Thirty-nine years ago this week, on October 4, 1970, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention played the Peterson Gym at SDSU. The newly formed Mothers featured former Turtles singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, billed as “the Phlorescent Leech and Eddie,” or Flo and Eddie, due to Turtles-related litigation.
Before the show, many in the audience were talking about Janis Joplin’s death the Sunday prior. Hard-rock trio Head Over Heels, brought down from L.A. and paid by Zappa himself, was the opening act. Few in San Diego had heard the new Mothers, whose recorded debut, Chunga’s Revenge, was two weeks away. So, anticipation was high when Zappa took the stage: “Hi there, boys and girls!”
Wearing tie-dyed jeans and a purple T-shirt, Zappa told the audience, “I went to Grossmont High and Mission Bay High. You can see how much good it’s done for me.” Among the reported set highlights was a lengthy excerpt from the operatic 200 Motels, which had been performed and recorded with a symphony orchestra that summer but was yet unreleased. “Definitely X-rated material,” Zappa warned the crowd beforehand. “Anyone who will be offended should leave now.”
The set closed with the Turtles’ “Happy Together,” resulting in a standing ovation and a lengthy encore of “Who Are the Brain Police” (a song that inspired the name of San Diego psychedelic band the Brain Police).
A review of the show in the San Diego Union complained of Zappa’s guitar solos, “He seems to deceive himself sometimes into thinking he’s Eric Clapton or somebody and, really, he isn’t.” The Daily Aztec gave a more glowing review, though it was noted that Zappa “played for an audience a good third of which was too spaced out to perceive it as anything but ‘weird’ sounds.”