Oh No

Today is Dec. 8, 38 years since the bizarre assassination of singer-songwriter John Lennon and, incidentally, 14 years since the bizarre assassination of Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell.

There are interesting places in the Zappa story where John Lennon and Frank Zappa’s points meet. One of the most intriguing that I discovered this year was the intent and meaning of a song I’ve been listening to for most of my life: “Oh No.”

Zappa did not dig the “love song” much. He called it “the ultimate form of absurist comedy.”

In fact, the song “Oh No,” as presented with lyrics on the album Weasels Ripped My Flesh, is a general refutation of the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love,” which was initially released as a non-album single in July 1967.

I think it’s pretty straightforward in the lyrics…

Oh no, I don’t believe it
You say that you think you know the meaning of love
You say love is all we need
You say with your love you can change
All of the fools, all of the hate
I think you’re probably out to lunch

Oh no, I don’t believe it
You say that you think you know the meaning of love
Do you really think it can be told?
You say that you really know
I think you should check it again
How can you say what you believe
Will be the key to a world of love?

All your love
Will it save me?
All your love
Will it save the world
From what we can’t understand?
Oh no, I don’t believe it

And in your dreams
You can see yourself as a prophet saving the world
The words from your lips
I just can’t believe you are such a fool

The Marvelous Frank Zappa

I don’t know if many fans of Frank Zappa’s music are likely also to be fans of the Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. If you’re not, why aren’t you? Why aren’t you watching it right now? If for nothing else then to see Kevin Pollak play the role of a lifetime as Moishe Maisel?

Anyway. If you do watch the show, then you know a frequent character is a fictionalized Lenny Bruce. And, if you’ve gotten as far as I have in the second season, you know that they have Lenny Bruce appear on The Steve Allen Show, where he sings a weird lonely little song. And, as much as you wonder via watching this show if Tony Curtis ever actually compared smooching Marilyn Monroe to smooching Hitler (he did), you wonder if Lenny Bruce ever actually got on The Steve Allen Show and sang this weird lonely little song.

He did:

Now, if you’re a fan of the album We’re Only In It For The Money by The Mothers, then there’s another Lenny Bruce bit you might want to hear.

Madge, I just couldn’t help it, dog-gone it.

Zappadan: Over The Camp In The Valley

Frank Zappa and his family moved to California in 1952. He was 12.

The practice of putting Japanese-Americans into interment camps in California and elsewhere ended in 1945.

Frank Zappa likely spent many of his formative years profoundly aware of the quite recent history of Japanese-American internment during World War II. In Monterey, where the family first moved, he would have been 6 minutes away from the Manzanar War Relocation Center. He would have grown up in his formative years with a profound understanding of the history.

Trust a kid who grew up in Kent Ohio. That shit becomes you.

So it should come as no surprise that the song “Concentration Moon” is in some respect about these camps.

Here is how Frank Zappa explained it to an interviewer named Studs Terkel:

FZ: Well, we have a song coming up, called Concentration Moon which is … ah … a make-believe story about some very real concentration camps, that the US government built to house Japanese people during World War II. These people were snatched up out of their homes …
ST: Relocation camps.
FZ: Yeah. You’re doing them a favor you’re relocation ’em … the American government’s so nice to get them a place to stay during the War, and they snatched these people off of the street and they stick in these camps and I guess they turned them loose later but the camps’re still there, and it was a popular myth – let’s hope it’s a myth – among the hippies on the West coast, that very soon … ah … any dissatisfied, potentially non-conforming person person in the US is about to be rounded up by the government and stashed away in these camps. That doesn’t mean just hippies, but they’re probably thinking that militant Blacks and militant Latin and militant anybody or even passive people …
ST: … pretenders …
FZ: Yeah, anybody, who doesn’t go along with the main stream of the hokum of the government is speeding to you is gonna be stashed away, so … ah …
ST: It starts with the concentration camp …
FZ: It starts with that and then goes on to the story of Mom & Dad, which is a … ah … middle class couple, who have been informed by one of their children, that … ah … their daughter has been killed in the park, by the cops, because she just happened to be there laying in the grass with a Hippie. And, ah, the attitude of the song is, that the parents say, well, it served her right, that she had associated with such trash.
And then we have Bow Tie Daddy, which is another song about those same people, who are … didn’t care when their child was killed by the police, because they were embarassed that their child should have anything to do with a Hippie, and we have Harry You’re A Beast, which is a song about the sexual attitude of the parents, giving a little insight into why these people should feel that way about their child, finally winding up with What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?, a song about … the intelligence of the parents.

ST: The Ugliest Part Of Your Body turns out to be …
FZ: … the mind.
ST: The mind.

…and now you know the rest of the story…

Induct The Mothers

It has long been my opinion that the band known as The Mothers (of Invention), as the lineup that stood in the year 1968, should be at least nominated to be included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As far as I know, a nomination has not even entered the brain of anybody on that board.

Don’t get confused here. Yes, Frank Zappa was inducted by Lou Reed in 1995. The closest the Mothers have come to that honor was when Walter Becker name-checked Jimmy Carl Black when Steely Dan was inducted in 2001.

I mean, I love Phlo and Eddie and all, but to me, The Mothers are Frank Zappa, Ian Underwood, Roy Estrada, Jimmy Carl Black, Don Preston, Ray Collins, Motorhead Sherwood, Bunk Gardner, Billy Mundi, Art Tripp, and sure, even Ruth Underwood.

I mean, it does not get badder than that lineup playing King Kong.

Or this, of “Pound for a Brown” and “Sleeping in a Jar?”

I mean, I enjoy Zappa after 1970. I think Apostrophe and Overnight Sensation are brilliant. I am indeed a dabbler of many different stages of the Zappa universe, and yet, I think strongly that the most original, organic music ever to come out of it was made from approximately 1966 to 1970. Enough so, I think, that it warrants an induction.

Before they’re all dead, preferably.

Happy 86th Birthday, Little Richard!

Dear Little Richard:

Today, by my calculations, Little Richard, the Architect of Rock and Roll, the Georgia Peach, the Bronze Liberace, the innovator, the man who, among other things, explained to future performers how rock music is to be sung and how to strut while yer doin’ it, that man, Little Richard, turns 86 years old today.

As anyone who bothers to read this blather knows, every year on Dec. 5, I take a bit of time during Zappadan to tip a hat to Little Richard. Because Little Richard begat “Directly From My Heart,” which begat my favorite recorded performance of music of all time, which would be The Mothers of Invention cover on Weasels Ripped My Flesh, featuring Sugarcane Harris. I’ve said it all before. This track is untouchable. And while it takes some liberties with the original as belted out by the great Little Richard, the rhythm section still retains that brilliant dragged left foot that makes me so horny for this song.

And while I have realized a mad adoration for this artist, I wanted to remind you why you should too. I wrote this a few years ago. It is the best thing I have ever written. It is called

Little Richard Says He Likes It

a piece that essentially recognizes the great and, I think, often overlooked influence that this beautiful man had on the music you dig right this minute. Without him, Jim Morrison doesn’t howl, Prince doesn’t oooooh, and Robert Plant does not baby baby baby. In fact, I would like to mention at this time an interesting fact to add to the hefty pile of Little Richard impact studies available to us.

Ya’ll know the song “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin, yeah? Well. Do you think John Bonham just pulled that drum part out of his butthole?

The answer is “no.” Dude apparently had a Little Richard song in his head:

I’ve said it before. The ones who you revere, and maybe the ones they revere, revere Little Richard. All the Zeppelin dudes. All the Beatles, all of the Rolling Stones, and all of AC/DC. David Bowie. Elton John. Lou Reed. John Fogerty. Bob Dylan. Elvis Presley. Patti Smith. Michael Jackson. Bob Seger. Tina Turner. Jimi Hendrix. Bruno Mars. Andre3000. Chris Cornell. Freddie Mercury. All of these artists have somehow acknowledged Little Richard as a powerful influence.

As they should.

Not convinced? Here. Watch the great Muhammad Ali watching Little Richard. The man is in awe.

Little Richard is a national treasure, an innovator, and has inspired every rock artist you enjoy today. Look him up on Spotify today.

Health and peace and comfort to you on your birthday and well throughout, Little Richard. We appreciate you.

And also: Merry Zappadan.

1968

In 2018, We’re Only In It For The Money and I both turned 50.

Now as I recall it, my introduction to Frank Zappa was the song “Who Are the Brain Police” from Freak Out, which my Dear Old Dad played for me when I was a mere toddler. And you wonder why I am the man I am today.

But my formative introduction to Zappa was most certainly Money, also via Dear Old Dad, of course. I was probably 14 when I started latching on to this record.

And the 50th anniversary of this release makes me realize what a busy, important year 1968 was for Zappa. Money is released. Lumpy Gravy is re-released. Cruising with Ruben and the Jets is released. They’re touring. They’re recording Uncle Meat. Not to mention, it’s the last full year the original Mothers lineup will exist.

So, yep. This Zappadan, I am going to be focusing on the Frank Zappa and the Mothers in the year 1968.

Except for tomorrow, of course.

Peace In Our Bummernacht

Merry Zappadan, 2018, to all good people of all lanes and neighborhoods of the winding and ever-expanding universe of all things Zappa. How, pray tell, are things in the orbit of Zappa today?

Well, first, we are sad to report that Frank Zappa has still stopped refusing to die. It is truly impossible to believe that 25 years have passed since his time experiencing and feeding into the conceptual continuity ended. It is somewhat obligatory for me to explain to you what we are doing here in this thing called “Zappadan”: It is a time of remembrance for our mustachioed hero, from the day of his death, Dec. 4, through the day of his birth, Dec. 21. Now we remember him all other days, too, because the concept is continual, my fellow freaks. But this here, this is a time to really flex your Zappa.

Now. What else happened via Zappa stuff in the year 2018?

If you dig vinyl, 2018 was a year for re-releases! Lumpy Gravy! Trout Mask Replica! Burnt Weenie Sandwich! Chunga’s Revenge! All re-released on yummy vinyl!

The big news in 2018, though, was a long-awaited AZ/DZ detente!

As announced by Dweezil in May:

Recently, we Zappa siblings (Diva, Ahmet and Dweezil) got together with the goal of resolving our differences. Once we sat down and actually listened to one another, we found a much greater understanding of each other’s intentions.  We regret that our communication broke down and that things were misconstrued. It may be a bumpy road at times – we are a passionate Italian family – but we have decided to work toward privately discussing issues rather than using public forums and lawyers.

We are hopeful that if any of our father’s fans have felt conflicted, they can join us in the peace of our resolution.  With our best feet forward, we are moving ahead and will faithfully deliver much more of our father’s indefinable brilliance, also known as the “World’s Finest Optional Entertainment.”

That sounds good to me. May it lead to many more years of Zappa Plays Zappa and other notions.

Reference: Inside the Zappa Family Feud (Rolling Stone)

In the meantime, here at the AITWK, we’re going to be talking about a vital year in Mother-dom: 1968. Fifty years ago. We’re Only In It For The Money. Lumpy Gravy. Cruisin’ with Ruben and the Jets. And me. All born in that fabulous year.

Oh, we will be talking about these albums. And more stuff as well.

But enough of my yakkin’. What do ya say? Let’s boogie!