Fillmore East - June 1971
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/06/2005
The unofficial "third" iteration of the Mothers Of Invention, launched on vinyl with the release of Fillmore East - June 1971 - found Frank Zappa and crew going out of the frying pan and into the gutter.
The addition of Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan as vocalists also seemed to set them up as foils for Zappa's fascination with sexual imagery - the more bizarre, the better. And while I freely admit I'm a hypocrite for what I'm about to say (seeing I've admitted before I love Sheik Yerbouti), the reduction of half of the Mothers' live show to nothing more than dirty talk really weakened the foundation of what the band had been built on.
Granted, both the Mothers and Zappa had not skirted around controversial or even confrontational lyrics in the past; their earlier discs slammed both the Establishment and the hippies equally. But the imagery that Zappa and crew float around like idle conversation (never mind the fact that some of it was probably based in truth in terms of the rock music world) had some things that probably would have made Larry Flynt turn away in disgust (such as getting off with a baby octopus - give me a fuckin' break).
The problem then becomes this: where do you draw the line between the toilet humor and the music? Admittedly, the band does try to save face in terms of the musical performances. Hearing "Peaches En Regalia" performed live is a definite plus, while tracks such as "Lonesome Electric Turkey," "Willie The Pimp Part One" (never mind that part two is nowhere to be found) and "Little House I Used To Live In" do show that the band is musically as tight as ever.
Regrettably, the raunchy humor wins out on this one. Now, I am no prude, and anyone who even dabbles in Zappa's discography knows damn well that Zappa seemed to enjoy getting people hot and bothered by talking about sex in his music. But to put up with seven minutes' worth of the infamous "groupie routine" (here known as "Do You Like My New Car?") gets real old, real quick, much like the constant bombardment of nudity in Showgirls.
And maybe the problem isn't the fact that Zappa and crew are talking dirty, but that, unlike later Zappa albums, these lines are delivered with precious little humor. Only "The Mud Shark" comes close to the mark, and with the balance of humor and sex, the end result works better than one may have expected.
It would be wrong to lay all the blame on Volman and Kaylan - after all, they appeared on the previous disc Chunga's Revenge without controversy. But Fillmore East - June 1971 ends up being the musical equivalent of a dirty joke - and some listeners won't find themselves laughing at the end.