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Author Topic: Brian & The Mothers of Invention?  (Read 14683 times)
Lowbacca
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« on: June 17, 2012, 04:10:52 AM »

Has Brian ever listened to the first Mothers of Invention records back in the mid/late 60's? What did he think of Zappa's music in general (or vice versa)? Is anything known on that topic? Any anecdotes? Did they ever meet?





Over the weekend I listened alot to Freak Out! and Absolutely Free - and while maybe being released a bit early ('66, '67) regarding Brian's real 'crazy phase', I somehow got the feeling that he would have liked a few of the tracks (some doo wop influence, weird lyrics and the Mothers being a band from California). Yet I can't recall ever hearing something about Brian and Zappa.



Sorry if this has been covered before but I couldn't find anything via search function.
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seltaeb1012002
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« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2012, 04:22:29 AM »

I don't recall the exact quote, but he said he was a fan of Zappa in that Q&A session he did for the Gershwin album:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig20VnG5DpE

(it might've been part 2)
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Lowbacca
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« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2012, 04:39:42 AM »

I don't recall the exact quote, but he said he was a fan of Zappa in that Q&A session he did for the Gershwin album:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig20VnG5DpE

(it might've been part 2)
Yeah right, it's in the middle of part 2. I forgot about that. Thanks!
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hapman
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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2012, 08:43:31 AM »

David Anderle, who used to hang out with Brian and Zappa in 1966, said something about how he showed an acetate of Absolutely Free to Brian, and how it totally freaked him (BW) out.
Also, I recall an interview where Brian called Zappa's music "evil".
(Don't ask me about sources, I read these on this board  Cheesy)
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Pablo.
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« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2012, 07:43:20 PM »

Another connection... kind of...

When she is asked to list her credentials to groupiedom, however, Gail laughs and suddenly becomes shy. "Well", she says "we knew the Byrds and the Beach Boys - I'd say Brian Wilson as a matter of fact. But", she continues "I think everyone who lived in Los Angeles and had anything to do with groups in '65, '66, could be classified as a groupie. I don't know if they knew what was motivating them, but I think, how else do you get it off your chest - this total fascination with the music business and being part of it at the same time? It was almost religious with the girls. They were the worshipers, and those guys were like priests on the altar". This is not to say, however, that there were not some sexual opportunists around at the time. "There were a lot of girls who were in it for the castle in England. That was a prevailing dream: I must have an English pop star and retire to one of those great houses in England".

Gail Zappa talking about her groupie/pre-FZ days, from the Rock Wives book (1986)
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hapman
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« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2012, 08:52:53 PM »

According to Miles' Zappa bio Gail had a fling with Brian sometimes in 1964-1965.

According to the same book Zappa's unmarked grave is in the neighbourhood of Carl's in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery at Glendone Ave.
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AndrewHickey
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« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2012, 03:53:49 AM »

Van Dyke Parks played very briefly with the Mothers pre-Freak Out, according to some sources. There used to be an interview on cabinessence.com from 1969 where the touring BBs praise Cruisin' With Ruben And The Jets and say they like Zappa's other stuff. And obviously there was a *lot* of overlap in their social/work circles (David Anderle, Mark Volman, Jim Guercio, the Wrecking Crew, Kim Fowley, Elliot Ingber, Nik Venet). So I'd be amazed if Brian hadn't been aware of at least the first couple of Mothers albums.

Zappa was also at least mildly interested in Brian's work -- there's a story in, I think, The Negative Dialectics Of Poodle Play where Zappa attended the mixdown for an album (I remember it as being Surfer Girl) and was disappointed that Brian wasn't at the mixdown despite his reputation as a great producer. Zappa also said in The Real Frank Zappa book that Little Deuce Coupe was the most exciting thing he'd ever heard in 'white-person' (his term) pop music, because it had a V-ii progression in it rather than the cliched ii-V (the change over the line "she's my little deuce coupe") -- he called it "an important step forward by going backwards".
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ontor pertawst
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« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2012, 08:40:20 AM »

A shame there's no recordings of VDP being introduced by Zappa as "Pinocchio."
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rn57
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« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2012, 08:58:24 AM »

Since I read that VDP's Mothers nickname was Pinocchio, I've sometimes wondered if Frank ever saw him in that old TV show Bonino, playing an Italian-American lad - or Van Dyke's appearances as Little Tommy Manicotti in The Honeymooners.

In some online interview a few years back, I think Brian said something about having seen the Mothers onstage in the '60s.  Given Brian's clubgoing habits in the middle of that decade, I'm thinking the spring or summer of '66 might have been the likeliest time for that.
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ontor pertawst
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« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2012, 09:05:45 AM »

Anyone ever ask Van Dyke about how this came about, anyway? Seems awful peculiar! Zappa didn't really like overly bright lads bursting with way too many ideas of their own in his bands, did he? As great as many of his players were, he wanted to be the only genius in the room with control, right?

Speaking of -- Little Feat. Wonder if Lowell George was who connected Frank and VDP. No, wait - his tenure was a 68-69ish...

If someone doesn't know, I think I have to bug Mr. Parks and find out!
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rn57
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« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2012, 09:28:15 AM »

When VDP was in the Mothers - and he says it was when Elliott Ingber was still in it, and it would have been before he and Brian started to work together, so I'd guess it was sometime in spring '66 - Frank would have expected two things from a keyboardist - an ability to read music, and at least a passing familiarity with doo-wop/'50s r&b (or in a pinch '50s jazz). VDP, as he'd be the first to admit, was not a jazzbo or a big r&b guy back then.  He had a pretty solid academic background in music, and did thoroughly know Varese, 12-tone stuff, and all that modern classical material that Frank loved....but, as Van Dyke has often said in interviews, he got into folk, then pop, partly to get away from playing the work of Schoenberg and his latter-day disciples. So it's not much of a surprise that what he wanted to do doesn't seem to have squared with what Frank expected him to do.
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Mike's Beard
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« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2012, 10:11:55 AM »

I'm certain I've read that Frank met Brian in the late sixties at some point but was put off by Wilson's drug taking. Doing drugs around Frank was a big no no.
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« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2012, 10:13:45 AM »

I can see Brian really diggin' "Freak Out", and maybe tripping balls to albums such as "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" and "Lumpy Gravy".
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Mike's Beard
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« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2012, 10:17:51 AM »

The first time I listened to Lumpy Gravy and heard the "stuck in the piano voices", I immediately thought of the spoken experiments Brian was doing around Smile.
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« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2012, 10:43:39 AM »

The first time I listened to Lumpy Gravy and heard the "stuck in the piano voices", I immediately thought of the spoken experiments Brian was doing around Smile.

It was the other way round for me -- first time I heard Cabinessence I thought "that sounds like Absolutely Free (the track, not the album)".
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« Reply #15 on: June 18, 2012, 11:18:21 AM »

Stephen Desper, who posts here and worked with both Wilson and Zappa can probably add some insight into this.
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Lowbacca
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« Reply #16 on: June 18, 2012, 12:34:13 PM »

Domo arigato for all the information and anecdotes hitherto. I'm glad we're tunring up this much sh*t on the BBs/BW/Zappa connections.

So... Mr. Desper?  Smiley
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anazgnos
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« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2012, 02:22:43 PM »

There's an article in LLVS, circa '66, comparing/contrasting BBs & MOI, where Zappa is trashing on "Be True to Your School"...I feel like they might have had some Brian quotes about Zappa as well?  Can't remember.
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TheLazenby
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« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2012, 05:15:28 PM »

Yeah, the 'Brian falls in a _______' tapes ALWAYS reminded me of Lumpy Gravy.
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Pablo.
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« Reply #19 on: June 18, 2012, 06:01:10 PM »

Speaking of the V-ii on LDC, there's also a brief pastiche of that song during "Brown shoes don't make it"
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Stephen W. Desper
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« Reply #20 on: June 19, 2012, 09:08:51 AM »

Domo arigato for all the information and anecdotes hitherto. I'm glad we're tunring up this much sh*t on the BBs/BW/Zappa connections.

So... Mr. Desper?  Smiley

COMMENT:

Around the time of HOLLAND, American Productions (owned by the Beach Boy Corporation) sold the double-set large & powerful sound system(s) that I had designed and they had put many shows on with all over the world.  The house studio and equipment was to be dismantaled. New equipment was bought or built by engineer Moffett for the new Santa Monica Studio. The sound system, including its four consoles, 16 MacIntosh 1000 Watt amplifiers, 32 JBL speaker systems (2x15" low-end + phenolic dome mid + bullet high-end), and two Phillip effects devices, 60 mics, booms, 5000 feet of Neumann microphone cable in 25 and 50 foot lengths and a moving van full of custom-built Anvil travel cases were all sold to Frank Zappa Productions. He wanted to incorporate it into a more elaborate traveling system for pending worldwide tours.

I was not interested in traveling to Holland to make an album and Mike wanted to hire Moffett because he meditated and I did not. When the Beach Boys left the country and tore down the house studio, Zappa hired me to put together his sound system and mix for him on the road (and studio) for the next several years.  That was the Zappa band with George Duke, Jon Luc Ponty, Ian Underwood, etc. 

I have known Brian for many years and Zappa for several years. I have had many conversations with both men about their music on a creative level as it applies to concert presentations and studio creations. 

Given that background, ask me specific questions and I'll be glad to answer as best I can.


~Good Listening,  ~Stephen W. Desper
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ontor pertawst
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« Reply #21 on: June 19, 2012, 09:28:27 AM »

I'll leave the hyper-specific questions for everybody else, but thanks so much and let's get this started!

Generally, what would be the differences in their working process other than possibly Zappa's higher caffeine intake? How would a Frank Zappa approach the recording process in a way that Brian Wilson never would, and vice versa?

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Mike's Beard
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« Reply #22 on: June 19, 2012, 09:47:59 AM »

Stephen, that's something I've always wanted to ask you - how would you describe the differences between working with these two guys? Was Frank as strict as they say? Who would you say was the bigger perfectionist in the studio out of Brian (when motivated) and Frank?

Many thanks in advance.
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Stephen W. Desper
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« Reply #23 on: June 19, 2012, 11:11:12 AM »

I'll leave the hyper-specific questions for everybody else, but thanks so much and let's get this started!

Generally, what would be the differences in their working process other than possibly Zappa's higher caffeine intake? How would a Frank Zappa approach the recording process in a way that Brian Wilson never would, and vice versa?



COMMENT:  My comment to you combined with next question.  ~swd
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Stephen W. Desper
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« Reply #24 on: June 19, 2012, 12:03:33 PM »

Stephen, that's something I've always wanted to ask you - how would you describe the differences between working with these two guys? Was Frank as strict as they say? Who would you say was the bigger perfectionist in the studio out of Brian (when motivated) and Frank?

Many thanks in advance.

COMMENT:  In a word; Brian Wilson is mostly concerned with emotional content and how the take affects you emotionally. Little imperfections are passed over if a take has a "good feeling" or is "in the groove." After three or four takes Brian moves on to something else, even if NO good take was forthcoming. He will return to the failed section after the emotional attachment of the performer has been reset -- usually by the passage of time. Typically Brian will get what he wants from his own vocals within one or two takes. Other performers a little longer, but not much.  Brian likes to experiment and "play" with the musicians on how a line or section could be played. He will ask for suggestions and ideas. Then after taking it all in, makes up his mind. He works with an outline or chord progression of the song with a melody line. The rest usually evolves with continuous experimentation, slowly taking shape. His vocal arrangements were early all his, but as the band matured became more theirs and his.

Mr. Zappa is mostly concerned with the technical content and how it fits in with his overall plan. Imperfections are not tolerated, however many takes are tolerated. Frank usually has the song completely scored. Not just chord progression, but actual notes on a score sheet -- the playing from which may not be deviated. However, vamp sections within each song, for specific instruments is specified in bar lengths. Within each vamp, the player is allowed to do as they wish, hopefully playing around the general melody or hook, if there is one.   

By way of example; a soundcheck with Brian is as easy as "here are some chords from my piano and testing -1-2-3 there's the mic level."  It was very different with Frank. First every connection must work before the soundcheck even begins. Then each person plays his or her part for levels. Then he would pick parts of songs that need practice (either by musicians or the sound mixer). This could go in for an hour or so. Once you get it right, Frank would want it again and again to make certain you know what he wants and will do it that way in concert.  Concert mixing for Zappa was ten times more demanding than for the Beach Boys.

About the same can be said for studio recording.  Frank had it all planned out and on paper.  Brian has it outlined and in his head. Frank would run the whole show. Brian depends on a team of supporting people.  Remember it's "Frank Zappa and this or that band."  But with Brian it's The Beach Boys, not Brian and The Beach Boys.  Frank was the leader of a band.  Brian was/is a member of a band.

Both men demanded attention when giving directions. But Brian would tolerate some fooling around and deviation from the task at hand. Zappa would not. You had better not be taking when Frank was talking and giving someone else directions. This is not to say that working with Frank was a drag -- or as serious as going to church, because Frank had a wonderful sense of humor. So along with being serious and paying attention there was room for laughter and joking.  A Brian Wilson session is a little more loose. There's plenty of joking around, but the one person who is serious is Brian. He jokes little. He tolerates more joking around then Frank, but retains that earnest and solemn demeanor.


~swd

   
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