Squat the magic pig – live in concert

By Allan Mandell

The Varsity, 22 October 1971

When I first saw Frank Zappa and the Mothers, at Convocation Hall in 1967, there were troubles with the sound system . The group was generally humorous and Zappa put down the audience at every opportunity – it was interesting. I saw the group again in 1969 at the Atlantic City Pop Festival. Zappa appeared angry at something and simply let loose with a completely instrumental set – it was boring. With these insipid past encounters in mind I impatiently awaited the apof Frank Zappa and his Mothers before a sold-out house in Masssey Hall last Wednesday evening.[1] But Zappa entered in a good mood and immediately won over an appreciative crowd.

The group maintained a surprisingly high degree of restraint by sticking to musical and humorous numbers and omitting the usual fare of discordance and rehearsed confusion that litters the Mother's L.P.'s. Several new and long songs were introduced. The first was described by Zappa as a "story of God, his sofa, and his girlfriend, Squat the magic pig, and that big light in the sky he uses to make home movies."

The Mothers have been rearranged several times, but the six members that Zappa brought to Toronto for the concert are by far the best balanced group. Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, both formerly of the Turtles, were a most integral part of the Mothers' comedic success and were responsible for all the amazing vocals. The "portly", pudgy Volman, dominated the stage physically and showed he was a damned good singer and comedian. Aynsley Dunbar on drums was definitely one of the musical highlights of the group. Zappa stayed off to the side of the stage playing guitar and occasionally adding dry narrative to the proceedings. He had remarkable control over the group and knitted together the complex array of lighting, choreography, synthesizer sounds, music and voices with sheer brilliance.

Zappa kept the audience happy by playing a couple of familiar tunes Peaches En Regalia and Tears Began to Fall. A great event, The Mud Shark, was saved for the climactic encore. But the best effort of the night was the half hour mini-operetta Billy The Mountain. It certainly wasn't just your run-of-the-mill story of a vacation to New York City. But then Frank Zappa doesn't run an ordinary rock-oriented comedy group, does he?

1. Concert at Massey Hall, Toronto, Canada, 13 October 1971. Setlist according to the FZShows : Divan, A Pound For A Brown, Sleeping In A Jar, Any Way The Wind Blows, Magdalena, King Kong, Peaches En Regalia, Tears Began To Fall, Billy The Mountain (incl. The Ballad Of Bilbo Baggins), The Mud Shark. The band was FZ, Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan, Jim Pons, Ian Underwood, Don Preston, Aynsley Dunbar.