Eat the truck and driver and his gloves.

News item: Ray Collins, original lead singer of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, is dead at 76.

I’ve rambled before, in other forums, about the influence Zappa and the Mothers had on me as a kid; so I’ll try not to rehash it too much here.

Short version: When I was in grade school, I found a cassette containing parts of the “Mothermania” and “Uncle Meat” albums in my dad’s collection, copied for him by an old friend.

The raunchy absurdity and lopsided musical creativity of songs like “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It,” “Uncle Meat (Main Title Theme)” and “Duke of Prunes” were just the thing to warp the mind of your average American fourth- or fifth-grader.

And — because my dad’s friend had laboriously transcribed the liner notes — I was made aware that these Mothers included somebody credited with “pachuco falsetto” (whatever that was) … another musician credited with “electric piano, tarot cards, brown rice” … and a saxophonist-slash-tambourinist-slash-roadie with the unlikely name of Euclid James “Motorhead” Sherwood.

These guys were musically talented, lyrically subversive, and fifteen kinds of freaky; and discovering them was a mind-opening pleasure.

I suppose it was a quiet disappointment, when I got into mainstream rock music a couple years later, to find out that not every rock band would suddenly lurch into atonality, snorting sound effects, or dadaist spoken interludes at the drop of a hat.

And no one else in rock n’ roll — not Blackie Onassis, not Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, not Arcane Vendetta, not even Randy California — has ever had a cooler name than Euclid James “Motorhead” Sherwood.

So whenever one of the old Mothers passes — as Zappa has, and Jimmy Carl Black, and Motorhead Sherwood almost exactly a year ago — I remember the days of that old cassette tape. I might still have the actual tape, though it doesn’t matter; there’s a row of Zappa/Mothers CDs on my music shelf to replace it.

Here’s a tune from one of the last Mothers albums to feature Ray Collins on “swell vocals” (according to the liner notes, contrasting with Zappa’s credit for “low grade vocals”):

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