zdbd – Hungry Freaks, Daddy

The first track from Zappa’s first album, 1967’s Freak Out!, is Hungry Freaks, Daddy, which makes a case for the “left-behinds” of the dominant culture: Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.” The track begins with a rich, bouncing bass tone, and a distorted electric playing a simple but strong riff. The vocals, lead by Zappa himself, with some less-than-enthusiastic backing throughout, follow the same riff. Lyrically, the very first line is “Mr. America,” which seems fitting in light of the many years of social commentary that would begin within Zappa’s body of work. The track doesn’t play for long before the signature xylophone sound is heard, filling in the back of the bars. Is it maybe a vibraphone? I should look into this in the future, as it’s a sound we’ll hear a lot on these records.

The rhythmic complexity picks up – some – in the bridge, with some neat snicking guitar sounds on the off-beat. When we hear about the “left-behinds,” we get a neat little doot doot doot segment, and the by-now-already-classic xylovibrophone filling out the treble section.
We get some kazoo in the transition back to the verses, and Zappa takes a short solo, showcasing his growing fidelity on the instrument even then. It’s far from the tour-de-force(s) he’d later unleash, but the direction of the eclectic electric is already hinted.

I find the song goes on a bit long – it could end satisfactorily, for me, right after the instrumental “Great Society” bit is played, but Zappa continues for his most virulent verse, decrying the “supermarket dream” of his suburban targets. The last verse makes the most passionate plea on behalf of his subjects, the freaks – and though they’ll get their share of skewering, and soon, Hungry Freaks, Daddy, leaves me with the impression that Zappa identifies more strongly with them. He certainly looks the part.

Hungry Freaks, Daddy, is a funky rock song with some moment of interesting instrumentation, and presents a future of bold things to come.

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