Zappa masterminds a Mothers' masterpiece

By Bob Houston

Melody Maker, June 15, 1968

"Generally, people are so apathetic about anything and everything that just about the most shocking thing you can do is to insult them. The idea is shock theory."

Thus, Frank Zappa, boss Mother of the Mothers Of Invention spells out his group policy, musical and otherwise.

But beneath the outrage and revolution which Zappa sets out to create in his public posturings is an acute musical intelligence and a preoccupation with the emptiness of adolescent life in the United States.

The fact that Zappa cares about the plight of American youth is emphasized once again by the Mothers' new album, "We're Only In It For The Money" (Verve SVLP 9199), another massive blast of musical propaganda which sends up the sacred cows of the pop philosophy hippies, Haight-Ashbury, acid, teenyboppers, electric effects and derides the American way of life in general.

Even the Beatles are not immune, for the album is packaged in mock "Sgt. Pepper" style with a double fold picture of the Mothers in full drag.

Musically the Mothers are streets ahead of most pop groups. The send-ups of various styles, from Jimi Hendrix, the Kinks, New Vaudeville Band to Beatles neo-Indian are brought off brilliantly and incorporated into the overall scheme of the album.

Instrumentally Zappa, Billy Mundi, Bunk Gardner, Roy Estrada, Don Preston, Jimmy Carl Black, Ian Underwood, Euclid James "Motorhead" Sherwood, and the incomparable Suzy Creamcheese, are superb.

There's a streak of sadness about "Who Needs The Peace Corps," an incisive slash at the weekend hippies who cheapened the Haight-Ashbury ideal ("I'll stay a week and get the crabs and take a bus back home" ... "oh, my hair's getting good at the back" ... "I will ask the Chamber of Commerce how to get to Haight Street") and the riotous "Flower Punk" ("Hey Punk, where you going with that flower in your hair? I'm goin' up to Frisco to join a psychedelic band").

"Harry You're a Beast" slays American womanhood ("you lay in bed and grit your teeth") and teenybopper mores are pilloried with "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" ("who cares if you're so poor you can't afford to buy a pair of Mod A Go-Go stretch elastic pants").

Zappa recalls that their record company signed up the Mothers as an R&B group. "After the first session the producer called New York and said 'I don't know what we've got here' ." Precisely.

Even if they were only in it for the money this album reveals the real strength of Zappa and the Mothers as brilliant satirists and commentators on the American way of life via the medium of pop.