Frank Zappa documentary
February 3, 2012 3:20 AM   Subscribe

Frank Zappa documentary: Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Four; Part Five.
posted by twoleftfeet (21 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Looks delightfully weird! Love it...
posted by newfers at 3:25 AM on February 3, 2012

The modern day composer REFUSES to die!
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 3:38 AM on February 3, 2012

Burnt weeny sandwiches for everyone! Thanks.
posted by ersatz at 3:43 AM on February 3, 2012

Some great Flo & Eddie era stage footage so far, plus Dweezil and Moon Unit as toddlers! Excellent stuff. This is what the Internet was made for.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:04 AM on February 3, 2012

I'm tempted to purchase a sock puppet just to favourite this more than once
posted by criticalbill at 4:09 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

OK, what is going on in part 3 at about 2:50? Am I wrong to assume she's about to do coke off his dong while he says "smurf me"?
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:21 AM on February 3, 2012

I like how Zappa describes himself as musician, composer and film-maker. In that order. Says a lot about how well he actually played the guitar.
posted by three blind mice at 4:35 AM on February 3, 2012

and film-maker I mean.
posted by three blind mice at 4:36 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

The film he's working on in the last part? 200 Motels.
posted by bardic at 4:41 AM on February 3, 2012

Must read The Real Frank Zappa Book again for, oh, the 350th time. Taken from us too soon. Cheers FZ!
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:51 AM on February 3, 2012

One thing about Zappa, he was one politically astute fellow. This quote from him becomes more and more apparent.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:25 AM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

In that order.

In later life, FZ called himself "a composer who happens to know how to operate a machine called a guitar", and said that, when he wasn't getting ready for a tour, he never touched the thing. So I wouldn't read too much into this.
posted by thelonius at 6:52 AM on February 3, 2012

If I remember correctly, he also said that between tours he would forget how to play* and have to practice a lot.

*Add a pinch of salt there.
posted by ersatz at 6:58 AM on February 3, 2012

I remember he told "Guitar Player" that he'd even lost his calluses. Grain of salt, sure. What he called "guitar fetishists" seemed to amuse him, and he may have been teasing them, to some degree.
posted by thelonius at 7:10 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

In later life, FZ called himself "a composer who happens to know how to operate a machine called a guitar", and said that, when he wasn't getting ready for a tour, he never touched the thing
I always had the impression that the self-destructing 1988 tour pretty well soured him on playing and working with live musicians. I don't have my copy of The Real FZ Book handy, but I'm pretty sure I recall one passage where he says that pretty much the only reason he still gave human beings the edge over the Synclavier was their ability to play intuitively off one another.
posted by usonian at 7:35 AM on February 3, 2012


Does it all sort of blend together or is there a level where you are jumping beyond stuff that you ever were capable of.

Well, the funny thing about the way I play is that I never practice. And every time a tour ends and I put my guitar away I usually don't touch it until the next season's rehearsals. And every time I pick it up it's like learning to play all over again, I don't have any callouses, it hurts, I can't bend the string, you know, the guitar feels too heavy when I put it on, I feel awkward holding it. It's like somebody hands you a piece of lumber. And now you are supposed to perform again and I was off-the-road for nine months before this tour. And I didn't hardly play at all, I mean, a couple of times in the studio and that was it. I lost all of my technique, and didn't have any callouses. It was really hard to play.

And so, this tour started and it was with a brand new drummer which usually takes some amount of time adjusting to. And I suddenly found that I didn't have any problem playing, I just went out there on the stage and started blasting away. I have been playing good since the beginning of the tour, and a few nights I've played things that I think are really remarkable even by my own standards, or by my own aesthetic, of what I am trying to do when I play, I think I've exceeded my goals on a couple of nights. I really do.


You've already heard every pentatonic scale there ever was. You have heard all of the chromatic scales there ever was. You've heard the Aeolian mode played with a muted palm of the hand. You have heard all of the nice bent notes. You have heard clean playing, accurate playing. You have heard it all, you know.

I don't give a shit about that stuff. I want to play what's on my mind and I think I succeed when I can directly convert my compositional idea, my instant compositional idea into sound patterns right there on stage on the moment, and if the rest of the band accompanies that properly so that it obviates the musical idea, then I did it. But, that's a lot of variables, because it means that everybody on stage has to hear each other just enough so that it works, and that everybody else's musical imagination and the support function of the rhythm section is tuned into somewhat I'm doing. You don't have any go-for-yourselfers out there. And that's the thing that usually ruins a solo. If a drummer overplays, if the bass player overplays or the keyboard overplays ... if they don't have any sensitivity to what I'm doing or if they aren't smart enough to track the direction that I am going in it's like dragging an anchor.

In fact, I'll point out the way that song, "Watermelon in Easter Hay" got it's name. It's from the statement that playing a solo with this band is like trying to grow a watermelon in Easter hay. And most of the bands that I've had it was like that. It's been just recently where I've had rhythm sections that don't get in my way and let me do what I am going to do. And also guys playing behind me who are fans of what I play. Not just fans of the group or whatever, but they really enjoy listening to what I am capable of doing given optimum circumstances and they get off on it. When you have somebody pushing you like that and working with you to help make a musical event unnatural or unknown or alien or beyond or scientific or whatever, then it's great. So I enjoy that.

posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:45 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nice. Not crazy about all of of his music, but he was one hell of an interesting guy. Flower Punk is one of my favorite songs.
posted by freakazoid at 7:55 AM on February 3, 2012
posted by hortense at 11:05 AM on February 3, 2012

IMHO, Zappa was one of the very rare pop musicians (outside of some 50s-60s era be-bop and cool jazz and some very small number of country singer/songwriters) who were actual virtuosos on their primary instruments in addition to being, principally, songwriters and band leaders. In rock music, I'd put Hendrix up there, and in post Miles jazz, maybe Metheny?

But I think the main contribution that Zappa (and to some extent in the "modern" mode, Reich) has made, is to push the idea of "beat" being more of a pulse than a straight 4/4 or 2/4 or 3/4 or 6/8 kind of thing. I'm rambling, but I guess I'm saying there would have been no Remain In Light before Zappa.

So I'm glad to have seen this documentary pop up at several websites I frequent!
posted by digitalprimate at 11:10 AM on February 3, 2012

Also, pick me, I'm clean.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:11 AM on February 3, 2012

1:50 into the first clip, Flo & Eddie start sing 'gris gris gumbo yaya,' which is part of a Dr. John song on 'Night Tripper.' It looks like they're trying to surprise him. Zappa picks up on this. Cute moment.
posted by shushufindi at 12:25 PM on February 4, 2012

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