Meet the Boss Mother sussing out Britain...
By Nick Jones
Melody Maker, 1967 August 26
If affluence and power is the Great American Dream, Frank Zappa is the Great American Nightmare.
Zappa leads the Mothers Of Invention. The Mothers arrive in Britain in September. September could well prove to be an interesting, if not explosive, month.
"It's difficult to evaluate the impact we'll have on British audiences. As I've only just landed I can only go on the bare minimum of facts that I've gathered, reports I've read, and things people have told me," said Zappa quietly last week in his London hotel.
"Generally we seem to thrive in areas where there is unrest between the generations, because we tend to," Zappa smiles and lifts his head "pep things up!
" Basically though, you haven't got the faintest idea who we are or what we do. We don't hold that against you. Is it our fault that the majority of the public choose to ignore our existence although we've been going for two years?
"From what I can see so far, people in Britain have no idea what a real San Franciscan love-in is like. There is a popularisation of the Flower Power movement. Everybody seems to have an idealised image that love must be good, and, you know, flowers must be OK, but you don't have the tension between the cops and the kids.
"I believe in love – but not phoney bullshit love – it makes me feel sick, it makes me feel bad to see these kids walking about in the streets. It's a waste of kids. They're misguided and deluded. I see them blindly accepting anything offered to them by the hippie machine. Sing a song and put 'love' in it and take a picture of the group in a flower patch and the kids will buy. The flowers and love thing is just a new way of packaging a product."
Frank Zappa is 26 years old. He is a very beautiful person, very aware of everything going on all around. Zappa is very aware of the "crumbling society" and "environment" that the American lives in. After all he's lived in it. What Zappa and the Mothers are trying to do – through their incredible gestures, through the freaking pastures of the mind, through their music – is to stir the young American into action.
"My theory," smiles Zappa, "is that in America they purposely avoid teaching you to evaluate for the reason that they don't want everybody evaluating every piece of the world they live in.
"The whole machinery in the States would collapse because everybody would suss the rotten society they are forced to live in and wig continue to live in unless they get up and, start changing things.
"Everything in the States is designed to convey the impression that the manufacturers want to give. The packaging, the image, the colour of the carton. The market for what the Mothers do was created by us. It wasn't just there. Nobody could say 'What market are you aiming of?' We created the market. It took us a long time to convince people, to make them realise that they needed to own a Mothers Of Invention album in the States.
"The problem now is to convert this sales approach to the British audience and I need to know enough about the scene here. I've got to know enough about it to convince the British audiences that they need to know the things we have to say.
"And what we have to say can be useful to any young person in any country in the world if that person wants to get a true picture of the environment and society that was established by his fathers, and which he'll have to take over.
"We're the ways and means committee. I'm not talking about hot teenage blood in the street bashing society over the head. It's just a matter of phasing them out. There are certain aspects of the ways of doing things.
"It's got to the stage now, of course, where the kid's don't give a f---. This is why I'm also speaking out against drugs. One of the most important trips to try is being responsible. Drugs are just blotting out the social environment. I think that if you're young and you have a chance to do something about the world but you just drop out – you're worse, you're worse than all those old people. They're old and they're wrong but you're still young enough to do something about it.
"The system is f-----. It's crumbling. But only the young can see this. The old people don't see the muck they have caused and are wallowing about In. Their egos won't allow it.
"But the kids say 'Well, society is a joke, it's falling apart. We'll go to San Francisco and drop out and join a tribe and live back to the land.' So what happens to society? What happens if it does crumble and there's a chance to change it. All you've got is a lot of tribes who are not equipped to take over on the technical and political side."
Zappa explains how the Mothers create their market.
"One way we seem to appeal, I've found, is that in every small town there's one person who's crazy. But in a strange way that screwball, that village idiot, is respected by the rest of the community. People fear something they don't understand. In the back of their minds they're thinking, 'Is it possible that nut knows something I don't know?' And there are times when this strange person will come across new, unexplored avenues of free expression.
"Originally the Mothers were discovered by every small town creep in every small town. Then of course the creep's best friend – who isn't quite so creepy and manages to communicate to a few more people in the town – gets turned on and gradually you find more and more people trying to dig the Mothers' records and gradually go up and up the social scale until even the highest people in the village get a Mothers album just to be in.
"Sometimes we say things nastily and bluntly and obscenely to get our message across. To do this we've had a lot of trouble with everyone. When we first came on the scene with the 'Freak Out!' album in March 1966, we were so radical that no so-called 'straight-lifed' boy or girl thought they'd be seen dead with a Mothers album. Now though things are different. 'Freak Out' sold a lot of records and our new one 'Absolutely Free' hit the album charts straight away."
Zappa may look like a creep. His hair may be long, long, long – but he's after reaction. His whole philosophy relies on reaction and multi-action. He is idealistic. Youth is idealistic but it's not yet fighting for its ideals. And If you don't fight for an ideal you'll be sucked under.