I Meant To Listen To: The Mothers Of Invention, “Burnt Weeny Sandwich”

I figure since Mother’s Day is this weekend, why not pay tribute to one of the greatest mothers to have ever lived, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention! I’ve only ever dipped a toe in the vast waters that is Frank Zappa,  so why not take advantage of the timing and explore one of the many albums in his oeuvre, 1970’s Burnt Weeny Sandwich. 

My introduction to Zappa came from my Dad where he would sometimes play a cassette of his as we would go to our Grandmother’s house on Sundays. Dad’s pickup was the only place we would hear Frank Zappa, since my Mom couldn’t stand the music. I don’t really remember much of anything I had listened to, but a song about eating yellow snow was (and still kind is) the pinnacle of musical comedy to me. Once I started buying albums of my own I purchased Strictly Commercial, Zappa’s collection of “hits”. My Dad’s favorites “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” and “Dancin’ Fool” certainly were on the CD and they got their fair share of playing time, but I wasn’t finding much more comedy beyond that. To be fair, I was about fifteen and was comparing the works of Weird Al and Adam Sandler as a guide to what or wasn’t funny in music. Definitely not discrediting those two, I just wasn’t well-versed in that regard.

It took discovering Ween years later to really help me grasp the usage of absurdity in music. Beyond the comedy in some of their songs, Ween were able to subtly showcase their underlying talent in creating masterful music. As a huge Ween fan to this day, I feel like a huge disservice was being made by not going back and exploring Zappa’s work. It’s hard to just pinpoint where to start exactly.

Burnt Weeny Sandwich felt right since it was released fifty years ago this year and planning on writing about albums celebrating anniversaries ending in a zero made for an easy/lazy choice. 

Sandwiched between two covers of doo-wop songs – pun heavily intended, Burnt Weeny Sandwich is otherwise all instrumental compositions arranged by Zappa. Being familiar with the classic arrangement “Peaches En Regalia”, I enjoyed how sweeping and engaging these pieces were. Both phases of “Igor’s Boogie” are quick and punchy and help frame the otherwise more cinematic rest of the album. 

Perhaps the timing that tomorrow is Mother’s Day, listening to “The Little House I Used To Live In” definitely got me a bit emotional. Throughout the nearly nineteen minutes, the music takes on constant changes within the movements. Signifying the passing of time, both in seasons and in years, and the struggles of life and living and the list of never-ending repairs needed to survive, “Little House” took on quite a journey for me. It was breathtaking.

I think I lucked out starting my Zappa dive with this album. Kinda like hitting ten bucks on a dollar scratch ticket, I’m feeling like I’m playing with house money. 

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