Live From Radio 1968 (Howard Carter Music Company HCMC-015)
(63:08), Lieder Liches, Beat Club, Bremen, Germany – October 6th, 1968: Improvisations, King Kong, Pound For A Brown, Sleeping In A Jar, Uncle Meat, Lohengrin, Let’s Make The Water Turn Black, Octandre. BBC Studios, London, England – October 23rd, 1968: Intro., Improvisations, King Kong, Oh In The Sky
Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention were busy in 1968 with finishing and releasing We’re Only In It For The Money, their do-wop album Crusin’ With Ruben And The Jets, and various touring commitments. On September 28th they started their second tour of Europe with various shows in Germany.
A week after arrival and shows in Essen, Frankfurt and Hamburg, they appeared on the German television program “Liederliches” on October 6th, 1968. Taping at the Beat Club in Bremen, the professional source insured excellent sounding tapes are used for the old vinyl release To Motherbuggers Everywhere (Acid SPEED 2) which has this set plus “Watermelon in Easter Hay” from a 1980 show. The only compact disc release with material from Bremen is Trick Or Treat (LLR 027) which has two tracks as a bonus.
Live From Radio 1968 is the first silver pressing of the complete telecast minus the interviews. The tape starts off with a sound check and improvisations which were meant more for the sound engineer to adjust the levels. It is distorted and very unbalanced at first, but clears up before “King Kong,” the first actual piece of music. From there on out the sound is very stable and clear.
It’s hard to see how this program would have been received by the television. Zappa already exceeded expectations by composing avant garde freak-outs instead of pop songs, but this set relies almost exclusively upon unknown, atonal jazz melodies and improvisations that would easily baffle any audience.
Much of the material was unreleased at the time starting with “King Kong.” What follows are very early versions of songs that would be incorporated onto the 1969 experiment Uncle Meat.
That is followed by “The String Quartet,” which has phrases and melodies from “A Pound for a Brown on the Bus” and “Sleeping in a Jar.” It is a long experimental piece which, in the upcoming months, evolve into a half-hour long epic.
They play themes from Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin to the surprise of the German audience before ending with “Let’s Make The Water Turn Black.” Since it’s on We’re Only In It For The Money it was the most recognizable tune in the entire telecast. And, since the song itself is a take on The Beatles form of pop, is the most catchy melody in the show.
The label also include the short BBC TV session three weeks later for “Color Pop.” Taped in the BBC studios, Zappa starts off the broadcast by thanking the BBC for featuring creative music, most of which could never be heard on American radio. The improvisations take on a similar turn including the reference to “King Kong.” What makes this tape unique is the excellent performance of “Oh In The Sky.” Sung in a high-pitched voice by Roy Estrada, it’s a fantastic do wop performance in complete contrast to the complex jazz-rock in the rest of the telecast.
Live From Radio 1968 is a good one disc compilation of two late 1968 telecasts. The sound quality is excellent and the improvisations show interesting early versions of classics tunes. The artwork is in strict black and white with basic information printed on the cover.