Frank Zappa: Classic or Dud?

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
He's hardly ever been mentioned here, but in my humble opinion Frank Zappa was one of the towering figures in late-twentieth century American music. He was an impeccable, perfectionistic musician responsible for some of the most amazing and ahead-of-its-time music. From his first album ("Freak Out" in 1966) to his sadly-early death in 1993, he continually pushed the musical envelope throughout amazingly prolific career, combining elements of rock, jazz, avant-garde music concrete and even modern classical music (Varèse, Stravinsky, von Webern, etc.). Lyrically, Zappa was one of the most amazingly astute social commentators on American life (God, what a field day he would have had a _field day_ with the imbecile Chimp in the White House now!)

On the other hand, some contend that Zappa was a musical con-artist, a pretentious artiste peddling scatological, misanthropic lyrics. Or, as one of my friends put it, "Zappa fans are just pretentious Dead Heads."

So, what do you think?

Tadeusz Suchodolski, Monday, 14 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I own a couple of albums and know some hardcore fans -- generally, though, I find him easier to regard than to enjoy. I won't doubt his compositional range, but even so.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 14 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

the fact that he would have a _field day_ with george w. just proves zappa's tendency for cheap, easy humour. that said, his music is often gleefully hilarious and i thoroughly love 'apostrophe' to the point that i'm just now regretting leaving it off my forty albums. every song on that is fantastic.

ethan, Monday, 14 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Weird that this should come up because I've just been contemplating Zappa again after picking up used copies of You Are What You Is and One Size Fits All the other day. I'd have to say classic just because he release so much good stuff, mostly in the early days. One Size Fits All fits this, as do the aforementioned Apostrophe (though I preferred Overnite Sensation just a bit more, it's pretty close), Freak Out, Absolutely Free, Hot Rats, Lumpy Gravy and We're Only In it For the Money...virtually no filler on any of these.

On the other hand, stuff released in the late seventies and through the eighties was often fairly puzzling. Musically speaking, it was incredibly well-played, and the lyrics had a bitter sting to them that you couldn't help but admire a good chunk of the time. By this time, though, he got into a really nasty groove that went past obvious satire to the point where you weren't quite sure that he wasn't being serious anymore: how many times can you release an album filled to the gills with songs about big breasts, blow jobs, drugs, and various other degeneracies until any claims to satire are dismissed? In a lot of ways it became a one-note dirty joke, and while it remained clever it became redundant and increasingly transparent. Moments of brilliance were still there: Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch was actually quite solid if you jettisoned the novelty hit single. The Yellow Shark proved that the man knew how to compose music (though Jazz From Hell had already proved that, it was a bit on the sterile side). More than anything, this became a period where Zappa was more notable just for the sheer amount of product he cranked out. That's not enough to change my vote, though. Still classic.

Sean Carruthers, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

You know, Zappa is a classic to me, but not as *holy crap* amazing as I once thought. People really give him too much credit for his weird music. To me, it seems natural to write that sort of crap. It comes from not being able to focus very well, or not wanting to bother, perhaps as a sort of gimmick! You'll notice his stripped down songs on "Zoot Allures", "Freak Out" and "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" are booooring. He's not very good at writing real (what most people would consider "normal") songs. "Cheapnis" is one exception, though it is full of weird changes and "humorous" subject matter, it does feel like a good rock song.

If you bother to learn how to write music, write a big, run-on sentence like Zappa did so you can just sit back and hire super-professional musicians to play it later, as a challenge to their virtuosity and a feather in all of your caps! And then mix and match your paragraphs, so you never have to start a new book (since it's such a mess to begin with) and have people call your entire body of work a brilliant intertwined "concept"!

Music that is composeurish is rather dull, unless it is actually goodlike Mozart, Vivaldi or Beethoven, when the orchestration is so good, you don't notice the minutia unless you concentrate and are then blown away on a whole different level. Zappa falls way short of that. Everything is "hey, listen to this little weird thing" *insert cowbell rattle followed by kazoo*. (This reminds me of Metallica, by the way; I can hear the metronome ticking in the background. That's bad music! Is that supposed to be emotion? Hmmm...)

I prefer the Grateful Dead to most Zappa, with the exception of "Apostrophe" & "Sheik Yerbouti". Some others that are okay, but by no means what the fans make it out to be, are "The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life", "Yellow Shark", "Joe's Garage" and "You Are What You Is". I also have "Live At The Ritz" (or something?) that I never listen to. It is some of the most boring shit I own, except for the one track "I Am The Slime" which I don't have on any other recording... Which album has "Zombie Woof"? That'sa good one, actually.

Anyway, I think what I'm trying to say is that it's a lot harder to make a cohesive song that has some emotion rather than filling a music sheet with black dots and having Steve Vai and Anton Figg play it for you while you play composer genius. The main guy from Jethro Tull is like that, too, but I think he actually has a reason to be, since it's not 1/2 just free improvisation and studio overdubs.

Of course, if you are a fan of his music, you'll be ridiculously offended by the notion that he's nota super genius, even if you have no musical knowledge or skill yourself as a source to draw upon for judgement, and tell me to piss off or something for daring to compare my unfamous non-music-reading sensibilities to the god of avant garde. He definitely gets tons of points for being first. Who knows if I would be able to lay on a couch, imagining constantly changing music patterns if he hadn't shown me how (or did he)? I do it all the time, but it drives me nuts because songs that wander off into insanity are boring. Playing simple and well is difficult. I think Zappa released too much of too little value (except to those fanatics of course). But, I still think he's a classic for the good stuff he did put out and for trying to do something interesting (even if not really very funny at all, just weird and kinda perverted) with music.

, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

'zomby woof' and 'i am the slime' are on the same album, 'overnite sensation', which is really great. buy it.

hey, nobody's mentioned 'hot rats' yet, perhaps his greatest album?

ethan, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I did! One of my faves of the early period.

Sean Carruthers, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

There is (or was recently) an article on The Wire website by a writer who really hated Zappa, and I had never heard anybody who really hated him before. While I really like a lot of stuff like "Weasels Ripped My Flesh", "Uncle Meat", "Apostrophe", and even some parts of "Sheik Yerbouti", a lot of the criticisms hit home for me. He really did end up being a lot of the things he parodied. Too bad, really.

Oh, check out his autobiography. It's got some good laughs. Spoo!

Dave M., Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I think Hot Rats is boring.

Interestingly I don't really feel qualified to respond to this thread any more, despite owning a load of Zappa. I haven't listened to any of it in more than a year.

I think my favorites used to be Apostrophe'/Overnite Sensation (esp. "Montana" - "I think I'll raise me up some DENNIL FLOSS"), the guitar box (esp. the track with the bouzouki), parts of Joe's Garage (mostly for the guitar sound, cf. 'Watermelon in Easter Hay', and because I get an enormous kick out of hearing the Ceeeeentral Scrooooaaaatinizer), One Size Fits All, much of Zoot Allures and Lather (I get an infantile kick out of the Stravinsky namedrop on "Titties 'n' Beer", but that's just a perk).

Josh, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Utter, utter, utter, utter...dud. One of the most overrated artists of all time. Penman's excellent hatchet-job in The Wire has already been mentioned, he's say it all, have nothing to add.

Omar, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Was it him who named his kid 'Moon Unit'? If so, dud.

DG, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Total DUD - "the single most untalented man in rock" or whatever it was Lou Reed once said (tho' I notice Louis kissed and made up once FZ was safely brown bread...) Ugly, unfunny lyrics, pointless musicianly grandstanding, total lack of quality control, etc. etc. Tiny bonus points for 'Trout Mask Replica', Wild Man Fischer, the alb cover to 'Weasels Ripped My Flesh', the first side of Hot Rats and the title 'Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue'. And that's it.

Andrew L, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link


- following the awesome tribute night to zappa and beefheart at THE CLUNY - where was the fuckin' WIRE ? - another night is planned on thursday 17th may at newcastle arts centre - featuring ex- zappa/beefheart drummer jimmy carl black and the muffin men, zoviet france, hounds of the hill and many others - zappa and beefheart classics fucked over bigstyle - like susan george in straw dogs !

geordie racer, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

i'm not really into the idea of zappa. too much 'virtuosity' and 'cleverness'. and from the early 70s onwards, i'm imagining too many guitar twiddlybits?

but. having said that, Peaches In Regalia is very good, doesn't seem forced like a lot of his stuff (although the rest of Hot Rats is booring)

Absolutely Free is 'wacky' and 'clever' and 'over the top', but on that album it actually works very well, is a great album

everything else i'm kind of indifferent to.

what was the teddy & his patches thing, erm, Suzy Creamcheese? that was good.

gareth, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Actually, Moon Unit still happily calls herself Moon Unit — ditto Dweezil, ditto Achmed — which points up the absolutely least dud side of Zappa: his happy personal life, relationship with kids etc (compare/contrast Zowie Bowie = Joey Jones, or whatever). Plus she was central to the only FZ artefact I've unforcedly actually liked (as opposed to guardedly "appreciated"): the Valley Girl single.

Tadeusz says astute, but I've never thought FZ was over-and-above astute — just, y'know, run-of-the-mill astute. Never heard an FZ commentary that I hadn't already heard elsewhere (not nec. heard elsewhere in pop /rock, but in Letterman or Alex Cockburn, or just somewhere... ): I think the prob. is he NEVER turned his laser-eye on himself and the wackness of his dreams/fears. "Astute" somewhat excepted, all the good words TS uses are true — but (to me) so what. FZ is just too guarded, so that's how he makes me.

mark s, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Wow, this place moves fast. Set this thread up a week ago, and it's at the bottom of the heap already. Hmmm.

Anyway, my own thoughts: I tend to like Zappa's earlier stuff most (just about everything he did with the Mothers of Invention), plus a great deal of his late seventies/early eighties post-Mothers stuff. Faves would have to be Apostrophe (as someone upthread said, so gleeful), Freak Out!, Hot Rats, Joe's Garage, and Läther (because it's so over-the-top, has all of the best bits from Sheikh Yerbouti and Orchestral Favorites, and that cow on the cover with the Zappa goatee-and-beard). Guilty favorites would be Sheikh Yerbouti (great pop songs and awesome guitarwork mixed with pure wank and pointlessly stupid lyrics) and Thing Fish (mainly because it brings together everything that was good and was bad about Zappa). Largely agree that he tapered off towards the end, when he was releasing albums largely because he could (and because he'd gotten that damn Synclavier doing music by himself, without anyone or anything to keep him or his sketchier ideas in check).

As for the astuteness -- I guess some of that's from my having read a lot of his interviews as well as his autobiography. His lyrics are a grab-bag of the funny, the astute, the obscene and the flat-out stupid ... even he admitted that a lot of his lyrics and plots (esp. Joe's Garage) were stupid.

Tadeusz Suchodolski, Monday, 21 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

one year passes...
Can I just say quickly that Zappa is cod weirdo pseudo-freak out obscurist balderdash for muso's with no soul to wank over whilst the rest of us bite our tongues whilst searching frantically for a tune or vibe to grip. Insincere rubbish written by someone who had a deep musical understanding but not the wit to realise it.

'Hot Rats' is good though, and is it 'Suzy Cream Cheese' (?). Actually, Zap ain't so bad. I mean the guy did twiddle the knobs on 'Troutmask' right? It's just he's so fucking odd; but for the sake of being odd, you know. Whereas with Loonheart, you know that he is genuinely fucking out there, Zappa is always trying so damn hard.

With this is mind: Dud.

Roger Fascist, Monday, 29 July 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

how could you not like frank? he looks like a hippie. Classic for that.

JUlio Desouza, Monday, 29 July 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Disclaimer: I have a very spotty knowledge of Frank Zappa's catalogue, and most of what I have heard has been heard over the radio or while visiting friends. I have a sense of frustration with Zappa. He seems to have all of this talent of some sort, but why does he choose to make so much awful music with it? His social commentary doesn't impress me too much, though I guess it meant more when I was in high school. The scatological stuff I've heard (e.g. Joe's Garage) bores me. Still, like many non-fans above, I have some favorite songs. I like "You Are What You Is," the song, quite a bit. I like some of what I have heard from Freakout. More dud than classic, to me, but I haven't heard enough to make a serious judgment. (I've heard enough to know that I'm not interested enough to want to spend money on any of his CDs though.)

DeRayMi, Monday, 29 July 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

True story: about 12 years ago I exchanged a series of tapes with a work colleague / fellow music lover (like you do). At first, he couldn't get his head around rap at all, but the Public Enemy stuff clicked with him and he suddenly got really excited about hip hop. Turning to his own collection to try and find a parallel, he came up with ... a Zappa mixtape! (which I've still got)

Jeff W, Monday, 29 July 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I recently bought "Strictly Commerical: The Best of Frank Zappa" mostly because I've had "Let's Make The Water Turn Black" in my head since I first heard it. Quite disappointed with the rest of the album and the version of LMTWTB is different from the one I heard which was instrumental with trumpets replacing the singing and was impossibly ace. The rest of his stuff is hit and miss. I rode home stoned the other day with "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" on my walkman and found myself laughing uncontrollably hard at the lyrics. Listneing back the next day, I found it hard to see why they were so funny at the time.

dog latin, Sunday, 4 August 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

four years pass...

So... Nobody here has a sense of humor unless they're STONED??

All of you hate fun and sweet sweet guitar solos. REVIVE!

Andi Mags, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:34 (thirteen years ago) link

Alternate '73 version of Montana with better video quality but lower sound. KILLER solo.

Andi Mags, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:50 (thirteen years ago) link

ahhhhh thanks

cutty, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:50 (thirteen years ago) link

whoa i just clicked on that "last zappa interview" video--really sad

cutty, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:53 (thirteen years ago) link

fuckin ian underwood!

cutty, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:57 (thirteen years ago) link

I haven't brought myself to watch that yet, but there are 5 sections of the Zappa bio from BBC on there too, which I highly recommend.

Andi Mags, Monday, 28 May 2007 05:11 (thirteen years ago) link

That video of "You are what you is" made the 8 year old me extremely nauseous when it originally aired.

Sparkle Motion, Monday, 28 May 2007 16:08 (thirteen years ago) link

four years pass...

I just read about this morning--no recollection of it playing any festivals here, and I can't find a listing on IMDB.

clemenza, Sunday, 4 March 2012 13:48 (eight years ago) link

”both” is the answer to the this thread

the wild eyed boy from soundcloud (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Sunday, 4 March 2012 18:41 (eight years ago) link

haha, otm

Steamtable Willie (WmC), Sunday, 4 March 2012 19:49 (eight years ago) link

So much material that there are extremes of both.

c'est ne pas un car wash (snoball), Sunday, 4 March 2012 20:59 (eight years ago) link

three months pass...

Full catalogue to be reissued by Universal this year, apparently including some new mastering jobs. (By Joe Travers? No details given.)

My first question is whether Gail and the ZFT retains the right to keep on mining the extensive vaults and putting stuff out themselves.

Biff Wellington (WmC), Tuesday, 12 June 2012 21:30 (eight years ago) link

hmmm, i seem to recall that the mixes of a lot of those 90s reissues had been futzed w/ by Zappa? wonder if these are the "original" mixes or whatever.

tylerw, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 21:43 (eight years ago) link

RIP Rykodisc.

Electro-Shock Rory (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 12 June 2012 21:47 (eight years ago) link

I hope they're the "unfutzed" versions.

EZ Snappin, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 21:50 (eight years ago) link

I dunno - the original version of "We're Only In It For the Money" is pretty horrible, really

frogbs, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 21:53 (eight years ago) link

sonically, I mean

frogbs, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 21:54 (eight years ago) link

Would like somebody to explain me the difference between remixing and remastering in the context of this news. When FZ did the CD releases of Ruben and the Jets and WOIIFTM with new bass & drum tracks, it's safe to say he did new mixes. There are fairly radical differences in LP and CD mixes of Hot Rats. But I imagine that most of the CD catalogue consisted of digital transfer of the original vinyl masters, right, without much fiddling around?

Biff Wellington (WmC), Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:06 (eight years ago) link

You have it right, Remastering is tracking down the best possible format of the final mixes of an album (in Zappa's case probably 1/2 or 1/4 inch analog tape reels and adding equalisation and/or compression & limiting to get the best overall sound and dynamics onto whichever format the recording is going to end up on. Of course the potential abuse of the process is a big issue in the digital age.

Remixing is loading the original unmixed master tapes onto whatever the relevant playback machine would be and repeating the process of mixing the album from scratch.

MaresNest, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:15 (eight years ago) link

The regular cds of Freak Out have a bunch of digital echo Frank added in the 80s. The reissue entitled MOFO has the og mix.

Electro-Shock Rory (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:18 (eight years ago) link

I remember reading that he apparently dicked about with recordings other than Hot Rats and WOIIFTM too, that's where the UMRK Approved master tag came in.

MaresNest, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:19 (eight years ago) link

I dunno - the original version of "We're Only In It For the Money" is pretty horrible, really

the version on cd with added slap bass is a whole new level of awful though

zappi, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:38 (eight years ago) link

hmmm, i seem to recall that the mixes of a lot of those 90s reissues had been futzed w/ by Zappa? wonder if these are the "original" mixes or whatever.

"futzed" is putting it mildly.


In 1984, Zappa prepared a remix of Cruising with Ruben & the Jets for its compact disc reissue and the vinyl box set The Old Masters I. The remix featured new rhythm tracks recorded by bassist Arthur Barrow and drummer Chad Wackerman, much as the 1984 remix of We're Only in It for the Money had featured. Zappa stated "The master tapes for Ruben and the Jets were in better shape, but since I liked the results on We're Only in it For the Money, I decided to do it on Ruben too. But those are the only two albums on which the original performances were replaced. I thought the important thing was the material itself."[2]

After the remixing was announced, a $13 million lawsuit was filed against Zappa by Jimmy Carl Black, Bunk Gardner and Don Preston, who were later joined by Ray Collins, Art Tripp and Motorhead Sherwood, increasing the claim to $16.4 million, stating that they had received no royalties from Zappa since 1969.[2]

In 2009, the original mix of the album was released as part of a compilation entitled Greasy Love Songs.[6]

Tarfumes The Escape Goat, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:40 (eight years ago) link

zappa was so nuts about that sort of thing, it seems. i remember reading something about the creation of "shut and play your guitar" (i think) where he would put guitar solos from, say, 1974 into a recording from 1981.

tylerw, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:43 (eight years ago) link

He would lift guitar tracks from live recordings and drop them into studio based stuff, he did a whole track by layering elements from different recordings, Tink Runs Amok? He called it Xenochrony iirc.

MaresNest, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:51 (eight years ago) link

XENOCHRONY! Exciting. Bands that never were.

tylerw, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:53 (eight years ago) link

"Rubber Shirt," from Sheik Yerbouti:

SPECIAL NOTE: The bass part is extracted from
a four track master of a performance from Goteborg,
Sweden 1974 which I had Patrick O"Hearn overdub on
a medium tempo guitar solo track in 4/4. The noted
chosen were more or less specified during the overdub
session, and so it was not completely an improvised
"bass solo." A year and a half later, the bass track was
peeled off the Swedish master and transferred to one
track of another studio 24 track master for a slow song
in 11/4. The result of this experimental re-synchronization
(the same technique was used on the Zoot Allures
album in "Friendly Little Finger") is the piece you are
listening to. All of the sensitive, interesting interplay
between the bass and drums never actually happened ...
also note, the guitar solo section of the song "Yo' Mama"
on side four was done the same way.

One of my favorite Sheik Yerbouti tracks.

Biff Wellington (WmC), Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:59 (eight years ago) link

I was just to talking to a big Zappaphile firend of mine, and he mentioned that some of the other "futzing" was undoing vintage edit jobs done to fit lp time constraints. He cited these two (and was only partially wrong):

Wiki on Hot Rats:

In 1987 Zappa remixed Hot Rats for re-issue on Compact Disc. "Willie the Pimp" is edited differently during the introduction and guitar solo. "The Gumbo Variations" has 4 minutes of additional material including an introduction and guitar and saxophone solo sections which were cut from the vinyl LP version. Piano and flute which were buried the LP mix of "Little Umbrellas" are prominent on the CD. Other differences include significant changes to the overall ambiance and dynamic range. The original mix was reissued in 2009 as a limited edition audiophile LP by Classic Records.

Wiki on Weasels...:

The CD version of the album features different versions of "Didja Get Any Onya?" and "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask", which featured music edited out of the LP versions. Some of this extra music was used (in a different studio recording) as the backing track for "The Blimp" on the Captain Beefheart album Trout Mask Replica, produced by Frank Zappa.

Electro-Shock Rory (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:16 (eight years ago) link

the version on cd with added slap bass is a whole new level of awful though

― zappi

I was trying to youtube some songs off it a few years back, and the only versions that came up were from this, which I hadn't been aware of before, and I was seriously appalled. Especially since the original WOIIFTM is one of my all-time faves.

I wish to incorporate disco into my small business (chap), Wednesday, 13 June 2012 12:04 (eight years ago) link

I like a lot of the Flo and Eddie stuff, but this seems like scraps from all already well mined era. I doubt that there's a tin of stuff left in the vault that's really new or essential. It's been picked over very thoroughly for the last 30+ years.

Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Friday, 26 June 2020 15:56 (five months ago) link

"Red Tubular Lighter" is so great

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 26 June 2020 16:17 (five months ago) link

four weeks pass...

I'm listening to a vinyl copy of We're Only In It For the Money...I've actually never heard the original version before, I had the 90's Ryko CD. I never knew the 'censored version' meant they just clipped entire sections out. I thought the record skipped a few times but apparently that's how it actually is. I almost understand FZ's desire to re-record this now, it sounds kinda bad. whoever remastered this in the 90s did a really good job.

frogbs, Friday, 24 July 2020 03:46 (four months ago) link

This guy did an outstanding job of restoring an 'uncensored version' using the best available materials. The bulk of it came from MFSL's reissue - it wasn't an ideal reissue as it uses the exact same digital master created for Rykodisc's '90s CD, but that was still a rock solid transfer of the original analog master tape and MFSL's mastering is a slight improvement that doesn't do anything wrong.

birdistheword, Friday, 24 July 2020 22:57 (four months ago) link

three months pass...

Magnolia Presents: ZAPPA

Directed by Alex Winter
Produced by Alex Winter, Glen Zipper, Ahmet Zappa, John Frizzell, Devorah DeVries, and Jade Allen
Executive Producers Robert Halmi and Jim Reeve of Great Point Media

With unfettered access to the Zappa family trust and all archival footage, ZAPPA explores the private life behind the mammoth musical career that never shied away from the political turbulence of its time. Alex Winter’s assembly features appearances by Frank’s widow Gail Zappa and several of Frank’s musical collaborators including Mike Keneally, Ian Underwood, Steve Vai, Pamela Des Barres, Bunk Gardner, David Harrington, Scott Thunes, Ruth Underwood, Ray White and others.

129 Minutes

Magnolia Pictures will release ZAPPA everywhere November 27th, 2020
Special one-night-only theatrical event on Monday, November 23rd, 2020

Loud guitars shit all over "Bette Davis Eyes" (NYCNative), Wednesday, 28 October 2020 18:40 (one month ago) link

Sorry everyone, I'm gonna go see this

Mr. Cacciatore (Moodles), Wednesday, 28 October 2020 18:47 (one month ago) link

I kinda want to see this too. Alex Winter is a pretty good director. just worried it's gonna be too rapturous about him as I'd imagine the Zappa family trust wants it to be

frogbs, Wednesday, 28 October 2020 19:01 (one month ago) link

Wondering if Dweezil had any input on this or if he's just out in the cold completely.

Mr. Cacciatore (Moodles), Wednesday, 28 October 2020 19:04 (one month ago) link

Dweezil & Moon I don't think were involved at all, Moon didn't have anything positive to say about Winter: "He wouldn’t have been my first choice. He might not have been my 100th choice.”

But I am pretty curious to see it

chr1sb3singer, Wednesday, 28 October 2020 19:20 (one month ago) link

I'm curious about it too. If it's like $5 on Amazon Prime, or if it pops up on Netflix or Hulu, I'll probably watch.

but also fuck you (unperson), Wednesday, 28 October 2020 22:03 (one month ago) link

I'd rather see a good Zappa doc than listen to anything by Zappa, tbh. He's an interesting, important figure, second almost to the Dead in how the *idea* of the music is in some ways ultimately more important than the music itself.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 28 October 2020 22:12 (one month ago) link

Thought this might be a biopic for a mad second, no such luck

logout option: disabled (Matt #2), Wednesday, 28 October 2020 22:12 (one month ago) link

Same, Josh! I'd absolutely see a biopic about one-of-my least-favourite musicians, for real

I did listen to Uncle Meat on a whim last night and... I still do love it

flamboyant goon tie included, Wednesday, 28 October 2020 22:35 (one month ago) link

I listened to Apostrophe recently, which I used to love, and found it mostly grating and tiring to be honest.

chap, Wednesday, 28 October 2020 23:20 (one month ago) link

Not too many artists I'll say this about, but Zappa was waaaay too sober.

octobeard, Thursday, 29 October 2020 00:32 (one month ago) link

i hate judging a doc by its trailer but that whole bit at the end with zappa running for prez....

dude was politically abhorrent

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Thursday, 29 October 2020 00:37 (one month ago) link

Zappa was waaaay too sober.

― octobeard, Wednesday, October 28, 2020 5:32 PM (four minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

yeah but hot rats sounds amazing stoned

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Thursday, 29 October 2020 00:37 (one month ago) link

this is well worth watching

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Thursday, 29 October 2020 00:48 (one month ago) link

dude was politically abhorrent

Eh, would take him over a lot of Presidents.

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Thursday, 29 October 2020 01:22 (one month ago) link

......... fair

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Thursday, 29 October 2020 01:27 (one month ago) link

Looking forward to this. It was supposed to premiere at SxSW this year -- I wonder if Winter has done any late tweezing to it in the last six months.

scampo-phenique (WmC), Thursday, 29 October 2020 01:38 (one month ago) link

I mean, he was pro-decriminalization, anti-censorship, anti-nuke, anti-military interventionism, anti-apartheid, pro-civil rights. Was v wrong about abolishing income tax, though.xp

I guess I'd be lonesome (Sund4r), Thursday, 29 October 2020 02:15 (one month ago) link

So there have been many archival releases in the last 20 years that I've barely delved into. Any thoughts on which are the best ones?

Mr. Cacciatore (Moodles), Saturday, 31 October 2020 15:03 (one month ago) link

Wazoo (a live album by one of his jazziest bands) was good. There's some worthwhile stuff on the big Hot Rats box, too.

but also fuck you (unperson), Saturday, 31 October 2020 16:19 (one month ago) link

Road Tapes Venue #2, Greasy Love Songs, Wazoo, Roxy Performances

EZ Snappin, Saturday, 31 October 2020 16:21 (one month ago) link

Whatever your favorite era/band, there will be some road tapes; Wazoo, the Hot Rats Sessions, the Roxy Performances top my list.

scampo-phenique (WmC), Saturday, 31 October 2020 16:27 (one month ago) link

Some of those archival releases also feature the original LP mixes of certain records that Zappa remixed for their original CD issues, such as Freak Out, Ruben & the Jets and Uncle Meat.

Halfway there but for you, Saturday, 31 October 2020 20:06 (one month ago) link

two weeks pass...

Who else but a genius of Frank’s Zappitude would concoct a modern day cowboy song about a dental floss ranch?

An Andalusian Do-rag (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 16 November 2020 02:52 (two weeks ago) link

I just saw that the new FZ documentary will be available as one of WFMU's on-demand films starting the 27th.

scampo-phenique (WmC), Monday, 16 November 2020 03:10 (two weeks ago) link

Zappa's nephew, Stanley, is a jazz saxophonist. I reviewed one of his albums for Stereogum, and he follows me on Twitter.

but also fuck you (unperson), Monday, 16 November 2020 03:11 (two weeks ago) link

The Alex Winter doc is really good filmmaking, y'all. It's not a complete hagiography -- Zappa's singleminded focus coming through as callous assholism is remarked on several times. Gail's unhappiness with FZ groupie indulgence is made plain, though not by Gail. Winter highlights the pathos of "Valley Girl"'s origin. He leaves out FZ's wide ranging xenophobia except for a throwaway comment by Kenneally. But he (Winter) gets Conceptual Continuity as Zappa presented it and assembles the film in the same way, with images and music cues from all eras peppered throughout, especially in the first and last 30 minutes. Really well edited, and it admirably doesn't rely too hard on talking head interviews, which makes them more effective when they are used. Ruth Underwood and Steve Vai are especially good.

Don't watch if you have any antipathy to FZ at all, but worth renting otherwise.

Motoroller Scampotron (WmC), Saturday, 28 November 2020 18:34 (one week ago) link

I dunno if I'm just dense, however, it is *fucking* me off that I can't seem to be able to rent this from the UK.

Maresn3st, Saturday, 28 November 2020 18:40 (one week ago) link

I'm watching this through Alamo Drafthouse tonight

Mr. Cacciatore (Moodles), Saturday, 28 November 2020 19:15 (one week ago) link

is it possible to have *no* antipathy for Zappa?
looking forward to this

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Saturday, 28 November 2020 21:06 (one week ago) link

true, true, I have plenty

Motoroller Scampotron (WmC), Saturday, 28 November 2020 21:59 (one week ago) link

Curious to know whether this will be available to stream in Europe.

licorice oratorio (baaderonixx), Monday, 30 November 2020 20:01 (five days ago) link

This was a fairly good documentary, the band member interviews and new footage were the strongest elements. My biggest complaint was that it focused too much on Frank Zappa the personality at the expense of the music.

Mr. Cacciatore (Moodles), Monday, 30 November 2020 21:32 (five days ago) link

This was a fairly good documentary, the band member interviews and new footage were the strongest elements. My biggest complaint was that it focused too much on Frank Zappa the personality at the expense of the music.

ILXceptionalism (Tom D.), Monday, 30 November 2020 21:38 (five days ago) link

Is there a Zappa documentary you'd like to see that focuses on some other topic?

Mr. Cacciatore (Moodles), Monday, 30 November 2020 21:41 (five days ago) link

Zappa fans not renowned for their sense of humour.

ILXceptionalism (Tom D.), Monday, 30 November 2020 21:44 (five days ago) link

Don't get me wrong, it was incredibly hilarious and insightful. Thank you for your service. But yeah, I'd definitely say that a key to enjoying this film is having a desire to see a Zappa doc in the first place.

Mr. Cacciatore (Moodles), Monday, 30 November 2020 21:48 (five days ago) link

Like talking to a brick wall.

ILXceptionalism (Tom D.), Monday, 30 November 2020 21:49 (five days ago) link

Why are you even wasting your time?

Mr. Cacciatore (Moodles), Monday, 30 November 2020 21:51 (five days ago) link

I have no idea what you're talking about.

ILXceptionalism (Tom D.), Monday, 30 November 2020 21:52 (five days ago) link

moodles' joke was funnier than tom's tbh

mark s, Monday, 30 November 2020 21:53 (five days ago) link

i mean tom's is probably the one i would make

mark s, Monday, 30 November 2020 21:53 (five days ago) link

but i suck

mark s, Monday, 30 November 2020 21:53 (five days ago) link

Mine's wasn't even a joke, I actually misread the original post and initially thought that's what it said! Which I thought was funny.

ILXceptionalism (Tom D.), Monday, 30 November 2020 21:55 (five days ago) link

Oh hey

Robert Gotopieces (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 30 November 2020 22:06 (five days ago) link

as a former smoker, the shot of an ailing Zappa, ravaged by the cancer that he would have avoided if he did not bizarrely carry on for decades as if cigarettes were not deleterious, or at least not as deleterious as every other drug that he excoriated in public for decades, feebly attempt to handle a lit cig as an attendant administered medication, was truly pathetic…I'l have more to say later about the doc…as per another active thread, Zappa and Albini are very very frustrating…

veronica moser, Monday, 30 November 2020 23:55 (five days ago) link

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.