What I wanted to do is put out a twelve-record set. Then we did a cost breakdown on doing that and in order to press 10,000 of each of the twelve records, plus coverage—it would come to about a quarter of a million dollars. Now anybody who would invest a quarter of a million dollars in any Mothers of Invention project on a record level has got to be desperate. So we just tossed that one into the garbage can.
What I've been doing is ripping up the twelve albums, which were already edited—I had them ready to go. Chopping them up and I put together a new album called Weasels Ripped My Flesh—the cover of which is right here. So Weasels Ripped My Flesh is an all-live album. Most of the music on it—I'd say 80% of it—is group improvisation not just accompaniment with solos, but where the group was conducted into a spontaneous piece of music.
The last old Mothers album, Weasels Ripped My Flesh, was, [FZ] says, in the nature of a sampler of all the material he also doesn't have the money to put out.
NEON PARK was working as a poster artist with the Family Dog, a San Francisco design group, when he got a call from Frank Zappa asking him to come down to Los Angeles. Zappa had seen the drawings Park had done for a group called Dancing Food and wanted him to paint the jacket for the next Mothers of Invention record. At their meeting, Zappa showed Park a magazine cover. "It was one of those men's magazines like "Saga"," says Park.
"The cover story was 'Weasels Ripped My Flesh' and it was the adventure of a guy, naked to the waist, who was in water. The water was swarming with weasals, and they were all kind of climbing on him and biting him. So Frank said, 'This is it. What can you do that's worse than this?' And the rest is history."
Park's painting, for which he was paid $250, almost didn't see the light of day. Zappa butted heads with Warner Bros. over its suitability for release. "Evidently," says Park, "there was quite a confrontation that occurred over this cover. It wasn't up to their standards." Even after Warner Bros. finally consented to use it, there were problems. "The printer was greatly offended," says Park. "The girl who worked for him, his assistant, she wouldn't touch the painting. She wouldn't pick it up with her hands." Zappa and Park, meanwhile were tickled silly by the brouhaha: "I was greatly amused by the cover, and so was Frank," says Park. I mean, we giggled alot."
Eight months after Weasels Ripped My Flesh, the title story of Man's Life was Chewed To Bits By Giant Turtles.
Read all about it—and download the whole story—at Men's Adventures Magazines.
The cover story of True Men (8/57) was Flying Rodents Ripped My Flesh! See.
I think Vampires Ripped My Flesh (Man's Life, 3/56) has already been mentioned here.
Starting in 1969, Dick Kunc, who was the engineer on some of the early albums, built this little James Bond suitcase recording apparatus. He built a briefcase. He took a couple of Shure mixers, and packed it all in there, and we had a Uher, about this big, 7-1/2 ips. He accompanied us on part of the U.S. tour that year, and would sit in the corner of the room with earphones on and try to do a mix on whatever we were doing. I mean, it was impossible, but there are tapes. The first volume of You Can't Do That Onstage was mostly that. Those kind of tapes from the 1969 band.
To make remote recordings in those days, Dick [Kunc] had a Shure eight-channel mixer remounted in a briefcase. He could sit in a corner at a live gig with earphones on and adjust the levels, and have the outputs of the briefcase mixer feeding a Uher portable tape recorder.
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.
There was one amazing road recording experience, I think it was 1969. The Mothers were going on an East-coast tour, and those of us who were not going, which included me, drove everybody else to L.A. airport. A couple days went by and I got a call from Frank saying, "I've changed my mind, I want you to come and record the rest of this tour." I said, "Frank, you may not have noticed but we don't have any equipment!" He said, "I know—just buy what you need and put it together." To him it was buy a screwdriver and a pair of pliers and that's it—you're off, what else do you need? So he said, "Fly to Miami. Herbie will take care of all the financing—just tell what you need. Fly to Miami and buy all the stuff—assemble it into a recording package, and we'll meet you there and you'll go on the rest of the tour with us."—which was by bus.
So off I went to Miami, which was my old stomping ground so that wasn't too bad. In Miami I bought a Uher five-inch-reel battery-operated two-track stereo with a one-piece stereo microphone which we used on the road a lot, mainly on the bus and in all those hotels and motels. You need to ask Bunk Gardner about an epic field recording he made with it in Miami with the help of a nurse named Peggy, a work entitled "Right There, Bunk!" Anyway, it was an amazing little machine. Many miles of recordings done on that machine ended up in various albums—the quality was that good!
For Monitoring I bought a Dynaco preamp and a Dynaco power amp, which were kits, so I had to build them. I also bought some KLH-6 speakers which were in vogue at the time, a couple of Shure mixers, and about ten microphones ranging from some medium-priced Sony condensers down to a bunch of Shure and various other brand dynamics. It was a selection designed to handle everything from vocals to bass drums.
I flew to Miami and bought all this stuff, plus a few basic tools with which to build it. I took it all to my motel room and over the next two days I built all the Dynaco kit stuff. No way to test it, of course; it just had to be right.
Now the one missing ingredient was a microphone cable "snake" that would reach from whatever back room I would be in, out onto the stage where we'd place our microphones. So I bought a ton of shielded balanced cable, Belden 8451 I think it's called, and made a snake that accommodated ten microphones—the whole thing being a hundred feet long. So that's a total of ten one-hundred-foot lengths of cable with Cannon connectors on both ends—a lot of cutting and a lot of soldering. All this measuring out the ten one-hundred-foot lengths had to be done in my dinky little hotel room, and of course there were none of those nice nylon cable ties to bundle it all together. I ended up lacing the ten lines together with string, which worked great but looked like something done by a stoned marionette. With this instant portable studio we recorded whole concerts in Miami, Philadelphia, the Fillmore East, Boston, Yale in Connecticut—a whole bunch of cities. That tour went from city to city on a Greyhound bus driven by a guy named Jake. He was the company's "stunt driver" and had made some TV spots doing "donuts" with a Greyhound SemiCruiser! Jake was cool. He fit right in, and we were glad to have him along. But that's another story.
DIDJA GET ANY ONYA was recorded live at the Philadelphia Arena.
According to Courier (2002) the title of the opening track on Weazels Ripped my Flesh (Zappa 1970) 'Didja get on ya' is a [Lenny] Bruce routine, which also becomes a line in Thing Fish.
|Reprise LP (1970)||Zappa Records CD (1990)|
DIRECTLY FROM MY HEART TO YOU was cut at T.T.G. in Hollywood.
[Roy Estrada] didn't think it was him playing bass on Directly From My Heart To You.
PRELUDE TO THE AFTERNOON OF A SEXUALLY AROUSED GAS MASK was recorded live at Festival Hall in London.
Chemistry was my first interest. My father used to bring home whatever he could steal from his job at the Edgewood Medical Center (Maryland) and I would experiment with it. Edgewood is where the government manufactured poison gas for the war, and because of that everybody had to own and know how to use gas masks. That was my other toy.
[...] Being a naturally curious person, I punctured the canister in the gas mask. I used to run around with it on my head. I thought it was a space helmet.
In those days they were making mustard gas at Edgewood and each member of the family had a gas mask hanging in the closet in case the tanks broke. That was really my main toy at that time. That was my space helmet. I decided to get a can opener and open it up.
It satisfied my scientific curiosity but it rendered the gas mask useless. My father was so upset when he found out . . . he said, "If the tanks break, who doesn't get the mask?" It was Frankie up the creek.
There were tanks of mustard gas within a mile of where we lived, so everybody in this housing project had to have a gas mask in the house, for each member of the family.
Mustard gas explodes the vessels in your lungs, causing you to drown in your own blood.
We had a rack at the end of the hall with a family's worth of masks on it. I used to wear mine out in the backyard all the time—it was my space helmet. One day I decided to find out how it worked, so I took a can opener and opened up the filter (thereby ruining it). In any event, I found out what was inside it—charcoal, paper filters and different layers of crystals, including, I think, potassium permanganate.
I was curious as to what was in that can, see? So at six years old I popped open a gas mask. Thereby disabling it; but it made it much more fun to play with, because once you got the can off, the hose was much more, er, mobile. The can weighed about a pound, so without it it was much better for a kid to play with.
So that was my space helmet. I used to play with it in the coal bin that was in back of the house. It was like a large wooden bin with a lid on it, which served as a spaceship.
One of the Zappateers (The Bastard Son, I think) has identified the ending of Gas Mask on WRMF as coming from the circulating Miami February 69 show—I think it is right before the second part of Toads.
Blow your harmonica, son . . .
|Royal Festival Hall, London, UK, October 25, 1968 (early show)||Miami, FL, February 8, 1969||Reprise LP (1970) (timing approximate)||Zappa Records CD (1990)|
|14. Gas Mask||10. Improvisations||3. Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Sexually Aroused Gas Mask||3. Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Sexually Aroused Gas Mask|
The first part of TOADS OF THE SHORT FOREST was cut at Whitney Studios in Glendale. The second half [...] was recorded at Thee Image in Miami.
Name and Address of Place of Engagement
LIVE AT THEE IMAGE
MAY 17, 1968
No. of Minutes
TITLES OF TUNES
TOADS OF THE SHORT FOREST
UNDERWOOD, IAN R.
GARDNER, JOHN L.
ESTRADA, ROY R.
JIMMYMR JAMES C.
TRIPP, ARTHUR D.
PRESTON, DONALD W.
The Mothers of Invention were recording the concert for the album: "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" (The Last Drawing in my Sketch Book . . . ) Frank, wearing a "Plaster Caster" T-shirt, played my request: "Trouble Every Day."
|Miami, FL, February 8, 1969||Zappa Records CD (1990)|
|10. Improvisations||4. Toads Of The Short Forest|
GET A LITTLE was recorded live at the Factory in the Bronx.
I found this recording session contract where confirms that "Get A Little" was recorded on Feb. 28, 1969 at The Factory-NYC.
This was, unfortunately, our only opportunity to perform in The Bronx. Considering our repertoire at the time, contrasted with what was on the radio as "good music", we found this night club audience to be fairly receptive. There is another cut from this show on YCDTOSA Volume Four.
I found a couple of references by Bronx residents to the fact that the same club had been known as The Factory and as Fantasy East. The name change must have taken place between February 1969 (when the MOI played The Factory) and October 1969 (when Dr. John played Fantasy East).
The club was located at 4653 White Plains Rd. at 241st St.
The spring tour of 1969 was a bus tour. It was cold and miserable. Many of the venues we were performing in were small and "unfashionable." This rare recording finds the Mothers playing a bar in The Bronx, for an audience that probably would have preferred The Vanilla Fudge.
When we worked at this music fair out in Long Island, we were the opening act for the Vanilla Fudge. 1968, I think it was. I remember this one guy out in the audience—it was the Weatbury Music Fair—and the quote was [loud and belligerent], "Youse guys stink! Bring on the Fudge!"
That cracked everyone up and was the subject of infinite days and nights of humor for years to come.
ERIC DOLPHY MEMORIAL BARBECUE was cut at A&R Studios in New York.
DWARF NEBULA PROCESSIONAL MARCH AND DWARF NEBULA was cut at Apostolic Studios in New York.
"Dwarf Nebula" started off as a piano exercise. During the time we were doing Uncle Meat, I was working with an engineer [Richard Kunc], who was real cooperative, just trying to do any kind of weird thing we asked him to do. During the 60s, who knew what was right? "Let's try this. Plug it in backwards and see what happens." So we were dealing with different types of short-term distortion, and he built a little box with three pushbuttons; we called it the Apostolic Blurch Injector. And we took various tracks of different types of material and cranked them up into the distortion range and then by poking the buttons you'd get these little rhythmic bursts of white noise, brown noise, pink noise, and gray noise—in a rhythm that you'd select. But instead of being derived from a noise generator on a synthesizer, it was completely distorted voices, instruments, percussion, whatever. We cranked off reams and reams of tape of this kind of material, and that was intercut with the piano exercise.
MY GUITAR WANTS TO KILL YOUR MAMA is the original version from Criteria Studios in Miami with final overdubs at T.T.G. and Whitney.
OH NO [...] was cut at Apostolic Studios in New York.
At the time I was living in a part of town called Echo Park [...] I wrote "Brain Police," "Oh No, I Don't Believe It," "Hungry Freaks," "Bowtie Daddy," and five or six others.
[...] I was just sitting in the kitchen at the Bellevue Avenue house and I was working on "Oh No, I Don't Believe It," which didn't have lyrics at the time . . .
The composition came first. And the "Oh No" lyrics were written in response to the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love."
THE ORANGE COUNTY LUMBER TRUCK was recorded live at Festival Hall.
Brian [Wilson] had come by my place in Santa Monica after a session at Brother Studio, (he & Dennis both loved playing this upright that my Grandma had given me, that I trucked out from Brooklyn), and, after he finished playing for awhile, I asked him if he'd heard this track of Zappa's that I loved, called "The Orange County Lumber Truck." He slipped on my headphones, but after a matter of seconds, he ripped them from his head and screamed, "Aaargh, devil music!"
WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH was recorded live at a concert in Birmingham (England).
Additional informant: Javier Al FrescoResearch, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos