released.
I also have a photocopy of the ORIGINAL liner copy to the ORIGINAL 2 LP set.
The ACTUAL song titles were to be:
Call Any Vegetable
Eddie Are You Kidding?
Dog Breath (these are all the same as officially released JABFLA versions)
Billy The Mountain
Phase I (The Royalties Arrive)
Phase II and Newscast
The Legendary Low Budget Hero
Billy The Mountain (cont.)
The Subcutaneous Peril
"An Easy Substitute For Eternity Itself"
According to the liner copy The Subcutaneous Peril and An Easy Substitute were recorded at Carnegie Hall October 11, 1971.
Even more interesting is that the writer credit for An Easy is shared by FZ, Don Preston, Ian Underwood, Aynsley Dunbar and Jim Pons.
Here's hoping that clears up one more muddy mess of legend, as well as assistting you guys with the ACTUAL titles, instead of 'A Bunch Of Solos.'
The master tapes of the UCLA Pauley Pavillion, concert were made on a portable Sculley 4-track machine at 15 ips, and the master mixes derived therefrom are "real stereo." The Carnegie Hall tapes were originally recorded at 7 1/2ips on a concealed Nagra mono machine using one Electrovoice 664 microphone. These tapes were processed through an Orban Stereo Matrix (ambience generator) and re-equalized to simulate stereo. Our apologies for the recording quality on side 4. We felt the solos were interesting enough to warrant the use of the substandard audio replicas. The rest of the Pauley Pavillion show (after intermission) was not used because the major portions of it consisted of a performance of the whole Fillmore East album.
I guess this is the right time to mention...yes, the Pound and King Kong solos from Carnegie are included there.
Incidentally, the otherwise unreleased Studebaker Hoch and ending in that BTM outtake is not the version on Carnegie.
I just compared two versions of JABFLA: the 1990 Ryko CD and the 2012 UMe remaster. My conclusion is that the former was a remix from the four-track master. The stereo image of the band is almost the same on both versions. (For example, you can hear vocals from the center, FZ's guitar from one side, Don's synth from the opposite side, etc.) But there're some differences in the crowd noise and the bass. On the LP mix, the crowd noise has a wider stereo image, and the bass is positioned to the right. On the Ryko CD, the crowd noise has a narrower (almost mono-ish) image, and the bass is positioned in the center.
After being informed that the old CD's of JABFLA were in fact a remix different from the original LP, I finally picked up a used copy of the 1995 CD to supplement my copy of the 2012 remaster of the original mix.
It's interesting how very different these two versions are, and how it has eluded us for so long.
The original mix has a wide stereo spread, with a heavy dose of compression. The audience channel is high up in mix and has been processed into fake stereo...clapping and other audience noises can be clearly heard during the songs. Some stereo reverb has been added to the vocal channel which overall gives a very convincing stereo effect for a 4-track recording. The overall sound is rather raw and in-your-face.
The remix reminded me of everything I hate about FZ's digital productions from the 80's. There are channel fluctuations and dropouts all over the place, almost to the point where it sounds like an eaten tape. The stereo spread of the instruments is smeared and has been folded in. The audience channel is in the center and has been mixed way down, and thus various noises on the original mix have been removed. There are also dynamics and ultra-cleanliness which sounds very different from the original mix, but is pretty much negated by the crappy digital processing.
Putting together Billy the Mountain was a series of vignettes that connected around a forty-three minute opera. Howard and I usually started with Frank on guitar, the three of us, and we were given the music to learn. Frank felt most comfortable playing and singing the melody, so there were very few times where Frank placed himself into the four-part harmony or three-part harmony. He kind of left that to Howard, Jim Pons, and me. We'd take the bit and show up at the rehearsal hall on Highland Avenue and lead the band through what he wanted.
Roz [Kirby] jumped in and explained that Zappa wrote a song based on one of Jack [Kirby]'s stories of characters. I found out later that it was a song called "Billy the Mountain." Billy was a mountain that could kick ass or whatever, I guess! Billy was based on JIM [Journey Into Mystery] #68—the monster was Spragg, the Living Mountain.
OK, so what does ["Sofa"] have to do with "Billy the Mountain"?
Well, did you ever wonder where Billy the Mountain came from?
No, I can't say that I did. I just accepted old Billy at face value.
And you didn't ever wonder about Billy's childhood or how he got there in the first place?
Well, I did.
Are you speaking geologically or something?
No. I'm talking about, you know, here's a mountain that can talk and has got a tree for a wife. Now, where the fuck do they come from? I mean, he's got to have some kind of a background. Well, where he comes from is, a long time ago when there was nothing in the universe except blackness and this floating sofa, God explained to the sofa while holding a cigar, speaking German, and with a Pachuco cross between his thumb and his first finger, looking at the sofa, and he's trying to explain to the sofa where he's at and where he's coming from, and making sure the sofa understands his or her or its particular place in this cosmos that he's constructed. He gets the sofa organized, see. And then he orders boards of oak throughout the emptiness to support the sofa, and then he calls for his girlfriend.
That's right. The Short Girl, he called her. So Short Girl and Squat, the magic pig, are both there, and he makes a home movie with the girl fucking the pig, and sends it to a lab that he knows. And she sings a song to the pig, and he sings a song to the girl. The next thing you know, this guy named Old Zircon, a phased-out Byzantine devil, his body covered with old musical instruments . . . .
[...] So anyway, Old Zircon, the phased-out Byzantine devil appears on the side, and he's got a plan. Because after God makes the movie and sends it to the lab, he sends these cherubs to pick up the package. So they fly off to the lab while he's lying down on the sofa. He's having a sleep and dreaming a great dream. Well, Old Zircon appears in this dream and he walks out of the cave and his cloven hooves hit the rocks, causing sparks to shoot out, igniting all the adjacent moss. And these flames come up. And smoke comes up from the flames. And he beats his magic drum and he blows his magic trumpet, and strums his little guitar. The sound waves of all these instruments being manipulated at the same time cause the smoke to form into several large, new, lumpy mountains, one of which can talk. That's where Billy comes from. Now what you don't know is that Ethell the Tree is under the control of Old Zircon who has this special flashlight that controls her thoughts and she's operating Billy. So this is all working in the background. Just like a Wagnerian opera, who can sit through it? You know? And when you're trying to get the proper level on a 33-1/3 disc, if you go over 18 minutes per side you're in trouble. And when you talk about musical ideas that take hours to spin out, you can't get it on a record. So a lot of the things that I'm talking about happen over a series of albums, because you're only putting out one every four months at the most.
Schenkel collapses in debris during preparation of story board for "BILLY THE MOUNTAIN." Clay model of roving monolith visible near left elbow. Studebacher Hoch & his trained flies appear over Schenkel's head and to right.
Presumably you've got the next movie in your head already.
I've got it better than in my head, I've got it on paper. (At this point he showed me the script of 'Billy The Mountain', a fairy tale about a mountain that walks across America, going on a vacation with his wife Ethel the tree).
When do you start shooting?
If we started pre-production at the end of this tour, which is December 22nd, we won't be able to shoot this until August because there's a lot of pre-planning to it. We've already had a meeting with UA about it, and they're interested, but we haven't made a deal.
The success [of 200 Motels] in the States will be pretty handy, won't it?
It's a pretty expensive movie—even with the success in the States they might still have to think about this. It'll be between 2½ and 5 million dollars to do this. '200 Motels' was only 679,000 dollars—we came in 40,000 dollars under budget. We're going to do that one in video too here.
Because this is where the technique is. The processing was all done here at the Vitronics up by the airport. I mean they have a similar processing facility in the US, but the video facilities aren't as good.
Why is 'Billy the Mountain' going to be more expensive?
Because of the amount of animation that's involved, and because I have some machinery that I want to add to the normal video equipment that has to be constructed to make it do other things computerised machinery.
Is the machinery your own idea? Are we going to see something completely different?
Yes, it's my own idea. I hope to be able to make it completely different, but a lot depends on the design of these devices that I'm hoping to use.
The music for the film will be played by the Mothers—"doing our rock and roll comedy music"—and by a synthesiser orchestra. [...] The way they're going to make the film this time, is to shoot the Mothers straight. playing the music and narrating the story of Billy The Mountain. After that, they'll use insets and superimpositions, and other fiendish tricks, to illustrate the story; shots of the Mothers acting out the story in costume, and animation sequences. [...]
"It tells the story of the creation of life on this planet and in this version, it begins with an empty sky, a fat maroon sofa floating around in it, God sees the sofa, admires it, and decides to explain to the sofa the basis of their future relationships, and he does this, singing in German.
Then he decides he needs some entertainment so he summons his girlfriend The Short Girl, and her assistant, Squat The Magic Pig, and proceeds to shoot a home movie using the girl and the pig and the sofa. And when he's finished shooting the film he has some Winged Holy Children take it to a lab where they don't ask any questions, and while he's waiting for his rushes to come back he lays down on the sofa to take a nap, and as soon as he goes to sleep, he has a great dream, and when he dreams the Devil appears.
Now the Devil walks out of a cave and he introduces himself with a song and dance routine, and he has these cloven hoofs, you see, and he's stomping around on the rocks outside the cave and the sparks from his hoofs ignite all adjacent moss, and the moss goes up in flames, the smoke is billowing around, and as he sings in a low voice the smoke turns to stone forming several lumpy new mountains, and one of them can talk. And the one that can talk is named Billy the Mountain.
Billy the Mountain has a tree growing off his shoulder named Ethel, and Ethel is his girlfriend, who soon becomes his wife, and Ethel the tree is under the control of Old Zircon, the phased-out Byzantine devil. Old Zircon induces Ethel the Tree to trick Billy the Mountain into taking her on a vacation. And so he gets up on his massive granite foot, and starts walking across America, and he's destroying America as he walks from California to Virginia Beach.
Meanwhile, in a small neat room behind a grocery store, there's this mysterious figure named Studebaker Hawk, and Studebaker Hawk is dressed in a chequered tablecoth with waxdrips on it from some candles stuffed up a Chianti bottle, and he's wearing dark green denim trousers such as a bus driver might enjoy, and he sits before a glowing view screen on which he monitors all things potentially dangerous to civilisation as we know it. And on this screen he's watching Billy the Mountain.
Now Billy has this large cliff for a jaw, and when he talks the cliff goes up and down, and clouds of brown smoke puff out, and rocks and boulders hack up, and he (Studebaker Hawk) sees the new brown clouds coming out of Billy's mouth and he sings about it because he becomes worried about the implications of brown clouds in terms of the ecology. He gets on the phone to informed Sources in Washington DC. and finds that the line is busy.
Meanwhile, all these disasters keep happening in the Mid-West. On his way. Billy gets hungry, and he eats a diner. You know what a diner is? Well in the United States they have these restaurants that are made out of old street cars, and he eats one. He sees it's got all this rancid food in it so he eats the whole street car—all the stale lemon pies and bacon drips, he eats the cash register and the chlorophyll lozenges and gum displayed nearby.
But as he's walking, he finds that it's interfered with his delicate granite intestinal membranes, causing severe gas, fire, and molten lava, and Billy the Mountain becomes Billy the Volcano, about the time he gets to Indiana. He's vomiting all these melted chrome diner appliances all over the countryside.
By this time Studebaker Hawk has finally gotten a call through to his informed sources in Washington, and he meets a character called Little Emil, who gives him a code, and when Studebaker Hawk manages to figure out the code he discovers that the Government wants him to stop the rampaging volcano.
And the way they want him to stop it is by sneaking up on it with a special new bomb which will not only destroy the volcano but it'll wipe out the middle of the United States to a width of about a thousand miles. And this upsets him because he thinks of the long range ecological consequences of such a disaster.
So he thinks to himself that there must be some mistake, that the computer in the Pentagon must have gone apeshit, because their rationale for doing this, as explained by the code, is you can go ahead and blow up the Mid-West because those dumb f-king farmers will never know the difference. That's what the computer print-out had said. So he gets suspicious, and he refuses to obey his orders and calls Washington back, and says he has another better way to stop Billy the Mountain.
And the rest of the story is the part I don't want to give away, because it's what Studebaker Hawk's plan is, and who Little Emil really is, because he doesn't work for the Government, he owns it."
. . . their voices echoing through the canyons of your minds (POO-AAH!)
The first noteworthy piece of real estate they destroyed was EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE . . .
And TO THIS VERY DAY, 'Wing Nuts' and Data Reduction Clerks alike, speak in reverent whispers about that fateful night when TEST STAND #1 and THE ROCKET SLED ITSELF . . .
Actually, "wingnuts" are Air Force guys.
Now, some folks say he looked like
Consider this rumor, which was published about three weeks ago in ROLLING STONE!
(Oh, it's gotta be true!)
I have nothing but bad things to say about Rolling Stone, I think it's the pits. They certainly haven't done me any favors. And I think if what they've done to my reputation and the way in which they treat the work that I do is consistent throughout the magazine for the way that they write about other people, then I don't think anybody is getting a fair shake from them. It's an extremely biased publication. And the one thing that sticks out to me when I read it is it's got this very parochial, extremely San Francisco, Marin County, Bay Area consciousness where anything that does not originate from that area is substandard. And I think that's fake.
Right beside ELLIOT ROBERTS' big Bank Book
Elliot Roberts (born Elliot Rabinowitz on February 22, 1943) is an American music manager, record executive, and philanthropist, best known for helping start the careers of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.
To THE CAN
Where Neil Young slipped another disc
The only pop music that's played around the house a lot is Neil Young because my wife and kids like that and I enjoy it too.
Howard and I cut a record not too long ago, a demonstration record, just for fun, under the auspicious name of a group called "Studebaker Hawk," and we gave it to [Marc] Bolan, and they were gonna have it released on Fly.
He overdubbed some guitars, and Mickey played some congas, everyone clapped along.
Where can I go to get my poodle clipped in Burbank?
Eddie, my friends ask me, Eddie, Eddie, are you kidding? I wanna tell you something, my friends, I am not kidding. Here at Zachary All we have sixty tailors in the back room. We have the west's largest selections of portly's, regulars, longs, extra longs, and cadets.
C: Is "Eddy Are You Kidding Me?" a satire on the great American rip-off?
Z: No. It's about a specific commercial in Los Angeles, and a guy named Eddie, from a store called Zachary All, and it's almost word for word of his commercial on the television.
C: So the truth hurts?
I think you know that "Eddie are you kidding" was created as a parody of the commercials that were running on TV in LA at the time. It usually started with Howard, Jeff and I asking Frank whether he had seen the spots and if he hadn't we would reproduce the commercial live for him. It always made Frank laugh watching us performing the spot live and it would be a matter of time that he would conjure up a song for us to perform. He would throw it all together, the song, the story and our live acting and we had it.
Eddie was the owner of a Clothing Store and he did the Zachary All commercial staring yes (you guessed it) a guy named Eddie who pitched the cheap clothier just the way you hear it. I believe John Seiter from The Turtles happened to be at the rehearsal with us and he was part of the songwriting or performance that day. That song, like many was a constant work in progress growing every night and never really performed the same way.
Back in the late-60's-early '70's it was nearly impossible to turn the TV on without seeing his commercials.
"Well, I was going to name the store Clothing Co-Op, but a lawyer told us since we didn't give back a portion of the profits to customers, we couldn't do that. So, I was sitting around, and I liked the actor Zachary Scott, but you can't just use someone's name. So I said I liked the detergent 'All.' You know, it does it all. So I named the store Zachary All."
In the Bizarre Production offices on Wilshire Boulevard, right next to and several floors above a clothing store called Zachary All [...].
"Magdalena" is not a true story but it could have happened.
Once upon a time Howard Kaylan himself was kind enough to clarify
I WROTE THOSE WORDS... THERE WASN'T A REAL STORY... SEE, THESE ARE JUST "SONGS".
Presumably, Howard also came up with the music to the main verse ("There once was a man..."). There's a tape of the Mothers on WABX (Detroit) performing J. R. R. Tolkien's "The Man In The Moon Came Down Too Soon" to that tune on 5/25/71.
The first known performance of "Magdalena" as such is from another radio broadcast, on CHOM (Montreal), which probably dates from 7/5/71.
The first known performance of "Magdalena" in an actual concert is from 8/7/71 Los Angeles (the JABFLA version).
Have you noticed the similarity between Magdalena from Just Another Band and the 4th movement of Stravinski's Violin Concerto in D? More specifically the start of each verse, vs the start of each section.
And threw her up
Against the wall
Magdalena . . .
Blue Cross—long time health care insurance provider. Not sure what the reference means here.
I work so hard, don't you understand
Making maple syrup for the pancakes of our land
Maple syrup was first collected and used by indigenous people of North America. [...] Quebec, Canada is by far the largest producer, making about three-quarters of the world's output.
We can go dancing up at the Cinegrill
Can't you see it, Frank Parnell and us, until dark
Parnell, by the way, was a music director on the Rosemary Clooney TV show.
Magdalena is a great song!
Apart from hosting an appearance from Stravinsky's violin concerto in D minor, Magdalena:
1. is about a young woman (teenage, but definitely not a kiddie) who is not passive victim (and FZ is supportive of her active response):
But the girl turned around
And said: "Go eat shit!"
And ran on down the hall.
Right on, Magdalena!
2. is clearly about a father who has been alienated from his social context by his economic position (and so is a wonderful bit of socio-economic critique by FZ):
I work so hard,
Don't you understand,
Making maple syrup
For the pancakes of our land.
Do you have any idea?
What that can do to a man?
What that can do to a man?
Do you have any idea?
What that can do to a man?
What that can do to a man?
3. is about a young woman who has allowed herself to be sexualised (and so alienated from her non-sexual childhood) by the economy, aided by her misguided mother:
And a teenage daughter
With a see-thru blouse
Who loved to grunt and ball-
And her name was Magdalena
I want you to walk back in your five inch spike heels that you got at Frederick's
same time you and your mommy got that crotchless underwear last year for Christmas
My point is that Magdalena is not about kiddie-fiddling or even a sad case of a person who indulges in repeated cases of kiddle-fiddling.
I think it's about a social disaster perpetuated on humans by their socio-economy. FZ thought it was a social disaster.
Further, I read FZ as suggesting that there are solutions:
1. parents/society can teach kiddies to be aware of the risk of kiddie fiddling by relatives and encourage kiddies to be active in rejecting kiddie fiddling attempts.
2. the socio-economy needs to be changed. Sexualisation of kiddies, for the benefit of advertisers and manufacturers, can be rejected. Exploitative employment, bastardising the mind of employees, can be rejected—but probably only by restructuring the socio-economy.
Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos