...'San Ber'dino' introduces us to Potato-head Bobby, later to feature in 'Advance Romance' and Thing-Fish. He is a symbol of the non-intellectual, lower-class individual, source of everything Zappa likes about the blues and rock - its physical directness and its lack of hypocrisy, even its ugliness (as opposed to the standardisation implied by 'beauty'). The riff Zappa uses is a classic driving riff - completely suited to the subject matter, which is a trailer-trash couple whose life revolves around driving their car on the freeway. Using Johnny "'Guitar' Watson for what Zappa calls the 'flambé' vocals was a stroke of genius. Johnny 'Guitar' Watson's first single for King Records - under the name Young John Watson - was 'Motorhead Baby', an automobile anthem he wrote with Mario Delagarde, the Puerto Rican bass player from the Johnny Otis Orchestra who held seminars on Marxism-Leninism and dialectics on the band bus and died fighting Batista in Cuba in the mid-50s. Johnny 'Guitar' Watson's saxophone-like, urgent voice expresses the sheer excitement of freeway California as a land of opportunity for the deprived.
While you were still in Kaleidoscope you did this amazing psychedelic/R&B hybrid record backing Larry Williams and Johnny "Guitar" Watson, "Nobody."
One of the best records I ever played on, because of the people on there. Chester didn't play on that. John played congas, and the drummer on that was Earl Palmer. And I played bass. It was one of the most remarkable situations at the time. Because we had gotten to know Larry Williams, 'cause he was A&R director at the time at OKeh. He and Johnny Guitar Watson were like best friends, and they showed up at the session with matching coupe de villes, matching suits, and matching hats, with chicks on their arm, I don't know who the chicks were, wives and girlfriends or what. One of the cars was chocolate brown, and the other one was like deep burgundy. And the suits were deep burgundy, and the suits were chocolate brown. It was like the coolest. They walked in simultaneously together, they looked like two cool guys coming out. It was a really beautiful session. The guys were really nice to us. They really liked us an awful lot. We were treated with respect. I think it was pretty right-on that they brought in their own drummer, and I was very pleased to be able to be the bass player on it. David and Solomon were the two other--David played the harp guitar, and Solomon played saz. Chester didn't get to play on that one, which was really too bad. They just didn't feel that violin and/or his keyboard thing was what they needed on that, which was really too bad. I think John Vidican ended up playing some percussion. But even the major conga stuff in there, I think, is Larry.
I think the song's a great song, I always loved the song. They wanted to be psychedelic R&B. They thought it was natural. They just said, this is natural, man, this fits great. And I thought it did too. Apparently there was some kind of problem that had to do with--I think both those guys were involved with like dealing coke and all kinds of stuff. There was all kinds of weird kind of undercover stuff that I'd always heard about between those guys. There was a lot of sort of drug use, and they were maybe even pimps too. There was some kind of thing that happened between Larry Williams and the stations on some kind of payola level--it didn't get paid off--and that record just bombed. The radio stations refused to pay it. There was some kind of nefarious goings-on that had to do with those guys that just sunk that record. That was another one I just thought, man, this is a hit, man, what a great, beautiful record this is. And it just never saw the light of day. It came out, I have a copy of the 45, but I think other than what I have, a promotional copy, I don't know if I've ever seen one that had a really yellow label, that had the real OKeh label on it, that wasn't promotional. So I don't know how far it went. But as far as something that was, that really got to what they were doing, I thought it was a brilliant idea. It really didn't have anything to do with failing. I thought we did a beautiful job.
I remember going up to their offices and sitting around talking and, "I think you guys are great, man. What do you think of this?" And they [said], Sure, man, we can do that. We would love it." So we were all--I have a big huge collection of 45s and stuff, I'm a rock and roll guy from the fifties. So both of those guys were meant something to me besides that. It was some kind of weird snare in the record business, and they just ostracized Larry Williams. As I recall, it was some kind of behind-the-scenes stuff that kept that record.
Valise ? - It's Better To Cry* / ? - 1998 *also recorded in 1968 by The Appreciations on Sport 111.
Although originally recorded some years earlier, this single was unreleased until the late Nineties when the label owner was persuaded to press copies up for the Northern Soul scene.
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