Lumpy Gravy

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Lumpy Gravy
Capitol Lumpy Gravy.jpg
Lumpy Gravy was originally released by Capitol Records in 1967.
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 7, 1967
May 13, 1968 (reissue)
RecordedFebruary 1967
Length22:37 (1967 release)
31:45 (1968 reissue)
ProducerNick Venet
Frank Zappa chronology
Absolutely Free
Lumpy Gravy
We're Only in It for the Money
Frank Zappa (solo) chronology
Lumpy Gravy
Hot Rats
Reissue cover
Following threatened litigation from MGM Records, Lumpy Gravy was reedited by Zappa and reissued by Verve Records in 1968.
Following threatened litigation from MGM Records, Lumpy Gravy was reedited by Zappa and reissued by Verve Records in 1968.

Lumpy Gravy is the debut solo album by Frank Zappa, written by Zappa and performed by a group of session players he dubbed the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra. Zappa conducted the orchestra but did not perform on the album. It is his third album overall: his previous releases had been under the name of his group, the Mothers of Invention.

It was commissioned and briefly released, on August 7, 1967, by Capitol Records in the 4-track Stereo-Pak format only and then withdrawn due to a lawsuit from MGM Records. MGM claimed that the album violated Zappa's contract with their subsidiary, Verve Records. In 1968 it was reedited and reissued by MGM's Verve Records on May 13, 1968. The reissue consisted of two musique concrète pieces that combined elements from the original orchestral performance with elements of surf music and the spoken word. It was praised for its music and editing.

Produced simultaneously with We're Only in It for the Money, Zappa saw Lumpy Gravy as the second part of a conceptual continuity that later included his final album, Civilization Phaze III.

Later it was re-edited by Zappa as part of a project called No Commercial Potential, which included three other albums: We're Only in It for the Money, Cruising with Ruben & the Jets and Uncle Meat.


In 1966, Frank Zappa was commissioned to compose Lumpy Gravy for Capitol Records.

Following the release of Freak Out!, the debut album of the rock band the Mothers of Invention, Capitol Records A&R representative Nick Venet commissioned an album of orchestral music composed by the Mothers of Invention's leader, Frank Zappa, a self-taught composer. Venet spent $40,000 on the album.[1][2] Because Zappa's contract with Verve and MGM Records did not allow for him to perform on albums recorded for any other label, he could not play any instrument on the proposed album, and instead served as the conductor of an orchestra consisting of session musicians hired for the recording. Zappa states that "my contract [with MGM] did not preclude me from doing that. I wasn't signed as a conductor."[1]

Lumpy Gravy was conceived as a short oratorio, written in eleven days.[2] John Cage served as a major influence on the album.[3] Zappa named the group assembled for the sessions the "Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra".[2]

Percussionist Emil Richards recalled that he did not know who Zappa was and did not take him seriously as the recording sessions began, believing that Zappa was merely the guitarist for a rock band. However, upon meeting them, Zappa handed the musicians the scores for the pieces, which were dense, complex and varied in time signatures.[1] Richards' close friend, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, was another member of the recording sessions. Tedesco mocked Zappa, believing that Zappa did not know what he was doing.[1] The bassoonist and bass clarinetist hired for the sessions refused to perform their parts, declaring them impossible to play. Zappa responded, "If I play your part, will you at least try it?" Zappa then played on his guitar the notes for the musicians, who agreed to perform their assigned parts.[1] By the end of the recording sessions, Richards and Tedesco became convinced of Zappa's talent, and became friends with the composer. Richards later performed on sessions which appeared on Zappa's album Orchestral Favorites.[1]

Release, lawsuit and reediting[edit]

Capitol released Lumpy Gravy on August 7, 1967. Capitol intended to release a single consisting of the pieces "Gypsy Airs" and "Sink Trap" to promote its release.[2] In response to the album's release, MGM threatened a lawsuit, claiming that its release violated Zappa's contract.[2]

During the litigation, Zappa reedited the album while recording in New York City for a project called No Commercial Potential, which ended up producing four albums: We're Only in It for the Money, the reedited second version of Lumpy Gravy, Cruising with Ruben & the Jets and Uncle Meat, which served as the soundtrack to the film of the same name, which was ultimately not completed until 1987.[3]

Zappa stated, "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."[3]

The reedited Lumpy Gravy contained dialogue segments recorded at Apostolic Studios after Zappa discovered that the strings of the studio's grand piano would resonate if a person spoke near those strings. The "piano people" experiment involved Zappa having various speakers improvise dialogue using topics offered by Zappa. Various people contributed to these sessions, which produced dialogue that was released on other Zappa albums in the No Commercial Potential project and later albums. These speakers included Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart and Tim Buckley.[4]

Most of the dialogue on the reedited Lumpy Gravy, recorded simultaneously with We're Only in It for the Money,[5] was spoken by a small group which included Motorhead Sherwood, Roy Estrada, Spider Barbour, All-Night John (the manager of the studio) and Louis Cuneo, who was noted for his laugh, which sounded like a "psychotic turkey".[2] The concept of the reedited album derived from Zappa's "big note" theory, which states that the universe consists of a single element, and that atoms are vibrations of that element, a "big note".[6]

The reedited album proved to be very difficult to make, as the master tapes featured many accidental splices.[6] The reedited version also incorporated additional musical content not on the original release of the album, including previously recorded surf music;[6] including a 1963 Zappa-produced demo recording of a tune that later appeared in a 1967 recording under the title "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" on We're Only in It for the Money. Some of the editing was done in Zappa's living room.[7] On the 1967 and 1968 releases of the album, Zappa was credited as "Francis Vincent Zappa", as Zappa had believed that this was his real name. He later learned that his birth name was Frank Vincent Zappa, and this mistake was subsequently corrected in reissues of the album.[7]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic4/5 stars[8]
Rolling Stone(negative) [9]
Uncut7/10 [10]

The reedited Lumpy Gravy was well received by critics, and Zappa called it one of his favorite albums out of his own work, stating that it contains his favorite music.[3][11] Allmusic writer François Couture wrote, "The starting point of Zappa's 'serious music,' Lumpy Gravy suffers from a lack of coherence, but it remains historically important and contains many conceptual continuity clues for the fan."[8]

In 1984, the second version of Lumpy Gravy was remixed by Zappa, with new overdubs by bassist Arthur Barrow and drummer Chad Wackerman.[1] This third version of the album was not released in full at the time; an excerpt appeared in a The Old Masters sampler sent to radio stations.[12] Dialogue from the "piano people" sessions was included on Zappa's later album Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention,[13] and informed Zappa's final album, Civilization Phaze III in 1993.[14] In 2009, the box set Lumpy Money was released, containing the 1967 and 1984 versions of Lumpy Gravy, and audio documentary material derived from the sessions that produced the original 1967 orchestral sessions, dialogue which appeared in the 1968 release of Lumpy Gravy, and the album We're Only in It for the Money.[15] On April 18, 2018, the original 1967 edit of the album was released on limited edition vinyl as a Record Store Day exclusive under the title Lumpy Gravy (Primordial).[16]

Zappa remastered the album in 1985 and again in 1993.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Frank Zappa.

1967 version
1."Sink Trap"2:45
2."Gum Joy"3:44
3."Up and Down"1:52
4."Local Butcher"2:36
5."Gypsy Airs"1:41
6."Hunchy Punchy"2:06
7."Foamy Soaky"2:34
8."Let's Eat Out"1:49
9."Teenage Grand Finale"3:30
Total length:22:37
1968 version, part one
1."The Way I See It, Barry"0:06
3."Oh No"2:03
4."Bit of Nostalgia"1:35
5."It's from Kansas"0:30
6."Bored Out 90 Over"0:31
7."Almost Chinese"0:25
8."Switching Girls"0:29
9."Oh No Again"1:13
10."At the Gas Station"2:41
11."Another Pickup"0:54
12."I Don't Know If I Can Go Through This Again"3:49
Total length:15:50
1968 version, part two
1."Very Distraughtening"1:33
2."White Ugliness"2:22
4."Just One More Time"0:58
5."A Vicious Circle"1:12
6."King Kong"0:43
7."Drums Are Too Noisy"0:58
9."Envelops the Bath Tub"3:42
10."Take Your Clothes Off"1:53
Total length:15:56


Musicians - Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra
  • Bunk Gardner – woodwind
  • James Getzoff – strings
  • Philip Goldberg – strings
  • John Guerin – drums
  • Bruce Hampton – chorus
  • Jimmy "Senyah" Haynes – guitar
  • Harry Hyams – strings
  • Jules Jacob – woodwind
  • Pete Jollypiano, celeste, harpsichord
  • Harold Kelling - vocals
  • Ray Kelly – strings
  • Jerome Kessler – strings
  • Alexander Koltun – strings
  • Bernard Kundell – strings
  • William Kurasch – strings
  • Michael Lang – piano, celeste, harpsichord
  • Arthur Maebe – French horn
  • Leonard Malarsky – strings
  • Shelly Manne – drums
  • Lincoln Mayorga – piano, celeste, harpsichord
  • Ted Nash – woodwind
  • Richard Parissi – French horn
  • Glenn Phillips - vocals
  • Jerome Reisler – strings
  • Emil Richards – percussion
  • Tony Rizzi – guitar
  • John Rotella – percussion, woodwind
  • Joseph Saxon – strings
  • Ralph Schaeffer – strings
  • Leonard Selic – strings
  • Kenny Shroyer – trombone
  • Paul Smith – piano, celeste, harpsichord
  • Tommy Tedesco – guitar
  • Al Viola – guitar
  • Bob West – bass
  • Tibor Zelig – strings
  • Jimmy Zito – trumpet
Production credits


Album - Billboard (United States)

Year Chart Position
1968 Billboard 200 159


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Fricke, David (2008). Lumpy Money (Media notes). Frank Zappa. Zappa Records.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Slaven, Neil (2009-11-17). Electric Don Quixote: The Definitive Story Of Frank Zappa. Music Sales Group. ISBN 9780857120434. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d Miles, Barry (16 Sep 2005). Zappa: A Biography. Grove/Atlantic, Incorporated. p. 480. ISBN 9780802142153. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  4. ^ James, Billy (1 Oct 2002). Necessity Is...: The Early Years of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 60. ISBN 9780946719518. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  5. ^ Schinder, Scott (2008). Icons of Rock. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 363. ISBN 9780313338472. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c Walley, David (22 Aug 1996). No Commercial Potential: The Saga of Frank Zappa. Da Capo Press. p. 240. ISBN 0306807106. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  7. ^ a b Zappa, Frank with Occhiogrosso, Peter (1989). The Real Frank Zappa Book. New York: Poseidon Press. pp. 244–245. ISBN 0-671-63870-X.
  8. ^ a b Lumpy Gravy at AllMusic
  9. ^ Miller, Jim (June 22, 1968). "Lumpy Gravy - Album Reviews - Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  10. ^ Cavanagh, David (14 September 2016). "Frank Zappa/The Mothers of Invention reissues". Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  11. ^ Kart, Larry (11 Oct 2004). Jazz in Search of Itself. Yale University Press. p. 166. ISBN 0300128193. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  12. ^ Zappa, Gail (2008). "track listing notes". Lumpy Money (Media notes). Frank Zappa. Zappa Records.
  13. ^ Rense, Rip (Jan 1986). "Flash - Mothers of Prevention". Spin. SPIN Media LLC. 1 (9): 82. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  14. ^ Morin, Alexander J. (2002). Classical Music: The Listener's Companion. Backbeat Books. p. 1067. ISBN 9780879306380. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  15. ^ Dolan, Casey (December 8, 2008), "The Resurrection of Frank Zappa's Soul", LA Weekly, Village Voice Media
  16. ^