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August 12, 2007 4:52 AM   Subscribe

Frank Zappa' was so many different things { Mother of Invention, orchestra conductor, garage freak, SNL musical guest, anti-censorship advocate, home movie maker, Congressional witness, Monkee, documentary film subject, whipping boy, drug trafficker, late-night TV talk show interviewee, death wisher, composer, Dance Fever judge, master of his domain, dental floss tycoon, cosmic force, breast man, Crossfire combatant and The Walrus, among others } that the one day he was recently given by Baltimore's Mayor hardly seems enoughs.
posted by Poolio (79 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
...the one day he was recently given by Baltimore's Mayor hardly seems enoughs.

But you have to keep in mind that one day in Baltimore is like five days anywhere else.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:09 AM on August 12, 2007 [4 favorites]


Steve Vai recounts auditioning for Frank
posted by Poolio at 5:14 AM on August 12, 2007


He was a lot of things and I can't say I cared for any of them. Maybe it's from my youth, visiting old record shops where the bitter, aging hippies who ran the places were the only Zappa fans I ever knew.
posted by acetonic at 5:21 AM on August 12, 2007


He was a lot of things and I can't say I cared for any of them.

IOW, my favorite band sucks.
posted by Poolio at 5:22 AM on August 12, 2007


Hey, wait a minute, that Steve Vai clip is an ad for Berklee School of Music! Oh well... at least it wasn't yet another musician recounting how he had to play the Black Page...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:24 AM on August 12, 2007


Zappa's last interview
posted by Poolio at 5:27 AM on August 12, 2007


Zappa's last interview

Aha, he's talking about Nicolas Slonimsky! There's an amazing book out that Slonimsky compiled, highly recommended, called Lexicon of Musical Invective. If you think those folks who write reviews for Pitchfork can be harsh, holy christ, wait'll you read what some of the stuff classical music critics were writing about composers back in the day.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:48 AM on August 12, 2007


The Monkee link is a must see if you've never seen it before.
posted by furtive at 5:48 AM on August 12, 2007


Maybe it's from my youth, visiting old record shops where the bitter, aging hippies who ran the places were the only Zappa fans I ever knew.

So now you're a bitter, aging punkster? Or was it Disco?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:02 AM on August 12, 2007


The evil Frank Zappa committed in the world far outweighs the good. On the good side of the ledger, we have 1 and 1/4 of the 2 LP "Freak Out," "Absolutely Free," and about half of "We're Only in it for the Money." "Hot Rats" has its moment, and of course Captain Beefheart's "Willie the Pimp" was a Zappa production. And what my be Alice Cooper's one good song, "Mister and Misdemeanor." But after that, it was as deluge of crap, -- his own potty-mouth noisemaking, to the abysmal records he produced for others: GTOs, that "Merry Go Round" moron from the streets of San Francisco, the all-time worst Captain Beefheart album, "Trout Mask Replica." In in the end, he was reduced to some guy playing long, self-indulgent guitar solos, like ever other 60s icon. His early work was feuled by creative rage against the predictacble and inebriated show business establishment of his youth. But like so many rebels, he quickly became a dictator once he was in power himself, and created his own his own stale, predictable show business establishment, -- with Zappa as its Sinatra. The Turtles were way better.
posted by Faze at 6:09 AM on August 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


Bitte? Raging hippies? Nein, danke!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:10 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


But what do you really think, Faze?
posted by Poolio at 6:12 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


The lovely and talented madamejujujive recently (in another music thread) called attention to the blog Kill Ugly Radio. Any Zappa fans who don't already know about it will surely find it of interest.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:14 AM on August 12, 2007


I'll take aged punk or disco over Zappa any day. His music seems so smug. I like a lot of challenging music, but his stuff seems like a big self-indulgent put-on.* But I always liked Zappa himself. I would've gladly voted for him for president.

*Okay, so I like G-Spot Tornado.
posted by hydrophonic at 6:23 AM on August 12, 2007


I'm part way through, just had to stop by and acknowledge the nova explosion of poolio . Excuse me while I engage thrust.
posted by Mblue at 6:28 AM on August 12, 2007


My father and his best friend invited Zappa back to their house for a party after one of his concerts in Toronto in the late 60's. They both said he was a complete jackass and everyone at the party (a crowd of artists and journalists, not accountants or anything) hated him.
posted by pcameron at 6:32 AM on August 12, 2007


hydrophonic, you took the words right out of my mouth: your comment perfectly expresses my own feeling about Zappa's music and Zappa the man. So I've always felt a very odd disconnect between my admiration and respect for him as a man (his wit, intelligence and determined pursuit of his art) and my general dislike for much of his music, and especially, as you mentioned, the smugness and the "put-on" taste it leaves in my mouth.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:34 AM on August 12, 2007


I always liked the smugness of his work... but then, I'm a dick.
posted by Poolio at 6:41 AM on August 12, 2007


I love Zappa. So there.
posted by jonmc at 6:41 AM on August 12, 2007


> The Turtles were way better.

You know, right? that the Turtles thought enough of Zappa to join the Mothers? Frontmen Volman and Kaylan and singer/bassist Jim Pons may be heard on several middle-period FZ albums, and seen (as leaders of a bra-wearing torchlight parade, just before singing "Penis Dimension") in the film 200 Motels.
posted by jfuller at 6:49 AM on August 12, 2007


...but then, I'm a dick

My ears are burning...

As for Zappa, Faze and hydrophonic said all that needs to be said.
posted by item at 6:53 AM on August 12, 2007


I always liked the smugness of his work... but then, I'm a dick.

I never liked the smugness of his work... but then, I'm a cunt.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:54 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Which actually reminds me of something. I've never met a woman that's said she likes Zappa. Are there any out there?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:55 AM on August 12, 2007


I love Zappa. So there.

Now, jonmc, don't take offense, cause this is an honest question, asked in good faith: Is there any "classic rock" that you don't love?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:58 AM on August 12, 2007


My wife loves Joe's Garage and Sheik Yerbouti.
posted by jonmc at 6:58 AM on August 12, 2007


me - I always liked the smugness of his work... but then, I'm a dick.

flapjax - I never liked the smugness of his work... but then, I'm a cunt.

We balance each other out.
posted by Poolio at 6:58 AM on August 12, 2007


the all-time worst Captain Beefheart album, "Trout Mask Replica."

I can understand not liking Trout Mask Replica, but you're seriously saying it's worse than Bluejeans and Moonbeams?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:02 AM on August 12, 2007


Now, jonmc, don't take offense, cause this is an honest question, asked in good faith: Is there any "classic rock" that you don't love?

First of all, I hate the term 'classic rock.' Any term that could describe both the Byrds and Black Sabbath is meaningless except as a marketing term. But to answer your question, there's plenty of what falls under that rubric that I don't like: I loathe Yes, and Kansas and plenty of others have only a few good tunes. and as you know, I like plenty of punk and post-punk and R&B and hip-hop and oldies and country as well.
posted by jonmc at 7:02 AM on August 12, 2007


Thanks, jonmc. And I gotta say, anyone who loathes Yes is a highly evolved creature. And if I never heard "Dust in the Wind" again that'd suit me just fine.

Now, myself, I like both kinds of music: country and western.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:08 AM on August 12, 2007


And if I never heard "Dust in the Wind" again that'd suit me just fine.

"Carry On My Wayward, Son" is the one I loathe. I will leap across car seats to change the station when that comes on the radio.
posted by jonmc at 7:10 AM on August 12, 2007


Norman does Frank
posted by mattoxic at 7:12 AM on August 12, 2007


I will swim through a river of razor blades to change channels on anything by Hall & Oates or Seals & Crofts. Or Billy Joel.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:13 AM on August 12, 2007


I have just a passing acquaintance with Zappa's music and I wonder now if I'm most familiar with his less accessible work. In any case, in that Zappa/Vai clip he shows some impressive melodicism at the beginning that I didn't expect from him.
posted by Tuwa at 7:15 AM on August 12, 2007


I will swim through a river of razor blades to change channels on anything by Hall & Oates or Seals & Crofts. Or Billy Joel.

"Rich Girl" and "Sara Smile" are actually good blue-eyed soul, and Daryl Hall's solo single "Dreamtime" is a fine slice of Beatlesque pop-rock. "Summer Breeze" is OK and has been done in a few nice R&B cover versions. And living in NYC, I like Billy Joel, he reminds me of my uncles. (I'm an odd duck).
posted by jonmc at 7:15 AM on August 12, 2007


Good lord, I have to agree with you on those particular H & O tunes, especially "Sara", much as I'm loathe to admit it. Maybe it's mostly that the blond one (Hall? Oates?) seems like such an asshole is a big part of what colors my dislike for them...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:20 AM on August 12, 2007


Oh, and poolio, sorry to get off the Zappa train... I'm gonna shut up now.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:21 AM on August 12, 2007


That's okay, flapjax... I'd rather you bash Hall & Oates, Yes and Billy Joel than Zappa.
posted by Poolio at 7:23 AM on August 12, 2007


Sweet post, Poolio. It's always curious to see which threads bring out the haters. I once saw the London Philharmonic do Zappa at Royal Albert Hall and it was fantastic. Berlin recently got a street named for him.
posted by muckster at 7:24 AM on August 12, 2007


muckster - check out the "night" (as in late-night) link in which Frank discusses conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, and the disclaimer regarding imperfections in the album, with Letterman.
posted by Poolio at 7:28 AM on August 12, 2007


suzy creamcheese (has it come to this?)

I've never met a woman that's said she likes Zappa.
Me, I do. I like Frank Zappa!

May your shit come to life and kiss you in the face.

Zappa fans should not miss growabrain's odd Zappa moments - a wonderful resource.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:28 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


oh, and great post, poolio - thanks!
posted by madamjujujive at 7:28 AM on August 12, 2007


flapjax, check out 'Dreamtime,' I was actually stunned by how good it was.

And I'm not understanding the 'smugness' accusations on ol' Frank. he was a caustic dude to be sure, but he was a true believer, just listen to 'Joe's Garage.' and any guy who was inspired in equal measure by Don & Dewey and Edgard Varese and acts as if the boundaries between them are meaningless is my kind of guy. (and unlike many of his peers, he always maintained his sense of humor, which is a huge part of what made him great).
posted by jonmc at 7:29 AM on August 12, 2007


and yes, Frank made my hallowed 300 (self-link).
posted by jonmc at 7:33 AM on August 12, 2007


Hey! Wheres the rest of King Kong?!
posted by Max Power at 7:38 AM on August 12, 2007


Hey! Wheres the rest of King Kong?!

What I posted is the most complete version available.
posted by Poolio at 7:41 AM on August 12, 2007


You know, right? that the Turtles thought enough of Zappa to join the Mothers? Frontmen Volman and Kaylan and singer/bassist Jim Pons may be heard on several middle-period FZ albums

Personally, I don't like anything after Live at the Fillmore East, but my favourite will always be Cruisin with Ruben and the Jets. I guess I just prefer doowop to Zappa's brand of progressive rock.

I can understand not liking Trout Mask Replica, but you're seriously saying it's worse than Bluejeans and Moonbeams?

Trout Mask reached No. 22 on the UK album charts. Those were the fucking days...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:53 AM on August 12, 2007


don't forget foot doctor also !
posted by dawdle at 8:02 AM on August 12, 2007


don't forget foot doctor also !

Specializing in Stinkfoot.
posted by Poolio at 8:06 AM on August 12, 2007


Heh. Dr Frank Zappa's office has recently moved into fancy new digs on the 1200 block of Taylor St in Chicago. I walk past there every day on the way to work. Then I hum a Zappa tune for the remainder of the walk.

And for the record, I love Frank Zappa's music. Anybody keeping score?
posted by rlk at 9:15 AM on August 12, 2007


He used to be funny. But then I graduated from high school. You can only listen to The Illinois Enema Bandit so many times before the joke just isn't funny anymore. But I'm all about giving credit where credit is due. Good post Poolio. I'm going to dust off my copy of Over-Nite Sensation and give it a spin.
posted by Sailormom at 9:19 AM on August 12, 2007


Since my dad did some work with Zappa around the time of the LSO recordings, I had the fortune of going to his house and meeting him several times. I was the typical snotty 4 year old at the time, and for the most part my memory is as good as anyone's memories of when they were 4, but I still clearly remember the first time I met him. My dad introduced me to him and his response was "Hello, Andrew (I was introduced as Andy). I'm Frank." And he shook my hand. My dad is a Zappa fan from way back and I knew how excited he was to meet him and here the man was, treating me like an adult. His attitude immediatly got me to settle down, not in the way the usual way that adults had of making you scared of them, but in an "he's treating my like an adult, I'd better act like one" way. It always seemed that he had this power over adults too. The attitude he have was that he expected the best out of you and you'd better deliver.

I still wish I was just a little older at the time so that I could appreciate the experience of sitting in the UMRK and sitting on my dad's lap listening to some of Zappa's masters on his monitors. As it stands now I just look back on it and go "holy shit." As it was I just remember it being really loud and my 4 year old brain was still hung up on Itsy Bitsy Spider so I couldn't possibly process his orchestral work.
posted by mikesch at 9:34 AM on August 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


“I've never met a woman that's said she likes Zappa.”

I was turned on to Zappa by a woman.
posted by ijoshua at 9:39 AM on August 12, 2007


pcameron: They both said he was a complete jackass and everyone at the party (a crowd of artists and journalists, not accountants or anything) hated him.

Gee what a surprise. I've also heard that Frank was a bit of a prick, but come on, a crowd of journalists and artists? Frank LOATHED journalists and made it clear in plenty of songs, and he wasn't too fond of the self-important pretentious artiste set either.

Personally, I love the man and his music. I think the accusations of "smug and self-important" are unwarranted but not entirely surprising as Frank did always say that he wrote his music to entertain himself, and if other people liked it, that was fine but secondary (barring record sales, of course). And a lot of people don't like his music because they find it "self-indulgent," but isn't that kinda the point of art? I can't argue with the "too many notes/too wanky" claim, because that's just personal taste, but he was never a latte sipping, snooty artiste.

Of course, there are Zappa tunes I can't stand, but they are mainly from the 80s. He became a bit more focused on the comedy aspect to the detriment of the music. While a song like "The Illinois Enema Bandit" was comedy, it was also just a great blues song (and in response to Sailormom, I think it remains funny 15 years after I first heard it because it's a true story, and that's just gold). But then when you've got novelty songs like "Elvis has just left the building," well, that's beneath the man; compare that to the brilliance of the "Village of the Sun/Echidna's Arf (of You)/Don't you ever wash that thing?" sequence from Roxy & Elsewhere. And when I saw Zappa Plays Zappa last year, I thought it was quite telling that they played almost nothing written post-1980.

I think another problem with the 80s stuff is just the sound. He was always very interested in taking advantage of the latest technology. Unfortunately, the latest music technology in the 80s consisted of crappy sounding synthesizers and cheesy electronic drum kits.

I will admit that I've had trouble finding women who dig Zappa, but then I've had trouble finding women who dig a lot of the stuff I listen to. It's not that they aren't out there, but there seem to be less of them, for whatever reason. I think that maybe in our culture it seems more appropriate for men to be into the music itself where as women are expected to be more into it as a social lubricant/something to dance to. That's probably a very superficial and incorrect interpretation, but hey.
posted by papakwanz at 10:30 AM on August 12, 2007


I'll also say that one of my recent faves has to be The Yellow Shark (although the Ensemble Moderne's follow-up Greggery Peccary and Other Persuasions is not nearly as good). Such a great performance, and I only wish Frank could have lived longer to work with them more, because they really got him and his music, and I know that he loved working with serious, professional, and supremely talented musicians. It is sad to think of what they could have done together.
posted by papakwanz at 10:48 AM on August 12, 2007


Thanks for a great post, Poolio.
posted by ambulance blues at 11:17 AM on August 12, 2007


I love Zappa. I still have a bumper sticker that says, "Don't blame me, I voted for Zappa." I had a chance to meet one of his previous vocalists and guitarists Ray White when I lived in the Bay Area, CA. Hell of a nice guy (even though I was a drunken fool at the time), although it seemed he was struggling a bit.

papakwanz writes "I think the accusations of 'smug and self-important' are unwarranted but not entirely surprising as Frank did always say that he wrote his music to entertain himself, and if other people liked it, that was fine but secondary (barring record sales, of course)."

Yeah. I think it's hysterical that he would get accusations of being smug from this group of people. Honestly, music commentary here is so much arrogant wankery.

Well into the '70s Zappa's composition skills were excellent. He didn't always strike the right balance for me, but he did more often than not, and he interspersed his jokey material (which was mostly to sell records) with long instrumentals, which he considered his more serious work - lyrics were an afterthought and were often replete with inside jokes and juvenile humor (and that's the way I like it). One of the most consistent complaints I've heard about him over the years was that his best (most technically accomplished) work was the most self-indulgent, but I disagree. His long guitar solos could be called self-indulgent, but he considered the solos compositions of their own. He basically spent all his free time writing music, so the guitar for him was just a means to an end, not the end in itself. His later material was mostly composed on the Synclavier, an early sequencer/synth, but a very advanced one for its time. I really wish he lived long enough to see the advances in sequencers that have come to pass. He did not consider himself any sort of guitar hero and deliberately put it down several times in order to get away from that image.

I think his worst record was "Them or Us," and it was the first Zappa album I ever bought. Glad it wasn't the last one. I do agree that his later period was not his best, particularly mid-late '80s, but he did have moments. He had become frustrated with working with musicians due to their imperfections, but I think this was a phase and didn't constitute and end to working with the sort of excellent quality musicians he picked in the past. All artists have their ups and downs, and I expected several more worthwhile creative periods from Zappa, if he had only lived long enough. "The Yellow Shark" was a beautiful album. If only it didn't have to come about because a man was dying ...

I am older now and don't listen to his music every day, as I've heard it so many times already (so, so many times - I used to own almost all of Zappa's catalog, which is over 60 albums). My musical tastes have changed considerably, and I don't listen to a lot of the stuff I used to, but his music always holds a very special place for me. He was the first musician/composer to break through to me in a way that challenged everything I thought I knew about music and turned it on its ear. His never-diminishing work ethic was an excellent example to someone like me from the slacker generation, as was his refusal to do drugs or allow his musicians to use them on the clock. His rejection of the hippie ethic and lifestyle was an eye-opener for someone who always wanted to be a hippie. His work and words pushed me to become my own person - maybe a freak, but not a hippie, not a slacker, or any of the other useless "lifestyle" choices the media presents. And although I don't listen to his music every day anymore, his influence on me affects every day of my life, and for that I'm deeply grateful.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:22 AM on August 12, 2007


One more ...

papakwanz writes "I will admit that I've had trouble finding women who dig Zappa, but then I've had trouble finding women who dig a lot of the stuff I listen to. It's not that they aren't out there, but there seem to be less of them, for whatever reason. I think that maybe in our culture it seems more appropriate for men to be into the music itself where as women are expected to be more into it as a social lubricant/something to dance to. That's probably a very superficial and incorrect interpretation, but hey."

Well, the thing is, Zappa hated love songs. He did cover some do-wop and wrote a few of his own (betraying a love for the style, at the very least), but for the most part, he despised the idea of writing pathetic romantic lyrics. He often sneered at the idea in his own songs, so there wasn't much to latch onto if you were looking for love songs or something nice and soothing. Most of his music is very intense and the lyrics are almost never sympathetic - often they poke fun at all sorts of people. These are qualities which many women do not like in their music, but this isn't a rule or any sort of stereotype. It's more cultural than anything. I do know women who like Zappa, but they're almost always freaks or geeks, or serious musicians with an ear for the strange, which is fine by me.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:36 AM on August 12, 2007


krinklyfig: Can you give me these women's phone numbers?
posted by papakwanz at 12:27 PM on August 12, 2007


I more than like Zappa. When he's clean cut, articulate and political in those videos, it pushes me over the edge and I just want to ram it ram it ram it up his poopchute. Wristwatch!

If you want to find the zappa girls, try the Ween shows. They really carry his legacy better than any act I can think of.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:21 PM on August 12, 2007


It's pointless to try to judge zappa as a person. I do share the feelings of papakwanz about the evolution of his sound. I would like however, to point out an element which is seldom mentioned : some of his music was deeply lyrical. He wrote a bunch of stupid songs, many of these I couldn't listen to entirely even once. But other tunes have several layers, and I'm still spellbound today, after listening to them a hundred times.
One can also consider that he worked like a photographer and only kept the good pictures of a musical process he was involving his fellow musicians in. That's very obvious when you compare some instrumentals he has included in his records to other versions of the same tune. Some are just the highlight of a whole concert, and of a series of performances of a particular song. This implies that improvisation was really important, and if some of the output was garbage (so he said) some performances were outstanding, unique, and then kept on his albums.
posted by nicolin at 1:30 PM on August 12, 2007


I think that maybe in our culture it seems more appropriate for men to be into the music itself where as women are expected to be more into it as a social lubricant/something to dance to. That's probably a very superficial and incorrect interpretation, but hey.

You know, I can't figure this out completely either. My mother just doesn't like music at all, somehow related tot he fact that her older sister got into Iron Butterfly, pot, and ran off. Many of my friends have decidedly non-explorative musical tastes, and sometimes I think it's because music is harder to focus on for visually-oriented people, or people easily distracted by the demands of relating to those around them.

When it comes to Zappa, I think it's something more precise; I think his aesthetic borders on the gleefully, aggresively misogynistic (note: I am not saying he is a misogynist, sit tight.). His sexuality in these songs is always unapologetic, supermasculine and, well, lewd. I'm over it, but it was alienating and actually kind off frightening at first. The idea that that kind of vicerality was paired with a similar anti-sosafely cialness in all men's hearts (or, hmm, balls) and might not be tempered by their "better natures" actually worked on me and made me a little skittish... in the way that shortly made me a huge fan and a better woman for it, because I like edginess. Same sexualized thing for Ween too, and Robert Crumb... surely there's harder scarier stuff, for a woman to cleave to, but I've not been exposed to that.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:35 PM on August 12, 2007


jeez, that's a mess. sorry.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:36 PM on August 12, 2007


It's always curious to see which threads bring out the haters.

Though it certainly wasn't expected. There are fads around what people (are supposed to) love as well as fads around what people (are supposed to) hate. For whatever reason, Zappa's clearly in the latter group these days.
posted by treepour at 1:49 PM on August 12, 2007


I do know women who like Zappa, but they're almost always freaks or geeks, or serious musicians with an ear for the strange

I'm not sure I fit into any of those categories, but though I don't listen to him much, I guess on balance I really do like Zappa.

When I was younger I couldn't stand his constant lambasting of idiots, including most of his audiences. Likewise the misogyny -- and no, hiring Ruth Underwood didn't let him off that hook.

I'm not sure I quite take the same view as Ambrosia Voyeur -- that he's expressing a kind of hypermasculine sexuality in which women function as humorless encroaching nannies. There are elements of that, sure; but consider the combined contempt and glee with which he lampoons both the (male) musicians predicating their careers on the hope of blow jobs and the brainless groupies worshipfully providing such.

Over time I started listening through all that (whatever, dude) to the sounds he was making and organizing other musicians to make with him. They're rich and textured and smart. His musical interests were so wide-ranging that he makes the very idea of "genre" seem ridiculous and arbitrary. As nicolin points out, there's some real lyricism there. And as nicolin also points out, group improvisation results in plenty of garbage and some brilliance. Zappa and his various bands worked so hard that the result was staggering amounts of both.

And call me obvious, but I'm prepared to forgive a lot to anyone who can write "Peaches en Regalia". Over the years that piece has never once failed to make me grin.

I bet Zappa was hell to live with, and probably hell to work with for long, but he sure succeeded in decorating some fragments of time. Also: well, as krinklyfig points out, he was absolutely, unequivocally, and admirably his own guy, and that takes...well, okay, to indulge Ambrosia Voyeur, let's call it "balls."
posted by tangerine at 2:08 PM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Frank Zappa's work informed one of my first defiining aesthetic experiences. When I was in 7th grade or so, we got a refurbished Philco 8-track player from God-knows-where and soon after a friend loaned me "Joe's Garage" (he'd pilfered it from his older brother, the same one whose closet would, in a couple of years, produce our first bong). I was listening to the song "Catholic Girls" on headphones and snickering along, when my dad comes up unseen from behind me and plucks the headphones off my head and puts them on.

I was paralyzed. Dad stood stock-still for a moment, his eyes growing wider and wider and his face redder and redder. Then without a word he ejected the 8-track, tossed it to the living room floor, and stomped it with his workboots.

"That's what happens to filth in my house," he growled.

I was enraged. How dare he? Dad just DIDN'T GET IT, MAN!

Within weeks of this musical line-in-the-sand being drawn I brought home the first Ramones record and AC/DC's "'74 Jailbreak". The rest, as they say, is history.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:14 PM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ambrosia: That's pretty funny that you mention Ween, because they hate Zappa, and they really hate being compared to him (or They Might Be Giants). And I don't know, I've been to about a billion Ween shows, and it seems like at least 70% of the fans (male, female, and transgendered) are gross pseudo-hippie skankoids. The rest are the music nerd types, which I guess I fall into by default.

I think it would be fair to call Frank a bit of a misogynist, but only in so far as he was just a general misanthrope. But, even though his lyrics poke fun at male sexuality as well, they do seem to come off pretty harshly towards women, but I think it was because of what he saw as the culture's effects on women's behaviors rather than some sort of view that women are inherently inferior to men.
posted by papakwanz at 4:36 PM on August 12, 2007


Ween, as artists go, don't preference an accurate contextualizing of their oeuvre. It only confirms their similarity to Zappa's form that they're so obfuscatory, imo.

If 70% of their shows weren't at jamband fests (overstatement), your analysis of their crowds might be different. I've seen them at a small club, an outdoor festival and twice playing The Greek, once with the Flaming Lips. Only at the festival were the Phishers a plurality.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:26 PM on August 12, 2007


Thanks for the links. As an avowed Zappa lover I've seen most of them but seeing them again never hurts! I do understand the haterade toward Zappa. He's can be difficult to understand one moment and make things crystal clear the next. That part of his appeal for me.

The other night I had the iPod on when "Mary Lou" from "Man From Utopia" came on. "Man From Utopia" is one of his hated 80s albums. I'd heard the song so many times and never really gave it much thought but upon hearing it again, I fell in love with it. That happens all the time with Frank. Stuff I'd swept under the rug pops put and surprises the shit out of me. He's the gift that keeps on giving. So there's my two cents. Oh and Barry at Kill Ugly Radio had this cool story on his site a few months back.:

From an interview with Tom Waits:

I don’t know, I don’t think they’ve played Sudbury yet.
Tom Waits: I used to play in those places with Zappa, years ago. He played all over Canada, and I was the opening act.

Was that in ‘75, ‘76?
Tom Waits: ‘74, ‘75, yeah. He was using me as a rectal thermometer for the audience.

How did that feel?
Tom Waits: Well, gee, it was a little rough.

I can’t picture your material from that time going over that well.
Tom Waits: Oh, it didn’t go over.

Maybe Beefheart might have been a better combination.
Tom Waits: Of course. It was a complete mismatch. We had the same manager, and he said, “Aaaargh! Go out with Frank!”

“To Canada!”
Tom Waits: “Frank will treat you right! Go to Canada with Frank! In fact, go meet Frank in Canada! At a hockey arena!” You know? Oh, man.

Can I tell you my favourite Frank Zappa story?
Tom Waits: Go ahead.

He was playing this theme park north of Toronto, Canada’s Wonderland. I forget who opened for him, no doubt another rectal thermometer…
Tom Waits: They were abused.

So he comes out with his band to cheers, and they proceed to play Nerf football on stage for over half an hour. Everybody starts booing, people getting really upset, and all these people started to leave–about half the audience. Frank stops, looks around, goes up to the mic, and says, ‘Now that all the assholes have left, let’s rock and roll.’ And apparently he played the best show Toronto had ever seen him play.
Tom Waits: (big laugh) Oh, that’s wild!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:20 PM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thanks to everyone who posted personal stories, etc... I've really enjoyed reading your comments.

And for the record, while I expected there would be haters (aren't there always), I didn't expect quite so many... but I've enjoyed reading their comments too, for the most part.
posted by Poolio at 6:48 PM on August 12, 2007


Isn't the term "haters" kind of overused, though? It's so black-and-white. You either love something, or you're a hater. Actually, I'd say I hate the term "hater". Course, that makes me a hater all over again.

HATE! HATE! HATE! HATE! HATE! HATE! HATE!

That reminds me, one of my favorite album titles of all time:

Songs of Love and Hate (Leonard Cohen).
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:55 PM on August 12, 2007


It's so black-and-white. You either love something, or you're a hater.

The lifeline is divided that way.
posted by Poolio at 8:05 PM on August 12, 2007


Hate hate hate!
posted by Wolof at 9:00 PM on August 12, 2007


"You're talking about him as if he's Napoleon." --Mark E. Smith in response to a bandmate recounting a story of Zappa.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:03 PM on August 12, 2007


Ambrosia: Uh, yeah. Good luck with all that.
posted by papakwanz at 9:29 PM on August 12, 2007


papakwanz: In case you didn't see, the "orchestra" link goes to The Yellow Shark Overture.
posted by Poolio at 10:09 PM on August 12, 2007


I do know women who like Zappa, but they're almost always freaks or geeks, or serious musicians with an ear for the strange


You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:58 PM on August 12, 2007


Late to the party (nothing new there), but a heartfelt and hearty thanks to Poolio for the linkage.
posted by retronic at 12:59 AM on August 13, 2007


And, not that it matters one whit, but I didn't get Zappa for many, many years. Then one day, without warning, everything changed. Funny how that can happen.
posted by retronic at 1:01 AM on August 13, 2007


two more useful links : zappateers, where you can find anything zappa that hasn't been officially published or is now out of print in the best available quality (tv shows, magazines, many soundboard / audience tapes from his concerts) and download it through bittorrent (includes a forum and listening sessions). Zappa-analysis, where some of the prominent features of zappa's style are discussed and described. Includes links and a bibliography.
posted by nicolin at 4:38 AM on August 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


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