the mothers of invention

the mothers of invention

THE PENGUINS - "MEMORIES OF EL MONTE'' (1963)

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Description

"Memories of El Monte" is a metasong released in 1963 by the Penguins featuring Cleve Duncan. It was written by Frank Zappa and Ray Collins before they were in the Mothers of Invention. The song was first released as Original Sound 27. In 1960, Art Laboe released one of the first oldies compilations, Memories of El Monte, a collection of songs by bands that used to play at the dances Laboe organized at El Monte Legion Stadium in El Monte, California. At some point in the next few years, Ray Collins visited Frank Zappa at his house at 314 W. G Street in Ontario, California. Frank told him that he and a friend had thought of writing a song entitled "Memories of El Monte." Ray had been to the dances at El Monte Legion Stadium and had played there with tenor saxophonist Chuck Higgins. Ray sat down at Frank's piano, played the "Earth Angel" chord changes and immediately came up with the first lyrics for "Memories of El Monte." Frank Zappa took the song to Art Laboe, who loved it. Laboe came up with the idea of adding a section that named doo-wop groups and having the Penguins impersonate their songs. The song functions as a de facto advertisement for the collection Memories of El Monte when it references songs on the compilation. "Memories of El Monte" was recorded at Paul Buff's Pal Recording Studio in Cucamonga, California in 1963. The song was copyrighted on February 20th, 1963. Although, the track is credited to the Penguins featuring Cleve Duncan, and Zappa claimed it was recorded by "a bunch of guys from the car wash," it was actually sung by Cleve Duncan of the Penguins, backed by the Viceroys. The song reminisces about dances at the El Monte Legion Stadium. It consists of two verses, followed by a section listing a number of songs that would be sung, followed by another verse. It was one of the first songs that Frank Zappa wrote that he was able to get released. It is a doo wop style song. Zappa contended that the music that was happening during the 1950s was one of the finest things in American music. "Memories of El Monte" was popular on the radio sold well in a variety of markets but it did not chart nationally. It was a local hit, and led Cleve Duncan to reform the Penguins, who had broken up around 1959. It is now considered a perennial favorite, and Art Laboe has played it a lot. Ray Collins has criticized the recording of the song, saying that, "Art Laboe's always had this thing about people recording R&B ballads too slow, I think he overcompensated and made "Memories of El Monte" too fast." Ray Collins still gets twice-yearly royalty checks from the song. Frank Zappa used a $1,500 advance against the royalties of "Grunion Run" (recorded by The Hollywood Persuaders) and "Memories of El Monte" to bail his girlfriend out of jail, and to get an attorney.