Cruising with Ruben & the Jets

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Cruising with Ruben & the Jets
Studio album by The Mothers of Invention
Released December 2, 1968
Recorded Apostolic Studios, NYC
December 1967 - February 1968
Genre Doo wop, rock and roll
Length 40:34
Label Bizarre/Verve
Producer Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa chronology
We're Only in It for the Money
(1968)
Cruising with Ruben & the Jets
(1968)
Uncle Meat
(1969)
Singles from Cruising with Ruben & the Jets
  1. "Deseri"
    Released: 1968
  2. "Anyway the Wind Blows"
    Released: 1968 (1968)

Cruising with Ruben & the Jets is the fourth studio album by the Mothers of Invention. Released on December 2, 1968 on Bizarre and Verve Records with distribution by MGM Records, it was subsequently remixed by Frank Zappa and reissued independently.

As with the band's previous three albums, it is a concept album, influenced by 1950s doo wop and rock and roll. The album's concept deals with a fictitious doo wop band called Ruben & the Jets, represented by the cover illustration by Cal Schenkel, which depicts the Mothers of Invention as anthropomorphic dogs. It was conceived as part of a project called No Commercial Potential, which produced three other albums: Lumpy Gravy, We're Only in It for the Money and Uncle Meat.

The album and its singles received some radio success, due to its doo wop sound. The band Ruben and the Jets was named after this album.

Background[edit]

During a previous recording session engineer Richard Kunc and the Mothers of Invention discussed their high school days and doo wop songs. Ray Collins and some of the other members of the band started singing and performing the songs, and Zappa suggested, that they record an album of doo wop music.[1] Collins later left the Mothers of Invention, and Zappa began working on a project entitled No Commercial Potential, which included sessions that produced Cruising with Ruben & the Jets, as well as We're Only in It for the Money, a revised version of Lumpy Gravy, and Uncle Meat.[2]

After The Mothers of Invention's contract with MGM and Verve Records expired, Frank Zappa and Herb Cohen negotiated to form a semi-independent record label Bizarre Records, with Verve releasing three Bizarre releases with distribution by MGM: a new Mothers of Invention album, Cruising with Ruben & the Jets, the compilation Mothermania, and an album by Sandy Hurvitz, Sandy's Album is Here at Last.[2][3]

Zappa stated regarding the releases Lumpy Gravy, We're Only in It for the Money, Cruising with Ruben & the Jets and Uncle Meat, "It's all one album. All the material in the albums is organically related and if I had all the master tapes and I could take a razor blade and cut them apart and put it together again in a different order it still would make one piece of music you can listen to. Then I could take that razor blade and cut it apart and reassemble it a different way, and it still would make sense. I could do this twenty ways. The material is definitely related."[2]

Recording[edit]

Ray Collins rejoined the Mothers of Invention for the recording of the album, as his high falsetto was suited for the recordings. According to Collins, "I brought the 'style of being raised in Pomona, California, being raised on the Four Aces, the Four Freshmen, Frankie Lane, Frank Sinatra and Jesse Baldwin. The early influences of R&B came into the Southern California area when I was probably in the tenth grade in high school. And I remember Peter Potter's show, and I think I recall the first R&B tune on there was 'Oop-Shoop'. Frank actually had more influences from the 'real blues', you know, like Muddy Waters, those kind of people. But I wasn't into that in my early life. I was more of the pop culture, pop radio things, and it's always been more of a favourite of mine than the early blues stuff - even though I love John Lee Hooker and all those people."[1]

According to Bunk Gardner, "Cruising with Ruben & the Jets was an easy album to record. We were recording it at the same time as Uncle Meat because the songs were easy and very simple and didn't require a lot of time for arrangements and technical overdubbing. It was the beginning of the end for Ray Collins because all the new material Frank was writing was a little too far out and away from Ray's roots - which was Ruben-era material. Motorhead too was in his glory during the recording of this album. He loved Ruben and that was really his kind of music to get nostalgic over - on stage and doing the dance steps and playing that music [...] I really enjoyed playing a solo on Ray's tune 'Anything'. I remember Frank, Ray and Roy standing in the control booth while I recorded my solo. Frank was telling me after the first take to keep it simple. So I nailed it on the second take and everyone was happy!"[1]

Concept[edit]

Within the concept of the album, Ruben Sano was the leader of the fictitious band "the Jets". The back cover depicted Ruben with an early high school photograph of Zappa.[1] According to artist Cal Schenkel, "I started working on the story of Ruben and the Jets that is connected with the Uncle Meat story, which is this old guy turns this teenage band into these dog snout people [...] We started that before it actually became Ruben and the Jets. That came out of my love for comics and that style, the anthropomorphic animals, but also it was part of a running story line."[2]

Zappa stated regarding the album's lyrics, "I detest 'love lyrics'."[3] He intentionally wrote lyrics he described as "sub-Mongoloid" to satirize the genre.[3] The music of Cruising with Ruben & the Jets was the most straightforward genre work the Mothers of Invention had performed yet, attempting to faithfully reproduce the sound of 1950s doo wop and rock and roll.[1] However, the arrangements included quotes from Igor Stravinsky pieces and unusual chord changes and tempos.[3][4]

Release and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic (Cruising with Ruben & the Jets 1984 Remix) 3/5 stars[5]
Allmusic (Greasy Love Songs) 4/5 stars[6]

The album was popular with radio stations, as they believed it to be an unearthed doo wop album by an unknown band called Ruben & the Jets.[1] According to Zappa, the original pressings of the singles identified the songs as being performed by "Ruben & the Jets", and later pressings, which credited the Mothers of Invention, did not receive as much airplay.[7] The album's cover has a word balloon stating "Is this the Mothers of Invention recording under a different name in a last ditch attempt to get their cruddy music on the radio?"[3] Zappa later dismissed claims that he had "fooled people" with this album as "nonsense".[3]

Subsequently, Zappa stated that the Mothers of Invention would record a second Ruben & the Jets album.[7] No sequel to Cruising with Ruben & the Jets was produced. However, a band called Ruben and the Jets, named in honor of the album, released their debut album, For Real! in 1973 on Mercury Records, produced by Zappa.[8]

Reissues[edit]

In 2009, Cruising with Ruben & the Jets was reissued under the title Greasy Love Songs.

In 1984, Zappa prepared a remix of Cruising with Ruben & the Jets for its compact disc reissue and the vinyl box set The Old Masters I. The remix featured new rhythm tracks recorded by bassist Arthur Barrow and drummer Chad Wackerman, much as the 1984 remix of We're Only in It for the Money had featured. Zappa stated "The master tapes for Ruben and the Jets were in better shape, but since I liked the results on We're Only in it For the Money, I decided to do it on Ruben too. But those are the only two albums on which the original performances were replaced. I thought the important thing was the material itself."[2]

After the remixing was announced, a $13 million lawsuit was filed against Zappa by Jimmy Carl Black, Bunk Gardner and Don Preston, who were later joined by Ray Collins, Art Tripp and Motorhead Sherwood, increasing the claim to $16.4 million, stating that they had received no royalties from Zappa since 1969.[2]

In 2009, the original mix of the album was released as part of a compilation entitled Greasy Love Songs.[6] Allmusic's François Couture gave the album's 1984 remix 3 out of 5 stars.[5] Another writer for the site, Sean Westergaard, gave Greasy Love Songs 4 out of 5 stars.[6]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Frank Zappa except as noted. 

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Cheap Thrills"     2:23
2. "Love of My Life"   Zappa, Ray Collins 3:10
3. "How Could I Be Such a Fool"     3:35
4. "Deseri"   Collins, Paul Buff 2:07
5. "I’m Not Satisfied"     4:03
6. "Jelly Roll Gum Drop"     2:20
7. "Anything"   Collins 3:04
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
8. "Later That Night"     3:06
9. "You Didn’t Try to Call Me"     3:57
10. "Fountain of Love"   Zappa, Collins 3:01
11. ""No. No. No.""     2:29
12. "Anyway the Wind Blows"     2:58
13. "Stuff Up the Cracks"     4:35
Total length:
40:34

Personnel[edit]

Musicians
Production
  • Producer: Frank Zappa
  • Engineer: Dick Kunc
  • Cover Art: Cal Schenkel
  • Cover Design: Cal Schenkel
  • Artwork: Cal Schenkel

Charts[edit]

Album - Billboard (North America)

Year Chart Position
1969 Pop Albums 110

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f James, Billy (2002-10-01). Necessity Is: The Early Years of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. ISBN 9780946719518. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f http://books.google.com/books?id=BW1Jom4nswwC&pg=PA160, http://books.google.com/books?id=BW1Jom4nswwC&pg=PA326
  3. ^ a b c d e f Zappa, Frank with Occhiogrosso, Peter (1989). The Real Frank Zappa Book. New York: Poseidon Press. pp. 87–90. ISBN 0-671-63870-X. 
  4. ^ Couture, François. "Review of Cruising with Ruben & the Jets". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  5. ^ a b Couture, François (2011). "Cruising with Ruben & the Jets - The Mothers of Invention | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c Westergaard, Sean. "Greasy Love Songs: An FZ Audio Documentary Project/Object - Frank Zappa | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Frank Zappa, "Serious Fan Mail", Greasy Love Songs, Zappa Records ZR20010, 2010.
  8. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/album/r221064