Small Screen Zappa – 67/68

On September 16, 1967, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention made a brief 10 minute appearance on Fred Weintraub’s WOR-TV New York show “From The Bitter End”. They lip synched “Son Of Suzy Creamcheese” from Absolutely Free, then performed an improvisation (above) which has come to be known as “In Memoriam, Hieronymus Bosch” which appeared on the bootleg, Apochrypa.

The Mothers of Invention (1967):

Frank Zappa – guitar
Ray Collins – vocals, tambourine
Don Preston – keyboards, electronics


Ian Underwood – alto sax

Bunk Gardner – tenor sax

Motorhead Sherwood – tambourine, trumpet, plunger, etc.

Roy Estrada – bass
Jimmy Carl Black – drums, trumpet

Billy Mundi – drums

A little over a year later, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention made their first appearance on the French TV program “Forum Musiques”, presented by Philippe
Koechlin (1938-1996) on October 23rd, 1968, performing themes from “A Pound For A Brown (On The Bus)”, “Sleeping In A Jar”, and “Octandre”. The change in band membership in 1968 saw both Mundi and Collins leave the group, and Arthur Dyer Tripp III join the band.

For more information on these early television appearances click here.

21 Responses to “Small Screen Zappa – 67/68”

  1. Birdman! says:

    Gee, I like his pants in the first clip. Strange mood this morning – I think you had to be there for this. Watching it is annoying. The Grateful Dead would have rolled this band up and smoked them. And then played good music, not boring noise accompanied by on-stage child’s play. Interested in hearing responses. The second clip rocks.

  2. Birdman! says:

    FZ owned and ruled this band. They werre payed sidemen and now they’re whining bitches. Miles Davis stole more from his sidemen (credit for “In a Silent Way” and “Orange Lady” from Zawinul for starters), but they know they owe him their careers, and they worked for it after they left his band. These guys couldn’t cut it. They’re not bandleaders, and they never stopped complaining after they got fired by the bandleader for not learning how to play their instruments better. Johnny Storm says “Flame On!”

  3. Thinman says:

    A quote from Birdman!:

    Interested in hearing responses.

    Besides the live recordings of the original Mothers that Frank released on records up to Weasels, I had never enjoyed any of their live performances that showed up elsewhere.
    Their studio work is important because of Frank’s vision and abilities to organise stuff in the studio, multitrack and edit the results to form something useful.
    He had to break up the band to move on. What he achieved later in live situations would not have been possible with the core of the original Mothers (exception: Ian Underwood).

    Th.

  4. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Birdman!:

    These guys couldn’t cut it. They’re not bandleaders, and they never stopped complaining after they got fired by the bandleader for not learning how to play their instruments better.

    I don’t think this is an entirely fair assessment, Birdman. Don Preston was a pioneer in synthesizers and electronic keyboards. After Zappa he went on to be a very busy studio sessions musician, played with many notables in the LA jazz scene, as well as doing movie soundtrack work (Apocalypse Now). Both he and other former Mothers went on to form other bands. Admittedly, these other bands never reached the same modicum of success that Zappa achieved, but then again, look at the price Zappa paid for his drive and ambition: a grinding touring schedule that kept him away from his young and growing family. I suppose every former Mother had different ideas of success. But to say that “these guys couldn’t cut it” just isn’t fair.

  5. Birdman! says:

    Don Preston gets a pass for “Escalator Over the Hill”, and Ian Underwood made a living, but the gripes referred to in a previous thread make these guys look like assholes. I think your post makes the point – they didn’t have the success because they didn’t put in the work. They couldn’t cut it like Zappa – they’re footnotes and he’s the article.

  6. Birdman! says:

    Also, I’d like someone to counter the Miles argument – his sidemen understood that if he hadn’t been in the room, or the control room, that specific music would not have happened. Zappa’s sidemen don’t realize that Zappa ran the show. “Mallard”?

    Tripp trashes Beefheart, too, but you can make the same claim with Beefheart – if he wasn’t there, that music wouldn’t exist. Henry Kaiser seems to think otherwise, and Beefheart seems to have been a major PItA, but you can counter the argument? If Beefheart didn’t exist, would Tripp have put out an alternate reality Trout Mask before becoming a chiropractor? Counterarguments please.

  7. peter says:

    Birdman — For someone who acts like he knows everything you sure don’t know squat. Tripp bashes Beefheart? What, that one line in 1975 where he griped about the ASSHOLES Zappa & Vliet?
    Oh, and then went on to guest on Don’s 1978 Shiney Beast record?
    Also, I really don’t think the old Mothers really badmouth Frank all that much. Perhaps you are being a little sensitive? You also misrepresent Kaiser’s so-called beliefs.

  8. metafunj says:

    No, but Trout Mask is terrible. So my counter argument would be maybe Tripp wouldn’t have wanted to record anything like that on his own, unless he just wanted to appear edgy and avant guard, cuz that album is unlistenable.

    If it weren’t for Zappa most of the Mothers would probably have been in unknown blues bands.

  9. Birdman! says:

    In the lengthy liner notes to “Grow Fins”, Tripp doesn’t sound like a fan of Beefheart. I think anyone who’s read them would have the same impression. In fact, the purpose of the set seems to put out a Beefheartless version of Trout Mask and show how tight and great the Magic Band were without Beefheart. I really have no idea what Kaiser thinks, and would be interested to know – links to interviews or something. He’s behind all of the pretty fantastic Beefheartless Beefheart that’s circulating, I think. Regarding badmouthing Zappa – giving birth to a stunted Zappa dwarf on stage and suing him aren’t acts that involve the mouth, but they seem hostile. And they apologized. The parts of Harkleroad’s “Lunar Notes” that I’ve read also make Beefheart look bad. I can’t argue with that – I wasn’t there. Sounds like he ran the Magic Band like a cult.

    Not sensitive – don’t have a dog in the fight, just interested in provoking a response and hearing what people think.

    Kaiser’s pretty great. He’s a diver, and Werner Herzog uses a lot of footage he shot under Antarctic ice in two of his films, “The Wild Blue Yonder” and “Encounters at the End of the World”.

  10. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Birdman!:

    Also, I’d like someone to counter the Miles argument – his sidemen understood that if he hadn’t been in the room, or the control room, that specific music would not have happened. Zappa’s sidemen don’t realize that Zappa ran the show. “Mallard”?

    Tripp trashes Beefheart, too, but you can make the same claim with Beefheart – if he wasn’t there, that music wouldn’t exist. Henry Kaiser seems to think otherwise, and Beefheart seems to have been a major PItA, but you can counter the argument? If Beefheart didn’t exist, would Tripp have put out an alternate reality Trout Mask before becoming a chiropractor? Counterarguments please.

    It never ceases to amaze me how some fans put these musicians (Zappa/Miles) up on a pedestal — as though their music and compositions were somehow the inevitable outcome of their presence as bandleader/producer alone — that their various band alumni were merely cogs being controlled by them, and not putting forth their own creative input (Don Preston’s solos in “Waka Jawaka” and “Lonesome Electric Turkey”, for instance).

    Surely, if Zappa hadn’t taken over leadership of the Soul Giants, the Mothers never would have emerged as a band — and the eclectic band we have all come to know and love certainly required the direction and creative design of it’s “Mother Superior”. That’s all a given. Yet without the creative input of the various other members of the original Mothers, would we really be here talking about this band and it’s leader right now? Zappa was never a solo act.

    Perhaps one of Frank Zappa’s greatest gifts (besides his obvious ones, of course) was his keen ability to surround himself with those musicians (and people) necessary to bring his visions to full fruition.

  11. peter says:

    Hello Birdman — First off, sorry for my tone but I think you have things askew. I’ll have to reread the Fins liners but from memory nothing there really troubled me (and I’m in the No Don = No Magic camp). Still, remember, even after the break up of the band Tripp and Don remained friendly off and on to this very day. As for Fins, I think you are way off base w/the anti-don theme. In fact, I think you are totally crazy! The vocal-less Trout sessions are of major importance mainly to display that the band had this material down cold and could replicate it at any time. Outside of these field recordings and the brief DRUMBO-LESS Amougies there are NO live recordings or album outakes floating around of the all mighty Trout band.
    Anyway, we could go on and on about DVV but this is a Zappa thread and so sayonara, good sir. p.s. I saw the first Grandmothers tour where they brought out the Zappa doll. I found it in very poor taste. I recall Frank told them to drop the skit and they immediately complied.

  12. Paul Sempschi says:

    It would seem that music is a symbiotic relationship between band + composer. You can make the compelling argument that without Don, you wouldnt have TMR but where would Don be if he didnt have musicians who would be willing to work those hours, put up with his abuse and tiresome eccentricities? Where would he be if Drumbo didnt have the faith and patience to try and transcribe Don’s mutterings into actual music? Cooder was gone. His bands repeately broke up over this behaviour- and that was back when he was producing somewhat ‘commercially acceptable’ work.

    Same with Zappa, by all evidence, if he couldnt dupe a bunch of well-intentioned bar bluesmen to play his music and act weird, he’d have been stuck attempting to record novetly surf songs to scrounge enough cash to have his compositions played by pick-up orchestras. Perhaps he’d even end up as a musical zelig like Al Kooper, studio muscian extrodinare only without the er, ‘support’ of the record industry.

    As a bar band, they were barely breaking even as it is. With Frank and under Frank’s leadership, they alienated the bar circuit and thus starved. Some members even sensed that doing all this ‘weird’ stuff wasnt going to get them any pay OR get them signed- they left. And it wasnt easy starving to death either, remember, Zappa’s music was always very demanding and required a lot of practice AND a lot of rehearsals. They even starved under Herb Cohen, who was paying them out of his own pocket… so they could have easily said “fuck you!” and broke up.

    Yes, Zappa had the talent, but, he owed a lot of his success on the faith that the early members had (and have) in that talent.

  13. Andre/Project Object says:

    Here’s something else to consider — Don Preston had not listened to ANY ZAPPA after he left, and not much of the stuff from 70-74 that he wasn’t ON.

    This is a fact, and in the 9 years that I’ve known Don I’ve sen his respect for Zappa’s compositional prowess grow steadily.

    One of the most fun things is listening to music with Don — he REALLY LISTENS, he does not like to speak or do ANYTHING else while there is music on – it’s difficult for him to adjust to the idea of “background” music, and he’d prefer silence if he can’t FOCUS on the music. I really have learned a lot from that –also for those of you that don’t know of the great great Pauline Oliveros – google and learn abt her and ‘deep listening’ and her teachings on silence. She’s in her 80s I believe, Don’s generation and like him just one of the pioneers , like him classically trained and grew up right through the creation of all these musical tech tools starting with tape recorders…

    Anyway –I can’t tell you HOW MANY times I have been on tour with Don, we’re in a van, the music is on, and a Zappa track comes up on the iPod, or in one case satellite (something from SUNPYG). Every time — without fail –a little bit into the tune Don may say “Ohhh! what’s this – this is very good..” [at this moment, 11:28 CT USA, my skype lights up -and DON PRESTON is calling, so bizarre!! Don is cracking up as I am telling him what I am doing at this moment. What a crazy musical world of connected energy..]

    Anyway — I’m back now and Don says Hi! All!!

    Don adds “If you come to my house– you would never hear music..unless I’m working on music…or LISTENING to it. My wife will tell you…if I am listening to music, you could walk up to me and I won’t notice !”

    Anyway — my point was…Don usually loves a wide variety of Zappa he hears, and when I discovered this I would make a point of playing him stuff. And literally, through the years he has, rather humbly, said some great things about Zappa’s compositional skills, where he had previously maybe been more than a little harsh. To be sure — ZAPPA DID TAKE IDEAS from his band and not credit them many times , I’ve had just about every one of the guys I’ve worked with say that and even point out SPECIFIC licks and motifs they would add in..and next thing they knew it was the kernel of a tune etc.

    But Don really digs a lot of the orchestral stuff — yes, some of it he finds complete copies of Varese etc, which is kinda true. he LOVES “G spot Tornado” and a lot of Jazz From Hell, he now does “Debra Kadabra” and really digs stuff on that record, a few things on “Man from Utopia” really interested him , etc, I could go on but you get it.

    He really likes, as you would imagine, Yellow Shark and “Everything Healing Nicely”. Remember that Donn Preston (his dad) worked for the Detroit Symph, so Don was exposed to the glory of orchestral sounds very early on…..

    For all the people ready to diss him — I challenge you, when you are 76 yrs old, to be eagerly learning music from 30 yrs ago, digging in an learning and opening your mind. I am here to tell you Don has really evolved a far way from the classic stance of “We’re the Mothers, we’re bitter, Frank stole from us and underpaid us”.

    While I basically agree with some of that –I’ve argued vigorously with Don that WHO ELSE was paying their band a weekly salary, year round, gigs or not??? And that if he compares with some of the OTHER 60s ‘sidemen’, they made out pretty well, not to mention still getting gigs today …based in part on their Zappa years. I may be biased tho’ – without Zappa — Don’s history stands very tall– touring with Nat King Cole in the 50s, or with Carla Bley, Robbie Krieger, Lou Rawls, Leo Sayer or so many more in the 70s-80s. Writing tunes Tommy Chong or hanging out with Theodore Sturgeon, OR being a huge part of the Apocalypse Now soundtrack with the great great Pat Gleeson (google that genius — he was the guy who brought none other than Herbie Hancock into the analog synth world, he played the modular moog etc on SEXTANT…

    so– Don , is a human being, changes and learns even as he approaches 80. He’s an incredible person, I’m honored to know him and he is also HILARIOUS to be around — that same nutty spirit as the guy in the Mothers Videos horsing around as a hunchback etc.

    But on this topic, I’m here to say Don’s a big enough guy to say, many many times: “Wow. That is really good. I didn’t realize Zappa could write like that”

    Isn’t that amazing?? The guy spent several years in the band, and knew Frank since the early 60s , when FRANK was in DON’s group, improvising electronic music in front of films of microscopic life. Yet — he TUNED OUT due to the acrimony, and NEVER listened to ANY of the music that came after his time, until the last decade or so.

    I hope this helps round out the picture.

  14. Paul Sempschi says:

    WAIT A MINUTE, THEODORE STURGEON??? Could be please elaborate, I had no idea he was in with that guy! Any anecdotes come to mind???

  15. Sharleena says:

    A quote from Paul Sempschi:

    WAIT A MINUTE, THEODORE STURGEON??? Could be please elaborate, I had no idea he was in with that guy! Any anecdotes come to mind???

    My thoughts exactly! And thanks André for shedding a more nuanced view on Don Preston…

  16. urbangraffito says:

    Thanks, André. On the few occasions I’ve spoken to Don, he’s always been kind, gracious and informative — which has given me brief glimpses and a somewhat deeper understanding into the complexities of the man, himself, the jazz musician, the synthesizer pioneer, and yes, the Mother of Invention member whose music I’ve both enjoyed and applauded through the years. Anyone who disses him — or any other former Mother for that matter — surely hasn’t taken the time to fully listen to Don’s contribution to 20th Century jazz and avant garde musical forms. Believe me, Vile Foamy Ectoplasm, and it’s sequel, Retrospective, are excellent CDs to start with, followed by Don’s Akashic Ensemble (which you are intimately familiar with André).

  17. peter says:

    Not much to add, just want to thank Andre’ and Paul S. for the excellent reads.

  18. danny the dinosaur says:

    Preston lives in my neighborhood, and I have seen him a few times at our Farmer’s Market on Thursdays. Never wanted to bother him, but now i may say hi and thanks!

  19. Andre/Project Object says:

    Don… if he ONLY TOLD STORIES of these wacked out Hollywood people he knows, owuld be the greatest writer in that genre. He’s unreal.

    And, gonna be 77 in 90 days or so, so he’s seen a hell of a lot!!

    I’ll get the exact Sturgeon story again from him. He’s touched that people give a rat’s ass about him BTW, he still is very surprised sometimes when we’re at some event or radio station in Czechoslovakia or something and maniacs are calling in , can’t believe DON PRESTON is in town.

    Well I remember the Sturgeon story has to do with lotsa nudity, as he and his wife walked around nude a lot.

    He has excellent Danny DeVito stories too– they have been buddies since around 1970, in fact – I highly recommend TONY LEVIN’s great book “Beyond The Bass Clef”..amazing stories, he is insanely prolific as you know…but DID YOU KNOW.. his first “major gig with a star” was in …Don Preston’s band, early 70s…so he tells a great story, almost the 1st one in the book, about their badly adverstised first gig in NYC…and Danny DeVito walking around with a sandwich board on is a highlight…

    Don’s stories, also come from the years he spent in the 90s and recently even, driving a LIMO in LA, Hollywood etc. For really rich people, musicians, stars etc. He has INSANE stories from that.

    The good news is there was a program at , I believe , UCLA, where they sat Don down several times and recorded a lot of his crazy crazy life story.

    We are working on getting his site re-designed , right now it;s at http://www.donprestonmusic.com

    Don Preston:

    -made a weird low-budget Dracula movie…with a small part in it for Leo Sayer , the 70s pop singer who Don toured as musical director for. You know – the guy who sang “You make me Feel Like Dancin””, the guy you can’t picture without seeing Richard Simmons in your mind’s eye…Don was his musical director for a tour.

    -played in the band that entertained the FIRST MEETING EVER of the Russian and American astronauts on Catalina Island in the early 60s. You gotta realize this is the height of the cold war and nuclear battles were on everyone’s minds, so this meeting was very important and kinda tense. He was there. (Yes, Catalina, Catalina!! as mentioned in Gregg. Pecc.)

    -played upright bass for ELVIN JONES in informal hang outs. Thru Elvin, he met COLTRANE, right during the time John was getting SAVAGED in the press — late 50s, around 1960. Don had a talk with him that included some cool encouragement that what he was doing was very important, it was harmonic revolution , on the order of the great composers and that he should stick with it. He’s not saying he is responsible for Coltrane going avant garde..but on that one day…. he lent an ear and kind, correct word.

    -met HERBERT SOLOMON when they were both posted in the army in Trieste Italy. They struck up a friendship when Herbert heard Don playing the base piano. So they jammed a lot together in a small band of enlisted guys. Herbert went on to change his name to…Herbie Mann, the famous flutist/saxophonist!

    -introduced me to Cynthia Plaster Caster on time, in Chicago. Yes, the one who took molds of famous rock star cocks and still to this day uses them in lectures and exhibits. She came to see P/O once in Chicago, musta been 2003. Really fun woman, still actually kinda cute & sexy, she must have been doing the plaster cast stuff at 18 or something. After a great hang, she being a sweetheart, lotsa hugs for Don etc she left. At some point, a slightly dejected Don says “Well…that was interesting. I found out I DIDN’T fuck her after all!!! All these years I thought we had slept together — turns out she wasn’t one of those two girls who tackled me back then — they tricked me into thinking one of them was Cynthia and I fucked them!! They had some casts and everything….”

    -was playing the long, weird first note of his KING KONG Moog solo..in Montreux CH when suddenly there were cries of FIRE!! FIRE!. Yep, as you well know –the famous fire immortalized in the Deep Purple song……

    -was tripping on acid one day and his good friend BOB MOOG called: “Don!! Don!! you’ve gotta see this!!”

    I forget if Don stumbled over there….or If Bob came over. But Bob had a very early prototype of the minimoog, all loose wires and boards. Don says tears started pouring down his face as he realized “this was the future”..being able to control the various aspects of a synth and control it by a keyboard accurately….

    So…these stories pour out of him — and usually it’s almost accidental, he’ll mention someone and you’ll pull more details out till a story emerges, or we’ll see someone’s picture or hear a song and he’ll go “Oh I knew that guy”.

  20. T. Bikel says:

    My career never recovered from the day that asshole fired my ass. He stole the whole 200 MOTELS thing from ME!!!

  21. Sharleena says:

    Go get them Theodore Fido!

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