The Mothers’ Musical Message Called Meaningful And Warped

By Roger Doughty

Ogdensburg Journal, September 10, 1968

NEA Staff Correspondent

New York – (NEA) – Frank Zappa’s father didn't raise his son to be a mother, but he became one anyway. In fact, Frank grew up to become the Head Mother of them all, the leader of the Mothers of Invention and the oracle of rock, even though he admits to being 30.

It takes just one look at Frank to realize he’s not your average run-of-the-mill mother. But, as he likes to point out, “Good people come in all kinds of personal packaging.” Those who take their rock seriously think Zappa is one of the goodest of them all.

But there are those who suspect that Frank and the other Mothers take their own sound with a grain of salt. One national magazine reviewed their recent record, “We’re Only in It for the Money,” and concluded, “the Mothers’ perversity is getting to be a drag – and since they put down everything, we suspect that they are only doing it for the money.”

But no matter. Zappa is used to being zapped. The music of the Mothers has been called meaningful, warped, brilliant and terrible by a variety of reviewers over the years. Take your pick.

“There’s a message behind our music,” says Zappa, “but I’m not going to tell you what it is. Listen to the music and figure it out for yourself.”

Frank plays guitar, piano, vibes and drums. He also composes, arranges and rattles off social commentaries. The other Mothers are Roy Estrada, Bunk Gardner, Jimmy Carl Black, Ray Collins, Don Preston, Jim Sherwood, Art Tripp and Ian Underwood.

“These guys have been through every type of music,” Zappa says proudly. “They’re a real mixed-up bunch. One guy used to be a truck driver, another was a bartender and carpenter and one was a salad chef and auto mechanic. We have another guy who used to work for the gas and electric company in Kansas. He’s also a part-time alcoholic. With such a wide variety of experiences, what they’ve been through can’t help but project into what they play.”

“The Mothers,” according to their agent, “consider themselves a group of singing social workers, exercising free speech through music, through which they can speak more freely and reach a greater number of people. By means of his ‘pop oratorio,’ Frank Zappa gives us a description of today’s world as seen through the eyes of, the Mothers. Their ‘spiffy nifty patter,’ as Frank describes it, contains some of the most biting social comment of our decade. ‘The only way you can fight for survival is outrage,' Frank explains.”

Frank's spiffy, nifty patter (off stage variety; ranges far and wide.

“Rock music,” be feels, “is a necessary element of today's society.”

“Demonstrations,” he says, “are the logical thing to expect from an oppressed minority. And there are a lot of oppressed minorities around these days.

“Television has been very helpful. You can learn how to stage a demonstration just by watching the tube. I’m for ’em, demonstrations that is.”

“Madison Avenue,” he smiles, “has made a lot of money by getting everybody up tight about how their bodies function. In that way they become rich by intimidating people to the point where they will buy a lot of stuff to kill body odor and bad breath.”

But such wisdom comes with age, Zappa admits.

“The average age in our group is 30,” he says. “There are a lot of kids in other groups who are saying profound things, but they’re so young that you have to find it difficult to believe that they know what they’re talking about. There’s room for people over 30 in rock.”

That’s a very motherly thought.

This syndicated article was published in many newspapers in September-October 1968 under different titles.

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