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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. 19 November 1936, USA, d. 24 December 2012, Pomona, California, USA; vocals), DaveCoronado (saxophone), Roy Estrada (b. 17 April 1943, 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 Coronadoabandon ...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. 19 November 1936, USA, d. 24 December 2012, Pomona, California, USA; vocals), DaveCoronado (saxophone), Roy Estrada (b. 17 April 1943, 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. Now renamed the Mothers, the quartet wasrelocated from Orange County to Los Angeles where they were briefly augmented by several individuals, including Alice Stuartand Henry Vestine, later guitarist in Canned Heat. Jim Fielder was another bass player who passed through the ranks. Heactually joined Buffalo Springfield before he had officially handed in his notice. These temporary additions found Zappa’s visiondaunting as the Mothers embarked on a disarming mélange of 50s pop, Chicago R&B and avant garde music. They wereembraced by the city’s nascent Underground before an appearance at the famed Whiskey A Go-Go resulted in a recordingcontract when producer Tom Wilson caught the end of one of their sets.
Now dubbed the Mothers Of Invention, owing to pressure from the record company, the band added guitarist Elliott Ingber(Winged Eel Fingerling) before commencing Freak Out!, rock music’s first double album. This revolutionary set featured severalexceptional pieces including ‘Trouble Every Day’, ‘Hungry Freaks, Daddy’ and ‘The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet’,each of which showed different facets of Zappa’s evolving tableau. The Mothers second album, Absolutely Free, featured aradically reshaped line-up. Ingber was fired at the end of 1966 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 New York’s Garrick Theater combinedspirited interplay with excellent material and the set showed growing confidence. Satire flourished on ‘Plastic People’, ‘AmericaDrinks & Goes Home’ and ‘Brown Shoes Don’t Make It’, much of which was inspired by the ‘cocktail-bar’ drudgery the bandsuffered 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 thetrappings of ‘flower-power’. Housed in a sleeve which cleverly mocked the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, theset included ‘The Idiot Bastard Son’ (‘The father’s a Nazi in Congress today, the mother’s a hooker somewhere in LA’) and‘Who Needs The Peace Corps’ (‘I’ll stay a week and get the crabs and take a bus back home’) and indicated Zappa’s growingfascination with technology. The album also introduced new member 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 an obvious affection for the 50s doo-wop materialon offer, all of which was self-penned and included re-recordings of three songs, ‘How Could I Be 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 wholly new setcommitted by the ‘original’ line-up. Later releases, Uncle Meat (a soundtrack to the then unmade movie), Burnt WeenySandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh, were all compiled from existing live and studio tapes as tension within the bandpulled it apart. The musicians enjoyed mixed fortunes. Estrada joined newcomer Lowell George (b. Lowell Thomas George, 13April 1945, Hollywood, California, USA, d. 29 June 1979, Arlington, Virginia, USA) in Little Feat, third drummer Arthur DyreTripp III switched allegiance to Captain Beefheart, while Jimmy Carl 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 ‘on the road’ 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 Don Preston in the 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, it became the band’sbestselling album to date, setting the tone for future releases and reinforcing the guitarist’s jaundiced view of his audience.This period was brought to a sudden end at London’s Rainbow Theatre. A ‘jealous’ member of the audience attacked thehapless Zappa onstage, pushing him into the orchestra pit where he sustained multiple back injuries and a compound legfracture. His slow recuperation was undermined when the entire new Mothers, bar Underwood, quit en masse to form whatbecame known as Flo And Eddie. Confined to the studio, Zappa compiled Just Another Band From L.A. and used the Mothersepithet for the jazz big band on The Grand Wazoo. Reverting to rock music, the Mothers’ name was re-established with anew, tighter line-up in 1973. However subsequent albums, Over-Nite Sensation, Roxy & Elsewhere and One Size Fits All, wereindistinguishable from projects bearing Zappa’s name and this now superfluous title was 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’s entire catalogue has been expertly remastered and reissued with the advent of the compact disc. Rykodisc Recordsare to be congratulated for their efforts, having purchased the whole catalogue from Gail Zappa for a large, undisclosed sum.The quality of those early Mothers Of Invention recordings is by today’s standards quite outstanding. « hide
Similar Bands: Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, Ween, Primus, Isaac Baranoff
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