The 'Unbelievably Awful' Mothers of Invention

By Pete Green

Beat Instrumental, December, 1966

THE guy representing the Mothers of Invention in America sent me a copy of their "freak-out", psychedelic LP and said: "These Mothers are THE current 'happening' on Sunset Strip. Their appearance is unbelievably awful. The colouring on the album cover has been diffused and the outline of their features blurred to conceal the true horror of their physical impact".

      It was said dead-pan. Lineup of the group, also delivered dead-pan, reads: Ray Collins (lead vocalist, bobby pin and tweezers); Jim Black (drums and foreign languages) ; Roy Estrada (bass and boy soprano) ; Eliot Ingber (rhythm guitar and clear white light) ; Frank Zappa (guitar and everything else). It is Frank who arranges, conducts and devises the weird music the group feature.


      And the sleeve-notes report: "Frank makes few appearances with the group nowadays. His appearance is so repellent that it's best he stays away ... for the sake of impressionable young minds who might not be prepared to cope with him. When he does show up, he performs on the guitar. Sometimes he sings. Sometimes he talks to the audience. Sometimes there is trouble".


      Verve brought out the first single of Mothers of Invention recently. Titles: "It Can't Happen Here", though it possibly will , and "How Could I Be Such A Fool", both produced by Tom Wilson. Hollie, Graham Nash, has seen the Mothers, and similar groups like Lothar and the Hand People. He says: "When you listen, you think you're going mad ... or at least that the blokes on stage are. They have about four projectors, throwing shafts of different coloured lights on the proceedings."

      This "freak-out" music takes a bit of explaining. Count Five, with "Psychotic Reaction", have already hit the charts with their brand both in America and Britain. The Fingers, Kim Fowley, the Yardbirds, John's Children and the Monkees are also involved in the onslaught on the charts.


      But the Mothers of Invention are regarded as the most way-out of them all. Frank Zappa says: "We call it the new free music. It must influence the pop scene. All right, there's a lot of showmanship about giving us way-out appearances and so on, like making us out to be monsters, but it is the music, the complete freedom of expression, that counts." You won't be hearing the Mothers' LP for a few months but it's worth pondering on some of the titles. "Who Are The Brain Police", "Hungry Freaks, Daddy", "Wowie Zowie", "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here", ''The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet", "Help I'm A Rock" - the latter "dedicated to Elvis Presley".

      And they try to explain: "freaking out is a process whereby an individual casts off outmoded and restricting standards of thinking, dress, and social etiquette in order to express creatively his relationship to his immediate environment and the social structure as a whole. Less perceptive individuals have referred to us who have chosen this way of thinking and FEELING as 'freaks', hence the term 'freaking-out'. On a collective level, when any number of 'freaks' gather and express themselves creatively through music or dance, for example, it is generally referred to as 'freak-out'. The participants, already emancipated from our national social slavery, dressed in their most inspired apparel, realise as a group whatever potential they possess for free expression".

      Does that help the explanation? Anyway, "freak out" can't be ignored . Nor, I'm sure, can the Mothers of Invention.

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