SOUNDTRACK: FRANK ZAPPA AND THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION-Over-nite Sensation (1973).
When I saw Marvy’s Mothers, it was hard not to pass up the connection to Zappa and his band. But oh, what album to pick? (He released like 40). I chose the one released in the same year as Gravity’s Rainbow.
It also happens to be full of all kinds of sex (imagine that).
It opens with “Camarillo Brillo” the kind of simple, catchy song that Zappa seems to whip out very easily. I assumed that the title was some kind of sexual slang (not a bad assumption), but Wikipedia suggests it has something to do with an insane asylum (Camarillo) and the crazy hair they often had, which makes sense given the crazy lyrics. It starts kind of trippy with inscrutable lyrics. And then the bridge, “she was breeding a dwarf” is pretty insane. It also features a very funny sequence that was oft-quoted in MST3K–“Is that a real poncho or a Sears poncho.”
“I Am the Slime” is a funky (a great Zappa riff) diatribe against TV (because it makes you buy crap you don’t need and makes you listen to the government). “Dirty Love” is a perverse song with lots of guitar solos. There’s some kind of bestiality in this song (which also ties in with parts of this section).
“Fifty-Fifty” features the vocals of Ricky Lancelotti (in a screaming style that would later be used a lot by Terry Bozzio). It’s about an ugly guy who is crazy enough to sing to us. The songs seem to be more about solos though, as there’s a keyboard solo an electric violin solo (from Jean-Luc Ponty) and some crazy guitar solos.
I don’t know what “Zomby Woof” is about, but it has some wicked guitar soloing and horns playing Zappa’s staccato riffs up and down the scale.
“Dinah-Moe Humm” is a song perfectly suited to this book–it’s a song in which a woman bets the narrator that he can’t make her have an orgasm. The melody is twinkly and silly. It’s shockingly explicit. But it’s even funnier to know that the backing vocals are supplied by The Ikettes (Ike and Tina were recording in the next room). They got paid almost nothing and when Ike heard the song he called it “shit” and asked that their name be removed from the credits.
It also plays around with hippy slang. “Kiss my aura Dora/It’s real angora/Would you all like some more-a/right here on the floor-a/and how about you fauna/You wanna?”
He also starts talking about Zircon encrusted tweezers, which come back in “Montana.” “Montana” is about moving to Montana to raise dental floss (really). It features some wonderful fast pizzicato notes that are more or less Zappa’s signature. The middle section is hugely difficult and very impressive for the backing vocalists (Tina apparently was really impressed that one of her girls could do it).
Zappa packs a lot of music into 35 minutes, and this album seems to be a turning point in his desire to cram sex and craziness into his commercial music. Just about every song on this disc was played a lot live and this album has become something of a classic.
[READ: Week of March 19] Gravity’s Rainbow [3.1-3.5]
This week’s read has been the most challenging for me so far. I enjoyed Section 2 very much. The Slothrop scenes were funny and wild and even advanced the plot. I never expected that Section 3 would introduce a ton of new characters, more or less ignore the old charterers and stay with these new characters so that by not paying close attention to them in the beginning I was just confused by the end.
I do admit that while skimming again for this post, I was able to focus on the new characters more and found it far less confusing. It’s just that on a first read, suddenly there’s this whole new sequence of people and their histories to deal with! Wow.
It was especially surprising because Section 3 begins with Slothrop (so it’s not like in 2666 where a new section means a new cast). But he meets new characters and then we flash all the way back through each person’s life. And yes, it was quite interesting once I actually paid attention, and the connections were pretty awesome. But it was still pretty surprising on the first read through.
Section 3 is called In the Zone. And the Zone is mentioned quite a lot, although I never figured out where it is meant to be exactly. (more…)
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