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Music / Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention

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Maybe I could make a good rock star?

"WARNING/GUARANTEE: This album contains material which a truly free society would neither fear nor suppress. In some socially retarded areas, religious fanatics and ultra-conservative political organizations violate your First Ammendment Rights by attempting to censor rock & roll albums. We feel that this is un-Constitutional and un-American. As an alternative to these government-supported programs (designed to keep you docile and ignorant). Barking Pumpkin is pleased to provide stimulating digital audio entertainment for those of you who have outgrown the ordinary. The language and concepts contained herein are GUARANTEED NOT TO CAUSE ETERNAL TORMENT IN THE PLACE WHERE THE GUY WITH THE HORNS AND POINTED STICK CONDUCTS HIS BUSINESS. This guarantee is as real as the threats of ther video fundamentalists who use attacks on rock music in their attempt to transform America into a nation of check-mailing nincompoops (in the name of Jesus Christ). If there is a hell, its fires wait for them, not us."
— The disclaimer sticker on the album
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Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention is a 1985 album by Frank Zappa. The album title and the track "Porn Wars" both reference the Parents Music Resource Center who, in 1984, had set up a committee to advocate censorship of filthy lyrics and images in rock songs and music videos. Several musicians went to the hearings to criticize and attack these matters, including Zappa, John Denver, Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) and Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), because they felt it was a violation of the freedom of speech. Thanks to their defense the PMRC eventually couldn't get their ban through Congress, but it was decided to make Parental Advisory stickers, which Zappa parodied on by making one of his own on this album.

Because Zappa felt that the songs which referenced the PMRC hearings wouldn't make sense to an European audience note  he released a different version of the album, with a slightly different cover (white letters on a black background) and a different tracklist for the European market. "Porn Wars" was kept off the album and replaced by three tracks not present on the American version: "I Don't Even Care", "One Man - One Vote" and "H.R. 2911". The current CD releases have brought all the tracks together on one album.

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Like a lot of Zappa's albums from The '80s, Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention is not held in high regard among fans. The lyrics reference both the PMRC debates as well as the romanticization of The '60s in The '80s and are therefore definitely a very dated Unintentional Period Piece. The instrumental Synclavier compositions still make it worth listening, though.

Tracklist

American version

Side 1

  1. "We're Turning Again" (4:55)
  2. "Alien Orifice" (4:03)
  3. "Yo Cats" (3:31)
  4. "What's New In Baltimore?" (5:21)

Side 2

  1. "Little Beige Sambo" (3:02)
  2. "Porn Wars" (12:04)
  3. "Aerobics In Bondage" (3:16)

European version

Side 1

  1. "We're Turning Again" (4:55)
  2. "Alien Orifice" (4:03)
  3. "Yo Cats" (3:31)
  4. "What's New In Baltimore?" (5:21)

Side 2

  1. "I Don't Even Care" (4:43)
  2. "One Man - One Vote" (2:35)
  3. "H.R. 2911" (3:35)
  4. "Little Beige Sambo" (3:02)
  5. "Aerobics In Bondage" (3:16)
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Personnel

  • Frank Zappa: vocals, guitar, synclavier
  • Steve Vai: guitar
  • Johnny "Guitar" Watson: vocals, guitar
  • Ike Willis: vocals, guitar
  • Ray White: vocals, guitar
  • Bobby Martin: vocals, keyboards
  • Tommy Mars: keyboards
  • Scott Thunes: bass
  • Chad Wackerman: drums
  • Ed Mann: percussion

We're Troping Again

  • Black Comedy: In "We're Turning Again" Zappa pokes fun at the deaths of Mama "Cass" Elliott, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin.
  • Broken Record: "Porn Wars" samples several soundbites of American senators to the point of ridiculousness.
  • Call-Back and Continuity Nod: Senator Paula Hawkins' infamous line about the toys of Zappa's children in "Porn Wars" would be referenced again on "A Few Moments With Brother A. West" on "The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life" (1988)."Porn Wars" uses a few audio recordings from the Lumpy Gravy sessions, as well as Ike Willis doing his King Fish impression from ''Thingfish (1984).
    Well, les' jes' have a test: How many o' you nice folks think I knows what I's talkin' 'bout? Raise y'hain up!
    Uh-huh! An' how many thinks my potato been bakin' too long? Raise yo' mizzable hain up! ... Uh-huh!
  • Content Warnings: The sticker on the album parodies it. See the introduction to this article for more details.
  • Epic Rocking: The 12:04 "Porn Wars".
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Zappa assures us it's not waiting for us, but rather the kind of people who are in favor of music censorship.
  • Instrumental: "What's New In Baltimore?", "One Man - One Vote", "Little Beige Sambo", "Alien Orifice", "Aerobics in Bondage" and "H.R. 2911".
  • Insult Backfire: In "Porn Wars" Senator Paula Hawkins is heard asking Zappa what kind of toys his children have, in an attempt to portray him as someone who knows nothing about his own children. This backfires when Zappa tells her: "Well, come on to my house, I'll show them to ya."
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Just the title.
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: Zappa attacks the PMRC who claim the American government ought to protect people, especially children, from hearing filthy lyrics or seeing filthy music videos.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The title is never mentioned on the album.
  • Nostalgia Filter: "We're Turning Again" criticizes the romanticization of The '60s, but at the same time concludes that the musicians who were glorified then ought to come back, because they are better than most of the stuff heard in the hit parade today.
  • Questioning Title?: "What's New In Baltimore?"
  • Protest Song: "Porn Wars" is aimed at music censorship, though at the same time it's a subversion since nobody actually sings on this track.
  • Pun-Based Title: The Mothers of Prevention is a pun on Zappa's band, the Mothers of Invention. "Little Beige Sambo" is a pun on The Story Of Little Black Sambo.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "We're Turning Again" is about nostalgia for The '60s, while "Porn Wars" samples from the Congress Hearings about the PMRC.
  • Sampling: "Porn Wars" samples the Congress Hearings about the PMRC.
  • Self-Titled Album: Zappa's name is mentioned in the title.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "We're Turning Again" targets a lot of misplaced nostalgia for the 1960s and namedrops several 1960s icons:
    They were mellow, they were yellow note 
    They were wearing smelly blankets
    They looked like Donovan fans
    (...) Singin' "Jimi come back!"
    Now come back and regulate the boy's fuzz-tone
    Your haze was so purple note 
    It caused your axis to be bold as love note 
    Now Jimi (feed back) gimme some feedback
    Come back and feed back on my knapsack
    You can feed back the fuzz tone from your wah-wah
    While you bend down and set your stuff on fire note 
    (...) We can go back in time, through the canyons of your mindnote 
    On the eve of destruction note 
    (...) You just jump in the bath tub
    With that other guy Jim note 
    And make him be more careful
    We can visit big mama
    And wrap her on the back
    When she eats her sandwich note 
    We can take care of Janis
    When she gets so depressed
    She can't take it no more note 
    We can laugh at Keith Moon's jokes
    (ha ha ha ha ha)
    And the colour tv (ha ha)
    He threw out the window from the second floor note 
    • "I Don't Even Care" has a line about "the cow used to jump over the moon", which is a reference to the English nursery rhyme "Hey Diddle Diddle".
    • "Little Beige Sambo" provides a shout-out to The Story Of Little Black Sambo.
    • "H.R. 2911" references the House of Representative bill 2911: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify the active business definition under section 355.
  • Singer Name Drop: "Porn Wars" namedrops Mr. Zappa several times.
  • Special Guest: Blues guitarist Johnny "Guitar" Watson sings "I Don't Even Care" on this album and also plays guitar. He appeared earlier on One Size Fits All (1975).
  • Spoken Word in Music: "Porn Wars" is a collage which samples mostly audio snippets from the public hearings on the Parents' Music Resource Center where Zappa was one of the musicians who criticized their plans. We hear Zappa's voice, but also chairman John C. Danforth, Senator Paul S. Trible, Senator Earnest F. Hollings ("we find some Constitutional provisions, tax or approach... to limit this outrageous filth" and "Maybe I could make a good rock star"), Senator Paula Hawkins, Senator James Exon, Senator Slade Gorton, Senator Al Gore and his then wife Tipper and Reverend Jeff Ling.
  • Synth-Pop: The instrumental tracks are composed on the Synclavier, as is "Porn Wars" for the most part.
  • Unreliable Narrator: "I Don't Even Care", where the singer claims he doesn't care, yet the verocity of his delivery shows he actually does care about the topics he finds scandalous.

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