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The Yellow Shark [NOT MUDSHARK-IST]
May 17, 2008 1:18 PM   Subscribe

In 1993, we said goodbye to Frank Zappa, fallen victim to prostate cancer. A 1993 Today Show interview with Frank. A 1993 BBC documentary about Frank. {Parts 2, 3, 4.} "Outrage at Valdez," from 1993's The Yellow Shark. [Zappa mega-post previously on MeFi]
posted by not_on_display (43 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
I haven't even watched any of these clips yet, but I wanted to thank you for posting them!!

Now, off to spend a little time with my favorite musician!
posted by newfers at 1:34 PM on May 17, 2008


I love his bit on Crossfire...
posted by starman at 1:38 PM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


known for his "bizarre and lascivious" lyrics but also a serious classical composer?

They don't get it, Frank. They never will.
posted by three blind mice at 1:39 PM on May 17, 2008


he was great with feet too !
posted by dawdle at 1:57 PM on May 17, 2008


Great googly-moogly!
posted by TedW at 2:02 PM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


A much missed artist, the Today interview is great and his eloquence, intelligence and common sense that shines through was an absolute asset in the fight against music censorship. It's sad to see him in later interviews obviously weakened by cancer but he remained lucid to the end.

Nice post.
posted by TheWaves at 2:23 PM on May 17, 2008


Oops, I re-linked to the same as the OP. Here's the intended link to an interview on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in which Zappa and Carson discuss the anti-censorship testimony before a US Senate committee.
posted by TheWaves at 2:28 PM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


America is wonderful! It really makes it!

Cream cheeeeeeeeeese!
posted by NedKoppel at 2:30 PM on May 17, 2008


ZappaFilter: His hometown, Baltimore, has just honored him with more than just a day; they've accepted a statue....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 2:37 PM on May 17, 2008


I was looking for snark when I came to this thread. Yes. 1993. I said goodbye to this great artist fifteen years ago. Why bring it up again? Now? I figured following the link to a statue of him for Baltimore..? There's gotta be a snarky comment in that! So I followed Kronus' link.

If Zappa has been something of an unknown prophet in his own land, people like Paukstys, a photographer, have long held him in high regard as a symbol of free expression in the post-Cold War former Soviet bloc. "Before 1990, you have to remember, [Lithuanians] could not criticize society," Paukstys said through an interpreter. "Frank Zappa was a voice of freedom."

I entered this thread looking to snark it. I'm a ripe bastard. May whatever in the cosmos that actually is the closest thing to what I imagine to be God bless anyone who finds Frank Zappa an inspiration to their own voice of freedom.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:12 PM on May 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Today Show interview is very touching and (if you haven't seen it yet) incredibly restrained. It's as if he's using every ounce of strength to hold himself upright. (Oh yeah, here's a 1993 Playboy Interview with Zappa). The man was bitter about dying. I can't help recalling interviews with Moon Unit, where she says that he more or less ignored her while she was growing up, until she had a hit record. Then, when he was dying, she tried to talk to him, and he just complained that he was in too much pain to get close to her now. Zappa was a workaholic, like Paul McCartney. This may not have been a good thing, because in both their cases, after their early triumphs, there followed several decades of crap. Maybe it would have been better if Zappa had gotten close to his kids instead of reflexively churning out empty music.
posted by Faze at 3:17 PM on May 17, 2008


Frank Zappa music is not empty music.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:41 PM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Watching that Tonight Show clip with Johnny Carson not only made me remember how great it was to see Frank Zappa, but also how great Johnny Carson was at that show. Jay Leno is Kenny G to Johnny Carson's Frank Zappa.
posted by Eekacat at 3:47 PM on May 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


I certainly didn't mean any snark when I posted that link to the Tribune article. I hope it doesn't look that way. I had run across that story a few days ago, and meant to add to the discussion.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 5:24 PM on May 17, 2008


i liked 'peaches en regailia'. that was a cool toon.
posted by stubby phillips at 5:43 PM on May 17, 2008


The older I get and the more bullshit I observe in my day to day life, the more I understand and appreciate Frank Zappa, on both a musical and philosophical level. He had his share of flaws, just like us all, but he had the courage and gumption to speak his mind and let others know how he felt.

It may take a generation or two, but I believe he will be remembered and revered far past his time.
posted by chillmost at 5:51 PM on May 17, 2008


The Yellow Shark is such a great album. The only shame is that he had great difficulty getting orchestral groups of any size to take his music seriously, until the Ensemble Modern did. Of course, his hired guns were by and large a fantastic bunch of musicians, but they were playing in a rock band, more or less, though many did have training extending beyond the simple rock band format. But groups like the LSO really made a hash of his music, which is unfortunate, but it did reinforce his opinion that it was insanely difficult to get played by a traditional orchestral group, unless you were long dead. Otherwise, you have to commission them and just accept what they do with your composition, or pay more to get it right.

As for Zappa's family life ... he did pretty much work all the time on music, but he spent a lot of that at home in his studio. He was pretty obsessive about it, and many people would interpret that as indifference to his family, but they remain devoted to his memory, warts and all. He certainly never pretended to be perfect, although he demanded perfection from musicians he hired. His life may not be idea to raising children or devoting a lot of time to other people and their social needs in general, but he was never abusive, nor did he have issues with alcohol, and he flat out didn't do any drugs. He could have been a much worse role model, for also being a rock star and self-professed freak. His son Dweezil is a phenomenal guitarist, but I don't hear the same passion and urgency behind the playing. Zappa did pass on his talent, but it's a bit difficult getting out from under dad's name to find a voice. It's probably a bit much for anyone else to pass judgment on the way Zappa raised his kids, but for what it's worth, they weren't an unhappy family.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:05 PM on May 17, 2008


I too do not have the time right now to watch all the links, but I've favorited them so that I can come back when I have the time. I also plan on passing them along to a few friends that aren't members so that they can enjoy them as well. Many thanks to not_on_display for putting them together. I don't listen to Frank as much as I used to, but his music will always have a special place in my collection. Like some chillmost up above, I almost have more admiration for the stands he took than for his music and would love to have him around right now to get this thoughts on current events. Like Bill Hicks, he wasn't afraid to have his say, however unpopular it might have been. We need more of that right now.
posted by friendlyjuan at 6:09 PM on May 17, 2008


I love his bit on Crossfire ...

Squeeeee! My beloved, albeit horribly overly-written first fpp EVAH!
Misty, water-colored memories are lighting the corners of my mind as I type this.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:13 PM on May 17, 2008


Faze writes "Zappa was a workaholic, like Paul McCartney. This may not have been a good thing, because in both their cases, after their early triumphs, there followed several decades of crap. Maybe it would have been better if Zappa had gotten close to his kids instead of reflexively churning out empty music."

Among the Zappa fans I've encountered and known over the years, there are inevitably some people who feel that anything he did after the Mothers (probably after the Live at the Fillmore '71 album) wasn't worth hearing. I am not one of those people. Sure, stuff like Tinseltown Rebellion doesn't hold up as well as Uncle Meat, but there was still some excellent stuff in there - Joe's Garage in particular, and I even liked Thing-Fish. I have to admit that the Chad Wackerman period was not my favorite ... great drummer, but a bit robotic, and I don't think the band sounded as good as it did with Chester Thompson.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:22 PM on May 17, 2008


Among the Zappa fans I've encountered and known over the years, there are inevitably some people who feel that anything he did after the Mothers (probably after the Live at the Fillmore '71 album) wasn't worth hearing.

There's fans like that of every musician, especially ones with large catalogs: only the early stuff is any good, often because they discovered him/them early on and more fans came along later. With Zappa, though? That's just insane. Only the very beginning of his massive catalog is worth listening to? There's not one song he did after '71 that's any good? No one could seriously believe that. "The early stuff is BETTER", yeah, sure, but not "the early stuff is the only stuff worth listening to".

Zappa, as much as I love his music, often didn't remember the rule of quality over quantity. It sometimes seems like he went into the studio to record every single thing he ever wrote. You could cut about 20% of his total output of songs and his catalog would benefit. On the whole, though, this is a minor complaint, he was an amazing visionary musician and his best stuff is transcendent. If "Peaches En Regalia" doesn't stir your soul, then you ain't got one.

If you're into Zappa, especially the Mothers period, you should check out the MOFO Project/Object, which is a multi-disc collection of studio recordings showing the songs from Freak Out! in various stages of completion, plus a few interview snippets and other goodies.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:21 PM on May 17, 2008


Thanks for the post not_on_display. The best thing Zappa ever did was fire Lowell George.
posted by Sailormom at 7:22 PM on May 17, 2008


DecemberBoy writes "There's not one song he did after '71 that's any good? No one could seriously believe that. "The early stuff is BETTER", yeah, sure, but not "the early stuff is the only stuff worth listening to"."

When he split up the Mothers, there were a lot of fans who were disappointed at the change his music took after that point and were very loyal to his earlier period to the point of ignoring his later catalog, much like when Dylan went electric - some people just refused to accept the change and never were able to move past it. I'm not saying I agree, but a close friend of mine, for one, helped introduce me to Zappa but never liked anything post-'72. He had the entire catalog up to that year, but nothing after, and he just doesn't like it (and he's a great musician and I trust his judgment, but disagree on that point). Personally, the first album I heard of his that finally converted me was Joe's Garage. The first album of his that I bought, however, years earlier, was Them or Us, which I never grew to like, even years later when I had almost the entire catalog in my collection. I'll always defend later-period Zappa, but that's probably the worst introduction to his music.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:43 PM on May 17, 2008


I was introduced to Frank's music by Dr. Demento, who played "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" and "Don't Eat Yellow Snow" one night when I was 11 and taping the show with a Radio Shack tape recorder. I remember soliciting my dad's opinion, but he was napping and couldn't care less. However, when I wanted to see Frank Zappa play at the Salem Willows in 1983 (IIRC), my parents could, in my opinion, have cared much less, enough to allow me to go, which they didn't. Good times.
posted by not_on_display at 8:04 PM on May 17, 2008


...you should check out the MOFO Project/Object

I will check that out DecemberBoy. Thanks for the tip.
posted by Faze at 8:23 PM on May 17, 2008


Gawd - why choose to have your last interview undertaken by such a pedestrian journalist, I couldn't watch it for more than a minute: "Oh my god.. how did you feel getting a 20 minute standing ovation?" - Bjebus! what's the point of a question like that? There really is no accounting for taste.
posted by strawberryviagra at 8:25 PM on May 17, 2008


ChillMost: "It may take a generation or two, but I believe he will be remembered and revered far past his time."

And the beautiful thing is, he won't care.

All these bastards today trying to carve their name into history and be remembered for something, they will all go the way of the dodo. Zappa never cared about any of that shit, and generations from now he WILL be remembered, for his artistic contributions to humanity as well as his standing before the proverbial king and pointing out he ain't got no clothes. Zappa upheld a steadfast belief that freedoms should be exercised and protected, even if and especially if what's being said is hard to be heard, or stomached.

He will be remembered long after these current yahoos are forgotten. That is... if we survive the current freedoms stripped in exchange for the illusion of security stupidity.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:34 PM on May 17, 2008


Faze: "Maybe it would have been better if Zappa had gotten close to his kids instead of reflexively churning out empty music."

Shit. That's a loaded statement.

First off, I can't diss Faze for questioning Zappa's parental choices, because I've recently been guilty of doing the same to Madonna's parental choices in another thread. I'm gonna let that dog lie there.

As for Frank Zappa's music being empty? You're half right.

Zappa's music, and pretty much all music that isn't considered "pop" or "mainstream" is only half empty. That also means it's half full.

Jazz, blues, soul, these styles of music leave much open to the interpretation of the listener. You fill music in your experience with what you bring along with you. Your baggage is going to color how you respond to his music. Your memories, emotions, knowledge, experience, these and so many other things are your contribution, and only you are going to hear that other half of the music. It differs for everybody.

So if you experience Zappa's music and find it to be half empty, that says more about what you hear and how it affects you, than it says about the music itself.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:47 PM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Embarassing personal anecdote time.

On a camping trip when I was a wee lad, one of the boys - I have no idea who - told a story about a rock musician who boasted on stage that he was the grossest man in the world. Somebody in the audience, however, shouted out that no, he was the grossest man in the world, and went up on stage and took a shit right on the stage to prove it. Well, of course, the musician proved that he was the grossest man in the world by picking up that shit and eating it!

Now, I'm sure that this little childhood fable was told about any number of actual performers (and I don't want to google any of the keywords involved to try and find out just how prevalent the story may have been), but this particular kid told the story with Frank Zappa as the protagonist. And to the seven-to-ten year old boy I was at the time (again, I don't exactly remember) who had never heard of that name but found it an easy one to remember, the indelible mental image spawned by the story unfortunately stuck in my unconsciousness.

Now, the poor guy's been dead 15 years, long after I learned about him, grew to enjoy and respect his music (and his humor, and his passion), and actually see him perform (and conduct). But forty years later, whenever Zappa is mentioned, the first thought in my mind is the damn shit-eating thing.

I'm sorry, Frank. But it really wasn't me; it was that prick on the camping trip that did it to me.
posted by yhbc at 9:04 PM on May 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Zappa Radio
posted by hortense at 9:19 PM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I remember a time when virtually every bathroom belonging to virtually every person I knew had this poster in it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:24 PM on May 17, 2008


That is, that one, or the 2nd one from the top on this page.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:29 PM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thank you flapjax, I'm not crazy, other people heard that story too. It's good to finally know after all these years that Zappa got in a very good line when asked about it.
posted by yhbc at 9:33 PM on May 17, 2008


On a camping trip when I was a wee lad, one of the boys - I have no idea who - told a story about a rock musician who boasted on stage that he was the grossest man in the world.

It's been told about Zappa, Alice Cooper, Captain Beefheart, Ozzy Osbourne, and even Marilyn Manson. Probably others too, but those are the most frequent protagonists. Sometimes it's slightly altered so it's Zappa and Alice and one takes a shit, then the other makes the challenge and eats it, or some other configuration of Zappa/Ozzy/Beefheart/Alice/Manson. Zappa was the earliest target, though. Snopes.

Then there's the similar story where the musician throws a bunch of puppies into the audience and refuses to play until they're all dead. I've never heard that one about Zappa, usually it's Ozzy. It probably originated with him after the bat-eating thing.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:08 PM on May 17, 2008


I like trying to spread the rumor that Barry Manilow was recently picked up for armed robbery. But here's who all those rumors are really about: GG Allin.[wikipedia]
(Is there a meme for Godwin'ing a thread with the mention of GG Allin?)
posted by not_on_display at 10:35 PM on May 17, 2008


(Is there a meme for Godwin'ing a thread with the mention of GG Allin?)

"Shitting on the thread"?

Come on, that was too easy. You set that one up.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:44 PM on May 17, 2008


In fact, let's start one now:
The Law Of Fecal Probability (or, the Poop Postulate): in any thread where feces is somehow discussed, with each successive post, the probability that someone will mention GG Allin approaches 1.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:50 PM on May 17, 2008


Let's scuttle the scatology and get back to what ZachsMind said:

...all music that isn't considered "pop" or "mainstream" is only half empty. That also means it's half full.

I like that.
posted by Faze at 5:54 AM on May 18, 2008


Embarassing personal anecdote time...
posted by yhbc

That rumor is actually dispelled by Zappa himself in the interview that Faze linked to upthread.
posted by micayetoca at 6:50 AM on May 18, 2008


When I was an avant-garde music geek in college, Zappa's stuff (especially the Yellow Shark) struck me as something that a reactionary anti-serialist (12 tone) composer would have written in the 40's or 50's. And I therefore disdained it.

But the years between then and now have washed the academic politics out my of musical aesthetics, and I'm just now starting to discover how much there is to like and be inspired by in Zappa's music.

Which is a very long-winded of saying thanks for the post.
posted by treepour at 9:00 AM on May 18, 2008


Wow thanks for posting this. Lots of great clips, haven't seen many of them - great stuff.

I met Frank Zappa in 1978.

I was taking my undergraduate degree in Math & Computer Science, and evenings I worked part time for a left leaning publication (we didn't use the phrase "alternative" back then) as a photographer.

Zappa was touring the north east, and passed through Buffalo. As his record label was eager for publicity and we had a weekly circulation of maybe 20K, we scored an interview, backstage, after the show.

The concert was fantastic, but Zappa live almost always was great.

We later met up with a clearly exhausted, slouching Frank in his dressing room. There were about twenty people in attendance, doing what bands and hangers on do after a show. Frank chain smoked his way through the interview. I moved about trying to get a good angle for the shots. These were the days of Nikon SLRs, ISO 400 film and a flash, so my practice was to shoot early and get distractions out of the way of the interview. After I burned two rolls, I focused on the rest of the conversation well underway.

The Gal I was working with that night, new to the job, was using a list of generic "band interview" questions, which Frank clearly didn't appreciate in his answers. He talked about his influences, the current tour, past albums in a distracted, clearly bored manner. His voice was relatively subdued, even monotonic compared to the dynamic stage personality that was Frank Zappa.

But then she raised this boner - "Do you live your life according to some kind of code?"

Frank sat bolt upright in his chair. "Why yes, yes I do." he deadpanned.

"And what might that might be, may I ask?" she queried.

Frank shot right back: "I assume everyone I meet is an asshole until they prove otherwise". He took a long drag off his cigarette. "Then I'm never disappointed, especially tonight."

Snickers and laughter from the band, groupies, everyone else in the dressing room. Even my colleague joined along, nervously at first followed by a few belly laughs, although I don't think she ever understood what Frank Zappa had really said.
posted by Mutant at 6:21 AM on May 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


Great post, great clips. I'll go to my grave loving "Montana." I don't care if you think it's silly, folks.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:10 AM on May 19, 2008


Ich bin hier
Und du bist mein Sofa
posted by ersatz at 2:54 PM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


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