Reprise Circular

The following text is taken from Reprise Circular, Volume 4, Number 40 (October 9, 1972), as quoted in Viva Zappa! by Dominique Chevalier. I have corrected a few obvious errors and Briticisms, which I assume were introduced by Chevalier or his publishers. If anyone has the original circular, I would be very interested in seeing a copy.

Bill Lantz has the text of the original circular. Read it at his site until I revise this page.

The Mothers Of Invention, "Hot Rats/Grand Wazoo"

Right from the early days of The Mothers (roughly from 1964), I was interested in forming a sort of electric orchestra--an orchestra capable of performing difficult compositions with an intensity of sound normally associated with pop music. The formation of the new MOI/HR/GW is the first large scale effort to get such a monstrosity together and travel with it across a few continents giving concerts. The Wazoo first appeared on September 10, 1972 at the Hollywood Bowl. On September 13, they left for a trip through Berlin, London, The Hague, New York and Boston, and finally came back to L.A. on September 25. There were eight concerts altogether.

If it turns out that this inaugural tour is anything other than a financial catastrophe (the production, transportation and travelling expenses for such a large band are extremely high), The Wazoo will return for another series of concerts next summer. In any case, The Wazoo will be solemnly disbanded after the Boston concert. Immediately after I return to L.A. rehearsals will begin for another kind of MOI... a group of ten, who will tour Canada and the U.S. at the end of the year, and will be playing an entirely new repertoire. But until then, here are some details about The Wazoo...

Every "new" group (and even some of the old ones when they can) publishes some sort of profession of faith, explaining their fantastic potential and the pleasures that will arise when they show off their unique material, their unlimited stagemanship and/or their good vibrations. Usually all this is accompanied by a description of their wonderful on-stage freedom and, to crown it all, how much everyone in the band loves what they are doing and what a good healthy bunch of guys they are. Even if they're not healthy, they may be nasty and degenerate, you can be sure that despite it all each of them has an extraordinary talent, a heart of gold and a sensitive soul. This can be seen from the band's photo and their pained, innocent or distraught faces.

I claim nothing of the kind concerning The Wazoo. In such marketing operations there should be one or two paragraphs stating that no-one in the group really cares about money, followed by a carefully formulated declaration of the new band's intention of making the world a better place to live through its music (which is so sensitive, so inexpressibly deep... or maybe it is just intended to be a vibrant chorus, sung to communicate gigantic amounts of energy to the happy audience, or something like that).

For those who are interested, the MOI/HR/GW will be offering, for a short period, a musical alternative to the attitudes I have been discussing, which could also be called "green limousine consciousness".

In fact, The Wazoo cannot really be compared with any other previous rock 'n' roll outfit. It consists of twenty musicians, most of whom sit and read music off neat rows of charming wooden stands. None of them sing. None of them dance; they only play music.

The MOI/HR/GW comprises:
Frank Zappa (guitar, white conductor's baton with cork handle)
Tony Duran (slide guitar)
Ian Underwood (piano and synthesizer)
Dave Parlato (bass)
Jerry Kessler (electric cello)
Jim Gordon (electric drums)
Mike Altschul (piccolo, bass clarinet and other wind instruments)
Jay Migliori (flute, tenor sax and others)
Earle Dumler (oboe, double bass sarrusophone and others)
Ray Reed (clarinet, tenor sax and others)
Charles Owens (soprano sax, alto sax and others)
Joanne McNab (bassoon)
Malcolm McNab (d-trumpet)
Sal Marquez (b-flat trumpet)
Tom Malone (b-flat trumpet, tuba)
Bruce Fowler (trombone)
Glenn Ferris (trombone)
Kenny Shroyer (trombone)
Tom Raney (vibes and electric percussion) and
Ruth Underwood (marimba and electric percussion)

We will be playing the same set at each of the eight concerts. The pieces are "New Brown Clouds", "Big Swifty", "Approximate", "For Calvin And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers", "Think It Over", "Low Budget Dog Meat (medley)" and "The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary"; as an encore (everybody plays encores even if nobody mentions them) "Variant Processional March" and "Penis Dimension". All of these compositions have room for improvisation, except "Low Budget Dog Meat", which is made up of a selection of recognizable themes from "Music For Low Budget Orchestra", "The Dog Breath Variations" and "Uncle Meat".

The concert will be performed in a relaxed, tolerably direct and non-theatrical style. Only a few members of The Wazoo are used to playing popular music or are able to function safely if disguised by fringes, leaves and tinsel. Stage clothes are left to the individual's choice at the risk of critics dismissing The Wazoo's public image as "monotonous and non-existent".

Those among the audience who have a fetishistic desire to occupy one of the front seats in order to be able to examine more closely the group's ability to squint and pull faces (to see whether they are really up to date) will be disappointed to note that the eyeballs of The Wazoo's musicians are fixed either on the printed music or on the conductor's baton. Our one concession to such tomfoolery is putting Earle Dumler in the front row of the wind section, so that for the first time you can contemplate a grown man with a fashionable hairstyle battling with the forces of nature in order to wring the right note out of a sarrusophone, a modified double bassoon in E flat.

In direct contrast to the misty legends that surround the birth of your "average supergroup", the story behind our Wazoo is rather boring. I wanted a brass section for the orchestra, so I called the trombonist Ken Shroyer, who I had already worked with on "Lumpy Gravy". Kenny was The Wazoo's musical contractor. With a dog-eared copy of the local Musicians Union Directory, Shroyer managed to fill the empty spaces by picking up his telephone and grunting sentences like: "Does this interest you?", "Can you read music?", "Do you have time to practice?" and the recurrent punchline, "Are you free to go on tour?"

Thanks to Shroyer's irreproachable diplomacy, The Wazoo has probably earned its place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for the simple reason that it is the only "new" group in rock history which has known from the start that it will not be as successful as The Beatles, and has also known throughout its history the exact time and place that it will split up: after the Boston show, in the dressing room, on September 24.

The Music

"The New Brown Clouds"

In theory, this piece should have appeared at the end of the set because it comes from the last act of "Greggery Peccary". It will be played first for a number of reasons:

  1. It's not a bad opening number.
  2. As you have never heard "The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary" before, you won't be upset if it doesn't come at the end and it will not make you boo.
  3. At the beginning there is a version of the "Billy The Mountain" theme, so you could see a conceptual link with our last concert (if that sort of thing appeals to you).
  4. It is the first piece The Wazoo learnt, so for nostalgic reasons it could also be the first one you hear us play. (For more information see the note on "The Adv. Of G. Peccary").

"Big Swifty"

This piece (the entire first side of the album "Hot Rats--Waka/Jawaka") consists of a theme made up of a rapid sequence of variations, some solos and an out-chorus, arranged like a ballroom orchestra and supported by an open rhythmical structure in 4/4. The theme's new form has its origins in a guitar solo off the album which Sal Marquez transcribed. After about an hour of orchestral improvisation, Sal managed to transcribe this rhythmically confusing piece of music. (I can't do this sort of musical dictation, but Marquez can, thanks to his boring education at the University of North Texas.) After he had written it down, we added three more trumpets and hey presto! A more organized ending to "Big Swifty".

The arrangement of the theme here is more harmonic and has a number of orchestral improvements on the original (like the addition of a woodwind section and percussion in passages which on the record are played only on guitar and trumpet). It is not "just like the record", but you'll see.


In this selection each musician can choose the tone pitch they want to play. In the whole piece, there are only a few bars in which pitch is indicated (and these are introduced for the sake of contrast). The rest of the score is made up of triplets and crotchets linked by little "X"s. These are markers which show by their positions the approximate register for each instrument. The piece can be performed by any number of musicians greater than four. The general pattern is a single part that corresponds to all the instruments in C and F (including percussion). To this, another single part is added for instruments in B flat and E flat. The electric bass and the bass drum have separate parts which are nonetheless linked to the others.

"For Calvin"

This piece is dedicated to Calvin Schenkel, who has been my friend for several years, and who is responsible for the graphic/visual side of the MOI, from the album covers to the cartoon sequences in "200 Motels", including the advertising. We have already recorded this track for the "Grand Wazoo" album, soon to be released. There are words, but in concert we will play an instrumental version... the lyrics tell the story of a mysterious "Fairy Morgana" whom he meets on his way to work, and are rather hard to explain, but perhaps you can use your imagination to invent a story, given the text:

Where did they go?
Where did they come from?
What has become of them now?

How much was the leakage
From the drain in the night
And who are those dudes
In the back seat of Calvin's car?

Where did they go
When they got off the car?
Did they go get a sandwich
And eat it in the dark?
Where did they go
With the waxed-paper bundles
When the sandwiches vanished
And the crumbs fell all over?

Where did they go?
Where did they come from?
Where d'ya think they're gonna
Re-appear tomorrow?

"Think It Over" (The Grand Wazoo)

About six weeks ago, I finished the script for a science-fiction musical comedy called "Hunchentoot" (maybe it will never be staged). This piece is part of it, and is sung by an industrial knight who is fanatically religious about the future, to initiate his supporters who are meditating under the influence of Alpha Waves:

If something gets in your way
Just think it over...
And... it will fall down, etc.

But here, it is an instrumental piece, presented in "Grand Wazoo" camouflage. There's no scientific explanation for this, it is simply a shuffle.

"Low Budget Dog Meat"

This selection contains themes from three previously recorded tracks. The arrangement has some difficult instrumental passages, and some of them are not always played perfectly (but why the hell should they be?), in particular the high trombone part at the beginning, the section for electric piano and marimba in the second part, and the frisky, jangling theme in the last bit, which has presented some problems, as has the new synthesizer. Malcolm McNab's trumpet should surprise you throughout the second part with its high, cawing sound.

"The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary"

"The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary" have their place alongside the film "Uncle Meat", the legendary history of the original MOI as a nine record set, and more recently, the "Hunchentoot" project, as pieces which may never see the full light of day. It was originally conceived as a ballet with recitation telling the adventures of a little pig who belongs to a doomed race. Not much potential in this idea.


The Hague: Chevalier has "La Haye", the French name for the same Dutch city.

Bruce Fowler: Chevalier omits Bruce Fowler's credit.

Sarrusophone: Chevalier has a spurious comma in "double bass, sarrusophone", thereby suggesting that Dumler played double bass viol. Later he has "a modified double bass", reinforcing the error.

New Brown Clouds: Chevalier has "New Brand Clouds"! Twice!

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Hunchentootin' by Charles Ulrich.