Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Mothers of Invention-TIME SANDWICH CD-R (Head bootleg)

Perhaps there is no need to get into the idiotic levels I would go to singing the praises of Frank Zappa and the Mothers during the last two years of my high school experience (or the time I blasted WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH for the family during a Christmas party), but maybe I should remind at least the last few faithful souls who tune into this blog as to what a fool am I with regards to such musical obsession I may have had! After all, BLACK TO COMM #18 with my Zappa/Mothers "consumer guide" is long out-of-print, but for those of you who were too lazy to pick up a copy of that when it came out back in '91 and I really needed the money let me lay it all on the line for you again...y'see, when I was in my mid-teens and was suddenly allowed by my parents to buy records other'n flea market scraps I got hooked really fast on these Zappa/Mothers albums that at the time were anywhere from five to ten years old. While the other kiddos were spending their supposedly "self-earned" moolah on Elton John and Ted Nugent records (they being just two of the bigger teen heartthrobs in my particular school) I was pretty much going to the shopping mall every week picking up an old Mothers of Invention disc and bragging about my purchase to just about anyone unfortunately within earshot, and that included the kids who out and out hated my guts! You might think this strange considering my current "tastes" so-to-speak as well as the generally substandard sputum that Zappa was known to dish out to his audience throughout the seventies and eighties, but at the time his off-kilter take (some might say "swipe") of everything from Los Angeles Folk Rock (via FREAK OUT) to sarcastic "social satire" (WE'RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY) to avant garde ripoff (UNCLE MEAT, WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH) was totally new to my virgin ears and listening to this stuff was sure a rebellion against the staid, formal music that I had more or less been forced to listen to whether or not it was against my will. It's like GILLIGAN'S ISLAND've seen 'em for a few decades and tired of 'em true, but every so often there's a new generation of suburban doofs comin' up who haven't and it's a new and fresh to 'em just like it was to you when you were tunin' into your local UHF outlet sometime in the eighties.

After awhile, or pretty much as soon as I left the hallowed halls of lower learning, I began to tire of Zappa. In fact I tired of him pretty fast if you must know. I dunno if I was "maturing"...I never really did mature until much later in life, but for some maybe not-so-obscure reason Zappa's entire foundation came off so hollow and shuck. Once you got down to it (and saw Zappa's fame grow to superstardom with the release of such records as JOE'S GARAGE), he was nothing but a guy who did have a flare for the guitar true, but who was more or less pushing certain buttons and trying to get reactions from his audience while tossing in a whole lotta the whole Lenny Bruce social content that Zappa undoubtedly crammed into his Sicilian beanie during his own formative years. The dark, more feral aspects of my listening pleasures were beginning to come to the forefront, and although I certainly was aware of and was championing the Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, Eno and whatever other spizz acts that I might have been aware of even with the depression-era wages I was earning they seemed to have more in common with me (as an alienated, disaffected ugly mid-amerigan kid) than Zappa and his ever-revealing self-oriented genius put-on schtick ever could. I did continue to play Zappa records on scant occasion, but merely for cheap amusement.

Still, I gotta admit that even though Zappa was a phony intellectual self-important guru of the Los Angeles "freak" scene who also fancied himself a "serious" composer, conductor and whatnot, I could never deny that his music had more than a few interesting zips and zings to it. Even with the guy's so pointed put downs of the up-and-coming underground rock of the seventies what could you say about a man whose first trip to CBGB was to see the Poppees in 1975??? And a guy whose band, at least in part, influenced such underground upstarts as MX-80 Sound, Manster and the Plastic People of the Universe? Besides, if Charles Shaar Murray can admit to liking him, maybe I shouldn't be so shy about saying that I do (at least a little smidgen bit, and only on a nostalgic level) as well!

I wrote up this Zappa/Mothers bootleg in one of those latterday telephone-book-sized issues of BLACK TO COMM...forget which one, but since even I haven't read that review in ages I thought maybe a new one for the digital era would be in order. Spanning the "classic" MOI years (1966-1973), TIME SANDWICH also has great sound quality especially considering these tapes' age and a nice deluxe kinda cover not only with a centerfold fulla MOTHERMANIA outtakes but a snap of Zappa with the good looking enough GTO's. No GTO's here, but the selection of material and performances is enough to have this once-Zappa maniac shriek about why it took so long for this stuff to come out because I sure woulda loved to've heard this racket back when I was a lot more interested in Zappa and his chain of command (which I am just as interested in now as I was then...Beefheart, Buckley, Alice...) to the point of incomprehensible obsession!

FREAK OUT standby "I'm Not Satisfied" recorded at the Fillmore in May of '66 showcases the original Mothers band making me wonder if that's actually Elliot Ingber doing all of that great guitar playing 'stead of Zappa. Vocals do not sound like Zappa nor Ray Collins for that matter. Maybe the tape was sped up a bit but even with the misfire self-pitying lyrics the song does "satisfy" in a mid-sixties West Coast kinda way, almost sounding like one of those early Grateful Dead numbers from the same period before success and other things began frying the group's braincells to the point of worthlessness.

Two years later the Mothers were back at the Fillmore for a strange HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL spoof vaguely dealing with incest (I wasn't paying attention that hard) and "Call Any Vegetable" which sounds a lot like the Flo and Eddie-period take on JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM LA than it does the ABSOLUTELY FREE original. Always thought that one was just a toss off anyways and a great target misser when it came to any legit form of satire. But that stuff always did sound better at age 16 than it did 17, which is probably another reason why ABSOLUTELY FREE hasn't exactly been getting top spin time here at BTC central.

The rest of TIME SANDWICH is taken up by tracks from the third Mothers incarnation, the jazz rock one that pretty much pushed Zappa to the forefront of the DOWN BEAT polls and got him on tee-vee a lot more often than he had been. By then a lot of the original fans of the group seemed to have dropped off by the wayside or so I would get the impression. I do recall Phast Phreddie complaining about how Zappa went jazz in the first issue of BACK DOOR MAN, though Jymn Parrett was still impressed enough not only to create that spiffy Zappa drawing for the back cover of DENIM DELINQUENT #1 but positively review LIVE AT THE ROXY AND ELSEWHERE for the fifth issue of his hallowed rag (complete with a live snap taken from a local show!). As for me...well, I really liked the Roxy album and these tracks reminded me of why I did. After all, the jazz rock thingie was pretty big during the day and I, ever on the lookout for new listening experiences kinda took to this period of Zappa's music because it still had a modicum of energy, jazz flash and even some high-larious moments. (Take Zappa's preamble to "Cheepniz" on ROXY regarding the same kinda z-grade sci-fi movies that have thrilled Saturday Afternoon Barbershop Kids for nigh over fiftysome years now.)

Hokay, I thought the take of "BeBop Tango" recorded somewhere in Canada was a dull "audience participation" number filled with way too many in-jokes like the original, but this new band (filled with some of the wankiest wienerdogs who would go off to smooth fusion and disco before the seventies were over) actually cooks well enough on the various "Dog Breath Variations" and get into an interesting-enough funk-rock groove on "The Tango" which is not "BeBop Tango" revisited but sounds like a Funkadelic concept of the Processiest Order. Closing out the festivities is "Dupree's Paradise Lounge" which is totally different than all of the other versions I've heard legit or not...this one's about some rank-y hangout where the jazz guys go and try to jam to "Bye Bye Blackbird" only it all comes out an atonal stew! Gotta say that it all sounds professional enough and even without the overdubbed studio gimmickry of ROXY AND ELSEWHERE it holds up well, maybe even better. Though I have to admit I sure missed that whacky effect that they stuck into the legal version of "Penguin in Bondage"...Zappa may have liked live albums, but he knew when to fancy 'em up a bit!


Anonymous said...

Someone once said that if FZ had died in the late 60's he'd be revered by rock critics and intellectuals the way Arthur Lee and Roky Erikson are.

Christopher Stigliano said...

You're probably right, that is, if you differentiate "rock critics" (ie. the kind of people who write for ROLLING STONE or big city newspapers) from "rock fans" (people listening to the stuff on a more street level and write about it on blogs and such). It's basically on the same mental plane as that old David Lee Roth statement about rock critics liking Elvis Costello more than Van Halen because most rock critics look like Elvis Costello!!!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely. I'm always more interested in what "rock fans" say - they actually pay for records and tickets.

Was it Zappa or Lou Reed who said something like rock critics are "people who can't write for people who can't read?"