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Pete Lawrence - 05 Feb 2018
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"Without deviation progress is not possible."

 

Musical visionary, band leader, composer, lyricist, satirist, activist, humanist and social commentator.

Alongside all those things, Frank Zappa was, for me, one of the great guitarists.

He passed away aged 52 in 1993, well before his time should have been up. But the music lives on - the spirit of Francis Vincent Zappa is alive and well and living all over the internet, archived and celebrated by his legions of devout fans. 

Musically, Zappa had his finger in many pies. His penchant for modern classical music has systematically featured throughout his music since the earliest days, and he has often name-checked Igor Stravinsky, Edgar Varese and Charles Ives as being important influences. 

His detractors often point to the smuttier end of Zappa’s vocal material, or his less distinctive rock sound of the 80s. Some of his lyrical content in that department was inspired and irreverent (Bobby Brown, Dirty Love), and other offerings verged on the embarrassing (Penis Dimension, Catholic Girls, The Torture Never Stops) and his endless songs about groupies equally divided many.

Zappa notably wrote what was arguably one of the world's earliest pioneering ecology lyrics on the Uncle Meat album, released in April 1969 (Mr Green Genes) 

Eat your greens
Don't forget your beans & celery
Don't forget to bring
Your fake I.D.
Eat a bunch of these
MAGNIFICENT
With sauerkraut
MMMMMMMMMMM
Sauerkraut
Eat a grape, a fig
A crumpet too . . .
You'll pump 'em right through
Doo-wee-ooo

Eat your shoes
Don't forget the strings
And sox
Even eat the box
Your bought 'em in
You can eat the truck
That brought 'em in
Garbage truck
MMMMMMMMMMMMouldy
Garbage truck
Eat the truck & driver
And his gloves
NUTRITIOUSNESS
DELICIOUSNESS
WORTHLESSNESS

The same album also had an instrumental called 'Nine Types of Industrial Pollution' although its name was changed on some editions.

A year later, he made his first solo album, Hot Rats, a jazz and almost entirely instrumental tour-de-force - the album that first swept me off my feet, aged 12 and impressionable as hell.

The early instrumental repertoire is focussed on the period immediately before and after the Hot Rats era – with tracks such as ‘Big Swifty’, ‘Duke Of Prunes’ and ‘Little Umbrellas’ sitting comfortably alongside renditions from the Uncle Meat, We’re Only In It For The Money and Burnt Weeny Sandwich albums. His finest hour, in my book.

Zappa poured scorn on simplistic teen-love pop song lyrics. He wrote hundreds of compositions without even one identifiable love song, though his parodies of these songs on albums such as ‘Freak Out’ and ‘Cruising With Ruben and The Jets’ may have fooled more than a few listeners.

The man’s true legacy is still making making itself evident in time, and will undoubtedly continue to unfold for years to come, certainly judging by the enthusiasm and musical precision of virtually all who passed through his ranks.  Just as Zappa mixed a taste for the most radical avant garde modern classical music, with love of the classic r&b, cool jazz, rock and doo-wop music of his '50's youth, so his new generation of disciples show an extraordinary humour and flexibility in their playing and understanding of the composer’s eclectic and highly idiosyncratic musical approach. 

Beyond the serious music, Zappa was noted as a hardened cynic, an opponent equally of stupid self-indulgent hippie dopeheads, Republican clergy, and teenage love songs.  He was the man that Czechoslovakian President Vaclav Havel appointed as special ambassador to the West on trade, culture and tourism - until the US government gave an ultimatum that “you either deal with the United States government or you deal with Zappa.”

When I first discovered Zappa as an impressionable thirteen year old, I struggled to come to terms with his nominal cynicism in a world that to me seemed so full of hope and optimism. It is now perhaps better understood as a harsh brand of idealism.  

One of his best quotes resonates more than ever today "The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced."

The Modern Day Composer Refuses to Die!


Ten Zappa Tunes

  • Peaches En Regalia from ‘Hot Rats’
  • Little Umbreallas from ‘Hot Rats’
  • Hungry Freaks Daddy from ‘Freak Out’
  • Oh No / The Orange County Lumber Truck from ‘Weazels Ripped My Flesh’
  • Holiday In Berlin from ‘Burnt Weeny Sandwich’
  • Let’s Make The Water Turn Black from ‘We’re Only In It For The Money’
  • Eat That Question from ‘Grand Wazoo’
  • Trouble Comin Every Day from ‘Freak Out’
  • Cosmic Debris from ‘Apostrohe’
  • Village Of The Sun from ‘Roxy and Elsewhere’

A fine selection of Zappa's guitar-based goodies, expertly curated and sequenced on YouTube by br1tag... a guitar feast!

 

br1tag says "This is a completion of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOM24... I was listening to "Frank Zappa ...and Play Yer Guitar (in the sixties) " and I thought it was not complete without the official guitar solos. So, I compiled this, the real "The Sixties Guitar Solos"! Between the solos I inserted various snippets to join the guitar solos among them. Then I created a video. This video is made up of many Zappa pictures. Images are not random, but I tried to make them in harmony with music. I also used some simple photo animations. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 00:07 1969-02-07 Miami - Underground Freak-Out Music 03:15 1969-02-07 Miami - No Waiting For The Peanuts To Dissolve 06:38 1968 The little house I used to live in 08:02 1968-08-25 Vancouver - Flopsmash Musics 08:39 1968-08-25 Vancouver - Orange County Lumber Truck 10:54 1969-02-23 (E) Toronto - The String Quartet 17:23 1967 King Kong Variations 18:25 1967 The Money Demos - Stuff Up The Cracks 22:14 1967 The Money Demos - Burnt Weeny Sandwich 26:27 1968-08-25 Vancouver -Trouble Every Day 28:24 1968-10-28 London - Orange County Lumber Truck 32:46 1968-10-26 Paris - King Kong 36:03 1969-02-28 New York - Get a Little 38:34 1968-10-10 Paris - A Pound For A Brown 40:07 1969-07-08 Boston - Holiday in Berlin 44:24 1968-10-28 London - A Pound For A Brown 48:41 1969-06-27 Denver - A Pound For A Brown 50:16 1968-08-25 Vancouver - Holiday In Berlin Full Blown 54:44 1969-06-06 London - Sleazette 59:08 1968 - Nine Types Of Industrial Pollution 1:05:21 1968-04-28 (E) Detroit - Mr Green Genes 1:07:18 1966-06-25 San Francisco - Lumpy Gravy Jam 1:08:48 1969-02-16 Stratford - Oh No 1:12:30 1969-07-08 Boston - Baked-Bean Boogie 1:16:31 1968-05-03 Denver - Little House I Used To Live In 1:19:14 1968-05-03 Denver - King Kong Variations 1:22:46 1968-10-26 Paris - Mr Green Genes 1:24:09 1968-10-20 Amsterdam - Orange County Lumber Truck 1:25:48 1968-10-20 Amsterdam - The String Quartet 1:30:07 1969-06-05 Portsmouth - The String Quartet 1 1:32:21 1969-05-24 (E) Toronto - Boogie in G 1:34:45 1969-06-05 Portsmouth - The String Quartet 2 1:39:53 1969-05-23 Appleton - Little House I Used To Live In 1:42:10 1968-11-08 Fullerton - A Pound for a Brown 1:45:28 1969-07-08 Boston - Uncle Rhebus - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

(visit Zappa official site to know and to buy the new CDs!) http://www.zappa.com/

 

6 Comments

842

Jeremy Pearce

Jesus Pete do you mean that people who like " tittie's and beer " can like Frank Zappa too ? Lol Lather x ?

73

Pete Lawrence

That was certainly one of his more sardonic moments. A bit like Punky's Whips?

842

Jeremy Pearce

I had a young Australia n lad who used to work with me .He hated Zappa .I used to make him listen to the entire 3 CD set of Shut up and play your guitar sometimes .I used to say the experience was "character building " and who knows maybe he has grown into it now .But then again .lol ?

842

Jeremy Pearce

I also visited Lancaster many years ago .My father was trying to promote chili cook off s in the UK .and we attended a massive one in the desert out side Lancaster .This is the place that Zappa and Captain beef heart grew up and it's also where the astronaut s trained .I read Tom Wolf's The right Stuff and Lancaster features quite alot because of the military air Base .I can remember sitting in a dinner and looking out of the window watching the traffic stop at the traffic lights .Big wide straight roads in complete flatness with no gradient at all and thinking "How the @@@@ did this place produce Zappa and Beef heart " There must have been something in the water or something ? I think though I might be corrected that they even went to the same school .Bongo Fury lol ? x

393

Tim Regester

One of my favourite musicians. His band was an academy for so many other musicians: Adrian Belew (King Crimson, Talking Heads) Terry Bozzio (Becker Brothers, UK, Missing Persons) Steve Vai... The list is long and interesting.

His approach to music and his interest in Avant Garde music stayed with him, recording until shortly before his death.

But his approach to the playing the guitar is what most outstanding When under fan pressure he released "Shut up and play your Guitar" it highlighted the simplicity but beauty in his approach.

Like Mark E Smith of the Fall. He was a maverick and cared not about Political Correctness, he could be dubbed a libertarian but he was no fan of the Republicans or Conservatism as the words of many songs showed.

To my mind the most approachable album in his canon of work was "The Best Band you never heard in your life" a live double album full of Zappa Standards and really interesting covers.

He is sadly missed to this day.

1376

Graeme Holdaway

Not to mention one of the best named albums of all time:
Sheik Yerbouti

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