Esquire is an American men's magazine, founded in 1933. It has more than 20 international editions. (wikipedia)

1967 October

Vol. 68 No. 4 Issue 407


Secular Music
By Robert Christgau, pp 54, 56, 58, 62

[...] The Mothers of Invention pose the central question of contemporary art, namely: Are you putting me on? Everything about them is ugly. Presiding genius Frank Zappa seems to enjoy ugliness. His apparent motivation is distaste for everything except modern classical music and the alienation effect. "He's really weird," one graduate teenie-bopper confided to me. "He doesn't even turn on." Well, I guess that says it.

Visually, the Mothers are reminiscent of The Fugs, old enough so that all that hair looks more skanky than cute. Musically, they are The Fugs in reverse. The Fugs are poets who perceived the inherent sexuality of rock and decided it was an easy way to go bardic. The Mothers are musicians who learned during long hours in studios and crummy dance halls that rock was crude and often deracinated. They parody every popular music from Thirties-croon to The Supremes. (No Supremes fan could entirely survive the sight of these three hairy freaks prancing from mike to mike in a perfectly hideous and hilarious version of "Baby Love.") Their music is the antithesis of soul: wooden beat, trite riffs, inane lyrics. Vocalist Ray Collins can destroy any style, and the musicianship behind him is always precisely awful.

Because The Mothers are so good on stage (they have opened as an off-Broadway musical) their recordings are underrated. Both Freak Out!, a double record that is a great bargain at stereo price, and Absolutely Free, conceived as two short concerti, give the flavor of a Mothers performance. But they do not bear repeated listening. Musical parody can satisfy for just so long, and Zappa's tastes in social satire are less than subtle – the "plastic people" he is always sniping at are an unoriginal and rather stationary target. And when he moves into the aleatory-Varese-jazz-rock composition that seems his only true love he does not impress my admittedly untrained ear.

I don't mean to be captious, though. See The Mothers if you can. Zappa is very funny and reed man Bunk Gardner a great talent (much better than Archie Shepp, who Gardner professes to admire – along with Herman's Hermits). And if you can't see them, buy a record – the Zappa-designed jacket of Absolutely Free is almost worth the price. Absolutely Free is better integrated, Freak Out! has more music. Your choice. [...]



1969 September

Vol. 72 No. 3 Issue 430


The Unco-optables
By ?, p 103

By now, if you've paid attention, you know enough to identify and despise all biggies, jocks and pigs. So much for badness; now, precisely reflecting the true proportion of good to evil in the real werld, your Orientation Committee brings you one whole page of people upon whom you can safely bestow love and admiration. But please be careful; studies indicate the useful life of a hero barely exceeds that of a college president.

Up against the wall, from left to right: Arthur C, Clarke, whose book 2001 inspired the movie first and explained it later. George Wald, Harvard Nobel laureate, who one day emerged above the System, saw the evils of war, and spoke out; on oldie but a goodie. Daniel Cohthendit, German by birth, French by agitation, proving the student rebellion knows no local dwelling. Pier Paolo Pasolini, maker of Teorema, nuisance to the Pope, the Martin Luther of films. Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver, two souls at home in Cuba, Algeria, anywhere there's no ice. Laura Nyro, who showed the West that New York could have a sound. Richard Farina, rising again for last year's freshmen, who revived his example and his writings. Carlos Castaneda, anthropologist, former apprentice to a Yaqui Indian magician, author of the current underground Baedeker, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Frank Zappa, head Mother (of Invention) bringing messages by the media. Hermann Hesse, who wrote Steppenwolf, Journey to the East, and Magister Ludi; Dante and Kahlil Gibran rolled into one sweet ball. Janis Joplin, in whom maybe ten percent of Bessie Smith lives again. Stanley Kubrick, who redeemed himself from the lower depths by making 2001, the first real religious movie; one head saw it 250 times. Bobby Scale: with Huey in jail, Eldridge on vacation and blacks shooting other blacks, he must be the only cool head left.



1993 April

Vol. 119 No. 4


Cucamonga Years: The Early Works of Frank Zappa, 1962-1964
By Mark Jacobson, p 38

Since FRANK ZAPPA has spent much of his badbrain career perpetrating semibilious parody attacks on the record biz, the arrival of these so-called Cucamonga sides, documenting his pre-Mothers activities, provides arcane continuity: He was always that way. Zappa, the white George Clinton, does not appear on the tracks, but his ethos pervades. Ostensibly regular radio fare, this Zappa-penned slag heap is chocked with the usual meanspiritedness and contempt – all of which make it exceedingly lovable, of course. The lyric sheet (mostly in Japanese) includes this Bob Guy song; “I am writing to you from Cucamonga,” it says. “Ha-ha! Cucamonga? The weather is lovely. The nausea of noon.” Tin Pan Alley in the San Berdoo desert must have been a trip.



1996 February

Vol. 125 No. 5


Reality check. The Grand Wazoo
By  , p 20

Frank Zappa's Eastern European fans need a new translator. The late rock star has a huge following in Lithuania, where some of his admirers recently unveiled a six-foot-high bust of Zappa. But a press release announcing the event made even his most ardent fans seem unduly excited. It read: ZAPPA HONORED WITH LITHUANIAN ERECTION.