Speaking Of Mothers, Meet Frank
By Valerie Wilmer
Defecating on the audience is a necessity in
As a consequence, the most requested routine in their outrageous repertoire comes when Zappa and the boys take through their paces 'My Boyfriend's Back', "Hanky Panky" and a half dozen other never-to-be-forgotten items from the nadir of the last decade's pop. "Soft and sh--- soft and sh---," whispers Zappa into the mike, sobbing gently as he falls down on to one knee. "Give it to 'em soft and sh--- because Young America wants it that way and Young America doesn't know any better."
The Mothers – they were forced to add the latter part of their sobriquet by an unsympathetic recording company who objected to their abbreviated flaunting of
During the Mothers' stay at the Garrick they have worked out a routine which is alternately hilarious and musically interesting yet at the same time full of spontaneity. Their lightshow would make their British imitators hang their heads in shame, while their harmonic experiments make Albert Ayler sound like a babe in arms. "We do what we want to do when we want to do it," said Zappa, himself an excellent lead guitarist by anyone's standards. "We don't pretend too much and some of the things we play involve harmonic combinations other than the average rock'n'roll audience is accustomed to. Then sometimes musicians appreciate us while the audience can't. But a lot of musicians resent us for sh------ all over the audience. Things they say about us in interviews are not always what they'll say on the street!"
Nevertheless the Mothers have had their fair share of admirers and for a 'non-name' group have achieved fantastic record sales in America merely through clever packaging and a 'two for the price of one' deal on their first double album. Zappa, a former advertising executive who is in the process of forming his own recording company, is responsible for all the Mothers' promotion, both graphic and copywriting. His theory for the combo's success among the underground is that in every town there lies "a fringe group of weirdos".
"All over the world I'm sure there is this one person who has the capability of influencing the whole town because he's strange and though people can't under· stand him. they think that he may have something that they don't have. We sold albums by appealing to this type of person. We made up the record so that just from looking at the cover these people would know where it was at."
The Boss Mother, as long, thin Frank is known, first became interested in music at the age of 13 through collecting R & B records by such giants as Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Howling Wolf. He also has an interest in and expert knowledge of the work of such straight composers as Edgar Varese. He has written two film scores and a ballet which MGM will be releasing later in the year and is basically more of a straight music man than a rock-n-roller. " I don't think that any of the songs I've written have been properly recorded. That's because it will take a while before we can convince the record company of what we can really do. They signed us up as an R & B group and after the first session the producer called
When the Mothers hit
"I experiment on myself all the time with my reactions to emotional stimuli of all types and most of the time I've found my theories to be correct. Certain things in my makeup have been refined since I started guinea pigging myself."
We were speaking backstage at the Garrick and it was time for Zappa to pick up his Gibson and go. He returned to his original point, the apathy of the American audience. "They try to pretend that nothing can surprise them, you know, but if we go up there and play it safe, musically speaking, we get relatively little applause. One interesting point about the Mothers' success is the fact that our records have had very little airplay," Frank pointed out in conclusion. "People have been really surprised that things can sell so well by word of mouth which only shows the difference between what the industry thinks the people want and what they actually do want. And I'm not at all surprised because I have nothing but faith in our project."
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