Monday, April 14, 2014

The Case For: Zappa


Zappa Play Zappa: Peaches En Regalia
[purchase FZ version]

I must have been introduced to Frank Zappa in the early 70s. Although I don’t recall my initiation rites, I know for a fact that I was well-versed by the time <Overnight Sensation> came out: if hard pressed, I could probably sing along to the entire album – 40 years later.
Sadly for those of us who revered him and his music, Frank Zappa died a somewhat early death in 1993 (couldn’t be that long ago!)
Dweezil Zappa, you must know, is Frank Zappa’s older son. He is the man behind the band called “Zappa Plays Zappa”, a touring group that aims to bring his father’s music to a younger audience. In addition to organizing the band, Dweezil (not his original/legal/birth name, but now his legal name) plays the guitar. He has also had a hand in composing original music, though so far he has been nowhere near a prolific as his father.
As a long-time Zappa fan, I applaud efforts to keep Frank Zappa’s music alive & relevant.  I count him among the pre-eminent musicians of the Rock era: pushing the limits in terms of musical structure; certainly pushing the limits of lyrical contortion. He was among the first to break out of the standard “guitars and drums” format that was defining popular music by the mid-70s. Check it out:

She had that
Camarillo brillo
Flamin' out along her head,
I mean her Mendocino bean-o
By where some bugs had made it red

She ruled the Toads
of the Short Forest
And every newt in Idaho
And every cricket who had chorused
By the bush in Buffalo

Beyond his musical skills, Frank Zappa stood behind his beliefs: he was a frequent commentator about his political views – and, in retrospective, not far off the mark. A snippet from his testimony against parental controls to music content/lyrics in front of the US senate  (and Al Gore) back in 1985:
    He said: The major record labels need to have H.R. 2911 whiz through a few committees before anybody smells a rat. One of them is chaired by Senator Thurmond. Is it a coincidence that Mrs. Thurmond is affiliated with the PMRC?  
I hereby make the case that his legacy is worthy of preservation, and who better to do so than his son?
For your listening pleasure, one of my favorite FZ tunes, performed by his son:

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