Official Release #8 'Hot Rats' (Released 10/1969)Background Information:
So in 1969 Zappa and the Mothers were asked to play a small Jazz tour on the East Coast. Backstage in South Carolina, in a joint with ‘useless’ equipment for them to use, he saw Duke Ellington begging the booker 10 dollars advance, just to get round.
Suddenly it hit him, he wasn’t going to continue to pay 10 musicians a salary, 200 dollars a week, every week, ánd pay for touring costs playing the music he wanted to play.
Funny thing is that that is the story Zappa wrote in The Real Frank Zappa Book. Don Preston reacted in Zappa: A Biography: ‘That’s not what happened. A lot of stuff in that book is bullshit. It was just his imagination.’ According to Preston Zappa couldn’t handle the fact that the audience responded more to improvisations and the visual aspect of the show, and less to his complicated compositions. (Add to that, that a lot of friction came from the fact that he couldn’t pay everybody their salary, and still he seemed to just keep on hiring additional musicians)
Though he broke up with the Mothers, he kept one: Ian Underwood. The inside of the album pictures Zappa and Underwood as the only two ‘band members’, all other musicians were hired guns, it appears. The Album Itself:
This album is a lot more Jazz, or Jazz rock oriented. And while, according to Preston at least, he wanted less improvisation and more composition in his music, half this record is improvisation. The album could be split in short compositional pieces, and long improvisational pieces, the shorter songs being Peachen en Regalia, Little Umbrella’s and It Must be a Camel. The other three songs have really extended solo’s.
For the CD version, Zappa added 4 minutes of solo’s to The Gumbo Variations, and one could argue if the song needed more.
This album was the first Zappa record for which he used a 16 track mixer, making it way easier to overdub and keep piling on extra parts. That’s why Ian Underwood could be credited to play ‘all clarinets, all saxes’, though you hear at least a couple of each.
In terms of sound, next to even more overdubs than he was already doing earlier, the half speed recordings remain in Zappa’s musical vocabulary. Uncle Meat had a lot of that, and while it’s more tastefully applied on this album, there’s still quite of lot of it.
Another notable thing is the inclusion of Jean-Luc Ponty on this album, someone who would work together with Zappa for a couple of years. Ponty even recorded an entire album of Zappa’s music released in May 1970, called King Kong, which featured George Duke. Ponty was already playing with Duke, and the three of them would be quite the team for years to come. Essential Tracks:
Peaches en Regalia
Willie The Pimp
Son of Mr. Green Genes