Mother’s Day Has Finally Come
by Jerry Hopkins
Frank Zappa, "tired of playing for people who clap for all the wrong reasons", has dissolved his Mothers of Invention. The first indication that the revolutionary nine-member band was approaching the end of its musical career came with an announcement that the Mothers had cancelled all bookings from now until the end of the year so Zappa could concentrate on other projects long in progress. A talk with Zappa revealed the break was more complete than that.
"It all started in Charlotte, North Carolina", he said. "We'd been booked by George Wein on a jazz concert date as bait to get the teenaged audience. We went into a 30,000 capacity auditorium with a 30-watt public address system, it was 95 degrees and 200 percent humidity, with a thunderstorm threatening. It was really horrendous. After that I had a meeting with the group and told them what I thought about the drudgery of grinding it out on the road. And then I came back to LA and worked on HOT RATS (an upcoming solo album). Then we did one more tour - eight days in Canada. After that I said fuck it. I like to play, but I just got tired of beating my head against the wall. I got tired of playing for people who clap for all the wrong reasons. I thought it time to give the people a chance to figure out what we’ve done already before we do any more". The last live Mothers performance was in Montreal. The last 'otherwise' performance was a television show in Ottawa the following night - August 18th and 19th.
Which is not to say the Mothers are completely dead. The band will not be performing, or recording, as a group, but they will be seen on film. Three short films are now complete - two of them documentaries from Germany - and a fourth is in the works. All these, Zappa said, will be offered to colleges as a package in lieu of live performance, probably beginning in late Fall. Zappa also said he had recorded material for a dozen full length LPs on the shelf in his Hollywood Hills home, records he hopes to release through a Mothers Of Invention Record Club, now being planned. The albums cover the band’s five-year development and were recorded on tour (in Europe as well as throughout North America) and in studios stretching from Los Angeles to New York. Meanwhile, the individual members of the band are making plans of their own. Jimmy Carl Black, the drummer known as "the Indian in the group", for example, has formed a band (as yet unnamed) and already has begun preliminary recording, while Don Preston, one of the Mothers' keyboard men, has gone to New York to work with a company that combines dance with electronic music. At the same time, Zappa has holed up in his basement workshop to concentrate on:
1. Captain Beefheart vs. The Grunt People! This is a feature-length film, presently in script form, written by Zappa in 1964. Zappa said that thanks in part to Easy Rider and the Woodstock Music & Art Fair - "two of several things finally showing the youth market really means business" - three major studios have made offers to back the flick. Zappa also said that if anyone had shown interest in the film five years ago, he would never have played rock and roll. His "ideal cast" includes parts for, among others, Don Van Vliet, who is better known as Captain Beefheart, an old high school chum of Zappa's; Chester Burnett, better known as Howlin' Wolf, several of the Mothers of Invention, and Grace Slick.
2. An unnamed weekly television show. For this a major deal is imminent, too, he said, but details could not be discussed. He did say, however, the program would be a "music show" and not a talk or interview show.
3. Continued activity in production of records for his own Bizarre and Straight record company labels. This includes final editing of the debut LP for the GTOs, recording of the second Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band LP for Straight, and final work on a new Mothers album called BURNT WEENY SANDWICH, which relates to an 18 minute film just completed. (This film would be one of the four offered the colleges.) Zappa has additionally produced an album by Jean-Luc Ponty, an electric violinist from France, and has completed his own solo guitar debut, HOT RATS, to be released by Bizarre and distributed by Reprise in October.
4. Supervision of planning the Mothers of Invention Record Club, which he said he hoped would be announced in (get ready) Playboy magazine. "Those are the people who need to listen to us most", he explained, adding that Mo Ostin, president of Reprise, was "working on it". The titles of the 12 LPs are Before The Beginning, The Cucamonga Era, Show And Tell, What Does It All Mean, Rustic Protrusion, Several Boogie, The Merely Entertaining Mothers Of Invention Record, The Heavy Business Record, Soup And Old Clothes, Hotel Dixie, The Orange County Lumber Truck, and The Weasel Music.
Zappa mentioned one final project. He said he might be accompanying Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band to Europe in October - not as a musician, but as road manager.