One night in 1973, my friend Herb said, “You have to hear this.”
I was a high school sophomore, the manager of the basketball team, the sports editor of the school paper and clueless with girls. Herb was a senior, the star of the basketball team, the guy all the guys wanted to hang with and the guy all the girls wanted to get with.
Yet Herb and I had some things in common: We were both fairly new to town, we both felt a little like outsiders and we both liked music. Oh, yeah, and parties, too. Never mind that I was only 15. The drinking age in Wisconsin was 18 at the time, so it was well within sight.
Being Herb’s friend had some nice perks. Sophomores didn’t often go to parties. Herb took me along. At my first party, the host gave me the evil eye as I walked into his basement. So did one of Herb’s classmates, a towering, intimidating guy who supposedly quit basketball because it interfered with his vices. That was Johnny Smoke. But I was with Herb, so it was cool. I was so naive about parties that I put in $5 for beer. I soon learned you put in only $1, and then $1 more each time they asked for money.
At a gathering much like that, Herb pulled out tonight’s selection. “You have to hear this,” he said.
It was “Fillmore East — June 1971,” a live album by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.
It was mind-blowing. Hilarious. Profane. Obscene? Yeah, maybe. Musically, though, pretty interesting. I didn’t realize it then — I was laughing too hard — but it’s a clever satire on the music business, fame, sex and groupies. I’ve seen reviews that call it a comedy album. Whatever.
So, the secret word for tonight is … mud shark.
Play these songs in the order listed to hear them as they were performed live. They are the second and third cuts off the first side of the album.
“The Mud Shark,” from “Fillmore East — June 1971,” Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, 1971.
“What Kind of Girl Do You Think We Are?” from “Fillmore East — June 1971,” Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, 1971.
Zappa and the Mothers, featuring two well-known guests, ended this show with their “big hit record.” Do you know what it was?
And, yes, Herb is still my friend all these years later.