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Coming Soon | Frank Zappa: The Mothers 1971

FZ's latst reissue chronicles an eventful year in the iconiclastic icon's life & career.

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Being a prolific packrat has its advantages. At least, it seemed to work for Frank Zappa. More recently, it’s definitely paid off for his fans, who have been treated to a stellar series of first-rate reissues, anniversary box sets and unearthed treasures from the iconoclastic icon’s legendarily voluminous vault.

The latest came just before Christmas, with the gargantuan 50th anniversary edition of his absurdist road-movie soundtrack 200 Motels. Now, even before the dust has settled on that one, here’s the next, even more impressive offering: The Mothers 1971, an eight-disc box that includes an expanded edition of the essential and legendary Fillmore East – June 1971 (the live-album complement/predecessor to 200 Motels), along with a full recording of the London concert where Zappa was attacked and grievously injured by a demented fan, plus bonus concert fare and more. It arrives in March, and I’m already counting the days. Here’s the full press release below:

 


Released in August 1971 just two months after it was recorded, Fillmore East – June 1971 was Frank Zappa and The Mothers’ masterstroke conceptual live album, a well-oiled and well-edited aural treatise chronicling the prurient feast and famine of a certain band’s somewhat salacious life on (and off) the road. In effect, it was the seemly predecessor to October 1971’s expansive, groundbreaking magnum opus, 200 Motels, the surrealistic documentary and soundtrack which ultimately took on a life of its own. Even so, Fillmore East – June 1971, the landmark live recording with the scrawled “penzil” cover art made to resemble a bootleg of the day, managed to capture its own level of then-modern zeitgeist in patented Zappa-reconstructed form.

The ever-touring Mothers closed out 1971 with a European jaunt that saw them hitting Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, and Austria before rolling into Switzerland for a December 4, 1971 show at the Montreaux Casino that will forever live in infamy in both song and legend. This was due to an errant fan setting off a flare gun and burning the place to the ground — along with destroying all The Mothers’ gear and equipment, sans one solitary cowbell.

Thankfully, the band and audience were relatively unhurt, but subsequent shows in France and Belgium were cancelled and The Mothers had to resort to wrestling with rented equipment for a planned pair of shows slated for Dec. 10-11, 1971 at the Rainbow Theatre in London, England. Only the Dec. 10 show came to pass, however, due to an event that changed the course of Zappa’s life forever. After the band played a cover of The BeatlesI Want To Hold Your Hand, a crazed fan attacked him by violently shoving him off the stage into the orchestra pit 12 feet below. For some time, nobody knew whether Zappa was alive and there was complete confusion inside and outside the theater. As Zappa recounted in his 1989 autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book: “My head was over on my shoulder and my neck was bent like it was broken. I had a gash in my chin, a hole in the back of my head, a broken rib and a fractured leg. One arm was paralyzed.” Once he could finally leave the hospital and be returned to the States, he spent the better part of a year in a wheelchair and a leg brace. When all was said and done, he permanently sustained a lower-pitched voice, one leg shorter than the other and chronic back pain. The Rainbow Theatre show would end up being the last ever performed by the Flo and Eddie lineup as the group disbanded while Zappa was in the hospital as they needed to continue to work while he recuperated. Once Zappa recovered from his injuries he ventured into other musical territories.

It’s these intriguing, intertwining roads that will be explored, examined, and celebrated like never before with the monumental and definitive new eight-disc/digital collection, The Mothers 1971, a new Super Deluxe Edition boxed set that showcases these special 1971 lineups and commemorates these storied chapters in Zappa’s legacy. Overseen by the Zappa Trust and produced by Ahmet Zappa and Zappa Vaultmeister Joe Travers, the 100-track, nearly 10-hour set brings together every note of the fabled four shows that closed down the vaunted Fillmore East in New York City on June 5-6, 1971, including the entire John Lennon and Yoko Ono encore, along with the full Rainbow Theatre performance in London, England, on Dec. 10, 1971. Also included is an unreleased hybrid concert culled from June 1 and June 3, 1971 performances in Scranton and Harrisburg, Penn., which denote the first time Mothers shows were recorded on Zappa’s preferred, then-newly purchased ½-inch 4-track tape machine (throughout the ’70s, this was the main tape recorder used to document shows if the budget allowed). The extensive collection is rounded out with the original rare single for Tears Began To Fall and its non-album-track B-side Junier Mintz Boogie, signifying the single’s first re-release in 50 years and digital debut, as well as a homemade radio spot and its related outtakes. This release is significant for marking the first time the complete back-to-back double-header Fillmore East concerts have been released in their entirety, allowing fans to hear the full performances that Zappa edited the album from, and for the very first time anywhere, contains the official audio of the Rainbow Theatre show’s truly shocking ending which was thought to have not been recorded until recently discovered while putting this project together.

The majority of the box set’s unedited live tracks have been newly mixed from scratch by longtime Zappa Trust associate Craig Parker Adams at Winslow Ct. Studios and mastered by John Polito at Audio Mechanics. The complete historical Rainbow Theatre concert was newly mixed by legendary producer/engineer Eddie Kramer (his first Zappa Trust project to date) and mastered by Bernie Grundman. All recordings included on The Mothers 1971 were sourced from their original 2-inch, 16-track, 1-inch 8-track, and ¼-inch 2-track stereo analog master tapes discovered in The Vault and digitally transferred and compiled by Joe Travers in 2020, who then supervised the mixes in early 2021. The box set also includes a 68-page booklet showcasing a revealing, in-depth interview with key Mothers 1971 bandmember Ian Underwood as conducted by Ahmet Zappa, in addition to separate recollections and learned musings from Eddie Kramer and then-bassist Jim Pons alongside detailed, tape-by-tape liner notes from the ever-irrepressible Joe Travers, and historical photos from famed photographer Henry Diltz.

The Mothers lineup that ruled the Fillmore East in New York City for four extraordinary sets across two back-to-back nights on June 5-6, 1971 consisted of Ian Underwood (winds/keyboards), Aynsley Dunbar (drums), Jim Pons (bass/vocals/dialog), Bob Harris (keyboards/vocals) and was rounded out by Howard Kaylan (lead vocals/dialog) and Mark Volman (lead vocals/dialog), aka Flo & Eddie of The Turtles, with special guest Don Preston. It was a fitting collective chosen to close the renowned NYC venue, and they performed such iconic tracks like The Mud Shark, Bwana Dik, and the groupie routine labeled as Do You Like My New Car? (For his part, Preston provided Mini-Moog at Fillmore East, then rejoined The Mothers full-time to take over for Harris on keyboards and vocals for the band’s ensuing summertime dates and onward, through that December.)

The June 1971 Fillmore East finale was made even more special thanks to John Lennon and Yoko Ono appearing alongside The Mothers to perform a final encore for the unsuspecting crowd, including a red-hot version of Walter Ward‘s Well led by John on vocals (an old Beatles live favorite from the Cavern Club in Liverpool) with two solos by Zappa, a seminal reading of King Kong that soon enough metamorphosized into an extended jam ultimately called Scumbag as well as further improvisational vocal ululations from Yoko with guitar feedback by John. Zappa had plans to release this historical encore in its entirety after mixing it in 1971, but shelved it after John and Yoko released their own encore mixes on Side 4 of June 1972’s Sometime in New York City. Zappa eventually released his version of the encore as part of October 1992’s Playground Psychotics.

After being awarded the rights to his back catalogue in the early 1980s, Zappa mulled other plans for releasing the encore, but upon inspection of the returned Fillmore East masters, it was discovered the Lennon encore tape was missing from its master tape box. In 2021 following a request via Universal, the Lennon Estate kindly provided the Zappa Trust with a high-resolution transfer of the multi-track safety reel (which FZ had made for them in 1971), thus ensuring that, for the first time in 50 years, the full encore performance could be heard, remixed, in its entirety.

Vinyl lovers will be able to get their fill via a pair of 3-LP configurations. The 50th anniversary vinyl edition of Fillmore East – June 1971 will have a remaster of the original 1971 live album along with 2 LPs of bonus tracks, including the Lennon-Ono encore and the complete masterpiece Billy The Mountain, plus liner notes by Joe Travers. Significantly, the vinyl version of Fillmore East has been expanded to include vintage, period-perfect Zappa mixes, some of which are not included in the CD box set and can’t be found anywhere else. Meanwhile the Rainbow Theatre 3-LP vinyl is equivalent to the CD box’s contents, featuring a brand new 2021 mix.

As Travers keenly confirmed in his liner notes, the Fillmore East 1971 tapes were “the first time that The Mothers were recorded live on 16-track analog tape. Previously, all live recordings were captured on 1-inch 8-track or lower.” Barry Keene, the recording engineer for these dates, also used a ¼-inch 2-track machine to capture a line mix. Though not all of the 16-track tapes have survived over the years, Travers and company were able to utilize the 2-track board tapes to fill in any missing gaps.

In his illuminating interview with Ahmet Zappa in The Mothers 1971 booklet, Ian Underwood zeroed in on Frank’s inherent talent for writing out all his original music perfectly, note for note, a la Mozart — music Underwood was always more than happy to play for its originator. “He knew what he wanted. He didn’t have to worry about mistakes,” marveled Underwood. “Frank had a clear idea and he could just write it down. That is an amazing thing to be able to do.” For his part, bassist Jim Pons synopsized the crux of Zappa’s creative biscuit. “Frank himself always seemed carefully guarded but I found he was an astute observer of the human condition — something I really admired.”

Though it all came crashing down to an untimely end, The Mothers’ masterful musicianship that was on full display during multiple critical junctures in the latter half of 1971 has now been brought together for the first time in this riveting new collection, The Mothers 1971.

THE MOTHERS 1971

CD 1: FILLMORE EAST, NEW YORK CITY, NY, JUNE 5, 1971 – SHOW 1

1. Peaches En Regalia
2. Tears Began To Fall
3. Shove It Right In
4. Status Back Baby
5. Concentration Moon – Part 1
6. The Sanzini Brothers (Sodomy Trick)
7. Concentration Moon – Part II
8. Mom & Dad
9. Intro To Music For Low Budget Orchestra
10. Billy The Mountain
11. King Kong

TOTAL TIME: 79:00

CD 2: FILLMORE EAST, NEW YORK CITY, NY, JUNE 5, 1971 – SHOW 2

1. Peaches En Regalia
2. Tears Began To Fall
3. Shove It Right In
4. Intro To Music For Low Budget Orchestra
5. Billy The Mountain
6. Little House I Used To Live In
7. The Mud Shark
8. What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are?
9. Bwana Dik
10. Latex Solar Beef
11. Willie The Pimp

TOTAL TIME: 74:13

CD 3: FILLMORE EAST, NEW YORK CITY, NY, JUNE 5, 1971 – SHOW 2 (CTD; TRACKS 1-6)

1. Do You Like My New Car?
2. Happy Together
3. ”Any Chord Of Your Choice”
4. King Kong – Part I
5. Lonesome Electric Turkey
6. King Kong – Part II

FILLMORE EAST, NEW YORK CITY, NY, JUNE 6, 1971 – SHOW 1 (TRACKS 7-15)

7. Fillmore Improvisation
8. Peaches En Regalia
9. Tears Began To Fall
10. Shove It Right In
11. Status Back Baby
12. Concentration Moon – Part I
13. The Sanzini Brothers (Sodomy Trick)
14. Concentration Moon – Part II
15. Mom & Dad

TOTAL TIME 70:44

CD 4: FILLMORE EAST, NEW YORK CITY, NY, JUNE 6, 1971 – SHOW 1 (CTD; TRACKS 1-4)

1. The Story Of Billy The Mountain
2. Intro To Music For Low Budget Orchestra
3. Billy The Mountain
4. Chunga’s Revenge

FILLMORE EAST, NEW YORK CITY, NY, JUNE 6, 1971 – SHOW 2 (TRACKS 5-8)

5. “Herd Of Cattle”
6. Peaches En Regalia
7. Tears Began To Fall
8. Shove It Right In

TOTAL TIME: 70:48

CD 5: FILLMORE EAST, NEW YORK CITY, NY, JUNE 6, 1971 – SHOW 2 (CTD)

1. The Story Of Billy The Mountain
2. Intro To Music For Low Budget Orchestra
3. Billy The Mountain
4. “Conglomerate Assembly”
5. Little House I Used To Live In
6. The Mud Shark
7. What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are?
8. Bwana Dik
9. Latex Solar Beef
10. Willie The Pimp
11. Do You Like My New Car?
12. Happy Together

TOTAL TIME: 74:39

CD 6: FILLMORE EAST, NEW YORK CITY, NY, JUNE 6, 1971 – SHOW 2 (CTD)

JOHN & YOKO ENCORE SET (TRACKS 1-6)

1. Well
2. Say Please
3. King Kong
4. Aaawk
5. Scumbag
6. A Small Eternity With Yoko Ono

RADIO SPOT, SINGLE VERSION, B-SIDE & OUTTAKES (TRACKS 7-10)

7. Homemade Radio Spot
8. Tears Began To Fall – Single Version
9. Junier Mintz Boogie – Single B-Side
10. Homemade Radio Spot Outtakes

BONUS HYBRID CONCERT: HARRISBURG/SCRANTON, PA 1971

STATE FARM SHOW ARENA, HARRISBURG, PA, JUNE 3, 1971 (TRACKS 11-20)

11. Peaches En Regalia
12. Tears Began To Fall
13. Shove It Right In
14. Status Back Baby
15. Concentration Moon – Part I
16. The Sanzini Brothers (Burning Hoop Trick)
17. Concentration Moon – Part II
18. Mom & Dad
19. My Boyfriend’s Back
20. Tiny Sick Tears

TOTAL TIME: 70:19

CD 7: BONUS HYBRID CONCERT: HARRISBURG/SCRANTON, PA 1971

STATE FARM SHOW ARENA, HARRISBURG, PA, JUNE 3, 1971 (CTD; TRACKS 1-3)

1. Call Any Vegetable
2. The Story Of Billy The Mountain
3. Intro To Music For Low Budget Orchestra

STATE FARM SHOW ARENA, HARRISBURG, PA, JUNE 3, 1971 & WATRES ARMORY, SCRANTON, PA, JUNE 1, 1971 (TRACK 4)

4. Billy The Mountain

WATRES ARMORY, SCRANTON, PA, JUNE 1, 1971 (TRACKS 5-6)

5. Willie The Pimp
6. King Kong (Outro)

RAINBOW THEATRE, LONDON, ENGLAND, DECEMBER 10, 1971 (TRACKS 7-9)

7. Zanti Serenade
8. Peaches En Regalia
9. Tears Began To Fall

TOTAL TIME: 77:25

CD 8: RAINBOW THEATRE, LONDON, ENGLAND, DECEMBER 10, 1971 (CTD)

1. Shove It Right In
2. “Pain In The Ass”
3. Divan: Once Upon A Time
4. Divan: Sofa #1
5. Pound For A Brown – Part I
6. Super Grease
7. Pound For A Brown – Part II
8. Sleeping In A Jar
9. Wonderful Wino
10. Sharleena
11. Cruising For Burgers
12. “That’s Your Tough Luck”
13. King Kong
14. I Want To Hold Your Hand

TOTAL TIME: 75:19

LIVE AT FILLMORE EAST, JUNE 1971 – 50TH ANNIVERSARY (3LP)

LP 1: SIDE A
1. Little House I Used To Live In
2. The Mud Shark
3. What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are?
4. Bwana Dik
5. Latex Solar Beef
6. Willie The Pimp – Part I

LP 1: SIDE B
1. Willie The Pimp – Part II
2. Do You Like My New Car?
3. Happy Together
4. Lonesome Electric Turkey
5. Peaches En Regalia
6. Tears Began To Fall

LP 2: SIDE C
1. Well – featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono
2. Say Please – featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono
3. Aaawk – featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono
4. Scumbag – featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono
5. A Small Eternity With Yoko Ono – featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono

LP 2: SIDE D
1. King KongSolos

LP 3: SIDE E
1. Billy The Mountain: Billy The Mountain, Phase One of “The Plot,” Phase Two & Newscast, The Legendary Low Budget Hero, The Flies

LP 3: SIDE F
1. Billy The Mountain (Ctd): Studebacher Hoch, The Conclusion
2. Homemade Radio Spot
3. Tears Began To Fall
4. Junier Mintz Boogie

RAINBOW THEATRE (3LP)

LP 1: SIDE A
1. Zanti Serenade
2. Peaches En Regalia
3. Tears Began To Fall

LP 1: SIDE B
1. Shove It Right In
2. “Pain In The Ass”
3. Divan: Once Upon A Time
4. Divan: Sofa #1

LP 2: SIDE C
1. Pound For A Brown – Part I
2. Super Grease
3. Pound For A Brown – Part II
4. Sleeping In A Jar

LP 2: SIDE D
1. Wonderful Wino
2. Sharleena
3. Cruising For Burgers

LP 3: SIDE E
1. “That’s Your Tough Luck”
2. King Kong – Part I

LP 3: SIDE F
1. King Kong – Part II
2. I Want To Hold Your Hand