Zappa The…

strange or extraordinary character ODDFANTASTIC

synonyms for weird

Synonyms: Adjective

bizarrebizarrocrankycrazycuriouseccentricerraticfar-outfunkyfunnykinky, kooky (also kookie), oddoff-kilter,  offbeat, , outlandish, outrĂ©peculiarquaintqueerqueerishquirkyremarkablescrewyspaced-outstrangewacky , way-outweirdowild.

The above comes from the Merriam—Webster dictionary definition of Weird. For myself this was the word that always popped into my head when I thought about Frank Zappa. Not surprising that a single word could then be translated in many colorful ways. Much like the sonic experiments Mr. Zappa created, his listeners would receive a bounty that would never get exhausted.

This entry is happening now because on Friday May 31, 2019 for the first time on vinyl since 1976 comes a re-issue of “Zappa In New York” on 3 Lps. Recorded during a 4 show stint at The Palladium in New York City. Originally a double LP, the third record is a bonus!

Before I delve into my thoughts about the work, how did it come to be?

In 1964 Frank Zappa took over leadership of the American band The Soul Giants. He renamed the band The Mothers, referring to the jazz compliment of mother for a great musician. However, their record company, Verve Records , objected to the insinuation (i.e., “motherfuckers”) and by necessity Zappa had to change the name, creating (and defining) The Mothers Of Invention.

Necessity is the mother of invention” is an English-language proverb. It means, roughly, that the primary driving force for most new inventions is a need.

Mr. Zappa’s need drove him to create music that would provide new pathways for musicians and listeners.

As a music lover I am relieved that my appreciation of his work comes after my obsessions with mainstream groups. Music is exploratory by nature. As a listener I need to be challenged. Following the former years of passive media consumption I want to be more actively engaged. Music does this for me. But like many of my fellow countrymen I listened to what was put before me, not what I actually made an effort to get. In an age where over produced pop is drowning us in simplicity I need complexity.

Now, in this age of information, the legacy of his vast body of work can be understood as a rigorous expression of subjects Mr. Zappa cared deeply about. Nothing to do with easy access or top 40 popularity. This music is label free. Fusion is the word used to describe what is the core of his output. He puts styles together to form a new sound.

Remaining outside the mainstream culture of mass consumer popularity Mr. Zappa is being reached for the first time by people like myself who remained in a fractured mindset. Applying self-made restrictions on what to hear or think about prevented finding this revolutionary sound.

Tellingly, Mr. Zappa spoke openly about the damaging effects of television that enable a crippling passivity. People become narrow and confused, bogged down in just one form of expression. Taught to consume without much thought. Creativity becomes necessity in such a culture. In his lifetime he released 60 albums of original work. The Zappa Family Trust, since his death in 1993, has put out 62 more works.

For a complete list of the 112 studio albums and 40 tribute albums use this link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Zappa_discography

Even back in the late 1960s the idea of free thought was constrained by profit. His albums beginning with the debut, “Freak Out!”, sought to obliterate this filter. Without a filter he put out a record titled, “We’re Only In It For The Money”, with cover art that mocked the lionized “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The rock era is filled to overflowing with artists that sought nothing more than commercial acceptance. Nothing wrong with it. There is more to art than just profit.

I admit that my first impression of him was typical of a kid too young to understand anything more than top 40 drivel. Here was a guy with looks I found peculiar playing music that had sounds I could not readily decipher or pigeonhole. My prejudices were taught. Today there are more people with Zappa’s looks of otherness. I think this is encouraging. He brought humor into forms considered serious like jazz and blues.

Way-out experiments are not the commercial fruit bearing endeavors record companies want from their talent. Frank Zappa did it because there was within him a strong need to invent sounds that could not exist otherwise. He sought out musicians that could play this no boundaries music.

On YouTube there are several hours worth of interviews from different countries and years. His opinions were direct, smart, and well thought out. Knowing full well that America’s self-deception was the thing hurting the nation from era to era, Zappa spoke about our deep backwardness regarding sexuality and free expression.

“The American dream is to always be young, always be rich, and always be cute”— Frank Zappa

Sexuality was the pressing issue. He felt strongly that sex is as natural a function as going to the bathroom. In American culture many are taught to repress sexual expression. Look at what the result of this has been. Zappa did not believe in pornography or dirty words. Filters like religion and television have done damage in dictating that there is something wrong with sex. Notice how absent most expressions of sexuality are from our media. He recognized most license holders in television are right-wing.

I admire his tenacity when expressing these things. I agree with a lot of it. To fix the economy he stated that churches should be taxed. Then legalize prostitution and drugs. Both should be highly taxed and regulated. Make sure our politicians get what they need, especially sex.

Everyone in the country would have better jobs because America would be manufacturing goods. The economy would then be quite strong. And stop overfunding the military. I think this is why so many wanted him to run for President during the 1980s. Boldly put, do you really want sexually repressed people in places of power?

Speaking of power nobody was more aware of television’s deliberate consumer mission: to sell products. His 1978 appearance on Saturday Night Live was my first exposure to his music and personality. “Dancin’ Fool” was the catchy number I remember most. Re-watching it I discovered how relevant the other two pieces were in presenting his ideas. Click here to see it: https://youtu.be/PGWE7t3qO1I

Actually, after seeing it again now as an adult I think of Frank Zappa on the simple level of a George Carlin type with musical talent. Intellectual, probing, and skeptical of what we as a society think culture should be.

Mr. Zappa was a champion of First Amendment rights. In the 1980s when the Parent’s Music Resource Center, a group made up of politician’s wifes including Tipper Gore tried to censor rock music, Mr. Zappa testified before Congress. He defended the rights of all. He knew an attack on any form of music was an attack on him as well.

I think he would find the current state of things typical. We are still fighting over race, sexuality, gender, censorship, and inequality. The continuing legalization of marijuana would be progress, slow, but a forward step he might have been happy to see. Just imagine the Zappa response to ‘reality’ TV and ‘social’ media that do the opposite of what they pretend to be. Zappa was quite real and social. A real mother.

Searing instrumentals.
“Hot Rats” is a must listen. The second solo album.
Don Van Viliet (Captain Beefheart) featured on the only vocal track, “Willie The Pimp”.
The 112th release in the ever expanding Zappa Catalog.

Details of the 40th Anniversary release of Zappa In New York set (seen above) are here:

https://www.zappa.com/news/frank-zappas-beloved-live-double-album-zappa-new-york-celebrated-suite-40th-anniversary

In April a new concert experience played 9 sold out dates in America. A hologram of Frank Zappa performs alongside 6 musicians. The European dates are coming up.

According to Mr. Zappa’s family he hoped there would be a hologram tour after his life.

Getting back to how I started this entry. Can we define Zappa? I think we cannot. Fluidity is the main thing in art. Zappa the musician. That’s enough for me.

I have started listening from the beginning with the first 4 albums by The Mothers Of Invention. The first two solo albums were added too.

There may be more entries about Frank Zappa in the future. Although I still need to write about the albums and artists that were at the core of my love of music, the boundaries are ever expanding. The gate is always open.

June is Pride Month.

Coming Up: Stonewall At 50.

Thakn you for reading and following Evan’s Gate!

Rock Stars At Home/ Book Review

Elton John with his wardrobe; a fan made doll in his likeness is perched on his shoulder.

In this new hardcover from Apollo publishing, the domestic lives of rock stars are exhibited. This is a nicely laid out coffee table affair with fine photographic images of many of the world’s most famous music stars from the past 50 years. A total of 176 pages. Lists for $24.95.

For the fan and non-fan alike. The histories of various properties like Cotchford Farm, former home of Winnie-the-Pooh author A.A. Milne which became the estate of then Rolling Stone founder Brian Jones. The material within is quite a page turner. You get to find out what became of their homes after they died or whether they just left to live elsewhere.

There are essays by:

  • Chris Charlesworth (Melody Maker; Omnibus Press).
  • Eddi Fiegel (The Telegraph; The Guardian).
  • Colin Salter (The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock).
  • Daryl Easlea (Music Journalist and author of Books about Michael Jackson and Peter Gabriel).
  • Bryan Reesman (Entertainment Journalist).
  • Simon Spence (BBC, NME) music journalist and author.

A survey of stars including Frank Sinatra, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Ike & Tina Turner, Jimi Hendrix, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Prince, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Keith Moon, The Allman Brothers, Noel Gallagher, Debbie Harry, Barry Gibb, Michael Jackson, The Jacksons, Freddie Mercury, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne, and many others.

The material presented here is well organized. Essays precede each group of artists. Titled in order of appearance: Through The Keyhole, Psychedelic Suburbia, The Laurel Canyon Scene, Haunted Houses & Magic Mansions, All Aboard The Starship, Punk Digs & Dives, Out Of View, Islands & Exiles, Riot On Sunset, Last Known Abode, Musical Playgrounds, Mysterious & Spooky, and Colorfully Enhanced Cribs.

You begin to glean solid knowledge of the reasons why these people bought these homes and decorated them. The number one reason why some of these stars sought remote places was privacy. To escape the adoring public; to escape the press. Some of them would stay in the same home until their deaths like Jimi Hendrix did with his London flat. George Harrison’s widow Olivia still lives in their palatial estate. The birdseye view of this home is worth the price of this book alone.

Speaking of public museums you realize that some stars have a lot in common even if their musical expressions were different. Elvis, Prince, and Jimi Hendrix all had homes that would open to the public as historic places of interest after their untimely deaths.

The Eagles, The Doors, The Mamas & The Papas, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, and Carole King were neighbors in Laurel Canyon, Ca. This is an amazing time capsule of a very unique period of time where so many creative people could afford the homes that existed here. This is an example of a time when famous people had an open door too. They did not have walls.

Frank Sinatra and Keith Richards both eventually built walls in their very different places of residence to keep out intruders. Bob Dylan would move after fans discovered his then unknown residence in the town of Woodstock, N.Y. Mr. Dylan then sought seclusion. Chuck Berry like Sinatra (Twin Palms) named his estate. Berryland was open to the public until a massive fire destroyed it. This survey relates a lot of interesting stories like this throughout its pages.

Did you know that in the 1950s’ throught the 1970’s a lot of artists opened their homes to public viewing and parties. And that John Lennon’s murder in 1980 led many of these artists to close their homes as a result?

I can highly recommend this book as the type of treasure you can pick up for an insightful and fun tour of homes and people you may not have had access to otherwise unless you go to Graceland or Paisley Park. There is such a wealth of tidbits throughout that you will never get bored.

The misfits who began careers in music never expected to become wealthy. The galaxy of stars in this book represent a small sample of those who did well.

You realize in the end home is where you feel safe and comfortable. This book will make you feel this way and so much more!