The Mothers

By Carl Nagin

Avatar (New York), April 26, 1968

The Mothers of Invention. The present day composer refuses to die. Edgard Varèse. Refuses to die. When Stravinsky's Rite of Spring was first performed in Paris there were riots. That even occurred in recent history. Music causing riots? That was in a time when respectable people listened to concerts of Wagner in fashionable Paris opera houses and a Nazi-like seriousness almost destroyed the art-form altogether. It took a youthful Stravinsky and the dada-freaks to revitalize music. Time takes its toll. Stravinsky is now half-dead and does witty interviews for the New York Review of Books and dada (God help us) has been enshrined in the bourgeois emporium on 53rd. street. Well, let's see now why don't we have some ART in the office. Plastic people oh no you're such a drag.

I don't know what brought most of the people to the Fillmore last night to hear the Mothers, but I suspect it was some form of classicism.[1] There were no people wearing tuxedos and tophats with carnations in their lapels driven to the door in Bentleys (as there should have been for any respectable funeral) but (and let us not talk falsely) there was the equivalent. Classicisms because everyone has heard of the Mothers (freaky music) the way people in New York have heard of lots of things. It was depressingly chic. Most of the audience started to fall asleep when they realized that the Mothers were actually playing music and were actually onstage.

The Mothers performed an opera which for me was nothing less spectacular than Brecht's Mahagony [Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny].  There were two exceptionally long sections with virtually no lyrics interspersed with several of the rock parodies which the Mothers are known for. And if the parodies had not been played there would would have been no audience after the first twenty minutes. Parodies and people digging the Mothers giving them the finger or fucking dolls with microphones. These were performed in the spirit of the Surprise Symphony [Symphony No. 94 (Haydn)]. But the parodies failed to reach the audience as parodies, they were taken as music and people started snapping their fingers and doing their inevitable thing. "And now we'll play some soul music for you".

The mortality rate of pop music has always astounded me, it is its prime virtue. Plastic simply doesn't have that kind of durability. I speak not here of McCluahan [McLuhan]. Music is food. And Brecht conceived of Mahagony as Culinary Opera. The Germans of the 1920's like the Americans of the Sixties are the fattest eats that ever walked the face of the earth. But rock is fast developing into another esoteric cult. Think about the jargon, the irrelevant jargon that fills the mouths of pop critics. What are these people hearing or not hearing? This is why it is dying people are stopping staying where they were when they started and weren't sure they were going to make it. Rock needs to he buried, rock as a musical notion, because too malty people KNOW what rock is all about.

Making my way past the panhandlers and hippies on St. Marks Place, past the dully repetitious costumes and bourgeois children who think they are the salt of the earth, children who are dying prematurely senile at fourteen (Great American Vice: Precocity) ... as I crawled through the smoke the ashes the frenzy by the Gem Spa I spied atop a car a Mother of Invention. Gave him an Avatar saying it was free for musicians and proceeded to the Fillmore. I did not know I was attending a funeral. Like most funerals people were getting very sleepy with the proceedings in spite of all the assumed emotions. Zappa pulled out a doll from his drum of tricks. A doll and a joke store Marx Brothers moustache. Let's make him look like a hippy. He said: Anybody got some beads? Play some hippy costume music. Somebody get some beads. This is the last Mothers New York appearance till peace.

When it was over a few fools like myself called for more. Zappa turned around and said "Come on you don't really mean that. I'm sorry we woke you up when we stopped playing." Fuck you. More. I said... Fuck you too he replied. Food music for thought. The Present day composer refuses to die.

1. The Mothers Of Invention had in Fillmore East in April 19-20 two shows each night.

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