1968 WFMT Radio Chicago with Studs Terkel
Studs Terkel: "Who are the Brain Police?" In fact you might ask the question if this "1984" Orwell is at 1968. These are questions posed by a remarkable group of young musicians, "Mothers of Invention", coast-based, eh … we're in Chicago at the formerly known as the Electric Theater the Kinetic Playground, but the … the Mothers Of Invention is a remarkable group, headed by Frank Zappa, who is the guiding spirit musical director, our guest this morning, and no doubt this music is very strange, I'm sure, to very many of the listeners ### first time exposed to the Mothers. Frank, as we're listening to this song, "Who Are The Brain Police?", on your very first album, at Verve put-out Freak Out!, ah, some of the lines come to mind, ah, the instrumentation, the strange kind comes to mind … your thoughts … as we hear it now.
FZ: All is, I do like that song. Fact, I'm goin' go home an' listen to it again as soon as I can, I really like that song. [laughs]
ST: As we can talk about the … , about the lyrics first and then ask what yourself, what would you do with some of the lines, in case the audience might have missed it often … ah … the young, do you find ### the young, who listen to you, the people who … who hear the music, are much more attuned to … to the sound and everything?
FZ: Sometimes they are. I'm generally the … hem … the response to music works like this: They all hear the words and don't pay any attention to the music or they hear the music as a sort of wallpaper which supports the words. And in seven out of ten cases they will misinterpret the words.
ST: But, maybe dwell on this ### before we talk about some other lyrics that hit me. It's … ah … something is happening quite obviously, something is happening, it's overwhelming the leaps they are taking … ah … sound is involved, sight is involved, technology is involved … and to listen … so … the audience listening, either digs one part or the other, is that it?
FZ: Well, eh … what happens with the ordinary pop music, and that is the same pop music which is not making an attempt to extend the boundaries of music in general, I could use as an example … ah … the garden variety wipes all music which is being manufactured in large quantities today and very quickly merchandised to the record buying public, the people who hear these tunes generally pay very little attention to the words, and … ah … the music is perceived as a sort of … ah … glandular … ah … y'know, it … it goes to a different part of the … ah … body than our music goes to. And people … that's the way they generally listen to music, they tryin' to feel it with their body. Especially at my performance, where the volume is so high that it can almost knock you over.
The tendency is to let the music happen to you, rather than … ah … make any critical analysis ### or… ah … listen carefully to it. Because in most instances members of the audience, who are not prepared to make valued judgements about music other than "I like it" or … ah … "It pushes my chest in" or "It makes me want to dance and has a good beat and I give it ten points". Y'know that … above and beyond that, the audience is not trained to make judgements about music.
ST: But in this case, let's take this one song as one take to work "Who Are The Brain Police?" from your very first album Freak Out!, there are certain lyrics involved here, but the lyrics and ### would also from the sound, this … this … ah … no, the technological advance is taking place, the noise, at the same time there is musicality, that you know, so much, "What would you do if we let you go [sic], When the plastic's [sic] melted and so is the chrome?", you're making comment right away, immediately, aren't you? You're talking about plastics also being human here, too.
FZ: Well, the way in which we use the term "Plastic", is used to … ah … denote artificiality in a general sense and not referring specifically to … ah … tangible objects made of plastic, although, it could apply to those too.
ST: "What will you do when the labels come off?" #### mention labels that the music is ####### to four stars…
ST: … talking about these two ####.
FZ: In a way it's "What will you do, when the label comes off and the plastic's all melted and the chrome is to soft?" and in the last verses, "What would you do, if the people you knew, were the plastic that melted and the chromium too?" and the structure of the tune is designed so that the first two verses lead you to this … ah … instrumental interlude that incorporates … ah … various electrical disasters and feed-back and people in the background mumbling "I think, I'm goin' to die, I think, I'm goin' to die" and after that stops all the supposedly careful work done on the harmonization of the melody and the presentation of the material during the first part of this song is systematically undone when the voices sing – further and further out of tune – and the … ah … harmonic relationships become more and more dissonate till after the last line of the song and the kazoo comes in, the whole thing just sort of deteriorates right before your eyes.
ST: No ### society would disintegrating that way …
FZ: No. It's just the plastic melting …
ST: The plastic …
FZ: I don't think society is going to desintegrate, it's gonna smell funny for a while, but it's not gonna desintegrate.
ST: ############# caus' I'm gonna ask you about the audience too and the comedy just may ### ahm … Frank Zappa, as remarkably as a … as a spirit of a group "The Mothers Of Invention", ask about yourself too … ah … this is not accidental effect is (?) you put you yourself at involved with classical music, with ### about your training, your self-training.
FZ: Oh, I went to a really cruddy High School …
ST: …and where was …
FZ: Yeah, I went to a lot of cruddy schools all over the country. In fact, that means there are … there is in the US just cruddy school. And … ah … after I escaped, I had a lot o'trouble in school, they kept throwing me out, because they thought that I was mal-adjusted, and … ah … definitely didn't belong there, but they didn't want to throw me out for so long that it would make it necessary for me to stay there another year, so consequently they graduated me with about thirty units or something lessons which I supposed to have to be allowed to leave High School. But they're very glad to got rid of me. I got out and … I listened to a lot of records …
And I went to Library a lot and I was always very interested in music, I'd been playing drums since I was about fifteen, I don't know, fourteen, and I started writing … very simplyfied … ah … pieces of nonsense about the same time, I didn't start playing guitar until I was eighteen and during those years I was working in a Rhythm 'n' Blues group in San Diego, called "The Ramblers" and later on, although finishing high school in Lancaster I worked with another group of my own called "The Blackouts", which caused a lot of trouble in the … ah … this small town, that we were living in. Lancaster is a town in the middle of the Mojave desert of California, that's basically supported by the defense industry, and prior to the … ah … to this airforce base, Edward's Airforce Base, a few miles away. And the missile companies imported a lot of people, sort of like … ah … slave labor, to live in this very unpleasant desert town, so they could … ah … work in data reduction and other functions up at the missile base and my father was one of these people imported to do this work.
And before the people from Los Angeles and San Diego and all these other places came to the desert town – the original inhabitants of the town earned their living as Alpha-alpha farmers and sort of mid-hardware stores and sold traktors to each other – and it was a very close-society type thing and resented the fact that anybody was brought in from outa town – except for the fact that the … these new people coming to town boosted the economy to where it was a sort of a boom-town thing. But there was a constant conflict between the original residents and the … ah … aliens, unfortunately I was one, sort of … hrm … always a few problems at school add to the fact that this closed-minded area, ah … they didn't want have anything to do with rock music.
There's an unfortunate situation where, around 1955, some promoter had brought up a Rhythm 'n' Blues show to the … a hall at the local fair grounds, and along with the performers came several people, who are engaged in the sale of … ah … Bennies and … uh … Red Devils and all these bizarre pills, that they are pushing to the kids and sell the kids were on goof balls and all doped up and the Police were very upset and the parents were incensed (?) about the whole thing and they …hrm … had agreed among themselves, that they should never allow this type of music to penetrate the … ah … valley again.
So I didn't know about their unspoken rule and when I got there and put my band together at the school, which is a … an eight-piece, inter-racial combo and, ah …
ST: That was in fact the tours poster …
FZ: Well, it certainly was, because there was a large Negroe community outside of, ah, Lancaster, a place called … ah … Sun Village, and most o' these peoples earned their living as turkey ranchers … hrm … and their sons and daughters attended this high school, which was the only school within about a three or four hundred mile radius, it was a very large school. And, there were occasional … ah … racial conflicts there at the school. We had a mixed group, and we were the only band … ah … in the desert, that could play Rhythm 'n' Blues and Rock 'n' Roll music. And … ah … the only other live entertainment that was offered to the kids in that erea, was the high school swing band, which was no fun whatsoever. It was either that or you went to a record hop, where they played Pat Boone records, y'know?
So, we had sort of a follow in people who used to want to come an' hear a group … but the Police didn't like it. And … ah … they did several things to make a stop and … the school board, in cooperation with the police tried to freeze us out of m… many o' the situations that we got involved in … 'till finally we wou… we got a sort of a sponsorship by the NWACP. For some of our dances they would rent a hall and we would perform there. Got to be very unpleasant after a while.
That's my musical background.
ST: Well, I thought this peps the back ground too for the song we just heard, it seems, to some extent "Who Are The Brain Police?" "… when the people you knew" and maybe ### it had to be litteral or the "… plastic that melted", here again, and the, so, if we c'ld p'rhaps come to the nature of the group itself and the instruments ### of the electrified …
FZ: Well, em…, one of the reasons … ah … the group stays together is matter of the fact that we all like each together and we're good friends and have been for quite some time. I fact, I've known one of the guys in the group for about twelve years and they … and the other guys aywhere from two unto … ah … ten years … and … we think that if we stay together long enough we'll be able to develop live performance techniques, which woud be difficult if not impossible by contemporary … ah …performance standards to accomplish with the … any other group of musicians. In other words, some of the things that we're able to do spontainiously or practically spontainiously on stage would be very difficult to … ah … rehearse and pull off even with a … ahm … top quality professional group. The costs of the reharsals involved to prepare a group for such a exhibition would be prohibitive.
And then still, one of the main problems facing music today, I don't know whether people are aware of it, is, that … ah … the costs of rehearsals often precludes the performance of difficult works especially in a symphony orchestra, orchestras won't attempt to play complex modern works, because … ah … it's gonna cost too much to rehearse it. There's no way that you can break even. Remember, most musicians are only in it for the money.
ST: Yeah, that's int…, by the way, that's the name of one of the albums of … Mothers Of Invention. We'll hear … ah, some, some pieces. Song, hey, song is not really the word. They're parts of pieces, sometimes they are parts of a larger composition, but in all your albums you paid tribute to [Edgard Varèse|[Edgar Varèse]] and others. He, he is an ### in your musical life, isn't he?
FZ: As far as I'm concerned, he was the main man, I think he examplifies the ideal what a contemporary composer … should have been, because when he was first experimenting in the Twenties and Thirties, with the … material … he, he was … he had a lot of problems because the technology didn't exist to allow him to hear … electronic music didn't exist then and I've just finished reading a biography of Varése by a man named Fernando, ah, a really excellent book, and … ah
ST: He was ahead of his time, and he al…, he was ahead of technology …
FZ: Oh yeah, he certainly was, and his life was sort of a struggle just trying to get his hands on appropriate equipment to allow him to make these sounds. He'd contacted the Bell labs, and they wouldn't help him and this lab wouldn't him and that lab wouldn't him, y'know 'n' …
ST: Oh, in the Mothers almost, just 'bout all the insruments are electrified, aren't they?
FZ: Just about. We'd like to electrify the drums once we find a way to do it where they wouln't distort, and we've also ordered some other n… ah … new equipment, some of which just arrived at our home base in Los Angeles, which we weren't … ah … prepared to bring to Chicago
ST: Now we can just ### with Frank Zappa here just a question of … also audience's nature, primarily young audiences and the difference that you find between ### and codes and morals between let's just say, my generation also will be listening … or the other piece from an … years … your other album Absolutely Free, … there are four Verve albums out, and incidentially, I made this ### many people who have … ah … collectors of classical music, whether it's Bach or Mozart or some of the more comtemporary … one of the very few contemporary young groups they have on albums that are the Mothers Of Invention. It's rather interesting, I think. Your second a… your other album Absolutely Free, Brown Shoes Don't Make It, a word about this what we hear.
FZ: "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" is a song about people who are sexually mal-adjusted. How by one means or another have … ah … gotten into … ah … the government, either by promises of … ah … bigger and better budgets or … ah … more balanced budgets or it's always something to do with money, they always work their way and … ah … these people who are sexually mal-adjusted get in there and either enact or inforce … ah, laws … what are unfair to the rest of the society who do not happen to be sexually mal-adjusted. Ah, the song is about a character called City Hall Fred, who secretly dreams of having a bizarre relationship with his thirteen year old daughter smothered in chocolate syrup.
ST: When you say "sexually mal-adjusted", I think you're going to be probably talkin' about people, who ### pleasure with sin?
FZ: I think, yeah, that's pretty good definition …
ST: Hear then … "Brown Shoes …" (Brown Shoes Don't Make It) … a slow fade to a phantasy beyond ### this not ### of course that this is a dream, a phantasie of all the repressed who would repress the others ### Frank Zappa my guest is the leader of the Mothers Of Invention and the song "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" even the songs even though when ### the good old days …
FZ: Sure! Were there ever any good old days? Come on, now
ST: Go ahead, Frank, you are going to offer the …
FZ: It looks like they are about to fill up the roll of tape in there, and they're gonna have the … everything's under control? Ok …
ST: … about the lyrics, you think might the lyrics ### take it away …
FZ: Unfortunately, when we recorded this, some of the lyrics became ### by the so-called musical texture and I would … you don't mind, I'd like to recite what that song actually says, that you don't miss it. It goes:
Don't make it
Don't make it
Why fake it?
Don't make it …
TV dinner by the pool
Watch your brother grow a beard
Got another year of school
You're okay--he's too weird
I'd say …
Be a plumber
He's a bummer
He's a bummer
Be a loyal plastic robot for a world that doesn't care …
Smile at every ugly
Shine on your shoes & cut your hair
Be a joik
And go t' woik
Be a joik
And go t' woik
Be a joik
And go t' woik
Be a joik
And go t' woik
Do your job & do it right
Life's a ball
TV tonight …
Do you love it?
Do you hate it?
There it is …
The way you made it …
and there is a gong crash, and here …
A world of secret hungers
Perverting the men who make your laws
Every desire is hidden away
In a drawer … in a desk
By a naugahyde chair
On a rug where they walk and drool
Past the girls in the office
We see in the back of the City Hall mind
The dream of a girl about thirteen
His wife's attending an orchid show
She squealed for a week to get him to go
But back in the bed, his teen-age queen
Is rocking & rolling & acting obscene
She's a dirty young mind
Well she's thirteen today
And I hear she gets loaded
I don't know what this sequence is either … [laughs]
ST: That's pretty goo… the mind of City Hall Fred. Of course you talking about so many things. This is beyond choice there to the … ah … again, you know ### browns ### against that?
FZ: No, I don't.
ST: ### the same team ### repressivness they'll do and these are the guys ### what you are saying.
FZ: To know – as a matter of fact – when you hit right down to it, at the people who vote for the one's who 're in charge, come on, you got those kind of people ### that you put in there. You shouldn't let them fool you in to gettin' in there.
But as far as I'm concerned, I think it's very shortsighted, that the society shouldn't settle for promises of merely a balanced budget or merely this and merely that with no … ah … hope held out for something bigger and better for the society. Y'know, there's no really long-range goal for this country at all, outside of "maybe we'll get out of the War." "maybe we'll balance the budget", "maybe, maybe". But beyond that, y'know, if you ever get those things done, what to look forward to?
ST: Frank, this leads to a question, now as to the generation, the audience, your basic audience, there, as you see it, your audience.
FZ: My basic audience is anybody who's got ears that happens to like the way we sound. That unfortunately limits it to about three people.
ST: No, the fact that you have a large, a thousand or so be in in the place you appear … I think about …
FZ: We have to remove, you have to remember the reason, why a lot of people will jam a place where any group appears, because as far I can see, only part of the appeal … ah … is the group itself, which is appearing in the club, the club itself has a certain amount of appeal and then … one of the main reasons why people will go to a live performance event of any type, is that they can meet a member of the opposite sex … and perhaps … get a little action, after the show is over. Y'know, the show is a vehicle to some sort of more personal gain.
ST: You putting down your own …
FZ: No, I'm being very realistic about the appeal of any live event. Y'know, I'd … most of the people who come to hear … ah … electric music performed in a club or at a hall … ah … don't get their money's worth, for these reasons: most of the halls, in which the music is presented … are … ah … so inferior acoustically, that I don't think there's any place in the US that would … is designed … ah, to be compatible with the sound of electrical music. There's completely different acoustic problem, when you play amplified music or when you play non-amplified music. So, if you'd get into these rooms that are extremely resonant and you start playing at a high volume, and what happens is, is the sounds bounces all over place, the words become modelled, the musical structure becomes modelled, and then the audience doesn't really hear anything, unless they're sitting right upfront in the front row, and then they're gonna hear … ah … probably a lot of drums and won't hear the vocals very well. So, y'know, the kids probably become very realistic about what they expect to hear when they get to a club.
ST: But don't they also, don't many of them, again, I, what o…, I do think you're lowering your own influence. Don't many buy your records and hear the music at home?
FZ: Well, let's examine that. When a person buys a record and listens to it at home, what does he hear? He hears a reproduction of a sound, that was at one time a nice realistic sound, that was planned to be musical by some person or persons, who really wanted to do something. And then this sound is captured on tape. And then it's transferred to a disk, and then it's stuffed in a box or bag or something and then you take it home, and you play it on your 14.95, low-grade record player. And the sound that comes out is very poor approximation of what the music was supposed to be. And sometimes the people think they actually hear the music and they really don't know what they're hearing at all.
I say, if we get through to anybody, y'know, there must be very few who really know what that music is and what we're saying. Some people like it … ah … for reasons other than … ah … the quality of the work.
ST: Then you're talking also about a situation in which what you doing is not really presented as you'd like to see it, whether be at home or whether be in a hall.
FZ: No, I don't think we are, and then I don't think any musical group is, for the simple reason, that up until recently … music, as an art form, as an industry, in all it's manifestations in the US has been … ah … a very third or fourth grade sort of thing. Americans never really care about a composer unless he can write a jingle for Pepsi Cola.
And … ah … they never really cared about live performances of music unless there was something that a critic has announced that if you go to see this, it will give you culture and class. And they're using concert halls for sort of unaesthetic purposes. And the situation in music in the US has for years been extremely sterile and unpleasant.
And now, some people are beginning to discover, that the public likes music and they're tryin' to get it their tomb as fast as they can, because they know that if the public likes music they're paying money to hear it, and it's quickly a matter of economics. Meanwhile, the … slowly the quality of the reproduction equipment in the home has improved, but the quality of the acoustics of the places, where the music is performed live, has not. We've played many hockey rinks, and it's amazing to me, that … ah … people think that you can just take music anyplace and it's gonna sound good – it just doesn't!
ST: There is also your's attaching on something at before we hear another sequence from your third album, We're Only In It For The Money, a sardonic title, that [laughs] listeners 're taking seriously, what because if Frank Zappa was kind of only in it for the money it wouldn't be these songs, it'd be songs that can ### on the most radio stations that jockeys can play and make the Top 40. Before, I want ask about the audience, the young, y'know, their own attitudes, as you sense it, y'know, aside from why they come to the concert. Before perhaps, I think the sequence from Only In It For The Money might be in order here.
Could you describe, y'know, the meaning of Concentration Moon and Mom & Dad?
FZ: Well, we have a song coming up, called Concentration Moon which is … ah … a make-believe story about some very real concentration camps, that the US government built to house Japanese people during World War II. These people were snatched up out of their homes …
ST: Relocation camps.
FZ: Yeah. You're doing them a favor you're relocation 'em … the American government's so nice to get them a place to stay during the War, and they snatched these people off of the street and they stick in these camps and I guess they turned them loose later but the camps're still there, and it was a popular myth – let's hope it's a myth – among the hippies on the West coast, that very soon … ah … any dissatisfied, potentially non-conforming person person in the US is about to be rounded up by the government and stashed away in these camps. That doesn't mean just hippies, but they're probably thinking that militant Blacks and militant Latin and militant anybody or even passive people …
ST: … pretenders …
FZ: Yeah, anybody, who doesn't go along with the main stream of the hokum of the government is speeding to you is gonna be stashed away, so … ah …
ST: It starts with the concentration camp …
FZ: It starts with that and then goes on to the story of Mom & Dad, which is a … ah … middle class couple, who have been informed by one of their children, that … ah … their daughter has been killed in the park, by the cops, because she just happened to be there laying in the grass with a Hippie. And, ah, the attitude of the song is, that the parents say, well, it served her right, that she had associated with such trash.
And then we have Bow Tie Daddy, which is another song about those same people, who are … didn't care when their child was killed by the police, because they were embarassed that their child should have anthing to do with a Hippie, and we have Harry You're A Beast, which is a song about the sexual attitude of the parents, giving a little insight into why these people should feel that way about their child, finally winding up with What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?, a song about … the intelligence of the parents.
ST: The Ugliest Part Of Your Body turns out to be …
FZ: … the mind.
ST: The mind.
(Interlude: Concentration Moon)
ST: And so the sequence, What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Mind, Your Body. The whole sequence reminding me, though others, each person thinks a different thing, he brings his own, I suppose … ah … memories or reflections or bags of experience with him, but to me I've had a lot of ### cartoons, Frank, coming ###, but it ### Mom & Dad, certainly, What's the Ugliest Part Of Your Mind, Of Your Body, Your Mind …
FZ: Well I hope, he wouldn't be to offended by that embarassment.
ST: And I'm thinking this is from the …
ST: They're four of the Verve albums, this is We're Only In It For The Money. There is one song, 'course an overwhelming one to me, that's on the first album Freak Out!, ah, you were talking about your experience in the desert, when you and your father out there became there are strangers, ### and … ### Trouble Every Day. How'd this song come to …
FZ: Well, I wrote Trouble Every Day while the Watts Riot was taking place in Los Angeles, y'know? Couse, it really annoyed me the way the news media was covering the incident and they're trying to make such a spectacular … ah … thing out of it. I mean it was tragic enough, y'know, that these people were desperate, y'know? They were so desperate they would burn their own homes, their own community, y'know, as a sort of a gesture … to prove that something was really wrong.
In the news was … ah … their covering in a very distasteful way. So I wrote the song and I took it into town, and I tried to get a record company interested in recording it, and … but five of them turned it down they weren't interested at all, so I just saved it and when we finally recorded it for Freak Out! and put it on there. The song states the position that … ah … neither Black nor White is right, when they resort to … ah … certain methods of expression, they would tend to … ah … I think unnecessarily … messy. Y'know, revolution in the streets is not the most effective way to get things done. I think that … there are tactics on a psychological level are a lot more … expedient.
(Interlude Trouble Every Day)
ST: Ah, thinkin' of this song, Trouble Every Day, it's a novel, really, though it's five, seven minutes, a novel. Frank Zappa, our guest, the musical director, The Mothers of Invention. This song, from their first album Freak Out!, that Verve has … put to purpose to label. It has almost everything in it, doesn't it about the …? But a fire in the street is not like a fire in the heart.
FZ: Or in the eyes of all these people.
ST: It goes back to individuals again, doesn't it? You … you're thinking of this earlier, about who elects whom. You're talking here also ### you might you and me, or coming back to it again.
FZ: I'd say, …
ST: Doesn't it the exact ...
FZ: There ain't no Great Society / As it applies to you and me / And our country isn't free /And the law refuses to see / If all that you can be ever be / Is just a lousy janitor / Unless your uncle owns the store.
ST: We come back to clout … a Chicago ### clout, the author come back to individual, you've hit this, you touch 'em, individual responsibility, so ah …
FZ: Well, I think that it is the individual's responsibility, because y'know, if you're not gonna take care of yourself, who is? The government ain't give you a good job, are they?
ST: So, where does that leave Frank Zappa and Mothers Of Invention and audiences? Earlier we touched upon the audience, that is primarily young people. What, would you say, as … this a cliché question, what you've been asked many times. The key, there's a different attitude of, isn't there, those listening to your, who come, no matter what reason they come to, unless (?), one to another, than say the elders might be to another?
FZ: I don't understand that …
ST: Is there a difference?
FZ: … there a difference in the attitude of the young audience and the old audience?
ST: Yeah. … toward one another.
FZ: Yeah, it seems … it seems to be, because, like … ah … the older people have learned to distrust each other to the extent where they're ready, willing and able to lie, cheat and steal. And the young kids are … ah … unfortunately being taught the same thing that their parents were taught. The eduational system hasn't upgraded itself really. Y'know, some of the buildings might have gotten a little bit nicer than the ones that their parents went to school and it's the same moronic ideals that the teachers were laying on the parents are being laid on the kids. The only difference today is, that the kids are a little bit smarter and they're not absorbing as much of it. Which is not to say that they all get away free, because I've seen a lot of kids that had been infected by the lies the school system puts out. And … ah … of course there are some who escape, y'know, and I've seen some some fourteen years old, thirteen years old, but they really know what's happening.
Hrm. They know how to deal with their own neuroses, and they're just beginning to learn how to deal with the neuroses of their parents. And, ah … I think, that's a major breakthrough.
ST: You find this number to minority, I agree with …
FZ: I would say, that it probably represents, maybe, optimistically, ten per cent of the … of the youth population. And the youth population is what about half of the total population in the US, I'm saying maybe ten per cent of them really have learned to take care of their own consciousness.
ST: And here is the question, I said it is a question, ten per cent or less. Do you find that this ten per cent those having more of an influence on the others, say, than usually a small group might have?
FZ: Ah, they have the ability to influence the opinion of the others, if they would just go out and exert it. Y'know, I think it … it should be a community effort, where the people, who really know, should make it their responsibility to help the people, who unfortunately don't know. There are some people who are beyond help … ah … let's try and make it easy on them as we can. But the ones who know, y'know, I sure do help to straighten out the ones who don't or maybe keep them from becoming further infected. Like an epidemic. Y'know, stupidity is an epidemic.
FZ: ### … this is one of my favorite hings I read in the Varése biography, it's "The World Seen Quotation by Edgar Varése. And it says there are two incidents: God and Stupidity. And I think the audience scribed that on a flag.
ST: God and Stupidity. The two incidents … unh … that's just one, whether or God may be … well … ### ten per cent or less. Do you find that number, maybe again I'm … probably reaching up optimistically, will you self seem optimistic to be …mm, do you find that numer maybe increasing …
FZ: Well, I … I would say that there … the minority of that ten per cent is really your hard core … that may be an optimistic … guess at ten per cent, it may be less, y'know, it's pretty hard to ### these things, going around, saying "Do you know what's happening, do you know what's happening? But … ah … it can increase, y'know, an' it better increase, otherwise there ain't gonna nobody left to count.
ST: Lumpy Gravy, there's a fourth album of … ah … the Mothers Of Invention, Lumpy Gravy, as one work, ### you describe it, we can hear Pepsi, beginning of the second side of this, the composer, himself, Frank Zap… tells us about Lumpy Gravy.
FZ: Lumpy Gravy started out to be a ballet. Unfortunately, at the time I was commissioned to write this piece by Capitol Records, ah, they gave me eleven days to complete the work on it. Also they were in a hurry to … do this and that and I had a … unfortunate commitment, I had to leave California and go to New York. And so with all these things in my head I wrote the orchestral parts to that about eleven days and then the rest the work on the album was completed over, on and off, over a period of eight or nine months, the release of the album was delayed by about eleven months.
And Lumpy Gravy in its completed form turns out to be a sort of mixed media presentation and combination of … ah … experimental … ah … electronic things soap opera, ah … candid conversations and … just anything I … thought might go in there. Just something I stuck together. It's not really a ballet anymore, I guess, but maybe someday, I'n get somebody, some poor fool to dance to it. [laughs]
ST: Well #### thinks what he thinks, that … wild … some like mandoline to me, I think back now, or guitar music, or string music and a sound of ### wild variety of different forms here, too.
FZ: Well, there are a lot of different forms, because there've been a lot of different influences on my own musical background. But … ah … I'd say …
ST: Here's part two. That will lead into some form of conversation too.
(Interlude: Lumpy Gravy, "… oh, there one again, it's a little pig with wings." … "… now I lay me down to sleep")
ST: And thus come the drums. In this conversation, if we p'rh'ps ask Frank about the form, the way … you took almost everything that is part in experience, one way or another you incorporate, musically or in the conversation.
FZ: Yeah, I think that … ah … to me, that type of conversation is very musical. Aw, there's a definite rhythm pattern to … ah … the matter in which the words are spoken, there's definite an inflection which could approximate pitch, at least in the same way that you'd recognize pitch differentiation in electronic music, and I think that's … ah … readily accessible to … ah … the popular mentality, because it's got what you call words, y'know that they can pretend to decipher … and, ah … it's part of my experience and I thought it belonged in there.
ST: You'd have what it means ### of actual talk too, whether be there laugh, or whether it'd be the … a guy talking seriously were scared.
FZ: Oh, I'll agree with Cage, at this that there's a musicality in everything. But I'll disagree with Cage when it comes to just allowing everything to happen. I still feel like a composer if I manipulate my environment and my sound environment to … ah … create something that reflects my point of view of that environment. I don't think it's enough to just … ah … turn everything loose and let it happen.
ST: ### moment, 'fore we hear the last piece of another album. Let's speak of the albums in a moment. Then you don't subscribe to chance as Cage would'a …
FZ: Well, I … subscribe to chance to … this extent: If I construct a piece, wherein I feel, that in order to ballance the tension of a … ah … very tightly organized section, to offset that I'll allow a … ahm … a certain number of seconds or certain number of bars or a just little piece of time wherein anything can take place, and in a live performance environment, … ah, we'll play … ah … sound units, which we rehearse in advance, y'know 'n' everybody exactly what's goin' to happen during these things, but after that unit is completed they don't know.
And, I have the option at that time to … ah … make just about anything happen that I want to, all by a series of signals.
ST: Frank, ah, in, in, I diggin' approach not to far away from Jazz, is it, there's a form, there's a discipline, but you allow a form of composition with that …
FZ: That's right. The only difference is Jazz nm … ah … traditionally is operated … aw … a series of variations based on a harmonic structure of the tune, and after you've played the openening … a few bars of your melody, then you can take the harmonic skeleton of that melody and improvise your own lines on top of it. And what we'll do is improvise our own lines, noises, ah … whatever, on a set of chord changes, which happen to be our environment and that's the similarity.
ST: Talkin' to Frank Zappa, who is the musical director of Mothers Of Invention. You have been hearing fragmentary pieces, some full songs from four of the albums of Verve, the label, Freak Out!, Absolutely Free, Lumpy Gravy, the … call it ballet, call whatever the form in itself or unto itself and … the ironic title We're Only In It For The Money, these four albums of Verve … early on you were sayin' what ### end with the song, There would come a time on Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance, are you are sayin', I was sayin, maybe this society is disintegrating and you were sayin', no, maybe ###, but … evolve
FZ: I don't think … I don't think … that this society will disintegrate. Do you have several options, y'know, one o'them is though, pretty depressing to think about, y'know, a couple o' bombs could go off, but I don't think that the whole earth will disappear, because somebody would set these bombs off, but I would say, that probably the people who are left after the bombs had gone off would be in pretty bad shape …
ST: Would you wanna be a survivor of ah … atomic destruction?
FZ: Yes, I wanna be a survivor of whatever.
ST: Yeah, but ah …
FZ: Because it's not time to leave yet.
ST: Nonono, I think, that Frank, I, I'm not putting ### I assume you would do what you can to … stop atomic destruction …
FZ: Well, in…
FZ: I think that in a way, everybody that's alive today, is a survivor of a whole series of atrocities that have happened all through history that very few people have taken the time or energy to rectify.
ST: But there will come a time.
FZ: Maybe, maybe.
ST: That's just the way we sign off, we opened with the Who Are The Brain Police?, and Plastic People, melting plastic, and the Chrome that is disintegrating and the people bein' that some … but there will come a time, maybe something new, maybe a year to see and hear now in what Frank Zappa is not just saying but … ah … performing, composing, Mothers Of Invention, the director Frank Zappa, thank you very much, we'll end with this … there will come a time. And a thought, a note of ### a note of affirmation …
FZ: Yeah, a positive approach, ### by this here old ugly reminder: The Mothers Of Invention, who'll see you later
ST: … and the four albums. The four albums again …
FZ: You don't need to hype them, just to …
ST: I wanted to do that, I'd like …
(Fade-out music: Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance, … There will come a time when everybody /
Who is lonely will be free ... / TO SING & DANCE & LOVE (dance and love)