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Necessity is....: Early Years of Frank Zappa and the "Mothers of Invention" Paperback – 20 Nov 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: SAF Publishing Ltd; 2nd Revised edition edition (20 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0946719519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0946719518
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,658,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The early Mothers of Invention were a band of free-spirited mavericks headed by the musical genius of Frank Zappa. Featured on such classic LPs as "Freak Out", "Absolutely Free" and "We're Only In It For the Money", the band let rip over Zappa's satirical yet complex compositions. Disbanded in 1970, Zappa would sometimes reassemble the Mothers of Invention in different guides, but rarely found another group that collectively distilled his offbeat musical vision so perfectly. With interviews from Don Preston, Roy Estrada, Buzz Gardner, Jimmy Carl Black and Bunk Gardner, Billy James investigates the anarchic Zappa-led entourage from 1964-1970 through the anecdotes and reflections of those who were there.

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 Jan. 2001
Format: Paperback
See Frank Zappa from the view point of those crazy enough to work with him. Funny and enlightening, this long-overdue history lifts the lid on the weirdest band ever to come from LA.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 10 reviews
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Interesting... but is it honest? 9 May 2001
By Ryan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is mainly a collection of interviews, jokes, road stories, and tall tales from the early Mothers. While the veracity of these tales is rather dubious at times, the book holds true in its claim that the early Mothers members certainly were a band apart(no pun intended), and there was(is?) a certain kinship and musical bond between them that was unique, and had a big role in helping to shape Zappa's early albums. But, given the fact that almost everyone interviewed in the book had a falling out with Zappa at some point, you have to wonder if they are just out to toot their own horns(play their own pianos, finger their own guitars, etc). For example, Don Preston seems to be the most delirious through out, with his delusions of grandeur including(but not limited to) sexual encounters lasting in the multiple hour range with multiple women at the same time, and inspiring John Coltrane's pioneering and exploratory style of Jazz. Seriously, guy, have some perspective. Probably the most illuminating aspect of the book is that it makes clear what divisions were drawn within the band itself: those who could read music vs. those who couldn't, those who wanted to make serious music vs. those who wanted to rock n roll & get chicks, those who were closer to Frank vs. those who just wanted to party and be one of the boys, those who were real Mothers vs. those who were just sessions players. While its probably not in the Zappa Family Trust Accepted Reading List(tm), its still a worthwhile read for the hardcore Zappaphile.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
NECESSITY IS � necessary 15 July 2001
By S. M Marson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read the following books about Frank Zappa:
THE REAL FRANK ZAPPA BOOK by Frank Zappa and Peter Occhioigrosso
THEM OR US by Frank Zappa
UNDER THE SAME MOON by Suzannah (Thana Harris)
Of these, THE REAL FRANK ZAPPA BOOK and NECESSITY IS... are my favorites. Anyone who has read THE REAL FRANK ZAPPA BOOK will thoroughly enjoy NECESSITY IS... Two reasons:
First, Billy James is a good writer, but more importantly he is a good organizer. His task was to take historical events and present them in a coherent manner. He decided NOT to present this history in chronological order per se, but rather he addressed key events from different perspectives. The events are not necessarily in chronological order. It is an unusual way of organizing one's thoughts, but it works. He must be applauded for his creative way of organizing his thoughts.
Second, he examines each single historical event by getting perspectives of several people involved in the event. Its a fascinating excursion into the study of human behavior. In most cases, different people see the identical event in a contrary manner. In some cases, the conflicting descriptions are quite humorous.
Others who have harshly reviewed this book have missed the point. This is a book of perceptions. It is not an objective assessment of reality. It doesn't make any difference if the interviewees were frustrated or delirious. James provides a fresh perspective.
In addition, James answers some questions that cannot be found elsewhere. For example, I have often wondered how Zappa could include Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (bubble gum singers from the Turtles) in the Mothers of Invention. In chapter six, James lays out all the events. An impressive job of pulling together quotes and ideas!
NECESSITY IS... THE EARLY YEARS OF FRANK ZAPPA AND THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION provides an important dimension into the understanding of this artist that none of the other books do. It is a critical addition to everyone's Frank Zappa library.
31 of 42 people found the following review helpful
NOT a necessity at ALL!! 19 Jun. 2001
By Ton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Poorly written by a person who obviously has NO IDEA of what Frank Zappa is all about. Although he makes note of the fact that FZ got annoyed that people didn't understand what he was trying to say, Billy James is EXACTLY such a person. The important elements in the works of Zappa are brought down to such things as "weird" "wacky" "freakish" "zany" "snoring", and every ensemble he formed after the original MOI put down because these terms didn't apply too much anymore. Although James frequently praises FZ for being a talented musician, a genius or whatever, these remarks are never explained with ANYTHING that resembles any understanding of WHY this is the case. These remarks merely seem to be there so that the more educated reader will understand James Knows His Thing. (Which he doesn't) The book is a collection of anecdotes told by some of the more frustrated ex Mothers Of Invention who, instead of understanding that without FZ they are just not interesting enough, have decided to spend their lives being bitter about the fact that for some reason Frank got all the fame and they didn't. Thus they emplify their own importance in the old band and in Zappa's euvre. Nothing new is told, the only difference is thatthey have never had such an extensive platform to broadcast their remarks.
A book about the early history of the carreer of one of the most important composers of the 20th century that ends with: "what is certain is that Bunk, Don, Jimmy, Motorhead, Ian, Art, Buzz, Ray and Roy have been entertaining people for over a quarter of a century - wheather is be with vegetables, trnsformations, improvisations, snorks or athmatic wheezing. One thing is for sure, we will never forget our Mothers!" is just too childish, superfluous and plainly stupid to even bother to talk about it anymore.
Don't waste your money.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Nice Little History of Mothers Mk I 4 Aug. 2007
By Mark - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book contains a pretty decent history of Zappa and the Mothers from 65 - 70. The anecdotal information is delivered by the guys who lived the experience, Preston, Black, Collins, Estrada, Gardener, and others who joined later. The actual history is a wee bit short and the writing style is somewhat... well, James clearly doesn't write books and wasn't educated to write books for a living, let's just put it that way. Still, it is and enjoyable, quick read.

An interesting read for all who want to learn about the early Mothers. Don't expect to understand the contradictions that are Frank Zappa after reading this. There probably isn't anything that could impart that kind of understanding.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Excellent view from a different perspective 14 Jan. 2002
By Bob - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I've read many books on Zappa and found Necessity is.... to be a
great viewpoint from inside the band itself. So many other books have many stories and thoughts from the authors; many who have interviewed or maybe travelled a bit with FZ to learn more about the inside world, but this book is essentially taken from his bandmates and the stories that they have to tell from that early era of MOI. All of the other FZ books I've read were very good. Its just great to see what it was like for everyone else who worked for the great FZ.....
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