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3.34-CALL ANY VEGETABLE (Mothers of Invention)

Mothers of Invention

LISTEN

Spoken: This is a song about vegetables; they keep you regular.
They're real good for you.

Call any vegetable.
Call it by name.
Call one today
When you get off the train.

         Call any vegetable
         and the chances are good
         that the vegetable will respond to you.

Spoken: Some people don't go for prunes...
I don't know, I've always found that if they...

Call any vegetable.
Pick up your phone.
Think of a vegetable
Lonely at home.

         [Chorus]

                  Rutabaga (5x in a yodel)

Spoken: A prune isn't really a vegetable... Cabbage is a vegetable...

                           No one will know
                           If you don't want to let them know.
                           No one will know
                           'Less it's you that might tell them so.
                           Call and they'll come to you
                           Covered with dew.
                           Vegetables dream of responding to you.

                           Standing there shiny
                           And proud by your side,
                           Holding your hand
                           While the neighbors decide...
                           Why is a vegetable something to hide?

[Coda]


Call Any Vegetable is a song about “keeping regular”, and as such is a scatological joke, as if vegetables were something to be ashamed of. It’s a wacky love song to digestive aids. The sexual attractiveness of some vegetables is played up. The song is not written in a pop music format: beginning with spoken word, there are a couple of verses and chorus before the songs goes off into a yodel and then an entirely different melody without ever returning. It’s laid out A-B-C-A-B-C-D-A-E-E. Zappa was the epitome of noncommercial music during the psychedelic period. His irreverent but accomplished compositions would inspire works by his contemporaries, among them John Lennon (in such songs as Happiness is a Warm Gun) and Brian Wilson (who recorded a silly song with the Beach Boys called Vegetables in 1967). Absolutely Free, the album from which Call Any Vegetable is drawn, didn’t do exceptionally well on the American charts—it didn’t break into the Top 40 albums, and didn’t chart at all in the UK. But though Frank Zappa would continue to produce music for the next three decades, he would never achieve the respect in America that the psychedelic aesthetic allowed him with its thirst for experimental music. The 1970s would bring him a larger jazz audience in Europe, and in 1982 he would score his biggest hit single in America, a satire on teenage speech patterns titled Valley Girls, which reached #32 on the pop charts. But he was no longer, in my opinion, as vital voice in the development of a popular art form, or as vital a part of American political and societal perceptions. The title of the album Absolutely Free (and its spirit) is a precursor to Abbie Hoffman’s counter-cultural treatise Steal This Book (1971).

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