Cruising with Ruben & the Jets is a 1968 album by Frank Zappa, in which he and the Mothers of Invention play under the monicker of the Fake Band Ruben & The Jets. The entire album is a nostalgic Homage/Affectionate Parody to 1950s Doo-wop, of whom Zappa was a fan.
At the time Cruising with Ruben & the Jets was considered to be a remarkable departure from Zappa's trademark style. There was no political Satire, no sudden experimental changes, no combination of different musical styles, and no bawdy comedy. For Zappa's already small fanbase this was a huge Audience-Alienating Premise. Especially since many hippie youngsters considered Doo-wop to be completely unhip and passé. As a result many Zappa fans were initially perplexed and disappointed, a reaction this album can still conjure today. Especially with later generations who, unfamiliar with doowop, may think Zappa is overdoing it with all the high pitched silly voices and greasy arrangements. However, it has been Vindicated by History as a very enjoyable easy-listening experience and very accessible compared to many of his other albums.
In a case of Life Imitates Art/ The Red Stapler a man named Rubén Guevara started a group named Ruben & The Jets in the 1970s. Their debut album was aptly titled For Real! (1973) and produced by Frank Zappa too! He even performed the guitar solo during Dedicated To The One I Love and Mothers of Invention band member, Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood played baritone sax. Despite that the songs on that album were all new compositions.
Unfortunately, when releasing Cruising With Ruben & The Jets on CD in the 1980s Zappa replaced the bass and drum tracks with a New Wavesound, which completely destroys the authentic doo-wop sound he mimicked in the 1960s. For a long time this butchered The Not-Remix was the only available version of this album on CD, which made collectors search for the original vinyl version instead. In 2010 the original album was finally released as it was intended, be it under a different name and album cover: Greasy Love Songs. The UMe remasters of Zappa's catalogue, released in 2012, used the 80s remixed version of this album.
- "Cheap Thrills" (2:39)
- "Love of My Life" (3:08)
- "How Could I Be Such a Fool?" (3:34)
- "Deseri" (2:09)
- "I'm Not Satisfied" (4:08)
- "Jelly Roll Gum Drop" (2:24)
- "Anything" (3:06)
- "Later That Night" (3:00)
- "You Didn't Try to Call Me" (3:58)
- "Fountain of Love" (3:22)
- "No. No. No." (2:16)
- "Anyway the Wind Blows" (3:02)
- "Stuff Up the Cracks" (4:38)
- Frank Zappa: vocals, guitar
- Ray Collins: vocals
- Roy Estrada: vocals, electric bass
- Don Preston: keyboards
- Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood: baritone sax, tambourine
- Bunk Gardner: tenor & alto sax
- Arthur Tripp III: drums
- Jimmy Carl Black: drums
- Ian Underwood: keyboards, tenor & alto sax
Cheap tropes, up and down my spine, I need it, I need it, 'cause I feel so fine...
- Affectionate Parody: The cheesy and greasy songs hold the middle between a cartoony, ironic parody and an affectionate homage to doo wop and pachuco music. Zappa noted that he always wanted to make an album of this type of music.
- Alliterative Title: "No No No" and "Love Of My Life".
- And Starring: Some of the lyrics were co-written with Ray Collins.
- Break-Up Song: "Stuff Up the Cracks", "Later That Night", "You Didn't Try to Call Me", "Anyway the Wind Blows" and "How Could I Be Such a Fool" are all about this topic.
- Call-Back and Continuity Nod:
- Four songs appeared earlier on Freak Out, in different forms.
- "Cheap Thrills" re-uses the line "up and down my spine" from "Wowie Zowie" from Freak Out.
- "Later That Night" references dogs and collars, which are part of Zappa's conceptual continuity.
- Ruben & The Jets would reappear in the liner notes of the album Uncle Meat, where Zappa wrote down a script for a movie he once planned on making. In his script The Story Of Uncle Meat Ruben and The Jets are a band brainwashed by Uncle Meat to seduce the youth. Zappa also explains that the weird noses of the band were created by a nasal mist squeezer which made them erect.
- A live version of "Love Of My Life" appeared on Zappa's Tinseltown Rebellion (1981).
- Different versions of "Anyway The Wind Blows" and "Fountain Of Love" can be heard on Zappa's "The Lost Episodes" (1995).
- The album cover of Just Another Band from L.A. claims that "any similarities between this album cover and the one for Cruising with Ruben & the Jets are purely coincidental".
- Concept Album: In the sense that all the songs are doowop.
- Dogfaces: The musicians and people on the album cover all have dog snouts and ears. Album cover designer Cal Schenkel did this as a Homage to Carl Barks.
- Doo-wop and Doo-Wop Progression: Duh!
- Fake Band: Ruben & The Jets even received a fake backstory in the liner notes. Averted when Ruben & the Jets indeed became a real band for a couple of years, separate from Zappa's camp (their debut album, produced by Zappa, was even titled, For Real!)
- George Lucas Altered Version: Cruising, along with Zappa's other albums, were remixed in studio between 1986-1995. Cruising and We're Only in It for the Money received massive bass and drums overdubs using 80s production techniques, along with effects like digital reverb, which changed the entire tone of the album. Despite UMe's 2012 reissue series using the original analog tapes as remastering sources, Cruising's 1986 remix made it onto the 2012 reissue, because the original version of the album was remastered and reissued under the name of Greasy Love Songs.
- Homage: Zappa was inspired to pay homage to all the doowop and pachuco bands from the 1950s he liked so much, and by Igor Stravinsky's neoclassical music, in which the 20th century composer made pastiches of 18th century classical baroque music. In a stretch of dialogue included on Greasey Love Songs, Zappa even mentions hiding Stravinsky references inside Cruising.
- "I Am" Song: "I'm Not Satisfied".I'm not satisfied, everything I've triedI don't like the way life's abusing me
- Just Here for Godzilla: In-Universe: Cheap Thrills, a song about getting some cheap thrills.
- Lampshading: The album cover looks like it's made by a band named Ruben & The Jets, though a text balloon informs us: "Is this the Mothers of Invention recording under a different name in a last ditch attempt to get their cruddy music on the radio?"
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Stuff Up the Cracks", about a man who decides to stick his head in the oven and end it all, because his lover left him. The jolly arrangement makes the listener glance over this dark subject matter, which consequently is also the closing track of the album, making this an example of a Last Note Nightmare.
- Make a Wish: "Fountain of Love", about a couple who throw some coins in a wishing fountain and have been together since that day.
- Manly Tears: "You Didn't Try to Call Me" and "Later That Night", takes this to extremes.
- New Sound Album: To the average listener this album doesn't sound new or innovative, but to Zappa fans familiar with the psychedelic/neo-classical/musique concrète/jazz fusion rock sound like on Freak Out or We're Only in It for the Money, it is.
- Non-Appearing Title: The title doesn't appear in any of the song's lyrics.
- Nostalgia Filter: It has a typical 1950s sound.
- One-Woman Song: "Deseri".
- One-Word Title: "Anything"
- Packaged as Other Medium: The cover looks like a comic strip image.
- Pastiche: Zappa really managed to duplicate the sound of 1950s doowop.
- Questioning Title?: "How Could I Be Such A Fool?"
- Repurposed Pop Song: Some songs are new and different recordings of material from Freak Out, namely "How Could I Be Such a Fool", "I'm Not Satisfied", "You Didn't Try To Call Me" and "Anyway The Wind Blows".
- Remix Album: The CD edition, which was overdubbed with very 80s-sounding bass guitar and drums, and lots of digital echo added.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: "I'm Not Satisfied". "Stuff Up The Cracks" takes a morbid turn with this, by having the protagonist consider suicide over a broken love.
- Self-Deprecation: Zappa refers to his music as "cruddy" on the album cover.
- The Pachuko Hop is referenced in "Jelly Roll Gum Drop". This Chuck Higgins instrumental receives another shout-out during "Debra Kadabra" from Bongo Fury.
- The introductory notes of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring are heard at the start of "Fountain Of Love" and an extract from "Sincerly" by Doo-wop band The Moonglows is heard during the "ooohs" and Frank's baritone vocals.
- "Later That Night" pays tribute to Ruth Brown's "Three Letters" and/or the Velvetones "Glory of Love".
- Silly Love Songs: All the songs are romantic and very greasy love songs, bordering to parody, but still sang with genuine passion.
- Speech Bubbles: On the album cover.
- Spoken Word in Music: "Later That Night", "Love of My Life" and "You Didn't Try to Call Me" have a parlando.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: Compared to most of Zappa's output all songs are actually quite moving.