top of page

Mothers of Invention - We're Only In It For The Money



The Mothers of Invention

US 1968

Photography: Jerry Schatzberg

Artwork: Cal Schenkel


One of the iconic LP covers of the 1960s, We’re Only In It For The Money began as Frank Zappa’s simple sketch on a piece of paper which he presented to his in-house designer Cal Schenkel. Completed in October 1967, WOIIFTM was the Mothers’ third album and was in every aspect a stalking horse against the counter-culture. As a man who spent time in a County lock-up on obscenity charges, Zappa approached the Summer of Love with decided pessimism.


For his satirical take on Sgt Pepper Zappa chose Jerry Schatzberg, a photographer who knew how to capture men in drag, having done the Stones’ ‘Have You Seen Your Mother Baby…?’ sleeve. (The Mothers’ Bunk Gardner even copies Bill Wyman’s wheelchair pose). And Schatzberg knew how to capture women in fashion too, having done photography for Vogue, Esquire and Glamour.


Zappa went so far as to phone Paul McCartney during a British press conference trying to get the Beatles’ permission to parody Sgt. Pepper, Though the contrary Californian came up wanting against the media-savvy Beatle. Though it wasn’t a lack of clearance from EMI that delayed the release until March 1968, but MGM/Verve warring with Zappa over censorship of lyrics and sleeve design. Confusingly, this led to the record being turned inside-out, so no writing on the cover but a talking bubble above a pigtailed Zappa’s head asking “Is this phase one of Lumpy Gravy?” The wraparound group shot is notable for the sublime countenance of the late Jimmy Carl Black, “the Indian of the group.”


On the interior photo black bars were used to obscure several of the faces behind the group, but it’s still easy to spot LBJ rubbing shoulders with Clara Bow, Lee Harvey Oswald and Rasputin. Original releases also included a paper insert with “badges” of hair, a nipple and the band happily holding a bagful of cash.


Producer Tom Wilson is seen in a lettermen sweater, looking none the worse for wear after his stint behind the boards for Dylan and the Velvets. Jimi Hendrix dropped by Schatzberg’s NYC studio, probably unaware that Zappa would make him appear to be clutching a white girl on the finished sleeve, or that ‘Flower Punk’ was a parody of ‘Hey Joe’  (“Hey punk, where ya goin’ with that button on your shirt?”). There’s drummer Billy Mundi dressed as a samurai and a very-pregnant Gail Sloatman, soon to be Mrs. Zappa. At their feet is a mass of mangled produce, generic beer and Schenkel himself, seemingly rising from the grave to deliver a dozen eggs.  


Long out of print WOIIFTM was re-released by Zappa in the mid 80s, problem being he chose to re-record the bass and drums, the folly of which I won’t go into. But the record remains inspirational to an audience as diverse as Vaclav Havel to the Fall’s Mark E. Smith, who says it’s his “very favourite of all.” I can’t argue with him.



Published in Shindig! Magazine



bottom of page