UNDERNEATH THE COVERS: FRANK ZAPPA "WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH"
Whenever Frank Zappa got involved in a project, art, humor and a sharp jab at mainstream values were always a part of the mix. Zappa’s record covers were always provocative -- and almost as much fun as his music.
The acclaimed and memorable 1970 album cover for “Weasels Ripped my Flesh” was also the beginning of a long and influential career for artist Martin Muller, AKA “Neon Park,” who would go on to design more than a dozen other classic album covers—most of them for Little Feat.
Neon Park was working as a poster artist in the 60’s with the Family Dog, a San Francisco design group, when he got a call from Frank Zappa. Zappa had noticed Park’s work for a group called Dancing Food and wanted him to paint the cover for the next Mothers of Invention record. When they met, Zappa showed Park a magazine cover. "It was one of those men's magazines like *Saga," Park recalled.
"The cover story was ‘Weasels Ripped My Flesh’ and it was the adventure of a guy, naked to the waist, who was in water. The water was swarming with weasels, and they were all kind of climbing on him and biting him. So Frank said, `This is it. What can you do that's worse than this?' And the rest is history."
Park's painting, for which he was paid a mere $250, almost didn't see the light of day. Zappa’s label, Warner Brothers, hated it. After Zappa wrestled through Warner Brothers’ objections, the printing firm used by the label initially refused to do the job, also finding the work offensive. Zappa and Park loved the uproar. "I was greatly amused by the cover, and so was Frank," Park recalled in an interview. “I mean, we giggled a lot."
|Germany's alternate vision of|
the LP cover
An unexpected round of absurdity was added to the album’s rich history when the German distributor for Warner Brothers believed that a picture of a bleeding baby in a mousetrap was less-bothersome than the approved cover! This alternate cover, never sanctioned by Zappa, is highly collectible among vinyl hounds. One can bet Frank probably enjoyed the wacky German development.
What makes the “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” saga so great for lovers of album cover art is this: It was on this assignment that Neon Park met former Mother of Invention and future Little Feat leader Lowell George. Park would go on to create some of the most beloved album covers of the 70’s for Little Feat, including “Dixie Chicken” and the “lady tomato” cover of “Waiting for Columbus.”
In 1983, Park began to notice numbness in his hands. After many tests and operations, he was diagnosed in 1992 with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. His response to the doctor who told him he had the disease was, "I never even played baseball."
Park passed in 1993, the same year as Zappa, but will always hold a place in the upper echelon of great album cover artists.
Columbus Discovered the Tomato in America.This Cover's "Hot Tomato" is Waiting to Be Discovered, Said Artist Neon Park.