The Complete History Of The Few Last Weeks Of The Mothers Of Invention
The Complete History of Last Week's Mothers of Invention/Hot Rats/Grand Wazoo
[This article was found under the above alternative title in the Internet vicinity of Charles Ulrich and Bill Lantz.]
Frank Zappa wrote this as a future piece of history some weeks back, but the mails being what they are, Circular did not receive the article until after the tour he was about to begin then was already over.
But everybody figured it'd be worth reprinting anyway, since it might shed light (and Lord knows that's what we need to do around here at Warner Bros.) on the Mother's next album, The Grand Wazoo, scheduled for Nov. 5 release.
Not so, said Frank when Circular called him.
The album called The Grand Wazoo was recorded around the time when Waka Jawaka was done and embodies a different line up of musicians than the eventual touring Wazoo group. On top of that, the material in The Grand Wazoo album is different from the material performed by the touring Wazoo.
There is no record company hard goods justification for reprinting this prospectus at this time.
The never-say-die Circular staff is doing it anyway on the grounds that Frank Zappa is a too seldom published writer and that the following words have some bearing on the current and recent doings of Zappa and his Mothers.
As a pertinent aside, Zappa is readying a new set of Mothers for a tour extending from the end of October through mid-November during which he expects to be playing more guitar than in the previous tours.
This current Mothers line-up is Jim Gordon, drums; Dave Parlato, bass; Tony Duran, slide guitar; Malcolm McNab, tuba; Sal Marquez, trumpet; Bruce Fowler, trombone; Glenn Ferris, trombone; Tom Malone, trumpet; Earle Dumler, oboe, E Flat contrabass sarrusophone.
Dates currently set for the next Mothers' tour are as follows:
10/27 Montreal Forum; 10/28 Syracuse War Memorial (N.Y.); 10/29, Binghamton, N.Y., Harper College; 10/31, Passaic, N.J., Capitol Theatre; 11/1, Waterbury, Conn., Palace Theatre; 11/3, Richmond, Va., Syria Mosque; 11/4, Charlotte, N.C., Park Center Arena; 11/10, Philadelphia, University of Penna., Irvine Aud.; 11/I1, Washington, D.C., Constitution Hall; 11/12, Providence, R.I., Palace Theatre.
Since the earliest days of the M.O.I. (from about 1964, roughly), I have been interested in assembling some kind of electric orchestra, capable of performing intricate compositions at the same sound intensity levels normally associated with other forms of pop music. The formation of the new MOTHERS OF INVENTION/HOT RATS/GRAND WAZOO represents the first large-scale attempt to mount such a monstrosity, and to actually move it across a couple of continents to do concerts.
The WAZOO DEBUT will occur at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday, September 10, 1972. On the 13th of September, the Wazoo will depart for Berlin, London, The Hague, Copenhagen, New York City, and Boston, making a final return to Los Angeles on the 25th, having played a total of eight performances for its first concert season.
If this initial season proves itself to be anything less than a financial disaster (as the production and travel costs are extremely high for a group of this size), the Wazoo will reorganize for another concert tour next summer. In any event, the Wazoo will be ceremoniously disbanded after the Boston concert. Immediately upon return to LA, rehearsals will begin for still another kind of Mothers of Invention ... a 10 piece group playing a completely different repertoire, with its own concert tour booked for the end of October in the U.S. and Canada. But, meanwhile, a few more specifics about the Wazoo.
Every "new" group (and, occasionally, a few of the older ones) will issue some kind of proclamation explaining the fantastic potential delights resultant from exposure to their impending unique material, ingenious stage craft, and/or their groovy vibes. This is usually accompanied by descriptions of the wonderful freedom shown by the group in performance, and assorted stuff about how everybody in the group loves what they're doing, and what a nice wholesome bunch of lads they are ... or maybe they're not wholesome ... maybe they're tough and degenerate (but, of course, beneath it all, each fellow is exquisitely talented and in possession of a Golden Heart w/matching Soul, as indicated by the pained, innocent, troubled, searching facial expressions in the Group Photo). I make none of these claims on behalf of the Wazoo.
Such a hypothetical merchandising proclamation would probably include a paragraph or two about how nobody in the group really cares about money, followed closely by a carefully worded testimonial regarding the "new" group's Urgent Commitment to make the world a better place to live in, through their music (which is Sensitive and unutterably Deep ... or maybe it's just for singing along with, or grooving behind, or designed to inflict upon the fortunate listener some incomprehensible amount of Energy ... or whatever). For those interested, the MOTHERS OF INVENTION/HOT RATS/GRAND WAZOO is offering (for a limited time only) a musical alternative to the previously described manifestations of Green Limousine Consciousness. To begin with, the Wazoo bears little resemblance to any previous form of rock and roll band. There are twenty musicians in it who mostly sit down and read music from an array of charming little fiber-board stands. Nobody sings. Nobody dances. They just play music.
THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION/HOT RATS/GRAND WAZOO starting line-up
Frank Zappa: guitar and white stick with cork handle
Tony Duran: slide guitar
Ian Underwood: piano and synthesizer
Dave Parlato: bass
Jerry Kessler: electric cello
Jim Gordon: electric drums
Mike Altschul: piccolo, bass clarinet and other winds
Jay Migliori: flute, tenor sax and other winds
Earle Dumler: oboe, contrabass sarrusophone and other winds
Ray Reed: clarinet, tenor sax and other winds
Charles Owens: soprano sax, alto sax and other winds
Joann McNab: bassoon
Malcolm McNab: trumpet in D
Sal Marquez: trumpet in Bb
Tom Malone: trumpet in Bb, also tuba
Glenn Ferris: trombone and euphonium
Kenny Shroyer: trombone and baritone horn
Bruce Fowler: trombone of the upper atmosphere
Tom Raney: vibes and electric percussion
Ruth Underwood: marimba and electric percussion
We will play the same concert program for each of the eight events. The pieces include: "The New Brown Clouds," "Big Swifty," "Approximate," "For Calvin and His Next Two Hitch-Hikers," "Think It Over," "Low-Budget Dog Meat (a medley)," "The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary," and, for an encore (because everybody prepares an encore whether they talk about it or not), "Penis Dimension" and the "Variant Processional March." All of the compositions include space for solo improvisations except "Low Budget Dog Meat" which presents an assortment of recognizable themes from "Music For Low Budget Symphony Orchestra," "The Dog Breath Variations" and "Uncle Meat."
The concert presentation will be informal, reasonably straightforward, and non-theatrical, as very few of the Wazoo's members exhibit the normal pop musician's ability to function efficiently while garbed in fringes, feathers, or festoons. Since clothing for the stage is left to the individual performer's discretion, the public image of the Wazoo might be classified somewhere between drab and non-existent.
Those in the audience who make a fetish of close-range seats in order to scrutinize a group's soul-squint/grimace potential (to see if they're really getting into it) may be disappointed to discover the generalized Wazoo eyeball heavily oriented to the printed page and conductor's baton. Our one concession to overt showmanship is the placement of Earle Dumler in the front row of the woodwind section, making it possible for the first time to view a grown man with a mod hair cut, struggling against the forces of nature to extract accurate intonation from an amplified Eb Contrabass Sarrusophone.
In stark contrast to the legends which surround the formation of your average "super group" [Heavy Friends Get It Together, Cosmically Relate and Thunder Forth to Share Corporate Mystical Magnificence with Unsuspecting Customers of the World], the history of our humble Wazoo is A Grown Man Battles Natural Forces to Get the Right Tones from an E-Flat Contrabass Sarrusophone. 1 3 almost boring. I wanted to find some horns to play in the band so I called a trombone player I worked with during the recording of the Lumpy Gravy album. His name was, and apparently continues to be, Kenny Shroyer.
Kenny became the Wazoo's musical contractor. With a rumpled copy of the Local 47 Musicians Union Directory in one hand and a telephone in the other, Shroyer managed to fill most of the empty chairs by crooning into the receiver such memorable lines as: "Are you interested?", "Can you read these charts?", "Do you have time to rehearse?", and the perennial favorite "Are you free to travel?"
As a result of Shroyer's flawless diplomacy, the Wazoo may earn its niche in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame simply for being the only "new" group in pop history that knows from in front they won't be as big as the Beatles, has a reasonable idea of what the complete span of their "career" will pay them, and is thoroughly aware of the precise time and place designated for the "breaking up of the group" (right after the Show in the dressing room of Boston's Music Hall, September 24, 1972).
About the Music
1. "The New Brown Clouds"
This piece should actually be the last thing on the program, since it is the final movement of "The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary." It is presented first for several reasons:
[a] It's not bad as an opener.
[b] You never heard "The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary" before, so you wouldn't be bothered if this wasn't at the end of it (and I'm not fussy about it).
[c] There's a crumpled version of the theme from "Billy The Mountain" in the beginning which might provide some form of conceptual link to our last concert here (if you go for stuff like that).
[d] This is the first "tune" the Wazoo learned, so, from a nostalgic point of view, it might as well be the first thing you hear us play. For further information, consult the program notes for "The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary"
2. "Big Swifty"
This piece (which comprises all of Side One of the HOT RATS Waka/Jawaka album) presents a theme in rapidly alternating time signatures, a few solos, and an out-chorus done up in a sort of Prom Night orchestration which suspends the opening rhythmic structure over a straight 4/4 accompaniment.
The restatement of the theme is actually derived from a guitar solo on the album which Sal Marquez took down on paper. After about an hour of wheeling the tape back and forth, Sal managed to transcribe this rhythmically deranged chorus (I don't have the ability to do this kind of musical dictation, but, since Marquez had a full-bore education at North Texas University, he had it covered). After he'd written it out, we proceeded to over-dub three trumpets on it, and, presto! An organized conclusion for "Big Swifty."
The arrangement played here presents that line in a harmonized setting, as well as a number of orchestrational refinements of the opening material (such as the addition of woodwinds and percussion to segments which, on the recording, were played by guitars and trumpets). 'It's not "just like the record," but you'll get the idea.
In this selection, the choice of the pitches played by each musician is left up to him (or her). There are only a few bars in the whole piece where a pitch is specified (and those bars are installed for contrast). The rest of the sheet music is filled with note stems and braces connected to little "X" marks, indicating by their position on the staff the approximate register of the instrument in which they are to occur. The players are requested to adhere to the rhythmic schematic which organizes the time-space relationships between the bunches of "X's." This piece can be played by any number of musicians from four pieces upwards. The overall design presents a single duplicated part for all instruments in C or F (including percussion), which interlocks with another single duplicated part for all instruments in Bb or Eb. The electric bass and drum set each have separate parts which combine the rhythms of the other two parts.
4. "For Calvin and His Next Two Hitch-Hikers"
This is dedicated to Calvin Schenkel, a long-time friend who has been responsible to a large extent for anything graphic/visual associated with the M.O.I. (from album covers to billboards to the animated sequence in 200 Motels).
There are lyrics to this piece (which has already been recorded and is set for a fall release in the impending Grand Wazoo album), but we are performing an instrumental version for these concerts. The story depicted in the lyrics refers to a mysterious "Schenkel Mirage" which occurred while he was driving to work. The details are a bit deep, but perhaps you can use your imagination and extrapolate a situation from the text:
Where did they go?
Where did they come from?
What has become of them now?
How much was the leakage
From the drain in the night
And who are those dudes
In the back seat of Calvin's car?
What did they do
When they got off the car?
Did they go get a sandwich
And eat in the dark?
What did they do
With the waxed-paper bundles
When the sandwiches vanished
And the crumbs fell all over?
Where did they go?
Where did they come from?
Where d'ya think they're gonna
5. "Think It Over"
(The Grand Wazoo)
About six weeks ago, I finished the book and lyrics for a science fiction musical called Hunchentoot (which may never be staged), and under the title "Think It Over," this piece is used as an aria, sung by a religious fanatic con man of the future, as an instruction to his Alpha-meditating followers:
If Something Gets in Your Way,
Just think it over
And it will fall down, etc.
But, as an instrumental item, it goes under the title-disguise of "The Grand Wazoo." It doesn't require too much in the way of scientific explanation. It's just a shuffle.
6. "Low-Budget Dog Meat."
This selection incorporates themes from three previously recorded pieces, "Music For Low-Budget Symphony Orchestra" (from the Jean-Luc Ponty album King Kong), "The Dog Breath Variations" and "Uncle Meat" (from the M.O.I. album Uncle Meat). This arrangement contains many difficult instrumental passages (some of which are not always played perfectly, but what the heck), notably: the high trombone part in the opening section, the material for electric piano and marimba in the second section, and the intricate theme of the last section which presents a few problems for everybody. Barring any unforseen problems in the sound mix, the high, quacking "D" trumpet of Malcolm McNab should amaze you through the latter portions of this.
7. "The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary"
Along with the original plans for the Uncle Meat movie, the legendary multi-record history of the ancient M.O.I., and, most recently, the Hunchentoot project, "The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary" must take its place over in the corner with the rest of the goodies that never quite escaped into the light of day.
This piece was originally designed as a ballet with narration and singing, based on the activities of a little pig belonging to an endangered species. Not much potential in that concept I guess.
This presentation contains no narration, no singing and no dancing. However, so you won't be too disoriented by what's left (the music), we provide herewith a simile of the original text design, complete up to the point where I quit working on it. We will, once again, leave it up to your very own imagination to hook it all up and make some sense out of it.
"The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary"
Scene One: GREGGERY'S APARTMENT
Greggery Peccary wakes up and climbs out of bed while the trendy posters on his wall sing to him ...
Trendy Posters: (singing)
Oh, here comes Greggery!
Little Greggery Peccary!
The nocturnal gregarious Wild swine ...
The narrator, in stiff 1890s garb, walks into the scene, assumes a formal pose and proclaims ...
Is a little pig
With a white collar
That usually hangs around
Between Texas and Paraguay
Sometimes ranging as far
west as Catalina
Greggery doesn't notice the narrator. He is busy adjusting his costume in front of a large mirror and daubing a seductive cologne on his neck.
This particular peccary, however
Is a prime specimen
Of that delightful endangered species
Which distinguishes itself
By markings which resemble a
Directly beneath the
Greggery prepares himself
A carefully coordinated ensemble ...
Takes a discerning peep
At a famous Rock and Roll Newspaper ...
And fortifies himself
With a cup of hot Yoga Tea
After which he dashes out to his
Fashionable red car
With the daisy stickers on it
And makes his way
Through the morning traffic
To his enviable position
In the Creative Department of
BIG SWIFTY AND ASSOCIATES ... Trend-Mongers
Music: GREGGERY THROUGH THE MORNING TRAFFIC
Scene Two: THE STENO POOL AT BIG SWIFTY'S
Greggery arrives at work and strolls through the Steno Pool, flaunting his snazzy wardrobe. The girls all agree that he has marvelous taste for being such a compact little swine, so, of course, they sing to him ....
Six Stenos: (singing)
Oh, here comes
Greggery Peccary [random giggles]
Little Greggery Peccary
Is going to have
A series Of adventures ...
Yes, from the moment they laid eyes on him,
All the girls in the BIG SWIFTY Steno Pool
KNEW ... Here was a Nocturnal
ON HIS WAY up!
A peccary of Destiny ...
Six Stenos: (squealing)
Greggery: (hoof raised in calming gesture)
There's enough for each and every one of you!
Before I might allow myself
To become emotionally embroiled
Near this water cooler
As I must plummet boldly forward
To my ULTRA-AVANT
With the strategically-placed
Imported, very hip water pipe
And the latest edition of the
WHOLE EARTH CATALOG
And activate my agile mind
Thereby unleashing a spectacular
To rejuvenate our limping economy
For bored, miserable people everywhere
Some great new
To identify with!
Six Stenos: [grateful applause]
And, so saying
Greggery Peccary turned
And strode splendidly
Into his office
With a vigor and determination
Known only to piglets
Of a similarly diminutive proportion
To single-handedly invent ...
Scene Three: GREGGERY INVENTS THE CALENDAR
With his eyes rolled heaven-ward, and his shiny little hoofs on the desk, Greggery ponders the question of Eternity (and fractional divisions thereof), as mysterious angelic voices sing to him from a great distance, providing the essential framework for his thrilling new Trend ...
Angelic Voices: (singing)
Narrator: And thus the calendar
In all of its colorful disguises
Was presented to
The bored and miserable people
Greggery issued a memo on it
Whereupon the entire contents of the Steno Pool
Identified with it strenuously
And worshipped it
And took their little pills by it
And paid their rent by it
And went back and forth from work by it
And before long, they were even having
Birthday parties in the office by it ...
Because NOW, AT LAST
Little Greggery's exciting new invention
Had made it possible
To find out
HOW OLD THEY WERE!
There were some people
Who simply did not wish to know ...
And that's why
On his way home from the office one night
Greggery was attacked
By a RAGE OF HUNCHMEN ...through the
Scene Four: GREGGERY IS ATTACKED
Making his way through the evening traffic, Greggery notices that the other vehicles which crowd and bump his little red car are all inhabited by slowly-aging Very Hip Young People. They cast sinister glances in his direction through their glinting acid burn out eyeballs. Then they give strong evidence of hostile aggression by trying to make him bump into something!
To elude them, Greggery takes the Short Forest exit off the expressway. They zoom after him in an ominous array of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and garishly painted buses.
Greggery turns off onto a bumpy trail and roars crazily up the side of a famous and conveniently placed mountain, into a strange cave on the, edge of a cliff, not far from a little twisted tree with eyes on it.
Meanwhile, the enraged Hunchmen (and Hunchwomen) rumble through the Short Forest until, realizing the little swine has escaped, they decide to park their steaming vehicles in circular pseudo-wagon train encampment, and have a Love-in. They mechanically perform an assortment of stereotyped Lewd Acts, and, alternately, meditate deeply and rip each other off for small items of personal property, after which they dance with depraved abandon to a six foot pile of communally-tuned transistor radios.
Scene Five: THE NEW BROWN CLOUDS
The Hunch-folk finally expire from exhaustion
Who has viewed the proceedings
From a safe distance,
Breathes a sigh of relief ...
Greggery: (hoof to forehead in gesture of relief) Geez! That was a close one!
... Only to be terrified once again
By a roar of immense laughter!
Billy the Mountain: (heartily) HO! HO! HO!
It seems to be grumbling up
From the very depths of the cave
In which he has hidden his car!
Greggery doesn't realize
He has concealed himself
Inside the very mouth of
BILLY THE MOUNTAIN!
And, as you all must know by now
Whenever BILLY laughs
Rocks and boulders tend to get
And the air for miles around
Is filled with tons of dust
Forming a series of huge
Billy the Mountain: (emphatically)
Greggery drives out of the
Into the Short Forest night
Pondering the cosmic
Of his dangerous experience
And the ominous dust storm ...
Greggery: (singing to himself)
Who is making
Those New Brown Clouds?
Who is making
Those clouds these days?
Who is making
Those New Brown Clouds?
Better ask a philostopher'n
see what he says!
Greggery stops at a gas station
And makes a mysterious phone
Greggery: (covering the receiver with handkerchief to muffle)
This the old loft
With the paint peelin' off it
By the Chinese Police
Where the dogs roll by?
This where they keep
The philostophers now
With the rugs'n the dust
Where the books go to die?
How many yez got?
Say yez got quite a few?
Just sittin' around there
With nothin' to do?
Well, I just called yez up
Cause I wanted t'see
A philostopher be of assistance
Scene Six: THE PHILOSTOPHER SPEAKS
Greggery receives information that
The Greatest Philostopher
Known to Mankind
Is currently in possession of the
Sought by the swine
And, moreover, this information could be his
(For an astonishingly low introductory fee)
If he were to attend one of the
special THERAPEUTIC GROUP ASSEMBLIES
Now forming ...
Two severe, middle-aged ladies enter. One is wearing a lorgnette.
And now ... here he IS ...
The GREATEST PHILOSTOPHER known to MANKIND ...
Lady #2: QUENTIN ROBERT DE NAMELAND!
The Greatest Philostopher Known to Mankind enters with a long blue robe on. He also has a tall pointed hat with Saturns, etc. on it.
As you can see for yourself
The way this CLOCK over here
TIME IS OF AFFLICTION ...
This may be cause for alarm
Among a portion of you, as
From a certain experience
I tend to proclaim ...
THE EONS ARE CLOSING!
[concerned mutterings from all in attendance]
Now what does this mean, precisely
To the layman?
MOMENTARILY, THE NEED FOR
THE CONSTRUCTION OF
NEW LIGHT WILL NO LONGER EXIST!
Of course, some of you will say:
"Who is HE to fell me from this LIGHT?"
But, in all seriousness, ladies and gentlemen
A quick glance at the erratic behavior
Of the large, precision-built
TIME-DELINEATING APPARATUS beside me
Will show that it is perhaps
Only a few moments now!
Just look how funny it's
Going around there!
Personally, I find mechanical behavior of this nature
To be Highly SUSPICIOUS!
When such a device
Doesn't go NORMAL
The implications of such a behavior
BODES NOT WELL!
And, quite naturally, ladies and gentlemen
When the mechanism in question
Is entrusted with the task of
The delineation of
TIME ITSELF ...
And If such a mechanism goes
ON THE BUM...
OR THE FRITZ...
It spells TROUBLE!
Make your checks payable to
The GREATEST PHILOSTOPHER known to MANKIND ...
QUENTIN ROBERT DE NAMELAND!
Both Ladies: (singing)
Who is making
Those New Brown Clouds
Who is making
Those clouds these days?
Who is making
Those New Brown Clouds?
If you ask a philostopher
He'll see that you pays!
Quentin: THANK YOU ... AND CALL AGAIN!
Greggery takes leave of the Therapeutic Assembly, only to discover the mysterious dust storm is still in progress ...
That geek has ripped me off!
Narrator: (confidentially to Greggery)
Perhaps it's a trend ...
This article was scanned from a Warner Brothers Circular from around October, 1972. Frank had apparently written it in approximately August of 1972 but the magazine didn't get around to publishing his article until The Grand Wazoo ensemble had finished touring. To their credit, they were aware of that and made an attempt to catch up with Frank was about to do with the scaled down Grand Wazoo, these days referred to as the Petite Wazoo. I fixed a few typos but probably not all. And sorry about the photos but my copy is only a xerox. I doubt they were very clear to begin with. I placed them where they fell in the actual article as well.
Thanks to Tom Manforte for supplying this rare article.