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Music: We're Only In It For The Money

"The youth of America today is so wonderful
And I'm proud to be part of this gigantic mass deception
—"Flower Punk"

"Unbind your mind
There is no time
To lick your stamps
And paste them in
And we'll begin
Freedom! Freedom!
Kindly loving
You'll be absolutely free
"Absolutely Free"

We’re Only In It For The Money (recorded in 1967, released in 1968) is an album by The Mothers of Invention, and one of Frank Zappa's most famous and popular conceptual albums. A scathing attack on such 1960s topics as the flower power movement, police brutality, The Beatles, Psychedelic Rock, the generation gap and the growing mass commercialization of pop music. Many fans call it one of his best albums and it's certainly one of his most characteristic.

Apart from this the album also has several instrumental musique concrete tracks and songs containing inside jokes about Zappa's band and friends. According to the liner notes the listener should read the story In The Penal Colony by Franz Kafka first, before listening to the final track "The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny."

When the album went into production, it originally had a different concept and direction. In fact, the entirety of Money, Cruisin' with Ruben & The Jets, the dialogue sessions from the reissue of Lumpy Gravy, and parts of Uncle Meat were recorded at the same New York sessions. The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album came out while the Mothers of Invention were recording the album, and Zappa decided to change the album's concept to parody that album because he felt that the Beatles had ripped off concepts from the Mothers' Freak Out! (1966) album, and considered the Beatles themselves (and Psychedelic Rock musicians in general) to be in it for the money, hence the album title. The cover is particularly memorable for offering the Ur Example of the Sgt. Pepper's Shout-Out.

The album is the Trope Namer for Only in It for the Money.

"The Trope-Plated Megaphone of Destiny":

  • Accentuate the Negative: "Flower power sucks, sucks, sucks..."
  • And I Must Scream: The victims in the concentration camps in "Concentration Moon" and "The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny"
  • Art Initiates Life: Some of the rumors about concentration camps for hippies turned out to have some truth in them. The satires of police brutality, which many people thought were over-the-top, also wound up coming true when the Kent State shootings happened a few years later.
  • Audience Participation: In the liner notes Zappa asks the audience to read Franz Kafka's In The Penal Colony before starting to listen to the final track.
  • Bawdy Song:
    • Two people collecting urine and smearing boogers on windows in "Let's Make The Water Turn Black"
    • Rape in "Harry, You're A Beast"
    • "What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?"
  • Big Handsome Man: Billy Mundi and Roy Estrada in various places in the album art.
  • Black Comedy Rape: "Harry You’re A Beast"
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: From "The Idiot Bastard Son":
    "The child will grow and enter the world of liars and cheaters and people like you
    Who smile and think they know
    What this is about
    You think you know everything
    Maybe so
    The song we sing
    Do you know
    We're listening"
  • Broken Record: The infamous needle scratch sound on "Nasal Retentive Calliope Music."
  • Body Horror: "What's The Ugliest Part of Your Body?" Answer: your mind.
  • Born Unlucky: "The Idiot Bastard Son", abandoned by his parents in the back of a car and adopted by Ronnie and Kenny.
  • Call Back and Continuity Nod:
    • The vegetables on the front cover are a call back to the vegetable concepts of Absolutely Free. We're Only In It For The Money even has a track named "Absolutely Free".
    • "What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?" is reprised later.
    • The quote "Hi, boys and girls. I'm Jimmy Carl Black and I'm the Indian of the group" first appears in the track "Are You Hung Up?" and is later reprised in "Concentration Moon"
    • Engineer Gary Kellgren contributes "creepy whispering," which can be heard in "Are You Hung Up?" and "Hot Poop."
    • In the liner notes Zappa asks the audience "Is this phase one of Lumpy Gravy?", while he asked the opposite question in the album Lumpy Gravy: "Is this phase two of We're Only In It For The Money?"
    • The classical piece heard in "Mother People" can also be heard on the album Lumpy Gravy, as does the line about "hair getting good in the back" in "Who Needs The Peace Corps?
    • The theme of cops killing hippies is continued in "Concentration Moon" and "Mom & Dad."
    • Zappa would re-use the phrase What's a girl like you doing in a place like this on Fillmore East, June 1971 (1971), Sheik Yerbouti (1979), Joe's Garage (1979) and Thing-Fish (1985).
  • The Cameo:
    • Jimi Hendrix on the album cover. And yes, it’s really him, not just some collage cut-out.
    • Eric Clapton says "God, it's God. I see God" in "Nasal Retentive Calliope Music," and contributes clichéd stoner dialogue to "Are You Hung Up?".
  • Concept Album
  • Crapsack World
  • Creator Cameo: "Hello, Frank Zappa…..."
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The person tortured in "The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny"
  • Covers Always Lie: From judging the album cover and the art work within you might expect this album to be an entire musical and lyrical parody of Sgt. Peppers, but it's not. The only real similarity is that A Day In The Life, just like The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny are both the closing track, both closing on one note slowly fading out at the end.
  • Cross Dresser: Other than Sherwood, all of the Mothers appear in drag in the album art.
  • Cryptic Conversation: At various points on the album
  • Dark Comedy
  • Design Student's Orgasm and Detail-Hogging Cover: Cal Schenkel's album cover.
  • Dramatic Thunder: On the album cover.
  • Eagleland: The political material here is a definite Type 2.
  • Electronic Speech Impediment: Sped up voices can be hear regularly on the album, mostly for comedic effect.
    • "Flower Punk" is entirely sped up.
    • "What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?, Part 2" slowly starts slowing down near the end.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: On the final track "The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny", characters laugh demonically with the fate of the tortured person.
  • Evil Laugh: See above.
  • Evil Twin: Some CD packages describe this album as "Sgt. Pepper's evil twin".
  • Executive Meddling: Zappa planned to release the album around the 1967 Christmas holiday, but was held up due to the album cover. Paul McCartney was said to not have any problems with Zappa parodying the Sgt. Pepper cover, but Capitol wasn't too thrilled and only allowed the use if the cover was reversed, with the inner artwork being placed on the outside and vice versa.
    • To make matters worse for Zappa, MGM censored some parts of the album, the most absurd of those being the suits thinking that the "apron and her pad" line in "Let's Make The Water Turn Black" involved sexual activities instead of a regular waitress apron and order pad. Zappa restored the censored bits in the 1987 remix and most of them make an appearance on the 1995 remaster.
  • Fading into the Next Song: Each track - it's a gapless album.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The parents' daughter is shot by the cops too in "Mom & Dad."
  • Final Solution: From "Concentration Moon":
    How did it start?
    Thousands of creeps
    Killed in the park"
  • Follow the Leader: Mocked in "Who Needs The Peace Corps?", "Absolutely Free" and "Flower Punk".
  • The Future Will Be Better: The lyrics of 'Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance."
  • Genre Roulette
  • George Lucas Altered Version: The entire original album has completely been revised and re-recorded. This re-recorded version is now the official version. When one compares the older and newer version one notices extreme differences and changes made, mostly in sound quality and montage.
  • Humans Are Bastards
  • Inner Monologue Conversation:
    • Gary Kellgren's ranting about erasing Zappa's tapes in "Are You Hung Up?" and "Hot Poop."
    • Rock musicians fantasize about the amount of money and groupies they'll get after the show is over on "Flower Punk"
  • Intercourse with You: Harry wants sex with Madge on the track "Harry You’re A Beast" and gets his way.
  • Lack of Empathy: The parents in "Mum and Dad"
  • Last Note Nightmare: Ending an album with "The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny": need to say more?
  • Match Cut
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting:
    • "Concentration Moon" - "American way/how did it start? Thousands of creeps killed in the park..."
    • "Harry You're A Beast" - "That's you, American womanhood."
    • "Flower Punk" - "The youth in America today is so wonderful. I'm glad to be part of this gigantic mass deception."
    • "The Idiot Bastard Son" - "The father's a Nazi in Congress today/The mother's a hooker somewhere in L.A."
  • New-Age Retro Hippie:
    "[...] First I'll buy some beads,
    And then perhaps a leather band to go around my head.
    Some feathers and bells, and a book of Indian lore.
    I will ask the Chamber of Commerce how to get to Haight street,
    And smoke an awful lotta' dope.
    I will wander around barefoot.
    I will have a psychedelic gleam in my eye at all times.
    I will love everyone. I will love the police as they kick the shit out of me on the street..."
  • Non-Appearing Title: The album’s title is never mentioned in any of the lyrics.
  • The Not Remix: Frank Zappa remixed and re-recorded some parts of We're Only In It For The Money and Cruising With Ruben & The Jets in the mid 1980s with New-Wave style sounds. Not surprisingly, fans were pissed, and as a result, Zappa's estate restored and released Money to its original form in 1995, while the original mix of Ruben wouldn't appear again for another 15 years.
  • One Woman Song: "Lonely Little Girl"
  • Only in It for the Money: The Trope Namer
  • Out-of-Clothes Experience: "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance"
  • Parental Hypocrisy: The parents in "Mom & Dad" think that the "creeps" who were killed in the park by the cops got what they deserved, until they find out their daughter was among them.
  • Parental Obliviousness: "Lonely Little Girl", "Mom & Dad," "Mother People," "Bow Tie Daddy,"...
  • The Parody/Whole Plot Reference: The album cover and inner sleeve spoof The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
    • "Flower Punk" specifically is a parody of "Hey Joe"; both the Jimi Hendrix and Love versions.
  • Properly Paranoid: The entire album has a very paranoid feeling to it complete with many conspiracy theories and tracks frequently interrupted by snippets of mumbling people.
  • Protest Song
  • Rage Against the Author: "One of these days I'm going to erase all the Zappa tapes in the world" on "Are You Hung Up?"
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Mom and Dad", which calls out the parents who said the hippies deserved to get shot by the cops, when it's the parents' lack of concern and love for their children that played a huge role in it happening in the first place.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: This is basically the definitive critique on the late 1960s.
    • Several people featured on the album cover were cut-out from Zappa's high school year book, namely some teachers, administrational staff and high school students. Other are personal colleagues and friends, such as secretary Pauline Butcher, graphic designer Cal Schenkel, his girlfriend Sandy Hurvitz, Zappa's father Francis, Zappa's then manager Herb Cohen and his daughter Lisa.
    • The lyrics in "Let's Make The Water Turn Black" are about two eccentric friends of Zappa's, Ronnie and Kenny Williams, who used to collect all their urine in a giant jar and smeared their boogers on the windows.
    • The line "Oh my hair's getting good in the back," in "Who Needs the Peace Corps?", is something Zappa heard a New York hippie say.
  • Record Needle Scratch: Near the end of Nasal Retentive Calliope Music.
  • Reference Overdosed:
  • Sampling
  • Scare Chord
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: From "What's The Ugliest Part of Your Body?":
    "All your children are poor unfortunate victims of systems beyond their control
    A plague upon your ignorance and the gray despair of your ugly life"
  • Sgt. Pepper's Shout-Out: The Trope Namer (indirectly).
  • Scunthorpe Problem: When Zappa went to the Netherlands for their equivalent of the Grammy Awards, he discovered that they had edited the line "And I still remember momma in her apron and her pad feeding all the boys at Ed's café" in "Let's Make The Water Turn Black" because they misunderstood the word pad (as in a completely harmless notepad) and thought it referred to a sanitary napkin.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shrouded in Myth: Zappa's strange hand gestures on the back cover of the album, while Ian Underwood holds up a piece of paper.
  • Spoken Word In Music
  • Stage Names: "Hi, boys and girls, I'm Jimmy Carl Black and I'm the Indian of the group."
  • Statue of Liberty: Seen on the album cover.
  • Studio Chatter: Various moments on this album.
  • Take That:
    • The Beatles on the album cover
    • Hippies in "Who Needs The Peace Corps?," "Concentration Moon", and "Absolutely Free"
    • The commercialization of rock 'n' roll in the album title and the tracks "Absolutely Free" and "Flower Punk"
    • "American womanhood" is targeted in "Harry You’re A Beast"
    • The police in "Concentration Moon" and "Mom & Dad"
    • The U.S.A in "Mom & Dad"
    • Ignorant parents in "Bow Tie Daddy," "Mother People," "Lonely Little Girl," "Concentration Moon", and "Mom & Dad"
    • Gary Kellgren's line "And tomorrow I get to work with the Velvet Underground, which is just a shitty a group as Frank Zappa's group...". It was cut on the general release version, but some vinyl copies contained this dialogue by mistake.note 
  • Take That, Audience!: The listener himself is attacked in "The Idiot Bastard Son"
  • Toilet Humour: Let's Make The Water Turn Black, about two friends of Zappa who smeared their nose drippings to a window and collected their urine in a jar.
  • Throw It In: The word discorporate is explained at the start of the song "Absolutely Free".
    • The track "Telephone Conversation" is a piece of a telephone conversation (Exactly What It Says on the Tin) that Zappa recorded between Pamela Zarubica (the original Suzy Creamcheese from the album Freak Out!) and a friend of her, Vicki , who claimed that Pamela's father was looking for her and had called in help from the FBI. Apparently the FBI was threatening to arrest Vicki for withholding information. Zarubica called her back to discuss matters and Zappa recorded the conversation including a 45 second snippet that made it on the album.
    • Some photographs on the album cover were taken from Zappa's high school yearbook.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The album criticizes the hippie movement and The Beatles and therefore is both very dated and a document of its time at the same time.
  • What Could Have Been: Originally the album was going to be called "Our Man In Nirvana". Zappa changed the title and the concept when he heard about the Beatles "Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" hype.
  • What's an X Like You Doing in a Y Like This??: Phrase heard during Flower Punk.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Zappa and his Mothers are all dressed in female dresses on the cover. Fridge Brilliance in the sense that the band's name is "The Mothers".
  • Who Shot JFK?: Lee Harvey Oswald and the cop who accompanied him to his cell when Oswald was murdered are seen on the album cover.

Are You ExperiencedNational Recording RegistryThe Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Absolutely FreeAlbums IndexHot Rats
Absolutely FreeThe SixtiesHot Rats

alternative title(s): Were Only In It For The Money
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