Tuesday, June 28, 2011

296. We're only in it for the Money- Rocks great genius

Album: We're only in it for the money
Artist: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention
Year: 1968
Genre: Rock/Satire


  1. Are You Hung Up?
  2. Who Needs the Peace Corps?
  3. Concentration Moon
  4. Mom and Dad
  5. Bow Tie Daddy
  6. Harry, You're a Beast
  7. What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?
  8. Absolutely Free
  9. Flower Punk
  10. Hot Poop
  11. Nasal Retentive Calliope Music
  12. Let's Make the Water Turn Black
  13. The Idiot Bastard Son
  14. Lonely Little Girl
  15. Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance
  16. What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body? (Reprise)
  17. Mother People
  18. The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny

There are few more overused words in the English language than "genius". In pre-internet days being a genius actually meant something. Nowadays a songwriter can earn the title just because they touched the life of a teenager who can comment on youtube. To my mind being a genius involves being a unique talent. A true genius isn't just outstanding in their field they're alone in their field. I wouldn't even call Bob Dylan a genius. He's an incredible singer-songwriter and the most significant and influential artist of the last 50 years, but he's in the same field as Neil Young and countless others.

But Frank Zappa is a bone fide, out and out, genius in the truest sense of the word. He was an outstanding guitarist (Number 45 in Rolling Stones Top 100 Guitarists of all time list), a gifted songwriter (he wrote nearly all the songs on his 89 albums) an amazing (if occasionally offensive) lyricist, a brilliant arranger of large ensembles, talented improviser, avante garde experimenter and a highly regarded classical composer. He was also an astute businessman, razor sharp satirist and keen social observer (no book of quotes is complete without some of his bon mots) . There was literally nobody else like him in the history of music.

But was he any good?

The answer to my mind is: Most of the time. Most of the time he was good, at times he was brilliant and there are albums of his that I never need to hear again. That's genius for you.

We're only in it for the Money is the third album released by The Mothers, a band he originally put together and wanted to call The MotherFuckers but had to change out of necissity so he renamed The Mothers of Invention. It's a great starting point for the Zappa novice looking for an entry point into his vast catalouge.

We're only in it for the Money has everything that makes Zappa great- catchy tunes, clever lyrics, biting satire (it's a blatant attack on the Summer of Love), strange sound effects, conceptual continuity (running jokes) and some fantastic musicianship.

Hunt out this album and give it a listen. If it does convert you to become a Zappa fan then there is a whole new and wonderful world out there for you to enjoy. The man is a genius.

Highlight: The whole thing from start to finish.
Lowlight: The fact that they weren't allowed to use the preferred front cover (above) and had to settle for a poor substitute.

Influenced by: Sgt Peppers and a disdain for hippies.
Influenced: Left-of-field rockers the world over.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "This is unlistenable. I could only get half way through before giving up. Too clever for me."

-See I told you he was a genius. Even people who don't like his music think he's clever.

So are you only in it for the money or do you think Zappa is musically destitute? Let me know below.

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