Hey Hey Hey, Mister Snazzy Exec!

By Frank Zappa

Circular, September 20, 1971


from: FRANK ZAPPA

to: ALL WARNER/REPRISE AVANT-GARDE EXECUTIVES WHO MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE MERCHANDISING OF MOTHERS OF INVENTION PRODUCT

attn: SNAZZY EXECS . . .

On behalf of THE MOTHERS and BIZARRE, I wish to thank you for doing such a marvelous job on the "Penzil Front" album (MS 2042). I'm sure its present sales success is a direct result of your unflagging loyalty and touching concern for our group and its work. How often has our jolly little band (and even Herbie) mused upon its great fortune being handled by your skillful aggressive technicians and your creative Burbank copy writers and that guy who picks our the ugly pictures of us that you use in CIRCULAR. Any normal sort of teen-age combo might have become enraged by something like Freddie Weintraub's exquisite MEDICINE BALL CARAVAN ad campaign, where Warners stoops to the hiring of fake hippies ($10 a day, 10 days, $100 to "Get out there on the psychedelic bus and promote this groovy movie . . . . ."), and then sends a bunch to one of its concerts (like the one we played at PAULEY PAVILION) to pass out crappy little leaflets. Some old ordinary group might get pissed off at stuff like that, but we just sit round and say how lucky we are. After all, it could be worse . . . we could still be with MGM. We don't even care about security leaks associated with merchandising strategy (like "The Junier Mintz" deal), even when such a tragically simplistic hoax became a necessity in order to motivate your own sales people. We don't care about that stuff. We just laugh about it. Up at the office we laugh. At rehearsals we laugh. I even laugh about it during interviews and with my family when I get home. You guys know . . . you know our reputation (merely a comedy group) . . . you know we just laugh about it.

Anyway, we thought it was so funny that we got together a modified EXECUTIVE EDUCATIONAL PRESS KIT, prepared in the hope that relations between our group and your merchandising people will improve with proper understanding of the conceptual aspects of our "development program".

Consider this package as a response to your request for "something about us, written by us" for use in CIRCULAR. In your layout for this special issue, kindly print the letter you are holding in your hand on the front cover.

Best regards, Frank Zappa
(for the M.O.I. and Bizarre Inc).

 

INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIAL

Hey Hey Hey, Mister Snazzy Exec! Here It Is! Your Very Own M.O.I. Customized Press Kit . . . With The Answers to the Questions That Must Have Plagued You Day and Night for the Past two Years of Our Contractual Association!

 

In Case You've Never Heard of Our Group . . .

Hi! We're the M.O.I. (Mothers Of Invention) or just plain Mothers. We like to make that clear so you don't get us confused with that "Mothers/Brothers" campaign that Herbie called you guys about and said "What's the deal?" . . . to make it very plain, verging on redundant: WE ARE NOT THE DOOBIE BROTHERS, NOR DO WE HAVE ANY CONNECTION WITH MOTHER EARTH, CAT MOTHER & THE ALL NIGHT NEWSBOYS, AND/OR EVERY MOTHER'S SON . . . (with all the rock and roll groups you got, we can understand the sort of lonely confusion a busy executive must experience while attempting to make rational judgments about things like good or bad taste in an ad campaign . . . we like you . . . we understand).

Our group has been together since late 1964. During the past 7 years we have released 10 albums, F.Z. has released 2, and MGM/Verve (that other company) has re-packaged 3 anthologies against our wishes. This is a list of our "real" albums in the order of recording, not release.

  1. Freak Out
  2. Absolutely Free
  3. Lumpy Gravy
  4. We're Only In It For The Money
  5. Cruising With Ruben & The Jets
  6. Uncle Meat
  7. Hot Rats
  8. Burnt Weeny Sandwitch
  9. Mothermania
  10. Weasels Ripped My Flesh
  11. Chunga's Revenge
  12. Mothers/Fillmore June, 1971
  13. 200 Motels
    (for September release on United Artists)

 

This list does not include the 3 ugly MGM packages.

Maybe you know (maybe you don't know) about our plan for the release of the historic 9-disc History and Collected Improvisations of The Mothers around Christmas or after the first of the year. Maybe if you're in the promotional areas of WB/Kinney entertainment factory and heard about this unprecedented release you might have scratched your head and mumbled to your buddies at lunch " . . . I never heard of these guys and I'm supposed to promote a NINE DISC HISTORY ALBUM. I mean 'I HEART OF THEM A LITTLE BIT,' but I mean I never HEARD of them . . . I mean so who else ever HEARD of them and THEY SHOULD CARE? Some group dumping NINE FUCKING ALBUMS? During the depression and everything?"

Maybe you talked to somebody else later at the office. Maybe you asked some more reasonable, intelligent questions (see specimen above). Maybe some of the other questions went like this:

What's So Special About This Group?

Perhaps the most unique aspect of The Mothers' work is the conceptual continuity of the group's output macrostructure. There is, and always has been, a conscious control of thematic and structural elements flowing through each album, live performance, and interview.

What?

This is a silly analogy, however . . . Imagine the head of a pin. On the head of this pin is an amazingly detailed illustration of some sort. It might be a little thought or a feeling or, perhaps, an obscure symbol. It might just be a picture of a sky or something with birds in it . . . but it's on the head of this pin, remember, and it's infinitely detailed. Now, imagine this pin is not a pin . . . it's a musical note with a corresponding physical action, like the secret raising of an eyebrow to add special emphasis. Even in a recording studio where nobody can see you.

Now, imagine enough of these abstracted pins (with the needle part chopped off to save space) to fill an area as large as the North American Continent and most of Central Europe, piled to a depth of 80 feet. Now, imagine this area is not geometric space. Imagine a collection of decades (the exact number to be disclosed eventually). Pause.

Do you know about Earth Works? Imagine the decades and the pile of stuff on them subjected to extensive long-range conceptual landscape modification. Houses, Offices. People live there and work there. They even make movies there. Imagine that you could be living there and working there and not even know about it. Whether you can imagine it or not, that's what the deal is.

Listen. Nobody Puts Together a Pop Group, Simultaneously Planning Years of Absurdly Complicated Events, Lives out Those Events, Then Writes About It in a Press Kit and Expects Somebody to Believe It. You're Nuts.

The basic blueprints were executed in 1962-63. Preliminary experimentation in early and mid-1964. Construction of the project/object began in late 1964. Work is still in progress.

No Wonder You Guys Never Had a Hit Single.

I'm sure you realize that total control is neither possible, nor desirable (it takes the fun out of it). The project/object contains plans and non-plans also precisely calculated event-structures designed to accommodate the mechanics of fate and all bonus statistical improbabilities attendant thereto.

Yeah, Sure . . . I'm Supposed to Sell Records for You Guys, and I'm a Little Pressed for Time, So Why Don't You Just Tell Me Normal Stuff . . . Like What Your Group Sounds Like, Maybe . . .

What we sound like is more that what we sound like. We are part of the project/object. The project/object (maybe you like event/organism better) incorporates any available visual medium, consciousness of all participants (including audience), all perceptual deficiencies, God (as energy), The Big Note (as universal basic building material), and other things. We make a special art in an environment hostile to dreamers.

I Still Don't Get It . . . Art? What Art? Rolling Stone And All Other Groovy Important Publications Have Convinced Me That You Guys Are Nothing More Than a Bunch of Tone-Deaf Perverts, Faking It on the Fringe of the Real Rock & Roll World. All You Guys Do Is Play Comedy Music. So I Should Believe This Crap About a Conceptual Program Spanning Decades?

Yes.

You Been Doing This Stuff For 7 Years . . .

Almost 10 years if you include pre-planning.

So Why Didn't I Ever Know About Any of This Stuff? I'm Aware and Intelligent and Everything . . . How Come You Never Mentioned It?

There are several possible reasons:

  1. Maybe you never asked because you never heard any of the albums so perhaps the long-range continuity wouldn't occur to you.
  2. Maybe you never asked because you never saw The Mothers perform live, and the conceptual aspects of this phase could not be described without you having seen many concerts.
  3. Maybe you never read any interviews where this phenomenon was briefly described producing varying degrees of semantic confusion.
  4. Maybe now is when you should know.

 

What is it? Like a Plot or Something?

Not exactly. What I'm trying to describe is the type of attention given to each lyric, melody, arrangement, improvisation, the sequence of these elements in an album, the cover art which is an extension of the musical material, the choice of what is recorded, released, and/or performed during a concert, the continuity or contrasts of material album to album, etc., etc., etc. . . all of these detail aspects are part of the Big Structure or The Main Body of Work. The smaller details comprise not only the contents of The Main Body of Work, but, because of the chronology of execution, give it a "shape" in an abstract sense.

So You Say You're Aware of the "Overall Shape" of the Group's Output So Far . . .

I say we're not only aware of it, we control it. It is an intentional design.

You Think This Makes The Mothers Better Than Some Other Group?

It makes The Mothers different, certainly. We do not claim that control of conceptual continuity automatically insures superiority on any level. The reason for explaining this process is to simply let you know it exists, and to give you, as an executive, some criteria by which to rationally judge what we do. It is not fair to our group to review detail aspects of our work without considering the placement of a detail in the larger structure.

Why Don't You Guys Just Play Rock & Roll Like Everybody Else and Forget All This Other Crap?

Sometimes we do play Rock & Roll like everybody else (sort of). Our basic stylistic determination is Rock, only sometimes it gets extrapolated into curious realms.

You Probably Get Into That "Classical Rock" . . . Real Intellectual With Ugly Chords and the Beat's No Good . . .

Any association we might have with "serious music" has to be considered from a Rock viewpoint because most of us are strictly Rock musicians. There is also the element of humor to consider.

You Guys Could Never Really Play Any Good Rock & Roll. You're Not Serious Enough. You Couldn't Even Play Any Good Serious Music 'Cause You're Not Serious Enough. Have You Even Considered Employment in Another Field?

I would like to bring to your attention at this time one of the basic tenets of our group philosophy: IT IS, IN SPITE OF ALL EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY, THEORETICALLY POSSIBLE TO BE "HEAVY" AND STILL HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR. (We direct this specifically toward people who suffer feelings of ambivalence when given an opportunity to laugh at themselves).

And another precept which guides our work: SOMEBODY IN THAT AUDIENCE OUT THERE KNOWS WHAT WE'RE DOING, AND THAT PERSON IS GETTING OFF ON IT BEYOND HIS/HER WILDEST COMPREHENSIONS.


This is the first publication of imitated interview with himself, which was later republished several times. We tried to add missing parts and correct the errors present in other versions of this text in the web.

Similar article with 200 Motels parts added is Hypothetical Interview With Frank Zappa by Frank Zappa As Told To Suzie Creamcheese & Rodney Bingenheimer.

This article was also reprinted in 200 Motels Press Kit.

Read by OCR software. If you spot errors, let me know afka (at) afka.net