minutes from mm 54: field trip to Zappa plays Zappa - Monday, April 6, 2015
- the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE report
Oh. Shit. Am I really going to attempt to write about this?! Ben invited me to go hear Zappa plays Zappa at the Homestead Public Library & proposed it as an mm field trip. I'd heard that the library there has a very nice hall & I'd never been there. I'd never really been that interested in tribute bands of any kind &, specifically, in Zappa plays Zappa. When it comes to bands, I prefer original music played by its originators. As Dweezil Zappa, son of Frank Zappa & presumed originator of Zappa plays Zappa, explained it at the gig: 'We've been doing this for 10 years & we've learned 400 of the songs.' Anyway, Ben's offer of a ticket & my curiosity did the trick & I decided to go. I thought about taking notes but then decided against it - thinking that I'd rather just enjoy the show w/o making myself work. The idea was that I'd just write a little bit after about my general observations & maybe a few specific comments.
Right. No such luck. I started working on this something like 5 or 6 hrs after I got home (at 4 or 5 in the morning) & started thinking that I can't just make a few comments about the work of a musician whose work has been so important to me. I cd write a bk about it (but I wdn't want to!)!
SO, I'll give a 'little' personal background: I probably 1st heard about Zappa in the spring or summer of 1968 from my 1st girlfriend, Robin. What she sd intrigued me but I wasn't completely sold. I saw "We're Only in it for the Money" in a store & the drag-dressing on the cover was intimidatingly new to my 14-yr-old self. I didn't get the record. The 1st Zappa / Mothers of Invention record I actually got wasn't until January, 1970, & it was a promotional compilation record (something I don't generally like) called "The **** of the Mothers". I listened to it, didn't like it much & got rid of it.
At that time, I probably liked the music of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Cream, Moby Grape, Steppenwolf, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Soft Machine, Bob Dylan, Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Spirit, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, & others. I hadn't really discovered classical, jazz, or electronic & electro-acoustic music yet.
But it wasn't long before I got a copy of "Hot Rats", "Freak Out!", & "Chunga's Revenge" (in that order in 1970) - the former & the latter somewhat hot off the presses. I was hooked! The music was original, complex, very rocking, pointedly sexual & satirical, & had jazz & classical & Musique Concrete influences. For awhile, I got the records as soon as they came out & picked up whatever else I cd find. Fortunately for me, Zappa was still not very commercially successful so I cd get his records at the nearby Reisterstown Shopping Mall from a Five & Dime Store in the cut-out bins for something like $2. Where I got the money from is hard for me to remember, my family didn't have much & I don't remember ever having an allowance. I do remember playing cards & chess w/ a neighbor friend for money.
In the spring of 1971, a fellow Zappa/Mothers enthusiast & I cut the last day of high school & hitch-hiked to what I recall as a rural arena outside Harrisburg, PA, where we heard the 'Flo & Eddie' incarnation of the Mothers do "Billy the Mountain" before it even came out on record. It was incredibly entertaining, it was also the beginning of Zappa being too 'pop' for me. By October the same yr, my long-since ex-girlfriend Robin took me to a Zappa/Mothers concert at the Lyric Theater in Baltimore. I still have the poster from that gig:
I don't really remember the concert except that a band opened for them that the audience did not have any interest in, they were there for Zappa & the Mothers. I felt sorry for how badly the opening band was treated. It was probably in 1972 that I went to hear Zappa play "Waka/Jawaka" type material in Washington DC. Tim Buckley, accompanied by Carter "CC" Collins, opened for him & they were great. Zappa gave the audience the opportunity to propose specific musical things & then he created a composition on-the-spot from the suggestions & conducted it. I wish I knew then what I know now so I cd've really taken advantage of that opportunity. It might've been the fall of 1972 that I went to Miami & heard Zappa & the Mothers play in some big stadium-like venue opened up for by the atrocious Foghat (atrocious in my very limited memory of them). I have a vague memory of hearing them another time but I can't place it so maybe I only heard Zappa live 4 times.
I went to see "200 Motels" when it came out with my teenage friends Alfred & John & Peggy. I loved it. It was the 1st time I'd ever seen video effects like that. I thought the music was great, it was funny, it was political, it was socially-critical. But by 1970, almost immediately after discovering Zappa, I also started listening to Beethoven & Stravinsky. By 1971, I heard Miles Davis's "Bitches Brew", by 1972, I heard Eric Dolphy. By 1973, I heard John Cage & Harry Partch. Zappa was still great to me but my knowledge of music was expanding considerably. There was a huge world of great music out there & Zappa & other rock musicians whose work I loved were just a small part of a much broader spectrum.
Zappa continued to hold my interest in the 1st half of the 1970s w/ "Cruising with Ruben and the Jets", "Lumpy Gravy", "We're Only in it for the Money", "Weasels Ripped my Flesh", "Absolutely Free", "Burnt Weeny Sandwich", "Uncle Meat", "Waka/Jawaka", "Overnite Sensation", "Grand Wazoo", "Apostrophe", & "Bongo Fury" but by 1975 that interest was really waning. Avant-garde classical did it for me much more. I was tired of the song format, of the reliance on lyrics, of Zappa's Big-Commerical-Potential. In 1970, I got 4 records by him; in 1971, I got 6; in 1972 I got 3; in 1973, I got 3; in 1974, I got 1; in 1975, I got 1; in 1976, I got none. [See Appendix 2] records like "Roxy & Elsewhere" & "Tinseltown Rebellion" really helped me lose interest big time. The pandering to the crowd was annoying. I was finding the work insufferably juvenile, gone was the amazement of "Uncle Meat". Besides, I liked the original Mothers of Invention, the bands that replaced them weren't really the Mothers anymore, they were more like hired hands picked up for tours. The comaraderie didn't seem as genuine anymore.
SO, 40 yrs later, & I go to hear Zappa plays Zappa. The band consisted of: back row, audience left-to-right: Chris Norton: 6 Keyboards, Vocals, Ryan Brown: Drums, front row, audience left-to-right: Ben Thomas: Vocals, Trumpet, Trombone, Guitar, Percussion (Flex-A-Tone, Rattle, Cowbell, Tambourine, Whistle), dancing, Dweezil Zappa: Guitar, Kurt Morgan: Bass, Keyboard, hopping, Scheila Gonzalez: Soprano, Alto, & Tenor Saxophones, Flute, 2 Keyboards, Vocals, Percussion (Tambourine, Duck Call), dancing. Yes, they were GREAT. I was particularly impressed by Chris Norton & Ben Thomas but they were all fantastic. Thomas & Gonzalez were multi-instrumentalists out-the-wazoo. I saw Thomas play something on the trombone & immediately switch to vocals. Not. Fucking. Easy. The embouchure of a brass instrument is killer on the mouth.
They started off playing the entirety of "One Size Fits All", wch was finished exactly 40 yrs ago on Easter wknd in 1975. The concert was the day after Easter. That begins w/ "Inca Roads", an incredible piece & quite difficult to start a concert w/. Their performance was impeccable. I got excited, this was rock'n'roll at its best. Unfortunately, the venue was crowded & a bit too warm. The seats were too small & hard. People had to sit w/ their arms folded across their chests to not bump into their neighbors. It was very uncomfortable, the concert was long, & it wore on me. At least the sound was good - even though I cdn't hear the flute at all & had a hard time hearing the trumpet.
After playing all of "One Size Fits All" they played a diversity of material that demonstrated Frank Zappa's versatility somewhat. I was tempted to perversely 'request' "Lumpy Gravy" but I restrained myself. They played "Status Back Baby", "Big Leg Emma", "Sinister Footwear", "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Momma", "Baby Snakes", "What's the Ugliest Part of Yopur Body?", "Dancin' Fool", far more than I can remember right now. The concert was about 2.5 hrs. They made the audience wait a bit too long for my taste for an encore. Most of us were older folks who didn't really feel like clapping & screaming for 5 or 10 minutes straight. They came back & played "Muffin Man", "Cosmic Debirs" (maybe), "Carolina Hardcore Ecstacy", & what might've been "Black Napkins". It was an unusually long encore.
Before we went in I commented to Ben that I was somewhat relieved that they'd be performing "One Size Fits All" b/c it doesn't have any misogynistic stuff on it. Then they played "Carolina Hardcore Ecstacy" - not necessarily misogynistic but about female masochism. At least it wasn't "Your Mouth". In the midst of it all I asked Ben if he'd play in a group like that, noting that he's a better reed player than anyone who ever played w/ Zappa. He sd he'd do it but it'd be alotof work. He also demurred about being "better" noting that Ian Underwood & Bunk Gardner were both great. I had to agree. Ben also mentioned that Underwood's famous 'whipping-it-out' solo was very influential on him & that he'd never heard anyone play like that until then. I realized that that was probably true for me too.
I heard The Grandmothers play in a shitty bar in Pittsburgh sometime between 1996 & 2007. They consisted of 3 of the original Mothers: Bunk Gardner, Don Preston, & Jimmy Carl Black + 3 younger guys who played guitar, bass, & drums. The concert was about 3 hrs long & there were no seats. There was a drunk idiot screaming very loudly throughout most of it. I often say that it was the best rock concert I've ever heard. They played mostly Zappa material but some originals too. I liked that aspect. I gave them copies of my 1st 2 records & got to talk to them & to tell them how important they were to my musical development. They were approachable & friendly, they didn't seem to even have roadies, let alone bodyguards. They might've even been touring out of a van. While the Zappa plays Zappa concert was amazing, in the long run, I preferred the Grandmothers gig. Ben had a similar opinion about the Grandmothers gig he went to that Napoleon Murphy Brock performed in sometime in the past few yrs.
For me, the Zappa plays Zappa gig was incredibly exciting. I hadn't listened to the music for so long that I'd forgotten how good it is. On the other hand, listening to it was like taking speed, it was too much of an adrenaline rush & the confining seats didn't help. I felt suicidal. At one point, a guy got up & was dancing in a subdued way in the aisle. He was tolerated by security for awhile & then they non-violently got him to leave. Being able to dance wd've made it more fun. I left the hall & went into the lobby right before the last song of the encore. Wandi was there. She didn't really like the music but she sd she wd've enjoyed it more if she cd've danced.
Note that as of April 9, 2015, I've added Appendix 3: Post-Minutes Discussion.
THANK YOU BEN! THANK YOU ZAPPA PLAYS ZAPPA!!
& Happy Birthday Spat!!!
(In memoriam; Frank Zappa: December 21, 1940 December 4, 1993)
Appendix 1: Zappa discography in chronological order of recording or release date - bold, slightly larger are the ones I have
1962-63 Rare Meat (commercial CD released 1994 by Del-Fi Records)
1966.06 Freak Out! (record)
1967.04 Absolutely Free (record)
1967.08 Lumpy Gravy (record replaced by CD/home K7)
1968.03 We're Only in It for the Money (record/CD)
1968.07 The Ark - Boston - July, 1968 - Bizarre records (FYPO #768) (K7 taped from record)
1968.10 The **** of the Mothers (record)
1968.11 Cruising with Ruben & the Jets (record)
1969.03 Uncle Meat (record)
1969.10 Hot Rats (record/home K7)
1970.02 Burnt Weeny Sandwich (record)
1970.07 The Mothers of Invention
1970.08 Weasels Ripped My Flesh (record)
1970.10 Chunga's Revenge (record)
1971.03 Worst of the Mothers
1971.08 Fillmore East June 1971 (record)
1971.10 200 Motels (record)
1972.03 Just Another Band from L.A. (record)
1972.07 Waka/Jawaka (record/home K7)
1972.11 The Grand Wazoo (record)
1973.09 Over-Nite Sensation (record)
1974.03 Apostrophe (') (record)
1974.07 Roxy & Elsewhere (record)
1975.06 One Size Fits All (record)
1975.10 Bongo Fury (record)
1976.01 OZ - Hordern Pavilion - Sydney, Australia - 1/20/76 - Part One (home K7 from friend)
1976.01 OZ - Hordern Pavilion - Sydney, Australia - 1/20/76 - Part Two (home K7 from friend)
1976.10 Zoot Allures (record)
1977.00 Zoot Allures live in Paris (bootleg record)
1978.03 Zappa in New York
1978.09 Studio Tan (record)
1979.01 Sleep Dirt (record)
1979.03 Sheik Yerbouti (record)
1979.05 Orchestral Favorites (record)
1979.09 Joe's Garage Act I (record)
1979.11 Joe's Garage Acts II & III (record)
1981.05 Tinsel Town Rebellion (record)
1981.05 Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar
1981.05 Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar Some More
1981.05 Return of the Son of Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar
1981.09 You Are What You Is (record)
1981.00 Beat the Boots (1967-1981) (boxset w/ 8 records, t-shirt, button, pop-up) (records)
1982.05 Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch (record)
1982.05 Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar (Box Set)
1983.03 The Man from Utopia (CD)
1983.03 Baby Snakes
1983.06 London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. I (record)
1984.08 Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger (record)
1984.10 Them or Us (record)
1984.11 Francesco Zappa (record)
1984.11 The Old Masters, Box I
1985.11 Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention (commercial K7)
1986.01 Does Humor Belong in Music?
1986.11 The Old Masters, Box II
1986.11 Jazz from Hell (record/home K7)
1987.05 Joe's Garage Acts I, II & III
1987.06 The Guitar World According to Frank Zappa
1987.09 London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. II
1987.12 The Old Masters, Box III
1988.04 Guitar (record)
1988.05 You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 1 (home-burn of commercial CD)
1988.10 You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 2 (home-burn of commercial CD)
1988.10 Broadway the Hard Way
1989.11 You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 3
1991.04 The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life
1991.06 Make a Jazz Noise Here (commercial K7)
1991.06 You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 4
1991.07 Beat the Boots
1991.11 Zappa's Universe (tribute CD not performed by Zappa & not released until 1993)
1992.06 Beat the Boots II
1992.07 You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 5
1992.07 You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 6
1992.11 Playground Psychotics
1993.03 Ahead of Their Time
1993.10 The Yellow Shark (CD/home K7)
1994.00 Zappa / Shankar / Etc.. (K7 made for me by a friend later than the date here w/ some "Joe's Garage" & some relevant ephemera +)
1994.02 Civilization Phaze III (CD)
1995.04 London Symphony Orchestra, Volumes I & II
1995.08 Strictly Commercial (commercial CD w/o case)
1996.02 The Lost Episodes
1996.10 Frank Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa: A Memorial Tribute
1997.05 Have I Offended Someone? (CD)
1997.05 Strictly Genteel
1998.04 Cheap Thrills
1998.09 Mystery Disc
1999.04 Son of Cheep Thrills
2002.08 FZ:OZ - 1976.01 - Hordern Pavilion - Sydney, Australia - 1/20/76 - Part One (home K7 from friend)
2002.12 Ensemble Modern plays Frank Zappa (home K7 from friend)
2004.05 Joe's Corsage
2004.10 Joe's Domage
2005.12 Joe's XMASage
2006.01 Imaginary Diseases
2006.12 The MOFO Project/Object (2-CD set)
2006.12 The MOFO Project/Object (4-CD set)
2006.12 The Frank Zappa AAAFNRAA Birthday Bundle 2006
2007.08 The Dub Room Special!
2008.06 One Shot Deal
2008.09 Joe's Menage
200812 The Frank Zappa AAAFNRAAA Birthday Bundle 2008
2009.01 Lumpy Money
2009.01 Beat the Boots III
2009.12 Philly '76
2010.04 Greasy Love Songs
2010.09 Congress Shall Make No Law...
2010.11 Hammersmith Odeon
2010.12 The Frank Zappa AAAFNRAAAA Birthday Bundle 2010
2011.09 Feeding the Monkies at Ma Maison
2011.12 The Frank Zappa AAAFNRAAAAAM Birthday Bundle 2011
2012.10 Road Tapes, Venue #1
2012.10 Understanding America
2012.12 Finer Moments
2012.12 Baby Snakes: The Compleat Soundtrack
2013.10 Road Tapes, Venue #2
2013.11 A Token Of His Extreme (soundtrack)
2014.01 Joe's Camouflage
2014.03 Roxy by Proxy
2014.12 The Frank Zappa AAAFNRAA Birthday Bundle 21.12.2014
2015.06 Dance Me This
Appendix 2: Zappa records (no CDs or K7s listed) in the order that I got them
1970 - 25 records gotten, 4 of them Zappa's
0036 "The **** of the Mothers" - The Mothers of Invention Traded for guitar case
0045 "Hot Rats" - Frank Zappa
0053 "Freak Out" - The Mothers of Invention
0057 "Chunga's Revenge" - Frank Zappa
1971 - 48 records gotten, 6 of them Zappa's
0061 "Cruising with Ruben and the Jets" - The Mothers of Invention
0062 "Lumpy Gravy" - Frank Zappa and the Abnucleus Emmukka Electric Symphony Orchestra Stolen!
0064 "We're Only in it for the Money" - The Mothers of Invention
0070 "Weasels Ripped my Flesh" - The Mothers of Invention
0076 "Absolutely Free" - The Mothers of Invention Given Away and Replaced with a Better Copy
0106 "200 Motels" - Frank Zappa
1972 - 49 records gotten, 3 of them Zappa's
0111 "Burnt Weeny Sandwich" - The Mothers of Invention
0118 "Uncle Meat" - The Mothers of Invention
0130 "Waka/Jawaka" - Frank Zappa Stolen
1973 - 27 records gotten, 3 of them Zappa's
0167 "Zappéd" - Various Sold
0182 "Overnite Sensation" - The Mothers
0183 "Grand Wazoo" - The Mothers
1974 - 64 records gotten, 1 of them Zappa's
0193 "Apostrophe" - Frank Zappa Stolen
1975 - 89 records gotten, 1 of them Zappa's
0318 "Bongo Fury" - Zappa/Beefheart/Mothers
1976 - 107 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
1977 - 67 records gotten, 1 of them Zappa's
0499 "Zoot Allures" - Frank Zappa
1978 - 14 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
1979 - 8 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
1980 - 27 records gotten, 1 of them Zappa's
0534 "Orchestral Favorites" - Frank Zappa
1981 - 12 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
1982 - 11 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
1983 - 7 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
1984 - 18 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
1985 - 111 records gotten, 3 of them Zappa's
0639 "200 Motels" [again] - Frank Zappa & the Mothers
0683 "Sleep Dirt" - Frank Zappa
0684 "Apostrophe" [again] - Frank Zappa
1986 - 47 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
1987 - 64 records gotten, 1 of them Zappa's
0793 "One Size Fits All" - Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention
1988 - 9 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
1989 - 17 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
1990 - 69 records gotten, 9 of them Zappa's
0863 "Lumpy Gravy" [again] - Frank Zappa Stolen [again!]
1023 "Absolutely Free" [good replacement copy for my original one] - The Mothers of Invention
1066 "Beat the Boots!" - Frank Zappa
1116 "The Perfect Stranger" - Boulez conducts Zappa
1117 "Studio Tan" [again] - Frank Zappa
1118 "Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch" - Frank Zappa
1120 "Roxy & Elsewhere" - Zappa & Mothers
1121 "Joe's Garage - Act I" - Frank Zappa
1122 "Joe's Garage - Acts II & III" - Frank Zappa
1994 - 15 records gotten, 2 of them Zappa's
1123 "Sheik Yerbouti" - Frank Zappa
1130 "Jazz from Hell" - Frank Zappa
1995 - 29 records gotten, 2 of them Zappa's
1144 "Them or Us" - Frank Zappa
1166 "Guitar" - Frank Zappa
1996 - 29 records gotten, 2 of them Zappa's, 1 by the Grandmothers
1169 "Francesco Zappa" - Frank Zappa
1171 "London Symphony Orchestra" - Frank Zappa
1231 "GrandMothers" - various ex-members of the Mothers of Invention
1997 - 47 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
1998 - 32 records gotten, 1 of them Zappa's
1264 "Titties and Beer - Zoot Allures live in Paris" - Frank Zappa
1999 - 19 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
2000 - 14 records gotten, 2 of them Zappa's
1302 "Waka/Jawaka" [again] - Frank Zappa
1303 "Tinseltown Rebellion" - Frank Zappa
2001 - 32 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
2002 - 17 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
2003 - 117 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
2004 - 10 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
2005 - 5 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
2006 - 24 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
2007 - 33 records gotten, 1 of them Zappa's [I actually forgot to mark the change from 2007 to 2008 until Oct of 2008 so this is approximately correct]
1521 "The **** of the Mothers" - The Mothers of Invention [again]
2008 - 31 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
2009 - 48 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
2010 - 155 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
2011 - 105 records gotten, none of them Zappa's
2012 - 75 records gotten, 1 of them Zappa's
1900 "you are what you is" - Frank Zappa
2013 - 573 records gotten, none of them Zappa's [A RECORD YEAR!! ]
2014 - [unknown amount because of computer malfunction]
2015 - [23 records gotten as of April 7, 2015, none of them Zappa's]
Appendix 3: Post-Minutes Discussion
It seems that any discussion of the Frank Zappa legacy brings up issues of who owns what & who should be making money from it. This tends to divide into 2 camps: Frank Zappa's widowed wife, Gail Zappa, & her family; & the musicians who played with Frank Zappa - especially in the early days of The Mothers of Invention before Frank Zappa had completely separated himself from the band as a superstar. Below is a small sampling of some of the discussion that ensued amongst mm list subscribers after the posting of these original minutes.
posted by Freddie, April 8, 2015:
As far as those performing the music goes, Gail Zappa sticks to her Grand Rights angle:
American copyright law defines Grand Performance Rights as the right to perform a copyrighted musical work that is also accompanied by drama, staging, telling a story, script, costumes, dancers, props, actor, dialogue, a script, plot, and so on.
Such works with Grand Performance Rights include revues, musical plays, dance, ballet, and opera.]
Interview here: http://www.celebrityaccess.com/members/profile.html?id=676
posted by Freddie, April 8, 2015:
John Drumbo French on playing the music.
Question from Scott M. Smith (Frank Zappa: The BEST): How do you feel about Gail and her attempts to sue Zappa tribute bands for playing his music?
"My two cent's worth: Anyone is legally within their rights to perform anyone else's music as long as the music is reported to the appropriate performing-rights agency and performing royalties are collected for the performances. These royalties collected are then paid to the ZFT.
"According to Gail, however, there is another permit that is needed to perform an artist's music exclusively, and this is the problem she has. When bands are exclusively performing Frank's music and not getting this permit, then they are exploiting his name for promotional purposes without permission. My reply to her was that these bands are keeping the music alive, which ZPZ probably can't do on its own and that many of these bands couldn't afford to perform were they to pay for these expensive permits. She didn't seem to care about that.
"From the musicians who formerly played with Frank, this is their major "claim to fame" and also it is, for all intents and purposes, the music that the public expects/demands from them. Frank benefitted symbiotically as much from the musicians as they did from him, but it was HIS name, not theirs, solely with which many found themselves most closely associated. Terry Bozzio is an example of someone who made a name for himself with "Missing Persons" after working with Zappa.
"However, many find themselves unable to work unless they play Zappa's music. Bunk Gardner and Don Preston two of the original Mothers, are still playing Frank's music with the Grande Mothers, and the band is quite good as I witnessed in Australia and at Zappanale.
"So, now, the audience perspective seems to be that they enjoy seeing these original Mothers playing the music, as it lends an air of authenticity to it as they were "there when it happened." Some people have expressed to me the fact that Dweezil merely "inherited" the privilege of playing the music while the former Zappa band members earned the right and paid the dues. Of course, Gail is going to defend Dweezil's right to play the music by birthright, but others would claim that these other players who actually worked with Zappa helped form the music into what it became through their personalities and styles and that even Dweezil benefits from the foundation they laid. It's hard to argue with that logic. Though Dweezil is in his own right a great player, he is walking the trail his father blazed.
"It's a difficult and controversial subject, but I tend to lean toward the fact that anyone who played with Frank has the right to perform the music as long as they pay performing rights. They are surely NOT making a fortune, the ZFT is collecting royalties they wouldn't be otherwise, and Dweezil will always have the advantage of the best state-of-the art equipment, the cushiest travel accommodations, and the time and resources to grow as an artist. It is, I think, a matter of privilege (Dweezil) vs. a matter of survival ( the Zappa musicians) and is separated by a class distinction that has more to do with financial rank and privilege in society than with Frank's music."
posted by tENT April 8, 2015:
"John Drumbo French on playing the music.
"From the musicians who formerly played with Frank, this is their major "claim to fame" and also it is, for all intents and purposes, the music that the public expects/demands from them. Frank benefitted symbiotically as much from the musicians as they did from him, but it was HIS name, not theirs, solely with which many found themselves most closely associated."
This is actually an important point to me. I remember being somewhat disgusted by Beefheart's crediting the albums up to & including "Trout Mask Replica" to "Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band" [emphasis mine]. That struck me as demeaning to the band - then it changed to "Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band" [emphasis mine] w/ "Lick My Decals Off, Baby" & I was satisfied.
A big factor in my losing interest in Zappa was when he started crediting his releases to "Frank Zappa" & started fading out "The Mothers of Invention". I was perfectly happy to accept him as the main guy but it was also obvious that he was taking from the culture he was raised in & the culture he was living in as an adult. Some of you might recall the scene in "200 Motels" when the band members are doing something or another & their dialog says something like: 'We'd better do this before Frank sees us & makes us do it in the movie.' I figured Zappa wrote that dialog as both a parody of himself & in recognition of the importance of the band members as a source of inspiration.
Zappa certainly flagrantly used things from other sources: there's one melody of his that I heard in a soundtrack for a movie that predated Zappa's [use of the] melody. There's also[, if I remember correctly,] an extended guitar solo on "Absolutely Free" that's a verbatim playing of a classical piece.
"It is, I think, a matter of privilege (Dweezil) vs. a matter of survival (the Zappa musicians) and is separated by a class distinction that has more to do with financial rank and privilege in society than with Frank's music."
& in the long run, let's face it, Drumbo is spot-on here. Zappa was a genius as a musician & as a ROCK & JAZZ composer (I'd take issue w/ the classical stuff) but he was also a genius as a businessman AND he was in the right place at the right time to get the most out of the industry.
Thinking about it more, the music was great at the Zappa plays Zappa concert & I'm very glad I went but the socio-economic scene that supports it is definitely not one I want to be a part of. Playing in that hall wd be nice but I really wdn't want the audience to be that uncomfortable. I'd never want to play a stadium or an arena or a convention center. I usually avoid well-attended concerts like the plague.
Furthermore, any concert situation that has SECURITY is bound to rub me the wrong way. The guy who was dancing in the aisles wasn't really harming anybody & shdn't've been thrown out. The audience was there to pay, to sit down, & to shut up. That whole big rock concert thing is too Police State for me - even when it's as low-key as it was there.
In my world, there's much better music played in smaller & cheaper venues. Shit, I've easily given 50 performances that I think are better than anything Zappa plays Zappa will ever do - not b/c the music's more difficult to play (when there is music) but b/c the overall work is more original & more multi-levelled & doesn't force the audience into subservience. As for Zappa? I'd rather listen to the recordings. I'd go hear the Grandmothers live again but I don't think I'd go hear Zappa plays Zappa again. I see someone like Zappa as a 'leader' & I prefer anarchists to leaders.
posted by tENT, April 8, 2015:
On Apr 8, 2015, at 5:12 PM, Ken Haney wrote:
"I was wondering about how much other musicians besides Zappa contributed to his compositions. Mingus would sketch things out for his band mates but wouldn't always play things note for note so the musicians would have to fill in the gaps. He felt this helped the music evolve more organically. I suspect a similar process occurred with Zappa's music but have nothing to back that up with."
This is a complicated issue for me. Zappa's music is through-composed, it's very specific. Much jazz isn't so specific. Often there's little more than a theme to be played at the beginning, improvised on, & played at the end.
The thing about Zappa is that he pd the musicians that played w/ him very good money from the get-go. He was always the one who took care of business & took the financial responsibility. W/o him, The Mothers of Invention wd not've existed. SO, when it comes down to it, I don't begrudge Zappa's being the main one to profit off of what was mainly his work. For better or worse, the musicians he played w/ were mainly employees. The thing is: the more they became employees as opposed to friends, the more the music suffered.
If Zappa had been less of a visionary & a businessman, the Mothers wd've gone nowhere no matter how good they were. If he'd been less proprietary there might be another Mothers w/o him in it but it wdn't be even remotely the equal of what Zappa contributed to. None of the other people that I know of that played w/ Zappa ever even remotely displayed his compositional talent. In the end, I think I side w/ Zappa.
The thing is, Zappa's dead, Gail Zappa didn't compose the music, she's not a musician. Presumably Zappa wd've wanted his family to be well-provided for but, what the fuck, he must've left them MILLIONS so how 'necessary' is it for them to be tight-fisted? Gail Zappa'll die eventually. Then what? If there's a Zappa Foundation that helps other struggling visionary musicians & keeps Zappa's music alive according to high standards, great!
I wdn't want to be Dweezil Zappa, tho - who wants to stand in the shadow of their father's accomplishments? If I were Dweezil Zappa, I'd rather take a hand at composing myself & introduce that material into the Zappa plays Zappa concerts.
to the mm index
forward to mm 55
backward to mm 53
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE movie-making "Press: Criticism, Interviews, Reviews" home-page
to the "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - Sprocket Scientist" home-page
to the "FLICKER" home-page for the alternative cinematic experience
to find out more about why the S.P.C.S.M.E.F. (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Sea Monkeys by Experimental Filmmakers) is so important
for A Mere Outline for One Aspect of a Book on Mystery Catalysts, Guerrilla Playfare, booed usic, Mad Scientist Didactions, Acts of As-Beenism, So-Called Whatevers, Psychopathfinding, Uncerts, Air Dressing, Practicing Promotextuality, Imp Activism, etc..
for info on tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's tape/CD publishing label: WIdémoUTH
to see an underdeveloped site re the N.A.A.M.C.P. (National Association for the Advancement of Multi-Colored Peoples)