[Review] The Mothers of Invention: We’re Only In It For The Money (1968)

A smorgasbord of demented genius in snack-size bites that challenges the status quo, the counterculture and everything in between.

Kronomyth 4.0: All you need is Frank.

A brilliant lampoon of psychedelic pop, We’re Only In It For The Money creates a collage of strange conversations, social criticism and pop music that continues the Freak Out! experiment. Best to take a big gulp of air before it starts, because the album’s sensory overload won’t present an opportunity to catch your breath until it’s all over. Along the way, Frank the cranky genius skewers everything from flower power to conservative America. No one is spared, including The Mothers.

That many of the songs work as self-standing pieces is amazing: “Absolutely Free,” “Flower Punk,” “Mother People,” “Bow Tie Daddy” and “Let’s Make The Water Turn Black” have each been separated from their mother-egg without ill effect. It’s all part of a larger theme, however, punctuated by internal musings, lapses into dementia and reprises of earlier material. Some of the pieces are instrumental experiments in noise (“Nasal Retentive Calliope Music,” “The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny”) that make Todd Rundgren’s studio noodling seem tame by comparison. It’s brazen stuff, all of it, but the standoffish arrangements belie a musical sophistication few were prepared for in 1968 (let alone 1966). That the album charted as well as it did still amazes me, though the novelty factor must have been huge. In a sense, the closest parallel might be the albums of Firesign Theatre, which share the same rambling social commentary and spelunkering into the deepest recesses of strangeness.

As a direct response to contemporary music, We’re Only In It For The Money isn’t for everyone. Who cares if The Mothers flip the finger to the Haight-Ashbury scene, you may wonder. But it’s more than that; this is an open challenge to musicians, an opportunity to push music kicking and screaming out of its comfort zone. Extreme? Of course. But Zappa did nothing by halves, and the world is a whole lot better for it.

Original LP Version

A1. Are You Hung Up? (1:23)
A2. Who Needs The Peace Corps? (2:34)
A3. Concentration Moon (2:32)
A4. Mom & Dad (2:16)
A5*. Bow Tie Daddy (1:22)
A6. Harry, You’re A Beast (1:22)
A7. What’s The Ugliest Part of Your Body (1:03)
A8. Absolutely Free (3:26)
A9. Flower Punk (3:57)
A10. Hot Poop (0:16)
B1. Nasal Retentive Calliope Music (2:00)
B2. Let’s Make The Water Turn Black (1:54)
B3. The Idiot Bastard Son (3:27)
B4. Lonely Little Girl (1:10)
B5. Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance (1:33)
B6. What’s The Ugliest Part of Your Body? (Reprise) (1:03)
B7. Mother People (2:30)
B8. The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny (6:30)

All the music heard on this album was composed, arranged & scientifically mutilated by Frank Zappa (with the exception of a little bit of surf music).

* On reissues, “Telephone Conversation” was credited as a separate track.

The Players

Jimmy Carl Black (drums, trumpet, vocals, Indian of the group), Roy Estrada (electric bass, vocals, asthma), Bunk Gardner (all woodwinds, mumbled weirdness), Billy Mundi (drums, vocals, yak & black lace underwear), Don Preston (retired), Euclid James Motorhead Sherwood (soprano & baritone saxophone, road manager, all purpose weirdness & teen appeal (we need it desperately)), Ian Underwood (piano, woodwinds, wholesome), Frank Zappa (guitar, piano, lead vocals, weirdness & editing) with Dick Barber (snorks), Eric Clapton has graciously consented to speak to you in several critical area, Suzy Creamcheese (telephone), Spider is the one who wants you to turn your radio around. Produced by Frank Zappa; Gary Kellgren is the one doing all the creepy whispering (engineer for two months of basic sessions at Mayfair Studios); Dick Kunc is the one responsible for the cheerful interruptions (record & re-mix engineer for the final month of recording at Apostolic Studios); executive producer: Tom Wilson.

The Pictures

Photography by Jerrold Schatzberg. Fashions by Tiger Morse. Plaster figures & all other artwork by Cal Schenkel.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track on March 4, 1968 in the US (Verve, V6 5045/VCB 85045) {black label} and in 1968 in the UK (Verve, 2317 034), Germany (Verve, 710 012), Japan (Verve, SMV-1115) and New Zealand (Verve, V6/5045) with gatefold cover and insert; reached #30 on the US charts and #32 on the UK charts. 8-track features different track order and different cover image.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Verve, V6 5045) {blue label} with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-released on orange vinyl elpee in Taiwan (First, FL-1592) with sgt. pepper’s cover.
  3. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Zappa) with sgt. pepper’s gatefold cover.
  4. Re-packaged with Lumpy Gravy on 2-for-1 compact disc in 1986 in the US (Rykodisc, 40024).
  5. Re-released on remastered elpee, compact disc and cassette in 1995 in the US (Rykodisc, RALP/RCD/RAC 10503) with sgt. pepper’s cover.
  6. Re-issued on compact disc on March 20, 2002 in Japan (Rykodisc, VACK-1206).
  7. Re-released on remastered compact disc on August 9, 2005 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 764) with sgt. pepper’s cover.

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