The original performer of bizarre rock 'n roll

By John Hinds

The Crimson White, July 17, 1974

For a man who enjoys large halls to small ones and bizarre audiences to conservative ones, last Sunday night [1] could have been a real letdown. But as I watched Frank Zappa and his Mothers on stage and then interviewed him between shows, it seemed to me that he was having a good time.

“Some of my best audiences are in the South," said Zappa. “I have said it before and I’ll say publicly once again. This current tour has been the best one that the Mothers have ever done."

“I thought that the audience was very receptive to what we were doing on stage and I was very happy with the way the first show went," Zappa said in an interview following the first show.

From the opening notes of “Cosmik Debris,” to the closing beats of “Join The March” and “Eat My Starch,” Zappa and his band threw tempos and keys around in a fantastic kaleidoscope that never ceased going in directions we’d forgotten had directions.

Zappa was in complete control as he directed his group with movements that were reminiscent of 200 Motels or Eugene Ormandy, and the response was executed with precision.

Zappa’s humor was evident throughout the evening as he delivered comments about the size and shape of his percussion player’s, Ruth’s, feet. Later in the first show he directed the group in a song called “Montana” which is about growing fields of dental floss in that state.

As funny as Zappa was on stage, he was in even better spirits for the interview. “l knew they had a lot of strange things in Alabama, but l never saw fresh okra until I arrived backstage tonight and the strangest part about it was I never imagined that fresh okra had snot in it,” Zappa said.

Probably the biggest complaint that Zappa received from the interviewers after the first show was the fact that he didn’t do enough old numbers. Zappa had a quick reply for that. He said “I’m not a jukebox for the audience; things happen spontaneously on stage. We have an idea of what we are going to do before we come out on the stage but things just develop when we are up there and each song has a ventilator. So the older songs just didn’t develop during the first show.”

True to his word that each show is totally different from the one before, Zappa changed directions in the second concert in Morgan Hall Sunday and did older tunes.

The Mothers laid dawn everything from “In The Pygmy Twilight,” to “Wowie Zowie”, and from “How Could I Be Such A Fool,” to “Who Needs The Peace Corps.” Once again the versatility and excellence in musical mastery shone through as the group’s lead singer Napoleon delivered his lines with precision and laid down some truly outstanding licks on me flute and sax.

One of the added surprises of the evening came during the second show, when Zappa brought his traveling minister out on stage in preach the “true religion”. The true religion turned out to be a raffle of Zappa’s shirt and he was almost talked out of his pants.

The second super attraction of the evening also came in the second show when one of UA’s most beautiful coeds, Lynelle Braehler, dressed in hotpants, a matching top and go-go boots, accompanied by the UPC frog, presented Zappa and the Mothers with ah anniversary cake in the shape of a male sex gland.

One couldn’t do a valid review of the Zappa concert without mentioning the warmup singer, Tom Waits, a native San Diegan got the crowd ready for Zappa with blues that would have made old Muddy Waters proud of the fella. Waits is headed for a bright future and hopefully he will be given the needed breaks.

1. Frank Zappa was in University Of Alabama in July 14, 1974. No recordings and setlists of these two shows are known. The band was FZ, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Tom Fowler, George Duke, Ruth Underwood, Chester Thompson. (FZshows)

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