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Absolutely Free
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 26, 1967 (1967-05-26)
RecordedNovember 1966
StudioTTG Studios, Los Angeles
ProducerTom Wilson
Frank Zappa chronology
Freak Out!
Absolutely Free
Lumpy Gravy
The Mothers of Invention chronology
Freak Out!
Absolutely Free
We're Only in It for the Money
Singles from Absolutely Free
  1. "Son of Suzy Creamcheese"
    Released: 1967
Professional ratings
Review scores
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[4]
The Great Rock Discography8/10[5]
MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide[7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[9]
Uncut8/10 [11]
The Village VoiceB−[12]

Absolutely Free is the second studio album by American rock band the Mothers of Invention, released on May 26, 1967, by Verve Records. Much like their 1966 debut Freak Out!, the album is a display of complex musical composition with political and social satire. The band had been augmented since Freak Out! by the addition of woodwinds player Bunk Gardner, keyboardist Don Preston, rhythm guitarist Jim Fielder, and drummer Billy Mundi; Fielder quit the group before the album was released, and his name was removed from the album credits.


The album's emphasis is on interconnected movements, as each side of the original vinyl LP comprises a mini-suite. It also features one of the most famous songs of frontman Frank Zappa's early career, "Brown Shoes Don't Make It", a track which has been described as a "condensed two-hour musical".[attribution needed][13]

In the book Necessity Is..., former Mothers of Invention band member Ray Collins said that Absolutely Free is probably his favorite of the classic Mothers albums.[14]


The CD reissue adds, between sides one and two, two songs that were featured on a rare Verve single of the time. The songs from the single, "Why Dontcha Do Me Right?" (titled "Why Don't You Do Me Right" on the 45) and "Big Leg Emma", were both described as "an attempt to make dumb music to appeal to dumb teenagers".[15]

The UK-67 release (Verve VLP/SVLP 9174) came in a laminated flip-back cover, with a Mike Raven poem at the reverse that was not on any other issue.


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"Plastic People" begins with a mock introduction of the President of the United States, who (along with his wife) can only recite the opening notes to "Louie, Louie". "Louie, Louie" is often interpolated in Zappa's compositions (other examples appear in the Uncle Meat and Yellow Shark albums, among others), and when Zappa first began performing "Plastic People" around 1965, the words were set to the tune of "Louie, Louie".

The title of "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" was inspired by an event covered by Time reporter Hugh Sidey in 1966. The reporter correctly guessed something was wrong when the fastidiously dressed President Lyndon B. Johnson made the fashion faux pas of wearing brown shoes with a gray suit. LBJ flew to Vietnam for a surprise public relations visit later that day.

In the songs "America Drinks" and "America Drinks and Goes Home", Zappa combines a silly tune with nightclub sound effects to parody his experiences playing with drunken lounge music bands during the early 1960s. Other songs recorded soon after that used the same kinds of ideas include "On with the Show" by the Rolling Stones (released in 1967), "My Friend" by Jimi Hendrix (recorded in 1968, released in 1971) and "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" by the Beatles (recorded in 1967 and 1969, released in 1970).

Cultural references

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It is not unusual to find melodies or scores from other composers within the music of Frank Zappa. Absolutely Free is full of musical references to other compositions and artists, including Igor Stravinsky.[16]

For example, "Amnesia Vivace" begins with a collage of quotations from Stravinsky ballets: first, the band plays the "Ritual Action of the Ancestors" from The Rite of Spring, Part II; then harpsichord and chattering voices evoke the pounding Dance of the Adolescents in Part I, over which sax and Zappa's voice start quoting the bassoon melody at the very opening of the Rite and continue into the lyrical Berceuse (also for bassoon) at the end of Stravinsky's The Firebird. The opening sequence of Petrouchka is quoted in the middle section of "Status Back Baby". "Soft-Sell Conclusion" ends with a version of the trombone melody that opens Stravinsky's "Marche Royale" from The Soldier's Tale.

The "Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin", in the beginning of the saxophone solo (first cadence) quotes the trio directly from the fourth movement of Gustav Holst's The Planets, Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity.

The melody to "The Duke of Prunes" is the love theme from Zappa's own film score to Run Home Slow.

Track listing

All tracks are written by Frank Zappa.

Side one: "Absolutely Free" (#1 in a Series of Underground Oratorios)
1."Plastic People"3:40
2."The Duke of Prunes"2:12
3."Amnesia Vivace"1:01
4."The Duke Regains His Chops"1:45
5."Call Any Vegetable"2:19
6."Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin" (instrumental)6:57
7."Soft-Sell Conclusion"1:40
Side two: "The M.O.I. American Pageant" (#2 in a Series of Underground Oratorios)
1."America Drinks"1:52
2."Status Back Baby"2:52
3."Uncle Bernie's Farm"2:09
4."Son of Suzy Creamcheese"1:33
5."Brown Shoes Don't Make It"7:26
6."America Drinks & Goes Home"2:43
2017 Reissue Bonus Record
1."Absolutely Free Radio Ad #1"1:01
2."Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?"2:39
3."Big Leg Emma"2:32
4."Absolutely Free Radio Ad #2"1:01
5."Glutton for Punishment..."0:24
6."America Drinks (1969 Re-Mix)"1:55
7."Brown Shoes Don't Make It (1969 Re-Mix)"7:27
8."America Drinks & Go Home (1969 Re-Mix)"2:42
CD Reissue
1."Plastic People"3:42
2."The Duke of Prunes"2:13
3."Amnesia Vivace"1:01
4."The Duke Regains His Chops"1:52
5."Call Any Vegetable"2:15
6."Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin"7:00
7."Soft-Sell Conclusion"1:40
8."Big Leg Emma"2:31
9."Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?"2:37
10."America Drinks"1:53
11."Status Back Baby"2:54
12."Uncle Bernie's Farm"2:10
13."Son of Suzy Creamcheese"1:34
14."Brown Shoes Don't Make It"7:30
15."America Drinks & Goes Home"2:45


The Mothers of Invention

Additional musicians


Year Chart Position
1967 Billboard 200 41


  1. ^ Reed, Ryan (4 July 2020). "Top 25 American Classic Rock Bands of the '60s". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  2. ^ Grimstad, Paul (September 2007). "What is Avant-Pop?". Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  3. ^ Huey, Steve. "Absolutely Free – The Mothers of Invention". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 June 2011.
  4. ^ Larkin, Colin (2002). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0857125958.
  5. ^ Martin C. Strong (1998). The Great Rock Discography (1st ed.). Canongate Books. ISBN 978-0-86241-827-4.
  6. ^ Henderson, Paul (28 January 1989). "Slippery Customers". Kerrang!. No. 223. p. 18. ISSN 0262-6624.
  7. ^ Gary Graff, ed. (1996). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide (1st ed.). London: Visible Ink Press. ISBN 978-0-7876-1037-1.
  8. ^ Marchini, Massimo. "Frank Zappa". OndaRock (in Italian). Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  9. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Frank Zappa". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). London: Fireside Books. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  10. ^ jimmy, praise (26 May 2013). "Review: The Mothers of Invention - Absolutely Free". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  11. ^ Cavanagh, David. "Frank Zappa/The Mothers of Invention reissues". Uncut. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  12. ^ Christgau, Robert (20 December 1976). "Christgau's Consumer Guide to 1967". The Village Voice. New York. p. 69. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
  13. ^ Couture, François. "Brown Shoes Don't Make It - The Mothers of Invention,Frank Zappa | Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
  14. ^ James, Billy (2002). Necessity Is: The Early Years of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. p. 51. ISBN 9780946719518.
  15. ^ Keeley, Matt (3 December 2018). "Frank Zappa and the Mothers' 'Absolutely Free' Finds a Way Around the Sophomore Slump". Kittysneezes. Archived from the original on 8 August 2020.
  16. ^ Mandell, Allan (November 1973). "Frank Zappa likes Stravinsky: an interview".