[Review] The Mothers: Fillmore East – June 1971 (1971)

A single-disc live album featuring the humorous banter of Flo & Eddie and the mating call of the mud shark.

Kronomyth 11.o: Tales from the squalid days of rock and roll.

That’s right, you heard right, the secret word for tonight is “Mud Shark.” But for this bawdy tale from the not-so-briny shoals of Seattle, Washington alone, this is required listening. Of course, instrumental fans who hunger for something more filling from Fillmore will find it in tracks like “Lonesome Electric Turkey” and the evergreen “Peaches En Regalia.”

This live record (one of the last from the Fillmore East if memory serves) is one of my favorites from the Flo & Eddie experiment, showcasing their unique stage presence on the dialogue-driven “Do You Like My New Car?” and cascading into a delirious version of The Turtles’ “Happy Together.” Unlike some of Zappa’s live releases, Fillmore East retains the atmosphere of a live show from beginning to end, with a minimum of post-doctoring and a maximum of spontaneous energy (or as spontaneous as a band playing a tortuous track like “Little House I Used To Live In” can get).

“Released in a plain, white sleeve purposefully designed to resemble a bootleg (a subject guaranteed to constantly enrage Zappa), the set stands today as one of the great live albums of all time, capturing the full mayhem of a period Mothers show, a concept piece (dated though its groupie obsessions sound today) that nevertheless captures the boiling preoccupations of the age.” — Dave Thompson, “Frank Zappa: The Controversy and Touring Hell of 1970-71

Among the other Zappa/Mothers albums out there, Fillmore East reminds me most of the 200 Motels soundtrack, where a similar mix of complicated instrumentals and humorous dialogue songs co-existed happily (although I understand that Uncle Meat tasted about the same too). As an oral history of rock stars and the groupies who love them, Fillmore East puts Professors Flo & Eddie at the podium, overshadowing the rest of the band much of the time. Ordinarily, their monkeyshines steal the spotlight from the erstwhile top banana (Frank) and his phenomenal fretwork. But Fillmore East finds a better balance than Just Another Band From L.A., for example, alternating between the profane and the musically profound in a way that satisfies both camps.

Read more Frank Zappa/Mothers reviews

Original LP Version

A1. Little House I Used To Live In (4:41)
A2. The Mud Shark (5:22)
A3. What Kind of Girl Do You Think We Are? (4:17)
A4. Bwana Dik (2:21)
A5. Latex Solar Beef (2:38)
B1. Willie The Pimp Part One (4:03)
B2. Do You Like My New Car? (7:08)
B3. Happy Together (Garry Bonner/Alan Gordon) (2:57)
B4. Lonesome Electric Turkey (2:32)
B5. Peaches En Regalia (3:22)
B6. Tears Began To Fall (3:50)

All titles written and arranged by Frank Zappa unless noted.

The Players

Aynsley Dunbar (drums), Bob Harris (2nd keyboard & vocals), Howard Kaylan (lead vocals & dialog), Jim Pons (bass & vocals & dialog), Don Preston (mini-moog), Ian Underwood (winds & keyboard & vocals), Mark Volman (lead vocals & dialog), Frank Zappa (guitar & dialog). Produced by Frank Zappa; engineered by Barry Keene; mixed and mastered at Whitney Studios starring Toby Foster.

The Pictures

Cover by Cal Schenkel (he made me do it).

The Plastic

Released on elpee on August 2, 1971 in the US (Bizarre, MS 2042) and the UK (Reprise, K 44150) with label innersleeve; reached #38 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Reprise, MS 2042) {tan steamboat label}.
  2. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1991 in the US (Rykodisc, RCD 10167).
  3. Re-issued on remastered compact disc and cassette in 1995 in the US (Rykodisc, RCD/RAC 10512).
  4. Re-issued on limited edition (2,000 copies), remastered compact disc on April 24, 2002 in Japan (Rykodisc, VACK-1213).

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