"Trouble Coming Every Day" tho - it doesn't fit most of the things that are so hateable about FZ - is that why you shied away from it here? It always seemed to me like FZ's road not taken. He pressed the laser of his self-righteousness into the service of something he couldn't quite define or deride in what became his usual slamming totality. The song is a story "ripped from the headlines" and amazingly he hadn't already immediately made up his mind about every single aspect of it, in fact he insists on the incommensurability of the usual snarky commentators ("some bozo with a Brownie") and even if it was just a borrowed costume of anger/sincerity he does really try it on for size. Also, as you note, his band plays a gruffly dirty and rhythm-based honest-to-goodness rock n roll with an untamed bluesy freedom - on ALL cylinders, not just for whomever has gotten the nod for the solo - that none of his bandmates apparently ever had again.
Anyhow, wonderful wonderful post (and I agree with what you say, too!)
― Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Sunday, 25 May 2003 21:41 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Uncle (Methuselah), Monday, 26 May 2003 03:15 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― squirl plise (Squirrel_Police), Monday, 26 May 2003 03:25 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
this intrigues me. I think your Zappa hate is basically right-on and justified (and your piece is a LOT better than Ian Penman's "He was a jack-off of all trades" rant, which is so mean-spirited it manages to mirror some of FZ's own hateful condescension toward his audience) but: what do you like about this song?
the only Zappa songs I unreservedly like are "Peaches en Regalia" (it helps that he doesn't sing on it) and "Valley Girl" (maybe because Moon Unit's serenely confident self-parody takes the nastiness out of Frank's "satire")
― Justyn Dillingham (Justyn Dillingham), Monday, 26 May 2003 07:28 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― dave q, Monday, 26 May 2003 12:38 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
anyway, one of the things that i find most interesting about ILX criticisms about zappa is how rockist the criticisms get. they really seem to boil down to (a) FZ was a phony; (b) FZ was into empty, fussy virtuoso-ism (as opposed to "gruffly dirty and rhythm-based honest-to-goodness rock n roll"); (c) FZ was either "self-centered" or "smarmy" or "smirky" or "self-guarded"; (d) FZ's appeal was almost exclusively to smug teenage boys (or "stamp collectors") -- in other words, "losers"; or some combination of the foregoing categories. all of which leads me to believe that part of the reason why Zappa -- and i emphasize Zappa more so than his music -- gets under the skin of some folks here is precisely because he was one of the most un-rockist famous late-20th century musicians. "rockism" is, of course, seen by many ILXors as something akin to a cardinal sin, but here i merely note my observation and wonder aloud about it.
― Tad (llamasfur), Saturday, 31 May 2003 06:22 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Tad (llamasfur), Saturday, 31 May 2003 06:43 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― mark s (mark s), Saturday, 31 May 2003 08:47 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― mark s (mark s), Saturday, 31 May 2003 09:36 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― t\'\'t (t\'\'t), Saturday, 31 May 2003 09:40 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
* The smugness inherent in some of the Mothers parody tracks (the doo-wops, garage rocks, et al.) strikes me as the roots in some ways of L.A. hardcore--the Germs and Black Flag in particular. (First time I heard the Germs I thought, "Flower Punk"!). I imagine Darby Crash and (early) Frank Zappa and would be about as pleasant to be around in the flesh (i.e., not at all), but musically, I think this repellant quality somehow works for both of them. (Oh, and they both hate hippies.)
* Taking sides: Velvets/NYC punk vs. Mothers/LA hardocre (Zappa vs. Reed being an actual '60s rivalry, from what I understand).
* (To belabor the punk point further) "I Ain't Got No Heart" as the musical version of Johnny Rotten's "Sex/love is just squishy sounds" quote (not actual). And yet, I also think it's possible that "I Ain't Got No Heart" was written by an actual 14-yr old FZ----its desperation doesn't seem forced (or like a ploy) to me at all. (Nice surf-rock undertow there, too.)
* Also, Zappa's obsession with "plastic" and "plastics" vs. Poly Styrene's (who I think did a lot more with it, actually, mainly because she made it funnier).
* Most of the doo-wop parodies work for me despite the words and the "knowingness": mainly because I still hear yearning and swooping in the voices. Also, some of those original doo-wop spoken word bits are indeed funny, Zappa was just rendering the humour in more explicit terms. The Stones's cover of the Coasters "Down Home Girl" seems to me in this vein also. (Never did get into Ruben and the Jets, though.)
* There are some amazing musical and vocal bits on Freak Out!: The tinkly piano rolls in "Wowie Zowie" (kids love this song when they hear it; my nephews did anyway); the shredded guitar tones in "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" (a sibling to some of Jimmy Page's Yardbirds stuff--i.e., "A Certain Girl"); the weird, stoned, reverbed-out beauty of "Who Are the Brain Police"; the melodicism of "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here"; the "motherly-otherly-brotherly" word play in "Motherly Love"; the thick, double-tracked vocals in "Trouble Every Day" and the similarity in the riff to PAul Revere & the Raiders' "Steppin' Out"; oh, and kazoos all over the place.
* Speaking of which, I just played a few tracks while making breakfast, and my wife and I laughed hard because our puppy perked up his ears and looked all confused everytime the kazoo part in "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" came up--almost as if on cue! (cf. Pet Sounds)
― scott woods (s woods), Saturday, 31 May 2003 13:42 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― scott woods (s woods), Saturday, 31 May 2003 14:14 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
along with the "rockist or not?" angle, i also agree with the "punk" angle. not a few people have considered Zappa to have been one of the godfathers of punk, though less so with his music than his attitude. (since i'm not so up on my LA punk, the punk/new wave groups that immediately come to mind in a comparison with Zappa would be Devo and the Fall, both of whom always reminded me of the Mothers). which may be another reason why he got under the skins of later, punk-influenced listeners -- i.e., here's a guy who had a lot of similar attitudes, lyrical conceits, etc., as the punks, but didn't make "punk" music and in fact was openly hostile to it. Zappa isn't as easily embraceable a pre-punk musical figure as, say, Lou Reed.
― Tad (llamasfur), Saturday, 31 May 2003 18:06 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Tad (llamasfur), Saturday, 31 May 2003 18:09 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― mark s (mark s), Saturday, 31 May 2003 18:11 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Saturday, 31 May 2003 19:01 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Tad (llamasfur), Saturday, 31 May 2003 19:37 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― t\'\'t (t\'\'t), Saturday, 31 May 2003 21:40 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
I think I agree most with this viewpoint.
― Dadaismus (Dada), Sunday, 1 June 2003 14:05 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Fabrice (Fabfunk), Monday, 2 June 2003 06:58 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― dave q, Monday, 2 June 2003 09:30 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Joseph Allen Russell, Thursday, 13 October 2005 10:51 (twelve years ago) Permalink
I think this song is the best thing he ever did! And i'm far from being a Zappahata.
― Dadaismus (Dada), Thursday, 13 October 2005 11:38 (twelve years ago) Permalink
I admire FZ the person less and less, esp. after reading Barry Miles' bio, but I listen to the original Mothers' albums more and more.
― William Paper Scissors (Rock Hardy), Thursday, 13 October 2005 12:07 (twelve years ago) Permalink
― Britain's Obtusest Shepherd (Alan), Friday, 14 October 2005 06:22 (twelve years ago) Permalink
from pov of "cackling crack," my dad was there and assured me that even then it was viewed with carpetbagging suspicion, precisely because it landed right in the middle of possibly the most happily extended period of mainstream experimental weirdness/cohabitation in pop - in other words you had this whole STREAM of fuck-what's-going-on-here records arriving week after week, from revolver to pet sounds to aftermath to ammmusic to heliocentric to tauhid to globe unity to a quick one to blonde on blonde + the esp stuff was only just coming through to britain + lamonte y & reich was just starting to get noticed + etc. etc., thus freak out was subjected to the "anyone who says they're mad" isn't meme. whereas vu + nico seven months later was bought by nobody, but the nobodies who bought it (incl my dad) thought, ok this is crackerbarrel warholian carpetbagging, but of a higher order. obv it was unplayed on mainstream '66 uk radio but peel noticeably didn't bother with zappa/mothers much at all throughout his/their career/s though it must have got some late night pirate plays.
my pov on freak out now is that if mike love had gone diving instead of brian w this is how smile would have come out sounding - ostensibly "adventurous" but incredibly smug about it, as in hey chicks dig my weird record collection (this is also the differential between the 148 names on freak out and the names on NWW's chance meeting 'cos stapleton KNEW that only blokes were likely to buy the record, even though laura bought it back in '79 time ahem).
but then it becomes more complicated insofar as hot rats DID get to me when i was v young (7/8, maybe) and underwood's alto and sugarcane's violin freaking out on gumbo variations hit me (ditto ponty doing king kong as opposed to king kong on uncle meat) so that + peaches en regalia (greatest chatshow theme tune never) + beefheart's vox made it a truly guilty pleasure.
maybe he needed to get into the top 40 more. but perhaps the airsucked airs and graceless graces conspired against that (see also mark s' brilliant post on "subversion" in current brown wedge menu). that being said, i spent the summer of '82 in new york while valley girl was top 20, and predictably IT ALL SUDDENLY MADE SENSE, thus zappa falls into the same category as the police, viz. insufferable when out of the charts, indispensable when in them.
the tears of quiet rage in ben w woefully trying to convert derek b to the frank z cause in invisible jukebox are still a compelling magnet for the discernible reader.
― Marcello Carlin (nostudium), Friday, 14 October 2005 07:00 (twelve years ago) Permalink
couldn't have said it better!
i never cease to be impressed at mark's willingness to dig into his own likes and dislikes this way, espec since it yields such interesting and weird results.
― J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Friday, 14 October 2005 08:28 (twelve years ago) Permalink
― Sterling Clover (s_clover), Friday, 14 October 2005 08:36 (twelve years ago) Permalink
― Marcello Carlin (nostudium), Friday, 14 October 2005 08:47 (twelve years ago) Permalink
― Sterling Clover (s_clover), Friday, 14 October 2005 10:42 (twelve years ago) Permalink
― Marcello Carlin (nostudium), Friday, 14 October 2005 10:43 (twelve years ago) Permalink
― Dadaismus (Dada), Friday, 14 October 2005 10:46 (twelve years ago) Permalink
Random bump... A lot of tremendous and compelling writing and thinking on this thread.
― Clarke B., Sunday, 6 October 2013 00:04 (four years ago) Permalink
agreed. this thread prompted me to buy that ben watson book back in the day and make a mighty effort to get into zappa tho all that really stuck was hot rats, jazz from hell and bongo fury. when i romanticize "old ilm" i think of this instead of like, politely twee 100000 word disagreements about the manic street preachers.
― adam, Sunday, 6 October 2013 00:47 (four years ago) Permalink
Totally... And the Dave Q "x versus y" threads. I'd buy a book that compiled all of his intro paragraphs for those threads.
― Clarke B., Sunday, 6 October 2013 00:50 (four years ago) Permalink
And I find myself in this thread because I'm in the middle of an "intro to Zappa" phase myself, and am trying to work out my thus-far pretty complex response pattern to his works.
― Clarke B., Sunday, 6 October 2013 00:51 (four years ago) Permalink
ultimately i couldn't hang with the zappa wacky.
― adam, Sunday, 6 October 2013 01:17 (four years ago) Permalink
I'm having this weird repulsion/attraction thing where some of the stuff really puts me off but I can't help wanting to relisten to it. (Part of it is because it just SOUNDS so damn good--did you notice how beautifully and dynamically recorded his stuff is? At least on vinyl, which is how I've been gathering them.) My favorite stuff so far, probably unsurprisingly, is the really instrumental-based early-'70s fusion stuff: Hot Rats, Waka/Jawaka, Grand Wazoo. But I'm also loving One Size Fits All (this one might be The One for me), Uncle Meat, and Overnite Sensation. It's Zappa himself that I'm having the hardest time with--figuring out where he's coming from, what he likes about what he's doing, how sincere he is, etc. It's fascinating but a bit obtuse and difficult and not like many engagements with music I've ever had before. That's probably what keeps me digging and investigating.
― Clarke B., Sunday, 6 October 2013 01:32 (four years ago) Permalink
Listening to FZ's work performed by non-Zappa chamber ensembles is a good way in to get a clear sense of the composer, past the mustache and the ego and the dumb comedy music and the baggage. Omnibus Wind Ensemble, Le Concert Impromptu, Ensemble Ambrosius, Ensemble Modern. Inventionis Mater has some really good duo arrangements for clarinet and guitar. I've played a couple of pieces by Le Concert Impromptu for someone who claimed to loathe Zappa's music. "I quite like this!" -- turns out they just hated FZ's rep, not his music.
― cops on horse (WilliamC), Sunday, 6 October 2013 01:40 (four years ago) Permalink
i really enjoyed the real frank zappa book, his autobiography, even before i got into the music. it veers between scatology and paranoid defensiveness and self-righteous near-libertarian proselytizing in an oddly pleasant way, like the best of his music. i can't speak to the recording quality as all my zappa shit is budget-ass 90s rykodisc but i agree that the Problem of Zappa, so to speak, is to some degree his greatest appeal.
― adam, Sunday, 6 October 2013 01:40 (four years ago) Permalink
William, I can appreciate that perspective, and in fact if I were trying to get some of my friends into Zappa I'd probably play them something like side two of Grand Wazoo, something entirely without his voice/persona. I'll definitely check out some of the chamber arrangements... Although, I do think as Adam states above that his persona is one of the most compelling things about his body of work.
― Clarke B., Sunday, 6 October 2013 01:55 (four years ago) Permalink
I don't think anyone has to embrace the entire Zappa catalouge but just focusing on the late 60s-early 70s stuff gave me an apprecition of the man.
― I got the glares, the mutterings, the snarls (President Keyes), Sunday, 6 October 2013 02:08 (four years ago) Permalink
when i romanticize "old ilm" i think of this instead of like [insert anything]
otm. hell of an op. makes me almost want to try to like zappa. again. almost.
― pervilege as a meme (contenderizer), Sunday, 6 October 2013 02:16 (four years ago) Permalink
yeah I agree, mark s and dave q threads are amazing and awesome
see also "is _____ rock?"
― outsider house rules (Drugs A. Money), Sunday, 6 October 2013 02:35 (four years ago) Permalink
i'm watching 200 motels right now! i like the music in 200 motels.
― scott seward, Sunday, 6 October 2013 02:43 (four years ago) Permalink
Yes! 200 Motels is amazing. Really love the acid-rock Flo & Eddie-assisted jams on it. The plot is nonsense unless you watch it a dozen times and read about it and then it's still nonsense but at least you sort of understand the point behind the nonsense.
My favorite Zappa stuff I think is the 1st side of "We're Only In It For the Money". "Concentration Moon" is like a mix of '67 Flower Power folk hymns and weird angular Talking Heads-style spoken word pre-punk.
― Emperor Cos Dashit (Adam Bruneau), Monday, 7 October 2013 20:54 (four years ago) Permalink
Just found out last night I've got a ticket for 200 Motels
― Tommy McTommy (Tom D.), Tuesday, 8 October 2013 12:11 (four years ago) Permalink
Jealous. I may have posted this on some other FZ thread, but if you've never seen it, it's fun.
― Low down bad refrigerator (Dan Peterson), Tuesday, 8 October 2013 13:56 (four years ago) Permalink
(xp) Having just seen the "200 Motels" film last night, as part of the Rest of Noise festival, I'm debating whether I should just give my ticket for the concert to some poor hapless ticketless Zappaphile, so abysmal was the movie. I'd seen it before but hadn't realised just how dire it was, however I did stay to the end, half the audience didn't!
― Thomas K Amphong (Tom D.), Sunday, 27 October 2013 11:33 (four years ago) Permalink
help i'm a rockist― mark s (mark s)
― the late great, Sunday, 27 October 2013 19:40 (four years ago) Permalink
doesn't ringo make an appearance in that movie? what an odd film career he had.
― (The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Monday, 28 October 2013 17:21 (four years ago) Permalink
An FZ fan for nearly 35 years and I still haven't seen 200 Motels. I really dislike the Flo & Eddie era.
― Victor Immature (WilliamC), Monday, 28 October 2013 17:37 (four years ago) Permalink
Agree on the 200 Motels movie. I haven't seen it since it was on TV years ago (that long ago that I videotaped it, but never ever watched it again). I think it was Danny Baker that judged it "unwatchable", which is just about OTM.
― Bloody Snail, Monday, 28 October 2013 21:32 (four years ago) Permalink
I have a VHS copy too, haven't watched in years but certain parts still resonate with me: the "Broth" segment above, the animation sequence ("Dental Hygiene Dilemma") and the finale, "Strictly Genteel." And "Magic Fingers" is a good rocker. It's an incoherent mess, but not without merits imo.
― The sweet spot between bad and unpleasant (Dan Peterson), Monday, 28 October 2013 22:07 (four years ago) Permalink
The music's OK, esp. the rock stuff and I like Flo + Eddie's vocals (I prefer the Turtles though)
― Thomas K Amphong (Tom D.), Tuesday, 29 October 2013 13:57 (four years ago) Permalink
So saw this last night and (eventually) enjoyed it but, Jesus, there's far too much of it - but that's Zappa for you, I suppose. The, uh, dramatic elements of the production were a bit amateurish (despite Jessica Hynes(!) being one of the pariticpants) but the singing was good and the orchestra fine. There's too much avant garde skweedly-skwonk - stuff I usually like but there didn't appeat to be enough variety in Zappa's skweedly-skwonk writing - but from "Penis Dimension" onwards, when it just becomes sort of bomabstic showtune/ rock opera music, it was great and genuinely stirring.
― Thomas K Amphong (Tom D.), Wednesday, 30 October 2013 09:06 (four years ago) Permalink
I love all the sweaty 70s rock tunes from 200 Motels like "Mystery Roach", "Magic Fingers", and "Shove It Right In".
It's true that the movie is overly long, but there are tons of great moments throughout.
― Moodles, Wednesday, 30 October 2013 13:49 (four years ago) Permalink
Didn't play any of the rock stuff @ the concert unfortunately.
― Thomas K Amphong (Tom D.), Wednesday, 30 October 2013 13:58 (four years ago) Permalink