Les Carter: The first one we played there by Big Moose is on the Blues label and it's got one of the funniest logos I've ever seen on a record: a hooker underneath a lamplight and some cat in the gutter with his head down singing the blues. The one that we heard by The Turbans—"No No Cherry"—you were saying that it was never played on the air and that it's owned by about 125 Mexicans in East Los Angeles.
FZ: Maybe a few more.
LC: So the censorship is finally coming down so that we can play records like this on the air.
FZ: Well, maybe on an FM station underneath a church.
LC: How did you hear about these records if you couldn't hear them on the radio?
FZ: Where I lived in Lancaster, a cruddy little town up in the desert, there's this place called Gilbert's Dime Store, and Mr. Gilbert made the awful mistake of having a rack of jukebox records that he'd sell for a dime apiece. He'd have all the latest hits, but we wouldn't buy those. We'd hit on him to check through the batch of records when they came in. We'd explain to him that no-one would ever buy these and we could help him out by getting rid of them. So we'd go in there and pick out things like "I'm A King Bee" by Slim Harpo, and lots of other stuff on Excello that you couldn't get in record stores. Excello's policy with a record store was that you had to take their gospel line if you wanted to take their R&B line, and although there might be a market among white teenagers for the R&B material, the record store owner figures that he's not going to sell too many gospel items so he won't take the line. So only a few record stores would carry them. We'd get them for a dime apiece and what we couldn't buy we'd steal.
LC: I wanted to ask you something, Frank. Folk musicians are starting to incorporate Country & Western into their music and there seems to be such a thin line between the two. Do you think the same thing is going to happen in rock music with rock musicians going back to the traditional rock'n'roll roots?
FZ: It's a common failing of the listening public that they listen to old Rhythm & Blues records and miss the fact that this is folk music. Although these records were produced commercially they are really pieces of folk art.
LC: From the standpoint of radio programming, there's been a bit of a revolution in the last year or so with progressive rock. Part of progressive rock should be the ability to go back into the history and appreciate things that haven't been heard for 10, 15 years.
FZ: I think the listening public should have their ears educated to the extent that they can listen to all kinds of music all the time instead of waiting for phases and cycles of the music to happen. So right now the progressive rock sound is in and certain other kinds of rock are out, and certain other types of music outside of rock, too. For instance, right now nobody would listen to bebop on the radio.
LC: I would!
FZ: I would, too, but the public's tastes should be broadened to all kinds of different music played in strange sequences. It's more fun that way.
LC: It's amazing how many songs were written in the 1950s about cars.
FZ: Yeah, they had 'em then! They were finer cars.
LC: What could you do to them? I forget all the terms.
FZ: Oh, you could chop them, channel them, reverse spray. And no car was complete without some fuzzy dice or bongos in the back seat. And let's not forget the shrunken head, that was a big item. In San Diego, where I was growing up, there were some very ferocious car clubs with these plaques that would drag on the pavement because the cars were lowered all the way around. The status car then was an Icebox white '39 Chevy with primer spots. But you know the customs and folklore of the American teenager are very curious in that they vary so much from area to area. There are things that teenagers do in various parts of the country that they don't do in any other places. I heard of a scene in Michigan or one of those Northern states where a lot of kids in this one town had bought two-way radios. In the Valley here it's a big thing to go out cruising and sit low in your car listening to Seeds tapes that you stole. But they had a whole scene where they'd cruise the streets but they wouldn't go to any place. You'd just talk to each other on these radios and pick up chicks that way. It was all very modern and mechanised. These kids would save up $200 and get a third-class license as a broadcaster. That was their status thing.
LC: (Reads ad for forthcoming Jeff Beck, Moody Blues and Ten Years After gig at the Shrine Exposition Hall.) Lights and visuals by the Piccadilly Light Show. Advance tickets $3.50 available from the Beauty Bottle.
FZ: There's this guy in New York who's an incredible anachronism. Broadway Al is a record collector who is co-owner of a shop in Greenwich Village called Village Oldies, specialising in rare, out-of-print blues and psychedelic records. Broadway Al has a collection of about 70,000 records and he's a J.B. Lenoir fetishist. People have different reasons for buying records and saving them—the ones I have I save them because I like to listen to them—but Broadway Al's feelings for the records goes way beyond that. He goes for the labels, the colour of plastic, and he achieves orgasm over any J.B. Lenoir record printed on clear red plastic which you can hold up to the light and see the spirals in. So if anybody has any on red plastic, Broadway Al will probably give you an arm and a leg for them.
LC: Providing you want an arm and a leg that belonged to Broadway Al.
FZ: Listen, people collect weird things. Get it bronzed! Put it on your car!
LC: Rock Around The Clock was actually out for about three or four months and it was a complete stiff until the movie Blackboard Jungle came out and then it was an immediate hit. There was a sense of pride, sitting there in the dark theatre, watching Glenn Ford trying to get along with those kids. I had a lot of sympathy with Glenn Ford's friend who brings his records to school and these tawdry hoodlums threw the records around.
FZ: They stole the act, those tawdry hoodlums.
LC: They do, with their DAs and everything!
LC: Do you remember the Tune Tote? Those little boxes you used to carry your 45s around in, and catalogue them and put numbers on the records?
FZ: And you'd have a card and write the names that go with the numbers and you'd keep that inside the Tune Tote so you could find the records. And you'd have 25 records in the box and think that was a lot.
LC: And pretty soon you'd have to get another Tune Tote for $3.98, otherwise you'd forget what records you had. You usually got them for Christmas. It wasn't the kind of thing you went out to buy for yourself.
FZ: That was definitely a mother purchase.
Commercial: Wallichs Music City. ("Music City has every kind of reel-to-reel, 4-track and 8-track cartridge, and cassette tape.")
FZ: It gives me great pleasure to read the tag line to a commercial for Wallichs Music City because I used to work for them, and before I read the rest of the hype I'll tell you a little bit about their personnel policy. They have a peculiar thing happening, they were working this way at the store they had downtown which [bound] out, where you would get fired if you were seen going to lunch with a member of staff who happened to be of the opposite sex. You couldn't associate with say, a girl who worked in the album department if you were a boy who works in the singles department.
LC: Did you work n the downtown store?
LC: So did I.
FZ: I had a little badge with Mr Zappa on it, which I've still got.
LC: I bet they're one of the few places in the United States that still sells Tune Totes.
FZ: Wallichs would still have Tune Totes!
Commercial: The Righteous Brothers, The Four King Cousins, Gary Lewis And The Playboys ("Gary's first in-person appearance since his release from the army") and Styles & Henderson at Disneyland.
LC: That's Gary Lewis and Disneyland. Two things we really stand for here at KPPC.
FZ: Yes, I'd like to introduce the next record, it's one of the most passionate of the passion records. I'd like to dedicate this to Dody, to the GTO's, to Roy and Jim, and to the two new members of The Mothers, Lowell and Buzz, and it goes out to all you lovers out there. It's called "I," by The Velvets.
LC: I didn't realise that you wrote that song ["Memories Of El Monte"] but I was over at Original Sound today picking up Oldies But Goodies Volumes 1 to 9 and the guys over there said you wrote it.
FZ: I wrote a couple more that they put out, but all of them bombed except for one called "Grunion Run," which was the B-side of a tune called "Tijuana Surf," which was written by Paul Buff who is the engineer there now. "Tijuana Surf" sold somewhere between five and eight thousand copies in Fresno but was eating it elsewhere in the United States. Then some wise dude said, "This is the kind of record that would be big in Mexico," so they released it and it sold 150,000 copies and was Number 1 in Mexico for 17 weeks.
LC: Did you ever get paid?
FZ: Are you kidding? Actually I got a BMI statement on "Memories Of El Monte" for 27 cents.
You know, "Memories Of El Monte" was co-written by Ray Collins and myself, and a long time ago, 'bout the same time "Memories Of El Monte" was written, he and I worked at The Troubadour on 'talent night' as Loeb & Leopold. And we went down there and were singing songs about pimples and all kinds of other far out things that seemed like uh, well, that was the basis of some of the things The Mothers eventually wound up doing.
We used to work in Torrance at a really wretched place called The Tom Cat, and then after The Tom Cat we go to jam-sessions at a place called Lambs, and at that time the band was known as Captain Glasspack & His Magic Mufflers, and they kept throwing us out of those jam-sessions because there's this old pig that play the piano there, it was sort of a mistress of ceremonies, and she was embarassed to introduce us when we wanted to get up and rock out, "You guys gotta be kiddin' with a name like that!"
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