Grandmothers of Invention coming to Lucerna

Members of Frank Zappa’s band will perform some classic material

Members of the late Frank Zappa’s old band will be coming to Prague under the name Grandmothers of Invention, a pun on the original name Mothers of Invention. They will be at Lucerna Music Bar on May 9 in what is billed as a farewell tour. They will also play Brno’s Metro Music Bar on May 8.

Frank Zappa had a special relationship with Czechoslovakia. His music was an inspiration to the dissident movement during the decades before 1989, even though it was officially banned. Charter 77, written in part by Václav Havel, was in response to the jailing of the band The Plastic People of the Universe, and that band’s name came from a Zappa song on the 1967 album Absolutely Free.

After the Velvet Revolution, Zappa was one of the first international artists invited to the country, and he was shocked by how well people knew his song catalog. In January 1990, Zappa was appointed Special Ambassador to the West on Trade, Culture, and Tourism, much to the annoyance of then-US Secretary of State James Baker, who reportedly said,”You can do business with the United States or you can do business with Frank Zappa.” Czechoslovakia chose Zappa, at least in spirit.

Among other things, Zappa gave Havel advice on promoting tourism, which is now one of the country’s main industries. He also explained to Havel how credit cards worked, as the idea was not known in the former Eastern bloc.

Zappa’s next-to-last concert was in Sportovní hala in Prague on June 24, 1991. A week later he played his final show in Budapest. He died in December 1993 of prostate cancer and organ failure.

The Grandmothers of Invention includes keyboardist Don Preston, who was in Zappa’s band from 1966–74, sax player Bunk Gardner, playing1966–69, and percussionist Ed Mann, who was with Zappa in 1977–88, plus additional musicians who were not in any of Zappa’s lineups.

Preston and Gardner, in particular, appear on all of the classic Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention albums.

The band has been playing Zappa songs live since 2003. Originally, some former band members got together for a concert to mark the 10th anniversary of Zappa’s death. Since then, the members played together more than 400 times.

There is some confusion about the name and on the band’s website, they explain it is really grand, as in grandiose, mothers, and not a reference to elderly women.

As with many other bands from the 1960s ’70s and ’80s, the original lineups no longer exist due to the passing away or retirement of key members. But some of the remaining members can still give the music some authenticity. Queen is a prime example, which continues on after the death of Freddie Mercury. Sweet, Slade, Ten Years After, the Animals, the Pretty Things, Yes and many other bands still tour with just a few original members playing their classic songs.

The Grandmothers of Invention offers the same opportunity to hear some of Frank Zappa’s music.

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