Frank Zappa Bertram Stanleigh - Essay

Bertram Stanleigh

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

No other group of hippy musicians displays the same amount of freedom, variety, invention, and lunatic good spirits as the West Coast group that calls itself The Mothers of Invention. Utilizing a variety of electronic sounds and an agglomeration of strange forms of percussion, they produce musical backgrounds for a vocal message that ranges from the eloquently poetic, to earthy good humor, to embarrassingly unfunny bathroom jokes, to simple high-spirited inantiy….

But thoughtful listening reveals that there is a substantial amount of careful work and genuine sensitivity behind this coarse facade. Music that sounds like little more than a rude joke on first hearing, reveals unexpected inner subtlety and charm after a number of repetitions….

[There] is much of the same feeling of irreverent, zany funmaking about the Mothers that there was about the [Spike] Jones band, and if you don't want to search for the superior craftsmanship and creativity of this new group, you can still enjoy this music on its surface level for its wacky sounds and earthy lyrics….

[The MOI American Pageant on Absolutely Free] deals with drinking, middle-class status symbols, the high-school dance, sex, and the country club dance. It adds up to a pretty cogent picture of the hippy's view of American society, and if it's a distorted view, it's still a pithy and clever commentary that makes some pretty telling digs.

Bertram Stanleigh, "Jazz, Blues, and the Mothers," in Audio (© 1967, CBS Publications, The Consumer Publishing Division of CBS Inc.), Vol. 51, No. 11, November, 1967, p. 66.