Monday, December 31, 2012

Frank Zappa 12: Fillmore East

Having reconstituted a new version of the Mothers, Frank got closer than ever to finally making a film starring them. While that waited to be finished, he took the band on tour, being careful to record their new, exceedingly improvised repertoire. The first product to show off the band was Fillmore East—June 1971, recorded during the last month the venue was open, and released by the end of the summer.

This is an album people either love or hate, and it can be summed up in three words: Flo & Eddie. While framed by two of his more popular instrumental workouts (“Little House I Used To Live In” and “Willie The Pimp”, the latter of which fades at the end) the first half of the album revolves around the legend of “The Mud Shark” and its relationship with groupies in general. It’s a shame too, because the band is so tight, staying on top of things no matter how overexcited the singers get. “What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are?” and “Bwana Dik” are annoying enough, and by “Latex Solar Beef” the topic of choice appears to be hemorrhoids.

Another performance of “Willie The Pimp” begins the second half, switching abruptly into more groupie “dialogue” acted out by Flo & Eddie in “Do You Like My New Car?” This goes on interminably—you can practically feel the spittle hitting the microphone—until the reference to a pop star’s “bullet” is revealed to be a setup for a straight cover of “Happy Together”, which Eddie took to #1 with the Turtles with Flo on tambourine. A fade seems to signify the break before the encore, here consisting of “Lonesome Electric Turkey” (Don Preston’s solo from a performance of “King Kong”), a half-decent “Peaches En Regalia” marred by Flo & Eddie singing the sax parts as nasally as possible, and an otherwise straight pop song called “Tears Began To Fall”.

There’s about a side’s worth of decent music here, but the attitude exuded by the band is best summed up by the bootleg-quality cover art. A few other tracks from the shows would emerge in time, most notoriously on side four of John & Yoko’s Some Time In New York City, which takes the obnoxiousness to a whole new level.

Those who do enjoy this album will be thrilled to know that the 2012 CD finally replicates the original album, complete with “Willie The Pimp Part Two”, which was left off previous CDs. Then, 2022’s The Mothers 1971 box set greatly expanded the album by devoting five and a half of its eight discs to all four Fillmore shows, including the full John & Yoko set restored from the Lennon Estate’s copy. Four shows means you get four different versions of the same songs, which results in over two hours of the content herein dedicated to four performances of “Billy The Mountain”, as well as another version cobbled from two shows later in the set. (They were kind enough to include the single mix of “Tears Began To Fall” and its mega-rare B-side, “Junior Mintz Boogie”.)

The Mothers Fillmore East—June 1971 (1971)—2

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