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You can own Frank Zappa’s Thing-Fish mask
10.27.2017
08:43 am
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Here’s an uncontroversial opinion: Frank Zappa’s Thing-Fish is totally insane. It’s a 1984 parody of a Broadway musical that attempted to satirize the AIDS crisis, South African Apartheid, the Religious Right, and a host of other social concerns by positing a government conspiracy to turn homosexuals and African Americans into duck-billed, potato headed monsters called “Mammy Nuns.” Much of the plot is narrated by one of these mutants, who happened to be Kingfish Stevens from the old Amos ’N’ Andy show. To be clear, it wasn’t supposed to be actor Tim Moore, who played the character on TV, it was supposed to be the actual character Kingfish. In any case, by 1984, hardly anybody remembered that show anymore.
 

Thing-Fish, left; Kingfish, right. Who could have foreseen that this opus would be viewed as problematic?

It’s a mess that tries to do way too much (it was initially released as a triple LP), and at the SAME TIME it’s lazy as all hell—it’s full of callbacks to older Zappa albums, and too many of its tracks are old instrumentals repurposed with Ike Willis’ narration. But most fatally of all, the work availed itself HEAVILY of the tropes of minstrelsy. That conceit was intended by Zappa as a means to attack bigotry and to underscore ongoing unfair media representation of African Americans, but it’s easy to see it as cringeworthy as all fuck even if you know Thing-Fish’s backstory and you get its in-jokes. Though the maddeningly continued relevance of its satire has somewhat rehabbed its reputation in hindsight, and all the callbacks are fun for devoted Zappa trainspotters, it was seen as a deeply alienating failed work in its time, and it remains justly regarded as a monumental dud from Zappa’s most creatively fallow period (it arrived on the heels of The Man From Utopia, saving THAT album from being regarded as Zappa’s worst).

But whether the LP succeeds conceptually or not, it birthed some of the most bizarre and indelible imagery of the rock era. The Mammy Nuns themselves, based on the title character’s depiction on the LP cover, look like Howard the Duck sculpted from feces.

Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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10.27.2017
08:43 am
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‘Cocksuckers’ Ball’: The story behind the X-rated ‘50s doo wop song that was covered by Frank Zappa
10.12.2017
08:01 am
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FZ and the Clovers
 
In the early 1950s, a highly successful doo wop group recorded a track so filthy that if Mike Pence heard it—if his wife would let him—he’d self-destruct. The song wasn’t released. Well, not officially, anyway. Years later, a certain mother (no, not Pence’s wife) performed a version of the obscure tune for amused audiences the world over.

The Clovers were one of the most popular doo wop acts of the 1950s. From 1951-1956, they scored nineteen R&B hits for Atlantic Records, including “Fool, Fool, Fool” and “One Mint Julep”. In 1957, the risqué “Down in the Alley” was released, but didn’t chart. Their final hit Leiber & Stoller’s “Love Potion No. 9,” came in 1959.

In his 2011 book, Filthy English: the How, Why, When and What of Everyday Swearing, author Peter Silverton wrote about an usual Clovers recording session:

In 1953, doo wop group the Clovers turned up for a session at their record label Atlantic’s central Manhattan studio. They told their label boss and producer, Ahmet Ertegun, that they wanted to record something of their own this time. This was something of a surprise to [Ertegun]. Like most R&B acts of the day, the Clovers sang songs that were given to them to sing. Still, they were one of Atlantic’s biggest acts. So, he decided to humor their request to record one of their own songs. They stepped up to the mikes. The engineer set the tape rolling.

Singing acapella, the group laid down a track that surely shocked Ertegun with its over-the-top raunchiness. The name of the song? “Rotten Cocksuckers’ Ball.”

 
The Clovers
 
What the Clovers recorded was a parody of the jazz standard “The Darktown Strutters’ Ball,” which written in 1917. Here’s a version sung by Ella Fitzgerald from 1936:
 

 
The term “Darktown” was a reference to a Chicago neighborhood. “Darktown” is outdated language and surely offensive to most in 2017, but there wasn’t any racist intent by the composer, Shelton Brooks, who was black. Read an interesting, in-depth analysis of the song here.

If you’re an American and at all wondering about the use of the term “cock” in “Rotten Cocksuckers’ Ball,” you’re not alone. In the north, “cock” is slang for penis, but in the south, for hundreds of years “cock” referred to female genitalia. That’s largely changed in the past couple of decades, but was still in vogue when the Clovers recorded the song. So, we can surmise how the members of the group—who hailed from Washington D.C., which is below the Mason-Dixon line—used the word.
 
The Clovers
 
As you may have guessed, the Clovers’ X-rated send-up wasn’t meant for public consumption, but it did eventually make it out into the world, obviously. It appears it was first bootlegged on record in the early 1970s. The version embedded here is taken from the compilation, Copulatin’ Blues, Volume 2.
 
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Frank Zappa was a Clovers fan, and his love of doo wop, in general, is well documented, with the genre proving to be an influence throughout his career. You can hear it on such FZ records as Freak Out! (1966), the first Mothers of Invention full-length, and Cruising with Ruben & the Jets (1968), Frank’s homage to doo wop and early R&B. The Mothers 1970 album Burnt Weenie Sandwich opens with a cover of a doo wop song by the Four Deuces, “WPLJ.”

Zappa had a fondness for lyrics that the general public would consider “off color,” and for his 1984 world tour he worked up his own version of “Rotten Cocksuckers’ Ball.”

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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10.12.2017
08:01 am
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Stuck in the Mudd! Four decades later, the doorman of the wildest nightclub in NYC lets you in!

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Here’s a drink ticket—enjoy the post!

“If you’ve been standing here for more than ten minutes you’re not coming in” announces Richard Boch in a stern but cute, almost teenaged stoner way. Don’t get me wrong, he means it. This was how “normal people” were greeted much of the time at the door of the Mudd Club (and many other ultra hip clubs in New York City at the time). This made getting in a huge badge of honor and being turned away a major disgrace. Imagine riding on THAT possibility just to pay to go into a nightclub? An anonymous “sniper” refused entrance once even hit Boch with a dead pigeon from a few yards away and sped off in a taxi cab!

Back then these normal people showing up at Manhattan nightclubs were mostly referred to as the “bridge and tunnel” crowd (Queens, Jersey, Brooklyn) a term not heard much these days, but once heard hundreds of times every night in NYC clubs. Some were 9-5ers, some wealthy disco-types expecting to stroll in on the doorman’s view of their Rolex or hot girlfriend. These regular folks were basically told to cool their heels or fuck off while an 18-year-old kid like me dressed to the hilt in what may have looked to them like idiotic rags, parted the seas and strolled in like I was Mick Jagger. This was not Studio 54 as they would find out soon enough. What it was, though, was a trip into known and unknown galaxies of hip culture throughout history, like a living, breathing museum/funhouse/drug den/concert hall/discotheque, mixed with nitroglycerine and LSD and thrown into a blender to create the unknown. The future. THE NOW!

The Mudd Club was almost literally unbelievable. Inmates running the asylum on an outer space pirate ship. This vessel was founded, funded and schemed by Steve Mass, who was on every side of the street all at once. When I first met Steve, he was roommates with Brian Eno and got that input, but he STILL drove me out to my parents’ apartment in Queens to help pull my record collection from under my bed, my parents shrugging their shoulders until reading about us a year later in the New York Times, thereby making it “Okay.” But really he was always very curious, constantly grilling me, getting inside my head. I once told him I thought he should round off the corners and ceiling of the Mudd Club like a giant cave and have live bats flying around the club. He actually considered it! He did this with certain other kids, rock stars, Warhol superstars, models, designers, Hollywood royalty, junkies, freaks and lord knows who else. We all had a bit of our heart and soul in that place.
 
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Mudd Club owner Steve Mass. Photo by Kate Simon

The above mentioned Richard Boch is the author of a incredibly well-written new book from Feral House titled The Mudd Club. Boch was the main doorman there and the book is his autobiography or a coming of age story told in pretty much the aftermath of the glorious Sixties during the truly, in retrospect, harsh, dark, real version of what was hoped for, but lost in that previous decade. Richard’s story is all of our stories, those of us lucky (or unlucky) enough to have grown up or wound up in New York City’s grimy punk/art/drugged musical and historical mish-mosh. It was the Velvet Underground’s songs come to life after waiting a decade for the world to catch up to it, or crumble to its level.
 
To quote Richard:

I’ve always referred to the Mudd Club as the scene of the crime, always meant as a term of endearment. It was the night that never ended: the day before never happened and the day after, a long way off. There was nothing else like it and I wound up right in the middle. I thought I could handle it and for a while, I did.

 
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Author Richard Boch. Photo by Alan Kleinberg
 
Boch was given marching orders orders early on to avoid bloated seventies superstars and the limo crowd. On one of his first nights of work he was faced with a huge, loud, and very sweaty Meatloaf. “Definitely not something I wanted to get close to, physically or musically,” Boch says, and ignored him. My first ever DJ gig was early on at the Mudd Club and I was told told by Steve Mass to do things like play Alvin and The Chipmunks records when it got a bit crowded, to “make everyone uncomfortable,” including myself. Of course I had the record. I also gouged a 45 with scissors insuring the record would skip horribly and then pretend that it wasn’t happening. Just long enough to get the asylum to freak out a little bit.

Later this stuff went out the window but it was quite a formative experience. Humor filtered through even to the most deadly serious moments there. The Mudd Club was a place where twenty people could literally have had twenty different experiences on the same night during the same hour as there was just so much happening on different mental/pharmaceutical levels and different floor levels. Everywhere you turned there was someone amazing. From the way I had grown up, seeing Andy Warhol, John Waters, David Bowie and the Ramones within a twenty minute span was “my” Studio 54. Watching Screamin’ Jay Hawkins while standing next to Jean-Michel Basquiat, seeing the Soft Boys, girl groups like the Angels and the Crystals, Frank Zappa, Bauhaus, Nico, the Dead Boys, Captain Beefheart, John Cale, a Radley Metzger film presented by Sleazoid Express or an impromptu freakout by Warhol Superstar Jackie Curtis, well this was my dream come to life!

My dream hasn’t changed in 40 years. I’m still in awe that it happened. And in the middle of all that I was allowed to put on my own demented conceptual events with friends (“The Puberty Ball,” etc.) and be a regular DJ. The people I came to know in the punk world who wanted more found it at the Mudd Club. Our mad obsession with the Sixties, especially the Warhol/New York sixties, informed much of what we did, and at the same time the Warhol Factory itself became more corporate. The Superstars were by then getting older and pushed out, but they were looking for more themselves, and they were looking to us to inform them, making for some extremely insane morality and immorality plays coming to life before our eyes. Mudd had the pull of what the press called “downtown,” and for the downtown types, well our voices were about to be heard loud and clear.
 
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David Bowie and Dee Dee Ramone. Photo by Bobby Grossman
 
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Howie Pyro deejaying at Mudd

Richard Boch understood all this, and was also an artist himself so he knew who everyone in the art world was, as well as all the new punk stars and celebutantes, no wavers, new wavers, culture vulture gods and the ones who would become gods themselves in a year or so. In the book he talks about being nervous about starting working there but man, he was the one for the job. In the pages of The Mudd Club, Boch’s quite candid about everything you’d want to know (gossip but not mean gossip: sex, drugs, more drugs, and getting home at ten AM, having done every drug and a half dozen people along the way—normal stuff like that). It reads in one, two, or three page sections, my favorite kind of book. You can put it down in ten-minute intervals or read it in any order you want, IF you can put it down at all. I have literally read certain sections backwards for 40-50 pages while looking for something and didn’t really notice. It made me laugh out loud, and it brought tears to my eyes. It’s kind of like “Please Kill Me, the Day After,” though it’s not an oral history as such, as it is written from Richard Boch’s point of view, but it has the same immediate anecdotal feel.
 
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‘TV Party’ at Mudd. Photo by Bob Gruen
 
The club’s benevolent benefactor, Steve Mass, was responsible for making this incredible witches brew keep bubbling and kept the happenings happening. He was willing to do anything, just for the sake of doing it. Steve originally owned an ambulance service. For my 19th birthday they had a huge party for me on the second floor of the Mudd Club. Since Steve had medical connections, and since we were ALL junkies (well, a good 85% of us were), he furnished a massive cake with dozens of syringes with the plungers & needles removed so they could put the candles in the open syringes. This of course turned into a massive cake fight with the participants looking like the Little Rascals (with pinned eyes). Steve was always down for this sorta stuff. As for the main floor, the bands, writers and performers that I saw in a single month’s time was staggering! More than some people see in a lifetime.
 
From the book:

January 1979. The Cramps freaked out The Mudd Club with a loud Psychobilly grind that included such hits as “Human Fly” and “Surfin’ Bird.” A few months later, the “big names” started to appear…

He goes on to say:

The legendary Sam and Dave got onstage a few weekends later, and it was the first time on my watch that I got to see the real deal. By late summer, Talking Heads took the stage while Marianne Faithful, X, Lene Lovich, and the Brides of Funkenstein waited in the wings.

There were so many great performances: Scheduled, impromptu, logical and out of left field. The locals and the regulars were the staple and the stable and performed as part of the White Street experience. They included everyone you could imagine and some you never could. John Cale, Chris Spedding, Judy Nylon and Nico, John Lurie and Philip Glass were just a few. Writers and poets such as William S. Burroughs, Max Blagg, Cookie Mueller, and “Teenage Jesus” Lydia Lunch all wound up on the Mudd Club stage. The talent pool was so deep and occasionally dark that even Hollywood Babylon‘s Luciferian auteur Kenneth Anger got Involved.

Steve’s willingness and generosity along with his guarded enthusiasm offered support to a local community of artists, musicians, and filmmakers. Together with Diego (Cortez)’ and Anya (Phillip’s) short-lived but “dominating” spirit, the Mudd Club became an instant happening, a free-for-all with No Wave orchestration and very few rules.

Diego described the Mudd Club as “a container, a vessel, but certainly not the only one in town.” What made the place unique was its blank-canvas emptiness. When the space filled up, IT happened and everyone wanted to be a part. A living, breathing work of art, it was beautiful and way off center, a slice of golden time.

I was lucky, and soaked it all in.

 
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Nico playing her wheezing harmonium. Photo by Ebet Roberts

All of us who got to be there were lucky. This was a timeless world of it’s own. A world that could be compared to any and all magical artistic movements, scenes or spaces. Dada. Warhol’s Factory, the Beats in NY and SF, Surrealism, etc.—times, places, people all endlessly written about as there’s just so much to say. Everyone involved had a unique experience, true to themselves. This wasn’t just a nightclub, it was so much more. It almost seemed like a private place where, on the best nights, people’s lives and fantasies were put on display and the public was allowed to watch. The public who just came to do coke and dance (as we all did) but who accidentally got touched by a bizarre and wonderful world that lived in the shadows of the city then, usually just brushing against them like a ghost in the night. Whether they even noticed or not, well, who cares?

This first book on the subject (I guarantee it will not be the last) is Richard Boch’s own experience, peppered with those of us who he interviewed for the reminders. This book is about his eyes opening, his chain-wielding power stance, his blowjobs, his drinks, his drugs, all of which are plentiful. It includes a little of most of us, the people we loved, the ones we lost, the games we played, and the love we shared of each other and our mutual history. Still though, there are a million stories in the Mudd’s microcosm of the naked city, this is just one of them.

And what a glorious place to start: right at the front door.
 
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The trailer for the book
 
More Mudd Club after the jump…

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Posted by Howie Pyro
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09.19.2017
02:47 pm
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Rare concert photos of Blondie, Zappa, Iggy, Fugazi and more, from the Smithsonian’s new collection


 
In December 2015, the Smithsonian Institution began an ambitious crowdsourced history of rock ’n’ roll photography, calling on music fans to contribute their amateur and pro photos, launching the web site rockandroll.si.edu as a one-stop for accepting and displaying shooters’ submissions. One of the project’s organizers, Bill Bentley, was quoted in Billboard:

We talked about how it could be completely far-reaching in terms of those allowed to contribute, and hopefully help expose all kinds of musicians and periods. There really are no boundaries in the possibilities. I’d like to help spread all styles of music to those who visit the site, and show just how all-encompassing the history of what all these incredible artists have created over the years. What better way than for people to share their visual experiences, no matter on what level, to the world at large.

The project, sadly, is now closed to new submissions, but it’s reached a milestone in the publication of Smithsonian Rock and Roll: Live and Unseen, authored by Bentley. The book is a pretty great cull of the best the collection had to offer, full of photos rarely or never seen by the public, chronologically arranged, and dating back to the dawn of the rock era. Some of them are real jaw-droppers, like the concert shot of Richie Valens taken hours before his death, Otis Redding drenched in sweat at the Whiskey a Go Go, Sly Stone looking like a goddamn superhero at the Aragon Ballroom in 1974. From Bentley’s introduction:

Although the sheer breadth of the offerings was overwhelming, that fact only underlined the importance of an organizational strategy. The publisher sorted through the submissions, categorizing them by performer and date to create a complete historical timeline of rock and roll. Approximately three hundred photographs are included in the following narrative, many of them by amateurs whose enthusiasm and passion for their subjects are here presented to the public for the first time. The balance of the photos were taken by professional “lens whisperers,” whose shots were selected to flesh out this overview of rock and roll. The results, spanning six decades, aim for neither encyclopedic authority nor comprehensive finality, but rather an index of supreme influence.

Smithsonian Rock and Roll: Live and Unseen isn’t due until late in October, but the Smithsonian have been very kind in allowing Dangerous Minds to share some of these images with you today. Clicking an image will spawn an enlargement.
 

Blondie at CBGB, New York City, 1976. Photo Roberta Bayley /Smithsonian Books
 

The Clash at the Orpheum Theatre, Boston, September 19, 1979. Photo Catherine Vanaria /Smithsonian Books
 

Frank Zappa at Maple Pavilion, Stanford University, CA, November 19, 1977. Photo Gary Kieth Morgan /Smithsonian Books
 
Many more after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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09.18.2017
11:00 am
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Freak out: That time Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention were in Archie Comics…
09.06.2017
11:56 am
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Okay, okay, perhaps that title is just a little bit disingenuous, but it’s still “close enough for government work,” as the old saying goes.

So no, Frank Zappa didn’t actually bring his rockin’ teen combo to fictional Riverdale High School, and no, this isn’t from Archie Comics either, it’s a National Lampoon parody by Michel Choquette from the September 1970 issue. But it’s probably exactly what would have happened had The Mothers of Invention roared into town.

Betty and Veronica probably would have gotten VD, too.

If you click on the images you’ll get to larger, easier-to-read versions.
 

 

 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.06.2017
11:56 am
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Brian Wilson’s haunting rendition of ‘Surf’s Up’ is just one highlight of this amazing 1967 pop doc


 
On April 25, 1967, CBS ran a special documentary that had been put together by David Oppenheim called Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution. The program was significant on a number of fronts. First, the hour-long program has been called in some quarters the first documentary about rock and roll ever made. There had certainly been ample treatment in feature films (mainly the Beatles) of the new forms of pop music that were budding in that decade as well as ample news coverage—whether Inside Pop merits this distinction I will leave for others to debate.

What is clearer is that the program represents almost certainly the first sustained effort to make a positive case for pop music to a mainstream audience on national TV. In other words, if the generational divide caused all cultural matters to be filtered through an “us” versus “them” filter, Inside Pop made no bones about debating the aesthetic and cultural merits of Herman’s Hermits, the Hollies, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, etc. from “their” perspective, from the perspective of those who had not instinctually embraced the new music.

Oppenheim’s resume up to that moment neatly illustrates the point, having made his reputation through working with figures such as Igor Stravinsky and Pablo Casals. Not long after making this program, Oppenheim was hired as Dean of NYU’s School of the Arts, which he has been credited with transforming into a first-rate cultural arts institution. (His son Jonathan Oppenheim edited the groundbreaking documentary Paris Is Burning.)

The program is divided into two halves. The first half is given almost entirely over to Leonard Bernstein, whose credibility as a cultural commentator to the mass audience at that moment can hardly be overstated. Bernstein had been music director of the New York Philharmonic for roughly a decade and had also composed the operetta Candide as well as West Side Story, and if you had asked ten moderately informed citizens in 1962 what American was best known for his work in classical music, probably all of them would have named Bernstein.

As stated, the first half of the program belongs to Bernstein—he is seated at a piano, playing snippets of songs by the Monkees, the Beatles, the Left Banke, and so on, and making observations about unexpected key changes as well as the skillful manipulation of Lydian and Mixolydian modes, whatever they might be. Bernstein goes out of his way to call 95% of pop music “trash” but nevertheless, his essential curiosity and openness to new forms would be impossible to miss. It would have been difficult indeed for such a presentation to be entirely devoid of fuddy-duddy-ism, but it’s truly an impressive performance—if only TV nowadays had similar semi-improv’d disquisitions on music by qualified commentators. Oh, and halfway through it all Bernstein brings in 15-year-old Janis Ian to sing “Society’s Child,” her hitherto blacklisted song about an interracial relationship, which incidentally soon became a hit after being heard on national television.
 

 
The second half of the program is a conventional narrated documentary focusing on the West Coast music scene with some British Invaders mixed in. Frank Zappa pops up and says a few sardonic things. Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits and Graham Nash of the Hollies get into an animated post-gig debate about the efficacy of pop music in bringing about societal change (Noone pessimistic, Nash optimistic). Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, still going by “Jim” at that point, materializes to tell every adult in America that “the drug revolution is just coming about and there are gonna be a lot of heads rolling from it,” which I’m sure went over like gangbusters.

The program gets a little boring around the 2/3 mark by focusing too long on Herman’s Hermits, who whatever else their virtues are don’t make a good case for groundbreaking trends in music, but hang on because Oppenheim saves the best for last, an extended in-studio rendition of “Surf’s Up” by Brian Wilson. Recorded on December 17, 1966, Wilson’s performance is made much more haunting because we have information the home audience did not, namely that Wilson was undergoing severe psychological stress at the time, that the Beach Boys nearly broke up over the Smile album (for which “Surf’s Up” was composed), and that more than three decades would pass until said album would reach the public in its final form.

Watch after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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08.21.2017
09:36 am
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‘Metal Man Has Won His Wings’: Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa’s early ‘60s R&B band, the Soots
06.23.2017
06:04 am
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Zappa at the door to Studio Z in Cucamonga

Briefly, during 1963 and 1964, Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa were in a proto-Magic Band called the Soots, and among the numbers they recorded at Studio Z in Cucamonga was “Metal Man Has Won His Wings.” It isn’t the first recording the pair made together (that’s the my-baby-flushed-me-down-the-toilet epic “Lost in a Whirlpool,” recorded at Antelope Valley Junior College in the late ‘50s), but it’s the first instance of the Frank Zappa blues adventure style that crystallized in later classics like “Why Don’t You Do Me Right,” “Trouble Every Day” and “Willie the Pimp.”

The Magic Band’s John “Drumbo” French identifies the song as a breakthrough in his massive study Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic:

In Metal Man Has Won His Wings the music immediately bursts forth, a music surprisingly reminiscent of the early Magic Band. Zappa was obviously making headway in his production attempts. The young Vliet’s repetitive Wolf-esque ramblings are buried in the mix. The song is brought to a halt with a typical blues kick - something Zappa may have learned while playing at Tommy Sands’ club.

“Metal Man Has Won His Wings” (misheard by bootleggers for years as “Metal Man Has Hornet’s Wings”) first surfaced on Mystery Disc. Zappa’s liner notes shed light on how the track’s vocals came to be “buried in the mix”: Beefheart used an unorthodox recording technique, one that reminds me of his later refusal to wear headphones while overdubbing his parts on Trout Mask Replica.

In our spare time we made what we thought were ‘rock & roll records.’ In this example, Vliet was ‘singing’ in the hallway outside the studio (our vocal booth) while the band played in the other room.

The lyrics were derived from a comic book pinned to a bulletin board near the door.

 

On the road, 1975 (via beefheart.com)
 
Zappa scholar Biffy the Elephant Shrew has identified the comic book as issue #7 of the DC title Metal Men. Beefheart took part of the song’s title and “wheet! wheet!” from an ad in that number promoting the new book Hawkman:

HAWKMAN HAS “WON HIS WINGS”... AND FROM NOW ON HIS FAMOUS “WHEET! WHEET!” BATTLE CRY WILL APPEAR IN HIS OWN MAGAZINE!

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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06.23.2017
06:04 am
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Your Mother Should Know: Newly unearthed 1967 Frank Zappa interview taped at a Detroit head shop
05.26.2017
09:22 am
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Mothers ad
 
On November 13th, 1967, Frank Zappa was interviewed by two radio DJs at a head shop in Detroit. The conversation aired on the 18th and was promptly forgotten about. Recently, one of the DJs found the recording, which has been digitized and uploaded for the world to hear.

At the time, Zappa was promoting the upcoming Mothers of Invention gigs in the area. The band were scheduled to perform on December 1st at Ford Auditorium in Detroit, and on the 2nd and 3rd at the Fifth Dimension in Ann Arbor. The interviewers, Joe Doll and Dave Pierce, were involved with the University of Michigan’s student-run community radio station, WCBN. Their 30-minute chat with Zappa aired on Doll’s program, Strobe.
 
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Topics include the holdup of the release of the next Mothers album, We’re Only In It For The Money; why rock music is the best means to express his beliefs; questioning societal conventions; and lighter fare like Frank’s thoughts on the Beatles, and his pending appearance on The Monkees. I especially enjoyed hearing FZ talk about marketing, advertising, and sales figures related to the Mothers’ output, partly due to those subjects being taboo for most ‘60s counter-culture acts. The interview does get a bit quarrelsome at times, which makes for stimulating listening, that’s for sure! Mixed Media, the bookstore/head shop where the chat took place, was located in the area of Detroit now called Midtown.

It was Joe Doll who found the tape not long ago, and the recording recently aired on WCBN once again. The audio sounds fantastic, especially when considering it’s nearly 50 years old and was previously thought to have been lost. Listen via Doll’s website, where the digital file is also available to be downloaded for free.
 
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Audio from the Mothers of Invention’s performance in Ann Arbor on December 3rd, 1967:
 

Posted by Bart Bealmear
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05.26.2017
09:22 am
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‘Rosebud’: Oddball 1971 album originally released by Frank Zappa’s label to be reissued
05.12.2017
09:26 am
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Gig poster
 
As part of Frank Zappa’s deal with Warner Bros., two imprints were established, Bizarre and Straight, on which FZ would release his own albums, as well as those artists he signed. Those signees included Captain Beefheart, the GTO’s, and Wild Man Fischer, amongst other outsiders. In 1969, Straight released Farewell Aldebaran, the debut LP from Judy Henske & Jerry Yester. Like most of the non-Zappa albums on Bizarre/Straight, Farewell Aldebaran sold squat at the time, though it later developed a cult following, thanks to its unconventional contents. Lesser known is the 1971 album the duo recorded with their band, which is about to be reissued with a slew of previously unreleased tracks.

Jerry Yester, a multi-instrumentalist and session musician, was also a member of a few groups (the Lovin’ Spoonful being one). He’s perhaps best known today as a producer, as he’s been at the helm for a number of recordings, including the debut albums for both Tim Buckley and Tom Waits. Singer Judy Henske, like Yester, came from the folk scene, and was an established recording artist when the two married in 1963.
 
Back cover
 
Farewell Aldebaran, the sole LP the couple released as a duo, is a pleasingly strange affair. Psychedelic blues rock mixes with heavy bubblegum, old timey country, a scary lullaby, and hymn-like tracks that are emotionally powerful. Yester’s musical foundations are expertly executed, while Henske’s vocals alternating between Nico’s gothic approach and Janis Joplin-like frenzy. Encouraged by Zappa, Henske based her lyrics on poems she had written (sample title: “Horses on a Stick”). Everything on the record sounds a bit off, which is partly the reason it failed to find an audience in 1969, but is precisely why Zappa, and, much later, fans of unusual music were drawn to the LP. Out of print for decades, Omnivore Recordings offered up the first authorized reissue of Farewell Aldebaran in 2016.

After their album failed to sell, the couple licked their wounds and decided to change direction. For the Rosebud project, they recruited former Turtles drummer, John Seiter, and songwriter/musician, Craig Doerge, who had worked with Henske in the past. The songs on their lone LP, Rosebud, possess many of the peculiar qualities found on the Henske/Yester record, and is stylistically similar, just a little less out there. Not a surprise, considering the presence of others, and the fact the Doerge co-wrote, with Henske, four of the record’s ten tunes.
 
Rosebud
 
“Panama,” the first song on Rosebud, is as off-kilter as anything heard on Farewell Aldebaran. The track opens with sound effects, then morphs into a piano ballad—with Henske’s eccentric vocal affectations firmly on display—before shifting into a funky, world music-like number, complete with African drums. Other highlights include “Reno,” a groovy cowboy song with synth, as well as the bubblegum country rock mixed with gospel that is “Yum Yum Man.” Both “Western Wisconsin,” a lovely tune passionately sung by Doerge, and “Le Soleil,” a showcase for Rosebud’s group harmonies, are fine examples of the numerous hymn-influenced tunes on the album. The record ends with the dreamy “Flying to Morning,” featuring a fantastic vocal performance from Henske.

As the recording sessions for the album were coming to an end, bassist David Vaught was brought into the fold, making Rosebud a five-piece.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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05.12.2017
09:26 am
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Ceramic pipes of Frank Zappa, Hunter S. Thompson, Cthulhu, The Dude and many more!
04.10.2017
11:51 am
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Frank Zappa
 
I’m completely smitten with these handmade ceramic and terracotta bowls by WTP Art on Etsy. I didn’t feature all the pipes they make here on Dangerous Minds, just the ones I really dig. They’ve got a lot of good ones.

The pipes are handcrafted and take about three to five days to ship. WTP Art also takes custom orders. If you don’t see your favorite character on their page, they’re totally open to making one for you.

Each pipe sells for around $35 depending on the detail. The most expensive ones are $45 + shipping.


Frank Zappa
 

Hunter S. Thompson
 

The Dude
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Tara McGinley
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04.10.2017
11:51 am
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Frank Zappa and the Mothers freak out in a 1968 sex-ed film
03.31.2017
08:47 am
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Frank Zappa live at TTG Studios, 1966 (via Zappateers)
 
It must have been thrilling, the teacher threading the film into the projector and the Mothers of Invention bursting out of the chalkboard in full color. The instructional movie Sex in Today’s World, a/k/a Sex in the Sixties, presented by Focus Education, Inc., incorporates a few short clips of the Freak Out!-period Mothers driving an LA audience into a Bacchic frenzy.

Román García Albertos’s valuable Zappa videography says this footage was shot at Hollywood’s TTG Studios in 1966 for broadcast on The David Susskind Show. The videography suggests Sex in the Sixties was originally broadcast on ABC, but judging from the number of splices toward the beginning of the version on YouTube, the source is a sex-ed print that saw legit classroom use.
 

The Mothers live at TTG Studios, 1966 (via Zappateers)
 
Something Weird included Sex in Today’s World in the collection Sex Hygiene Scare Films, Volume 2. Here’s the synopsis from their catalog:

Sex in Today’s World (color), “an examination of sex in the 1960’s,” is a time capsule which neatly captures many of the conflicting attitudes of a cross section of people—doctor, psychologist, professors, students, and preachers—caught in the sexual turbulence of 1966. The so-called Sexual Revolution happened so quickly and with such across-the-board pervasiveness that this little film, like most of the people interviewed, seems not only dazed, but trying to catch its breath. It also includes some great glimpses of mid-sixties adult book stores, 42nd Street in its glorious grindhouse heyday, Bunnies doing a go-go at a Playboy Club and, most surprising of all, concert footage of FRANK ZAPPA and THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION! The inevitable conclusion: Yeah, there’s sure a lot of sex out there!

See for yourself, after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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03.31.2017
08:47 am
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Groovy 1968 Frank Zappa advertisement from Marvel Comics’ Daredevil #38
03.02.2017
03:12 pm
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One of the primary reasons that the quite mind-blowing, entertaining, and enjoyable Monkees movie Head did so poorly at the box office in 1968 was that it represented such a sharp break from the family-friendly sitcom on which the group had built its following. The movie featured lots of utterly confusing footage, at times on an antiwar theme, that was mostly the kind of thing college-aged pot smokers like to see, but it amazingly garnered a G rating, at least initially. As Joseph Brannigan Lynch wrote on the occasion of the Blu-Ray release of Head:
 

Partly to blame was the marketing campaign that was almost as avant-garde as the film itself, but even worse was the fact that many theaters (successfully) demanded the film’s G-rating be turned into a Mature rating, simply because the film structure allegedly resembled an acid trip.


 
One of the many fascinating people involved with Head was, of course, Frank Zappa, who wanders through the movie with a Hereford Bull in tow and chides Davy about how “white” his music is not to forget the youth of America. One wonders if Columbia Pictures’ famously miscalculated ad campaign was in any way influenced by a similarly odd campaign for one of Zappa’s albums a few months earlier.

In March 1968, the Mothers of Invention unleashed their third mind-bending cultural intervention, known to all and sundry as We’re Only in It for the Money. In a curious move, Verve Records, no doubt directed by Zappa himself, apparently selected the pre-teen comic book audience to be one of the target demographics to promote the album to. Specifically, Daredevil #38, which came out the same month as the album, and featured a remarkable full-page ad promoting the record.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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03.02.2017
03:12 pm
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Interstellar Zappadrive: When Frank Zappa jammed with Pink Floyd
03.01.2017
08:43 am
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This post was originally published in 2012, but at that time, the actual footage of Frank Zappa jamming with Pink Floyd had yet to materialize. That changed late last year with the release of the mammoth Pink Floyd box set, The Early Years (released as individual volumes at the end of the month.)

“The Actuel Rock Festival,” sponsored by the fashionable Parisian youth culture magazine Actuel (along with the BYG record label) was to be the first ever major rock festival in France, and was heralded as Europe’s answer to Woodstock. French authorities, still smarting from the riots of May 1968, forbade it and the festival, which was originally going to take place in or near Paris, was held just a few miles beyond the French border, in Amougies, Belgium.

The festival took place over the course of five freezing cold days in late October (24-27) of 1969. The audience numbered between 15-20,000 people who were treated with performances by Pink Floyd, Ten Years After, Colosseum, Aynsley Dunbar (this is allegedly where Zappa met his future drummer), former Yardbird Keith Relf’s new group Renaissance, blues legend Alexis Korner, Don Cherry, The Nice, Caravan, Blossom Toes, Archie Shepp, Yes, The Pretty Things, Pharoah Sanders, The Soft Machine, Captain Beefheart and many more.

From the notes of the 1969 The Amougies Tapes Zappa bootleg:

Frank Zappa was present at the festival in a twofold capacity. First, as Captain Beefheart’s road manager; secondly, as M.C., assisting Pierre Lattes, a famous radio/TV presenter at the time (and the pop music editor for Actuel magazine). The latter task proved problematic given Zappa’s limited French, the prevailing language among the audience, who themselves didn’t seem to understand much English. Instead, Zappa relinquished his M.C. job for one of occasional guest guitarist. He plays with almost everybody, especially with Pink Floyd, Blossom Toes, Archie Shepp and Aynsley Dunbar, a fabulous drummer he will hire shortly thereafter. He introduces his friend Captain Beefheart and provides a powerful stimulant to all the other musicians. Most legendary, of course, is Frank Zappa’s jam with Pink Floyd on a very extended “Interstellar Overdrive”. The festival was filmed by Jerome Laperrousaz, and the film was to be called MUSIC POWER. Due to objections from various bands (most notably Pink Floyd) whose permission hadn’t been properly secured, the film was never officially released.”

Simpsons creator Matt Groening asked Zappa about the festival in a 1992 interview, but oddly he doesn’t even mention sitting in with Pink Floyd:

Frank Zappa: I was supposed to be MC for the first big rock festival in France, at a time when the French government was very right-wing, and they didn’t want to have large-scale rock and roll in the country. and so at the last minute, this festival was moved from France to Belgium, right across the border, into a turnip field. They constructed a tent, which was held up by these enormous girders. They had 15,000 people in a big circus tent. This was in November, I think. The weather was really not very nice. It’s cold, and it’s damp, and it was in the middle of a turnip field. I mean mondo turnips. And all the acts, and all the people who wished to see these acts, were urged to find this location in the turnip field, and show up for this festival. And they’d hired me to be the MC and also to bring over Captain Beefheart. It was his first appearance over there. and it was a nightmare, because nobody could speak English, and I couldn’t speak French, or anything else for that matter, so my function was really rather limited. I felt a little bit like Linda McCartney. I’d stand there and go wave, wave, wave. I sat in with a few of the groups during the three days of the festival, but it was so miserable because all these European hippies had brought their sleeping bags, and they had the bags laid out on the ground in this tent, and they basically froze and slept through the entire festival, which went on 24 hours a day, around the clock. One of the highlights of the event was the Art Ensemble of Chicago, which went on at 5:00 a.m. to an audience of slumbering euro-hippies.

 
More (including video footage) after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.01.2017
08:43 am
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Fantastic flashback: Travel back to the word of 70s rock with ‘Phonograph Record Magazine’


Slade on the cover of ‘Phonograph Record Magazine’ November 1972.
 
During its eight-year run Phonograph Record Magazine served up sweet pictorials and articles written by some of the best music journalists around during the 70s, such as John Mendelsohn who was already contributing to Rolling Stone and the Los Angeles Times while still in his teens; the hugely influential Jonh Ingham and Lester Bangs, and several other notable rock and roll word slingers.

Started by one of the true kings of the hustle, journalist and sometimes song writer Marty Cerf when he was only 21, Phonograph Record Magazine (or PRM) was known for digging deep with their articles on popular as well as unsung musical acts. One of Cerf’s editors was Ken Barnes—another prominent rock writer who credits Cerf for helping him get his start. Here’s more from Barnes on his old boss, who says one of his many jobs at PRM was general hanger-on:

Marty was around 5’ 10” in height, skinny, always bubbling over with more ideas than he could spit out (he tended to spit a bit when excited, which was most of the time). I’ve always been grateful to Marty, who was pretty much running the entire PRM show at that time, for getting me started.

In addition to the magazine’s artful covers, Cerf allowed his writing staff to really bring their voice and personality into their pieces. Though he wasn’t part of PRM‘s staff, a great example of this was an article written by Frank Zappa in PRM, “Hypothetical Interview With Frank Zappa by Frank Zappa As Told To Suzie Creamcheese & Rodney Bingenheimer.” The article itself is a fascinating and hysterically indulgent promotion for Zappa’s bizarro 1971 film, 200 Motels and letting Zappa run wild like this is as close to genius as it gets for a rock mag. I highly encourage you to read it (while you are high if at all possible) here in its entirety.

As someone who has always aspired to do what I’m currently doing for a living, I find the ethos embodied by PRM truly inspiring and worthy of reminiscing about. Not just because of the memories the photographs conjure up—but for the dedication by the young team of writers who cultivated their craft within its pages, and would go on to create the standard for music journalism that can’t be achieved without passion and genuine enthusiasm. Copies of PRM are rather rare but can be found from time to time on auction sites like eBay or on Etsy. Image of the covers and content from inside PRM follow.
 

October 1972.
 

 

David Bowie and guitarist Mark Ronson glamming it up on stage in a photo from the October 1972 issue of ‘Phonograph Record Magazine.’

 

A scan of the first page of an article written by Frank Zappa for PNR, “Hypothetical Interview With Frank Zappa by Frank Zappa As Told To Suzie Creamcheese & Rodney Bingenheimer.”
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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02.03.2017
12:33 pm
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‘Dog Breath in the Year of the Plague’: A fanboy’s appreciation of Frank Zappa’s ‘Uncle Meat’
01.30.2017
03:21 pm
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It was listening to the Dr. Demento radio show at some point in the 1970s—probably 1976—where I first heard three artists I would come to love for the rest of my life. In one radio show, which I taped, the good doctor played Noel Coward’s “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” “Hunting Tigers Out in Indiah” by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and “Let’s Make the Water Turn Black” from Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Thinking back on it, I had damned good taste in music for a 10-year-old kid, I really did, even if it now seems rather obvious what it was about those three songs that appealed to me so much at that age. After all, I was listening to Dr. Demento at the time, of course…

As luck would have it, later that very week I was able to pick up a copy of Uncle Meat for just $1.99 in the cut-out bin of the local branch of the long defunct mid-western chain, National Record Mart. The 1968 double album—the prolific Frank Zappa’s second two-record set in less than three years—is the first one that I bought and still to this day my favorite Mothers of Invention album overall. I think it’s the very best introduction to the music of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. At least it was mine and with the excuse of the new expanded Meat Light three CD box set (not really getting the “Meat Light” title or the crappy cover art—why not get the great Cal Schenkel to do it?—but whatever) from the Zappa Family Trust’s Project/Object “documentary” series, I’m more than happy to extol its virtues for our readers. You know those lists of 1001 records you absolutely must hear before you die? I’d rank Uncle Meat in the top 100. Maybe top 50. No, definitely top 50.

I’m not going to lie to you, and tell you that I completely understood what I was listening to, but since when would “understanding” music mean much anyway or stand in the way of the enjoyment of a work of art? Besides, I was a child. I just knew that I loved it and that it took me somewhere that I’d never been to before. It was a revelation to me that such music even existed. Furthermore, that some freak had gotten major corporate money behind his artistic vision, that was another eye-opening thing for me to grok, and an inspiration for my own career…

Uncle Meat documents the original Mothers at the telepathic height of their musical powers. Recorded over five months in late 1967, early 1968, the album’s aural collage of short, sharp shocks of avant garde musical interludes, doo-wop, free jazz, spoken word bits, cartoony music and far-out concert recordings were the fullest expression at that point of the young composer’s genius. Over the course of its four sides, a first time listener (like I was) could get lost in the album moving from initial confusion to musical mental orgasms in the space of about an hour. It goes from being strange and seemingly impenetrable, then suddenly it sort of dawns on you “Holy shit, this is music unlike anything I’ve ever heard before” and you realize how amazing, exotic, complex and how unexpectedly beautiful Frank Zappa’s music truly is.

The Mothers of Invention, at the time of the recording were Don Preston on keyboards, “Motorhead” Sherwood (tambourine, noises, bad sax playing), Roy Estrada on bass and vocals, Art Tripp and Jimmy Carl Black on drums, Ian Underwood on clarinet and Bunk Gardner on soprano sax. (Ruth Underwood, who plays vibes on Uncle Meat, made a tremendous contribution to the album’s sound. Additionally drummer Billy Mundi, who’d already left the group to join Rhinoceros is heard on some pieces).

More ‘Meat’ after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.30.2017
03:21 pm
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