Frank Zappa - guitar, vocals
George Duke - keyboards
Ian Underwood - keyboards
Aynsley Dunbar - drums
Howard Kaylan - vocals
Jeff Simmons - bass
Mark Volman - vocals
Like a tidal wave of total weirdness, the Mothers of Invention splashed down on the Fillmore West for a series of shows in November of 1970, then washed back into the seedy ocean of L.A., leaving the landscape forever changed (or at least confused and slightly offended).
Not to be outdone by the art school drop-outs and buck-skin fringe contingent then wandering the Sunset Strip, Frank Zappa had been steadily releasing incredibly strange records since the mid-'60s. He abandoned the original Mothers at the close of that decade, only to reform a different line-up under the same name in 1970, this time including two members of The Turtles - Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (sometimes known as Flo and Eddie due to contractual problems) - to help with Zappa's increasingly bizarre comedy routines and, almost incidentally, sing.
The opening set by Boz Scaggs couldn't possibly have prepared anyone for what was going to occur that night at the corner of Van Ness and Market, though it did prove that Bill Graham had a pretty good sense of humor. Eager to try out material from the upcoming 200 Motels film and accompanying album, The Mothers don't stay in any one direction for too long; sometimes it's as if they're moving in all directions at once. There are hints of jazz-fusion and psychedelia, along with Zappa's beloved doo-wop. They even make a brief stab at The Turtles' "Happy Together" as part of the groupie-baiting sleaze-fest "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy." This is a limber bunch, but they're at their best when playing it straight ("Call Any Vegetable" from Absolutely Free is a prime example). Some songs are derailed by excessive hollering and dialogue, the delivery of which suggests the performers are nearly as bored as the audience they're baffling. Provoking the crowd, however, is part of the plan, and listening to Frank scold them for their indifference is highly satisfying for anyone who's ever stood under stage lights.
An appreciation for this performance depends entirely on one's threshold for long and noodly instrumental explorations accented by dick jokes. But it can safely be said that no one else was doing anything quite like this at the time. During an age of weird, Frank Zappa had the distinction of being the unparalleled weirdest.