Weasels Ripped My Flesh
After Frank broke up the Mothers in the autumn of 1969, he mentioned an upcoming twelve-record suite tentatively titled The History and Collected Improvisations of the Mothers of Invention. What emerged instead were Burnt Weeny Sandwich and, in the summer of 1970, Weasels. Both were amalgams of material extracted from various 1968 and ‘69 shows and studio tapes.
This album’s title came from a 1950s Man’s Life article about a guy trapped in a swamp full of vicious weasels. The man in the picture here will wind up exposing his teeth if he continues mutilating his cheek, connecting this cover to Uncle Meat’s (talk about a “Dental Hygiene Dilemma”). The illustration was done by Neon Park, whose real name was Martin Muller.
“Didja Get Any Onya” comes from the Mothers’ 1969 concert at the Philadelphia Arena. The German-accent monologue comes courtesy of Lowell George. The CD reissue features a longer ending than the original album: About three minutes of “Charles Ives” from the 1969 Columbia University show is tacked on before the Little Richard cover “Directly From My Heart to You,” recorded at T.T.G. Studios in Hollywood, begins. “Charles Ives” can be heard in its entirety on You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 5. Its drum-dominated section is also heard in “The Blimp” on the Zappa-produced ‘69 album Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band.
“Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask” is a combination of snippets from a Thee Image show in Miami and the 10/28/68 concert at the Royal Festival Hall in London (most of which can be heard on Ahead of Their Time, although these sections are left out, with the exception of a bit near the end of “King Kong,” presented here as the beginning of “Gas Mask”). The piece contains a furious update on the main riff in “Didja Get Any Onya.” The title’s reference to gas masks is based on Frank’s childhood memory of taking apart one of the masks kept at hand by all residents of the neighborhood in which his family lived. The masks were there in case anything went wrong with the mustard-gas tanks at the nearby Edgewood Arsenal. Young Frank wanted to know what the masks’ filters were made of. The title also pays tribute to Debussy’s 1894 orchestral piece “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun [half-man, half-goat]," in which the faun dreams about nymphs and feels so “sexually aroused” when he wakes up that he makes a flute with which to entice them. The electric piano music heard in “Gas Mask” behind Motorhead’s closing snorks is actually from Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, “perfectly evoking Debussy’s love of Russian melodies” (as Kevin Courrier writes).
The title “Toads of the Short Forest” refers to pubic crabs. The first half of the piece, originally intended for I Was a Teenage Malt Shop (Frank’s opera from the Studio Z period), was recorded in 1969 at Whitney Studios in Glendale, California. During the live segment, Frank tells the audience that Ian’s sax is blowing its nose, foreshadowing the Gypsy Mutant Industrial Vacuum in the gatefold of the next album, Chunga’s Revenge, who plays the hose extending from the spot where her nose would be. Dominique Chevalier writes, “The problem [at Pal Studios] was that acetate discs were very easily damaged by dust, and very highly flammable. Because of this, a vacuum cleaner was vital for when Zappa and Buff took the acetates to record companies... From time to time, Zappa and Buff set fire to stacks of old acetates at night, lighting up the whole neighborhood. This inspired the vacuum cleaner stories...” The vacuum in the Chunga’s Revenge tale is in fact dancing around a “mysterious night time campfire.”
The fast riff from “Gas Mask” returns later in “Toads.”
1969’s “Get a Little” is named after Motorhead’s puerile recollection of trying to get laid, which is decorated with coughs (which hack and spit at the end) and followed up with a splice of tape effects made to sound like the word “pussy.” The song was recorded at the Factory, during the Mothers' one and only appearance in the Bronx.
“Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue” was recorded at A&R Studios in New York City. Inventive jazzman Dolphy made an album in 1964 called Out to Lunch, a phrase that concludes one of the verses in “Oh No” later on Weasels.
“Dwarf Nebula Processional March & Dwarf Nebula” was recorded at Apostolic Studios in New York City. A dwarf nebula is also mentioned in “The Radio Is Broken” on The Man From Utopia. References to both this Weasels piece and “Toads of the Short Forest” can be found on the back cover of One Size Fits All: ”Crab Nebula goes here.” A pubic crab appears as the Cancer constellation.
“Oh No,” from Apostolic, adds vocals (written along with the first handful of Freak Out! songs and "Bow-Tie Daddy") to an instrumental heard on Lumpy Gravy and played often during Mothers shows. “The Orange County Lumber Truck,” originally named after what Roy Estrada once drove at work prior to his career in music, follows “Oh No” here, just as it has during concerts and will again in 1974. At that time, the line “I just can’t believe you are such a fool” will become a refrain about President Nixon, whose power base is in Orange County; “The Orange County Lumber Truck” will duly be retitled “Son of Orange County.” Most of this medley will appear on Roxy & Elsewhere. Returning to the Weasels version, this edit of the long “Lumber Truck” instrumental performed during the same Festival Hall show as “Gas Mask” earlier on the album includes a riff from “Harry, You’re a Beast” on the Money album (the “Don’t come in me, in me” part).
For the title track, which closes the album, Frank told everyone in the band who could instill feedback to do so. It’s from a Birmingham, England concert.