Frank Zappa – Mothers Including Beef (Howard Carter Music Company HCMC 013/014)

Mothers Including Beef (Howard Carter Music Company HCMC 013/014)

International Amphitheatre, Chicago, IL – May 11th, 1975

Disc 1 (54:04):  Opening Instrumental, Apostrophe, Stinkfoot, I’m Not Satisfied, Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy, Velvet Sunrise, A Pound For A Brown, Sleeping In A Jar

Disc 2 (40:03):  Poofter’s Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead, Echidna’s Arf, George’s Boogie, Debra Kadabra, Camarillo Brillo, Muffin Man, Willie The Pimp, Advance Romance

Live documents with Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart on the Bongo Fury tour are scarce in general, and are extremely rare on silver disc in particular.  Mothers Including Beef was released by Howard Carter Music Company in 2007 and is one of the very few titles in this format.  It covers the legendary May 11th, 1975 show at the International Amphitheater. 

It is a two source mix.  The John S source is used from the start through “Muffin Man,” and the encores come from the Yojimbo source.  The main tape is very good but hissy, distant, and slightly distorted due to the poor acoustics of the venue (more on that later).  There is a tape flip in “A Pound For A Brown” at 14:44 with a bit of music missing.  The Yojimbo tape is slightly worse.  There is more distortion and instability at the beginning of “Willie The Pimp.”  But since the have been lost forever from the first tape, it’s a good substitute.

This was an interesting transition time for Zappa’s touring band.  This was the final time for George Duke and Tom Fowler, the first time with drummer Terry Bozzio, and the only time with Captain Beefheart.

Several reviews of the show have appeared online.  On the Zappateers forum, a reader posted:  “This show was my very first concert experience (age 15). The opening act was a terrible 50’s style group called Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids. The International Amphitheatre was located in the middle of the Chicago Stockyards, very close to the slaughtering houses. By mid-May the stink was unbelievable. The acoustics were really horrible. But the performance is forever burned into my mind. Thanks for letting me re-live it.”

Stan Ivester on remembered:  “My own experience of that 1975 band was very different, largely due to the venue — the Universal Amphitheater in Chicago. God knows how big the thing is — it’s where the 1968 Democratic Convention was held — but Frank has been quoted as saying that the echo is one of the longest in the world. The night I remember began with the same spooky opening, with Beefheart’s horn sort of summoning the rest of the band onstage, like Bela Lugosi’s Igor summoning the Karloff monster in Son of Frankenstein. (Given his love of monster movies, that’s not too unlikely an association for Frank.) I sure wish there had been compact camcorders in those days.

“I had seen the Mothers live in 1970 (Atlanta Pop Festival), 1971 (Fillmore East), 1973 (Tampa), and 1974 (Tampa again, with Tom Waits opening), so — given the tremendous variety in those touring ensembles — I had no idea what to expect.  Frank and Napoleon seemed to appreciate the echo and even played off the slap-back effect in their solos. Plus the Chicago crowd enjoyed the blues orientation, as I did, being a big fan of Chicago blues. Beefheart was fumbling with the doodads from the bag at this show as well.

“One of the encores was truly amazing — Andy, featuring Napoleon’s vocal. The echo effect seemed especially appropriate. It seemed to hit right ‘on the beat’ with the music, and Frank’s solo was inspired. I wonder whether that show was recorded as well. And these are what we have left. Memories of transcendent experiences. And those tapes. In the vault. Rotting oxide.”

Captain Beefheart’s contribution to the  music is considerable, starting in the beginning improvisation and “Apostrophe.”  Zappa welcomes everyone to the Mother’s Day 1975 extravaganza and the trip begins.

The most frequently played song on the tour is the humorous and melody “Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy.”  The recording the following week would be used for the official release Bongo Fury.  Also during this tour “Velvet Sunrise” was played and frequently used as an improvisation rap for Zappa.  On this night, he speaks about “physical acoustics” and the problems they had playing in Chicago the previous year.

The rap is a lead-in to the first long improvisation piece of the night, “A Pound For A Brown.”  The audience erupts in recognition of the melody.  Captain Beefheart takes the first improv, playing a sizzling saxophone before the jazzy George Duke electric piano solo followed by Zappa himself on guitar.  Tom Fowler continues with a wild solo on the bass guitar before Zappa returns.  The song ends in a segue into “Sleeping In A Jar.”

After a short “Echidna’s Arf” Beefheart gets into a convoluted poetry recitation, yelling in his best pentecostal voice:  “I got everything I need in this world!  The bed was shaking!!”  This shouting leads into “The Booger Man” (labeled “George’s Boogie” on this release) which includes “200 Years Old.” 

The set ends with Beefheart adding his voice into “Camarillo Brillo” and the heavy riff of “Muffin Man.”  The first encore is “Willie The Pimp,” one of the best collaborations between Beefheart and Zappa, and the second is “Advance Romance.”  Mothers Including Beef is a two disc set packaged in a thick 2CD fatboy jewel case.  With the nondescript art design employed by the label, it is a basic release of a very important tape.  The show definitely is an impressive display of their musical virtuosity and is worth having. 

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