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The Mothers of Invention

This celebrated band was formed in 1964 when guitarist Frank Zappa (b. Frank Vincent Zappa, 21 December 1940, Baltimore,Maryland,USA,d. 4 December 1993, Los Angeles, California, USA) replaced Ray Hunt in the Soul Giants, a struggling R&B-based bar band. Ray Collins(b. 19November 1936, USA, d. 24 December 2012, Pomona, California, USA; vocals), DaveCoronado (saxophone), Roy Estrada (b. 17 April1943,Santa Ana, California, USA; bass) and Jimmy Carl Black (b. 1 February1938, El Paso, Texas, USA, d. 1 November 2008, Siegsdorf,Germany;drums) completed their early line-up, but Coronadoabandoned t ...read more

This celebrated band was formed in 1964 when guitarist Frank Zappa (b. Frank Vincent Zappa, 21 December 1940, Baltimore,Maryland,USA,d. 4 December 1993, Los Angeles, California, USA) replaced Ray Hunt in the Soul Giants, a struggling R&B-based bar band. Ray Collins(b. 19November 1936, USA, d. 24 December 2012, Pomona, California, USA; vocals), DaveCoronado (saxophone), Roy Estrada (b. 17 April1943,Santa Ana, California, USA; bass) and Jimmy Carl Black (b. 1 February1938, El Paso, Texas, USA, d. 1 November 2008, Siegsdorf,Germany;drums) completed their early line-up, but Coronadoabandoned the outfit when the newcomer unveiled his musical strategy. Nowrenamed theMothers, the quartet wasrelocated from Orange County to Los Angeles where they were briefly augmented by several individuals,includingAlice Stuartand Henry Vestine, later guitarist in Canned Heat. Jim Fielder was another bass player who passed through the ranks.Heactuallyjoined Buffalo Springfield before he had officially handed in his notice. These temporary additions found Zappa’s visiondaunting astheMothers embarked on a disarming mélange of 50s pop, Chicago R&B and avant garde music. They wereembraced by the city’snascentUnderground before an appearance at the famed Whiskey A Go-Go resulted in a recordingcontract when producer Tom Wilson caughtthe endof one of their sets.

Now dubbed the Mothers Of Invention, owing to pressure from the record company, the band added guitarist Elliott Ingber(WingedEelFingerling) before commencing Freak Out!, rock music’s first double album. This revolutionary set featured severalexceptionalpiecesincluding ‘Trouble Every Day’, ‘Hungry Freaks, Daddy’ and ‘The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet’,each of which showed differentfacetsof Zappa’s evolving tableau. The Mothers second album, Absolutely Free, featured aradically reshaped line-up. Ingber was fired at theend of1966 while Zappa added a second drummer, Billy Mundi, plus DonPreston (b. Donald Ward Preston, 21 September 1932, Flint, Michigan,USA;keyboards), Bunk Gardner (horns) and Jim‘Motorhead’ Sherwood (saxophone) to the original nucleus. A six-month residency at NewYork’sGarrick Theater combinedspirited interplay with excellent material and the set showed growing confidence. Satire flourished on‘PlasticPeople’, ‘AmericaDrinks & Goes Home’ and ‘Brown Shoes Don’t Make It’, much of which was inspired by the ‘cocktail-bar’ drudgerythebandsuffered in its earliest incarnation.

However, Zappa’s ire was more fully flexed on We’re Only In It For The Money, which featured several barbed attacks on thetrappingsof‘flower-power’. Housed in a sleeve which cleverly mocked the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, theset included ‘TheIdiotBastard Son’ (‘The father’s a Nazi in Congress today, the mother’s a hooker somewhere in LA’) and‘Who Needs The Peace Corps’ (‘I’llstay aweek and get the crabs and take a bus back home’) and indicated Zappa’s growingfascination with technology. The album alsointroduced newmember Ian Underwood (saxophone/keyboards), who became anintegral part of the band’s future work. Cruising With Ruben& The Jets was,to quote the liner notes, ‘an album of greasylove songs and cretin simplicity’. Despite such cynicism, the band displayed anobvious affectionfor the 50s doo-wop materialon offer, all of which was self-penned and included re-recordings of three songs, ‘How Could IBe Such A Fool’,‘Any Way TheWind Blows’ and ‘You Didn’t Try To Call Me’, first aired on Freak Out! However, the album was the last whollynewsetcommitted by the ‘original’ line-up. Later releases, Uncle Meat (a soundtrack to the then unmade movie), Burnt WeenySandwichandWeasels Ripped My Flesh, were all compiled from existing live and studio tapes as tension within the bandpulled it apart. Themusiciansenjoyed mixed fortunes. Estrada joined newcomer Lowell George (b. Lowell Thomas George, 13April 1945, Hollywood, California,USA, d. 29June 1979, Arlington, Virginia, USA) in Little Feat, third drummer Arthur DyreTripp III switched allegiance to Captain Beefheart,while JimmyCarl Black formed Geronimo Black with brothers Buzz and BunkGardner.

A new Mothers was formed in 1970 from the musicians contributing to Zappa’s third solo album, Chunga’s Revenge, and thescatological ‘ontheroad’ documentary, 200 Motels. Three former Turtles, Mark Volman (b. 19 April 1947, Los Angeles,California, USA), Howard Kaylan(b.Howard Kaplan, 22 June 1947, the Bronx, New York City, New York, USA) and Jim Pons (b.14 March 1943, Santa Monica, California,USA;bass) joined Aynsley Dunbar (b. 10 January 1946, Liverpool, England; drums)and long-standing affiliates Ian Underwood and DonPreston inthe band responsible for Live At The Fillmore East, June 1971.Here, however, the early potpourri of Stravinsky, John Coltrane, doo-wop and‘Louie Louie’ gave way to condescendinginnuendo as Zappa threatened to become the person once the subject of his ire.Paradoxically, itbecame the band’sbestselling album to date, setting the tone for future releases and reinforcing the guitarist’s jaundiced viewof hisaudience.This period was brought to a sudden end at London’s Rainbow Theatre. A ‘jealous’ member of the audience attackedthehaplessZappa onstage, pushing him into the orchestra pit where he sustained multiple back injuries and a compound legfracture. Hisslowrecuperation was undermined when the entire new Mothers, bar Underwood, quit en masse to form whatbecame known as Flo AndEddie.Confined to the studio, Zappa compiled Just Another Band From L.A. and used the Mothersepithet for the jazz big band on The GrandWazoo.Reverting to rock music, the Mothers’ name was re-established with anew, tighter line-up in 1973. However subsequent albums, Over-NiteSensation, Roxy & Elsewhere and One Size Fits All, wereindistinguishable from projects bearing Zappa’s name and this now superfluoustitlewas abandoned in 1975, following therelease of Bongo Fury, a collaboration with Captain Beefheart.

Since Zappa’s death a number of biographies have appeared; Neil Slaven’s Electric Don Quixote is particularly noteworthy.Zappa’sentirecatalogue has been expertly remastered and reissued with the advent of the compact disc. Rykodisc Recordsare to be congratulated fortheirefforts, having purchased the whole catalogue from Gail Zappa for a large, undisclosed sum.The quality of those early Mothers OfInventionrecordings is by today’s standards quite outstanding. « hide

Similar Bands: Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, Edgard Varese, Wild Man Fischer, The GTOs

LPs
One Size Fits All
1975

4.2
162 Votes
Over-Nite Sensation
1973

4.1
191 Votes
Burnt Weeny Sandwich
1970

3.7
126 Votes
Weasels Ripped My Flesh
1970

3.9
186 Votes
Uncle Meat
1969

4.2
153 Votes
Cruising with Ruben & the Jets
1968

3.3
96 Votes
We're Only in It for the Money
1968

4.3
351 Votes
Absolutely Free
1967

4.2
236 Votes
Freak Out!
1966

4.2
413 Votes
Live Albums
Roxy by Proxy
2014

4
4 Votes
Ahead of Their Time
1993

3.7
21 Votes
Playground Psychotics
1992

3.1
18 Votes
Roxy & Elsewhere
1974

4.3
106 Votes
Just Another Band from L.A.
1972

3.6
45 Votes
Fillmore East – June 1971
1971

3.8
58 Votes
Compilations
The Lumpy Money Project/Object
2009

4.3
3 Votes
The **** of the Mothers
1969

5
1 Votes
Mothermania
1969

4
4 Votes

Contributors: Ziguvan, seymourbutts, rockandmetaljunkie, Oldfield, Frippertronics, organizedsound, jamest33, biohazardfan, MusicFan2007, Egglord, rattlehead42147, pulseczar, tom79, Alex101, SomethingfromHolland, BMDrummer, KILL, Frippertronics,

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