Cruising with Uncle Frank’s Words

    “The recording of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band spanned 129 days; perhaps the most creative 129 days in the history of rock music.”
(author and “Beatle Brain of Britain” Mark Lewisohn)  


Whilst those “Fugs of the West Coast,” The Mothers of Invention, were spending month upon month held over in New York City’s Garrick Theatre performing their 1967 Pigs and Repugnant Revue, Frank Zappa was spending his every waking hour off stage holed up in the city’s pioneering 12-track (!!) Apostolic recording studio over on East 10th.  The ultra-productive time spent there, which resulted in not only the epic We’re Only In It For The Money but several other stellar FZ / MOI LP’s (not to mention reams of archival material which continues to dribble out posthumously via the Zappa Family Trust), constitutes what I firmly believe to be THE most fitfully fruitful time ever spent by man or beast committing rock ‘n’ roll to magnetic tape …and yes, that includes those pious Pepper sessions as well.

Right alongside Apostolic’s utterly brilliant recording engineer Richard “Dick Dynamite” Kunc and his latest audio toys (variable speed oscillators, the grand new “Apostolic Vlorch Injector,” plus assorted policemen and breakfast rolls), Zappa and band stitched together, for starters, "most of the music from the Mothers’ movie of the same name which we haven’t got enough money to finish yet" as well as the first, and I’m sure you must agree, BEST of all those late-Sixties so-called R ‘n’ R Revival elpees Cruising With Ruben and the Jets.

Now, while the Uncle Meat soundtrack still sounds as magnificently minced and phonically fully-flavored today as it did upon its ’69 release, the digitized Ruben most unfortunately suffers from a typically fool-headed remix and re-record which obliterates the Mother/Jets’ original greasy, bottom-heavy finger-snatting and replaces them all with synthesized bass sloops and Eighties-anemic drums-that-go-“pooh” (instead of poot), I’m so sorry to report.  “When I sat down and listened to the CD I got sick in the pit of my stomach, man,” so go the wizened words of Mother woodwinder Bunk Gardner (as reported in our ant bee Billy James’ indispensable Necessity Is… The Early Years of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention book).  “The music was from one era and you could tell the rhythm section was from the 1980s; it didn’t make sense at all to me.  And the thing that blew my mind was, didn’t Frank hear that?”

Apparently not.  Still, for those who naturally prefer jelly roll gum drops and Chevy ‘39’s over tangerine trees and newspaper taxis…..