Coming: Humble Pie & Mothers

By Dan Cook

Scene, 21 May 1977

"Kids today wouldn't know good music if it came up and hit 'em!" This was Frank Zappa's explanation for ending an era in pop music, the era of the Mothers of Invention. They would do no more concerts, claimed Zappa. They had enough tapes for another fifteen album, they were sick and tired of touring, people didn't appreciate them, and so on. But now they return to the stage.

The reasons for another tour of the Mothers are of little importance. The fact is that they will perform in Cleveland on May 30th in Public Auditorium at 8:30pm. For those who never got to-see the original Mothers, this opportunity is a godsend. For Mothers fans, it is a chance to see what this innovative group is up to now.

Ever since their conception, the Mothers have been somewhat of an enigma. It seemed that the music they liked to play was liked only by the critics, who spotted the modern jazz roots of their instrumentals and the excellence of the musicians. Everyone else namely, their consuming audiences - preferred the stuff like "Susie Creamcheese" and "Rueben and the Jets" that was funny because it was outdated. So the Mothers were forced to exploit the gimmick in order to present more complex music to the public.

"Uncle Meat", was the first Mothers album to really contain a lot of modern jazz numbers, a la Captain Beefheart or Coltrane's "Ascension", and their following LP's have continued this trend. On these albums, Ian Underwood's sax playing stands out as the most creative sound. He also plays some incredible electric piano solos on both UNCLE MEAT and BURNT WEENY SANDWICH. Zappa's guitar and organ playing have improved tremendously since their first albums, and the rest of the group chimes in from time to time with solos on various horns, keyboards and stringed instruments. The Mothers are highly diversified, and seem to be able to play any' style of music well.

A live concert may contain anything and probably will have a little bit of everything. The youngsters will want to hear "Rueben and the Jets", and the Mothers will be playing some of their avant-garde material to please whoever is left. Zappa usually provides an interesting stage show, rapping with the audience, clowning, doing a bit of preaching - this is expected of the Mothers by now. Who knows, things may have changed by this time, but it is doubtful.
That the Mothers have become one of the major musical influences cannot be disputed. Sha-Na-Na took their 1950's act and built their entire show around it; Captain Beefheart took the jazz ideas and made it his bag; Tim Buckley and Alice Cooper have had their music and images re-directed under Zappa's production and management. The Mothers practically invented electronic music, and made a science out of feedback and other amplificational effects.