Zappa: Now It's Time For Gravy

By Roy Shipston

Disc And Music Echo, November 8, 1969

“THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION were a failure because I over-estimated the intelligence of the audience” – Frank Zappa talking in London last week.

“For about five years we were engaged in an experiment to enlarge the audience conception of music, to show that there was more beyond three-chord blues songs with boy-girl situation lyrics. Of course, some people didn’t like it.

“I like those sort of songs too, but there are other things. I suppose a lot of people saw me as some kind of perverted Charlatan making ugly sounds with humorous undertones. But I see certain things which are the truth and I live like that. I just tried to tell how I see things. We took things in a straightforward way and took them as far as possible and the few people that did hear and understand were grateful that we didn’t talk down to them.

“We should have just dispersed, like liquid does. Jim Black should have joined someone else’s group and taught them what we believed in instead of forming his own hand. If I had time to go on the road I would like to join a group, if I could find the right one.”

But Zappa doesn’t have time. He is busy planning a TV series which will be shot in a studio set recreating the basement of his home which is packed with equipment and where he does his entertaining.

A special pilot show will he made in December and he hopes to sell it to be syndicated. The show will be called “Lumpy Gravy” and will feature several regulars – including other ex-Mothers Ian Underwood and Motor Head plus Captain Beefheart – and will mainly be a “talk” show.

Among those who have been asked to appear on the first programme are Mick Jagger, Captain Kangaroo and Peter Fonda. “My idea is for the people involved to be talking for about one and a half hours before the take starts so that everybody is really into the thing.”

Zappa is also busy working on an idea for a Mothers of Invention record club – so that the 12 remaining albums recorded by the group (if group is the right word) will not remain “in-the-can” for ever.

“There are problems here because these records should all be available at once, for comparison, but our release schedule has only been two LPs a year. So it would take six years to get them out which is just no good at all.”

He says that 60 per cent of the tracks are “live” – including the whole of the Mothers’ London Festival Hall show documentary. “There is also a recording of our very first gig in a little bar in California.”

Zappa-in-the-future will also mean a two-hour documentary on the Mothers which will be available about April next year, and a concert of his music at the Albert Hall on April 26 using a concert orchestra. “I am getting more and more interested in composition and I have a suitcase full of stuff I’ve written in hotel rooms while I’ve been on the road. I don’t even know what most of it sounds like. I write at random as I can these days. I just relax and work it like an Ouija board.”

And he will be jamming with groups when he sets the opportunity, like he did at the Actuel Festival in Belgium – “it was very difficult to work out anything in that cow pasture and a lot of it was excretion on the audience”– and at London’s Speakeasy last week with Ginger Baker and Captain Beefheart.