Almost a year ago now, I delved into the tireless mind of Frank Zappa, scratching the surface of his vast back catalogue of immense music. It is time to continue my dedication, solely focusing on the output of Zappa’s original band – The Mothers of Invention. Tune your ears.
We’ll begin with that crappy old tune, Status Back Baby, lifted from the Mothers’ second album Absolutely Free. An album that heavily doffed its hat to many classical influences, particularly Stravinsky, Status Back Baby is a breath of poppy fresh air emanating from the album’s madness. Why does the whistle at 0.14 and 2.09 fit so perfectly? With doo-wop, a brilliant sax break at 1.09, abrupt staccato from 1.54 and comedic lyrics, this tune is a particular highlight from potentially my favourite Mothers album.
Fast forward to 1970, and we have Igor’s Boogie and Overture to a Holiday in Berlin taken from the album Burnt Weeny Sandwich. Music such as this is quintessentially Zappa – complex and intricate yet simple and digestible. Overture to a Holiday in Berlin is particularly apt, starting from 0.36.
A song based on double knit suits for portly gentlemen, Eddie, Are You Kidding? is taken from the live album Just Another Band from L.A. A bopping blues number with a great chorus, the real strength of this song lies right at the end with three beautiful minor chords, just after the vocal harmony interlude.
An instrumental number with unmistakable Zappa guitar work in between a superbly crafted melody, The Orange County Lumber Truck is taken from the predominantly live album Weasels Ripped My Flesh. Check out the persistent groove after the cacophony of instruments.
Looking back to 1966 and the release of Zappa’s first ever album with the Mothers, Freak Out!, and we have Any Way The Wind Blows. A straightforward love song with what sounds like a marimba, or maybe a xylophone, it was a sign of things to come.
Clocking in at just over a minute and a half, Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance from third album We’re Only In It For The Money (complete with Sgt. Pepper mock-up album cover) is a lighthearted gem with hooks to boot.
The Legend of the Golden Arches, my how I love this song. The instrumentation, the cascading opening lines, the layering, the restless grooves, the unpredictable drumming, the odd time signatures, the trickling nature of the latter part of the song, I could go on………..taken from the Mothers’ fifth album Uncle Meat.
To finish, a song that is right up there with Peaches en Regalia and Bobby Brown Goes Down in terms of stature, Let’s Make The Water Turn Black is the Mothers’ tour de force. Recorded for the album We’re Only In It For The Money, the ring of the opening piano gives way to a melody that will keep you humming for hours. It is truly infectious. For the album version with vocals, click here, but enjoy the live and speedier instrumental medley version below, taken from the album You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 1.
Bring more Zappa into your life! Enjoy.