Friday, March 11, 2016

The Mothers Of Invention - 1969 - Uncle Meat

The Mothers Of Invention
Uncle Meat

101. Main Title Theme
102. The Voice of Cheese
103. Nine Types of Industrial Pollution
104. Zolar Czakl
105. Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague
106. The Legend of the Golden Arches
107. Louie Louie (At the Royal Albert Hall)
108. The Dog Breath Variations
109. Sleeping in a Jar
110. Our Bizarre Relationship
111. The Uncle Meat Variations
112. Electric Aunt Jemima
113. Prelude to King Kong
114. God Bless America
115. A Pound for a Brown on the Bus
116. Ian Underwood Whips It Out
117. Mr. Green Genes
118. We Can Shoot You
119. If We'd All Been Living in California...
120. The Air
121. Project X
122. Cruisin' for Burgers

201. Uncle Meat Film Excerpt, Pt. 1
202. Tengo Na Minchia Tanta
203. Uncle Meat Film Excerpt, Pt. 2
204. King Kong Itself [Played by the Mothers]
205. King Kong II [Interpreted by Tom Dewild]
206. King Kong III [Motorhead Explains It]
207. King Kong IV [Gardner Varieties]
208. King Kong V
209. King Kong VI [Live at Miami Pop Festival]

- Frank Zappa / guitar, percussion, keyboards, vocals
- Don Preston / bass, keyboards, electric piano
- Jimmy Carl Black / comedy, percussion, drums, voices
- Ray Collins / guitar, vocals
- Aynsley Dunbar / guitar
- Roy Estrada / basses, vocals
- Bunk Gardner / clarinet, flute, bass clarinet, piccolo, saxes, wind
- Ruth Komanofff / percussion, marimba
- Billy Mundi / drums, vocals
- Jim Sherwood / guitar, vocals, wind
- Art Tripp / percussion, chimes, drums, marimba, xylophone, bells, tympani, vibraphone, wood block
- Ian Underwood / organ, clarinet, flute, guitar, piano, celeste, harpsichord, keyboards, saxes, wind, electric organ
- Ruth Underwood / percussion, keyboards
- Nelly Walker / vocals
- Euclid James Sherwood / tenor sax, tambourine, voices

 Uncle Meat was the last studio album released while The Mothers of Invention were still together as a band, well at least it was recorded while they were a band. Zappa would release Weasel Ripped My Flesh and Burnt Weeny Sandwich after the band was disbanded. In true Zappa style the songs don´t neccessarely come from the same session but he always makes them fit into the concept of the album anyway. Uncle Meat is one of the most unique Zappa albums and it´s also a very unique album in the history of rock music. blending his r´n´b/ doo woop influences with baroque and modern avant garde classical music is a bit of a job. Then add some blues rock, some great guitar solos and a song like King King that still stands as one of the finest moments from The Mothers of Invention. This is if you shouldn´t have guessed it already a classic album.
The album starts with the main title theme from Uncle Meat. It´s such a great song and almost sounds like rock chamber music. The extensive use of hapsichord throughout the album has a chamber music like effect. The Voice of Cheese then appears and we´re drawn into the groupie status of The Mothers of Invention, with Susie talking about herself as a groupie. Zappa always carried around his tape recorder and there are a couple of examples here on Uncle Meat which are great fun. Nine Types of Industrial Pollution has an insistent groove with lots of avant garde percussion noises in the background. This serves as a vehicle to a great Frank Zappa guitar solo. It´s a very long solo but it´s worth your time. Zolar Czakl is a short instrumental song. Strange and avant garde like.

Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague is one of my favorites here, it´s got a lot of intriguing atmospheres. The Legend of the Golden Arches is a very slow song with a dissonant clarinet theme. Suddenly we´re witness to The Mothers of Invention live at the Royal Albert hall. Don Preston plays Louie Louie on the big Pipe organ. Not the most pretty thing you could ever wish to hear, but it´s great fun. The Dog Breath Variations are as the title indicates variations over the theme from Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague. This is typical Zappa to distort and change his own themes and make something different out of them.

Sleeping in a Jar is a pretty strange little vocal driven song, it´s a great kind of psychadelic song with the strangest lyrics. Our Bizarre Relationship is Susie Creamcheese talking once again about her groupie career and about Zappa´s groupie status. It cranks me up every time. Hilarious I tell you! Just Hilarious. The Uncle Meat Variations is one of the highlights here for me. This version includes the Uncle Meat theme played in a different version and mouse like singing and there are even some soprano female singing. This is a great progressive song. Electric Aunt Jemima is a great r´n´b/ doo woop song sung with mouse like voices. It´s really enjoyable. Prelude to King Kong is a variation over the King Kong theme and a solo.

God Bless America serves as an introduction to A Pound for a Brown on the Bus which is basically The Legend of the Golden Arches played in double tempo and with different instrumentation. Ian Underwood Whips It Out has Ian Underwood telling us how he got the job with The Mothers of Invention and then he plays a great sax solo. Mr. Green Genes is a pretty slow and heavy song. Not heavy in the sense that it is heavy metal though. The vocals from Ray Collins is a real treat but also the part where Ruth Komanofff ( later Underwood) plays the xylophone is really powerful. There arre some excellent dark wind playing here too.

We Can Shoot You is another avant garde song which is very entertaining if you give it a try. If We'd All Been Living in probably the most funny thing on Uncle Meat, this one is hilariously funny. Jimmy Carl Black talks to Zappa about why The Mothers of Invention don´t make money than they do, and when he gets to the part where he says: We´re starving man, This [%*!#]ing band is starving, you can really hear the desperation in his voice. This is a good example of how many rock musicians live. On the brink of economic collapse. Jimmy Carl Black had a couple of kids back in California and The Mothers of Invention lived in New York at the time Uncle Meat were recorded and really when you´re away from your family for a long time like Jimmy Carl Black was you would expect to be able to send back a lot of money, but The Mothers of Invention never made lots of money, only enough to survive. There were lots of frustration among the members of the band over this issue and it was one of the reasons Zappa disbanded The Mothers of Invention in 1969. If We'd All Been Living in California...serves as a comment to that situation and if you think about it, Zappa´s not being very nice and especially not when If We'd All Been Living in California...seques into The Air which is a sarcastic doo woop song. Well that´s how I chose to see it, but it´s great to be a witness to the argument. The album continues with Project X which is an avant garde piece. I must admit to being a bit turned of by this song in the beginning, but I´ve come to love it. Cruisin' for Burgers ends the original LPs side 3. It´s actually a pretty special song. Ray Collins sings some great vocal lines in doo woop style, but there are also a bluesy rock part where Zappa sings. In addition to those styles there are some symphonic keyboards in the song. Does it sound confusing ? It sound great I promise you.

The whole of side 4 on the original LP whas made up of King Kong, but on the CD version CD 2 starts with Uncle Meat Film Excerpt, Pt. 1 which is some useless dialog from the movie score and what´s worse is that it lasts for 37:34 minutes. Uncle Meat was meant to be a movie but it wasn´t released at the time. Tengo Na Minchia Tanta is also a very useless song. It´s has a humour factor though, but really it isn´t worth your time. It´s notable that Chad Wackermann plays the drums on this track. I´m not sure about this but the drums sound like they are recorded in the eighties and it´s definitely Chad Wackermann´s style. It´s really strange that Zappa chose to put a song like this on the CD version of Uncle Meat. Uncle Meat Film Excerpt, Pt. 2 is another dialog excerpt from the movie and equally as useless as the first one but thankfully it only last for 3:50 minutes.

Well the useless CD extras aside lets go on to side 4 of the original LP and the great song King Kong. King Kong is divided into smaller chapters but really is one long song. It´s taken me almost 15 years to enjoy this song and really understand it, but boy it´s been worth the wait and the continued listening over the years. It´s one of the best Mothers of Invention songs IMO. The King Kong theme is of course the dominant part of the song and through the song it is twisted in all directions. The most innovative thing is the distorted clarinet ( I think it´s a clarinet, but I´m not sure to be honest) solo which is doubled it´s so crazy and dissonant and it is especially this part I had a hard time coping with. King Kong ends with The Mothers of Invention playing the song live at Miami Pop Festival which is typical Zappa to mix studio and live recordings.

The musicianship is astonishing to say the least. There where not many bands in the sixties who could do what The Mothers of Invention did on Uncle Meat. About 10 different Mothers contributed in one way or another to Uncle Meat and they all did the job of their lives.

The production is very unique both in Zappa´s discography and in rock history, nothing has sounded like this before and nothing has sounded like this since.

There was a special charm to The Mothers of Invention that is very much present here on Uncle Meat. Even though they often worked like horses under Zappa´s strict command and really didn´t get much to show for their efforts they still seemed like they loved the music and had fun. That kind of commitment shows in the music, and if you want to use a cliché you could say that the music has soul. It´s one of my all time favorite albums and I don´t think you should underestimate the incredible importance Uncle Meat had on a progressive genre like Zeuhl. This is my personal opinion of course, but listen to the brilliant album yourself and then judge.

Early issues in US (& some countries) have a band name & book sticker on cover. Early US issues were auto-coupled. Early sleeves/labels show the original title of "Nine Types Of Industrial Pollution" as "400 Days Of The Year". On the 1st CD issues extra tracks were also added as FZ progressed his concept for Frank Zappa - Presents Uncle Meat The Mothers Of Invention Movie.

The title of this album also relates to 'uncle meat', a nickname bestowed upon Sandy Hurvitz by the band when she worked with them at The Garrick, above the Cafe Au Go Go, in New York. She also effected the introduction of Zappa to sleeve artist Cal Schenkel.

Zappa states on this release:
"The words to the songs on this album were scientifically prepared from a random series of syllables, dreams, neuroses & private jokes that nobody except members of the band ever laugh at, and other irrelevant material. They are all 'very serious' & loaded with secret underground candy-rock psychedelic profundities. (Basically, this is an instrumental album.)"

"The music on this album was recorded over a period of about 5 months, from October 1967 to February 1968. Things that sound like a full orchestra were carefully assembled, track by track, through a procedure known as overdubbing.

The weird middle section of "Dog Breath" (after the line, "Ready to attack") has forty tracks built into it. Things that sound like trumpets are actually clarinets played through an electric device made by 'Maestro' with a setting labeled 'Oboe D'Amore' and sped up a minor third with a 'V.S.O.' [variable speed oscillator]. Other peculiar sounds were made on a 'Kalamazoo' electric organ.

The only equipment at our disposal for the modification of these primary sounds was a pair of 'Pultec Filters', two 'Lang Equalizers', and three 'Melchor Compressors' built into the board at Apostolic Studios in New York. The board itself is exceptionally quiet and efficient (the only thing that allowed us to pile up so many tracks) and is the product of Mr. Lou Lindauer's imagination & workmanship.

The material was recorded on a prototype 'Scully 12-track' machine at 30ips. The whole project was engineered by Richard Kunc, or Dynamite Dick, as he is known in the trade. Special engineering credits go to Jerry Hansen for the percussion effects added later at Sunset Sound in L.A., and to our friend 'Mike' in Copenhagen for the tapes he sent us."

What to Get: This title isn't quite perfect yet, but you'll be content with anything that isn't the old Zappa Records CD from the 1980s.

Summary: With the exception of the 1980s Zappa Records CD (more on that in a moment), all CDs, including the 2012 reissue, are identical: they have 1) a remix of "Mr. Green Genes", 2) a lot of digital reverb/echo added to a lot of tracks, and 3) three new "penalty tracks": one 1980s rock song ("Tengo 'na Minchia Tanta") and two very long bits of movie dialogue. The 1980s Zappa Records CD contains additional reverb on one and a half tracks (so far): "Dog Breath" and the first part of "Golden Arches." Post-1995 CDs add some extra cover/booklet artwork

ESSENTIAL VERSIONS FOR COMPLETISTS: Any vinyl version and any CD (except the 1980s Zappa Records CD, unless you're an insane completist).


-Test Pressing (unknown)
-Original vinyl (Bizarre 2MS 2024 in the US, April 1969, blue label; white- and gray-label promos also reported (repressed in 1973, without the 12-page booklet); Reprise 2MS 2024 in Canada (yellow-pink-green steamboat label); Trans-Atlantic TRA 197 in the UK, September 1969)
-Bizarre 52024 UK vinyl
-Japanese vinyl (Reprise SJET 8151-2)
-French vinyl (WEA Reprise 64 005)
-German vinyl (WEA Reprise 64 005/1, yellow steamboat label)
-Australian vinyl (Reprise 2MS 2024, 1969 - censored!)
-New Zealand vinyl (Reprise 2RS 2024, 1969)
-Reel-to-reel (Reprise RST-2024-P, 4-track 7.5-IPS)
-8-tracks (Bizarre 8MS 2024, Reprise REP J 82024)
-Reprise Cassette (CRJ 2024)
-German cassette (WEA Reprise 464005)
-The Old Masters vinyl (Barking Pumpkin BPR 8888-1, November 1986)
-Original CD (Ryko RCD10064/5 in the US (imported into Australia by Festival Records and re-stickered Ryko D70279/80), Zappa Records CDD ZAP 3 in the UK, October 1987; VACK 5025/26 in Japan)
-IRS 970.703 CD?
-Barking Pumpkin cassette (USA)
-Zappa Records cassette (TZAPPA3)
-1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10506/7, May 2 1995; VACK 5109/10 in Japan, renumbered 5244/5 in 1998)
-Japanese paper-sleeve CD (Ryko/VACK 1208, September 21 2001 - Bizarre inner sleeeves; stickers & booklet included)
-1995 Cassette (Ryko RAC 10506/7, May 2 1995)
-2012 UMe CD (Zappa Records ZR3839 July 31, 2012)

Track Titles

"Nine Types of Industrial Pollution" was called "400 Days of the Year" on some early 8-track and vinyl copies. Jasper Leach has such a vinyl copy, and:

... in place of "Louie Louie (at the Albert Hall)" it says "The Mothers Play Louie Louie at the Albert Hall in London"; on the last "King Kong" it says "the Underwood Zappa Ramifications" [instead of just "the Underwood Ramifications"]; also it never says that "Louie Louie" is by Richard Berry!

Some copies had "400 Days of the Year" on the labels, and "Nine Types of Industrial Pollution" on the cover.

More. From (allegedly) an interview in the July 20 1968 issue of Rolling Stone magazine:

ROLLING STONE: Are you recording at all now?

ZAPPA: We have 2 albums in the can. We've been working on this for the past 5 months. We bought a huge block of time in a studio in New York with our own teenage money, secretly knowing that MGM would bite the dust ... becausegood guys always win. [---?] 2 albums. One is Whatever Happened to Ruben & the Jets? - a secret project [which obviously ended up as Cruising with Ruben & the Jets - Ed]. The other is No Commercial Potential - a 3-record set. Six sides. It has such 8-minute tidbits as police busting our recording session. New York cops! Live! In person! You can't dance to it! It also has a piece where Jimmy Carl Black, the Indian of the group, is bitching because we are not making any money, and it's taking too long for the band to make it. 2 songs about El Monte Legion Stadium. A song about fake IDs. Another song about teats. A surrealistic R&B song called "The Air Escaping from Your Mouth". 2 other surrealistic things: "Mr Green Genes" and "Electric Aunt Jemima". Lots of instrumentals. On one song, we used 40 tracks and the tune lasts 90 seconds.That took us 4 days to put together. It'll probably be released in the fall.

From this interview segment, we can conclude that No Commercial Potential was a project best described as Uncle Meat plus some other stuff, such as a longer edit of "Cops & Buns" (released later on The Lost Episodes). But the source of this information is notoriously unreliable - can someone confirm the interview?

Test Pressing

Some files purported to be from a test-pressing of Uncle Meat have recently been circulating around the internet.

Uncle Meat Demo (aka acetate)

01. Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague (different ending)
02. Legend Of The Golden Arches
03. Louie Louie (At The Royal Albert Hall In London)
04. Dog Breath Variations
05. Project X excerpt
06. Dwarf Nebula Processional March & Dwarf Nebula (extended, incl. beginning of Get A Little)
07. A Pound For A Brown On The Bus
08. Electric Aunt Jemima
09. Our Bizarre Relationship (end)
10. We Can Shoot You (end)
11. If We'd All Been Living In California (slightly extended)
12. Ian Underwood Whips It Out (monologue only)
13. "All The Way Down The Tonsils"
14. The Air
15. Mr. Green Genes (w/ spoken intro from We Can Shoot You)
15a. unknown (probably Right There ?)
16. Uncle Meat Variations
17. Our Bizarre Relationship
18. Sleeping In A Jar
19. Cops And Buns
20. King Kong Itself As Played By The Mothers In A Studio
20a. King Kong It S Magnificence As Interpreted By Dom Dewild
20b. King Kong As Motorhead Explains It
20c. King Kong The Gardner Varieties
20d. King Kong As Played By 3 Deranged Good Humor Trucks

Original Vinyl

Some runs had no track separation.

Original CDs - Not quite all the same!
All CD versions of Uncle Meat have three "bonus tracks" (also known as "penalty tracks"): Two long excerpts from the movie UNCLE MEAT, and the song "Tengo 'na Minchia Tanta", recorded in the 80s. The second movie excerpt affects the beginning of "King Kong" slightly.

(Zappa obviously still thought of this CD as the soundtrack to his movie UNCLE MEAT, which was nowhere near completed when the LP was released. This must be why he introduced the bonus tracks - the LP sort of reflects the movie in the state it must have been in at the time, and the CD sort of reflects it in its final state. Compared to the LP, the CD sounds extremely heterogeneous (with antiseptic '80s sound popping up amidst all the '60s recordings) and has extremely long stretches of crazy dialogue (which many people have called extremely boring) - because that's the way the movie is.)

The only problems I hear with the Uncle Meat CD are:

1 the "penalty tracks" which many (including me) don't like, but you can program your player to skip over them,
2 a "twittery" sounding echo (same echo as on the Weasels CD), but it's not too annoying - probably meant to cover up the print-through "dirt" on the quiet parts of the tape (other attempts to cover up the tape degradation are the truncated reverberation on the slowed-down snork between "Zolar Czakl" and "Dog Breath", and the truncated decay on the clang which ends the "Uncle Meat Variations"); and
3 a re-mixed "Mr. Green Genes". It's an OK re-mix, but I still like the original better.

In 2012, it was belatedly discovered that the 1980s Zappa Records CD (CDD ZAP 3) contains extra digital reverb on "Dog Breath" and the first half of "Golden Arches," as well as differences on "Louie Louie."

1995 CD
The 1995 CD re-issue introduced some extra artwork: an inlay sheet behind the tray, described by Cal Schenkel as "2 of the found Dentoid elements that were used in the cover assemblage (turned into mush when they printed it with a scan instead of a simple line shot)". Official Ryko statement: "New master. New timing sheet. Restored artwork.

2012 UMe CD
Explicitly taken from the 1993 digital master, and is reported to be (barring some slight indexing differences) the same as the 1987 and 1995 Ryko CDs (but different than the old Zappa Records CD from the 1980s, which had additional digital reverb).


  1. Acetate/Demo, Original US LP Needledrop & 1995 Ryko CD:

  2. Crazy work, anyway. Of course I do own every single Zappa-CD and even lots of LPs. But the articles are really awesome. I'm looking foreward for the next. Thanks a lot.

  3. I got: Download Error (265)
    The requested URL was invalid.

    This is the first one that gave me trouble. Am I the only one or is anyone else having a problem on this one?

    Thank you Zen Archer for all this amazing work.