Thursday, March 8, 2018

Frank Zappa - 1970 [1990] "Weasels Ripped My Flesh"

Weasels Ripped My Flesh is the seventh studio album by the American rock band the Mothers of Invention, released in 1970. It is the second album released after the Mothers' disbanding in 1969, preceded by Burnt Weeny Sandwich. In contrast to its predecessor, which predominately focused on studio recordings of tightly arranged compositions, Weasels Ripped My Flesh largely consists of live recordings and features more improvisation.

Given Zappa's already stated penchant for expressing his music in "phases"—We're Only in It for the Money was written up as "phase one of Lumpy Gravy"— Zappa fans occasionally label this album Phase Two of Burnt Weeny Sandwich. Both albums consist of previously unreleased Mothers tracks released after Frank Zappa disbanded the original group in 1969.

Whereas all but one of the pieces on Burnt Weeny Sandwich have a more planned feel captured by quality studio equipment, five tracks from Weasels Ripped My Flesh capture the Mothers on stage, where they employ frenetic and chaotic improvisation characteristic of avant-garde jazz and free jazz. This is particularly evident on "The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue," a tribute to the multi-instrumentalist, who died in 1964 and is cited as a musical influence in the liner notes to the band's Freak Out! album. The song opens with a complex melody over a 3/4 rhythm, breaking into howls and laughter at the three-minute mark, then the theme is repeated and elaborated; after a brief rave-up section, the number concludes in stop-start fashion.

Zappa's classical influences are reflected in characteristically satirical fashion on "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask", a play on Claude Debussy's "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun)". "Oh No" is a vocal version of a theme that originally appeared on Zappa's Lumpy Gravy album, as well as a pointed barb aimed at the Beatles and John Lennon's "All You Need Is Love". "The Orange County Lumber Truck" incorporates the "Riddler's Theme" from the Batman TV show. The album's closer and title track consists of every player on stage producing as much noise and feedback as they can for two minutes. An audience member is heard yelling for more at its conclusion.

In contrast to the experimental jazz material, the album also contains a straightforward interpretation of Little Richard's R&B single "Directly From My Heart to You", featuring violin and lead vocal from Don "Sugarcane" Harris. This song is actually an outtake from the sessions for the Hot Rats album.

The album also documents the brief tenure of Lowell George (guitar and vocals), who went on to found the band Little Feat with Mothers bassist Roy Estrada. On "Didja Get Any Onya?", George affects a German accent to relate a story of being a small boy in Germany and seeing "a lot of people stand around on the corners asking questions, 'Why are you standing on the corner, acting the way you act, looking the way you look, why do you look that way?'"

The Rykodisc CD reissue of the album features different versions of "Didja Get Any Onya?" and "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask", which featured music edited out of the LP versions. The extended version of "Didja Get Any Onya?" features a live performance of the composition "Charles Ives", a studio recording of which had previously been released as the backing track for "The Blimp" on the Captain Beefheart album Trout Mask Replica, produced by Frank Zappa. The 2012 Universal Music reissue reverts to the original LP versions.

A fascinating collection of mostly instrumental live and studio material recorded by the original Mothers of Invention, complete with horn section, from 1967-1969, Weasels Ripped My Flesh segues unpredictably between arty experimentation and traditional song structures. Highlights of the former category include the classical avant-garde elements of "Didja Get Any Onya," which blends odd rhythmic accents and time signatures with dissonance and wordless vocal noises; these pop up again in "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask" and "Toads of the Short Forest." The latter and "The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue" also show Frank Zappa's willingness to embrace the avant-garde jazz of the period. Yet, interspersed are straightforward tunes like a cover of Little Richard's "Directly From My Heart to You," with great violin from Don "Sugarcane" Harris; the stinging Zappa-sung rocker "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama," and "Oh No," a familiar Broadway-esque Zappa melody (it turned up on Lumpy Gravy) fitted with lyrics and sung by Ray Collins. Thus, Weasels can make for difficult, incoherent listening, especially at first. But there is a certain logic behind the band's accomplished genre-bending and Zappa's gleefully abrupt veering between musical extremes; without pretension, Zappa blurs the normally sharp line between intellectual concept music and the visceral immediacy of rock and R&B. Zappa's anything-goes approach and the distance between his extremes are what make Weasels Ripped My Flesh ultimately invigorating; they also even make the closing title track -- a minute and a half of squalling feedback, followed by applause -- perfectly logical in the album's context.

Frank Zappa disbanded the Mothers in 1969, with the band mired in financial struggle, personality clashes and creative squabbling. But the bandleader was as crafty as he was prolific: Determined to make the most of unused live and studio recordings, Zappa started tinkering with the archival material, resulting in two 1970 LPs, Burnt Weeny Sandwich and its demented younger brother Weasels Ripped My Flesh.
Zappa's original plan for the post-Mothers era was to release all the material in a massive, 12-record set. But he nixed the idea after considering the financial logistics.

Zappa would explore jazz themes more overtly under his own name, veering into big-band fusion with acclaimed albums like 1973's The Grand Wazoo. But as he explained in a 1970 interview with Sounds, those influences had been there all along.
"One of the reasons why the Mothers have never been associated with jazz is because most reviewers have never listened to jazz," Zappa said. "They wouldn't guess unless it said on an album cover that we were influenced by jazz. If I had stated on an early album that I had been influenced by Eric Dolphy or Archie Shepp, then for the last five years they would have been writing about jazz influences instead of Stravinsky influences. ... The group has always been encouraged in jazz-type improvisation within a framework of atonal music. The trouble is that most of the audience thinks of jazz as going from Louis Armstrong to Blood Sweat and Tears. They don't know about today's self-determination music."
Frank Zappa would revive the Mothers brand later that year, recruiting a hoard of new members – some legendary (keyboardist George Duke), some infamous (three former Turtles, including vocalists "Flo and Eddie"). The band's awkward transitional phase – documented on LPs like 1970's Chunga's Revenge and the 1971 soundtrack 200 Motels – only illustrates the original line-up's charm and potency.

Track listing:

01 Didja Get Any Onya? 3:44
02 Directly From My Heart To You 5:17
03 Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Sexually Aroused Gas Mask 3:35
04 Toads Of The Short Forest 4:48
05 Get A Little 2:35
06 The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue 6:53
07 Dwarf Nebula Processional March & Dwarf Nebula 2:12
08 My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama 3:35
09 Oh No 1:46
10 The Orange County Lumber Truck 3:18
11 Weasels Ripped My Flesh 2:05


Frank Zappa – lead guitar, vocals
Jimmy Carl Black – drums
Ray Collins – vocals
Roy Estrada – bass, vocals
Bunk Gardner – tenor saxophone
Lowell George – rhythm guitar, vocals
Don "Sugarcane" Harris – vocals, electric violin
Don Preston – organ, RMI Electra Piano, electronic effects
Buzz Gardner – trumpet and flugel horn
Motorhead Sherwood – baritone saxophone, snorks
Art Tripp – drums
Ian Underwood – alto saxophone



  2. I always took the lyrics of Oh No as a shot at Harrison's Within You Without You because of the 'all our love could save the world' line, but same diff, looking down that big nose at the flower power fad. Thanks for the share. A very nice album this.