Untitled Document

1968 11 10 KSAN Berkeley, CA w/ Tom Donahue

Transcript by Punknaynowned (original transcript in mesageboard)

Tom Donahue

beginning starts in media res:
[string melody of The Idiot Bastard Son or Peaches(?) fades]

FZ: ...play it in its raw state.
TD: where would ... where would this fall uhh in, in time? Is this,
FZ: [aherm] Well this was recorded
TD: Was this recorded with the first LP or -- ?
FZ: No. This was recorded about ahh a year and a -- a little over a year ago. Up in New York.
TD: "Agency Man".

[cues to a live version of "America Drinks" w/ Ray Collins improvising the end bit :"Wednesday we'll go topless, Thursday we'll go naked, Friday we'll shoot up a Volkswagon," where Frank laughs and Ray says casually, "should be fun" : this portion of live tape ends with Frank explaining that they had gotten kicked out of playing in this very venue playing this song, then the tape edits
directly into "Agency Man" in a different edit or version but nearly as found on the official release "Mystery Disc"]

TD: That's "Agency Man" and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.

TD: This is Tom Donahue and Frank Zappa of the Mothers of Invention is our guest in the studio tonight and uhhh, we heard "Agency Man". Which is, what do they call it? I guess an outtake in a sense.
FZ: Yeah it's an outtake,
TD: Something you decided not to work with. Ruben and the Jets is the most recent release of the Mothers and we're gonna get to that later on. I know I wanna play some of it
FZ: Mm-hmm
TD: Later on and talk about it. But umm, About six months ago there was a period of time on the top forty stations all of a sudden there were three or four records that sounded like records from the fifties. They have that '57/'58 sound.
FZ: Well I never listen to the radio, so that could have been true
TD: Yeah heheh. Well it ahh they all had that same simple sort of Moonglows beat to 'em.
FZ: Well y'know if you analyze the sound of what the Moonglows did it wasn't really as simple. Rhythmically it was pretty simple but harmonically it was amazing for the things they got away with and in the chord structure they were working on. And they were very tight and they were a very good vocal group. Really exceptional.
TD: It was a period of time though when there was a tremendous variation in the musical ability of groups who were scoring with records. Sometimes a really frightening variety.
FZ: Yeah, well, y'know. That's one of the things that I like best about that kind of music is that even the ones that weren't competent musically had so much to offer in the emotional department.
tD: Oh yeh
FZ: that it didn't make any difference
TD: on the basics all the time
FZ: That's right, it's glandular, y'know. I can identify with that.
TD: That would used to be the BIG argument that was offered by adults during that period of time that didn't dig the msuic was that it was too simple.
FZ: Yeah. I've been handed a book here called, "Who's Who In Rock and Roll". It must have been published about twelve years ago. Some sort of greasing that Alan Freed put out. It has a thing in the back where he's taking all the credit for putting rock and roll together and making it all happen. Let's see, where is this thing? It's got a quotation from -- ah yes,
"Rock and Roll keeps rolling" is what the headline says. And then it starts off this way,
"Rock and Roll is lewd. In plain fact dirty' blasts Frank Sinatra. 'You're so wrong, Frankie', echo thousands of rock and roll fans. 'I consider it the greatest music ever,' says the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley.'
TD: And et cetera et cetera.
FZ: Yeah and they're still doing that in various levels today
TD: Yeah they're still playing that same kinda rap. There were a lot of closet fans in those days
FZ: [exagerrated smarmy laugh]
TD: Just like those closet queens y'know
FZ: Uh-huh,
TD: Who listened to rock all the time and very seldom would admit it to their friends.
FZ: Yeah
TD: I used to -- I had a friend who was teaching English at the University of Pennsylvania about '56, '57 when I started playing in Philadelphia.
FZ: Yeah,
TD: He'd aways told me he'd never listened to any of it but all of a sudden started rappin to me about what I should be playing more of ... and ahh became a fan in a hurry. I expect he had been all along.
FZ:: Rock and roll music is good for you. It's very healthy for you. I think it's --ah, one of the greatest problems facing the entire world today is mental health and poor education. And I can't say that rock and roll will improve your education. Well, it might because there's a lot of things to be learned about the way you're supposed to act in a given social situation.
TD: Yeah right, rock tells you how to treat girls,
FZ: that's right,
TD: and it tells you what to do or how to feel when your heart's been broken,
FZ: that's right
TD: It's got a lot of things in
FZ: Unwritten social code of the younger generation is implied in the relationships of the boy to the girl in most of the love lyric siuations in these records. They don't even have to come out and spell it out, but the whole social system is implied in those records and then, that's how I learned to do what I do. Gettin all those instructions.
TD: hahhahha
FZ: You couldn't find out any other way. Your mother and father didn't know. They hated you 'cause y'know, you were creepy, you were a teenager, y'know. When I was in my teens, calling somebody a teenager was really the nastiest thing you could say to me. 'You TEENager. Juvenile delinquent,' and all that stuff.
TD: There was a -- it's it's impossible to take anything back and say 'This is the beginning'.
FZ: Mm-hmm.
TD: I mean Alan Freed can say what the beginning of rock and roll was. To me it was always a record by Don Howard called 'Oh Happy Day'.
FZ: I remember that. Yeah. Ahh, I , I don't think that was the beginning for me. I think that the first thing that I heard was ahh, it was either 'Gee' or 'Sh-Boom'. I forget which came out first but it was back in that era.
TD: Yeah, well, but I think 'O Happy Day' was before that
FZ: yeh?
TD: Yeah, Yeah I think it really did come out before that. Yeah I think what happened, it went around a couple times.
FZ: Hmm
TD: and it was just the one cat singing, y'know the voice
FZ: The low voice
TD: Y'know how people had 'good voices' or 'bad voices'
FZ: yeh
TD: and this is a bad voice. It was the first record BY somebody
FZ: Well, the 'bad voice' that made money, heheh
TD: Right, heheh
FZ: 'That's the beginning of rock and roll'. There ya have it.
TD: Yeah, right. Well, y'know maybe it's
FZ: See, he opened up the way for us.
TD: They say that part of the appeal has been that people could say 'I can do that'.
FZ: Yeah. That's Right. That's a reason why people like Johnny Carson and those talk show people on television make it big because, 'well, y'know there's a nice simple guy, he can't hurt ya, y'know, I can do that. I can identify with them'.
TD: And he looks right.
FZ: Yeah, huhuh
TD: Y'know he's got brown hair and he's the right size
FZ: hahah. Brown hair, white skin, blue suit.
TD: When Les trained[or Les Trane?], first started teevee, first thing I said was 'Man, you'll never make it. You are the wrong color.'
TD: Mm-hmm
FZ: You may be white but you've got dark hair, you're Jewish, you're all the things you shouldn't be to do that kind of show,
FZ: Mmhmm. And then what happened?
TD: He still didn't make it.
FZ: Errrmm.

FZ: Do you think it's possible we could listen to this record?
TD: What do you want to play?
FZ: There's a record sitting over there that's called 'The Handsome Cabin Boy" from an album called Blow Boys Blow. 'Ewan MacColl and AL Lloyd sing songs of the sea' and it's one of my favorite songs. And it probably doesn't belong on a radio station but seeing how this is sort of underground and everything you might sort of get into the mood of it. It's actually a sea chanty which is a -- it's a whale -- it's something you'd sing on a whaling ship. You know when they wouldn't have anything else to do. And it's an interesting tune. Melodically I think it's very appealing and it has an interesting story line. And it says on the back of the album, [reads] ''It is a common sailor's dream that among the crew is a girl dressed as a boy. Oddly enough in songs based on this fantasy it is nearly always an officer who discovers the girls identity. In this case, the plight of the pregnant cabin boy might be considered tragic, seen from the girl's viewpoint. But as the sailors see it the situation is inexhaustibly comic. The version of this much loved ballad that is sung here is unusual for the equivocal role played by the captain's wife. '' And if you listen very closely to the lyrics, they're very trippy.


[they both talk over each other in this section again and again]
TD: That's ummm Roshimon.
FZ: Roshimon? What's that?
TD: Well, it's a Japanese play that's been made into about fifteen movies,
FZ: Yeh?
TD: Where ahh a woman who is supposedly raped by a man that a kinda she and her and the man that she's with
FZ: Yeh?
TD: and each of them runs down the story,
FZ: Yeh
TD: but they each tell it a totally different way.
FZ: Oh, I've heard about that
TD: Yeh, you've been there
FZ: But I haven't seen the cinema - No I haven't BEEN there. I can see the similarity between that and the bizarre relationship between this cabin boy and whoever it was that was strapping him or her or whatever it was on this ship
TD: heheh
FZ: But I'd like to dedicate that song to the GTO's and the BTO's of Laurel Canyon because I'm sure they'll understand it.
TD: And next.
FZ: And next we have a record called Grunion Run which was recorded about six years ago in a studio that I used to own in Cucamonga, California. And it was produced by Paul Buff who is ahh also happened to be the enginner on another fantastically successful teenage record a few years back that we all know and love 'Wipeout'. He's the man responsible for comitting that thing to tape. And he's still trying to live that disaster down. And he -- under our -- forcing him, agreed to record this piece of music called 'Grunion Run'. Which at the time seemed to be not very commercial at all. Y'know, he didn't really want to do it. But it wound up being the b-side on a record called 'Tijuana Surf'. Which turned out to be a good selling record. It sold 8000 copies in Fresno, and 150,000 copies in Mexico where it was number one for seventeen weeks.
TD: "Wipeout" was on the charts longer than any other record. I think it was either five or six years,
FZ: Really? That tells you something about the people who recorded it and who bought it. And also the people who played it on the radio, cuz they really helped out.
TD: Only the best.
FZ: "Grunion Run" was a little ahead of its time because of the technique of the fuzztone stuff in there. The fuzztone used on the guitar in this record was a homemade number before they were commercially available, Paul Buff the electronic wizard who is now the recording engineer at Original Sound Records for Art Laboe in Los Angeles had manufactured this little homemade cheapie fuzztone by accident. He tried to make a transistor amplifier, didn't know what he was doing and found out that everything that you plugged into it distorted like crazy. So he started running everything through it, the bass, the guitar, y'know?

FZ: Here it is, the b-side of 'Tijuana Surf'

TD: The Grunion thing is uuhhh peculiar to uhh southern California isn't it?
FZ: The grunion? Oh, oh yeh. Some people don't know what a grunion is. It's a fish that comes up out of the water and sort of runs up onto the beach on its tail and squats in the sand and lays eggs. And during this procedure, southern california teenagers gather together with their cars, line their cars up on the beach, aim their headlights out on the sand, turn them on and then run out there on the beach and grab the fish while they're laying their eggs. [pause] Tells ya a lot about the southern california teenager doesn't it?
TD: Yeahahha, Well, what's the line? I saw in a book recently that said that you gotta understand that they start out having their brains baked out by the sun.
FZ: No, I don't really think that it works that way. That's sort of the kinda thing that a person from San Francisco would say about a person from Los Angeles.
TD: HA! I wouldn't lie to somebody from Los Angeles . . . Who was that originally?
Other voice: ahhh, Max Shulman
TD: Yeah, Max Shulman
FZ: That says their brains are baked out in the sun? Well, I think that the school systems in California have a tendency to sort of y'know?
TD: Make a major contribution.
FZ: Yeah. I don't think you really need to rely on the sunshine to do away with the intelligence of the young people. School system is designed to take care of that. Blot --
TD: That where you're from?
FZ: Blot you're creativ -- Oh No, I was born in Baltimore. Wish I was from El Monte
TD: Yeah someone called me a while ago and asked me if you were from El Monte and if so what part of El Monte you were
FZ: No. Most of my time spent in that area was spent in Pomona, Ontario and Cucamonga, California. Which is a few miles east of El Monte.


El Monte cultural hotbed of the 1950's
FZ: El Monte is a sociological phenomenon that really should be studied very carefully. There's amazing things that took place there during the fifties. Y'know, whole sections of historical folklore happened there and then just disappeared and were forgotten.
TD: I don't know if it necessarily disappeared
FZ: Well, there are a few
TD: Just like somebody somewhere is putting it all down, recording it all
FZ: I don't know whether they're really putting it down. I think that some people remember it but it should be treated in a scholarly work and the details of this should be turned over to an institution that saves that stuff for future generations. Y'know when future generations want to really know the why's and wherefore's of the jelly roll hair-do, the black leather jacket, the parking lot knifing, tire slashings and the true function of a tire chain as applied to teenage recreation. These things should be recorded by one of those scholars y'know that's supposed to have chops to do that stuff. Instead of relying on the memory of poor rock and rollers who were forced to work at the El Monte Legion Stadium, in one of the worst acoustical environments in southern California.
TD: Oh worse yet perhaps a history could be written on the basis of -- of what the newspapers were saying about those teenagers.
FZ: Heh yeah
TD: Or ahh what their supposed to do
FZ: Yeah
TD: My favorite movie is a teenage movie made in the mid-fifties because they didn't have anything right then --
FZ: Yeah
TD: and seen ten years later, it's really --
FZ: Which movie? Do you remember some of those? How 'about Girl's Town? Did you ever see that one?
TD: Yeah, I've seen Girl's Town and seen a lot of 'em. I've seen a lot of the old ones that have Frank Gorshin in 'em.

FZ: Yeah
TD: Who's that singer, recorded for Warner Brothers?
Other Voice: Connie Stevens...

TD: Commie Stevens, Concetta Rosa

FZ: There's one that has Paul Anka in it
TD: Yeah, I've seen one with Paul Anka in it. Then there were a number of 'em umm well, the car movies I thought were the best.
FZ: Yeah, the really good cars. MM. If they only knew about things like that in Europe. Y'know it's very hard to go to Europe and play a concert and sing a song about a '39 Chevy and see these people wailing around on bicycles and they just don't know what you're talking about.
TD: Yeah
FZ: And even if they knew what the car was they can't project into the mystique of the fuzzy dice and the taco balls around the windshield. Y'know you just can't tell that to them.
TD: They don't know about going to Mexico and gettin a reupholstery job
FZ: eheh
TD: and standin over 'em in Tijuana to make sure that ahh
FZ: Yeh make sure you get your fifty dollars worth
TD: Yeh that they put the right kinda stuff into it, not old newspapers and uhh
FZ: mm-hmm
TD: Find it tuck rolled

FZ: We have another hit tune
TD: Tried to sneak out [sic?]
FZ: heh, This is a piece of music written by Pierre Boulez and it's one of my favorite pieces of music. From a piece of -- one little piece of a larger piece of music that he wrote. And the title of which I can't pronounce in French but in English it means A Hamemr Without A Master and its -- I think it's got bongos in it ahh . Here's the instrumentation: Marjorie McKay alto singer, Arthur Leghorn flute, Milton Thomas viola, William Kraft vibraphone, Dorothy Remson xylo/marimba, Thedore Norman guitar and Walt Goodman percussion, bongos, maracas, tambourines, claves, bells, tam-tams, traingle, gong, cymbal and small cymbals. I'd like to say something about the conditions under which this record was made. It's been around for quite some time, it was originally released as a mono recording and now is available in stereo for some strange reason and was done during a time when it was not the popular thing to do to record avant garde music or new music at all. And they figured, 'well, we'll do it because Boulez is making a reputation. He's one of those hot new European composers and it sold surprisingly well when they put it out. The only problem is that rumors through the studio musician grapevine in Los Angeles came back to me and a number of other people that the music was so difficult that the performers on the piece just sort of started making uhhh up their own things in spots, y'know? And nobody except Boulez could tell that it was not what was supposed to happen. And I got the score to the piece and tried to follow along with this version of it and it doesn't match up. You can see that there are errors in it. But I have since listened to a recordings conducted by Boulez and I like this one better cause it has a better beat. If you go for bongos kids, this is for you.
[cue Le Marteau Sans Maitre ] [this is not the same version of course though I believe it is the proper section though Frank never says so :

TD: We'll be rappin with Frank in a minute.
[cue "America Now" commercial: a book about conservative thinking in a new media age, 1968 with details about where to order it]
[cue "Berkeley in MOI ad" where FZ counts in "One, Two, Buckle my shoe..." as on Absolutely Free, with the ad announcer flying overtop saying the MOI will be in Berkeley, CA; folowed by FZ complaining that he had to come all the way to a studio in Berkeley to record this ad, "And I think that's a real drag to have to do. For a show in Berkeley of all ridiculous places"; followed by announcer on details of how to order tickets]

TD: This is Tom Donahue we're talking to Frank Zappa of the Mothers of Invention. We have early electronic music,
FZ: Well that's not electronic music
TD: Well, it's ... ahh ok, early avant-garde.
FZ: Yeah. Ok, ... Tom. Now here's a little early teen grease. It's, it's sort of middle period teen grease actually. It's called When we get married by the Dream Lovers. And we discussed earlier the fact that the unwritten social code of the younger generation is embodied in their music? Just listen to the life described by the lyrics of this song.
[cue When We Get Married
45 on Magnavox player:

45 on better sound playback:

[cue Memories of El Monte:]

12. Frank remembers El Monte:
TD: Memories of El Monte at El Monte Legion Stadium.
FZ: Yes indeed. I'd like to say that Ray Collins and myself wrote that tune a long time ago and we started hussling it all over town in Los Angeles. This is when we were living outside of town in the sticks and we wanted to be teenage songwriters and I think it was the first teenage song that I ever wrote. And I thought, 'God! I like this stuff so much and it must be so easy to write those kinda songs,' but we really sweated our buns over that one trying to get it together and make it really swell. So we wind up taking it to, of all people, Art Laboe and he says, 'Well I got a group. I got this group called the Penguins, y'know they made Earth Angel, y'know? And a few of them are working at the car wash but I can get 'em down here to sing this tune'. So he actually brought ... The Penguins, or he purported these people to be The Penguins to the recording studio and introduced them to us and we showed them how the song went and they sort of liked it and it took about two or three months to actually get him to finally have a session and record the tune. They recorded it and they put it out on the market and it sold about 4000 copies in New York and nobody in El Monte even wanted to know about it.
TD: Heh,
FZ: Y'know, they -- 'Forget it!' -- they don't like to be reminded that they live in El Monte, I guess or that El Monte was really something spectacular. Well, there might be a few who like the idea of it. Pandora likes it. But we still perform this tune on stage sometimes, y'know, just to -- for fun.

FZ: OK, the next record is from a Charlie Mingus album that I grew up with called Mingus Ah-Um. And the name of the tune is Goodbye Porkpie Hat- dedicated to Lester Young.
[cue Goodbye Porkpie Hat,]


[cue Lucy Mae Blues: ]

FZ: That was Frankie Lee Simms singing the Lucy Mae Blues. One of my favorite records when I was in high school.

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