The Mothers of Invention photographed by Bruce McBroom, 1967.
The Mothers of Invention photographed by Bruce McBroom, 1967.
On this day in music history: October 10, 1969 – “Hot Rats”, the second solo album by Frank Zappa is released. Produced by Frank Zappa, it is recorded at T.T.G. Studios, Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood, CA, and Whitney Studios in Glendale, CA from July 18 – August 30, 1969. His first album since disbanding The Mothers Of Invention, it consists of largely instrumental jazz influenced material and feature guest musicians Shuggie Otis, Max Bennett, Don “Sugarcane” Harris, Jean-Luc Ponty and Captain Beefheart. Technologically more advanced than his previous works, it is Zappa’s first to be recorded on a 16-track multi-track recorder, which he utilizes the expanded technology to the fullest, overdubbing numerous keyboard and horn parts (played by musician Ian Underwood) as well as using techniques like varispeed to change the texture and sound of instruments. Dedicated to his new born son Dweezil, “Hot Rats” goes on to be one of Zappa’s most popular and acclaimed recordings. The albums enigmatic infrared cover photo taken by Andee Nathanson, features Miss Christine Ann Frka of the acapella girl group The GTO’s, peeping out of an empty lily pond on the estate of actor Errol Flynn. The artwork and photo collage on the inside gatefold of the LP is designed by Cal Schenkel, also responsible for the cover art on Zappa’s “Cruisin’ With Ruben And The Jets” and “Uncle Meat” albums. When the album is reissued on CD in 1987, Zappa extensively remixes and edits the tracks, making them longer than the first LP issue. Eventually, the original 1969 mixes are reissued on vinyl in 2009 and on CD in 2012. “Hot Rats” peaks at number one hundred seventy three on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: September 7, 1973 – “Over-Nite Sensation”, the seventeenth album by Frank Zappa is released. Produced by Frank Zappa, it is recorded at Bolic Sound in Inglewood, CA and Whitney Studios in Glendale, CA from March 19 – June 1, 1973. After the more fusion jazz oriented “Waka/Jawaka” and “The Grand Wazoo”, Frank Zappa once agains take another musical detour with his next release. “Over-Nite Sensation marks an important turning point in Zappa’s career, combining jazz, rock and funk, he produces a more accessible sound that brings him a wider audience and generates some of his most commercially successful work. The fifth Zappa album to feature keyboardist George Duke, "Sensation” is the first to include new drummer Ralph Humphrey and percussionist Ruth Underwood (the wife of long time Mothers band member Ian Underwood), who also become essential players during this era. Featuring guest appearances by violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, singer Ricky Lancelotti and Tina Turner and the Ikettes, the album features some of his best known and loved songs including “Dinah-Moe Humm”, “I Am The Slime”, “Zomby Woof” and “Montana”. Originally released on CD in 1995, it is remastered in 2012, and also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2013. “Over-Nite Sensation” peaks at number thirty two on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: June 27, 1966 – “Freak Out!”, the debut album by The Mothers Of Invention is released. Produced by Tom Wilson, it is recorded at Sunset-Highland Studios of TTG from March 9 – 12, 1966. Signed to MGM distributed Verve Records in early 1966 by producer/A&R man Tom Wilson (Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, The Velvet Underground), Wilson signs the band believing them to be a white blues band akin to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, not realizing how musically varied and idiosyncratic they actually are. One of the first double LP sets ever by a rock band, the album is recorded in just four days worth of studio time. Clocking in at nearly sixty one minutes, the fourteen track two LP set is a concept album satirizing rock music and America. The entire fourth side of the album is taken up by the experimental and abstract “The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet (Unfinished Ballet in Two Tableaux)”. The twelve minute plus avant-garde instrumental featuring Dr. John on piano (credited under his real name Mac Rebennack). The track appears on the album in its unfinished state after the label cuts off the recording budget for the album after Zappa spends over $12,000 renting percussion instruments to use on the track. In all, producer Tom Wilson spends nearly $35,000 of MGM Records money by the time editing and mixing is completed. Before it’s released, label executives insist that two lines from the third movement of “Help, I’m A Rock” (“It Can’t Happen Here”) be removed, believing them to be references to drugs. Though a section of “Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet” with Zappa dropping the “F” bomb is left intact. The original mono and stereo releases of the album vary not only in their mixes but include edits that differ noticeably from each other. Original pressings also feature a map of Hollywood printed inside the LP gatefold titled “Freak Out Hot Spots!”, along with an offer to send in for a copy of the map. The map is removed from subsequent reissues, but reprinted as part of “The MOFO Project/Object” set in 2006, featuring the original stereo mix of the album, alternate takes, unused mixes and live recordings. It quickly establishes Frank Zappa’s reputation for the social commentary and satire that is constant throughout his career. “Freak Out!” peaks at number one hundred thirty on the Billboard Top 200, earning the band a loyal cult following. Going out of print in the early 70’s, Zappa is first reissues the album (after purchasing his master tapes back from Verve) in April of 1985 as part of a boxed set titled “The Old Masters – Box One”. The album is remastered and reissued in 2012, with a double 180 gram vinyl LP set following in 2013. “Freak Out!” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.
On this day in music history: May 3, 1982 – “Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch”, the thirty fourth album by Frank Zappa is released. Produced by Frank Zappa, it is recorded at the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen in Los Angeles, CA (studio tracks) and in Various Locations with the UMRK Mobile Unit from September 1981 – Early 1982. Following the releases of the studio album “You Are What You Is” and the live albums “Tinsel Town Rebellion”, and “Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar” series, Zappa originally has his sights set on issuing another live set titled “Chalk Pie”. Those plans are scrapped when many of tracks surface as bootlegs before they can be released. Instead, he begins working on tracks in his home studio in Laurel Canyon, when his then fourteen year old daughter Moon leaves a note on the studio door, asking her workaholic musician father if they can spend some time together. Zappa invites his daughter into the studio and the end result is the song “Valley Girl” (#32 Pop). The send up of clueless, spoiled, materialistic teenage girls from the San Fernando Valley, becomes a surprise hit when it begins receiving airplay as an album cut on top 40 pop radio, a format that has almost completely ignored Zappa’s music in the past. It is only issued as a single after CBS Records (then Barking Pumpkin Records’ distributor) asks that it be released, after public demand. Thanks to the success of “Valley Girl”, “Witch” becomes one of best selling releases Frank Zappa’s career. The other half of the album features live material recorded during the tour in support of the “You Are What You Is” album. The track “Teenage Prostitute” features vocalist Lisa Popeil, the daughter of “Veg-O-Matic” and “Pocket Fisherman” inventor Ron Popeil. The distinctive artwork featured on the cover is an illustration by cartoonist Roger Price from his book “Droodles” with the album taking its title from the drawing. “Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch” peaks at number twenty three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: March 22, 1974 – “Apostrophe (‘)”, the eighteenth album by Frank Zappa is released. Produced by Frank Zappa, it is recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, Bolic Sound, Inglewood, CA and Paramount Studios in Hollywood, CA from Mid 1969 – Early 1974. The album is the follow up to the prolific guitarist and songwriter’s commercial breakthrough “Over-Nite Sensation”, featuring shorter, more tightly structured songs tinged with Zappa’s trademark humor. Like many Zappa projects, the material is culled from a number of different sources recorded at various times over a five year period, though the main sessions take place from mid 1973 to early 1974. Featuring his main band of the period that includes George Duke (keyboards), Ruth Underwood (percussion), Napoleon Murphy Brock (saxophone, vocals), and Ralph Humphrey (drums), it also features a number of guest musicians including Tina Turner and The Ikettes (background vocals), Jack Bruce (bass), Jim Gordon (drums), Jean-Luc Ponty (violin), Don “Sugarcane” Harris (violin) and John Guerin (drums). The album includes the classics “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow”, and “Nanook Rubs It”, and becomes Zappa’s best selling album to date. Originally released on CD in 1995, it is remastered and reissued on CD in 2012, and as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2014. In 2016, The Zappa Family Trust releases “The Crux Of The Biscuit”, an album comprised of alternate mixes, alternate takes and live versions of tracks from the album, including one track that first surfaced on the posthumous triple album set “Läther” in 1996. “Apostrophe (‘)” peaks at number ten on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: March 3, 1979 – “Sheik Yerbouti” by Frank Zappa is released. Produced by Frank Zappa, it is recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, The Palladium in New York City, Hemmerleinhalle, Neunkirchen am Brand, Germany, Deutschlandhalle in Berlin, Germany and Konserthuset Götaplatsen in Goteborg, Sweden from September 25, 1974, October 26 – 28, 1977, and January 24 – 28, February 24 – 28, 1978. The eighteen track double album is compiled mostly from live shows recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in London and The Palladium in New York City, which are then augmented with studio overdubs. It is the first album released on Zappa’s own label Zappa Records (distributed by Mercury/Phonogram). The songs are highly satirical and sexually explicit in nature including “Dancin’ Fool”, “Broken Hearts Are For Assholes”, “Baby Snakes”, and “Bobby Brown Goes Down”. The albums title is a pun on the KC & The Sunshine Band hit “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty”, with the album cover featuring a photo of Zappa wearing a sheikh’s caftan and a keffiyeh (traditional Arab headdress). First reissued on CD in 1990, it is remastered and reissued in 1995 and again in 2012. The album is reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2015. “Sheik Yerbouti” peaks at number twenty one on the Billboard Top 200.
Born on this day: December 21, 1940 – Legendary guitarist and composer Frank Zappa (born Frank Vincent Zappa in Baltimore, MD). Happy Birthday to this musical visionary on what would have been his 77th Birthday.