Zappa / Mothers - Overnight Sensation (1973)

Camarillo Brillo 3:59
I'm the Slime 3:34
Dirty Love 2:58
50/50 6:10
Zomby Woof 5:10
Dinah-Moe-Hum   6:03
Montana 6:36
Total Time: 34 min, 31 sec

This is the first studio album from the mid-70s mothers - the same band listed for Piquantique, with the addition of Ian Underwood on woodwinds and sax, and Sal Marquez on trumpet and vocals. Considering the jazzy music played by this band on Piquantique, this studio disc comes as a bit of a surprise. This begins a period where Zappa seemed to be trying to appeal to a more mainstream audience, with goofy pop songs full of sex-obsessed lyrics.

Still, there's some pretty fantastic music on this disc, and some stuff that would drive the average pop fan insane. A good example of this is the song 50/50 - the vocals are about as grating as you can get, while the instrumental break in the middle contains killer keyboard, violin and guitar solos over a cool, funky rhythm section. Franks "social critic" side comes out too, with the song I'm the Slime which blasts the mindless programming and insidious advertising of television. And of course when Frank got the chance to perform on national TV (Saturday Night Live), I'm the Slime was one of the songs played, complete with a television monitor that oozed green slime.

Then there's the sex songs. I just noticed that the album title could be taken as a pun - these songs helped to gain Zappa some notoriety, so to some degree they made him an "overnight sensation". But there's another meaning, tied to all the sex lyrics on the disc - sex is often associated with beds and nighttime, so having sex could be seen as having an "overnight sensation".

Camarillo Brillo (which manages to work the title of Toads of the Short Forest from Weasels Ripped My Flesh into its lyrics), Dirty Love, Zomby Woof and Dinah-Moe-Hum all mention sex to various degrees. "Zomby" is actually a sort of tribute to monster movies (a theme Frank would expand on in the track Cheepnis from Roxy & Elsewhere), but it does include the line "I might snatch you up screamin' through the window all nekkid an' do it to you up on the roof". That ties back to a plotline found in the half-hour long film dialog track on the Uncle Meat CDs, about a woman who is sexually attracted to monsters.

At the cruder end of the spectrum we've got Dirty Love which culminates with a poodle performing cunnilingus on someone's mother, and Dinah-Moe-Hum, which details a sexual bet that turns into a threesome between the singer and two sisters. These are the tracks that seemed to be specifically designed to appeal to the teen crowd (while they hid the albums from their parents), and were usually the most requested songs at Zappa concerts.

It's kind of a shame that Frank put such sexual lyrics to his music - the music on this album is so catchy that it probably could have brought him some real mainstream success, but there's no way you can play most of these songs on the radio. The exception is Montana, which actually did get some airplay (it was the first Zappa song other than Valley Girl that I ever heard on the radio, although it was during a late-night show where the DJ would play all sorts of weird stuff). The lyrics of Montana tell the absurd tale of a man who moves to Montana to become a dental floss rancher. If you listen carefully, you can hear Tina Turner singing backup on this one (and elsewhere on the album).

When this album was originally released on CD, it was as a two-fer disc paired with Apostrophe('), since both albums were so short. That disc was one of my first introductions to Zappa, and helped turn me into the fanatic I am today. So even though they're not my favorite FZ albums anymore, they are a good place for beginners to start. The two-fer disc is long out of print though, but that's OK because the sound quality was really murky and low-volume. The current individual discs sound much better.

Album Cover

Image of the Overnite Sensation album cover