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Frank Zappa was a rock musician... AND a classical composer.  He was also somewhere in-between a lot of the time.

Funny.  Researching Zappa for this diary, his name kept popping up in lists of greatest classical composers of the twentieth century, usually in the comments, with Zappa-holics praising him to the sky and feeling outraged that he's not already on the list.  Etc.  

I don't know if Zappa belongs in the top ten of anything, but he's very likely the most POPULAR modernist classical composer of the twentieth century.  (Before you start pointing out Gershwin etc., note my vague use of the word modernist.) Maybe the electric guitars had something to do with that.

I wrote a diary once for another series (I won't link to it -- it's a bit R-rated) that suggested I put his Uncle Meat at the very top of my list of music albums to get stoned by.  It was when I was younger and when I spent a lot of time stoned, which, to be perfectly clear, I don't do anymore.  However, I spent enough time in that state to consider myself an authority (not the ultimate one) of good stoner music. Most classical music just doesn't translate well to altered states of consciousness because they require too much mental analysis.  Beethoven?  Awful music to listen to while wasted.  Zappa, by contrast, has lots of interesting tinkly sounds!

We'll start with Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague, from the Uncle Meat album.  It's not as challenging as some we will hear.  I'm choosing it first for a reason.

Dog Breath, In the Year of the Plague, from Uncle Meat

Driving to El Monte,
Chevy '39,
Going to pick up 'Weesa,
She is so divine...

For those a little bit familiar with Zappa, those words might be memorable.  Listen to the underlying melody of that theme, on the words "Driving to El Monte, Chevy 39."  That's a recurring motif throughout the Uncle Meat album.  More than that, it's a recurring motif throughout a lot of his other music as well.  It pops up in little disguised forms.

I could have gone in chronological order and started with the Main Title Theme, but it's harder to identify it there.  Now that I've pointed it out, maybe you can hear how its used.

Uncle Meat, Main Title Theme

His music often starts out in simpler, more popular ways, and then goes off the rails.  At the first hearing, it can seem like self-indulgent hippy shit.  Hey, that was MY first impression, and I loved it!  But there's more method to his madness.

Let's ratchet up the difficulty now with a later track.  Try and spot the "Drivin' to El Monte" theme here and how it is manipulated.  This is more difficult stuff.

We Can Shoot You, from Uncle Meat

(The name of Zappa's band is Mothers of Invention.  I'm going to be lazy and sloppy and just credit Zappa in this diary.  Sorry 'bout that, Mothers.)

I'm not a rock expert, nor a Zappa expert.  I hope and expect a Zappa fanatic wil drop in here and correct anything wrong I say or better elucidate us on the subject.  I do know that Dave Marsh included Zappa in his list of most influential rock albums.  Frankly, I don't quite understand that, because I can't think of many rock albums INSPIRED by Uncle Meat.  I can think of a gazillion rock albums inspired by The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper or Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti.  Uncle Meat?  It, and the rest of Zappa's output, to my knowledge, were rarely imitated.  His music was popular but it was never populist.

... And, AHA! I correct myself in mid-paragraph, as I often do, without editing, because it's more interesting that way.  Reading the wiki entry for Zappa's first album, Freak Out, I read the following:

Freak Out! was initially more successful in Europe and quickly influenced many English rock musicians.[17] According to David Fricke, the album was a major influence on The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.[31] Paul McCartney regarded Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as The Beatles' Freak Out![32] However, Zappa criticized the Beatles, as he felt they were "only in it for the money".[33]
Well, if it influenced Sgt. Pepper, case closed, it was influential, even though he had a low opinion of The Beatles.

In fact, his third album, curiously titled, We're Only In It For the money," (1968) mocked the Sgt. Pepper album and the hippy movement in general.  Wiki again:

The Beatles were targeted as a symbol of Zappa's objections to the corporatization of youth culture, and the album served as a criticism of them and psychedelic rock as a whole.[2]
Parody and satire were a defining factor of almost all Zappa's music.  There was never anything remotely sentimental.  In fact, I find myself laughing to myself at just using the word sentimental in a sentence about Zappa.  There is nothing remotely close to a Zappa Moonlight Sonata or Swan Lake or Valse Triste.  In fact, if you were to find something that sounds like that, odds are it's more mockery.  

However, the "satire" aspect of Zappa is always too played up in the criticism of his music.  The world is full of great satire.  Zappa's music is good music that also happens to usually be satirical in its presentation because the usual broken hearts thing bored him.  I think his choice of subjects and lyrics is often just a way of saying fuck you to the conventional requirements that music be about something.  

Zappa was a fan of several classical composers, but above all, Edgard Varese.  From wiki again:

Zappa's deep interest in modern classical music began[14] when he read a LOOK magazine article about the Sam Goody record store chain that lauded its ability to sell an LP as obscure as The Complete Works of Edgard Varèse, Volume One.[15] The article described Varèse's percussion composition Ionisation, produced by EMS Recordings, as "a weird jumble of drums and other unpleasant sounds". Zappa decided to seek out Varèse's music. After searching for over a year, Zappa found a copy (he noticed the LP because of the "mad scientist" looking photo of Varèse on the cover). Not having enough money with him, he persuaded the salesman to sell him the record at a discount.[15] Thus began his lifelong passion for Varèse's music and that of other modern classical composers.
Some Varese.  My favorite Varese piece, Density 21.5.

Density 21.5 by Edgard Varese.  Lara Pou, flute

That one is actually pretty conventional by comparison with his later works.  Atonal, but it adheres to the musical scale.  Compare it to this one now, the 1958 work Poeme Electronique.  You need headphones or good stereo separation to appreciate this.  This one is fun.

Poeme Electronique (1958) by Edgard Varese

Following the success of his 80s pop song Valley Girl, Zappa turned to the concert hall for a while.  The result was his album with Pierre Boulez.

Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger

Zappa is hard to categorize.  Depending on your mood, you could call him psychedelic rock, R&B, fusion jazz, novelty satire.  Listening to the above album, he sounds well-entrenched in 20th century modernist classical music.  How he would have felt about being categorized that way, I don't know.  Probably mixed.  He loved classical music, but he seemed to hate being categorized.  Maybe he'd enjoy it but be a bit miffed at the same time.

From wikipedia again:

In 1991, Zappa was chosen to be one of four featured composers at the Frankfurt Festival in 1992 (the others were John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Alexander Knaifel).[201] Zappa was approached by the German chamber ensemble, Ensemble Modern, which was interested in playing his music for the event. Although ill, Zappa invited them to Los Angeles for rehearsals of new compositions and new arrangements of older material.[202]
For those who don't know, Cage and Stockhausen are two of the biggest names of 20th century avant-garde music.  (Knaifel, I've never heard of.)  For somebody who had loved avant-garde classical music since he was a kid, that must have felt really good.  Unfortunately, his health was deteriorating and those concerts would be his last public appearances.

The Dog Breath Variations, from Yellow Shark, with the Ensemble Moderne

And here we are, back to the Driving to El Monte motif yet again.

He wasn't just recycling his old crap.  I'd be derelict to leave out this one.

Overture to Yellow Shark, with the Ensemble Moderne

For somebody who tried so, so hard to not be serious, there is a very serious tone in some of this later music, like the above piece and in Perfect Stranger.

It's getting late, and I'm not up to trying to cover things related to his final works, like Civilization Phase III, or his congressional battles with Tipper Gore and the PMRC, or Vaclav Havel appointing him as Czechoslovakia's Cultural Attache.  Or the baroque ensemble cover bands.  Or his porn tape arrest, a lot of fun stuff like that.  We'll call it quits here.  Jeez.  I thought I was making my life easier by trying to use Frank Zappa for a punt diary.

Oh............. Okay, one more.  This is Strictly Genteel, the final piece of his film, 200 Motels.

Strictly Genteel (Remix)

Next week:  I'm bummed out.  My computer has developed problems again after a blackout we had a couple of days ago.  I'm going to provisionally blame it on power spikes, even though I had a surge protector and my computer was turned off.  Whatever.  IT means I'm going to have to strip down my computer to figure out what the problem is, and I'm going to have to wait until Saturday to do that because I feel to pissed and depressed thinking about it right now.   As for next week's diary: It's a question of whether there will be one at the moment.  If anybody wants to fill in next Thursday, please do.

Originally posted to Dumbo on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 08:24 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA, An Ear for Music, Protest Music, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Zappa Was Populist Inspiration (13+ / 0-)

    Zappa and the Mothers of Invention provided the inspiration for the Czech band Plastic People of the Universe which helped power the Prague Spring of 1968 until the Soviets quashed it.  From there it was just a short trip to Zappa and the Mothers developing a rep with Vaclav Havel.  Of course, when Havel rose to power, Zappa's star was in the ascendant along the shores of Bohemia.

    "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

    by PrahaPartizan on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 08:53:07 PM PDT

  •  Here's another orchestral piece (23+ / 0-)

    "Peaches en Regalia" from the Hot Rats album.

    But the angle said to them, "Do not be Alfred. A sailor has been born to you"

    by Dbug on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 09:01:23 PM PDT

  •  I empathize about the comp problems (9+ / 0-)

    my desktop was recently roached.  Lost a LOT of fine music, including some Zappa I was particularly fond of. He could and did write some more sentimental stuff. One that's in my brain now, thanks to this post, I can't remember the name of and I lost.  He did do this one, though...

    A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.' Douglas Adams

    by dougymi on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 09:09:58 PM PDT

  •  wonderful diary (and Zappa always gets my rec) (13+ / 0-)

    Zappa loved experimenting with sound and music.  He put together sounds from all kinds of influences and it extended to the voices he had in Mothers (Zombie Woof ?).

    I think of his musicianship as his main force, but lyric-wise I think he liked having fun in addition to enjoying the sounds of some phrases and words.  

    For a lot of us the mad-fun lyrics were often the hook but we continued listening and enjoyed the depth and breath of his work even more.

    There is a handful of musicians, that once their name is mentioned, brings joy but with a little sadness.  Zappa is one of those who I miss seeing live.  I wish he was still with us today.  (Curtis Mayfield and Michael Jackson have the same affect on me.)

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 09:18:37 PM PDT

    •  I would so love to hear (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SherwoodB, Dumbo, jds1978

      how Zappa would skewer today's politicians. ("When the lie's so big" and "Jesus thinks you're a jerk" come to mind.) In conjunction with his music career, nobody was as outspoken an advocate of free speech rights than Uncle Frank.

      People please tell me when, we'll be rid of these men?

      "All war is stupid" - JFK

      by jorogo on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 03:22:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Frank Zappa was a punker! (9+ / 0-)

    Up there with the best of Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys

  •  Great diary, Dumbo... (18+ / 0-)

    and my compliments to you for your very open mind.

    I wish I had gotten here sooner, Translator and I have been bouncing back and forth about a really comprehensive FZ diary for some time.

    It would be a huge endeavor. His best music (to me) is as good as it gets and so much other material screams for an understanding based on context.

    He is an EXTREMELY complex figure. His place as a rock songwriter, improvising guitarist, social critic and gadfly--all of which could qualify for a deep analysis.

    His work teems with seeming contradictions (some of which are legit!) and there are no easy answers.

    Ultimately, I never cease to be amazed at his pure musical invention, sometimes in the cheesiest of rock and roll songs, other times in orchestral works of very high abstraction.

    Through it all there is a challenging world view unequaled by anyone in the 2oth Century--before you jump on me, how many composers, painters, sculptors, whatever had the exposure of several hit singles and MANY extensive TV appearances? How many artists inspired such intense debate (meaning he pissed off a LOT of people and was unapologetic about it) about artistic issues as well as political and social issues and got their point out there as well?

    Very easy--no one.

    This is the best I can do right now and merely a tiny piece of what I think.

    Again, thanks for your open mindedness.

    I'm not paranoid, I'm just well informed--SherwoodB

    by SherwoodB on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 09:49:18 PM PDT

    •  The volume of genius work is staggering (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SherwoodB, Dumbo, jds1978

      the old "hardest working man in show business" tag... whatever that means is more true of him than anyone by just about every measure other than lots of dance moves on stage... which does not apply...

      some have quantity and are nowhere near the output of Frank... some have quality but nowhere as varied and consistent and in the quantity as Frank...

      I look back... fan from Freak out to the end and beyond.... and I look back and discover and rediscover all the more in things I already had heard many times....

      the family trust are still processing the unreleased mountain of tracks... studio and live... Zappa plays Zappa are elaborating on the works and reinventing and interpreting it in the next generation... the concert footage on YouTube keeps growing.. the cover bands the classical concerts.... the works of his that are now jazz standards ... it is like there is so much that the world is still discovering and digesting and appreciating what Zappa achieved... who he was, and what his work means...

      Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

      by IreGyre on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 03:28:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I had a blast (and wasted too much time perhaps) (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SherwoodB, IreGyre, jds1978

        trying to find a version of Dupree's Paradise to post.  It turns out the only recorded version that I know if is the orchestral one on the Boulez record, and that's a truncated one (and not on Youtube, either, so that's no fun).  There are many BOOTLEG versions on Youtube, though, and it's very impressive.  And cover versions.  And none of the bootlegs or covers sound the same!  Long ass thing too, must be about thirty minutes long.  I'd love to hear the definitive version of that.

  •  "There was never anything remotely sentimental" (11+ / 0-)

    Well, there's this nice little jazz waltz from "Grand Wazoo":

    The thing about quotes on the internet is you cannot confirm their validity. ~Abraham Lincoln

    by raboof on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 10:04:14 PM PDT

    •  IT depends on how you define sentimental. (8+ / 0-)

      I wouldn't call it that, myself.  

      I went looking for definitions.  Maybe I should use the word schmaltzy.  From urban dictionary:

      1.     schmaltzy     17 up, 5 down

      Yiddish. of, pertaining to, or characterized by schmaltz. Overly emotional. Cheesy sentiment, grandiose passion usually accompanied by effusive or overly-demonstrative gesticulations.

      Superlative combination of sincerity and sentimentality. Abundance of enthusiasm or excitement. Usually one-sided, always over-the-top. Can be misconstrued as meretricious in nature, though that's not usually the case.

      Zappa is never schmaltzy unless he's being sarcastic.  

      You want sentimental/schmaltzy?  Try Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald.  Here's one. Indian Love Call.

      •  having a deep emotional response however can (7+ / 0-)

        also be said to appeal to the sentiments... elicit strong associations with memories and emotions linked to them... yearning, loss, beauty (though Zappa did not do the Beauty and Love thing the usual way...)

        there are a great number of Zappa compositions that to me are very evocative, uplifting even... and some at least would sound "beautiful" to someone not familiar with Zappa's work... but only short passages. It was almost teasing... like he could play with it and say, yeah, I can do that, I know how to do that but... then gets tired of that and then does things to it he finds more interesting....

        Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

        by IreGyre on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 03:10:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Personally, (8+ / 0-)

          I find Call any Vegetable to be very uplifting!

          I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

          by itsjim on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 08:05:22 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  the end of Brown shoes don't make it gets (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Tonedevil, Dumbo, SherwoodB, jds1978

            pretty transcendent.... too many other to name them all but a few more examples... ( a lot of Hot Rats)
            Burnt Weenie sandwich has  Aybe Sea and Little house I used to live in... some major wow there...
            there is a deliberately beautiful snatch of evocative classicalish thing on "we are only in it for the Money" embedded in the genius insanity and whirlwind carnival of the intelligent absurdity of that album.... There is a jazz album "King Kong" that he worked on with Jean Luc Ponty and George Duke that has some amazing stuff...
            Grand Wazoo, 200 Motels, Overnite sensation, Uncle Meat (lots of stuff on that) all have at least some if not extensive parts that grab me emotionally beyond liking/loving them all on other levels.... WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH.. a lot on that! like "directly from my heart to you".. the cover of the  Richard Wayne Penniman (Little Richard) tune.. and then "OH No" leading into "The Orange county Lumber Truck"!! The "Waka Jawaka" album has some gems too..... "one Size fits all" has "Inca Roads" and other greats... "Sofa", "Florentine Pogen" have cosmic silly and sublime mixed together...
            Beyond all that... lots and lots of live cuts over the years... sheesh the live version of covers of "the Whipping post"... "stairway to heaven", Ravel's "Bolero", ... sometimes even while taking the piss on some of them it is still done with some affection... and with feeling not to mention awesome musicianship... lots of "Chunga's Revenge" (20 small cigars is cool)... even some albums that are not considered among his best I think have multiple gems on them.. "Zoot Allures" for instance... ("torture never stops"!! and more!)
            "Live in New York"... and an amazing amazing guitar solo work on Joe's Garage... "Watermelon in Easter Hay"
            I have left out so much more..... Yellow Shark has so much amazing stuff on it...  love "G Spot Tornado"....

            ooh and stand out cuts on the Shut up and play your guitar series...  (the mellow stuff and the rocking stuff ... love Ship Ahoy) and on "Frank Zappa - Guitar"... there are loads of interesting and or beautiful solos... "sunrise redeemer" is moving too...

            Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

            by IreGyre on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 09:34:57 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Zappa was NEVER schmalzy! He made fun of it! (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sfbob, Tonedevil, Dumbo, SherwoodB

        Inner and Outer Space: the Final Frontiers.

        by orlbucfan on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 06:56:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Here is a true story. (30+ / 0-)

    In 1969, I was a little country boy who'd never been out of Appalachia.

    My folks decided to spend a month reconnecting with my dad's brother's family who'd chased the dream in the late 50's and ended up in Huntington Beach CA.

    I literally got off the plane wearing a stupid-ass Davy Crockett coonskin cap which I believed to define me as cool as can be.

    A month later, I got back on the plane having seen and touched actual woman breasts, smoked hash, became a fierce defender of gay rights because I learned my best-cousin-ever was just born that way, and I'd traded in the coonskin cap for a jacket with a flag--just like Peter Fonda in Easy Rider.

    And under my arm was a double album. The Mothers of Invention's "Freak Out."

    There is a true story.

    •  Wow! (17+ / 0-)

      Really? a coonskin cap? Is there a picture? LOL

      Anyway, I played in Berkeley Symphony years ago under Kent Nagano and we had a concert where we played a Zappa piece and one by Paul McCartney.

      Most semi-pro orchestra players are pretty jaded. I enjoy playing the masterworks because I can hear them like no one else can at that point in time. None of us like crappy modern music especially if we are forced to hit our instruments or some other crap. The McCartney piece was drivel we all hated. But, the Zappa piece was amazing, we all talked about it for months and insisted the conductor find more to play the next year.
      I don't remember the piece.

      My only other Zappa memory is that someone insisted that we listen to We're in it for the Money while on acid. Later I made a point to listen to it while sober, my conclusion was it sounded the same! LOL

      The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. - Elbert Hubbard -9.62/-8.15

      by GustavMahler on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 10:59:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I can't speak for that album. (7+ / 0-)

        I'm not used to that one.  Uncle Meat is the one I wore out.

        That was my first impression of Zappa, too.  Psychedelic music for getting high with lots of tinkly sounds.  But no....  There's too much structure to it.  It's more interesting sober than high, so you can pay attention to catch things you're missing.  Well, at least with Uncle Meat.

      •  Excellent! (12+ / 0-)

        I couldn't begin to explain the influence Zappa and the Mothers had on my "development" growing up.

        The absurdity of his art helped to make sense of the reality of, well, reality.

        A few years ago I had a dream in which I was travelling on a passenger train that was barreling into a bunch of tornadoes. No one would listen to my warnings of the twisters that were very obviously on the horizon.

        I swear to you, the sound track to this dream was Zappa's "Trouble Every Day." I had not heard that song in probably 20 years.

        The next day I got up and went to a retro-music store in DC and bought the CD version of that album I'd carried off that plane back in 1969. Right there it was. First CD in the "Z" section.

        I'm an agnostic, level-headed dude, not prone to mystical whatnot. So I'm not going to go "Frank was speaking to me beyond the grave" blah, blah. What I will say is that my mind subconsciously generated his soothing voice when I was dealing with a lot of inexplicable shit.  

        Way too deep. Sorry. Late night Kos know.

        Peace friends.

      •  Check out Ed Palermo's Big Band Arrangements (4+ / 0-)

        Some really nice band arrangements of Frank's music. They do a great job.

        Dweezil is doing a fine job in Zappa Plays Zappa representing his Dad's music.

        If you close your eyes you almost imagine Frank on stage. Their, not too long ago, tour with Napolean, Bozzio, and Vai was really great.

        My son and I got backstage (another story - I knew Frank back in the early 70's) during one of Dweezil's shows (I have a pic on my other computer - damn) - what a gracious kid. We ate macaroni and cheese with the band and traded stories. Earlier, when I was working with Peavey, I got to meet Ahmet, Moon Unit, and Diva - all great kids.

        Frank was always nice to me ... "met" him on the phone in 1969 through a friend of his in the Army. Our paths crossed over a couple decades but he always remembered me.

        Who do you believe, Waffle Willard or Lyin' Ryan???

        by Da Rock on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 03:08:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  For those who really want to dig (4+ / 0-)

          into FZ's live music, check out Zappateers, a great community for those interested in Frank and his music.

          Thanks for the great diary.  Franks music has been a big part of my musical interests for more than 30 years.  No need to buy any of his albums now that the Zappa Family Trust is selling them all on ITunes, I already have them all.

          Frank would have had a field day with the last ten years of politics...oh the songs he would have written.

          Turn down the lights, pour a drink, and crank up the volume and listen to Watermelon in Easter Hay off of Joe's Garage.  And, as Frank would say, "as if that's not enough", put on Inca Roads from You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Vol. 2.  It will make your evening.

          Music is the Best.

        •  Excellent (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The Palermo Big Band has superb interpretations of FZ's tunes and are a lot of fun to see live.  

          Also check out"The Black Page" from Prophetic Attitude by Le Concert Impromptu.  Also, the Ensemble Ambrosius has a very nice album.

          As an aside, Zappa despised drug use and so the reference to stoner music in this diary probably would have made him chuckle and say in a very dismissive voice, "Next".  His tune Cocaine Decisions pretty much says it all.  

          For those who think Frank Zappa should have shut up and played his guitar (and composed), check out Watermelon in Easter Hay from Joe's Garage and Waka/jawaka  The first is one of the most aching and lyrically soulful tunes ever written.  The second is probably the best fanfare written in the 20th Century (sorry Aaron Copland).  

          "There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life." Frank Zappa

          by zootfloggin on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 09:36:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  good album choice... (5+ / 0-)

      No System of Justice Can Rise Above the Ethics of Those Who Administer It. (Wickersham Commission 1929)

      by No Exit on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 09:12:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Dude! Did you get to a show at The Golden Bear? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo, jds1978, SherwoodB

      I don't think Zappa ever played there, but it was ground zero for the music scene that part of SoCal.

      ps. All the cool kids in HB had coonskin caps... we bought 'em at the Frontierland trading post at Disneyland.

      Have you noticed?
      Politicians who promise LESS government
      only deliver BAD government.

      by jjohnjj on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 11:06:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My original version of this diary was longer, (11+ / 0-)

    but I lost it because of glitches.  It included this clip of Time is Money from Sleep Dirt.


    Perhaps you are surprised
    To see I speak your language?

    But I have been monitoring
    Your Earthly broadcasts for
    Many years...
    Many years...
    And the reception on my little planet
    Is extremely fine!

    Time is money...
    But Space is a long, long time!
    On my lonely throne
    In the cosmic night I ponder the vast expanses
    Between your puny world and mine!

    From my Couch-In-The-Sky,
    As my planet goes by,
    I behold all your misery below there!
    I have seen all your lying,
    And crying, and dying,
    And, believe me,
    YOUR planet is NOWHERE!


    And if the equation,
    As set forth above,
    Is PROVED when we get to
    The BOTTOM LINE...
    The 'Powers Financial'
    I'll hold o'er your world
    Will complete my fantastic design!


    And the whole equivalent earth SHALL BE MINE!

    And the whole equivalent earth SHALL BE MINE!


    And, believe it or not, I then went forward into a long gratuitous riff on Ayn Rand and Objectivism and then onto the subjective nature of reality (and art) because of MWI quantum theory.  I swear, honest.  Lost all that shit because this laptop has trouble with youtubes and locks up easily and I didn't save a huge chunk of work.

    It was similar to this very long post I left in one of the Rand/Ryan diaries last Tuesday.

  •  The modern-day composer refuses to die! (16+ / 0-)

    Great diary--goes a long long way towards explaining why Zappa drilled his bands so relentlessly in rehearsal.  He spent his whole life searching for a chamber orchestra that could play complicated compositions without the sheet music in front of them.  Get past the shock value of ditties like "Titties and Beer" or "The Illinois Enema Bandit" (resquiat in pacem Don Pardo!) and there's some interesting musical shenanigans going on. God, I miss much for his off-stage activism as his tuneful buffoonery.  Check this out:

    Frank tears Robert Novak a new one!  Say hallelujah!

    It ain't free speech if it takes cash money.

    by Uncle Igor on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 12:38:40 AM PDT

  •  Please hear my plea! (13+ / 0-)

    (what is that boy talking about?)

    At semi-regular intervals, Dweezil Zappa tours with various ex-Mothers in a show called Zappa Plays Zappa.

    The incarnation of 2011 featured Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (Flo & Eddie) on the mics -- which probably cost a little money, since the duo works as often as they wish as The Turtles.

    See Zappa when you can!

    ... my income falls because you’re spending less, and your income falls because I’m spending less. And, as our incomes plunge, our debt problem gets worse, not better. -- P. Krugman

    by MT Spaces on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 01:31:39 AM PDT

  •  Great Diary! (6+ / 0-)

    Man, for some reason, "Zoot Allures", is the one album that just makes me spin. "Apostrophe ('), is second...SSK

    "Hey Clinton, I'm bushed" - Keith Richards

    by Santa Susanna Kid on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 01:31:53 AM PDT

  •  Two Zappa-related notes (7+ / 0-)

    1. My German tutor here plays in a Zappa tribute band. It's weird, though, because I believe the band consists of only voice, trombone, bass, and percussion. So I'd have to see how they handle "stripping down" the harmonies to make it something they can perform. (Every concert they've had, I've been out of town or had a concert week of my own.) It's also weird, because they're doing this in Germany.

    2. Zappa was not only a lover of classical music, he was a promoter of it, too. I'm trying to remember where I read this, but among other projects, he helped to finance a recording of Havergal Brian's Gothic Symphony, which is a labor of love if ever there was one. (That said, however, the Gothic rocks.)

  •  I hear a lot of Zappa in German and English bands (7+ / 0-)

    late 60s and early 70s... an influence at the very least at some level... the German band FAUST is one example and some would say the Bonzo Dog Band was another band with some homages and influences in style and approach.

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 03:06:21 AM PDT

    •  I heard Elivis Costello on a talk show (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SherwoodB, Dumbo, jds1978

      he was asked what/who are you listening to now? and at the time "Only in it for the Money" had just been reissued on CD and Elvis C. said that was what he was listening to for fun and or inspiration/ideas  at that time... what was that? late 80s?... so I figure there has been and still is a low key but pervasive continuing influence on a lot of people...

      Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

      by IreGyre on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 03:35:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  zappa for president! (5+ / 0-)

    he was so awesome.

    Mitt Romney seems congenitally incapable of inspiring people - Richard Wolfe, 8/15/2012

    by Cedwyn on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 06:38:32 AM PDT

    •  I miss him terribly (8+ / 0-)

      I probably saw him perform close to a dozen times. He loved coming to SLC, he taught classes at a local college and took two of his band members from here. I first saw him in the late 60s all the way through the 80s.

      I went to a concert so pregnant with my daughter that I could feel her swimming to the music, lol. IIRC the last time we saw him he was collecting underwear from the audience for a quilt.

      "The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can." John Prine

      by high uintas on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 06:51:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I believe he had conversations... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cedwyn, jds1978, Tonedevil, Dumbo, SherwoodB

      ...with folks from the Libertarian Party in the late eighties or early nineties about running on their ticket.  If I'm remembering right, he agreed with much of their platform, but found them too rigidly ideological to be practical.

      I liked his politics on church/state separation and freedom of expression issues.  But on other issues, like labor unions, he wasn't so hot.  Admittedly, he'd had some pretty bad experiences with unions in his professional life, and I think that shaped his view in a rather narrow way.

    •  President FZ : the Libertarians actually (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cedwyn, Dumbo, jds1978

      tried to get him to run for Prez, but he had a belief in government (if done right) and decided against it.

      He preferred to keep making music, thankfully!

      I'm not paranoid, I'm just well informed--SherwoodB

      by SherwoodB on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 04:45:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't like clever music (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I appreciate that some do, but I was turned off on Zappa early on because it seemed to be more about showcasing technical ability than getting anything else across, which also steers me away from a lot of jazz and post-classical "serious" music—I get the impression I'm being jerked around, and why would I want more of that?
    That, and the reputation he had for being an egotistical tyrant. There's some thinking I wanted to chase down.

    and I wait for them to interrupt my drinking from this broken cup

    by le sequoit on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 06:54:19 AM PDT

    •  well then, (0+ / 0-)

      american idol is for you! wallpaper for your "lifestyle"

    •  That's an interesting comment... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jorogo, SherwoodB, jds1978

      about "clever music."  I've never heard that phrase before, but I think I might remember it now.

      I think maybe "clever music" might be a very big category of music.  I'm a big Mozart fan, and I know that Mozart doesn't appeal to many people for reasons hard to express.  It may be his "cleverness."  I've been leaning more towards the word abstract.  Some composers are more abstract (or "clever"), some are more sentimental.  And good composers are at least a little bit of both to some extent.

      Listen to this.  I've used this example.  Mozart's Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute.  This is supposed to be scary.

      With the dramatic setting, the black dress, gloomy atmosphere, the facial expressions, yeah, it is scary.  Now listen to JUST THE MUSIC.  Fuck, it makes me want to laugh, too!  It's joyous music!  There's joy in the detail of the music.  The meaning of the song in context is totally secondary.  

      And a lot of Mozart's music is like that.  The "emotional message" it conveys isn't really there.  It's just a massive expression of joy though cleverness.  Which is an emotional message, isn't it?  Not this aria, necessarily, but much of Mozart's music that is like this gets my adrenaline pumping. On the other hand, there are some sentimental pieces for Romantic composers that are just boring, because I've heard the same tearful weepy thing so many times already and heard it done better.  

      I'm not against sentimental music, not against clever music.  I just see them as two different faces of music.

  •  Shame on me for not taking him seriously! (6+ / 0-)

    Of course I owned Freak Out. I actually got to Zappa by way of the Fugs (real live profanity, appealing to a teenager) instead of by way of classical music (I was VERY rigorous about drawing a bright line between classical and rock and it only abated a little when I saw the Beatles had secured the services of Alan Civil, the French horn virtuoso, for Revolver).

    It's great to see his work presented in this context.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 07:27:00 AM PDT

  •  "It ain't art..." (7+ / 0-)

    "...till the check clears."   -   Frank Zappa

    •  AH Zappa quotes (5+ / 0-)

      "The difference between religion and a cult is the amount of real estate they own"

      "Art is making something out of nothing and selling it"

      "If you want to get laid go to college, if you want an education go to the library"

      “The most important thing in art is The Frame. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively-- because, without this humble appliance, you can't know where The Art stops and The Real World begins. You have to put a 'box' around it because otherwise, what is that shit on the wall?”

      Words from the master ....

      Who do you believe, Waffle Willard or Lyin' Ryan???

      by Da Rock on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 03:27:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I saw Frank 3 times (6+ / 0-)

    before he passed.  The last was at the Chicago Auditorium on the  1988 tour when he was lampooning Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart with a  Beatles medley. Sting was sitting 2 rows in front of us and came out on stage to open the 2nd set with Murder by Numbers which Swaggart  was determined was written by Satan.  (Sting: "I wrote the fucking song.")

    Zappa was  the greatest loss for me in terms of people who influenced my musical taste during my formative years.

    His son Dweezil has been touring with his own band as Zappa Plays Zappa,  and while he is not his father,  he does a nice job orchestrating some of the more complicated pieces.  

    The Black Page is one of my favorite compositions (part #1 was written as a drum solo).  And since the best video I can find is with Dweezil's band,  I'll post that link:

    •  Embedded the wrong size up there ^ (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      high uintas, Tonedevil, Dumbo, SherwoodB

    •  I love the Black Page (5+ / 0-)

      First time I heard it was at the "Christmas show" in New York that wound up on the "Zappa in New York" album from the late seventies.  I'd just seen him a few months earlier at their Halloween show, and to be honest, it wasn't that great a show.  But for the Christmas show, he'd put together an expanded lineup with a full horn section made up, I believe, of New York session guys.
      I remember the point in the show where what I assumed was the obligatory drum solo began, at which point I went to get a beer or something.  I find drum solos really boring, and I play the drums. I can't imagine what other people see in them.  I'm halfway up the aisle when I notice that Terry Bozzio seems to be playing something very deliberate and melodic, quite unlike the usual "look how many things I can hit per second" school of drum solo wankery.  Then the percussionists joined in and the melody was fleshed out. What a wonderful piece of music that is.
      The other thing I remember about that show is the atmosphere as we left the hall. I was used to people being pretty noisy and rowdy as they left, but this night the crowd was nearly silent. I think everyone was still digesting what they'd heard. It was eerie.

      •  "Live In New York" Was My First Zappa Album (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dumbo, SherwoodB, jds1978

        We used to see him at the Stanley Theater in Pgh - he was usually there around Halloween

        There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

        by bernardpliers on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 10:42:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I read, about his first album, Freak Out, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SherwoodB, Bill W

        that when the studio session guys came in, they freaked out when they saw he had set up written sheet music for them to play from.  Heh.

        My brother used to be a rock studio musician and music producer.  I turn to him for music advice when I'm writing these diaries sometimes.  Before I wrote these diaries, I didn't understand roman numeral notation for chords (like, in C major, an A minor chord would be denoted as vi).  I asked him for advice on how this worked.  He sneered and told me "real musicians" don't bother with any of that shit.  He said, "I can't tell some guitarist to play a vi chord.  You don't know what the hell they'll play, even if they understand it.  But if I tell them B minor, they all automatically know where their fingers go."

        In that light, the idea of studio electric guitar musicians having to play from sheet music on demand starts to sound a little funny.

        •  Some studio guys read better than others. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dumbo, jds1978, SherwoodB

          Studio guitarists are probably the least likely to be good sight-readers, but some of them are pretty good at it.  The thing is, for a lot of session work, they're not given a specific part to play, they're given the chord progression of the song (that's where those Roman numerals come in) and the style they're supposed to be playing, and if they're good, they play what the producer is looking for.
          I'm thinking that the story you heard about the Freak Out album was from guitarist Tommy Tedesco.  He walked into the session thinking it was going to be some kind of hippie party or something and ended up playing some very challenging music.  He had a blast on that session and developed a great respect for Frank Zappa's composition.

          •  As a guitarist, this.... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Bill W, SherwoodB, Dumbo
            The thing is, for a lot of session work, they're not given a specific part to play, they're given the chord progression of the song (that's where those Roman numerals come in) and the style they're supposed to be playing, and if they're good, they play what the producer is looking for.
   totally true.  Nashville notation (the roman numerals) plus knowing as many chords and their arpeggios is all you really need to know (if you play guitar)

            Everything else you learn is an extra benefit

            Plastic People, Oh Baby Now, Yer sucha Draaaag

            by jds1978 on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 06:10:19 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Correction: (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SherwoodB, Dumbo

            The Tommy Tedesco story was about the Lumpy Gravy session, not Freak Out.  

  •  I saw Frank and the Mothers (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jds1978, Tonedevil, Dumbo, SherwoodB

    in Orlando, FL. We're talking 1971-72 here. It was at a venue called the Sports Stadium.  We used to call it the 'Tin House' cos the accoustics sucked. They were wicked and  tight.

    They played a kind of futuristic jazz-rock. They were tight as hell. If you check out their history. you'll see where John Lennon played w/them, and they kicked YO off the stage.

    Inner and Outer Space: the Final Frontiers.

    by orlbucfan on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 07:46:44 AM PDT

  •  Frank Zappa was a effing genius (8+ / 0-)

    My cousin turned me on to Zappa when I was very young. He blew my mind and changed my view on music (and life, frankly).

    He left us FAR too soon.

    RIP FZ.

  •  "Grand Wazoo Orchestra"! (5+ / 0-)

    Best. Road music. Ever!

    I'm the plowman in the valley - with my face full of mud

    by labradog on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 08:13:07 AM PDT

  •  When The Lie's So Big (7+ / 0-)

    They got lies so big
    They don't make a noise
    They tell 'em so well
    Like a secret disease
    That makes you go numb

    With a big ol' lie
    And a flag and a pie
    And a mom and a bible
    Most folks are just liable
    To buy any line
    Any place, any time

    When the lie's so big
    As in Robertson's case,
    (That sinister face
    Behind all the Jesus hurrah)

    Could result in the end
    To a worrisome trend
    In which every American
    Not "born again"
    Could be punished in cruel and unusual ways
    By this treacherous cretin
    Who tells everyone
    That he's Jesus' best friend

    When the lies get so big
    And the fog gets so thick
    And the facts disappear
    The Republican Trick
    Can be played out again
    People, please tell me when
    We'll be rid of these men!

    Just who do they really
    Suppose that they are?
    And how do they manage to travel as far
    As they seem to have come?
    Were we really that dumb?

    People, wake up
    Figure it out
    Religious fanatics
    Around and about
    The Court House, The State House,
    The Congress, The White House

    Criminal saints
    With a "Heavenly Mission" -
    A nation enraptured
    By pure superstition

    Do you believe in the Invisible Army?
    (Yes, indeed!)

    When the lie's so big
    And the fog so thick
    And the facts kept forgotten
    Then the Republican Trick
    (Ketchup is a vegetable!)
    Can be played out again
    People, please tell me when
    We'll be rid of these men!

    Broadway the Hard Way, 1988

  •  Apparently Zappa's entire catalog us now available (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tonedevil, Dumbo, SherwoodB, jds1978

    on iTunes.

    This should be interesting. The last piece of his I ever purchased was "Fillmore East-June 1971." By then I'd sort of given up on him based on the notion that he was merely being gratuitously vulgar. Apparently I was mistaken.

    Now that I can get hold of the things he released later on more easily I'll have to start listening again.

    I saw Zappa several times in the late 1960's, each time either at the Fillmore East or during the old summer concert series at the Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park. Those performances were among my favorites.

    Whenever his name comes up I relate this anecdote from my youth:

    After one of his appearances at the Fillmore East my college roommate and I stuck around in front of the building waiting for the band members to leave, just to say hello to Zappa, which we did. Not that we had anything of substance to say; we just wanted to be able to claim we'd done it.

    •  Summer 1969 Outside Washington, DC (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sfbob, Tonedevil, Dumbo, SherwoodB, jds1978

      The only chance I had to see Zappa and the Mothers occurred in the summer of 1969 when they toured at a venue in MD just outside Washington, DC.  Anyone who knows MD weather knows that it gets good thunderstorms in high summer and that night was no different.  It had rained on the stage set-up just before my date and I had gotten there and water was dripping off the stage shelter onto the stage and possibly equipment.  The performance started before the thunderstorm had totally vacated the area and Zappa and the Mothers were on stage performing with lightning flashing behind them in the distance and peels of thunder providing background base as accompaniment to the band.  I swear I could hear crackling coming off the stage from the songs, the static and the shorts in the soaked equipment.

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 09:48:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I should add that despite my later disappointment (5+ / 0-)

      my iPhone is FULL of early Frank Zappa/Mothers of Invention, up to and including Chunga's Revenge.

  •  Zappadan Comes (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tonedevil, Dumbo, SherwoodB, jds1978

    Lest we all forget, the Festival of Zappadan will be starting again this December 4th to commemorate his passing with song and remembrance until the celebration of the anniversary of his birth on December 21st.  It is amazing that the winter solstice and Zappa's birthday coincide, is it not.   A new light for us all.

    "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

    by PrahaPartizan on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 09:34:23 AM PDT

  •  Playing Uncle Meat (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tonedevil, Dumbo, SherwoodB, jds1978

    Years ago, I had a friend who was a guitar player and obsessed with Zappa in general and "Uncle Meat" in particular.  So he got a transcription of "Uncle Meat" and encouraged me to try and play it with him.

    We had youthful exuberance on our side, but limited musical skills.  We never made it all the way through.

    But I remember the piece well, and was pleased to see it featured in this diary.

    While Zappa became famous for his satirical rock music with The Mothers of Invention, I think his real genius was best expressed through his modern classical music.  I was pleased to see you focus on this aspect of Zappa  instead of the more popular parts of his work.

    "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

    by Hugh Jim Bissell on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 09:37:25 AM PDT

  •  Romney-Ryan's Motto for the Rest of Us (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tonedevil, Dumbo, jorogo, SherwoodB, jds1978

    From Frank Zappa's song The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing we are given:

    You say yer life's a bum deal
    'N yer up against the wall...
    Well, people, you ain't even got no
    Deal at all
    'Cause what they do
    In Washington
    They just takes care
    An' NUMBER ONE ain't YOU
    You ain't even NUMBER TWO
    That pretty much sums up the Republican mantra these days, foretold by a prophet now long since passed.

    "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

    by PrahaPartizan on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 09:42:04 AM PDT

  •  Love FZ (see my sig) (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tonedevil, Dumbo, SherwoodB

    ....Frank made no distinction between his comedy/saitire hard rock, the neo-prog jazz fusion stuff or his classical compositions.  It was all part of a lage continous work:  Project/Object.

    Hence, music themes fom the early MOI could show up (unannounced or otherwise)  at any moment during a recording session or concert (often after extensive tweaking geared towards the talents and abilities of his band)

    Outside Jerry Garcia, FZ was the only guitarist I can think of that developed a genuine political and social ideology alongside their music (both Frank and Jerry favored a type of anarcho-libertarianism)

    My introduction to FZ came as complete happenstance.  While on a HS field trip in 1994, I noticed a discarded CD laying on the ground.  I grabbed it out of curiosity and listened to it at home.  It just so happened to be 'Absolutely Free' from 1967.  From the very get go I was hooked (and laughing like a maniac......"Call Any Vegetable!!??")

    Imagine what Frank would've done during the Lewinsky scandal or in response to the bV$h years!

    Plastic People, Oh Baby Now, Yer sucha Draaaag

    by jds1978 on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 09:47:12 AM PDT

  •  When I was stationed at Kirtland in (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tonedevil, Dumbo, SherwoodB, jds1978

    Albuquerque in the mid-1980-s, a group of us took a road trip to see Frank Zappa at the Paolo Soleri Amphitheatre.

    Don't remember much, just a good time and a good show.

    and yes, he is extremely hard to categorize...

    The word 'politics' is derived from the word 'poly', meaning 'many', and the word 'ticks', meaning 'blood sucking parasites'. ~ Larry Hardiman

    by shel3364 on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 10:19:50 AM PDT

  •  Frank Zappa could be brilliant (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tonedevil, Dumbo, SherwoodB, jds1978

       but his music is not as interesting to me as the other genius from Lancaster CA in that era, his sometime friend and rival Don Van Vliet. Van Vliet was Captain Beefheart and his group was the Magic Band. His music was closer to blues and free jazz than modern classical.

         I grew up on the music of both of them and saw some memorable concerts of both bands and even the Bongo Fury tour when Don was singing and playing harmonica in the Mothers. The best time I saw the Mothers was at the Roxy in 1974 (which became the Roxy and Elsewhere album). The biggest problem I have with FZ is that most of his lyrics after about 1972 or so are putrid and stupid. He was able to write great songs of social commentary or whimsical absurdity back in the day but the later stuff like "The Illinois Enema Bandit" just doesn't cut it.

         The most famous record by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band is the double LP Trout Mask Replica (which was produced by FZ) but any of his records are worth looking into except the two "Tragic Band" attempts at selling out (Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans and Moonbeams). My favorites are Lick My Decals Off, Baby  and Safe as Milk (the first one) and among the later ones I like Shiny Beast/Bat Chain Puller though most critics preferred Doc at the Radar Station.

          I am a techno-spazz, so I am sorry I can't embed any CB videos for you all.

    Diehard Swingnut, disgruntled Democrat, age 54, new CA-30

    by Zack from the SFV on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 10:20:52 AM PDT

    •  I think Doc at the Radar STation (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SherwoodB, Zack from the SFV, jds1978

      is the one I have.  The one with Making Love to a Vampire with a Monkey on my Knee.  Loved that one.  Trout Mask Replica wasn't as interesting to me.

      Zappa and Beefheart apparently went to the same california high school together and knew each other before becoming successful.

      I like Zappa's music more.  I don't feel like it's all random, all spontaneous free spirit stuff.  That makes me want to listen to it again, to hear what he's trying to do.  

    •  Zappa reminds me of another great artist... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SherwoodB, Dumbo, jds1978

      in terms of fan response to his seriousness of purpose.  Many longtime aficionados of The Mothers draw that same line at around '71 or '72, claiming that was when the band started getting too "out there" to be enjoyable.  In a similar fashion, I've run into many folks who gave up on Tom Waits around the time of "Rain Dogs" or "Swordfishtrombones," lamenting his conscious decision to abandon his hipster-bum-poet persona for a more composerly approach to his music.  I remember going to see Waits at a club in Philly during the days of his "spontaneous bop prosody" (as he called it)--like the infamous Austin City Limits gig, just him and a guitar and a piano.  I loved it, but he apparently got tired of being straitjacketed by his persona, much the same as Frank grew weary of being considered a comedy act.  It was tough sledding to stick with them through their evolution, but hey, the music was theirs, not mine.

      It ain't free speech if it takes cash money.

      by Uncle Igor on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 03:58:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  OK, you got me started now, Uncle Igor! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dumbo, jds1978

        I went to see Frank at Avery Fisher Hall around Thanksgiving 1973 and walked in on the opening act: a grizzled looking guy who played great piano and pretty good guitar and his songs were about hookers, bus stations and sleazy bars.

        I think you know where this is headed, right?

        I liked him right away but most of the audience was incredibly rude.

        When Frank came on he mentioned that they should have treated Tom Waits better, as he happened to like his work very much!

        I'm not paranoid, I'm just well informed--SherwoodB

        by SherwoodB on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 05:05:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I saw him play a concert in Seattle in the 80s (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, SherwoodB, jds1978

    It just plain blew me away...and I had been a Zappa connoisseur for many years prior.....

    "No man is rich enough to buy back his past." ~ Oscar Wilde

    by ozsea1 on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 10:37:08 AM PDT

  •  Played with Adrian Belew and Steve Vai (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    justintime, Bill W, Dumbo, SherwoodB, jds1978

    The tour with Vai was great because Frank really let Vai do his thing.  Frank would smoke and wave his conductors baton while Vai did the rock star thrashing around.  Finally Vai seemed to pretend to be having some sort of seizure while while Frrank conducted.  Vai also took lead vocals doing a particularly whiny version "Broken hearts are for assholes."

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 10:46:21 AM PDT

    •  I think it was during Steve Vai's tenure... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo, SherwoodB, jds1978

      ...that they coined the term "stunt guitar" for the young hotshot lead guitarist role in the band.  Zappa was a terrific soloist with a unique style, but he freely admitted he couldn't play the parts that Vai and his successors did.

  •  I listen to Zappa more than anything else (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    homo neurotic, Dumbo, SherwoodB, jds1978

    How could I not rec this diary?

    I love many of his compositions. I am not a rock critic (which Zappa would say is a very good thing) but his music always speaks to me. More than anything else though, I think he rocked harder than any musician before or since.

    -7.5 -7.28, A carrot is as close as a rabbit gets to a diamond.-Don Van Vliet

    by Blueslide on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 10:49:40 AM PDT

  •  nice (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, SherwoodB

    many thanks for this substantive and respectful take on f.z.

    it's such a pity that he wasn't able to stick around awhile longer.

    keep your eyes on the sky. put a dollar in the kitty. don't the moon look pretty. --becker&fagen

    by homo neurotic on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 11:30:41 AM PDT

  •  I have one of Zappa's orchestral music albums (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It is seriously uninteresting. It's the same sort of experimental noodlings that college music professors had been pushing as "very important" for several decades already.

    As Wendy Carlos said, "they killed music."

    Zappa was at his best as a political analyst and that will be his greatest contribution to our civilization.

    •  Perfect Stranger (orchestral) didn't impress me (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      nearly as much as Uncle Meat.  But I wouldn't describe Zappa as experimental noodlings.  I was trying to demonstrate that with the first three clips I posted.  

      But a lot of his later work is good rock but otherwise trivial stuff compared to Uncle Meat.  Uncle Meat was strangely ambitious and perfect compared to the later satirical stuff which was, to me, often juvenile.

  •  I can recommend your attempt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to discuss the works of Frank Zappa, but your analysis is woefully shallow when you say that Zappa was not serious about his work -- this is particularly ironic in that you are focussing on his "classical" music efforts which were very seriously intentioned indeed (by his own words). Don't confuse playfulness with a lack of seriousness; there are tons of interviews with mr. Zappa whereby you can read and hear about how he felt about his music.

    Having said that, there was an aspect about Zappa that is foreign to the way most of us look at life; he could be simultaneously extremely serious about his efforts (his meticulous rehersals, quality of musicians, studio technique were all legendary) and utterly dismissive of his own importance at the same time -- the ultimate yin&yang practitioner I've ever witnessed.

    ...and never remotely sentimental??? Please define sentimental. Joe's Garage, act 3, culminates the story of a musician who is beaten down by society's relentless effort to make us conform with one of the loveliest, saddest pieces of music I've ever been privileged to hear -- not sentimental? Granted, one has to wade thru a lot of cynicism and mockery to find Zappa displaying his heart, but there is a lot to be found if that's what you want to hear.

    The art of listening is the ability to pay attention to that which is most difficult to hear

    by dRefractor on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 11:41:37 AM PDT

    •  I have to go reread the diary, I guess, to find ou (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jorogo, SherwoodB, dRefractor, jds1978

      out what I might have said that might have led you to think that I don't think Zappa took his music seriously.  I think he took it very seriously and looked down on everybody else for being trivial or commercial.

      I guess I would criticize a lot of his music for being too playful, not that I said that in the diary.  I try not to be harsh in the diaries and save my own personal disappointments for the comments.  Uncle Meat was so brilliant that by comparison (to me) his later satirical (and high quality) lyrics overlaying half-decent fusion rock sound kind of trivial.

      And I acknowledged in the diary that my analysis might be shallow and invited people who know Zappa better to jump in and better elucidate.  Thanks.

      •  This... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        For somebody who tried so, so hard to not be serious, there is a very serious tone in some of this later music, like the above piece and in Perfect Stranger.
        You did indeed acknowledge that your analysis might be shallow, and in such cases it's best to avoid language that sounds so authoritative.

        Zappa was ofttimes both deadly serious and completely frivolous at the same time; other times the lyrics would be serious while the composition would be in counterpoint, and vice versa... But when he decided to, the lyrics and music (or the music by itself) could come together in majestic waves of passion. These aspects of his music were both confounding and awe inspiring. In the end, the listener has the choice as to when to laugh or when to cry (or when to be bored, etc).

        I do not think Zappa, nor his creations, were perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but the combination of his overall creativity, passion, scope, personal musicianship, music scholarship and studio competence have not been matched, even closely, by any other musician/composer I have encountered -- I felt your article didn't do the man's memory justice and relying on comments to rectify shortcomings is a bit lazy, imo.

        Anyway, please forgive my indignation if you can, it's not like you get paid for writing this, and much of what you wrote was well done; it just wasn't punt material :)

        The art of listening is the ability to pay attention to that which is most difficult to hear

        by dRefractor on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 02:17:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ah, now I understand. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I thought you meant I thought Zappa's music wasn't serious, as in, important, frivolous.  So our language is getting a bit tangled there.

          I need to find a better adjective than serious in the passage you blockquoted.  Non-satirical, perhaps.  

          Maybe you're right about something here.  I really don't care that much about his dadaism and satire.  I find that only mildly interesting and I would never have written a diary about his work if that's all he was.  I've always been interested in the more abstract work underneath.

          In that sense, Perfect Stranger (not a perfect work) is a little more "serious" in that it doesn't have all the dadaist baggage and it seems to show an interest in "being taken seriously" rather than as a satirist.

          As for being an authority...  Jeez, I just write fast diaries on Thursdays.  I'm not an authority.  I hear that a lot when somebody disagrees with something I say about their favorite composer and think I'm insulting them.  The solution to that is to write your own diary.  I'm entitled to my opinions. They're all I ever have.  And I'm perfectly happy to have somebody else write these diaries and give me a week off.  And in the diary, again, I invited you and other people to straighten me out about anything that I wasn't well informed on.  I'm always happy to have that, and frequently I get it.

          •  entitled? (0+ / 0-)

            Of course you are. But when you say things such as Zappa was completely unsentimental and unserious (as if satire is not serious when elsewhere you acknowledge otherwise?), I think you stray onto contentious grounds of stating opinion as fact.

            Based on my comment, you clarify your statement of (what sounds like) fact ("he tries so, so hard not to be serious") into an opinion ('I don't like Zappa's choice of satire') -- how hard was that? Do you really need to turn this critique into the classic get off my lawn and write your own diary defensive posture?

            The art of listening is the ability to pay attention to that which is most difficult to hear

            by dRefractor on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 11:19:04 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I love his satire. (0+ / 0-)

              I just don't CARE about it.  As interesting as it may be as satire, it's not worth my wasting a whole music diary.  That's not really music, to me.  I write classical music diaries, diaries about notes and chords and long forms in music and historical context and deeper meanings.  In that sole context, satirical lyrics are a distraction.

              The focus of the first three clips I made was to make people pay attention to the actual music rather than the lyrics and to suggest that there's more there than another dumb repeating rock/jazz chord progression with arpeggios, more there than a bunch of random psychedelic noises and sounds.  Now, all that stuff might be something you tune out for whatever reason so you can focus on whatever part of Zappa's music that you like, and to your mind that makes me a barbarian.  Whatever.

              I'm getting tired of this dialogue and it's becoming abusive.  Write your own fucking diary and tell me what's good about Zappa and what's not.  Leave me out of it.  You haven't convinced me that you understand Zappa better than I do.  If you had, I might find this more interesting.  As it is, it's just putrid juvenile hero worship venting.  Stay out of my diaries, if you don't like them.  Asshole.

              •  Huh? (0+ / 0-)
                The focus of the first three clips I made was to make people pay attention to the actual music rather than the lyrics and to suggest that there's more there than another dumb repeating rock/jazz chord progression with arpeggios, more there than a bunch of random psychedelic noises and sounds.
                Yes, the product of a serious mind, serious intention. That's all I was trying to say, but you keep trying to make this something more than my simple point that a few of your words belied what was apparently your intention.

                If you think such mild criticism is abusive, wow, I don't know what to say other than I'm sorry you feel that way. And, care to re-read your last paragraph above?

                fwiw, and at this point I suspect it's worth next to nothing or less, I agree with most of your opinions on Zappa's music, to the extent that they were illuminated. If I ever decide to write about him in my own diary, please feel free to ignore it or comment on it as you please.


                The art of listening is the ability to pay attention to that which is most difficult to hear

                by dRefractor on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 07:16:37 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  one of my favorite musicians (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, SherwoodB, jds1978

    he had real chops, and died way too young. True genius.

  •  200 Motels is about my all-time favorite (4+ / 0-)

    movie.  Definitely the trippiest movie ever made.  No other movie is close.  It's an awful lot like an LSD trip.

    Great diary.  My favorite is Strictly Genteel!

  •  Thanks for the Zappa Article (4+ / 0-)

    It's great to know that there are still people interested in Zappa's music.  I grew up in the 60s and early 70s, and Zappa's music was part of my regular listening as a teenager (still listen now).  I think he was spotty, but when he got it right, he produced some great music.

    I haven't heard all of Zappa's albums as there are many of them.  Of those that I have heard, I think that "We're Only in it for The Money" is by far his best.  The album holds together, has some great songs and some great spoken interludes, and also has some contemporary classical music.  I think the album is one of the greatest by a "rock" artist.  Another album that I think is very good is the one with "Who Are the Brain Police" on it (Can't think of the name of the album at the moment).

    One thing that I find ironic is that people think of his music as great to get stoned to (I also did this around 1971).  It is my understanding that Zappa was very anti-drug.  
    Out of space: that's all folks.

  •  Zappa was an inspired and talented composer (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, jds1978, SherwoodB

    but I think he really. loved. playing the electric guitar.

    If his mother had made him take piano lessons, he probably would have ended up as an avant-garde or film composer.

    He did die too young, but he survived a very bad accident in 1971 that left him partly disabled, and he smoked like a chimney. Even so, his career spanned 30 years.

    Thanks for the memories.

    Have you noticed?
    Politicians who promise LESS government
    only deliver BAD government.

    by jjohnjj on Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 11:47:33 PM PDT

  •  There's Some Later Duke Ellington In There Also (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There was one bar that I heard on an Ellington recording that was in a Zappa song.

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 07:11:47 AM PDT

  •  A great FZ parody (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Even a great satirist can be greatly satirized. May I present

    You are all welcome. I think Dweezil plays on this one

    An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

    by MichiganChet on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:02:26 AM PDT

  •  When I was a teenager... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    All my stoner friends and I memorized all the words to "Billy the Mountain...."

    Billy was a mountain
    And Ethel was a tree growing off of his shoulder.

    Funny how the brain retains that shit for years, ain't it?

    The best psychiatrist in the world can't compete with a puppy licking your face.

    by AmyVVV on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 10:36:13 AM PDT

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