Frank Zappa – in concert at Mt. St. Mary’s College – May 19, 1963 – Presented by Carlos Hagen and broadcast by KPFK-FM –
Frank Zappa and one of his earliest concerts and certainly one of the first, if not the first to feature his serious music shortly before the world came to know The Mother’s Of Invention.
I would doubt any collector of Zappa’s work doesn’t have the CD of this concert which was issued a while back in their collection – it represents an early and pivotal element in the story of Frank Zappa as musician and visionary. What was fascinating about the story around this is the fact that Mt. St. Mary’s College, right to the west of UCLA was very much in support of Zappa’s serious music and made the venue available for him to stage this concert. This was during a time Los Angeles was still a hotbed of Avant-garde musicians, artists and writers and support was coming from a lot of seemingly unlikely places. Support of the arts was a whole lot different then.
For those of you not familiar with this side of Frank Zappa, here’s an excerpt of an interview he did with a Frank Zappa Tribute magazine some years later:
FZ: “Actually, the first time I had any of it [“serious” music] performed was at Mount St. Mary’s College in 1962. I spent $300 and got together a college orchestra, and I put on this little concert. Maybe less than a hundred people showed up for it, but the thing was actually taped and broadcast by KPFK. (…) By the time I graduated from high school in ’58, I still hadn’t written any rock and roll songs, although I had a little rock and roll band in my senior year. I didn’t write any rock and roll stuff until I was in my 20s. All the music writing that I was doing was either chamber music or orchestral, and none of it ever got played until this concert at Mount St. Mary’s.”
My former mentor Carlos Hagen produced this program which he originally recorded himself. Carlos seemed to have a Uher 5000 portable Tape Recorder with him at all times and recorded everything that had any vague connection with life in Los Angeles, and in fact the entire West Coast during the 1950s and 60s. He was a brilliant man who was supportive and encouraging of anyone who wanted to step beyond the confines of the day-to-day. It only seemed natural he’d be a staunch supporter of Frank Zappa. He was the one who turned me on to Freak Out! when it first came out. I’m forever grateful.
Caveats! The sound is a little distant in places and I’m not sure if Carlos had a limiter to smooth things out – so it gets a little distorted in spots. There’s also a pretty substantial amount of tape hiss during the Q&A session – also because Carlos had one microphone to work with. All that said – this is an important document, long thought lost, which traces some of the early phases of Frank Zappa’s career.
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