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The Grandmothers of Invention
By Robin Chowder
Rewind to Mothers Day 1965: Frank Zappa joins and assumes lead role in an R&B band called the 'Young Giants', quickly renaming them to 'The Mothers'. Record company quickly insist they rename themselves 'the Mothers of Invention' due to controversial "mo-fo" connotations.
Fast forward to Mothers Day 2008: the Grandmothers of Invention arrive on stage at the Manchester Academy 3 at around 20:00 hrs to warm applause from the assorted aging hippies, aging ex-hippies, old and young rockers, music students and hard-drinking students who were out for the night but couldn't get tickets for whatever sold-out shite was on downstairs in the Academy 2. (The Academy 1 or Academy as it's called is currently being refurbished in case you were wondering).
In between these two dates, FZ becomes the greatest electric guitarist in the world ever and sadly dies in 1993. His family, ex-band members, musicians and assorted tribute bands continue to play his music and produce nights like this, when you can shut your eyes and hear the genius of his work.
And in between the songs you can hear some beardy-weirdy from Bolton (probably a retired teacher or something), who's had too many pints of homebrew bitter shouting "ROY, ROY, REMEMBER ME ROY ? BINGERLY HALL 1977, IT'S ME". That's Stafford Bingley Hall – an ancient rock venue, FZ played there amongst many others.
The Grandmothers line-up consists of ex-Mothers' Napoleon Murphy-Brock on Sax, Flute, lead Vocals and all-round entertainer - worth the entrance fee alone, Don Preston - bandana and bum-bag wearing keyboardist plus vocals and banter, Roy Estrada - the meanest looking bass player in the world ever and doo-wop falsetto vocals, you wouldn't mess with Roy plus Chris Garcia (drummer/marimba, percussionist and vocals on San Berdino) and Miroslav Tadic (guitar and stunt guitar). This was the 2nd date of a UK Tour having played the Holmfirth Picturedrome the night before.
The fellas slide effortlessly through their repertoire of Zappa tunes from the Mothers period and his solo stuff, including all these bad boys:-1st Half - Hungry Freaks Daddy, Let's Move to Cleveland, Lonely Little Girl, Ugliest Part of Your Body, Call Any Vegetable, Idiot Bastard Son, Chunga's Revenge, Pigmy Twilight segueing into the Message by Grandmaster Flash (get in !)
Blown away !
2nd Half - Peaches en Regalia, Montana, Big Swifty + jazzy improv with Smoke on the Water riff (oh yes, I spotted it !), Evelyn the Modified Dog, Roy's doo-wop number (everyone clapped that one), Orange County Lumber Truck medley, Let's Make the Water Turn Black, Trouble Everyday, San Berdino, Mother People
Blown away again !
Encore 1 - I am the Slime
Encore 2 - Village of the Sun
Things I'll remember:-
The banter between the band members was hilarious eg:-
Brock "Well, this next one is dedicated to all our Mothers on Mothers Day, without whom, we wouldn't be here today"
Preston (dryly) "from one Mother to another" Estrada & Garcia "and another !*you had to be there though, obviously
I still hate drum solos, all except the one Garcia did - just brilliant.
In between one of the most complex, noodly bits of playing Roy eyeballs Don, Don eyeballs Roy, Roy throws in a bum-note on purpose and sticks his tongue out, Don gives him one back and the two laugh and continue the jam – frickin’ amazing stuff.
Finally, Don says thanks to everyone and says Frank would have been proud etc and that they'll be back etc and we're off into the Village of the Sun encore, it's nearly twenty-five past ten and getting dangerously close to the half-ten curfew when everyone must leave and stop enjoying themselves. Napoleon's checking his watch worried in case about the pigs bust the joint...no need to worry Brocky, we'll be alright I thought as the aging hippy next to me relights his doobie and the smoke fills the air - it's smells of victory.
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