Saturday, August 15, 2009

You Gotta Burn, Burn, Burn

I was a big fan of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. You remember them, if for nothing else, for being mentioned in Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water" -
.."but Frank Zappa and the Mothers had the best place around...til some stupid with a flare gun burned the place to the ground."

This was in reference to a recording studio that Zappa operated that did catch fire. Also during those turbulent 70's, some crazed fan, not with a flare gun, threw Frank off the stage somewhere in Europe and left him hobbling on a broken leg.

Frank got into a tiff with Tipper Gore in 1985 about the lurid, indecent rock and roll lyrics, and that was his last big hurrah. He died in '93.

But...rooting around the other day, I stumbled across this obituary for one of his band members:

Copyright The Washington Post Company Nov 11, 2008
Jimmy Carl Black, 70, who went from drummer in Frank Zappa's avant-garde Mothers of Invention to doughnut shop worker and house painter, died Nov. 1 of cancer in Siegsdorf, Germany, said Roddie Gilliard, a British musician who performed with him.

Mr. Black, who had Cheyenne ancestry, was known for a line ad-libbed on the Mothers of Invention's third album, "We're Only In It for the Money," which made fun of hippies.

"Hi, boys and girls," he said. "I'm Jimmy Carl Black, and I'm the Indian of the group."

Early on, he played backing music for strippers. In 1964, he was playing in a Los Angeles band called the Soul Giants that recruited Zappa as lead guitarist.
Zappa took over, changed the group's name and, according to Mr. Black, boasted that "if you guys learn my music, I'll make you rich and famous."

"He took care of half of that promise, because I'm damn sure I didn't get rich," recalled Mr. Black, who was a vocalist as well as a drummer.

The Mothers satirized pop music and gloried in their weirdness and their eagerness to offend even their fans. "You think we're singing 'bout someone else, but you're plastic people," they sang on their 1967 album, "Absolutely Free."

He credited Zappa, who died in 1993, with introducing him to modern classical music and teaching him complex rhythms.

After Zappa disbanded the original Mothers of Invention in 1969, Mr. Black played in a rock and blues band called Geronimo Black. The band flopped, and in 1972, Mr. Black worked in a doughnut shop in Texas.

In 1975, he played with the experimental rocker Captain Beefheart. He appeared as Lonesome Cowboy Burt in Zappa's film "200 Motels," and in 1980, he worked on several songs for Zappa's "You Are What You Is."

"I had a really good time with Frank at that time, and he really treated me great. I even got paid," he said.
James Inkanish Jr. was born Feb. 1, 1938, in El Paso. He changed his name to Jimmy Carl Black after his stepfather, Carl Black.

In the 1980s, he formed a house-painting company in Texas with British singer Arthur Brown, who had a hit as "the god of hell fire." Mr. Black moved to Italy in 1992 and to Germany in 1995, finding enough work to survive as a musician.

He is survived by his wife, Monika, and six children.

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown needed a primer and two coats.

So! There you have it. One guy famous for saying "I'm the Indian of the group", another one famous for hollering "I am the God of hellfire, and I bring you........." wind up working together!

I say the coolest thing to be able to say in Texas in the 1980's, just ahead of "That Bush boy ain't a-goin' nowhere," would have been to come to work one day and say, "You guys will NEVER guess who's PAINTING MY HOUSE today!"

RIP, Jimmy. We who still listen to "We're Only In It For The Money," "Absolutely Free," and "Uncle Meat" salute you!

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