"Mother-Images" Freak Out, Creamcheese, Psychedelics

By Chris Franz

Wellesley News, April 27, 1967

The opening concert Thurs., Apr. 20, at the American Music Festival featured a program of "Music of the Americas," subtitled "Our New World of Neighbors". The publicity hand-out goes on to describe contributions from Israel, Africa. South America, Ireland, and other nations of the world. However, the music which came from perhaps farthest away was provided by Los Angeles' Mothers of Invention. This group of five (one is actually optional) is among the most innovational of the new psychedelic rock groups. Their first album Freak Out! (a second will be out this summer) is at the same time a fantastic put-on and a fantastic groove. There is no other way to describe it.

Freak Out

However, first, for the uninitiated, let me quote from the Mothers their own definition of Freaking Out. "On a personal level, 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."

Let us now proceed to an analysis of the component parts of this phenomenon. The Mothers consists of Ray Collins: "lead vocalist, harmonica, tambourine, finger cymbals, bobby pin & tweezers"; Jim Black: "drums (also sings in some foreign language)"; Roy Estrada: "bass & guitarron; boy soprano"; and Elliot Ingber: "alternate lead & rhythm guitar with clear white light". Frank Zappa is optional. The album jacket explains: "Frank Zappa is the leader and musical director of the Mothers of Invention. His performances in person with the group are rare. His personality is so repellent that it's best he stay 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." The jacket is a wealth of such gems.

I had the opportunity to talk with him Thursday night for about an hour before they went on, as well as with various assorted Mothers who faded in and out.

On Personal Appearances

There are those who will insist that every folk, rock, or psychedelic group must be dirty, rude, and ignorant, per se: there is really no point in belaboring the issue with them. However, needless to say, the Mothers were quite clean, extremely well-mannered, amicable and compliant; extremely intelligent. (Dave Von Ronk, noted folk singer, scoffed at a proposed comparison between the Mothers and the Fugs: "Get on – be serious! ... There is no comparison. I mean, the first time you hear them it sounds like gibbelish, but then you realize how incredibly intellectual their material is, when you get underneath it.")

And what if they were turned out in an unusual vein? (Their hair averages shoulder-length and unkempt. Their attire is colorful and unconventional. Roy wears beads. Frank has adopted Jim's "'65 Baseball Champs" high school sweater ... ) The statement "Clothes make the man" is a ridiculous and twisted notion. The man should make the clothes. After all, clothes are just for decoration. They should be as imaginative, creative and individual as possible. They should express each man's personality. Theirs did.


We discussed Frank's philosophy of life:

– If you could change the world in any one way, how would you change it?

– I'd paint it a different color.

– What color?

– Gray.

 – Why gray?

– Because it's a good neutral  shade. Besides it would match all the conservative gray suits.

– Do you have a gray suit?

– Yes, I wear it to funerals and recording sessions.


His views on education:

– Where did your education stop?

– (taken aback ) It hasn't stopped. I'm still learning.

– ... Your formal education then?

– (with distaste) Oh, that ... high school ... uggh.

The jacket amplifies this sentiment: "Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. (Note: he is referring to American public high schools here, not to colleges or to private institutions, of course.) Forget about the senior prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you've got any guts. Some of you like pep rallies and plastic robots who tell you what to read. Forget I mentioned it." (Note: Suzy Crcamcheese is significant in this relation. She is almost a byword for them – her symptomatic endorsement appears on the back of their album, and salient reference is made to her in the song "Help, I'm A Rock." She is their Symbol. Suzy Creamcheese epitomizes for them the supersocialized product that is turned out by the American educational system.)

– What is your philosophy of education?

– The system goes all wrong after kindergarten. High school should be just like kindergarten ... After all, all their parents want is to keep kids out of their hair and out of trouble ... babysat for, for free. The kids should be able to work on their cars if they want to work on their cars; go to the beach if they want to go surfing! learn something if they want to learn something; come and take off all their clothes, if they want to take off their clothes; do exactly what they want to do. That's the only way to handle it ... They've got to find out that the world is a lousy place –

– Is that your philosophy of life?

– (wincing) ... No. (Here we went off on a tangent and touched upon the Montessori System.)

One might share his aversion to external compulsion (N.B. distribution requirements).

Tea & Cacophony

A conjectured Wellesley-Mothers of Invention get-together: We invited them to tea some afternoon, but they had to decline because they had to return to New York (where they are booked at the Garrick Theatre through next September). Frank proposed in alternative that the College come down en masse to the Garrick. He figured they could take care of us with about five shows.


– What do you think is the future of the current Indian trend in pop music?

– I think it will wear out. People will get tired of trying to play the sitar. (Note: the mastery of which requires a minimum of a lifetime of dedication and study; if we are to believe Ravi Shankar. Who ought to know.)

– What do you think of the San Francisco groups?

– Ahh, ... yes – my favorite color is ... Jefferson Airplane is OK. (Here we discussed the Grateful Dead and their slogan.)

– What do you think of the new attempt to move psychedelicism in to the realm of pop – like the Beach Boys in "Good Vibrations" – as they tried ... ?

– (registering disbelief, then breaking into an appreciative chuckle at the thought of it ) ... the Beachboys? ...

 (He did acknowledge later that the Beatles had done this in a certain way – witness "I Read the Papers.")


Conclusion: the Mothers of Invention are a mind-expanding experience. In fact, Motherhood is better than apple pie, only harder to digest.

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