Posted May 11, 2020 by Jeff in Tunes

Frank Zappa Compilation Features 4 Hours of Previously Unreleased Music

The Mothers 1970
The Mothers 1970

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Frank Zappa’s 1970 Mothers Of Invention lineup, “Portuguese Fenders,” the first track to be released from a new collection, The Mothers 1970, is now available to stream. The track is one of 70 unreleased live and studio recordings featured on the album that’ll be available digitally and as a 4 CD box set on June 26. Recorded live by Zappa on his own tape recorder on tour in 1970, “Portuguese Fenders” is a rollicking live recording featuring an exhilarating guitar solo by the iconoclastic composer and virtuosic guitarist backed by the revered ensemble. 

Overseen by the Zappa Trust and produced by Ahmet Zappa and Zappa Vaultmeister, Joe Travers, The Mothers 1970 features more than four hours of previously unreleased performances by the lineup that featured Aynsley Dunbar (drums), George Duke (piano/keys/trombone), Ian Underwood (organ/keys/guitar), Jeff Simmons (bass/vocals), Flo & Eddie aka Howard Kaylan (vocals) and Mark Volman(vocals/percussion) of the Turtles. Flo & Eddie and Mark Volman performed under the aliases to skirt contractual limitations of performing under their own names. This iteration of The Mothers, which likely began rehearsals 50 years ago this month, came to an end in January of 1971 when Simmons quit the band during the making of the 200 Motels movie. 

Divided into four parts, the collection features studio recordings recorded at the famed London-based Trident Studios with a then-young, unknown producer in the engineer chair by the name of Roy Thomas Baker, several years before he’d go on to have massive success working with Queen, the Cars and Alice Cooper. Of the material recorded during this two-day span, “Sharleena” was the only song ever officially released. 

The band’s live prowess is represented with a slew of concert recordings, including the first official release of the oft bootlegged “Piknik” performance originally broadcast on Dutch radio station VRPO and live performances from concerts in Santa Monica, Calif. and Spokane, Wash. which have been edited together and presented as a hybrid concert since both shows were not fully captured. All of the album’s recordings were sourced from their original tapes discovered in the Vault and digitally transferred and compiled by Travers earlier this year. Some tracks were mixed by longtime Zappa Trust associate Craig Parker Adams and the collection was mastered by John Polito at Audio Mechanics.

It wasn’t until 1971 when Zappa would start documenting his gigs with a ½” 4-track recorder, so the 1970 tours were not captured in typical fashion. Instead, Zappa recorded as much as he could using his personal UHER recorder, and these recordings that make up the second half of The Mothers 1970. Because of the nature of the recordings, it was almost virtually impossible for Zappa to record full shows due to the limitations of the tape recorder and the fact he would often times personally spool tape on the machine on stage while playing. This resulted in ambient recordings which was the case for the Santa Monica and Spokane recordings as well as the live performances that make up the final disc.

Following Zappa’s especially productive year of 1969, the musician disbanded the original Mothers Of Invention and started experimenting with smaller lineups. Through a variety of circumstances and several chance encounters, Zappa began to assemble his new group of collaborators, with the only original Mother being Ian Underwood.

“It’s no secret that Frank was excited about this group,” says Travers in the liner notes, which also include live and behind-the-scenes photos. “The cast of characters and their personalities, musically and personally, made for a very eventful and humorous chapter in Zappa’s career. Frank had a blast with these guys. Their sound was unique, their humor was like no other, and yet their time was ultimately short lived.”


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected]