In 1966 Frank Zappa released Freak Out! the first 4 side rock and roll album. Freak Out! was Frank Zappa’s musical manifesto. In some ways, Freak Out! can be seen as the first musical attempt at Surrealism. It features incredible instrumentation (Orchestra, kazoo, vibraphone) juxtaposed with the traditional rock band format. It attempts to have a song to appeal to everyone. This makes the album go all over the place. There are doo-wop songs, rock and roll pieces, Musique-Concrete pieces, pop ballads, R&B, Pop rock, and experimental vocal and electronic compositions. All the music is written, arranged, and orchestrated by Frank himself, something very few rock musicians were doing. This record is often considered ahead of it’s time and it introduced us to Frank Zappa’s vision. I can’t even describe how out there some of the music on this album is!
(The album had a profound influence on the Beatles, who called Frank Zappa to ask him for permission to use his ideas on his album. When Zappa asked to be paid, the Beatles decided to just steal the ideas. Also, John Lennon stole an album full of Zappa material and released it as his own. What a jerk! Read all about it…. http://suckmybeatles.com/2007/10/29/reason-1754-the-ballad-of-john-and-frank/)
The song features humorous instrumentation (kazoo and vibraphones), and the almost atonal piano tone clusters laid over your standard 60s rock and roll song. It is a shocking statement for an opening of an album. The humorous musical arrangement is immediately contrasted with the powerful lyrics. “Mr. America Walk On By…” Zappa gives voice to a group of Americans who felt out of touch in the 60s. “The left behinds of the great society” as he calls them. This is a direct reference to Lyndon Johnson’s America. Zappa argues that America alienates citizens who do not buy into their “supermarket dream” or “great midwestern hardware store philosophy.” I like this song because Zappa chose to open an album with unusual music and opinionated lyrics. This wasn’t intended to be a pop success. Zappa was attempting to market to and capitalize on what he saw as an untapped market of Americans who didn’t see the world the way everyone else did. The Mothers were a band for people were unsatisfied with being fed top 100s pop and corporate-approved counter culture.
Here are the liner notes written by Zappa for the song
1. HUNGRY FREAKS, DADDY…(3:27) was written for Carl Orestes Franzoni. He is freaky down to his toenails. Some day he will live next door to you and your lawn will die. Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you’ve got any guts. Some of you like pep rallies and plastic robots who tell you what to read. Forget I mentioned it. This song has no message. Rise for the flag salute.