Tag Archives: mothers of invention

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“I once proposed the construction of an apparatus which would have been a cross between a gallows and an old-fashioned shower stall. The shower curtain was to have been an American flag, and behind it, hanging from the gallows, was to be a side of beef (at room temperature). I proposed to roll this out at the end of each show, play a fanfare and open the curtain, releasing flies into the audience.”

Frank Zappa, detailing his early exploits, circa the summer of 1967, which he referred to as “the early Mothers of Invention ‘entertainment statement,'” and also included ACTUAL rotting vegetables and whipped cream covering a stage in a stuffy, AC-less, run-down Greenwich Village theater the band was regularly gigging at that summer, detailed in his autobiography, “The Real Frank Zappa Book”

Frank Zappa – meat flies

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“What is pop music? I mean, in the old days, you knew if somebody was good: Could they perform a score? With pop music, people have personalities, they get up, they play guitar their own way. If people like it, it’s successful; they’ve set a new style. I mean all the great singers in pop had voices which everyone declared were unlistenable, that this guy couldn’t sing, but they set up new ways of singing. … According to all standards, Bob Dylan can’t sing, but then he comes along, he’s a success, people imitate him and suddenly he’s great, ’cause he’s real and the others are imitators. Given this process, Zappa comes in and does a very astute thing. He takes up someone like Wild Man Fischer and says, ‘Why can’t you be a pop star?'”

Frank Zappa historian Ben Watson, discussing the signing of Wild Man Fischer, a paranoid schizophrenic with a slightly comic shout-singing style, to Zappa’s Bizarre label in 1969, from the 2012 documentary, “From Straight to Bizarre”

Ben Watson – Frank Zappa/Wild Man Fischer

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Swell Maps, “Another Song/Vertical Slum”

During rock’s most volcanic era — as the worlds of regular rock, punk rock, post punk and new wave were colliding like cooties in a petri dish — one release that still managed to stick out like a sore thumb was Swell Maps’ 1979 debut, “A Trip to Marineville.”

Later heralded as inspiration for Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and Pavement, British band Swell Maps didn’t have a foot firmly on the bandwagon at the time, still happily fawning over the likes of glam-rockers T Rex and krautrockers Can, dabbling in psychedelia and generally stretching the proceedings out, at the same time that nearly every other rock band was cranking out 2-minute-something, no-nonsense ditties.

On “Gunboats,” for example, in which the influence on Thurston Moore’s guitar drone is unmistakable in Nikki Sudden’s demented playing, nothing comes close to being a chorus or refrain during the 8-minute song. There is, however, a point about three minutes in where it sounds like somebody is doing construction in the recording studio. The same thing happens on the tune with my favorite title, “Adventuring in Basketry.” And, clocking in at 18 songs, half of which would still be hard to explain why you like to your friends, “Marineville” was definitely asking a lot more of listeners than the relatively by-rote Ramones (right down to their methodical leather jackets and ripped jeans).

It’s hard for me to pick one favorite from “Marineville” to represent the band, so I chose two. “Another Song” is a great, quick, Buzzcocks-y tune that still manages to showcase the band’s prog-rock leanings (it had, after all, been performing since 1972, back when as teens, they went under the name of Sacred Mushroom).

But it’s the following song, “Vertical Slum,” which nearly goes a cappella toward the end with a nod to the Mothers of Invention, that ends up being the one I talk to myself about at the water cooler the following morning. Enjoy!

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