Frank Zappa: Classic or Dud?

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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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

'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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

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

Sean Carruthers, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

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

DG, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink


- 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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

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 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

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

JUlio Desouza, Monday, 29 July 2002 00:00 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

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 (ten years ago) Permalink

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

Andi Mags, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:50 (ten years ago) Permalink

ahhhhh thanks

cutty, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:50 (ten years ago) Permalink

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

cutty, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:53 (ten years ago) Permalink

fuckin ian underwood!

cutty, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:57 (ten years ago) Permalink

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 (ten years ago) Permalink

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 (ten years ago) Permalink

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 (five years ago) Permalink

”both” is the answer to the this thread

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

haha, otm

Steamtable Willie (WmC), Sunday, 4 March 2012 19:49 (five years ago) Permalink

So much material that there are extremes of both.

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

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 (five years ago) Permalink

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 (five years ago) Permalink

RIP Rykodisc.

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

I hope they're the "unfutzed" versions.

EZ Snappin, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 21:50 (five years ago) Permalink

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 (five years ago) Permalink

sonically, I mean

frogbs, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 21:54 (five years ago) Permalink

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 (five years ago) Permalink

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 (five years ago) Permalink

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 (five years ago) Permalink

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 (five years ago) Permalink

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 (five years ago) Permalink

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 (five years ago) Permalink

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 (five years ago) Permalink

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 (five years ago) Permalink

XENOCHRONY! Exciting. Bands that never were.

tylerw, Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:53 (five years ago) Permalink

"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 (five years ago) Permalink

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 (five years ago) Permalink

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 (five years ago) Permalink

Is Phish anything like that? I've still never heard them.


Check Yr Scrobbles (Moodles), Saturday, 7 May 2016 23:06 (one year ago) Permalink

Nah man Phish is like Spin Doctors with 80s King Crimson chops

rockpalast '82 (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Sunday, 8 May 2016 03:21 (one year ago) Permalink

That's a really great way of describing some of the worst music on Earth.

Don Van Gorp, midwest regional VP, marketing (誤訳侮辱), Sunday, 8 May 2016 10:32 (one year ago) Permalink

What are Spin Doctors like?

Robert Adam Gilmour, Sunday, 8 May 2016 10:43 (one year ago) Permalink

80s King Crimson chops

Wait, did Phish ever approach this? (And I like "You Enjoy Myself" fwiw.)

Hi! I'm twice-coloured! (Sund4r), Sunday, 8 May 2016 12:22 (one year ago) Permalink

Assuming he was joking

Wrecka Stow Ralph (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 8 May 2016 12:28 (one year ago) Permalink

Oh lol. I forgot how much I enjoyed "Two Princes".

Hi! I'm twice-coloured! (Sund4r), Sunday, 8 May 2016 12:32 (one year ago) Permalink


Check Yr Scrobbles (Moodles), Sunday, 8 May 2016 14:18 (one year ago) Permalink

Spin Doctors = the American Reef
Zappa = the American Bonzos, with added mega-chops

めんどくさかった (Matt #2), Sunday, 8 May 2016 14:54 (one year ago) Permalink

Families, eh? Nightmare.

Larry 'Leg' Smith (Tom D.), Tuesday, 17 May 2016 13:01 (one year ago) Permalink

Thinking Prince may have had it right with no family or will.

So, was this obsessive controlling thing Gail had (and Ahmet has inherited) some twisted way of getting back at Frank for his serial infidelity?

Naive Teen Idol, Wednesday, 18 May 2016 13:40 (one year ago) Permalink

one month passes...

Now renamed the "Dweezil Zappa plays whatever the fuck he wants" tour

frogbs, Tuesday, 28 June 2016 12:46 (one year ago) Permalink

featuring robby krieger

hypnic jerk (rushomancy), Tuesday, 28 June 2016 12:52 (one year ago) Permalink

Ahmet's "I'm just doing what Mom wanted" stuff smells the most disingenuous, but what do I know.

pleas to Nietzsche (WilliamC), Tuesday, 28 June 2016 12:57 (one year ago) Permalink

Speaking on the phone from London after a trip to Stonehenge for summer solstice, Diva says that the last year has been difficult on so many levels and that she and Ahmet are doing the best they can with a difficult situation.

Spoken like a person with the keys to the bank vault.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 28 June 2016 13:17 (one year ago) Permalink

you can hear Dweezil talk about Gail on Marc Maron. it really sounds like she was completely cuckoo, at one point responding to his request to list ZPZ tour dates on the website with "I'm not just some groupie your father fucked!" seems like (as many people have suspected) Gail was a little resentful towards ol' Frank

frogbs, Tuesday, 28 June 2016 13:22 (one year ago) Permalink

can't think of any way of better honor frank's legacy that manipulative acrimonious fighting over money tbh

Steve Gunn Mann-Dude (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 28 June 2016 13:26 (one year ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

Saw the documentary last night. For a casual fan like me (the kind Zappa ridicules early in the film: the first three Mothers LPs a touchstone since high school--even before I had them, I'd read Lillian Roxon's entry on them again and again--count "Trouble Every Day" as one of the most amazing songs ever, close to no interest after that), very worthwhile. Similar to the De Palma documentary: no one interviewed other than Zappa himself (I doubt if anyone other than Dylan was ever subjected to sillier questions--a Toronto VJ, Jeanne Beker, who used to get flak from everyone here, actually comes across really well). Things like "Bobby Brown" and "Dinah-Moe Humm"...I don't know, where's the line that separates even fans from fans who find those particular songs smart and funny? I did like how, when asked in what appeared to be his last interview if he ever regretted certain songs, he immediately said "No." My friend and I wondered if it would even be possible to be Frank Zappa today and not be chased out of town yesterday.

The Steve Allen and What's My Line clips, which have undoubtedly turned up elsewhere, are great.

clemenza, Thursday, 14 July 2016 16:34 (one year ago) Permalink

i have this strong suspicion that frank zappa today would be fucking milo yiannopoulos.

the event dynamics of power asynchrony (rushomancy), Thursday, 14 July 2016 16:36 (one year ago) Permalink

That's the guy Alfred posted about a few days ago...You might be right. I'd like to think there'd be room somewhere for a smarter version today.

clemenza, Thursday, 14 July 2016 16:45 (one year ago) Permalink

nah - FZ had a lot of reprehensible opinions/takes but they were pretty secondary to most of what he did. I don't think he conceived of his work as a platform for his opinions, though he also thought it was a fine forum for his opinions, if you can dig that distinction - but his skill set, anyway, included writing interesting and good music (ymmv of course). but the music came first, I think. these milo types are mainly in it to get attention/make people mad, I don't think that's really true of zappa.

The bald Phil Collins impersonator cash grab (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Thursday, 14 July 2016 17:48 (one year ago) Permalink

I remember reading years and years ago that Frank Zappa and Ronald Reagan were, at the time, the only two recipients of test letters sent with only a photograph of themselves on the envelope in lieu of an address.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 14 July 2016 18:01 (one year ago) Permalink

Just to clarify my own post, I mean smarter than Yiannopoulos, not smarter than Zappa.

clemenza, Thursday, 14 July 2016 18:12 (one year ago) Permalink

Because the latter would be scientifically impossible!

Gabba Gabba Hey in the Hayloft (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 14 July 2016 18:14 (one year ago) Permalink

That's what puzzles me about Zappa: that someone so intelligent about so many things would (presumably) think that something like "Bobby Brown" (put aside the nasty stuff) had important things to say that a smart high school student hadn't already moved past. (As music, I guess that particular song actually is interesting--modern-day doo-wop big in Scandinavia...)

clemenza, Thursday, 14 July 2016 18:21 (one year ago) Permalink

two months pass...

Nice that they sold it to another Italian.

Bottlerockey (Tom D.), Wednesday, 21 September 2016 21:00 (ten months ago) Permalink

two months pass...

The doc is interesting. It was mentioned up thread but in regards to Frank's dismissal of the fans who primarily revere his earlier works, it is probably because there's a sincerity to these albums that was rarely seen later. The moment where a female voice chimes in "flower power sucks" on "We're Only In It For The Money" still gives me chills because very few artists back then commented on the superficiality of these movements. I'm still a fan of his later work like "Over-Nite Senasation" and "Hot Rats" but I struggle to see the sincerity in some of it. Perhaps that's the point, Zappa is rarely sincere and a contrarian, but there's glimpses of it in earlier work like "Uncle Meat" and "Freak Out" where his empathy and avant-garde tendencies shine through. The earlier work makes me think he's worth defending, much harder to do with his later stuff.

Ross, Sunday, 27 November 2016 21:59 (seven months ago) Permalink

The strange thing about Zappa is that his juvenalia is his least juvenile work.

xiphoid beetlebum (rushomancy), Sunday, 27 November 2016 22:21 (seven months ago) Permalink

I may have posted this upthread but Zappa is truly the ultimate love / hate proposition for me, and I realize I'm not alone here. Saying "I wish all of his albums were instrumental" is almost a cliche at this point (see: Shut Up & Play Your Guitar, etc) but I am firmly in this camp. I love the hell out of Hot Rats, (most of) Apostrophe, (half of) Roxy, and parts of others, but always wish I liked his albums more than I do. I like the early albums fine but they veer more toward novelty to me (I'm including everything up to Reuben here), like above-average wacky psych pop, but not really the sort of thing I reach for.

That said, I expect I will have a "Zappa phase" at some point in my life. There's just so much good shit mixed in with so much dumb scatological nonsense.

A "Non-Wacky Zappa S&D" would be most welcome

Wimmels, Monday, 28 November 2016 00:00 (seven months ago) Permalink

one month passes...

I came here to chime in on that same note!

I’d always loathed Frank Zappa based on his persona and the Dr. Demento style songs that he seems to be best known for (?). I didn’t even know Zappa made any non-“novelty” music until Blessed Relief came up on a Spotify playlist. I like it, but I don’t know if I’m supposed to be taking it at face value, or reading it as some kind of veiled dig at Chuck Mangione and smooth jazz in general.

Dan I., Monday, 9 January 2017 17:26 (six months ago) Permalink

Are the first couple records a good place to start? I too just can't stand the persona and what I've heard but the Mothers of Invention records are liked by so many people

Iago Galdston, Monday, 9 January 2017 17:30 (six months ago) Permalink

the first couple of records tend to get more liked because one gets the sense from them that zappa hadn't entirely given up on humanity at that point (though he was getting there) and have some moments of sincere and unaffected emotion (see, for instance, the bridge of "what's the ugliest part of your body"). but it's not as if that album is a wacky-free zone by any means.

anyway there's another thread for non-wacky zappa but i don't remember where it is right now.

increasingly bonkers (rushomancy), Monday, 9 January 2017 17:43 (six months ago) Permalink

First album is ok, the songs don't really fall in the novelty category. 2nd album has a terrific first side but also has the yucky "Brown Shoes Don't Make It," a tender ode to being tired of one's wife and fantasizing about fucking a 13-year-old girl instead. Of the original Mothers-era records, I recommend going in this order:

1. Uncle Meat
2. We're Only In It for the Money
3. Burnt Weeny Sandwich
4. Weasels Ripped My Flesh
5. Ahead of Their Time (released 1993, recorded Oct. 1968; half chamber music and not the worst comedy, half Mothers performance)
6. Cruising with Ruben and the Jets
7. Lumpy Gravy
8. Freak Out!
9. Absolutely Free

If you like the more abstract parts of the first 2, bump Lumpy Gravy higher.

aaaaaaaauuuuuuuuu (melting robot) (WilliamC), Monday, 9 January 2017 17:45 (six months ago) Permalink

2nd album has a terrific first side but also has the yucky "Brown Shoes Don't Make It,"

LOL, I can't stand the first side and think "Brown Shoes" is one of the best things he ever did.

Eats like Elvis, shits like De Niro (Tom D.), Monday, 9 January 2017 18:16 (six months ago) Permalink

I think "Brown Shoes" is a great sound collage, and the pedophilia is allegedly the dream of some City Hall worker, not Frank himself, but knowing where Roy Estrada ended up makes this one tough to listen to for me.

Snorting and all (Dan Peterson), Monday, 9 January 2017 18:27 (six months ago) Permalink

Non-Wacky Zappa POX, S&D, etc

new noise, Monday, 9 January 2017 18:35 (six months ago) Permalink

xp -- ditto

aaaaaaaauuuuuuuuu (melting robot) (WilliamC), Monday, 9 January 2017 18:41 (six months ago) Permalink

the first couple of records tend to get more liked because one gets the sense from them that zappa hadn't entirely given up on humanity at that point

Well, or just people liking the sound of the band at that point and the songwriting.

I'm well into sixties rock and roll and happen to think that Freak Out is a document of one of the most dynamic and brilliant sounding bands around.

timellison, Monday, 9 January 2017 19:51 (six months ago) Permalink

must admit that i never got that impression from "go cry on somebody else's shoulder" but to each their own

increasingly bonkers (rushomancy), Monday, 9 January 2017 20:12 (six months ago) Permalink

That's clearly one of the songs most reliant on '50s tropes (while a lot of the album is not), but still a nice tune with really good vocals.

timellison, Monday, 9 January 2017 20:28 (six months ago) Permalink

one month passes...

Not to hijack this thread. But just read the lyrics to "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" ... supposedly it was about a fashion faux pas of LBJ's and the "dirty old men who run our country." But even still, these lyrics stuck out:

A world of secret hungers
Perverting the men who make your laws
Every desire is hidden away
In drawer, in a desk
By a Naughahyde chair
On a rug where they walk and drool
Past the girls in the office

You see in the back of the City Hall mind
The dream of a girl about thirteen
Off with her clothes and into a bed
Where she tickles his fancy all night long

His wife's attending an orchid show
She squealed for a week to get him to go
But back in the bed his, teenage queen
Is rocking and rolling and acting obscene

Baby! Baby!
Baby! Baby!

And he loves it, he loves it, it curls up his toes
She bites his fat neck and it lights up his nose
But he cannot be fooled, old City Hall Fred
She's nasty, she's nasty, she digs it in bed

Do it again and do it some more
That does it, by golly, it's nasty for sure
Nasty-nasty-nasty, nasty-nasty-nasty
Only thirteen and she knows how to nasty

She's a dirty young mind
Corrupted, corroded
Well she's thirteen today
And I hear she gets loaded

If she were my daughter I'd...
(What would you do, Daddy?)
If she were my daughter I'd...
(What would you do, Daddy?)
If she were my daughter I'd...
(What would you do, Daddy?)

Smother my daughter in chocolate syrup
And strap her on again, oh baby
Smother that girl in chocolate syrup
And strap her on again

She's a Teenage Baby and she turns me on
I'd like to make her do a nasty on the White House lawn
Going to smother that daughter in chocolate syrup
And boogie till the cows come home

I also found this on the Absolutely Free site:

I recently began a pen-pal thing with a woman who went to school a couple of years behind Frank, Don, Motorhead and others. Hers is a pretty interesting perspective I thought I would share. As she has not given permission for me to give out her address, I've snipped the headers. (her text follows)

It was rumored that the song "She's only 13 and she knows how to nasty" was written about a girl a year younger than me called Patty Keenen who was a dead ringer for Bridget Bardot and looked old enough to buy beer for the boys..Alas poor Patty is no longer with us. And the song "Brown shoes dont make it" was the was it was in our school..brown shoes just weren't cool.

In the wake of what we now know about the 60s free love scene in rock (hello Kim Fowley), lyrics like these make me super uncomfortable. They don't feel like satire -- or just satire anyway. They're just a bit too enthusiastic and detailed.

Maybe it's just looking at things like this without the benefit of contemporaneous eyes. Zappa really did have a distinctive voice musically that I still enjoy from time to time. But between his reported *love* of groupies, pretty much everything he wrote about women and the aggressive tone to his lyrics in general, I have a hard time with pretty much any of his vocal stuff, much less songs that veer into social commentary.

Naive Teen Idol, Tuesday, 28 February 2017 19:52 (four months ago) Permalink

Hot Rats is honestly so so good, I looked this thread up to say. esp. Green Genes > Little Umbrellas, what a lovely stretch of music, so distinct, off in its own world

(I think the general nastiness of Zappa's outlook on the world as understood through his lyrics is something we've covered on this thread, and I concur that there's some deeply ugly shit in there)

though the tempest rages, (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Monday, 6 March 2017 01:57 (four months ago) Permalink

Deeply love Hot Rats

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Monday, 6 March 2017 08:54 (four months ago) Permalink

I tend to cut off around '74 when he was still doing the Gamelan sounding stuff and hadn't gone totally into the really creepy scatological stuff . Also don't pay much attention to the '71 stuff.

BUt Mothers were pretty great in the 60s and the instrumental stuff around Gran Wazoo/Waka Jawaka is pretty good too.

Stevolende, Monday, 6 March 2017 10:07 (four months ago) Permalink

four months pass...

the Boy Wonder sessions w Burt Ward are awesome. i love "Teenage Bill of Rights".

AdamVania (Adam Bruneau), Friday, 14 July 2017 22:54 (one week ago) Permalink

i love "jazz fart."

Western® with Bacon Flavor, Saturday, 15 July 2017 05:48 (one week ago) Permalink

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