Frank Zappa

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Matt Wilson
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Frank Zappa

Postby Matt Wilson » 14 Jan 2022, 21:51

I'm bored. Sitting around watching two students work quietly. So I'm going to review Freak Out in my customary song-by-song manner. I don't know if I'm going to keep this thread up and do more Zappa, or just do a one-and-done, but for now:

Freak Out! 1966
What an audacious debut! A weird combination of avant-garde, '50s doo wop, early progressive rock, and maybe even a little garage rock thrown in for good measure. Zappa's genius as a composer is in full effect. A double LP recorded in March of 1966, with the original Mothers - this is quintessential Los Angeles music, folks. I'm always a little surprised at Uncle Frank's popularity worldwide as it's difficult to come up with an artist more representative of LA than Frank Vincent Zappa. Lots of local references permeate his work, and it starts right here with Freak Out! Zappa's guitar god prowess begins here too, on "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" and "Trouble Every Day," his Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster played through a Fender Deluxe amp earmarked him as a virtuoso even if few pundits at the time were paying attention. You can get the original vinyl LP mix on the 2006 MOFO Project/Object Audio Documentary box. I think I got that right - I'm too lazy to look it up. I have the set, but it's at home. I think all other CD versions are remixes. Blonde on Blonde was released first, but Freak Out! has to be the first debut double LP I can think of.

Suzy Creamcheese makes her debut here as well, she would put in other appearances on Absolutely Free and Uncle Meat. The album had a list of 179 names of people who contributed materially or influenced the Mothers, a year before the Beatles put their heroes on the cover of Sgt Pepper's. The Varese quote about the present day composer refusing to die isn't exactly what he said, but it's close enough - and would be a Zappa hallmark statement for the rest of his life. If you sent a dollar in '66 to MGM, you got a Freak Map, which pointed out the locations of 36 places of interest in Hollywood. Anyways...

The Mothers of Invention

Frank Zappa – guitar, conductor, vocals
Jimmy Carl Black – percussion, drums, vocals
Ray Collins – vocals, harmonica, cymbals, sound effects, tambourine, finger cymbals, bobby pin & tweezers
Roy Estrada – bass & guitarrón, boy soprano
Elliot Ingber – alternate lead & rhythm guitar with clear white light

The Mothers' Auxiliary

Gene Estes – percussion
Eugene Di Novi – piano
Neil Levang – guitar
John Rotella – clarinet, bass saxophone
Carol Kaye – 12-string guitar
Kurt Reher – cello
Raymond Kelley – cello
Paul Bergstrom – cello
Emmet Sargeant – cello
Joseph Saxon – cello
Edwin V. Beach – cello
Arthur Maebe – French horn
George Price – French horn
Roy Caton – trumpet
Virgil Evans – trumpet
David Wells – trombone
Motorhead Sherwood – noises
Kim Fowley – hypophone
Mac Rebennack – piano
Paul Butterfield – vocals
Les McCann – piano
Jeannie Vassoir – voice of Suzy Creamcheese

All tracks are written by Frank Zappa except "Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder", by Zappa and Ray Collins.

Side one
1. "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" 3:32
Hot damn, do I love this song! Frank and Ray sing, the music is hot, and it sure sums up what the Mothers were all about in the mid '60s. Totally fuckin' great guitar solo too, and who else could play like that at the time? Clapton, Beck, Bloomfield (and Hendrix, though this precedes his first recordings with The Experience), and precious few others. This should have been LA's national anthem.

2. "I Ain't Got No Heart" 2:34
Ray sings lead. He's probably my fave Zappa singer ever now that I think about it. Carol Kaye is on 12-string guitar. The tough-guy lyrics are typical for Zappa and his ideas of romance, but Jagger's "Heart of Stone" mined similar territory.

3. "Who Are the Brain Police?" 3:25
Another Collins/Zappa-sung duet, and a classic example of paranoia which afflicted many counter culture denizens of the time. Elliot Ingber tuned his guitar to Frank's instructions and the whole tune is about policing yourself or stopping yourself from achieving your goals in life. It was also the B-side of the "Trouble Every Day" 45.

Wiki - ""Who Are the Brain Police?" is a Frank Zappa song, performed by The Mothers of Invention, released on the Mothers' debut album, Freak Out!. It was released by Verve Records as a single in 1966. Zappa stated that the song was one of religious theme.

Zappa wrote about the song on the Freak Out! liner notes: "At five o’clock in the morning someone kept singing this in my mind and made me write it down. I will admit to being frightened when I finally played it out loud and sang the words."

In a 1988 interview, Zappa added:

A lot of people police their own brains. They're like citizen soldiers, so to speak. I've seen people who will willingly arrest, try and punish their own brains. Now that's really sad. That's vigilante brain policism. It's not even official, it's like self-imposed. ... It's hard to pin it down to one central agency when you realize that so many people are willing to do it to themselves. I mean, the people who want to become amateur brain police, their numbers grow every day – people who say to themselves, 'I couldn't possibly consider that', and then spank themselves for even getting that far. So, you don't even need to blame it on a central brain police agency. You've got plenty of people who willingly subject themselves to this self-mutilation.

The song was stated to be a "direct defiance of top 40 radio". Repetitive lyrics were noted as part of this "defiance". The song was also cited by Mojo magazine as "one of the scariest songs to ever emerge from the rock psyche". While comparing it to Kafka, Mojo described the song as "a vision of contemporary America where personal identity and individuality is erased".

4. "Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder" 3:43
More machismo from our erstwhile bard and Ray, with Collins singing lead. The song originated with Ray's ideas about his ex-wife. The class ring and the crease in the khaki pants harken back to the '50s and a more innocent way of life. Getting your hair processed is something African Americans did at the time. This, along with the Spanish parts of some of these songs demonstrate an inclusiveness on the part of the Mothers which I find appealing. It's not all about white kids buying rock records in other words.

5. "Motherly Love" 2:50
I love this one too. Funny lyrics which I'll avoid typing out now - because I'm on a roll and can't be bothered with cutting and pasting! Another Mothers anthem.

6. "How Could I Be Such a Fool" 2:16
Ray on lead, Zappa doing harmony. So much of this material is a parody or homage (take your pick) of classic '50s teenage Americana which for me, works much better than the songs on the later Cruising with Ruben & The Jets. Wow, side one is finished and all the tracks are friggin' great!

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Side two
7. "Wowie Zowie" 2:55
The title was something that Pamela Zarabrica used to say (she says it on one of those Uncle Meat songs). Frank said in later interviews that the songs on Freak Out! were as commercial as he knew hot to write. Wonder if he thought this stuff would be played on local radio?

8. "You Didn't Try to Call Me" 3:21
Frank is the one reciting the pachuko outro with Collins singing falsetto (Roy Estrada handled that chore on most of these songs). What can I say - I love this one too. Why didn't you try to call me, by the way?

9. "Any Way the Wind Blows" 2:55
Neil LeVang plays the guitar solo on 12-string, and there's an allusion to the Nutmegs' "Story Untold" which I'll let you decipher. I think the songs on side two are every bit as listener-friendly as those on the first side.

10. "I'm Not Satisfied" 2:41
Carol Kaye on 12-string again. I think every song so far was performed live by the Mothers during this era. Love to hear some tapes of those performances.

11. "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here" 3:41
LeVang on 12-string, and great lyrics once more. Words to his songs would become an issue in the '70s when Frank became more jaded and the potty humor was dominant. That's not the case here though. Another great LP-side!

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Side three
12. "Trouble Every Day" 5:53
One of the more famous cuts on an album full of great material, Frank sings (double tracked) this one himself in a kind of down-to-earth protest manner, while also adding the guitar solo. Tom Wilson gave them their MGM contract based on this song which he heard at the Whiskey a Go Go. Written after the Watts riots. Frank was expressing his distaste at rioting and revolutionary rhetoric.

Wikipedia: "Frank Zappa wrote the song in 1965 at 1819 Bellevue Avenue, Echo Park, Los Angeles, the residence of a methamphetamine chemist referred to by Zappa as "Wild Bill the Mannequin-Fucker" after watching news coverage of the Watts Riots. Originally dubbed "The Watts Riot Song", its primary lyrical themes are racial violence, social injustice, and sensationalist journalism. The musical style—featuring multiple guitar tracks and a harmonica—much more closely resembles blues than mainstream rock and roll.

Producer Tom Wilson of MGM Records signed the Mothers to a record deal on March 1, 1966, having heard only this song and believing them to be a "white blues band". Together, they released "Trouble Every Day" as a single with B-side "Who Are the Brain Police?"

A re-arranged version appeared on the Mothers' 1974 live album Roxy & Elsewhere (and on the 1991 live album The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life) as "More Trouble Every Day". These subsequent versions were more up-tempo and usually featured a strong horn intro and punctuation.

The UK underground artist Mick Farren covered the song on his album Vampires Stole My Lunch Money (1978). Australian stoner rock band Tumbleweed covered the song as a B-side on their 1993 single "Daddy Long Legs". George Thorogood and the Destroyers included a cover of the song on their 1997 album Rockin' My Life Away.

Louisa Roach, of British band She Drew The Gun, rewrote some of the lyrics to reflect recent riots and demonstrations in the UK. The rewrite received the full blessing of the Frank Zappa estate with the record being released in August 2019.

The Specials covered the song on their 2021 album Protest Songs 1924-2012.

French film maker Claire Denis named her 2001 film Trouble Every Day after the song.

The Frank Zappa tribute band Trouble Every Day named itself after this song."

13. "Help, I'm a Rock (Suite in Three Movements)
I. Okay to Tap Dance II. In Memoriam, Edgard Varèse III. It Can't Happen Here" 8:37
Play this one loud! This was recorded at the last session for the album and beside Frank and Ray, Kim Fowley is in the right speaker. Zappa got the idea for the title from a teacher named Phyllis Rubino, who had a rock in her house with a sign that said "Help, I'm a rock!" Delightful weirdness, I actually have another band covering this song on some CD, but for the life of me can't recall who the hell it is. But perhaps Wiki can help me remember: "The Mothers of Invention entered TTG Studios to record "Help, I'm a Rock"—among other tracks for the Freak Out! album—after record producer Tom Wilson signed the group to MGM Records under the incorrect assumption that they were a traditional blues ensemble. As a testament to its absurdity, Zappa explained "Help, I'm a Rock" was created spontaneously as "just a thing that spewed out. What was happening was what was in the air that night". For the composition's unusual droning background sounds, the band encompassed screams, duck calls, alien beeps and chatter, tribal chants, and erotic moans that simulated a female orgasm. In the liner notes to Freak Out!, Zappa wrote the tongue-in-cheek statement: "'Help, I'm a Rock' is dedicated to Elvis Presley. Note the interesting formal structure and the stunning four-part harmony toward the end". He concludes his comments on the song by jokingly remarking about "the obvious lack of commercial potential. Ho hum".

"Help, I'm a Rock" is a three part suite consisting of: "Okay to Tap Dance", "In Memoriam Edgar Varese" and "It Can't Happen Here". In the first pressing of Freak Out!, the song was credited simply as "Help, I'm a Rock". However, as Freak Out! reissues and compilation albums were made available, the third part, "It Can't Happen Here", has been commonly listed as a separate track. In concert, the composition was typically mixed with other band songs, most regularly "Hungry Freaks Daddy". One music critic notes "Long term, the psychedelic workout had plenty of commercial appeal, with Zappa’s bands playing it throughout the master’s career. 'Help, I’m a Rock' became one of the many catch phrases attached to Zappa over his career".

A section of "Help, I'm a Rock" called "Third Movement: It Can't Happen Here" was also featured as the B-side of the DJ-only "How Can I Be Such a Fool?" single. With a running time of nearly nine minutes, "Help, I'm a Rock" remains one of the Mothers of Invention's most lengthy and experimental pieces in their catalog.

In 1967, psychedelic rock group the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band recorded the song on their second album Part One. Richie Unterberger described the rendition as a concept that "flung them into freakier pastures", with its style being "emulated convincingly on the group original '1906', an apt soundtrack to a bummer acid trip with its constant spoken refrain, 'I don't feel well'".

Thus endeth the third side of the record. No more commercial-sounding songs, but a more adventurous vibe is certainly present.

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Side four
14. "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet (Unfinished Ballet in Two Tableaux) I. Ritual Dance of the Child-Killer II. Nullis Pretii (No Commercial Potential)" 12:22
This was actually never completed and Frank bemoaned its inclusion on the LP for years. Definitely the freakiest track to be found - he was still talking about finishing it as late as 1982. To be honest, I usually skip it! LOL.

Wiki - "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" is a Frank Zappa composition, performed by The Mothers of Invention, released on the Mothers' debut album, Freak Out!. It is the longest song on the album, at 12:17, consisting of 2 parts: "Ritual Dance Of The Child-Killer", and "Nullis Pretii (No Commercial Potential)". The composition includes a musical quote from "Louie Louie" (Richard Berry).

The name of the song was probably inspired by a toy called "Monster Magnet" from the Wham-O company which was then being heavily advertised on American television.

According to Zappa himself, the Freak Out! version of this song is merely a rhythm track and was never finished as intended. Apparently for budgetary reasons, Verve executives curtailed further recording of the track even after shelling out $500 for rented percussion. Indeed, the subtitle of the track is "an Unfinished Ballet in two Tableaux". Unlike many of his extended works, Zappa never augmented or completed this piece when he had the time, money and his own recording studio.

Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) appears on piano, and his voice can be heard sporadically throughout the track. Van Dyke Parks was also present at the recording session, but it is unclear what, if anything, played by him was used for the released version.

According to Beatles author and Zappa biographer Barry Miles, the unreleased Beatles experimental track "Carnival of Light" which was recorded in January 1967 resembles "The Return of The Son of Monster Magnet", although it is believed that "Carnival of Light" is more fragmented and abstract than Zappa's effort the previous year."

The song begins with the following dialogue:

Male voice: Suzy?
Female voice: Yes?
Male voice: Suzy Creamcheese?
Female voice: Yes?
Male voice: This is the voice of your conscience baby ... uh, I just want to check one thing out with you ... you don't mind, do ya?
Female voice: What?
Male voice: Suzy Creamcheese, honey, what's got into ya?

This is the first mention of Suzy Creamcheese on any Mothers album, although a "Suzie" is mentioned on Side 3 of Freak Out! on the track, "It Can't Happen Here."

Last edited by Matt Wilson on 15 Jan 2022, 04:43, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Frank Zappa

Postby Rorschach » 14 Jan 2022, 23:21

Is this podcast episode of any interest to you Matt?

Cheepniz, late of this parish and a HUGE Zappa fan enjoyed it, if that's any help ...
Bugger off.

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Re: Frank Zappa

Postby Matt Wilson » Yesterday, 00:05

Listening now, Tym, thanks.
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Re: Frank Zappa

Postby Muskrat » Yesterday, 04:28

Looking forward to the continuation of this. "Trouble every Day" may be one of my top five records ever. Dylan should have written (and recorded) something as great. Guess I like "Reuben" more than you do.
Things that a fella can't forget...

Mike Boom wrote:It is brilliant of course, probably the best of the complete Thick as a Brick boots.

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Re: Frank Zappa

Postby C » Yesterday, 19:03

Muskrat wrote: Guess I like "Reuben" more than you do.

Probably more than the majority of Zappa fans.

It doesn't go down too well

I don't like it at all. I have well over one hundred official Zappa albums but not that one

[Nor Thing Fish]

But as my old grandmother used to say: 'It wouldn't be for us to mall be the same'

Great review Matt - just another 100 plus to go!

C wrote:Just blank the fucque-wit

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Re: Frank Zappa

Postby John_K » Yesterday, 20:45

Go for it Matt, keep 'em coming...