Necessity Is ...
There's something happening in the Underground. But no one seems to know quite what. Maybe it's because no one quite knows what the "Underground" is. Even the Underground's so-called unofficial spokesman, Frank Zappa, is unsure of the nebulous term. He observes: "Well, I don't know. During the war it meant someone who was in the resistance. Now I guess it means someone who is repulsive."
Through words, actions and appearances, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention express the undercurrent of protest that abounds in the "now" generation. The group's caustic satire ridicules the hypocrisy and the foibles of today's society – and perhaps, to many older people, this is repulsive. The anti-Establishment image has never been particularly popular with the older segment of our population.
But the "Underground" apparently does not refer solely to young people – the average age of the Mothers is thirty. So we're back where we started; therefore, you'll have to come to your own conclusions. Maybe the following discussion with Frank Zappa will be of some use.
Q: What is, for you, the height of misery?
A: Gastroenteritis in Sweden.
Q: Where would you like to live?
A: Laurel Canyon.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
Q: What mistake do you disregard most frequently?
A: The government.
Q: Who is your favorite personality in history?
A: Edgar Varese, French-Italian composer.
Q: Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
A: My wife and Pam Zarubica, the original "Susie Creamcheese."
Q: Who is your favorite musician?
A: Kontarsky, a pianist. 
Q: What quality do you like most in a woman?
A: Logic. That's the hardest quality to find.
Q: What quality do you prefer in a man?
A: Logic. It's the mark of a man.
Q: What is your most admirable virtue?
Q: Who would you like to have been?
A: Buckminster Fuller. He invented the geodesic dome, besides being an architect and a triple genius.
Q: What is the main feature of your character?
A: My nose.
Q: What qualities do you appreciate most in a friend?
Q: What is the greatest misfortune that could happen to you?
A: To have my hands chopped off. No, no. To have my ears chopped off, because then I couldn't hear any music. If my hands were chopped off, I just couldn't play it.
Q: What would you like to be?
A: A free man.
Q: What is your favorite color?
A: Naples yellow. It's the kind of yellow that they paint the inside of kitchens in the depressed areas of the South.
Q: What is your favorite flower?
A: Dandelion. You can blow on them and they fly. They're more entertaining than the other flowers, and they're also edible.
Q: Who are your favorite heroes in real life?
A: Don Vliet, who's the brains behind Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, and Jim Sherwood, our road manager.
Q: What are your favorite names?
A: Pumpkin and Prune.
Q: Who do you hate most?
A: I refuse to answer that.
Q: What historical character do you despise most?
A: I was never very fond of Tilly the Toiler.
Q: What military event do you admire most?
A: Bayonet practice at Fort Knox.
Q: What reform do you admire most?
A: I haven't noticed any.
Q: What natural gift would you like to have?
A: I'd like to be a musician. Now I'm just practicing.
Q: How would you like to die?
A: In front of a record player with my boots on. The boots make it heroic.
Q: What is the present state of your mind?
A: About the same as usual. Unpleasantly perceptive.
Q: What is your motto?
A: You do yours and I'll do mine.
Q: How do you feel about money?
A: Well, I recognize the fact that it exists. It is alive, but not particularly well in America. I'd like to have as much as I can get my hands on.
Q: Would you say that music is your whole life?
A: Yes, just about.
Q: Do you think that money corrupts it?
A: Well, unfortunately, in the case of the music we play, it necessitates a great quantity of money. The amount of money we use to put an album together is about six times the amount an average group would use, and we don't make that much money back in royalties.
Q: What is electronic music?
A: It's music created by electronic devices and modified by other devices, bending and twisting the sound into all sorts of shapes. The gadgets needed to do that cost a fortune.
Q: What are your audiences like?
A: Our audiences have all been the same, except the ones we get in Europe.
Q: How do the European audiences differ?
A: No more than 20% and no less than 3% of any given American audience knows what we're doing, whereas I think the European audiences know more about music.
Q: What is your role as a performer?
A: To decorate a piece of time for the audience. Their reaction is irrelevant to what we do. I'm more concerned that the guys in the band enjoy themselves; and even with them, about 40% of the time they're not sure of what we're doing.
Q: Why do you think Americans don't understand music?
A: Because they have not had the proper education to give the criteria to judge our music or anybody else's music.
Q: What is the value of your group's being so esoteric?
A: Each album we do, and every performance we put on, is unique. We are not out to sucker in anybody. As a group, we want to please ourselves.
Q: What are the names of your albums?
A: "Freak Out," "Absolutely Freaked," "We're Only in It for the Money," and "Lumpy Gravy."
Q: Is all of your music satirical?
A: There is a lot of satire, but we play music. There is an Eastern orientation. So far as the words are concerned, they're just there to help sell the record.
Seeing the Mothers of Invention perform is like participating in the play Marat/Sade. Frank Zappa and his troup nonchalantly stand on stage tuning their instruments, which makes one think that he may be at a symphony orchestra concert, rather than waiting for an electronic rock band to perform. Zappa walks over to the microphone and says, "Hi, boys and girls. We're here to decorate some time, for you. So you won't feel lost, we'll start out with the "Bristol Stomp," then go into "Petruchka," which will be followed by "Stop, In The Name of Love." Although it sounds like a put on, that's what they do. Zappa lifts his hand and the Mothers start playing, and each transition into the next song gets more into the kind of music that is distinctively that of the Mothers of Invention. One is captured and enchanted on this surrealistic musical journey, as if in a magic theater where Frank Zappa is the Magister Ludi, and the rest of the group his helpers. Could this be the Underground?
Frank Zappa, leader of the Mothers of Invention, was voted "Pop Musician of the Year" in the Fifth Annual International Critics Poll conducted by Jazz & Pop magazine.
In the same survey's Pop Small Group category, the Mothers' "Absolutely Free" album came in a close second to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper LP. A new album by the Mothers of Invention, "We're Only in It for the Money," is just being released ... Ed.
Read by OCR software. If you spot errors, let me know afka (at) afka.net