45 Years Ago: The Mothers of Invention’s ‘We’re Only in It for the Money’ Album Released
From the mocking cover art to the orchestral notes that grace the music to the loose thematic ties that link the songs, the Mothers of Inventionâs âWeâre Only in It for the Moneyâ turns âSgt. Pepperâs Lonely Hearts Club Bandâ on its head. But itâs not so much the Beatlesâ masterpiece — which was released nine months before the Mothers album — that Frank Zappa and his band of musical pranksters ruthlessly skewer; itâs the culture that fed and supported it.
The Mothersâ first two albums, 1966âs âFreak Out!â and 1967âs âAbsolutely Free,â drew from a growing pool of avant-garde noise, free-form jazz, old-school doo-wop, distorted garage rock and psychedelic pop. Theyâre complicated, complex listens â far more challenging than most of the pop and rock that dominated airwaves at the time. When the Beatles began adding symphonic flourishes to their music and wrapping the entire package in a hazy kaleidoscopic hue, Zappa â never one to suffer fools or foolish hippie idealism easily â reacted the best way he knew how: with his music.
âWeâre Only in It for the Money,â which was released on March 4, 1968, is even more unconventional than the previous two Mothers albums. Its 18 songs â ranging in length from the just-over-a-minute-long âWhatâs the Ugliest Part of Your Body?â to the six-minute closer â take aim at nearly every corner of late-â60s culture, from political blowhards to hippie simplicity. The music, a difficult but rewarding mix of intricately structured and played art-rock and symphonic pop, is just as biting.
Of course, it went over the heads of most of the general record-buying public. âWeâre Only in It for the Moneyâ still managed to reach No. 30 â Zappaâs best showing until âApostropheâ became his only Top 10 album in 1974 â and build a small reputation as a counterculture classic. Several of its songs â including âAre You Hung Up?,â âWho Needs the Peace Corps?,â âAbsolutely Free,â âLetâs Make the Water Turn Blackâ and âTake Your Clothes Off When You Danceâ â rank among Zappaâs best. The album, a companion piece to the era more than to âSgt. Pepperââs, stands as the Mothersâ finest. Itâs not an easy record to get into, but its complexities reveal a strange, trippy masterpiece â just like the Beatles classic.
Listen to the Mothers of Invention’s ‘Who Needs the Peace Corps?’