Top 100 Composers: Frank Zappa

This webpage/hommage to Frank Zappa will get bigger if I ever continue to work on it at all. For the moment, it consists exclusively of a review I wrote of a book about Zappa. All in due time. Maybe

- June 8, 2019 note from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

review of

David Walley's "No Commercial Potential - The Saga of Frank Zappa"

by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 23, 2019

It's unclear to me whether this bk was 1st published in 1980:

"This Da Capo Press paperback edition of No Commerical Potential is an unabridged republication of the edition published in New York in 1980. It has been updated with a new foreword, chapter, afterword, bibliography, list of fanzines, discography, videography, and guide to Zappa on the Internet. It has been reprinted by arrangement with the author.

"Copyright ©1972, 1980 by David Walley

Updated edition copyright ©1996 by David Walley" - p iv

or in 1972:

The Acknowledgements are dated:

"October 1971

Perry Cottage

Block Island, Rhode Island"

after wch the reader is informed that:

"On the occasion of this revised edition, I'd also like to thank my careful editor Marian Skedgell at Elsevier-Dutton, and my copy editor Patty Romanowski for making this update such a joy to do.

"June 1980

New York City" - p xv

So, ok, it's not unclear: it was 1st published in 1972, then revised for republication in 1980, then it made it to the edition I'm reviewing in 1996. Its claim-to-fame is that it's "the first book in English on" Zappa:

"There's a certain amount of virtue in being the first book in English on this complex and driven musician. Those of you who are enthusiasts have possibly worked your way through most of the other titles that followed before stumbling on mine. Those new to Frank's world will discover in this book a point of reference from which to proceed to more rigorous efforts such as Ben Watson's formidable treatise, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play (St. Martins: New York, 1993). Frank himself was never really comfortable with words; lyrics were something to hang music on and books made him sleepy, or so he claimed in The Real Frank Zappa Book." - p xvii

By the way, the Roman Numerals of the above are my own, such numbering doesn't appear in the bk. The 1st page number in the bk is "3" & if one were to back-count from there to page "1" it would be the last page of a 3pp foreword. That doesn't really make much sense except that the convention is that right-hand pages have to be odd numbers & opposite page "3" is an image & chapter heading. Hence the publishers had to choose between implying that that page was unnumbered by having what's currently "3" be "1" or have it be the way it is. Decisions, decisions.

I cd probably accurately be called an "enthusiast" about Zappa's music. I probably 1st heard about The Mothers of Invention in 1968 when my very 1st girlfriend, Robin, mentioned that that's who one of the foremost local eccentrics listened to. Shortly thereafter, I probably saw a copy of "We're Only in it for the Money" in the cut-out bins. I'm sure I was confused (& possibly repulsed) by the band members wearing dresses. I was a mere 14 years old & not the most experienced person in the world.

It wasn't until the very beginning of 1970 that I got my 1st Mothers record: "The **** of the Mothers". Even then, I wasn't hooked, it was a promotional record, a 'best of', a category I didn't like so I traded the record for a guitar case. By then, I'd already heard such musicians as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Cream, Moby Grape, Steppenwolf, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Soft Machine, Bob Dylan, Country Joe & the Fish, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin, & Pink Floyd - as well as others. "The **** of the Mothers" didn't compare that well w/ "Their Satanic Majesties Request", "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band", "Disraeli Gears", "Axis: Bold as Love", "The Soft Machine", "Crown of Creation", & "Ummagumma" - but that's b/c its songs were taken out of the context of their original records.

As such, I had to wait another mnth or so before I got a copy of "Hot Rats" to be hooked. "Hot Rats" was a-maz-ing. I just relistened to it, as part of prepping for this review, in 2019, & still found it exciting. Zappa wd've been only 28 or so when he recorded it. The quality of musicianship is mind-boggling. In 1970 I proceeded to get "Freak Out" & "Chunga's Revenge". In 1971 I got "Cruising with Ruben and the Jets", "Lumpy Gravy", 'We're Only in it for the Money", "Weasels Ripped my Flesh". "Absolutely Free", "Filmore East - June 1971", & "200 Motels".

This was a very exciting time. Each record was fantastic, each one was different. I was seeking imagination & skill & Zappa & the Mothers of Invention were providing it at a phenomenal level. My friend Brian & I even hooked high school, missing our graduation ceremony, to hitchhike north of Baltimore to outside of Harrisburg to witness the Mothers play. They performed "Billy the Mountain", it was thrilling.

Naturally, it wasn't only the Mothers that were extremely moving to listen to. I'd discovered "The Crazy World of Arthur Brown", "The Band", Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, Stravinsky, King Crimson, Dr. John the Night Tripper, Bonzo Dog Band, The Incredible String Band, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Ry Cooder - all from 1970 to 1971. & there was much more. But it was Zappa who was the most prolific & the most ever-changing. He kept my eager ears busy - & I knew that I cd expect each new record to be at least a partial breakthru. Still, he really wasn't alone. Each new record by Beefheart, by The Soft Machine, by Bonzo Dog Band, by the Incredible String Band, by Dr. John.. - they were all mind-bogglingly good.

But Zappa was also the one that toured all the time, a person cd witness him in concert. For me, that happened at Harrisburg when I was 17, at the Lyric Theater in Balimore when I was 18, in Miami when I was 19, & at an unknown time in Washington DC. & each concert was different, very different, different musicians, different material.

"He can also spread his own environment around, in concerts and interviews, in films. He recently put out a film called 200 Motels, a surrealistic documentary on rock and roll lifestyle. A view of America from crotch level." - pp 3-4

& I witnessed <u>200 Motels</u> in a movie theater, probably when it came out. This was yet-another 'masterpiece'. Perhaps I saw it in 1972 or 1973. I didn't personally become a filmmaker until 1975 & a videomaker until 1977. "200 Motels", as I remember it after not having seen it for what might be decades (I've watched it on video since my original experience of it) is full of what wd've been upscale video effects for the time. I'd never seen anything like it. The orchestral music in it, played by an orchestra behind barbed wire, was Zappa's most advanced music yet. The film was HILARIOUS. Calling it a "documentary on rock and roll lifestyle" doesn't do it justice - even calling it a "surrealistic documentary on rock and roll lifestyle" doesn't do it justice. The thing is so utterly outré. But even Zappa cdn't break into the movie market. <u>200 Motels</u> was basically IT. There've been other Zappa movies, released on VHS (&, presumably, on DVD), but nothing w/ the national theater distribution that "200 Motels" had.

Strangely, my filmmaking happened partially as a result of "200 Motels". I went to the theater w/ 3 friends of mine, 2 guys & a girl. The girl went into the women's room after the movie was over & came out with a bag that'd been left there. If it'd been me, I wd've taken the bag to the management & sd that somebody had left it in the restroom. That way, when the person who left it realized that they'd done so, they cd call & ask if it had been found & come back & get it. The girl's attitude was more 'finder's keepers' so she kept it, she wanted to use it as a purse. But inside the bag there was a super-8 camera w/ a roll of film in & maybe a fresh roll of film or 2. She didn't want that so she gave it to one of the 2 guys. Later, he asked me if I wanted it & I sd yes so I took it, got the film processed, & used the processed film & the other film to make my very 1st movie w/ in the fall of 1975. That film is actually online now here: so if you're the person whose film I got processed you can finally see it.

I vaguely remember reading a statement from John Waters to the effect that if you're going to be a public figure you must have an opinion about everything. I think it might be more sensible to not have an opinion about something that you're underinformed about. Anyway, Zappa seems to've been one of those people who had a superabundance of opinions. I tend to credit him having well-informed ones. Still, that doesn't mean that his every word was wise.

"In 1965, while everyone was being self-congratulatory, Frank Zappa wrote: "Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you've got any guts." That appeared on the liner notes for his first album Freak Out. No one was supposed to say that publicly. No one except Frank. It was too serious. . . ." - p 8

I basically agree w/ that.. but I don't think it's good advice. After all, not everyone in the world is Frank Zappa - he had the drive & the talent (& the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time insofar as he was near the center of the entertainment world as rock'n'roll was taking off as a growth industry w/ a youth market). In other words, most people probably don't have what it takes to self-educate & take-off from there. Regardless of whether they're in the "mediocre educational system" or not they're still going to be in the 'mediocre world-at-large' wch is far worse, IMO, than the "mediocre educational system" - so why advise people to make their life even more of a struggle than it already is? Zappa was great but he was dead slightly before his 53rd birthday. That's not exactly something to aspire to. As for "while everyone was being self-congratulatory"?! That's more than a bit too much of an overgeneralization wdn't you say there Walley?

"Film editors who have worked with him marvel at his powers of concentration-sometimes fourteen hours a day for weeks on end." - p 10

Try 18 hrs a day for mnths on end in my case. Zappa made a paltry few features. I've made 171 as of the time of this review ( ). Zappa supposedly released 62 records before he died, I currently have 217 releases ( ). Obviously the guy was sitting around doing nothing most of his life. Don't you just HATE lazy people?

Zappa talks about his dad:

"He used to beat people up. He turns into Banda the jungleboy at the drop of a hat. He's normal. He's an American. He may come from Sicily but he's an American." - p 15

Ahem, uh, Mr. Zappa? I believe you may've meant Bomba the Jungle Boy?! Or perhaps the transcriber misunderstood you?! I have a copy of Roy Rockwood's "Bomba the Jungle Boy on Jaguar Island" in my aRCHIVE. That's from 1927. There were at least 5 Bomba bks so you might've grown up on those. After all, you were born a mere 17 yrs after the one I have was published.

"Once I drew an Indian with a belly button and a pair of nipples-my parents were horrified-" - p 17

Well, Bomba's hide outfit does show a dot that cd be a nipple on the cover of "Jaguar Island" but no belly button shows. The one illustration inside shows neither - but, y'know, Jungle Boys were so modest in those days. I don't know about the Indians.

"Frank Zappa's first piece of written music was a percussion tune called "Mice," done for a competition whle he was playing in a junior high percussion ensemble." - p 28

I don't know about you, but the title "Mice," with that comma after the word is so precocious that I just have to hear it. My 1st percussion piece wasn't called "Elephant,".

When I got records, I read the liner notes. I wanted to know things like who the "A&R" person was, what type of mics they used - &, of course, who the musicians were. As a result of this scrutiny, my attn was drawn repeatedly to the name of Herb Cohen:

"Uncle Meat": "business production: Herb Cohen"

"Burnt Weeny Sandwich": "Master of Bizarre Business: Herb Cohen"

"Weasels Ripped My Flesh": "Bizarre Business by Herb Cohen"

"Filmore East - June 1971": "Bizarre Business by Herb Cohen"

"Just Another Band from L.A.": "Bizarre Business by Herb Cohen"

- yes, here he's listed in bold right after "Produced by Frank Zappa"

"The Grand Wazoo": "bizarre biznis: Herb Cohen"

"Over-nite Sensation": "biznis: HERB COHEN"

"Roxy & Elsewhere": "DiscReetion: Herb Cohen"

"One Size Fits All": "Herbalism: HERB COHEN"

There was a time in my life when in the subculture(s) I hung w/ being a businessman was not a positive thing. In the them vs us businessmen were definitely in the them category. Therefore, having the businessman of the Zappa organization given credit was intriguing. As such, I'm glad to be able to get this low-down from Walley:

"In L.A. it was the clubs. Sunset Strip in 1964 was folk city, the outcroppings of a coffee house scene started six years before, indirectly, by one man: Herb Cohen. Herb Cohen would reappear after many transmigrations as HERBIE COHEN, Frank Zappa's master of Bizarre business. But Herb had been busy already for many years.

"While the Sixties were developing transitional consciousness, Herb Cohen was working hard and taking his knocks. Born in New York in 1933, Herb lived there until the age of seventeen when he joined the merchant marines. He worked the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico as a deckhand and fireman, and served briefly as a union organizer for the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union-a tough little kid. From age eighteen to twenty-two Herb went on the bum-until the army caught up with him. After eight months in uniform he was tossed out for incompatibility with army life.

"While Herb served time in the army in San Francisco, he was living with Odetta and becoming involved in the local folk music scene" - p 47

"In 1959, he showcased a new comedian, Lenny Bruce. Herb was busted for Bruce's obscenity but he beat the charge in court.

"But things were getting a little hot in L. A. Herb decided to take a vacation to Europe and the Mid East via Cuba, Algiers, Egypt, and the Congo. In the Congo he became involved in gun running, more for adventure than for the money. He supported Lumumba when all his competitors were backing Moise Tschombe." - pp 48-49

I think that arms dealers are one of the biggest problems on the planet but at least he was backing Lumumba (assuming he's not lying - wch might be stretching things). Lumumba "was a Congolese politician and independence leader who served as the first Prime Minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Republic of the Congo) from June until September 1960. He played a significant role in the transformation of the Congo from a colony of Belgium into an independent republic. Ideologically an African nationalist and Pan-Africanist, he led the Congolese National Movement (MNC) party from 1958 until his assassination." ( )

"The 2001 report by the Belgian Commission describes previous U.S. and Belgian plots to kill Lumumba. Among them was a Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored attempt to poison him, which was ordered by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. CIA chemist Sidney Gottlieb, a key person in this plan, devised a poison resembling toothpaste. In September 1960, Gottlieb brought a vial of the poison to the Congo with plans to place it on Lumumba's toothbrush. This plot was abandoned, allegedly because Larry Devlin, CIA Station Chief for the Congo, refused permission.

"As Kalb points out in her book, Congo Cables, the record shows that many communications by Devlin at the time urged elimination of Lumumba. Also, the CIA station chief helped to direct the search to capture Lumumba for transfer to his enemies in Katanga. Devlin was involved in arranging Lumumba's transfer to Katanga; and the CIA base chief in Elizabethville was in direct touch with the killers the night Lumumba was killed. John Stockwell wrote in 1978 that a CIA agent had the body in the trunk of his car in order to try to get rid of it. Stockwell, who knew Devlin well, believed that Devlin knew more than anyone else about the murder.

"The inauguration of John F. Kennedy in January 1961 caused fear among Mobutu's faction and within the CIA that the incoming Democratic administration would favor the imprisoned Lumumba. While awaiting his presidential inauguration, Kennedy had come to believe that Lumumba should be released from custody, though not be allowed to return to power. Lumumba was killed three days before Kennedy's inauguration on 20 January, though Kennedy would not learn of the killing until 13 February." (ibid)

W/ the above in mind, Herb Cohen wd've been taking a serious risk of being murdered by the C.I.A. along w/ all the rest of the nasty possibilities. Was he a hero? Or was he just a con artist telling Walley, or whoever Wally got the story from, a lie to make himself look good?

Few people wd ever accuse Zappa of playing w/ slouches. But I wasn't expecting the following:

"During early 1965, Frank was also looking for other players to expand the size and sound of the band. Henry Vestine, now of Canned Heat, Denny Bruce, Jim Guercio (producer of Chicago), Van Dyke Parks, and Mack Rabinak (Dr. John the Night Tripper) all passed through. No one stayed. It was hard work even then." - p 53

1. Henry Vestine: I have a tape of a release called "Joe's Corsage" that has Vestine playing along w/ Zappa, Collins, Estrada, & Black on 4 songs: "Motherly Love", "Plastic People", "Anyway the Wind Blows", & "I Ain't got no Heart" - so those recordings, at least, are out there. I like Henry Vestine, I like Canned Heat, I like that Vestine played on Albert Ayler's 1969 "Drudgery". I liked that Canned Heat rmade a double-record set called "Hooker 'n Heat" done in collaboration w/ John Lee Hooker. When I was a teenage hitchhiker, Canned Heat's song "On the Road Again" was a favorite for me to sing to myself while I stood by the side of the road waiting.. & waiting..

2. Van Dyke Parks: Another great. I wish he & Zappa had collaborated more.

3. That's Mac Rebennack: Also great, especially his 1st 5 albums. He had both Mick Jagger & Eric Clapton on "The Sun Moon & Herbs" so why not Zappa too?

In other words, what amazing possibilities.

"Freak Out was a conceptual masterpiece. Not only was it the first double album set of its kind in the pop music field-it also served as a living testament to L. A. freakdom, a truly honest work." - p 60

I whole-earedly agree. "Freak Out" is so inspired that there's very little to compare it to.

"Side Three of Freak Out contained two memorable compositions: "Trouble Coming Every Day," a song about the Watts riots which Wilson wanted to do as a single with a black group, and "Help I'm a Rock," a stomp for L. A. freakdom. For those particular sessions, Frank invited one hundred of his friends to TTG studios for an audio freakout-they could do anything they wanted. Carl and Vito danced and chanted. People played pots and pans. Others just yelled. WIlson watched: "The sessions for Freak Out were extremely well-organized. For 'Help I'm a Rock,' the people were briefed before the sessions. Frank had the whole date written out on a roll of brown wrapping paper and checked everything off." Zappa even confounded some of the best "straight" musical minds in the business. For one of the session dates, Frank had a podium set up in the middle of TTG studios. He showed up wearing a red and yellow striped shirt, an iron cross, and a swallow-tailed conductor's coat with a baton inside. At the proper moment he whipped out the baton and rapped on the podium for silence. One of the cello players hired from the L. A. Philharmonic was heard over the microphone: "Hey, we're really going to have to play. This beatnik has written some music here." "Frank gave it the full Toscanini and conducted their asses off," Wilson relates with a smile." - pp 60-61

When I wrote that Zappa had "the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time insofar as he was near the center of the entertainment world as rock'n'roll was taking off as a growth industry w/ a youth market" the above is the sort of thing I'm referring to. Zappa was 24 when he made "Freak Out". Imagine the production costs of the above-described sessions, they wd've been ENORMOUS. I'm glad he got the money, he made it worthwhile - but imagine trying to have a production like that in Baltimore, where I'm from, in 1965: Not. Fucking. Likely.

As for "Wilson"? That's Tom Wilson, the producer. I've lauded Tom Wilson before & I'll do it again. Check out his:

"Selected discography

· 1956: Sun Ra: Sun Song

· 1956: Cecil Taylor: Jazz Advance

· 1961: Sun Ra: The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra

· 1963: Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (4 tracks, uncredited)

· 1964: Bob Dylan: The Times They Are a-Changin'

· 1964: Bob Dylan: Another Side of Bob Dylan

· 1964: The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem: The First Hurrah!

· 1965: The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem: Recorded Live in Ireland

· 1965: Simon and Garfunkel: Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.

· 1965: Simon and Garfunkel: "The Sound of Silence" single (also on the 1965 album)

· 1965: Bob Dylan: Bringing It All Back Home

· 1965: Bob Dylan: "Like a Rolling Stone" single (also on the 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited, otherwise produced by Bob Johnston)

· 1966: The Mothers of Invention: Freak Out!

· 1966: The Animals: Animalisms (UK) / Animalization (US)

· 1966: Eric Burdon & the Animals: Eric Is Here

· 1966: The Blues Project: Projections

· 1967: The Mothers of Invention: Absolutely Free

· 1967: Eric Burdon & the New Animals: Winds of Change

· 1967: The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground & Nico (as post-production editor, remixer, and producer of the track "Sunday Morning")

· 1967: Nico: Chelsea Girl

· 1968: The Velvet Underground: White Light/White Heat

· 1968: The Mothers of Invention: We're Only In It For The Money (credited as executive producer)

· 1968: Eric Burdon & the Animals: The Twain Shall Meet

· 1968: Soft Machine: The Soft Machine (co-producer)

· 1968: The Fraternity of Man: The Fraternity of Man"


It doesn't get much more amazing than that. He & Teo Macero are my 'producer heros'.

"In the latter half of 1966, the Mothers, now on top, came out opposed to drugs. Zappa was quick to attack their use and later their abuse. It came as a shock." - p 64

Indeed, it did. I've always been 'against drugs', i.e.: the drugs used to keep politicians alive. I cd add to that addictive drugs: heroin & coke being 2 obvious choices. I've used them both, but never been addicted, so I at least have some practical experience to pass along. I don't think Zappa did. Apparently Zappa didn't consider alcohol to be a drug either because on <u>Burnt Weeny Sandwich</u> he performed The Four Deuces's "W-P-L-J" (White Port & Lemon Juice). "This version was both a satire of and a homage to the original, and Zappa has conceded admiringly that he could not have written a song any more absurd." ( )

I think it's possible that if Zappa had had some practical experience he might not've rejected drugs in such a broad way. Personally, I've had plenty of important experiences w/ LSD & mushrooms & other drugs that I consider to be consciousness-expanding. Nonetheless, I don't take them anymore & don't recommend them to everyone. They produce intense experiences that may be harmful to non-introspective people or to people dependent on rigid mind-states - a category that Zappa may've existed in. Anyway, as I remember it, Zappa specifically came out against speed. When I encountered that I was bit shocked but it gave me pause to consider what the difference between speed & mushrooms was, e.g., & I cd see his point - speed is very destructive. The human body can only take so much before it starts to wither away. Adrenaline kick-starts the body in emergencies, it's not for constant use. A similar thing applies to speed. Nonetheless, I think Zappa tended to be a little bit too smug about the 'rightness' of his opinions. Walley continues on drugs later in the bk:

"Acid, which used to be pure and sold by microgram was now sold by the "trip." The dealer no longer knew his product; most of the time he didn't even use it himself. The emphasis was on "getting high." Anyone who depended on street dealers was taking his life in his hands-something touted as LSD could just as easily be a combination of methedrine, strychnine, horse tranquilizer, or even STP, a government-developed hallucinogen for chemical warfare that produced severe hallucinations, paranoia, and depression lasting up to three days." pp 125-126

I'm reminded of a talk given to one of my high school classes by a policeman. The warnings, the cautionary tales, against drug use were so extreme & so not like the experiences that people in the class had had that the policeman just seemed repulsive & largely unbelievable. While he probably succeeded in scaring some of the students away from illegal drug use, people who were already smoking pot &/or taking LSD became even more distrustful of authority figures. They weren't seen as being there to help, they were seen as there to scare people into submission. I reckon that the police, being in the position that they are, had entirely too much bad experience that prejudiced their perceptions in a one-way direction.

Walley's depiction may've been true in his personal experience or in the experience of people he talked w/ about the subject but that doesn't make true for everyone. The claim that most of the time dealers didn't even use their own product doesn't jive w/ my experience, e.g.. Nonetheless, the point that "Anyone who depended on street dealers was taking his life in his hands-something touted as LSD could just as easily be a combination of methedrine, strychnine, horse tranquilizer" is well-taken. Most people I know wd never buy drugs from a street dealer, they wd only buy them from someone they knew & trusted. Buying from a street dealer is just plain a bad idea. & what about STP's being "a government-developed hallucinogen for chemical warfare"?

"DOM was first synthesized and tested in 1963 by Alexander Shulgin, who was investigating the effect of 4-position substitutions on psychedelic amphetamines.

"In mid-1967, tablets containing 20 mg (later 10 mg) of DOM were widely distributed in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco under the name of STP, having been manufactured by underground chemists Owsley Stanley and Tim Scully. This short-lived appearance of DOM on the black market proved disastrous for several reasons. First, the tablets contained an excessively high dose of the chemical. This, combined with DOM's slow onset of action (which encouraged some users, familiar with drugs that have quicker onsets, such as LSD, to re-dose) and its remarkably long duration, caused many users to panic and sent some to the emergency room. Second, treatment of such overdoses was complicated by the fact that no one at the time knew that the tablets called STP were, in fact, DOM.


"Effects of this drug include substantial perceptual changes such as blurred vision, multiple images, vibration of objects, visual alterations, distorted shapes, enhancement of details, slowed passage of time, increased sexual drive and pleasure, and increased contrasts. It may cause mystical experiences and changes in consciousness. It may also cause pupillary dilation and a rise in systolic blood pressure." -,5-Dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine

There's no mention of the CIA in Wikipedia's entry. That doesn't mean it's not true. As far as I know, I never took DOM/STP. These days, whenever I hear about people taking some new drug or another it usually seems stupidly dangerous. Ketamine, e.g., (although that's pretty old by now). I'm completely out-of-touch w/ whatever drugs people are using these days. Molly's about the most recent thing I've heard about & I've been told that that's just unameliorated Ecstacy (MDMA), a drug that was originally sold uncut but that got gradually destroyed by unscrupulous dealers. Be careful, folks. If you're aiming to expand your consciousness make sure you don't contract it instead.

Walley quotes someone named Grant Gibbs about the ideals of the culture becoming merchandised:

"When doctors and attorneys are smoking more grass than the kids on the street and wearing eighty-dollar fringe coats from a Beverly Hills clothier, who's a freak?" - p 126

I think the answer to that is obvious: not the doctors and lawyers but apparently Gibbs's point is that freakiness can be bought. I think a pseudo-freakiness can be sold but it just ain't the same.

""[The revolutionaries] want something other than what they have. They don't know what they want. But if they went out and conducted a revolution like they envision it, a little extravaganza in the street, and let's suppose they had a little confrontation with the heat, and they win-then what do they do? They have no better plan, and I don't think they have enough intelligence to see that there are a lot of people who need to be thought of in terms of a revolution. I think about the revolution in the United States where the youth thinks about taking over, what are you going to about your mother and father or the rest of the old schmucks who've been lousing everything up, are you going to kill them?" - p 69

Once again, methinks Zappa is tarring w/ too wide a brush AND showing a general inclination to think in prefabricated stereotypes that his PR image wd deny he uses. "They don't know what they want.": Really? It seems pretty clear to me that revolutionaries in the US wanted the US out of Vietnam & an end to racism, certainly something that Zappa was aware of given his "Trouble Coming Every Day" song. "They have no better plan": No better plan than what, exactly?! Did Zappa think that pulling the US military out of its many conflicts in the world wd cause the farmers to stop growing crops so that we'd all starve to death? As for "what are you going to do about your mother and father or the rest of the old schmucks who've been lousing everything up, are you going to kill them?": why wd their situation have to change that much? Maybe if your dad works for the Military-Industrial Complex, like Zappa's did, they might find themselves out of a job - but for people actually doing something USEFUL, wd life really change that much? Wdn't houses still be being built, plumbing & electricity still being installed & maintained? I don't recall any revolutionaries advocating the removal of unemployment compensation.

"The days at the Garrick Theater, from late November, 1966 to the fall of 1967, were legendary times for the Mothers of Invention. Greenwich Village was in the thrall of post-Beat expansion. Coffee houses were closing, but the residue of the urban folksters lingered on. The West Village was experiencing the first stirrings of electric blues, acid, and flowerpower. The East Side was always experiencing a rebirth of some kind. On St. Mark's Place, now the DMZ of the hip scene, Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a mixed media dance joint, was working out of an old Polish dancehall named the Dom." - p 73

"Zappa drew crowds with his little review called Pigs and Repugnant. He went so far as to hire a press agent to get publicity for his spiffy combo, but critics were wary. Even before opening night the problems and games started. MGM rush-shipped to the theater about 300 new Mothers' albums of Absolutely Free to give the critics at least some idea of what they'd seen. The next day after the opening show, it was discovered that inside the Mothers' album was a recording of the Bill Evans Trio." - p 80

I've always figured that this Garrick period was close to the ultimate in what I've liked about the Mothers - even though I've only seen a limited amt of footage from that time. Still, much of what Walley writes reinforces my figure (Thanks David! I was getting way too round around the middle). It seems like the time closest to when the Mothers were like Vaudevillians, people who play so much together that they can be incredibly tight at the same time that they can hang loose.

""Hey ladies an' gennelmen, the guys are, uh, going to sing 'Everybody Must Get Stoned'." The Marines did as they were bid, then Frank said, "Now we're gonna have basic training. Uh, ladies an' gennelmen, this is a gook baby; and the Marines are going to mutilate it before your very eyes. Kill it!" Frank tossed out the big, plastic doll. The Marines ripped it apart, pulled its arms off, tore it to shreds. After they were done, with music and lights low, Frank held up the mangled doll by its hair and pointed out to the audience all the damaged parts as if it were alive. Frank reminisces: "There was one guy in the front row, a Negro cat just back from Vietnam, was crying. It was awful; and I ended the show there."" - pp 83-84

So what's not to like about the revolutionaries? Well, plenty, I'm sure - but at least some of them were using direct action to try to end atrocities by the US in Vietnam - instead of just using it for its Shock Jock entertainment value. The Berrigan Brothers, e.g., dented missile nose cones at the APL (Applied Physics Lab) south of Baltimore.

"Jimmy Carl Black, the Indian of the group, had five children to feed, they reluctantly moved back to New York to work Easter weekend. The management erroneously assumed that the Mothers could keep the gross up so they were booked through the summer. Although the band grossed over $103,000, the overhead was high-$15,000 a month with rent and electricity. It worked out to something like $200 a month for each of them, which wasn't much." - p 85

& anyone who's ever listened to "Uncle Meat" has heard recordings of the band discussing these matters. Zappa: "If you average it out you do make more than $200 a month." As for $200 a month not being very much? $200 in 1968 = $1,443.14 in 2018. That's over twice what I get in Social Security retirement money & I cd live off of that just fine. I cdn't suport 5 kids on it, though. Now imagine working 40 hours a week, 4 weeks a month, at minimum wage in 2019: That's $7.25 X 160 = $1,160 a mnth. Yep, $200 a mnth wasn't much but I'll bet playing in the Mothers was alot more fun than most minimum wage jobs these days.

"In addition to the work at the Garrick, Frank Zappa produced four albums of merit in the New York period: Lumpy Gravy, We're Only in it for the Money, Uncle Meat (the soundtrack for a movie that was never released), and Cruising with Ruben and the Jets-a spiffy parody of Fifties rhythm and blues tunes. They are all long stories." - p 85

They are also all works of genius IMO & a large part of why I still love Zappa's work to this day. "Lumpy Gravy" is possibly the single greatest absurdist montage I've ever heard. It's definitely a phenomenal editing job.

"Lumpy Gravy also introduced Zappa's theory of the big note. He maintains that everything in the universe is made from one element which is a note-atoms are really vibrations and all part of the big note."


"Lumpy Gravy was a quote using time and those vibrations. It was probably the most far-reaching of all Zappa's published works to date. Some people are waiting for him to continue. He does not seem interested quite yet." - p 88

The nonsensical things that Zappa's friends say that're interspersed to create an absurdist narrative throughout "Lumpy Gravy" never struck me as anything intended to be anything other than funny. Walley seems to take the "big note" part of this narrative seriously even though it strikes me as just as silly as all the rest of it. It never struck me that Zappa wd embrace a "We are all one" type philosophy given how much he effort he puts into ridiculing almost everyone, setting himself firmly apart & above. Having himself be a part of ONE BIG NOTE along w/ everyone else isn't something I'm going to take seriously.

"MGM retaliated by censoring <i>Money</i> when it was pressed again. For instance, they took out a word uttered by The Cheese and so changed the whole concept of a sentence. It went from "I'm not going to do any publicity balling for you," to "I'm not going to do any more publicity for you." MGM didn't even tell Zappa what they had done. Soon MGM would have to go." - p 92

I didn't check my copy of the record to discover whether it's censored. I DID check my copy of the CD. It isn't censored. The line in question occurs at the beginning of the song entitled "Absolutely Free".

People who worked w/ Zappa inevitably criticize him. I take Zappa's side. It's all too easy for people who don't do the work to criticize those of us who do the work as if they cd do better when in actuality they'll never work at that level ever. I was invited to give a solo screening at a university for $500 in 1992. I broke the event into 2 halves, the 1st half a screening of my work & the 2nd half a show by the band I cofounded & ran. See the movie I made of it here: . I did MOST of the work, by far. Each of the 11 musicians (in addition to myself) got pd $25. That was $275 for them & $225 for me. The band member who contributed the least & who had to be drunk complained that I was being 'egotistical' by 'hogging the show'. I was asked to do the show, not him. He wd've never been asked, he wdn't've been able to pull off the performance at the level I did. He didn't have any body of work to present in the 1st place. Take my advice, don't work w/ people like this if you can avoid it.

I remember another time when I negotiated a $3 an hr raise for myself & 2 other people on a job. Our wage went from $15 hrly to $18 hrly. I cd've negotiated just for myself & gotten more. Instead, I went the egalitarian route AND took the chance of being fired. When I told my coworkers what I accomplished, one of them sd: "I deserve more than that!" No "Thank you! No one's ever done such a nice thing for me before!" or any other sign of appreciation. What. An. Asshole. SO, when I read similar criticisms of Zappa I tend to imagine that type of personality.

"But mostly he" [Zappa] "works. Even when it looks like he's not working, he's working. Many times he gets annoyed when people say he works too hard." - p 141

"Why should that amaze you (that I work hard)? If you like what you do. . . . I'm not a person who goes to work. I am my work. I'm in there. I'm in the middle of that whole thing. That's what I do. It's not a seperate entity-" - p 142

"Art Tripp worked with Frank for a longer period. He reiterates some of Lowell's ideas, but is more vehement in his criticism. He now works with Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) and the Magic Band. Art worked with Frank through Uncle Meat, Cruising with Ruben and the Jets, and appears on Mothermania, Burnt Weenie Sandwich, Weasels Ripped My Flesh, and King Kong, a jazz album on which Zappa collaborated with a jazz violinist, Jean Luc Ponty. Tripp came to Zappa wanting to experiment with music. He was enthralled with the vitality of Lumpy Gravy. He heard snatches of Varèse but thought it pure coincidence. Art was very open and trusting at the time. "Later I found out he was a clever arranger, but who wouldn't be with all that wealth of knowledge."" - p 105

If Tripp were a bit more thoughtful he might consider that using "snatches of Varèse" & being a "clever arranger" w/ a "wealth of knowledge" is hardly something to dismiss as not requiring substantial intelligence & imagination.

"After the Mallard recording Tripp became dissatisfied with music business and returned to Pittsburgh to work in the insurance business with his father.  After selling insurance for three years he longed to return to the music business."


"Tripp moved to Eureka, Calif to open a clinic and purchased property included 10 acres of redwoods. Disillusions with California's high taxes and regulation moved to Mississippi in 1998. Obtaining a Mississippi license in 2000 he opened a Chiropractic practice in Gulfport,Mississippi in 2000 and continues to treat patients today." -

I'd be the 1st to agree (well, it's hard to determine just who's "1st" in such an instance, eh?!) that Tripp was a fantastic percussionist. I'd also admit that if he really wanted to experiment he wd've been better off staying w/ avant garde classical & skipping rock'n'roll, even Zappa's (or Beefheart's) - but was being an insurance salesman or a chiropractor better? No doubt for the money - but, no matter how good a player is, if they decide to quit playing music for a better-money-making profession then, IMO, they lack the SOUL of a musician.

"Maybe he would like to be an innovator, maybe he can't be, but I expect he's allowed a fantasy." - p 147

That quote's attributed to Captain Beefheart. I love Beefheart's music (although <u>Unconditionally Guaranteed</u> & "Bluejeans and Moonbeams" are pretty low) but I'm not convinced he was much of an innovator himself. I think he was more of a naif. I don't even think he was a good reed player - not to mention other instruments. Listen to his execrable mellotron solos on "Grow Fins" - they're the kind of pseudo-avant-garde noodling that any idiot cd pull off & think they were being as good as Cecil Taylor or David Tudor.

"He wants to get even . . . but the thing is there's nothing to get even for because it's already even. You're even when you come out, you got as much chance as anybody else." - p 150

That's another quote attributed to Artie Tripp. I find it the type of mind-boggling tripe that privileged people say. NO, we aren't "even when you come out", some people are immediately born into trauma & strife & don't even get a chance to develop into any maturity other than the struggle to survive.

Zappa started his own record labels, Bizarre, for his own music, & Straight, for other people's. The G.T.O.s (Girls Together Outrageously):

"obliged with the material for Permanent Damage, put together while Frank was away on a two-week tour. "We really didn't have much talent," says Miss Pamela-Pamela Miller, former governess of the Zappa children-"it was sociology . . . that's what it was, and Frank thought other people would be interested."

"Permanent Damage (Straight STS1059) was an extraordinary document of the Hollywood scene and the groupie phenomenon." - pp 108-110

Back in the day when Zappa was releasing such things, I was eager for whatever he put out - but I was very critical - even if Zappa put it out that didn't mean I'd find it 'worthy'. I got rid of all 7 of the records I bought in 1967 as unworthy of my collection; 10 of the 12 in 1968 went the same route; 13 out of 15 in 1969; 18 out of 25 disappeared from the 1970 collection but Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band's "Lick my Decals Off Baby" was stolen; from there theft complicates things too much to use such statistics any further. You get the idea. To get back on track: "Permanent Damage" didn't make the cut, I didn't even like it enuf to get a copy for myself. I agreed w/ Miss Pamela that they "didn't have much talent".

Zappa's multitudinous record deals are confusing, to say the least. There must've been serious business hustle involved. One of the records I have is called "Sandy's Album Is Here At Last!", it's by Sandy Hurvitz. The title is on the front cover in a speech balloon coming out of Zappa's mouth on a TV. Both the front & back covers have both the Bizarre logo & the Verve one. It was "Arranged and Produced by Ian Underwood", the "Production Supervisor" is Herb Cohen. It was engineered by Dick Kunc. "Cover photographs and design Cal Schenkel". It's copyrighted 1967. I think of the musicians as jazz players: Jeremy Stag: flute, Jim Pepper: tenor sax, Donald MacDonald: drums, Eddie Gomex: bass. Hurvitz plays piano. I think of her being akin to Patty Waters. Whatever happened to Sandy Hurvitz? Waddya know?:

"Essra Mohawk (born Sandra Elayne Hurvitz on April 23, 1948) is an American singer-songwriter who has recorded a dozen albums, many receiving critical acclaim.

"Her best known songs include "Sufferin' Til Suffrage" and "Interjections!" (both from Schoolhouse Rock!), "Change of Heart", recorded by Cyndi Lauper and "Stronger Than the Wind", recorded by Tina Turner."


"Studio albums

· 1968 Sandy's Album is Here at Last (as Sandy Hurvitz)

· 1970 Primordial Lovers

· 1974 Essra Mohawk

· 1976 Essra

· 1982 Burnin' Shinin' (released without knowledge of the artist)

· 1985 E-Turn

· 1995 Raindance

· 1999 Essie Mae Hawk Meets the KillerGrooveBand

· 2003 You're Not Alone

· 2006 Love is Still The Answer

· 2007 Revelations of the Secret Diva"


Listening to "Sandy's Album Is Here At Last!" now it's easy to imagine every heterosexual man being passionately in love w/ her. To say that her voice is "soulful" wd be an understatement.

Other albums that Walley mentions are:

"An Evening with Wildman Fisher (Bizarre/Reprise 2RS6332) met a similar fate."


"The album must be heard to be appreciated, but it never was." - p 110

Well, I've got it & I've heard it & I appreciate it but I think the thing that really makes it is Zappa's production. Wildman Fisher has since had at least one other record put out on Rhino that doesn't have anything close to the same quality of production values. Still, while it took a long time, it shows that there was enuf commercial interest for such a thing to happen. People DID appreciate Wild Man Fisher.

"Alice Cooper (Pretties for You, Straight STS1051) was a band from Detroit with a drag queen routine. Zappa gave them a chance, but their album died in its tracks. Since leaving him, they've expanded their horizons." - p 110

Somewhere along the line I decided that Zappa's credit in the liner notes to "We're Ony in it for the Money" that says: "SPIDER (from a group that hasn't destroyed your minds yet . . . ) is the one who wants you to turn your radio around" was about Alice Cooper. [According to the liner notes to "Civilzation Phaze III": Spider Barbour was actually the leader of the rock Group Chrysalis.] Pursuing this further, I've imagined that their song "Only Women Bleed" did turn the radio around. Otherwise, hey!, I have the first 5 or so Alice Cooper records & I like them ok but I've never really liked the music that much. At 1st, I just dismissed them as too gimmicky w/ their popularity relying mainly on their stage show. Since then, I've grown to appreciate them more - certainly more than Kiss or Black Sabbath.

"Zappa's major achievement as a producer was Trout Mask Replica (Straight STS1053), a two record set of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band." - p 110

Strictly speaking, the band name at the time was "Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band". It didn't change to the Magic Band until "Lick My Decals Off, Baby". Of course, I've read all sorts of things about the production of "Trout Mask Replica". I seem to recall that Beefheart complained about Zappa's production & that Zappa claimed that he did it exactly as Beefheart wanted, against his own better judgment. Whatever the case, I think it's the best thing Beefheart ever did.

I suppose I cd be sd to 'suffer from' Original Band Syndrome: in other words, whatever line-up constituted band membership when I 1st liked them is the band I usually like the most. As the personnel changes, I tend to be more critical & to lose interest. Take the Soft Machine. I loved the core personnel of Robert Wyatt, Mike Ratledge, & Hugh Hopper. I respect the addition of Elton Dean & Roy Babbington. As those people dropped away, I grew disgusted w/ the music. I had a similar response to the Mothers: the more Zappa relied on studio muscians, the less interesting I found the music. It was like the personality was gone. Still I can understand Zappa's viewpoint:

"At first they were extremely angry at me for breaking up the band, not because they wanted to play the music but because I had been supporting them. I had taken away their income. I said to them, "Look, am I supposed to kill myself going out and doing this over and over again? Well, it's not fun for me anymore." I was really depressed about it, I couldn't do it anymore- Frank, December, 1970." - p 118

I have to doubt the "not because they wanted to play the music" part of that. I heard the Grandmothers play at the 31st St Pub in Pittsburgh & it was definitely the best rock concert I've ever heard. Half of the band were 3 members of the original Mothers: Jimmy Carl Black, Don Preston, & Bunk Gardner. They played mostly Zappa material. They were amazing & they were definitely into the music. Still, I remember one of the vocal parts in "We're Only in it for the Money" where Zappa talks about doing "a whole lotta work I'd really rather not do." Still, he continued to do it like no-one else that he was connected w/ ever wd & that's why there's so much for us to listen to now.

"The band had dispersed. Jimmy Carl Black was working with his own band, Geronimo Black, named after his youngest son. Don Preston was collaborating with dancer Meredith Monk in New York. Ian Underwood was preparing material for a solo album-still unfinished-and playing guitar in a combo that included his wife Ruth on drums. Roy Estrada and Lowell George were forming their own band called, appropriately enough, Little Feat. Bunk and Buzz Gardiner were doing studio work, though Bunk was to join Jim's band about a year-and-a-half later." - p 121

That's Bunk & Buzz Gardner, pal. &, of course, I got the Geronimo Black record but it didn't pass my judgment call so I sold it almost immediately (I'd like to hear it again now). I still have some Little Feat records but they weren't nearly as original as Zappa. I tried Billy Mundi's Rhinoceros but they were too generic. I didn't like (the post Magic Band) Mallard that much either (I'd like to hear that again too now). I got a Phlorescent Leech & Eddie record, didn't like it. Essentially, nobody had the grand vision & the ability to create & organize around it that Zappa did.

"In the fallow period of late 1969, Frank was also working on a twelve-record set of audio documents about the Mothers of Invention. Out of this set came Burnt Weenie Sandwich, Uncle Meat, and Weasels Ripped My Flesh. His record company couldn't afford to release them all, so Frank went about busily recutting for single album consumption. At the same time he was working on Hot Rats." - pp 127-128

C'mon now, that's Burnt Weeny Sandwich: it's very important to spell Weeny correctly. What were the other 9 records? I ask because I love "Burnt Weenie Sandwich, Uncle Meat, and Weasels Ripped My Flesh" & cd certainly enjoy listening to more along those lines.

"At Pauley Pavilion that night were two lead singers of the then defunct rock and roll group known as the Turtles, Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan. After the show they expressed interest in Zappa's music and, in turn, Zappa expressed his admiration for their past efforts. They joined the Mothers."


"For their next tour in late 1970, Zappa picked up George Duke on keyboards, a fine West Coast jazz musician. Frank was pleased with the new super-group. "[It's] the best band I ever heard."" - pp 133-136

For me, it was the beginning of the end. A slow death. The 6th LP I bought in 1967 was "The Turtles Golden Hits", it was probably recommended to me by a record store employee. I was only 13, I suppose someone thought I'd like teenybopper music. When I was a bit older I went to a stereo store & the salesman wanted me to hear whatever sound system he was hawking play the Who's "Tommy". I didn't like the Who, I didn't like "Tommy", & I detested rock opera. It took a while to convince the salesman to play Stravinsky for me instead. After all, I had long-hair, I MUST BE A HIPPIE, I MUST LOVE THE WHO. Not. Hadn't he ever heard of long-haired music? Back to the Turtles: they were way too pop for me, nauseating harmonies, I got rid of the record.

Why the beginning of the end? It seemed like Zappa was trying to tap into the commercial potential of Volman & Kaylan's pubescent appeal. After all, "Happy Together" had been a big hit. & they were willing to explore Zappa's cynical humor. A long string of juvenile records was to follow. Sure, the musicianship was still good & Ian Underwood & Don Preston were still there but Zappa's desperation for a commercial product was oozing out all over the place. Zappa was a master of reverse psychology: 'Oh, you won't like this.. unless you're really smart' type of thing. Despite his "No Commercial Potential" he must've been a bit of a business genius b/c his work certainly had enuf actual commercial potential for him to have releases coming out much more quickly than any other rock musician & those releases were getting distributed well enuf to reach people like me in the medieval wasteland of Baltimore. At 1st the juvenile records were fun.. but then it got old, like premature aging disease.. I think of these releases:

"Filmore East - June 1971"

"Just Another Band From L.A."

"Roxy & Elsewhere"

"Sheik Yerbouti"

"Joe's Garage"

"Tinseltown Rebellion"

"You Are What You Is"

"Ship Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch"

"The Man from Utopia"

"Them or Us"

Most of the ones I didn't like are ones I barely remember now. Some of them I never even bothered to acquire or listen to all the way thru, "Thing-Fish", e.g.. I'd like to hear that now, maybe I'd like it. Maybe "Joe's Garage" shd be exempt. Another sign of the beginning of the end was when the album covers started having close-up pictures of Zappa's face: Buy Zappa Brand Music Only!:

"Apostrophe (')"

"Sheik Yerbouti"

"Joe's Garage"

"You Are What You Is"

"Jazz from Hell"

In other words, Zappa became so money-driven that too much of what he did reeks of marketing decisions. It just turns some of his work into being like all the other producer-product. The musicianship is good but it's generic, it's studio-hire good. No wonder he preferred the Synclavier eventually. He wanted machine precision. I find music that slips & slides all around the boundaries to be much more interesting. The great violinist Paul Zukovsky has written against bar-lines, Zappa cd've learned something from him.

"Best of all, the Synclavier played everything exactly as it was written, unlike live musicians who tended gradually to lose their chops for his arrangements so that by the end of a long tour they tended to degenerate into jam sessions.

"Not being human, the Synclavier didn't need the bass monitor turned up on stage as keyboard players did for their "scrotum massage," nor did it mind playing rhythm for guitar players (which the horn players, no matter how much money they were making, constantly bitched about). He could get the brass-like sound of live horns without the inconvenience of dealing with the musicians who played them." - pp 194-195

Oh, lardy. I play electronics. You can hear some of what I do on my SoundCloud page: . Perhaps my "1st NU - NU Triple - S Variety Show", 1996, might interest you. You can witness the movie version of that here: . Or maybe a piece from a decade before, 1986, might interest you, the soundtrack to "Hindsight": . For me, the way that Zappa uses the Synclavier brings out the worst of his work, the rigidity of it. As for the "brass-like sound of live horns" via a Synclavier?: NOT. The continual stream of BREATHING is what makes live horn playing so good, even using a breath-controller w/ a synth/sampler ain't gonna match it. No way. To use Zappa language, there's very little moustache. In musical discussions I often return to the philosophical contest between Musique Concrete & 'Pure' Electronic Music. In the latter, there's an emphasis on precision of control. I prefer the former, wch is much more biomorphic. I'll take "Lumpy Gravy" over "Jazz from Hell" anyday (even tho I like that one too). The more mistakes Zappa removes, the more dehumanized the music becomes.

Then again, Zappa was traumatized by 2 incidents that may've changed his direction.

"The release of 200 Motels, a movie about how "touring can make you crazy," as well as the United Artists album of the same name, marked a kind of turning point in the life of Frank Zappa. In some ways he had settled into a comfortable stuation with the new band, a solid compact unit which had played on the Fillmore album. In the fall of 1972 Frank and his new Mothers went off to reconquer the continent. Just Another Band from L.A. was released as tour support. The Mark Volman/Howard Kaylan vocals, the mini-Moog pyrontechnics of Don Preston, and the general musical virtuosity of Ian Underwood made it the tightest and most show-biz oriented group to date. Frank's new passion play, "Billy the Mountain," an extended recitatif about human greed and ecological revenge, played well throughout Europe. Then disaster struck this well-oiled unit on December 4, 1971." - p 159

The 1st disaster was the well-known burning to the ground of the venue where they were playing thanks to a skyrocket sent aloft by a fan. The 2nd disaster was a wk later when a jealous irate fan pushed Zappa off-stage for a 12 ft drop that fractured both his legs & gave him a concussion.

Andy Warhol changed dramatically after Valerie Solanas nearly killed him b/c she wanted him to make a movie of a script of hers & he lost it. The story goes that after Solanas killed him & was brought back to life his whole open-studio policy changed & his "Factory" was only open by appointment.

My apartment was set fire to in 1985 & w/in a wk a guy slashed me w/ a knife for 'being too weird'. A show I had planned & spent the last of my money on was cancelled. It wasn't a good wk. Zappa's & Warhol's experiences were profoundly worse. I didn't really change much after mine.

"Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo fortunately were already in the can at the time of the accidents so at least there was a continuous stream of product.

"Both albums were characterized by critics as "jazz oriented" but certainly not by Frank. He'd always been partial to Mingus, Monk, and Eric Dolphy, but he really never liked theoretical avant-garde stuff. He liked it with "balls." The aforementioned triumvirate had the requisite balls, and in those two albums, the horn sections have that ballsy feel too. Neither were the result of any conscious working out of traditional formats so much as the result of Frank's own personal experimentation."


"Though intriguing as experiments, neither album had broad commercial appeal." - p 160

Ha ha! To deny that those records are "jazz oriented" is more than a little silly considering that the longer instrumentals are framed by head & tail horn charts & that the middles center around solos. At any rate, "Big Swifty" & "Waka/Jawaka" strike me as clearly w/in the realm of jazz as it's ordinarily perceived. "The Grand Wazoo" is a bit more ambiguous but what other pre-existing form has music w/ an instrumental backing for a trombone solo followed by a muted trumpet solo? These are 2 of my favorite Zappa records, from a time when every new release seemed guaranteed to be FRESH. The beginning of the end may've started the yr before but it hadn't really solidified. For that matter, Zappa always had something great to release, they just came less & less often.

Walley goes thru mention of the various albums, I won't repeat that here. I admit to being surprised by his "Bongo Fury, produced in that same period from January 1974 through May 1975, could almost have been considered a toss-out." (p 164) That bad, huh? I was just excited that a Beefheart/Zappa collaboration was out.

"Recently Pierre Boulez, the French avant-garde composer and former New York Philharmonic conductor, approached Frank. He asked him to compose some music for his chamber ensemble." - p 173

An excerpt from my looooonnnnnngggggg review of Georgina Born's "Rationalizing Culture - IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde"

"Further stories convey the importance within IRCAM of the visual look of the score. Early in 1984 a music director told me bemusedly that Boulez was to conduct the orchestral music of the avant-garde rock musician Frank Zappa in a concert of American music. He said, "I haven't heard it, but the score's good: it looks like a real score!" Implicit here was the belief that the music's legitimacy rested on its looking like a "real score." After the concert the same director's judgment was that the music was "pretty boring really."" - p 224

"Frank Zappa's music has been very important to me. He's another composer on my "Top 100 Composers" website index (I haven't gotten around to making his individual webpage yet b/c that'll be such a huge task). The music director who commented about Zappa's music "looking like a "real score"" obviously didn't know Zappa's music or he wdn't've been surprised. Zappa has been a HUGE inspiration to many musicians.

"Boulez conducted 3 short pieces by him: "The Perfect Stranger", "Naval Aviation in Art?", & "Dupree's Paradise". According to the Angel record that these recordings were released on, "The Perfect Stranger" was even commissioned by Boulez. The name of the record that these recordings appear on is "Boulez Conducts Zappa - The Perfect Stranger and other chamber works performed by the ENSEMBLE INTERCONTEMPORAIN and the BARKING PUMPKIN DIGITAL GRATIFICATION CONSORT". I like this record but I want to give some background before I get into greater detail.

"I 1st 'discovered' the music of Frank Zappa & his band The Mothers of Invention w/ their 3rd record, "We're Only in it for the Money". The music was original & complex & funny & full of commentary that I cd relate to. One song in particular seems very relevant to some of what Born refers to: the concept of the "other":


""Mother People" - Frank Zappa


"We are the other people

We are the other people

We are the other people

You're the other people too

Found a way to get to you


"Do you think that I'm crazy?

Out of my mind?

Do you think that I creep in the night

And sleep in a phone booth?


"Lemme take a minute to tell you my plan

Lemme take a minute to tell who I am

If it doesn't show, think you better know

I'm another person


"Do you think that my pants are too tight?

Do you think that I'm creepy?


"Lemme take a minute to tell you my plan

Lemme take a minute to tell who I am

If it doesn't show, think you better know

I'm another person


"We are the other people

We are the other people

We are the other people

You're the other people too

Found a way to get to you


"At the time that I 1st heard this music, I had long hair. This wd've been around 1969-1970. In the area where I lived that meant that people felt free to insult & threaten me regularly & that sexual predators had me figured as easy prey. Lyrics like the above coupled w/ imaginative music hit the right spot. I loved it. I began collecting every Zappa & Mothers record I cd get. Fortunately for me, they were very unpopular, at least around where I lived, so I cd often find the records in cut-out bins priced at $2 apiece. I was eager to hear every new release. It was all so fresh & exciting for me! But then, by 1971, Zappa started entering what I now think of as his more 'juvenile' phase, an apparent attempt to be more commercially successful, w/ "Filmore East - June 1971". I even cut high school on my graduation day to go hear the new Mothers play in a different state, I had to hitchhike there. They were great, they performed "Billy the Mountain".. but this was the harbinger to the later records that I found close to insufferable like "Roxy & Elsewhere" & songs like "Titties & Beer". The era of such amazing music as that on "Uncle Meat" was gone.

"Every new record that returned to the innovative jazz, the musique concrète, the orchestral, the harder to classify was rc'vd by me w/ avid interest. STILL, the orchestral music that came after "200 Motels" just seemed like Zappa trying to be accepted as a classical composer. I loved & respected Zappa's music but I didn't think classical was his forté - he just didn't get the subtleties - it all had to revolve around his usual bag of tricks of fast runs & difficult meter changes. Zappa was no Varèse, a composer he admired. He even thanks Boulez, on the notes to "Boulez Conducts Zappa", for the "accurate performance of the killer triplets on page eight" of "The Perfect Stranger" score. "killer triplets" are kid's stuff to Serialists - see the anaylsis of Stockhausen's "Klavierstücke I" above. I'd pretty much lost interest in Zappa, although I always retained an affection for him, by the time "Boulez Conducts Zappa" came out & I didn't even bother to get a copy until 1993, 9 yrs after the release. You can see scans of the record on my Boulez webpage here: .

"My vague impression of the record was that Zappa having his work conducted by Boulez was presitigous & helped establish Zappa as a 'real' classical composer. The problem is, I saw it as a PR job, a sortof fake. Initially, I thought Zappa might've even pd out the (Grand) Wazoo to get Boulez to do this just for the prestige. At this late date it seems possible that Boulez was making himself seem more 'hip' at the same time, that they were using each other. In my commentary on the record on the Boulez webpage referred to above, I say: "Note that it's only on the record label that the person looking at the package discovers that Pierre Boulez & the Ensemble Intercontemporain only perform 2 of the 3 pieces on side 1 & only perform 1 of the pieces on side 2. The rest are performed by the "Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort" which, as far as I can tell, is a synclavier that I assume Zappa was assisted in the use of."

"I like the music, but, no, in the context of more advanced classical music it's not very advanced itself, it's too linear, there aren't any complex polyrhythms or even complex polyphony, it's more like a series of licks assembled in 'narrative' fashion. It's not really Zappa at his best. Maybe the commision was insultingly small. I'm sure someone knows the details better than I do, I'm only speculating. As such, I can't really be offended by "the same director's judgment" [..] "that the music was "pretty boring really."" Listen to "Burnt Weeny Sandwich" or "Weasels Ripped my Flesh" or "Lumpy Gravy", etc, instead.

""Nothing expresses better the modernist habit of searching in the "other" for knowledge of the "self." The distance separating Boulez and IRCAM from Zappa was satirized in an article in the CGP monthly magazine publicizing the Zappa concert. It consisted of a "purely imaginary" dialogue between Boulez and Zappa marked by profound mutual respect-Boulez likening Zappa to Wagner-and ended with Zappa asking to come and work at IRCAM: "Frank Zappa moves off. He dreams of his future stay at IRCAM" (CNAC, Jan. 1984, 33). The ending was clearly an ironic comment on the unlikelihood of such a visit." - p 284"


OK, that's a long quote but it fits in neatly here, doesn't it?

"Frank featured the Synclavier on "Be My Video" from Them or Us (1984), "Crabgrass Baby" from Act II of Thing-Fish (1984), Francesco Zappa (1984), an album of the music of an eighteenth century namesake done without samplings, and The Perfect Stranger (1984). Polyphonic sampling was done on Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention and all the material on side 2 of Jazz from Hell, for which he won a Grammy in 1986, almost totally Synclavier, save for one cut, "St. Etienne."

"Sonic Solutions, together with the Synclavier, produced the postumous release Civilization Phaze III." - p 196

Actually, all of the pieces on both sides, except "St. Etienne", of "Jazz from Hell" were made using a Synclavier. I like Zappa's Synclavier work but its squeaky cleanness leaves me feeling like there're no cozy spaces in it for the listener to lay their head. That might be an excessive metaphor but so be it.

"In late 1994 the International Astronomical Union announced that Planet 3834, a five-mile long astral fecalith falling in an orbit between Mars and Jupiter, had been christened Zappafrank." - p 206

Cool. Although what Christ had to do w/ it is beyond me. I hear that they only watch Moon Unit shows on Zappafrank but that might just be an urban myth.

Looking thru the Discography that starts on p 217 I see that I have 53 of the 74 releases listed + 9 more that aren't listed.

Shd you read this bk? Sure, why not? What the fuck. Go for it.







idioideo at verizon dot net


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