Hard to imagine, it was 24 years ago today that word had come down that Frank Zappa had lost his battle with Prostate Cancer. One of the guiding lights of experimental music from the mid-1960s on was gone. Those of us who wore out our first copies of Freak Out (mine was mono because I couldn’t afford Stereo at the time), remember the day, the minute – where we were and what we were doing when we first heard “Who Are The Brain Police?“ – I was in my first semester of High School, sitting in Aron’s Records on Melrose across the street from Fairfax High, in the back of the store where you could play albums. Aron’s was the place you could trade in promo copies of albums, if you were a radio station or a journalist, or worked for a record company. And at the top of the pile was this two-record set by The Mothers Of Invention “Freak Out”. For the princely sum of $1.00 it could be mine, but I didn’t know who the Mothers Of Invention were – I heard “about” them. But they weren’t a band you ever heard on the radio, not in 1966.
I just remember being glued to the turntable, the Koss headphones pressed tight against my head, listening and being amazed. I had never heard anything like this before. This was one more brand new experience I was having – the other one was earlier in the year when I heard a promo copy of Come Out by Steve Reich. Another life-changing experience.
There were a lot of those, growing up. All you had to do was keep an open ear and all this amazing music was flying in everywhere.
Frank Zappa was the musical game-changer for me. Like Steve Reich, I never listened to music quite the same way again. And that’s not to say everybody felt the same way – no. A lot of people couldn’t stand this new music – thought it was weird and full of shit. But what it was, was new and it went interesting places and the sentiments Frank expressed were sentiments I was feeling as a somewhat disenfranchised sixteen year old.
And I’m sure a lot of us felt the same way – and we found each other after a time.
So this performance, from Paris, is actually part one of a two part show. It was recorded on October 26, 1968 and it came aorund the time of We’re Only In It For The Money and Cruisin’ With Ruben And The Jets – although some of the material here (Mr. Green Genes) shows up on Uncle Meat a year later, when Zappa left MGM/Verve/Forecast and went with Warners and his Bizarre/Straight imprint.
So, as a tribute and remembrance of one of the pivotal figures in Contemporary Music (okay, Rock – but . . .), here is that concert from Paris with The Mothers of Invention – October 26, 1968.