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 (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

there's a lot of good stuff on joe's garage, it's really the lyrics/story that sink the thing

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Sunday, 3 January 2021 19:57 (one month ago) link

like i think i would love the robot sex track if anything else were happening over the top of it

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Sunday, 3 January 2021 19:57 (one month ago) link

I have to admit to liking the lyric "Fuck me, you ugly son of a bitch"

Mr. Cacciatore (Moodles), Sunday, 3 January 2021 20:15 (one month ago) link

Relistened to Uncle Meat the other day - man, there is so much stuff going on in "Dog Breath". Great production all over (although I oculd do w/o the King Kong stuff).

licorice oratorio (baaderonixx), Sunday, 3 January 2021 21:17 (one month ago) link

Zappa is just dated.

― “Big” Don Abernathy, Sunday, January 3, 2021 1:29 PM (three hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

so is Bitches Brew. So what?

Paul Ponzi, Monday, 4 January 2021 00:48 (one month ago) link

I didn’t mean that datedness was an inherently bad thing. But also Zappa often thought of himself as a cultural commentator wrt his lyrics so there’s obviously gonna be content issues and a POV people find alienating there.

“Big” Don Abernathy, Monday, 4 January 2021 01:09 (one month ago) link

if only people still made poo poo and pee pee

early-Woolf semantic prosody (Hadrian VIII), Monday, 4 January 2021 01:18 (one month ago) link


Dog Heavy Manners (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 4 January 2021 01:22 (one month ago) link

Bitches Brew doesn't have some dickhead doing silly comedy voices over the top of it so dated or not it's a lot more listenable

the datedness of Zappa I think has a lot to do with the expectation that listeners approach his music as if he's saying something more profound than whatever he's parodying or pastiching was supposed to have been saying, something that exposes those things in some way- and not only that but he's saying something more profound than he seems to be saying on his own terms when he's being (apparently) wilfully gross/annoying/reactionary- and that it's self evident that this is how his work deserves to be appreciated, if at all. he was always going to be a minority taste but whatever combination of factors created that kind of cult around him doesn't really exist anymore for a lot of complicated reasons

Left, Monday, 4 January 2021 06:01 (one month ago) link

Idk if I see datedness as the issue. Christgau was p much making the same criticisms that are being made on this thread in the early 70s: And lots of people still listen to Zappa - he has 1.1M monthly listeners on Spotify, more than King Crimson, a little under Primus, about 10x what Mahavishnu have, almost 3x Captain Beefheart's.

Sharp! Distance! (Sund4r), Monday, 4 January 2021 06:11 (one month ago) link

*Mahavishnu Orchestra

Sharp! Distance! (Sund4r), Monday, 4 January 2021 06:15 (one month ago) link

tbh I mostly dislike Zappa bc he's not PC enough, everything else is secondary. claims about datedness in that respect are probably wishful thinking. how many supporters does Trump still have?

Left, Monday, 4 January 2021 06:23 (one month ago) link

jfc why primus though

Left, Monday, 4 January 2021 06:25 (one month ago) link

Actually, this works better than the other Christgau link:

Sharp! Distance! (Sund4r), Monday, 4 January 2021 06:45 (one month ago) link

Zappa isn't "dated," per se, any more than anything else is. It's just dumb. If any of his his "some dickhead doing silly comedy voices over the top of it" shtick was actually smart or funny it wouldn't matter. You put that "some dickhead doing silly comedy voices over the top of it" on literally any music of the era, from the Beatles to the Band to, sure, "Bitches Brew," it would be just as bad. At least Les Claypool sort of mutters his bullshit low enough that you can often ignore it. If Zappa's bullshit weren't so foregrounded you could maybe ignore it, too, and then all the nerds would be, like, "if you listen closely you can hear Zappa subverting the sophisticated paradigm of modern composition by orchestrating pitched belches and fart sounds." But Zappa, being contemptuous of any and all things except his own abilities, has no use for subtlety.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 4 January 2021 14:42 (one month ago) link

two weeks pass...

was surprised to come across this randomly the other day, The Sonics covering Zappa in 1967

( X '____' )/ (zappi), Tuesday, 19 January 2021 10:29 (one month ago) link

I played through a lot of the playlist upthread of the better instrumental-ish material, and I can now conclude that I just don't like FZ. Can't knock the talent involved in making it, but his compositional style just gets on my nerves and I think other people took some of his ideas to more interesting places (Faust, Henry Cow etc). However, huge thanks to whoever it was that put the playlist together so I could reach this conclusion without trawling through 75 albums of penis jokes to get to the relevant tracks.

a degree in bullshit from glasters uni (Matt #2), Tuesday, 19 January 2021 11:31 (one month ago) link

(xp) Great find!

Waterloo Subset (Tom D.), Tuesday, 19 January 2021 11:48 (one month ago) link

trawling through 75 albums of penis jokes to get to the relevant tracks.

You are such a square, you just don't get it, maaaaaaaan.

I did eventually finish the doc. The only time you see him happy is when he's being hailed a hero in Czechoslovakia (Prague Rock!) and later when he's dying and doing iirc The Yellow Shark. The remainder of what I missed was him complaining about the record industry, how no one gets him, and how his free speech views got him blacklisted from ... what, 75 more albums of penis jokes?

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 19 January 2021 15:02 (one month ago) link

that was my playlist matt and i'm glad it helped!

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Tuesday, 19 January 2021 15:05 (one month ago) link

i do not really think about zappa's compositional style i just really love jazz fusion

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Tuesday, 19 January 2021 15:05 (one month ago) link

well i guess he forces me to think about it during the mathier sections of roxy

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Tuesday, 19 January 2021 15:06 (one month ago) link

Probably spoken of upthread somewhere but what are the key recordings of his orchestral music? I'm willing to give it a try!

a degree in bullshit from glasters uni (Matt #2), Tuesday, 19 January 2021 15:23 (one month ago) link

London Symphony Orchestra
The Yellow Shark
200 Motels

Mr. Cacciatore (Moodles), Tuesday, 19 January 2021 15:49 (one month ago) link

I like Orchestral Favorites, or did when I listened to more Zappa. It's a smaller chamber orchestra meets rock band configuration, so there's bits of synth and electric violin. Contains a version of "Duke of Prunes" and several themes from 200 Motels.

Three Rings for the Elven Bishop (Dan Peterson), Tuesday, 19 January 2021 19:35 (one month ago) link

two weeks pass...

lmao nailed it

Heidecker Does Zappa (from Office Hours After Hours 12/3) @timheidecker @douggpound @VicBergerIV @OfficeHrsLive

— Dan Cupps (@DanielCupps) February 1, 2021

frogbs, Wednesday, 3 February 2021 01:55 (three weeks ago) link


John Wesley Glasscock (Hadrian VIII), Wednesday, 3 February 2021 02:10 (three weeks ago) link

can't hold a candle to this

Which iirc really pissed Frank off, which just proves that like most bullies he can dish it out but can't take it

Paul Ponzi, Wednesday, 3 February 2021 10:43 (three weeks ago) link

That’s amazing, thanks

The Ballad of Mel Cooley (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 3 February 2021 14:11 (three weeks ago) link

damn that's a bit too on the nose

frogbs, Wednesday, 3 February 2021 14:33 (three weeks ago) link

have we done this one already?

Mr. Cacciatore (Moodles), Wednesday, 3 February 2021 14:43 (three weeks ago) link

so the problem with that one is it's actually too fun to be a real Zappa tune

frogbs, Wednesday, 3 February 2021 14:48 (three weeks ago) link

Gives me an excuse to post this yet again:

The Ballad of Mel Cooley (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 3 February 2021 15:02 (three weeks ago) link

this is making my morning...though I guess Weird Al (not surprisingly) was a huge Zappa fan and it was more of a loving tribute

[11]. Do you have anybody’s autograph?

WAY: I’m not a big autograph collector, but when I was working in the mailroom in the early ’80s back at Westwood One, Dr. Demento would have special guests coming in every night. And one time, Frank Zappa came in, and he’s one of my all-time heroes. So I brought up my tattered copy of Freak Out!, which I probably bought for 99 cents at a used record store. And it kind of blew my mind, because he was like, “Oh, you’re the ‘Another One Rides The Bus’ guy! My son Dweezil likes that song. Can I get an autograph for him?” Dweezil was like 13 years old at the time, but I couldn’t even believe that Frank Zappa knew who I was, let alone asking for my autograph, so that was a huge deal for me. And that Freak Out! album, since, has gotten severely water damaged so I can’t even bear to throw it away. So for the rest of my life, I will hold on to this slimy, moldy piece of cardboard with Frank Zappa’s name on it.

AVC: Have you met Dweezil since?

WAY: Dweezil actually played on a song of mine called, “Genius In France,” which is my homage to Frank Zappa. I figured if Dweezil played on it that would give it a little more credibility. He was amazing; he did this amazing guitar solo at the top of the song, so it was a thrill to work with Dweezil on that.

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Wednesday, 3 February 2021 15:13 (three weeks ago) link

Jim Cox that is pretty brutal, amazing

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Wednesday, 3 February 2021 15:14 (three weeks ago) link

I'm most impressed by how well he was able to nail a very particular Zappa guitar tone! I'm a Zappa fan but I could have been legitimately fooled by that bit into thinking it was the man himself

Paul Ponzi, Wednesday, 3 February 2021 15:32 (three weeks ago) link

I don't think I've laughed harder at anything in months than that Jim Cox song, it's so perfect. Thanks for posting.

Three Rings for the Elven Bishop (Dan Peterson), Wednesday, 3 February 2021 16:44 (three weeks ago) link

this is making my morning...though I guess Weird Al (not surprisingly) was a huge Zappa fan and it was more of a loving tribute

well yeah, I can't imagine Weird Al ever doing a mean-spirited parody of anything

listened to the Jim Cox one 3x now, it really does perfectly capture how obnoxious pretty much everything he did after 1969 is

frogbs, Wednesday, 3 February 2021 17:13 (three weeks ago) link

Even the Jim Cox one seems detailed and accurate enough to be loving imo. The Heidecker is kind of funny because it comes off like he just made some shit up on the spot and got the general gist of it.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Wednesday, 3 February 2021 17:17 (three weeks ago) link

there are some forbidden V-I progressions just after 6:30 in that Weird Al tune

trouble with a capital T / big pimpin on B-L-A-D's (crüt), Wednesday, 3 February 2021 17:19 (three weeks ago) link

The Heidecker is kind of funny because it comes off like he just made some shit up on the spot and got the general gist of it.

― to party with our demons (Sund4r), Wednesday, February 3, 2021 11:17 AM (four minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

he does have a gift for it

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Wednesday, 3 February 2021 17:22 (three weeks ago) link

Cox nails Flo & Eddie's whiny spoken word, the Central Scrutinizer whispers, the insane tempo change when the lyric mentions "ballet," the doo-wop parody... So much attention to detail. I think my favorite part is the George Duke-like "ooma-gooma-ohh-yeahhhh" about two minutes in.

Three Rings for the Elven Bishop (Dan Peterson), Wednesday, 3 February 2021 17:29 (three weeks ago) link

In case you missed some of the lyrics:

The Ballad of Mel Cooley (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 4 February 2021 18:56 (three weeks ago) link

Iirc, one of Weird Al's longtime band members was a huge Zappa guy. The bassist? Yes, the bassist, Stephen Jay:

One night back in Tampa, Frank Zappa and Steve Vai happened to walk in and heard a band I was playing with at a big disco club called Robiconti’s. After our show, Frank told me it was the best sounding band he’d ever heard! A few weeks later, he called me and said he needed a bass player and asked me to come to L.A. I didn’t get the gig, but it got me and my family out to L.A. and for that I am eternally grateful. My audition with Frank turned out to be a “Black Page” sightreading.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 4 February 2021 19:44 (three weeks ago) link

lol already posted! Sorry

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 4 February 2021 19:45 (three weeks ago) link

That's the nice version of that story.

The Ballad of Mel Cooley (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 4 February 2021 19:52 (three weeks ago) link

okay, that cox song is a hoot

That's not really my scene (I'm 41) (forksclovetofu), Saturday, 13 February 2021 05:57 (two weeks ago) link

I am listening to "The Yellow Shark" for the first time and it is... totally enjoyable

flamboyant goon tie included, Sunday, 21 February 2021 15:48 (one week ago) link

As far as later stuff goes, Civilization Phase 3 is also very good.

Mr. Cacciatore (Moodles), Sunday, 21 February 2021 16:19 (one week ago) link

It's next on my playlist, I heard the same thing

I still don't like the "zany" but compositionally I think this is frankly rather zappa

flamboyant goon tie included, Sunday, 21 February 2021 16:27 (one week ago) link

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