Uncle Meat

By Richard C. Walls

Creem, June 1969

The Mothers of Invention – Uncle Meat – Bizarre 2024

(Most of the music is from the Mothers’ movie of the same name which they haven’t got enough money to finish yet.)

Two L.P.’s and a nifty 12 page book.

For a list of selections see the review below.

Personnel: Frank Zappa, guitar, low grade vocals, percussion; Ray Collins, swell vocals; Jimmy Carl Black, drums, droll humor, poverty; Roy Estrada, electric bass, cheeseburgers, Pachuco falsetto; Dan (Dom De Wild) Preston, electric piano, tarot cards, brown rice; Billy (The Oozer) Mundi, drums on some pieces before he quit to join “Rhinoceros”; Bunk (Sweetpants) Gardner, piccolo, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, bassoon (all of these electric and/or nonelectric depending); Ian Underwood, electric organ, piano, harpsichord, celeste, flute, clarinet, alto sax, baritone sax, special assistance, copyist, industrial relations and teen appeal; Artie (With the Green Mustache) Tripp, drums, timpani, vibes, marimba, xylophone, wood blocks, bells, small chimes, cheerful outlook and specific enquiries; Euclid James (Motorhead/Motorishi) Sherwood, pop star, frenetic tenor sax stylings, tambourine, choreography, local groupies; Ruth Komanoff, marimba and vibes with Artie on many of the tracks; Nelcy Walker, soprano voice with Ray on “Dog Breath” and “The Uncle Meat Variations”.

The best way to cope with this record (“Basically this is an instrumental album“ says the liner notes) is to take it cut by cut – so I have listed the name of each song (all 28 of ‘em), followed by the time length, followed by some of my own related erratic wordage. The whole mess is followed by more vague comments on the record, the Mothers, and Frank Zappa in general.

Side 1

Uncle Meat: Main Title Theme (1:54) The Mothers have a sound – I don’t know if you’re hip to the movie. “Little Shop of Horrors” – well, this sounds like the soundtrack – something to do with Southern California – stuccato xylophone and percussion. This song introduces us to the techniques of the album electronics, constructive insanity and splicing (if it isn’t splicing then it’s split second wickedness).

The Voice of Cheese (0:27) Suzy Creamcheese, Zappa’s “Ruby Tuesday” with the jaded Sue Lyon voice, raps about her worthlessness and then cuts to

Nine Types of Industrial Pollution (5:56) This is a showcase for Zappa’s guitar antics. The only contemporary guitar player that I can think of that has his range (access to styles/modes) is Larry Coryell. But then you could probably think of a few. The setting seems rather free with spontaneous relating of sounds – but – the electronic/orchestral effects and some of the percussion sound like they’ve been dubbed on – in which case the spontaneity could take place over a period of weeks. Maybe, maybe not.

Zolar Czakl (0:57) or Motor Cycle or Molar Cycle (there’s teeth all over the album cover ).

Dog Breath, In The Year of The Plague (5:51) The first manifestation on the album of funky 50’s and insane R&B thrills. Beautiful. Listen to “fuzzy dice and bongos” – this musical phrase, through a dozen or more creative mutations, is heard throughout the album. The unifying piece of worthlessness. Though Zappa belittles his lyrics in the liner notes they’re still very clever, a surrealistic presentation of what was so explicit on “Freak Out”.

The Legend of the Golden Arches (1:24) Beautifully impressionistic piece with slight traces of Dog Breath.

Louie Louie (at the Albert Hall in London) (2:28) Great! A highlight of the album – funny – an epiphany as the distortion of the loud Albert Hall pipe organ cuts quickly to a brief Albert Ayler type sax sequence. The Mothers begin to come into focus. Distortion and fragmentation is where the rock and jazz elements overlap. It is also the apex of the Mothers’ output.

The Dog Breath Variations (1:36). The whole album in microcosm.

Side 2

Sleeping In A Jar ((0:49) A vocal, an ode to the lameness of mommy and daddy, a Zappa specialty.

Our Bizarre Relationship (1:05) Creamcheese’s free association spliced speed rap.

The Uncle Meat Variations (4:40) The compositional scope of the album in macrocosm with raunchy Munchkin vocals (fuzzy dice and bongos). Zappa is brilliant.

Electric Aunt Jemima (1:53) Another highlight. Pancake love song with the batter consisting of Jan and Dean and the Everly Brothers. Hilarious words and music.

Prelude to King Kong (3:24) Wait until we get to King Kong.

Good Bless America (Live at the Whiskey A GoGo) (1:22) Highlight No. 3. This song sucks as you well know – a combination of low grade patriotism, religion, and tin pan alley. The Mothers breathe new life into the old girl with this spontaneous, fervid rendition.

A Pound for a Brown on the Bus (1:29) The soundtrack of “Little Shop of Horrors” again – an esoteric reference but an exact description of one aspect of the Mothers’ sound.

Ian Underwood Whipt It Out (Live on stage in Copenhagen) (5:08) Underwood is a very good free alto sax player. He whips it out, with , against, around, and under the strict laborious drum beat. Strong Ornette Coleman influence – doesn’t play long enough to really get into anything – but it’s a sweet sound (doesn’t it sound like fuzzy dice and bongos-spaced free variations?)

Side 3

Mr. Green Genes (3:10) A Frankenstein entrance (that’s right – listen) leads into another Zappa speciality – a mode of music expression he originated on “Absolutely Free” – one of the startling new concepts to evolve during the recent history of Western Civilization – the All–American Rock ‘n Roll Vegetable Song (a dey to all this vegetable nonsense can be found in the nifty 12 page book that accompanies the album – and I quote – “Certain sounds at certain intensities have amazing effects on plants and vegetables.” (Gosh!)

We Can Shoot You (1:48) This is a delicate avant-garde call and response piece – response to totalitarian demands of the song’s title and/or display of alternate power.

If we’d all been living in California ... (1:29) Inside the Mothers of Invention (they’re really very poor.)

The Air (2:57) Acid Rhythm and blues or acid schlock rock or acid candy rock or acid rock candy ... (this could be the best cut on the album if you were me).

Project X (4:47) Zappa’s compositional genius spews forth. Southern California soul (variations on the theme from “Little Shop of Horrors”).

Cruising for Burgers (2:19) This one doesn’t make it – they’ve done it better on this and other albums – the melody isn’t sympathetic to the funky lyrics.

Side 4

This is jazz side with all the highs and lows as the Mothers display their sometimes dubious but always sincere improvisational talents.

King Kong itself (as played by the Mothers in a studio) (0:53) The main theme, nothing exceptional, sounds like they’re playing a transcribed Steve Marcus solo.

King Kong (its magnificence as interpreted by Dom De Wild) (1:15) This is an electric piano solo and it’s good, it swings.

King Kong (as Motorhead explains it) (1:44) Motorhead plays a beautifully wild tenor sax and really sets it free but only for a minute and forty-four seconds. If this had been extended we could have really freaked.

King Kong (the Gardner Varieties) (6:17) Bunk Gardner takes what sounds like an electric tenor sax solo – much too long. Pre–Coltrane electric sax (a contradiction). Doesn’t build very well and though it has its moments, at times it seems endless.

King Kong (as played by 3 deranged Good Humor Trucks) (0:29) Honest!

King Kong (live on a flatbed diesel in the middle of a race track at a Miami Pop Festival ... the Underwood ramifications) (7:22) Underwood is good but the whole cut is very poorly recorded. The variety of the Mothers’ accompaniment during his solo helps sustain interest (sounds like “Downbeat”, don’t it?). Song and album end with well orchestrated insanity, i.e., vibes to warm the cockles of your vision.

Vague Comments on the Record The Mothers are tuned in to the heaviest sounds existing.

“Say the first thing that comes into your mind” – “Ahhhh ... Uncle Meat!” – “Good!”

“Uncle Meat” is a collage, devoid of logic or even free associations in the order of the different “songs”. And it is perfect (protean non-structure at its zenith).