Monday, July 30, 2007

Frank Zappa was the REAL poncho

"Now is that a real poncho or is that a Sears poncho, heh?" Frank Zappa asks the 'mystery man' in his song, "Cosmic Debris." And he should know - he did know - 'cuz he was the REAL poncho. He was as real as it gets down here.

Friday evening, I went to hear
Zappa Plays Zappa (ZPZ) at Meadowbrook Theater . . . that's Dweezil (Frank's son) Zappa's band - his labor of love, blood, sweat and tears to continue the legacy of his father's brilliant music. They were amazing. Dweezil, with still yet a little guidance from above - his father on guitar and vocals for a couple of songs via the big screen in the sky (above the stage, that is) - never missed a beat, which is saying MUCH more for his own talent than a simple "awesome job" compliment with a pat on the back. Because, anyone familiar with the huge, though mostly non-commercial, success of Frank Zappa (he recorded and mostly self-produced over a hundred albums) and The Mother's (actually motherfuckers - since the term also refers to skilled musicians) of Invention, knows that Frank was one of the greatest, most talented guitarists of his time. He was also a composer; a conductor; a musical genius; an intelligent, knowledgeable and outspoken political advocate . . . a prolific mad man. And it is impossible to imitate him and nearly impossible to play his intricate compositions. (Among other serious and acclaimed orchestral works devoted to Zappa's music, the London Symphony Orchestra, in January of 1983, released a double album of Frank's compositions.) Especially difficult is "G-Spot Tornado" from "Jazz From Hell" which was originally executed, by Frank, on a Synclavier. He was skeptical whether humans could actually perform it, but Dweezil and ZPZ did. For three hours they played other favorites like, Dumb all over (a little ugly on the side); Dupree's Paradise; Willie The Pimp; Joe's Garage (wind up working in a gas station); San Ber' dino; Muffin Man; and Yo Mama:

"Maybe you should stay with yo' mama
She could do your laundry 'n cook for you
Maybe you should stay with yo' mama
You're really kinda stupid 'n ugly too"

When I was about seventeen, I went to see Zappa himself, in Detroit. After the concert, my friends and I went around back to the stage door and, as fate would have it, we met Frank. He was a most gracious person and took a few minutes of his time to actually look at us and talk to us. It is a moment in time that I treasure - and even more so now that he is no longer here on this planet making new music (although his unreleased recordings are being newly released to the public).

"I don't give a fuck if they remember me at all."

Notable Zappa Quotes:

"It isn't necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice – there are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia."

"Remember there's a big difference between kneeling down and bending over."

"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. Some of you like Pep rallies and plastic robots who tell you what to read. Forget I mentioned it. This song has no message. Rise for the flag salute."

"On a personal level, Freaking Out is a process whereby an individual casts off outmoded and restricting standards of thinking, dress, and social etiquette in order to express creatively his relationship to his immediate environment and the social structure as a whole."

"If you wind up with a boring, miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest or some guy on TV telling you how to do your shit, then YOU DESERVE IT."

"The most important thing to do in your life is to not interfere with somebody else's life."

"The rock and roll business is pretty absurd, but the world of serious music is much worse."

"Being interviewed is one of the most abnormal things that you can do to somebody else. It's two steps removed from the inquisition."

"Let's not be too rough on our own ignorance, it's what makes America great!"

"May your shit come to life and kiss you on the face."

"The first thing you have to do if you want to raise nice kids, is you have to talk to them like they are people instead of talking to them like they're property."

"The creation and destruction of harmonic and 'statistical' tensions is essential to the maintenance of compositional drama. Any composition (or improvisation) which remains consistent and 'regular' throughout is, for me, equivalent to watching a movie with only 'good guys' in it, or eating cottage cheese."

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

"Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST..."

"Beauty is a pair of shoes that makes you wanna die."


Erik Donald France said...

Wow, cool! I'd be remembering that, too ;) I was just thinking about Dweezil and Moon Unit a few days ago (synchronicity?); and about Frank's ideas for cellphones and wireless communications (way ahead of the game, of course).

Now I'm wondering what happened to my Zappa albums? Remember "Dumb All Over"? All of it cracks me up, and you're right on about the music. All right, dig it!

Kate S said...

So... you like Zappa? :)

Jon said...

Grand post.
It's the symphonic Zappa that I love. Also the congressional testifying Zappa.

Dirk_Star said...

Great piece...

Frank spent a lot of time in Dayton, Ohio when he needed to go some place where few knew who was and even fewer cared.

A friend of mine was a good friend of Frank and has a treasure trove of film of he and the family spending time in the back yard grilling and simply doing family stuff.

Frank sent him tons of stuff. A lot of music and interesting Christmas goodies.

I still know right where my Zappa music is and I still listen to it on a regular basis.

eric313 said...

Wasn't ole Frank the best?

He really was very personable with his fans. My uncle Ron wrote to him back and fourth, talked to him on the phone a lot, and his band would open for theirs at shows down in the Nashville Tennessee area. He is one of the dearly missed.

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Lindy,

I LOVE that you got to meet Zappa! That's totally cool -- not so many people appreciate him near enough these days. Love the quotes! Great tribute.