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Music / We're Only in It for the Money

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"Flower power sucks!"

"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 through Verve Records) is an album by The Mothers of Invention, and one of Frank Zappa's most famous and popular concept 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. In 2005, it was among the records selected by the National Recording Registry as "culturally, historically, and aesthetically important".

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, Cruising 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 in the context of late 60s America (widespread rioting, The Vietnam War) the Beatles' emphasis on "love" was dangerously naive. 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.


Side One

  1. "Are You Hung Up?" (1:24)
  2. "Who Needs The Peace Corps?" (2:34)
  3. "Concentration Moon" (2:22)
  4. "Mom & Dad" (2:16)
  5. "Telephone Conversation" (0:49)
  6. "Bow Tie Daddy" (0:33)
  7. "Harry, You're a Beast" (1:21)
  8. "What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?" (1:03)
  9. "Absolutely Free" (3:24)
  10. "Flower Punk" (3:03)
  11. "Hot Poop" (0:27)

Side Two

  1. "Nasal Retentive Calliope Music" (2:03)
  2. "Let's Make The Water Turn Black" (2:01)
  3. "The Idiot Bastard Son" (3:19)
  4. "Lonely Little Girl" (1:10)
  5. "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" (1:33)
  6. "What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body? (Reprise)" (1:02)
  7. "Mother People" (2:26)
  8. "The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny" (6:25)


  • Frank Zappa: vocals, guitar, piano, composition
  • Roy Estrada: vocals, electric bass
  • Dick Barber: vocals (snorks)
  • Bunk Gardner: woodwinds, vocals (mumbling)
  • Gary Kellgren: vocals (cheerful interruptions)
  • Billy Mundi: drums, vocals
  • Don Preston: keyboards
  • Jimmy Carl Black: drums, trumpet, vocals
  • Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood: soprano, baritone sax
  • Sid Sharp: conductor of the orchestral segments
  • Ronnie Williams: vocals (backwards voice)
  • Vicki: vocals (during "Telephone Conversation")
  • Eric Clapton: vocals (says "God, it's God. I see God" during "Nasal Retentive Calliope Music")
  • Cal Schenkel: album cover design

"The Trope-Plated Megaphone of Destiny":

  • Accentuate the Negative:
    Flower power sucks, sucks, sucks...
  • Actually Pretty Funny: The Beatles, or at any rate Paul McCartney, thought that the album sleeve photo was hilarious.
  • Alternate Album Cover: The cover art was designed as an unflattering, yet very thorough Sgt. Pepper's Shout-Out, which Paul McCartney reportedly approved of. However, Verve Records changed the cover at the last minute to swap the outer art with the gatefold photo, which depicts a plain image of the Mothers of Invention against a yellow background (as a riff on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band gatefold photo). When Zappa regained the rights to his back-catalog in The '80s, he had the inner and outer art swapped back to match his original intentions.
  • 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?" sounds bawdy, but the answer turns out to be your mind
  • Big Handsome Man: Billy Mundi and Roy Estrada in various places in the album art.
  • Black Comedy Rape: "Harry You’re a Beast", where a guy named Harry ravages a woman named Madge. Though it is clear that Harry is a dumb asshole.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: "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", whose father is a Nazi "in Congress today" and whose mother is "a hooker, somewhere in L.A.". He is abandoned by his parents in the back of a car and adopted by Ronnie and Kenny who "stash him away in a jar".
  • Call-Back and Continuity Nod:
    • The vegetables on the front cover are a call back to the vegetable concepts of Absolutely Free (1967). 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". Also, on Uncle Meat Ian Underwood introduces himself as: "I'm Ian Underwood and I'm the straight member of the group."
    • 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 (1968): "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 line "I can't wait 'til my 'fro is full grown" in "Uncle Remus" from Apostrophe (') (1974) is also similar.
    • Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance appeared earlier on Lumpy Gravy, but without lyrics. On "Eddie Are You Kidding?" from Just Another Band from L.A. (1972) there is a line about "these pants I'm wearing are double knit. They stretch in the right places", which is similar to "who cares if you can't afford a pair of mother go-go stretch-o-lastic pants?" from "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance."
    • 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? in "Flower Punk" on Fillmore East, June 1971 (1971), Sheik Yerbouti (1979), Joe's Garage (1979) and Thing-Fish (1985). The band member fantasizing about his royalty check in "Flower Punk" shares a similar theme with Billy being happy about receiving his royalty check in "Billy The Mountain" from Just Another Band from L.A..
    • "Who Needs the Peace Corps?" is performed live by Zappa on The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life (1991).
  • The Cameo:
    • Jimi Hendrix on the album cover, standing on the far left, around the same place Sonny Liston was in the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper. 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?".
  • Censor Box: The collage cut-outs on the album cover have most of the eyes of the (then) living celebrities blackboxed. Zappa also played with this, by even blackboxing the eyes of Lyndon Johnson and the Statue of Liberty.
  • Concept Album: The album is both an attack on hippies, rock 'n' roll, commercialization of youth subculture, parents, American womanhood, police brutality, conformist squares and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.note 
  • Crapsack World: Hippies blindly follow trends and get tortured in concentration camps, police officers kill hippies, square parents don't care until they discover their daughter is one of them, American womanhood is empty and gets raped, idiot bastard sons gets born,... No wonder that the ugliest part of you body is your mind
  • 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: See Crapsack World.
  • 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".
  • Face on the Cover: Zappa and the Mothers are featured on the album cover.
  • 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."
  • Farts on Fire: "Let's Make the Water Turn Black":
    Whizzing and pasting and pooting through the day
    Ronnie helping Kenny burn his poots away
  • 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", where it is shown that hippies are merely following a brainless commercial trend. invoked
  • The Future Will Be Better: 'Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance."
    There will come a time when every evil that we know will be an evil that we can rise above
    Rise above
  • Genre Roulette: Like every Zappa album.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: The drum and bass parts of the original album, as well as those on Cruising with Ruben & the Jets, were re-recorded in the 80s. While Zappa claimed the original tapes were damaged, it is believed that he hated the original performances and wanted to update them to something more suitable (and also comical.) Despite fan outcry, Zappa chastised "collectors and purists" for their reverance of the original material. The original release was re-issued after his death by Rykodisc in 1995.
  • Gross-Out Show: "Let's Make The Water Turn Black".
  • Humans Are Bastards: See Crapsack World.
  • 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.
  • Jump Scare: Near the end of the first track, before Jimmy Carl Black's line: "Hi boys and girls, I'm Jimmy Carl Black and I'm the Indian of the group."
  • Lack of Empathy: The parents in "Mum and Dad" who feel that the police is justified in killing creeps in the park, until they find out their daughter is one of them.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny", a nightmarish track that should be understood within the context of Franz Kafka's In The Penal Colony and closes the album.
  • Misogyny Song: "Harry You're A Beast", directed at "American womanhood".
  • 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"
    Your whole attitude stinks, I say
    And the life you lead is completely empty
    You paint your head
    Your mind is dead
    You don't even know what I just said
    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.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Camp Reagan, named after Ronald Reagan.
  • 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 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 1984 with New-Wave style instrumentation. Other songs were sped-up, slowed down or had other editing adjustments. Unsurprisingly, fans were pissed; 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.
  • Nude Nature Dance: "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance".
  • One Scene, Two Monologues: Happens during "Flower Punk" where two rock musicians are having an Imagine Spot, without listening to each other. They just jam on without concentration and fantasize about all the money and girls they're going to get. Their only thought in unison is: "Is the song over?"
  • 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: Against hippie commercialization, police brutality, corrupt politicians, American womanhoodn and square civilians.
  • Questioning Title?: "Are You Hung Up?", "What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?"
  • Rage Against the Author: "Are You Hung Up?"
    One of these days I'm going to erase all the Zappa tapes in the world
  • "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.
  • Re-Cut: The album received two levels of censoring when it was originally sold, depending on the territory it was released: a censored version and a heavily censored version, which even cut swear words out of reversed portions. Several copies over the years have included songs from different versions on one disc.
  • Reference Overdosed:
    Hey punk, where are you going with that flower in your hand?
    ("Wild Thing" riff) Punk, I think I love you!
    • Donovan's song "Mellow Yellow" in "Absolutely Free".
    The dreams as they live them are all mellow yellow
    • Ronny and Kenny Williams in "Let's Make The Water Turn Black" and "The Idiot Bastard Son".
    • Lenny Bruce in "Harry You’re A Beast".
    • Franz Kafka in the liner notes
  • Sampling: The opening whispering from Are You Hung Up? returns again during Concentration Moon.
  • Scare Chord: All throughout the album certain chords have this effect.
  • 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.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: "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).
  • 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.
  • Singer Name Drop:
    "Hello, Frank Zappa!"
    "Hi boys and girls, I'm Jimmy Carl Black and I'm the Indian of the group".
  • 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.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Lonely Little Girl", a gentle song about a lonely girl who feels ignored about her parents. Amidst all the other anti-flower power and Police Brutality comedy songs it sounds very moving, as short as it is.
  • 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"
  • Time Marches On: The album criticizes the hippie movement and The Beatles and therefore is both very dated and a document of its era at the same time.
  • Toilet Humour: "Let's Make The Water Turn Black", about two friends of Zappa who smeared their nose drippings on a window and collected their urine in a jar.
  • 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.