Mother Of Two Runs Off With Uncle Meat
Song Hits, September 1967
The most amazing, outrageous and ambitious rock and roll group anywhere in the universe is the Mothers. Their music, best appreciated in-person, combines today's pop sounds with symphonic music, satire, the primitive rock and roll songs of the 1950's, and social commentary, and you can even dance to it.
The Mothers were organized by Frank Zappa, an ex-advertising man who had been writing songs since he was fourteen and had experimented with abstract music. Using motivational research principles, Frank created a group unlike anything the world had ever seen. For one thing, they weren't seeking a "hit" record.
After convincing some rhythm and blues musicians he knew to become the Mothers and embark on a new musical venture, Frank and his friends starved for ten months. But gradually people came to see the weird new group that insulted the audience and did songs no one had ever heard before.
While playing at the Whisky A Go-Go in Hollywood, the Mothers caught the ear of MGM record producer, Tom Wilson. He heard them do their "Watts Riot Song," told them he'd record it, and left five minutes later, thinking they were just another rhythm and blues group.
At their first recording session, Tom found out what else the Mothers had in their repertoire and decided to do an album. Frank came up with some arrangements, and a 17-piece orchestra was added to the 5-man Mothers.
Most rock and roll albums cost around five thousand dollars to record. "Freak Out!" cost $21,000. It was released as a two-record-set-selling-for-the-price-of-one. The word spread through the underground and the album turned up on the best-seller charts.
The success of "Freak Out!" enabled Frank to carry out the next step in his carefully plotted, musical master plan.
"Our second album called 'Absolutely Free' is not exactly rock and roll. It's an oratorio. Each member of the group sings a character part. There are about eight songs edited together in a continuous piece of music presenting a panorama of life in America today," said Frank.
Zappa explains that the last-minute title change is to point up that titles are meaningless. Zappa insists that the Verve Records' release of a Mothers' album entitled "Absolutely Free" is sheer coincidence.
Zappa wrote both music and lyrics for all the songs, which include such snappy titles as "Suzy Creamcheese, What's Got Into You?", "Call Any Vegetable", "Hungry Freaks Daddy" and "Brown Shoes Don't Make It."
Surely, you won't breathe any easier after learning the truth about the Mothers. Chances are, you won't sleep too well, either.
Anyway, here's who's who among the Mothers:
Frank Zappa, Head Mother, plays lead guitar, piano, vibes, drums; composes words and music, and writes the arrangements. He likes the music of Varèse, Kagel, Stravinsky, Boulez and Stockhausen, any recent contemporary serious music of experimental tendencies. Zappa is from Baltimore. His favorite food is shrimp creole and chicken curry and/or peanut butter. Favorite color: Naples yellow. Real Name: Francis Vincent Zappa.
Roy Estrada plays bass and guitarron, sings high falsetto harmony. He checked in at Santa Ana, Calif. He likes jazz, blues, Manny, Moe and Jack. Hobby: Building up his hot cars and cruising the Burger Stand to show off his carburetors.
Billy Mundi plays drums, tympani, gongs, castanets, tambourine. Partial to pickles and chocolate-covered raisins, The Byrds, Wagner, Stravinsky, Bach. Favorite colors: Black and blue. Born in San Francisco, lives in West Hollywood.
Bunk Gardner plays any and all woodwinds. Lists hobbies as dancing, fishing, and saving peach pits. Prefers classical music, Respighi, Dohnanyi, Mendelssohn, Smetana, Dvorak, P.F. Sloan, but digs Archie Shepp and Herman and the Hermits. Unfavorite color is khaki.
Jimmy Carl Black, from El Paso, plays drums, tympani, tambourine, trumpet. Favorite colors are ice-box white and lavender blue dilly dilly. Favorite group, the Beatles. Favorite music, anything written by Frank Zappa. Turned on by Mexican food and beer.
Ray Collins plays harmonica and tambourine, sings lead vocals. Won't eat meat as he dislikes killing of animals. Digs the blues and the Beatles. Hobby is painting. Favorite color: Nuclear magenta.
Don Preston plays piano, harpsichord, organ, string bass, gongs, chimes, other instruments he builds himself. He's from Flint, Mich. Eats macrobiotic foods, carrots, coconuts. Thinks Miles Davis is a groove. In the contemporary music bag (which is smaller than a suitcase) cites Varèse, John Cage, Morton Feldman.
What can the Mothers do for an encore? Zappa told us he wants to stage a Broadway musical science fiction horror story based on the Lenny Bruce trials. He'd also like to conduct an 84-piece rock and roll orchestra on the stage of Carnegie Hall and hypnotize the audience with his music.
If anyone can do all these things, it's the Mothers.