I am a Frank Zappa fan.
I don’t remember how it happened.
I just woke up one day and I had dozens of Zappa records and half a shelf full of Zappa books.
But why is he a hero? He had a career of several decades, but was a marginal figure but for the single “Valley Girl” and noteriety for fighting for free speech.
So why am I a fan? What is it about this iconoclastic, cynical person that compels me. His music is usually impenetrable and obtuse – filled with in-jokes and odd references. He usually isn’t even doing the singing, but a Zappa song is always clearly a work by Zappa. Whether it’s a song whose lyrics are the words on an immigration form, or an ode to bodily functions, his music dares you to neglect or embrace it.
His ethos is exemplified by this quote:
The crux of the biscuit is: If it entertains you, fine. Enjoy it. If it doesn’t, then blow it out your ass. I do it to amuse myself. If I like it, I release it. If somebody else likes it, that’s a bonus.
He’s clearly a musician and entertainer, but he seems to genuinely not be very interested in mass adulation.
One working theory I have is that I want to be more like him. Zappa drove himself and all around him relentlessly. Could it be that that is the simpatico I have with him?
Or perhaps it’s the endless restlessness and invention. FZ was always trying new technologies and attempting to push the limits of music. One of the great pleasures he had was programming his Synclavier – pushing the device to produce compositions that would be impossible or close to impossible for human beings to play?
It could be that he never shied away from speaking his mind and any all subjects – and enjoyed deflating the egos of the powerful – in the music business, on capitol hill. I know I can be a windbag at times. I am always trying to figure out the world – and see it in as true a light as is possible. Questioning assumptions — not doing what is done because it’s the orthodoxy, is something I prize above the safety of previous methods.
Or maybe I just like the music? Much of it is great fun – particularly the recordings made live. You can hear the fun being had by musicians pushing themselves and having a wonderful time. There are also times when the wild changes in tempo and tone defy what people think of as music. Moving from several bars of Stravinsky to Baby Love within the same performance is clearly pushing on the limits and boundaries popular music places on itself. The endless variation and inventiveness are a great joy to listen to.
Or is the enigma? Given the number of biographies that are out one might come to the conclusion that people have Frank figured out. The truth is, that the man was distant from those who worked with him, always with barriers between his public persona which he cultivated, and his true self which seemed available, but was ultimately cryptic.
– Joe Crawford, December 2001
Mothers of Invention Ticket
Steve passed this along to me a few years ago (March of 2000 by the timestamp on my copy of the file). I have it in my Zappa folder on my main computer, but I thought I’d add it here and also to my blog. So here it is!
At the time I think I was living in San Diego, and I was 6 months old. At the time SDSU was “San Diego State College.” It’s a damn cool artifact.
My favorite Zappa Links: