Frank Zappa is currently living among the splendid decor of the urinal dynasty of one of London's newest and largest hotels. He and the new Mothers of Invention arrived here last weekend for the Bath Festival, and spent four days before the concert recording at Trident studios for an album due to be released after their next LP – the Weasels Ripped My Flesh. Weasel is due for release in the States in a couple of weeks, but not scheduled for issue here until August or September. According to Zappa the album is to some extent the link between Hot Rats and Burnt Weenie Sandwich, though more 'glandular' than BWS. The main reason for this is the introduction of Aynsley Dunbar into the band.
Zappa met Dunbar while the drummer was still struggling within the framework of his bluesband at the Brussels Festival last year, where Zappa jammed with the group and 'took off within a couple of bars.' They met again when Zappa was in England last Christmas and Dunbar was trying to get his Blue Whale band off the ground. Zappa invited the British drummer to LA, telephoned him a few times to conﬁrm it, and Dunbar flew to the States. 'The ﬁrst day he arrived', said Zappa, 'we got to work in my basement studio. Aynsley has a rhythmic concept that none of my other drummers have had. If I get it off then he's with me and the others just stand there.'
The Mothers split up last summer for 'a number of ﬁnancial, musical and aesthetic reasons' as well as dissatisfaction with the effect that Zappa's music was having on their audiences. They reformed with some original members for the Mothers' Day celebrations this year.
Two weeks ago two of the Turtles, recently disbanded after 14 hit singles and a $160,000 writ-against their record company for uncollected royalties, joined the group: Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan. The two had been the Mothers' greatest and earliest fans with the exception of the original Suzy Creemcheese, and Zappa called them up to say 'Hey, you wanna go on the road?' They did and now their incredible knowledge of sub-teeny hits from the ﬁfties and sixties, plus a singing ability that Zappa could never equal, has made a vast difference to the smoothness and quality of the Mothers' high harmony parodies.
The remaining members of the group are coloured organist George Duke, bassist Jeff Simmons, and the indomitable Ian Underwood, no longer the straight man of the group, returning to sax after a brief spell with Captain Beefheart as a guitarist.
Zappa still has twelve Mothers' albums in storage. At one time there was talk of selling them by mailorder in Playboy. But the magazine realised that the basic production costs on the albums (10,000 of each) would be a 1/2 million dollars and shelved the idea. A new Hot Rats set will be released late summer and possibly a second new album before the end of the year. Zappa's Uncle Meat movie is 'in a word – unﬁnished': after the backers saw the ﬁrst rushes they withdrew their money. They had expected 'anything other than what they saw.'
Last Saturday, June 20th, the band played a late and somewhat unsatisfactory set at the Speakeasy. Using the equipment of the billed band – Aquila – both Dukes and Dunbar were daunted by the limits of their instruments, though Dunbar showed that his weekly percussion tuition in LA plus the very freedom of working with Zappa, has opened up an entirely new drummer. His work is more ﬂuid, and he is to a large extent the sweaty driving force of the band, while Zappa is the delicate ﬁngertipped dictator. Ruben Sano himself was subdued, but controlling the band nattily.
The set began with what is basically the Rats, without Sugarcane Harris' lunatic violin, going fast and loose through and later they were joined by the two ex-Turtles. Instead of getting lighter the music became more intense and strained as they searched harder for the right combinations. The Bath festival is part of a 24 day tour, and is their second gig. Previously Zappa has denounced the festival scene, preferring to play 'in concert' indoors. But the Mothers are one of the main attractions and after a week in the studios, there should be little that will be able to distract the audience.
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