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Composer, guitarist, singer, and bandleader Frank Zappa was a singular musical figure during a performing and recording career that lasted from the 1960s to the '90s. His disparate influences included doo wop music and avant-garde classical music; although he led groups that could be called rock & roll bands for much of his career, he used them to create a hybrid style that bordered on jazz and complicated, modern serious music, sometimes inducing orchestras to play along. As if his music were not challenging enough, he overlay it with highly satirical and sometimes abstractly humorous lyrics and song titles that marked him as coming out of a provocative literary tradition that included Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg and edgy comedians like Lenny Bruce. Nominally, he was a popular musician, but his recordings rarely earned significant airplay or sales, yet he was able to gain control of his recorded work and issue it successfully through his own labels while also touring internationally, in part because of the respect he earned from a dedicated cult of fans and many serious musicians, and also because he was an articulate spokesman who promoted himself into a media star through extensive interviews he considered to be a part of his creative effort just like his music. The Mothers of Invention, the '60s group he led, often seemed to offer a parody of popular music and the counterculture (although he affected long hair and jeans, Zappa was openly scornful of hippies and drug use). By the '80s, he was testifying before Congress in opposition to censorship (and editing his testimony into one of his albums). But these comic and serious sides were complementary, not contradictory. In statement and in practice, Zappa was an iconoclastic defender of the freest possible expression of ideas. And most of all, he was a composer far more ambitious than any other rock musician of his time and most classical musicians, as well.
Zappa was born Frank Vincent Zappa in Baltimore, MD, on December 21, 1940. For most of his life, he was under the mistaken impression that he had been named exactly after his father, a Sicilian immigrant who was a high school teacher at the time of his son's birth, that he was "Francis Vincent Zappa, Jr." That was what he told interviewers, and it was extensively reported. It was only many years later that Zappa examined his birth certificate and discovered that, in fact, his first name was Frank, not Francis. The real Francis Zappa took a job with the Navy during World War II, and he spent the rest of his career working in one capacity or another for the government or in the defense industry, resulting in many family moves. Zappa's mother, Rose Marie (Colimore) Zappa, was a former librarian and typist. During his early childhood, the family lived in Baltimore, Opa-Locka, FL, and Edgewood, MD. In December 1951, they moved to California when Zappa's father took a job teaching metallurgy at the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey. The same year, Zappa had first shown an interest in becoming a musician, joining the school band and playing the snare drum.
Although the Zappa family continued to live in California for the rest of Zappa's childhood, they still moved frequently; by the time Zappa graduated from Antelope Valley Joint Union High School in Lancaster in June 1958, it was the seventh high school he had attended. Meanwhile, his interest in music had grown. He had become particularly attracted to R&B, joining a band as a drummer in 1955. Simultaneously, he had become a fan of avant-garde classical music, particularly the work of Edgard Varèse. After his high school graduation, Zappa studied music at several local colleges off and on. He also switched to playing the guitar.
Zappa married Kathryn J. Sherman on December 28, 1960; the marriage ended in divorce in 1964. Meanwhile, he played in bands and worked on the scores of low-budget films. It was in seeking to record his score for one of these films, The World's Greatest Sinner, that he began working at the tiny Pal recording studio in Cucamonga, CA, run by Paul Buff, in November 1961. He and Buff began writing and recording pop music with studio groups and licensing the results to such labels as Del-Fi Records and Original Sound Records. On August 1, 1964, Zappa bought the studio from Buff and renamed it Studio Z. On March 26, 1965, he was arrested by a local undercover police officer who had entrapped him by asking him to record a pornographic audiotape. Convicted of a misdemeanor, he spent ten days in jail, an experience that embittered him. After completing his sentence, he closed the studio, moved into Los Angeles, and joined a band called the Soul Giants that featured his friend, singer Ray Collins, along with bass player Roy Estrada and drummer Jimmy Carl Black. In short order, he induced the group to play his original compositions instead of covers, and to change their name to the Mothers (reportedly on Mother's Day, May 10, 1965).
In Los Angeles, the Mothers were able to obtain a manager, Herb Cohen, and audition successfully to appear in popular nightclubs such as the Whiskey Go-Go by the fall of 1965. There they were seen by record executive Tom Wilson, who signed them to the Verve Records subsidiary of MGM Records on March 1, 1966. (Verve required that the suggestive name "The Mothers" be modified to "The Mothers of Invention.") The contract called for the group to submit five albums in two years, and they immediately went into the studio to record the first of those albums, Freak Out! By this time, Elliot Ingber had joined the group on guitar, making it a quintet. An excess of material and Zappa's agreement to accept a reduced publishing royalty led to the highly unusual decision to release it as a double-LP, an unprecedented indulgence for a debut act that was practically unheard, much less for an established one. (Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde appeared during the same period, but it was his seventh album.)
Freak Out! was released on June 27, 1966. It was not an immediate success commercially, but it entered the Billboard chart for the week ending February 11, 1967, and eventually spent 23 weeks in the charts. In July 1966, Zappa met Adelaide Gail Sloatman; they married in September 1967, prior to the birth, on September 28, 1967, of their first child, a daughter named Moon Unit Zappa who would record with her father. She was followed by a son, Dweezil, on September 5, 1969. He, too, would become a recording artist, as would Ahmet Zappa, born May 15, 1974. A fourth child, Diva, was born in August 1979. During the summer of 1966, Zappa hired drummer Denny Bruce and keyboardist Don Preston, making the Mothers of Invention a septet, but by November 1966, when the Mothers of Invention went back into the studio to record their second album, Absolutely Free, Bruce had been replaced by Billy Mundi; Ingber had been replaced by Jim Fielder; and Zappa had hired two horn players, Bunk Gardner on wind instruments and Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood on saxophone, bringing the band up to a nine-piece unit. The album was recorded in four days and released in June 1967. It entered the charts in July and reached the Top 50.
The Mothers of Invention moved to New York City in November 1966 for a booking at a Greenwich Village club called the Balloon Farm that began on Thanksgiving Day and ran through New Year's Day, 1967. After a two-week stint in Montreal, they returned to California, where Fielder left the group in February. In March, Zappa began recording his first solo album, Lumpy Gravy, having signed to Capitol Records under the impression that he was not signed as an individual to Verve, a position Verve would dispute. Later that month, the Mothers of Invention returned to New York City for another extended engagement at the Garrick Theater in Greenwich Village that ran during Easter week and was sufficiently successful that Herb Cohen booked the theater for the summer. That run began on May 24, 1967, and ran off and on through September 5. During this period, Ian Underwood joined the band, playing saxophone and piano. In August, the group began recording its third album, We're Only in It for the Money.
In September 1967, the Mothers of Invention toured Europe for the first time, playing in the U.K., Sweden, and Denmark. On October 1, Verve failed to exercise its option to extend the band's contract, although they still owed the label three more LPs. They finished recording We're Only in It for the Money in October, but its release was held up because of legal concerns about its proposed cover photograph, an elaborate parody of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was finally resolved by putting the picture on the inside of the fold-out LP sleeve. We're Only in It for the Money was released on March 4, 1968, and it reached the Top 30. Another legal dispute was resolved when Verve purchased the tapes of Lumpy Gravy from Capitol. Zappa then finished recording this orchestral work, and Verve released it under his name (and that of "the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra and Chorus") on May 13, 1968; it spent five weeks in the charts.
Although the Mothers of Invention still owed one more LP to Verve, Zappa already was thinking ahead. In the fall of 1967, he began recording Uncle Meat, the soundtrack for a proposed film, with work continuing through February 1968. During this period, Billy Mundi left the band and was replaced on drums by Arthur Dyer Tripp III. In March, Zappa and Herb Cohen announced that they were setting up their own record label, Bizarre Records, to be distributed by the Reprise Records subsidiary of Warner Bros. Records. The label was intended to record not only the Mothers of Invention, but also acts Zappa discovered. Early in the summer, Ray Collins quit the Mothers of Invention, who continued to tour. Their performance at the Royal Festival Hall in London on October 25, 1968, was released in 1991 as the album Ahead of Their Time. That month, Bizarre was formally launched with the release of the single "The Circle," by Los Angeles street singer Wild Man Fischer. In November, guitarist Lowell George joined the Mothers of Invention. In December, Verve released the band's final album on its contract, Cruisin' with Ruben & the Jets, on which Zappa for once played it straight, leading the group through a set of apparently sincere doo wop and R&B material. The LP spent 12 weeks in the charts. (Zappa was then free of Verve, although his disputes with the company were not over. Verve put out a compilation, Mothermania: The Best of the Mothers, in March 1969, and it spent nine weeks in the charts.)
The ambitious double-LP Uncle Meat, the fifth Mothers of Invention album, was released by Bizarre on April 21, 1969. It reached the Top 50. (The movie it was supposed to accompany did not appear until a home video release in 1989.) In May, Bizarre released Pretties for You, the debut album by Alice Cooper, the only act discovered by the label that would go on to substantial success (after switching to Warner Bros. Records proper, that is).The same month, Lowell George left the band; later, he and Roy Estrada would form Little Feat. Zappa began working on a second solo album, Hot Rats, in July 1969. On August 19, the Mothers of Invention gave their final performance in their original form, playing on Canadian TV at the end of a tour. One week later, Zappa announced that he was breaking up the band, although, as it turned out, this did not mean that he would not use the name "the Mothers of Invention" for groups he led in the future. Hot Rats, the second album to be credited to Frank Zappa, was released on October 10, 1969. It spent only six weeks in the charts at the time, but it would become one of Zappa's best-loved collections, with the instrumental "Peaches en Regalia" a particular favorite. Although the Mothers of Invention no longer existed as a performing unit, Zappa possessed extensive tapes of them, live and in the studio, and using that material, he assembled a new album, Burnt Weeny Sandwich, released in February 1970; it made the Top 100.
At the invitation of Zubin Mehta, conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Zappa assembled a new group of rock musicians dubbed the Mothers for the performance, with the orchestra, of a work called 200 Motels at UCLA on May 15, 1970. Adding singers Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, formerly of the Turtles, Zappa launched a tour with this version of the Mothers in June 1970. (Also included were a returning Ian Underwood, keyboardist George Duke, drummer Aynsley Dunbar, and guitarist Jeff Simmons.) In August, Bizarre released another archival Mothers of Invention album, Weasels Ripped My Flesh, which charted. Chunga's Revenge, released in October, was billed as a Zappa solo album, even though it featured the current lineup of the Mothers; it spent 14 weeks in the charts. After touring the U.S. that fall, the group went to Europe on December 1. From January 28 to February 5, 1971, they were in Pinewood Studios in the U.K. making a movie version of 200 Motels with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and co-stars Theodore Bikel, Ringo Starr, and Keith Moon of the Who. Zappa had planned a concert with the Royal Philharmonic at the Royal Albert Hall on February 8 as a money-saving tactic, since according to union rules, he could then pay them for the filming/recording session as if it were rehearsals for the concert. But this strategy backfired when the Royal Albert Hall canceled the concert, alleging that Zappa's lyrics were too vulgar. He added to his expenses by suing the Royal Albert Hall, eventually losing in court.
On June 5 and 6, 1971, the Mothers appeared during the closing week of the Fillmore East theater in New York City, recording their shows for a live album, Fillmore East, June 1971, quickly released on August 2. It became Zappa's first album to reach the Top 40 since We're Only in It for the Money three years earlier. John Lennon and Yoko Ono had appeared as guests during the June 6 show, and they used their performance on their 1972 album Some Time in New York City. The Mothers gave a concert at the Pauley Pavilion at UCLA on August 7, 1971, and the show was recorded for the album Just Another Band from L.A., released in May 1972, which made the Top 100. They continued to tour into the fall. 200 Motels premiered in movie theaters on October 29, 1971, with a double-LP soundtrack album released by United Artists that made the Top 100. Meanwhile, the Mothers' European tour was eventful, to say the least. On December 4, 1971, the group appeared at the Montreux Casino in Geneva, Switzerland, but their show stopped when a fan fired off a flare gun that set the venue on fire. The incident was the inspiration for Deep Purple's song "Smoke on the Water." Six days later, as the Mothers were performing at the Rainbow Theatre in London on December 10, a deranged fan jumped on-stage and pushed Zappa into the orchestra pit. He suffered a broken ankle, among other injuries, and was forced to recuperate for months. This was the end both of the tour and of this edition of the Mothers.
While convalescing at home in Los Angeles, Zappa organized a new big band to play jazz-fusion music; he dubbed it the Grand Wazoo Orchestra and recorded two albums with it. Waka/Jawaka, billed as a Zappa solo album, came out in July 1972 and spent seven weeks in the charts. The Grand Wazoo, credited to the Mothers, appeared in December and missed the charts. By September 10, Zappa felt well enough to play two weeks of dates with the group, now billed as the Mothers, starting at the Hollywood Bowl. He then cut the personnel down to ten pieces (the "Petit Wazoo" band) and toured from late October to mid-December.
The start of 1973 marked a new and surprisingly popular phase in Zappa's career. He assembled a new lineup of Mothers, made a batch of new recordings on which he himself sang lead vocals (his voice having dropped half an octave as a result of injuring his neck when he was thrown from the stage), and hit the road for the most extensive touring of his career. Inaugurating the new band in Fayetteville, NC, on February 23, he spent 183 days of 1973 on the road, including tours of the U.S., Europe, and Australia. Meanwhile, the Bizarre Records deal with Reprise/Warner had run out, and he launched a new label, also distributed by Warner, DiscReet Records, its first release being Over-Nite Sensation in September 1973. The album reached the Top 40, stayed in the charts nearly a year, and went gold. It was followed in April 1974 by a Zappa solo album, Apostrophe (). Much to Zappa's surprise, radio stations began playing a track called "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow." A single edit of the song actually spent several weeks in the lower reaches of the Hot 100, and Apostrophe () peaked at number ten for the week ending June 29, 1974, the highest chart position ever achieved by a Zappa album. The LP also went gold.
Zappa continued to tour extensively in 1974. His next album, the double-LP live collection Roxy & Elsewhere, credited to "Zappa/Mothers," appeared in September 1974 and made the Top 30. Adding his old friend Captain Beefheart to the band, he played shows at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, TX, on May 20 and 21, 1975, that he recorded for the album Bongo Fury, credited to Frank Zappa/Captain Beefheart/The Mothers, released in October; it made the Top 100. Prior to that had come One Size Fits All, credited to Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention, released in June; it made the Top 30. On September 17 and 18, 1975, two concerts of Zappa's orchestral music were performed by a group dubbed the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra (in memory of Lumpy Gravy) and conducted by Michael Zearott at Royce Hall, UCLA. The shows were recorded, but the material was not released until May 1979 as Orchestral Favorites, which spent several weeks in the charts. Starting on September 27, 1975, Zappa launched another extended period of touring, staying in the U.S. through a New Years concert at the Forum in Los Angeles, then playing in Australia, Japan, and Europe, finishing on March 17, 1976. This ended another phase in his career. He split with his longtime manager Herb Cohen and disbanded his group, which, because of legal disputes with Cohen, would turn out to have been the last one called the Mothers or the Mothers of Invention. Hereafter, he would perform and record simply as Frank Zappa. There were also other legal issues. In October 1976, he reached an out-of-court settlement in a suit he had waged against MGM/Verve that resulted in his winning the rights to the masters of his early albums.
Zappa surprised fans when his name turned up as the producer of a new album by Grand Funk Railroad, Good Singin', Good Playin', in August 1976. In September, he launched his first world tour under his own name, playing in the U.S., the Far East, and Europe through February 1977. Zoot Allures, the last album to be credited to the Mothers, was released on Warner Bros. Records on October 29, 1976, the DiscReet label apparently being claimed by Cohen; it reached the Top 100. Zappa was also seeking to end his deal with Warner. In March 1977, he delivered four albums to the label simultaneously (the initial titles were Studio Tan, Hot Rats III [Waka/Jawaka having counted as Hot Rats II], Zappa's Orchestral Favorites, and the double album Live in New York, recorded in December 1976); he demanded the four $60,000 advances the albums called for, and sued Warner for breach of contract when it did not pay. In the summer of 1977, he announced that he had concluded his contract with Warner. He declared that the four albums really constituted a single work called Leather (later spelled Läther), which he sold to Mercury/Phonogram Records. Warner then sued to block its release.
On September 8, 1977, Zappa launched another North American tour, staying on the road until New Year's Eve. His shows from October 28-31 at the Palladium in New York City were filmed and recorded, the material later emerging in the movie Baby Snakes. The European leg of the tour opened in London on January 24, 1978. The resolutions of Zappa's legal disputes led to an unusually large number of releases over the next year. Zappa in New York (originally called Live in New York) was released on DiscReet in March 1978 and made the Top 100. Studio Tan appeared in September 1978 and charted. Sleep Dirt (originally called Hot Rats III) was released in January 1979 and charted. Orchestral Favorites completed the releases of the material Zappa had delivered to Warner in March 1977. With these matters settled, Zappa launched Zappa Records, with distribution through Mercury/Phonogram in the U.S. and CBS Records in the rest of the world, releasing the double-LP Sheik Yerbouti on March 3, 1979. The album managed to distinguish itself from all the other Zappa albums in the record bins and peaked at number 21, Zappa's best showing in five years, promoted by the single "Dancin' Fool," which made the Top 50. That track was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance (Male), and "Rat Tomago," another track on the album, got a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
Zappa toured Europe and Japan in the spring of 1979, then returned to the U.S., where he completed work on his home studio, called the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen, on September 1. The home studio and his continuing practice of recording his shows, along with greater control over his record releases, seemed to free Zappa to issue more records. Joe's Garage Act I was released in September 1979 and made the Top 30; it was followed in November by the double-LP Joe's Garage Acts II & III, which made the Top 100. Baby Snakes, the film of the 1977 Halloween shows in New York, opened on December 21, 1979. A soundtrack album did not appear until 1983. Zappa spent much of 1980 on the road, beginning a tour of North America and Europe on March 25, with dates continuing through July 3, and then touring again from October 10 through Christmas.
Amazingly, Zappa did not release an album during 1980. (A single, "I Don't Wanna Get Drafter," just missed making the Hot 100 in May.) But he made up for that in 1981. In May, yet another new label, Barking Pumpkin Records, was launched with the release of a double-LP, Tinseltown Rebellion, which made the Top 100. By now, Zappa had perfected a method of melding studio and live performances on his records, such that the finished versions were a combination of the two. Also in May 1981, he simultaneously released three instrumental albums via mail order: Shut Up N Play Yer Guitar, Shut Up N Play Yer Guitar Some More, and Return of the Son of Shut Up N Play Yer Guitar. In September came another double album, You Are What You Is, that made the Top 100.
Zappa's spring/summer tour of Europe in 1982 was plagued with problems including canceled dates and even a riot at one show; after finishing the stint on July 14, he did not tour again for two years. Meanwhile, on May 3, 1982, he released a new album, Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch, and it featured another of his surprise hit singles, as radio picked up on "Valley Girl," a track featuring a vocal by his daughter Moon Unit Zappa, imitating the character and employing the slang of a typical Southern California valley girl. The song peaked at number 32 on September 11, 1982, making it the most successful single of Zappa's career. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The album made the Top 30. After coming off the road, Zappa concentrated on recording and on his orchestral music. On January 11, 1983, conductor Kent Nagano led the London Symphony Orchestra in a concert of Zappa's works at the Barbican Arts Centre in London, preparatory to three days of recordings that resulted, initially, in the album London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 1, released in June 1983. (A second volume followed in September 1987.) Prior to that, Zappa had released a new rock album, The Man from Utopia, on March 28, 1983, which charted for several weeks.
As he had the year before, Zappa saw some of his orchestral music recorded in January 1984, this time by the Ensemble InterContemporain of conductor Pierre Boulez. With other material, these recordings would be released by Angel Records on August 23, 1984, as Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger. The other material was Zappa's own recording on an advanced synthesizer instrument he had purchased called the Synclavier, capable of replicating orchestral arrangements. The Synclavier freed Zappa from the technical limitations (and, in some cases, the objections) of live musicians, especially classical musicians, and he turned to it increasingly from this point on. Having discovered manuscripts of music composed in the 18th century by an ancestor of his, Francesco Zappa, he recorded an album of it on the Synclavier in March 1984, releasing the results on an LP called Francesco Zappa on November 21, 1984.
On July 18, 1984, two years after the end of his last tour, Zappa went back on the road for an extensive, worldwide trek that ran through December 23. On October 18, he released a two-LP set, Them or Us. A month later came the triple-LP box set, Thing-Fish, on the same day as the Francesco Zappa album. By this time, Zappa's records were no longer reaching the charts, as he focused on his existing fan base, heavily marketing to them through mail order. Having re-acquired the masters to his Verve/MGM albums, he had found the tapes in dire condition and had re-recorded the bass and drum parts for the albums We're Only in It for the Money and Cruisin' with Ruben and the Jets, which were part of a box set he offered to his mailing list, The Old Masters Box 1, in April 1985. (The Old Masters Box 2 followed in 1986, and the series was completed with The Old Masters Box 3 in 1987.)
During the year 1985, a group of wives of prominent politicians in Washington, D.C., formed the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) and lobbed Congress for restrictions on what they saw as obscenity in popular music. Zappa, long an opponent of censorship, became a leader of the opposition to the PMRC, and on September 19, 1985, he testified before the Senate Commerce Technology and Transportation Committee to voice his opinions. Of course, his testimony was a matter of public record, and he quickly used the recordings in an album he assembled called Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention, released in November 1985. In January 1986, it became his 33rd and last album to reach the Billboard chart.
In January 1986, a Zappa live album drawn from the 1984 tour, Does Humor Belong in Music?, was released in Europe, but quickly withdrawn. It was an accompaniment to a home video of the same name that was taken from a single date on the tour. The album was later reissued with a new mix. Meanwhile, Zappa signed a contract with the independent CD label Rykodisc to reissue his albums on CD. The reissue program was launched in the fall of the year. At the same time, Zappa released a new instrumental album largely consisting of material recorded on the Synclavier, Jazz from Hell. The album won him his first Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance (Orchestra, Group or Soloist), and the track "Jazz from Hell" itself earned a nomination for Best Instrumental Composition.
On February 2, 1988, Zappa launched what would prove to be his final tour, playing 81 dates in North America and Europe through June 9. Meanwhile, he continued to issue new recordings. In April came a double album of guitar solos in the manner of the Shut Up N Play Yer Guitar series, simply called Guitar, and the first in a series of double-CD archival live recordings, You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 1. In typically unusual Zappa style, the series found him editing together live performances by different configurations of the Mothers and his backup bands at different times. By 1992, the series extended to six volumes. The second volume, which actually replicated a single concert performed in Helsinki in 1974, appeared in October 1988 at the same time as an album of recordings from the 1988 tour, Broadway the Hard Way. Launching a home video line, Honker, in 1989, Zappa finally issued Uncle Meat on VHS tape, along with the documentary The True Story of 200 Motels and Video from Hell. (The following year, Honker issued The Amazing Mr. Bickford, a documentary about the animator responsible for the clay animation work seen in Baby Snakes.) In May 1989, Zappa published his autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book, co-authored with Peter Occhiogrosso. And in another surprising non-musical career development in 1989, Zappa began traveling to Russia as a business liaison. These efforts were extended in January 1990, when he went to Czechoslovakia, where he met the recently installed president, playwright and Zappa fan Václav Havel, and agreed to become a trade representative for the country. Understandably, this ran afoul of the Administration of American President George Bush, however, and Zappa's role became unofficial.
It's hard to say what might have come of Zappa's trade efforts with the former Soviet Union and the former Iron Curtain countries, where he was something of a cultural hero. In May 1990, he suddenly canceled scheduled appearances in Europe and returned to the U.S. due to illness. He managed to go to Czechoslovakia and Hungary in June 1991, however. In the meantime, he continued to issue volumes of the You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore series and albums drawn from the 1988 tour, The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life in April 1991, and Make a Jazz Noise Here in June 1991. In July 1991, in yet another unusual marketing move, he assembled a collection of eight bootleg albums that had appeared over the years and offered his own version of them (mastered directly from the bootleg LPs themselves) as a box set called Beat the Boots; the albums were also released individually, and a second Beat the Boots box was released in June 1992.
Zappa was scheduled to appear in New York for a performance by a group of alumni from his bands called "Zappa's Universe" on November 7, 1991. When he was unable to attend due to illness, his children explained publicly for the first time that he was suffering from prostate cancer. He managed to fly to Germany on July 13, 1992, to work with the Ensemble Modern on a piece it had commissioned from him, The Yellow Shark, and he was present for concerts it performed in September. In October, Zappa released Playground Psychotics, an archival album of previously unreleased material from the 1970-1971 edition of the Mothers. The Yellow Shark was released in November 1993. Zappa died at age 52 on December 4, 1993.
After Zappa's death, his widow sold his existing catalog outright to Rykodisc. But, like such well-established rock artists as the Grateful Dead, he had produced a tremendous archive of studio and live recordings that Gail Zappa was able to assemble into posthumous albums for his legions of fans. The first of these was the ambitious Civilization Phaze III, which Zappa was working on in the period up to his death, released in December 1994, and other albums, either containing concerts or other material, have also appeared, along with expanded versions of previously released albums such as Freak Out! Decades after Zappa's death, this stream of releases showed no evidence of stopping, as long as Zappa fans were interested in buying.
Wikipedia:"Zappa" redirects here. For other uses, see Zappa (disambiguation).
Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American musician, bandleader, songwriter, composer, recording engineer, record producer, and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa composed rock, jazz, orchestral and musique concrète works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. Zappa produced almost all of the more than 60 albums he released with the band the Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist. While in his teens, he acquired a taste for 20th-century classical composers such as Edgard Varèse, Igor Stravinsky, and Anton Webern, along with 1950s rhythm and blues music. He began writing classical music in high school, while at the same time playing drums in rhythm and blues bands; he later switched to electric guitar.
Zappa was a self-taught composer and performer, and his diverse musical influences led him to create music that was often difficult to categorize. His 1966 debut album with the Mothers of Invention, Freak Out!, combined songs in conventional rock and roll format with collective improvisations and studio-generated sound collages. His later albums shared this eclectic and experimental approach, irrespective of whether the fundamental format was rock, jazz or classical. His lyrics—often humorously—reflected his iconoclastic view of established social and political processes, structures and movements. He was a strident critic of mainstream education and organized religion, and a forthright and passionate advocate for freedom of speech, self-education, political participation and the abolition of censorship.
He was a highly productive and prolific artist and gained widespread critical acclaim. He had some commercial success, particularly in Europe, and worked as an independent artist for most of his career. He also remains a major influence on musicians and composers. Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. Zappa was married to Kathryn J. "Kay" Sherman from 1960 to 1964. In 1967, he married Adelaide Gail Sloatman, with whom he remained until his death from prostate cancer in 1993. They had four children: Moon, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at No. 71 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", and in 2011 at No. 22 on its list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".Until discovering his birth certificate as an adult, Zappa believed he had been christened "Francis", and he is credited as Francis on some of his early albums. His legal name was always "Frank", however, never "Francis". Cf. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 15.
Zappa was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His mother, Rose Marie (née Colimore), was of Italian and French ancestry; his father, Francis Vincent Zappa, was an immigrant from Partinico, Sicily, with Greek and Arab ancestry. Zappa, the eldest of four children, was raised in an Italian-American household where Italian was spoken often by his grandparents. The family moved often because his father, a chemist and mathematician, worked in the defense industry. After a time in Florida in the 1940s, the family returned to Maryland, where Zappa's father worked at the Edgewood Arsenal chemical warfare facility of the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Due to their home's proximity to the arsenal, which stored mustard gas, gas masks were kept in the home in case of an accident. This had a profound effect on Zappa, and references to germs, germ warfare and the defense industry occur throughout his work.
Zappa was often sick as a child, suffering from asthma, earaches and sinus problems. A doctor treated his sinusitis by inserting a pellet of radium into each of Zappa's nostrils. At the time, little was known about the potential dangers of even small amounts of therapeutic radiation, and although it has since been claimed that nasal radium treatment has causal connections to cancer, no studies have provided significant enough evidence to confirm this. Nasal imagery and references appear in his music and lyrics, as well as in the collage album covers created by his long-time collaborator Cal Schenkel. Zappa believed his childhood diseases may have been due to exposure to mustard gas, released by the nearby chemical warfare facility. His health worsened when he lived in Baltimore. In 1952, his family relocated for reasons of health. They next moved to Monterey, California, where his father taught metallurgy at the Naval Postgraduate School. They soon moved to Claremont, California, then to El Cajon, before finally settling in San Diego.
Zappa recalled his parents being "pretty religious" and trying to make him go to Catholic school despite his resentment. Zappa showed disgust towards religion (Christianity in particular) because he believed that it promotes ignorance and anti-intellectualism.
"Since I didn't have any kind of formal training, it didn't make any difference to me if I was listening to Lightnin' Slim, or a vocal group called the Jewels ... , or Webern, or Varèse, or Stravinsky. To me it was all good music."—Frank Zappa, 1989
Zappa joined his first band at Mission Bay High School in San Diego. He was the band's drummer. About the same time his parents bought a phonograph, which allowed him to develop his interest in music, and to begin building his record collection. R&B singles were early purchases, starting a large collection he kept for the rest of his life. He was interested in sounds for their own sake, particularly the sounds of drums and other percussion instruments. By age 12, he had obtained a snare drum and began learning the basics of orchestral percussion. Zappa's deep interest in modern classical music began when he read a LOOK magazine article about the Sam Goody record store chain that lauded its ability to sell an LP as obscure as The Complete Works of Edgard Varèse, Volume One. The article described Varèse's percussion composition Ionisation, produced by EMS Recordings, as "a weird jumble of drums and other unpleasant sounds". Zappa decided to seek out Varèse's music. After searching for over a year, Zappa found a copy (he noticed the LP because of the "mad scientist" looking photo of Varèse on the cover). Not having enough money with him, he persuaded the salesman to sell him the record at a discount. Thus began his lifelong passion for Varèse's music and that of other modern classical composers.
Zappa grew up influenced by avant-garde composers such as Varèse, Igor Stravinsky, and Anton Webern, R&B and doo-wop groups (particularly local pachuco groups), and modern jazz. His own heterogeneous ethnic background, and the diverse social and cultural mix in and around greater Los Angeles, California, were crucial in the formation of Zappa as a practitioner of underground music and of his later distrustful and openly critical attitude towards "mainstream" social, political and musical movements. He frequently lampooned musical fads like psychedelia, rock opera and disco. Television also exerted a strong influence, as demonstrated by quotations from show themes and advertising jingles found in his later works.Zappa, Frank; Occhiogrosso, Peter (1989). Real Frank Zappa Book. Simon and Schuster. p. 15. ISBN 9780671705725. My ancestry is Sicilian, Greek, Arab and French. My mother's mother was French and Sicilian, and her Dad was Italian (from Naples). She was first generation. The Greek-Arab side is from my Dad. He was born in a Sicilian village called Partinico... The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, 1993. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book. pg. 6 Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 20–23. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 8–9. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 10. "Nasopharyngeal Radium Irradiation (NRI) and Cancer". National Cancer Institute. January 2003. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 22. Slaven, Neil (2003). Electric Don Quixote: The Definitive Story of Frank Zappa (2nd ed.). Music Sales Group. p. 46. ISBN 0-7119-9436-6. , Extract Mendoza, Bart (November 2005). "Counter Culture Coincidence" (PDF). San Diego Troubadour. p. 4. Retrieved September 11, 2010. "Interview in Playboy". Playboy. May 2, 1993. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 34. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 29. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 22. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 36. Cite error: The named reference idol was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 30–33. Watson, 1996, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play, p. 13. Among his many musical satires are the 1967 songs "Flower Punk" (which parodies the song "Hey Joe") and "Who Needs The Peace Corps?", which are critiques of the late-Sixties commercialization of the hippie phenomenon. Cite error: The named reference quotes was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
1955–60: Youth and early career
By 1956, the Zappa family had moved to Lancaster, a small aerospace and farming town in the Antelope Valley of the Mojave Desert close to Edwards Air Force Base, in northern Los Angeles County. Zappa's mother encouraged him in his musical interests. Although she disliked Varèse's music, she was indulgent enough to give her son a long distance call to the composer as a 15th birthday present. Unfortunately, Varèse was in Europe at the time, so Zappa spoke to the composer's wife. He later received a letter from Varèse thanking him for his interest, and telling him about a composition he was working on called "Déserts". Living in the desert town of Lancaster, Zappa found this very exciting. Varèse invited him to visit if he ever came to New York. The meeting never took place (Varèse died in 1965), but Zappa framed the letter and kept it on display for the rest of his life.
At Antelope Valley High School, Zappa met Don Vliet (who later expanded his name to Don Van Vliet and adopted the stage name Captain Beefheart). Zappa and Vliet became close friends, sharing an interest in R&B records and influencing each other musically throughout their careers. Around the same time, Zappa started playing drums in a local band, the Blackouts. The band was racially diverse, and included Euclid James "Motorhead" Sherwood who later became a member of the Mothers of Invention. Zappa's interest in the guitar grew, and in 1957 he was given his first instrument. Among his early influences were Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Howlin' Wolf and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. (In the 1970s and '80s, he invited Watson to perform on several albums.) Zappa considered soloing as the equivalent of forming "air sculptures", and developed an eclectic, innovative and highly personal style.
Zappa's interest in composing and arranging proliferated in his last high-school years. By his final year, he was writing, arranging and conducting avant-garde performance pieces for the school orchestra. He graduated from Antelope Valley High School in 1958, and later acknowledged two of his music teachers on the sleeve of the 1966 album Freak Out! Due to his family's frequent moves, Zappa attended at least six different high schools, and as a student he was often bored and given to distracting the rest of the class with juvenile antics. In 1959, he attended Chaffey College but left after one semester, and maintained thereafter a disdain for formal education, taking his children out of school at age 15 and refusing to pay for their college.
Zappa left home in 1959, and moved into a small apartment in Echo Park, Los Angeles. After meeting Kathryn J. "Kay" Sherman during his short period of private composition study with Prof. Karl Kohn of Pomona College, they moved in together in Ontario, and were married December 28, 1960. Zappa worked for a short period in advertising. His sojourn in the commercial world was brief, but gave him valuable insights into its workings. Throughout his career, he took a keen interest in the visual presentation of his work, designing some of his album covers and directing his own films and videos.Cite error: The named reference Varese was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Zappa, Frank (June 1971). "Edgard Varese: The Idol of My Youth". Stereo Review: 61–62. On several of his earlier albums, Zappa paid tribute to Varèse by quoting his: "The present-day composer refuses to die." Slaven, 2003, Electric Don Quixote, pp. 29–30. Cite error: The named reference watson13 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Mike Douglas (November 1976), The Mike Douglas Show, NBC [TV Show] Cite error: The named reference DZlinernotes was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 40. Walley, 1980, No Commercial Potential, p. 23. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 48. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 345. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 58. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 40.
Early 1960s: Studio Z
Zappa attempted to earn a living as a musician and composer, and played different nightclub gigs, some with a new version of the Blackouts. Financially more rewarding were Zappa's earliest professional recordings, two soundtracks for the low-budget films The World's Greatest Sinner (1962) and Run Home Slow (1965). The former score was commissioned by actor-producer Timothy Carey and recorded in 1961. It contains many themes that appeared on later Zappa records. The latter soundtrack was recorded in 1963 after the film was completed, but it was commissioned by one of Zappa's former high school teachers in 1959 and Zappa may have worked on it before the film was shot. Excerpts from the soundtrack can be heard on the posthumous album The Lost Episodes (1996).
During the early 1960s, Zappa wrote and produced songs for other local artists, often working with singer-songwriter Ray Collins and producer Paul Buff. Their "Memories of El Monte" was recorded by the Penguins, although only Cleve Duncan of the original group was featured. Buff owned the small Pal Recording Studio in Cucamonga, which included a unique five-track tape recorder he had built. At that time, only a handful of the most sophisticated commercial studios had multi-track facilities; the industry standard for smaller studios was still mono or two-track. Although none of the recordings from the period achieved major commercial success, Zappa earned enough money to allow him to stage a concert of his orchestral music in 1963 and to broadcast and record it. He appeared on Steve Allen's syndicated late night show the same year, in which he played a bicycle as a musical instrument. Using a bow borrowed from the band's bass player, as well as drum sticks, he proceeded to pluck, bang, and bow the spokes of the bike, producing strange, comical sounds from his new found instrument. With Captain Beefheart, Zappa recorded some songs under the name of the Soots. They were rejected by Dot Records for having "no commercial potential", a verdict Zappa subsequently quoted on the sleeve of Freak Out!
In 1964, after his marriage started to break up, he moved into the Pal studio and began routinely working 12 hours or more per day recording and experimenting with overdubbing and audio tape manipulation. This established a work pattern that endured for most of his life. Aided by his income from film composing, Zappa took over the studio from Paul Buff, who was now working with Art Laboe at Original Sound. It was renamed Studio Z. Studio Z was rarely booked for recordings by other musicians. Instead, friends moved in, notably James "Motorhead" Sherwood. Zappa started performing as guitarist with a power trio, the Muthers, in local bars in order to support himself.
An article in the local press describing Zappa as "the Movie King of Cucamonga" prompted the local police to suspect that he was making pornographic films. In March 1965, Zappa was approached by a vice squad undercover officer, and accepted an offer of $100 to produce a suggestive audio tape for an alleged stag party. Zappa and a female friend recorded a faked erotic episode. When Zappa was about to hand over the tape, he was arrested, and the police stripped the studio of all recorded material. The press was tipped off beforehand, and next day's The Daily Report wrote that "Vice Squad investigators stilled the tape recorders of a free-swinging, a-go-go film and recording studio here Friday and arrested a self-styled movie producer". Zappa was charged with "conspiracy to commit pornography". This felony charge was reduced and he was sentenced to six months in jail on a misdemeanor, with all but ten days suspended. His brief imprisonment left a permanent mark, and was central to the formation of his anti-authoritarian stance. Zappa lost several recordings made at Studio Z in the process, as the police only returned 30 out of 80 hours of tape seized. Eventually, he could no longer afford to pay the rent on the studio and was evicted. Zappa managed to recover some of his possessions before the studio was torn down in 1966.Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 59. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 63. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 55. Gray, 1984, Mother!, p. 29. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 42. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 74. Slaven, 1996, Electric Don Quixote, pp. 35–36. Watson, 1996, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play, p. 27. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 43. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 80–81. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa. pp. 82–83. Watson, 1996, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play, p. 26. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 85. Harp, Ted (March 1965), "Vice Squad Raids Local Film Studio", The Daily Report (Ontario, California) Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 57. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 86–87. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. XV. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 87. Slaven, 1996, Electric Don Quixote, p. 40. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 90–91.
ContentsLate 1960s: The Mothers of Invention1.1 1966: Debut album: Freak Out!1.2 1966–68: New York period1.3 1969: Disbanding the original Mothers of Invention
Late 1960s: The Mothers of Invention
In 1965, Zappa was approached by Ray Collins who asked him to take over as the guitarist in local R&B band the Soul Giants, following a fight between Collins and the group's original guitarist. Zappa accepted, and soon he assumed leadership and the role as co-lead singer (even though he never considered himself a singer). He convinced the other members that they should play his music to increase the chances of getting a record contract. The band was renamed the Mothers, coincidentally on Mother's Day. They increased their bookings after beginning an association with manager Herb Cohen, while they gradually gained attention on the burgeoning Los Angeles underground music scene. In early 1966, they were spotted by leading record producer Tom Wilson when playing "Trouble Every Day", a song about the Watts Riots. Wilson had earned acclaim as the producer for Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel, and was notable as one of the few African-Americans working as a major label pop music producer at this time. Wilson signed the Mothers to the Verve division of MGM, which had built up a strong reputation for its releases of modern jazz recordings in the 1940s and 1950s, but was attempting to diversify into pop and rock audiences. Verve insisted that the band officially rename themselves the Mothers of Invention as Mother was short for motherfucker—a term that, apart from its profane meanings, can denote a skilled musician.
1966: Debut album: Freak Out!
With Wilson credited as producer, the Mothers of Invention, augmented by a studio orchestra, recorded the groundbreaking Freak Out! (1966) which, after Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, was the second rock double album ever released. It mixed R&B, doo-wop, musique concrète, and experimental sound collages that captured the "freak" subculture of Los Angeles at that time. Although he was dissatisfied with the final product, Freak Out immediately established Zappa as a radical new voice in rock music, providing an antidote to the "relentless consumer culture of America". The sound was raw, but the arrangements were sophisticated. While recording in the studio, some of the additional session musicians were shocked that they were expected to read the notes on sheet music from charts with Zappa conducting them, since it was not standard when recording rock music. The lyrics praised non-conformity, disparaged authorities, and had dadaist elements. Yet, there was a place for seemingly conventional love songs. Most compositions are Zappa's, which set a precedent for the rest of his recording career. He had full control over the arrangements and musical decisions and did most overdubs. Wilson provided the industry clout and connections and was able to provide the group with the financial resources needed. Although Wilson was able to provide Zappa and the Mothers with an extraordinary degree of artistic freedom for the time, the recording did not go entirely as planned. In a surviving 1967 radio interview, Zappa explained that the album's outlandish 11-minute closing track, "Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" was in fact an unfinished piece. The track (as it appears on the album) was created to act as the backing track for a much more complex work, but MGM refused to approve the additional recording time Zappa needed to complete it, so (much to his chagrin) it was issued in this unfinished form.
During the recording of Freak Out!, Zappa moved into a house in Laurel Canyon with friend Pamela Zarubica, who appeared on the album. The house became a meeting (and living) place for many LA musicians and groupies of the time, despite Zappa's disapproval of their illicit drug use. After a short promotional tour following the release of Freak Out!, Zappa met Adelaide Gail Sloatman. He fell in love within "a couple of minutes", and she moved into the house over the summer. They married in 1967, had four children and remained together until Zappa's death.
Wilson nominally produced the Mothers' second album Absolutely Free (1967), which was recorded in November 1966, and later mixed in New York, although by this time Zappa was in de facto control of most facets of the production. It featured extended playing by the Mothers of Invention and focused on songs that defined Zappa's compositional style of introducing abrupt, rhythmical changes into songs that were built from diverse elements. Examples are "Plastic People" and "Brown Shoes Don't Make It", which contained lyrics critical of the hypocrisy and conformity of American society, but also of the counterculture of the 1960s. As Zappa put it, "[W]e're satirists, and we are out to satirize everything." At the same time, Zappa had recorded material for an album of orchestral works to be released under his own name, Lumpy Gravy, released by Capitol Records in 1967. Due to contractual problems, the album was pulled. Zappa took the opportunity to radically restructure the contents, adding newly recorded, improvised dialogue. After the contractual problems were resolved, the album was reissued by Verve in 1968. It is an "incredible ambitious musical project", a "monument to John Cage", which intertwines orchestral themes, spoken words and electronic noises through radical audio editing techniques.
1966–68: New York period
The Mothers of Invention played in New York in late 1966 and were offered a contract at the Garrick Theater during Easter 1967. This proved successful and Herb Cohen extended the booking, which eventually lasted half a year. As a result, Zappa and his wife, along with the Mothers of Invention, moved to New York. Their shows became a combination of improvised acts showcasing individual talents of the band as well as tight performances of Zappa's music. Everything was directed by Zappa's famous hand signals. Guest performers and audience participation became a regular part of the Garrick Theater shows. One evening, Zappa managed to entice some U.S. Marines from the audience onto the stage, where they proceeded to dismember a big baby doll, having been told by Zappa to pretend that it was a "gook baby".
Zappa uniquely contributed to the avant-garde, anti-establishment music scene of the 60's, sampling radio tape recordings and incorporating his own philosophical ideals to music and freedom of expression in his pieces. Bands such as AMM and Faust also contributed to the radio sampling techniques of the 60's, yet Zappa was unique in his mixtures of rock, classical, jazz, and avant-garde styles of composition. He is credited by musicologists as making a fundamental contribution to the studies of how sound determines music, and music sound.
Situated in New York, and only interrupted by the band's first European tour, the Mothers of Invention recorded the album widely regarded as the peak of the group's late 1960s work, We're Only in It for the Money (released 1968). It was produced by Zappa, with Wilson credited as executive producer. From then on, Zappa produced all albums released by the Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist. We're Only in It for the Money featured some of the most creative audio editing and production yet heard in pop music, and the songs ruthlessly satirized the hippie and flower power phenomena. He sampled plundered surf music in We're only in It for the Money, as well as the Beatles' tape work from their album Tomorrow Never Knows. The cover photo parodied that of the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The cover art was provided by Cal Schenkel whom Zappa met in New York. This initiated a lifelong collaboration in which Schenkel designed covers for numerous Zappa and Mothers albums.
Reflecting Zappa's eclectic approach to music, the next album, Cruising with Ruben & the Jets (1968), was very different. It represented a collection of doo-wop songs; listeners and critics were not sure whether the album was a satire or a tribute. Zappa later noted that the album was conceived in the way Stravinsky's compositions were in his neo-classical period: "If he could take the forms and clichés of the classical era and pervert them, why not do the same ... to doo-wop in the fifties?" A theme from Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring is heard during one song.
In New York, Zappa increasingly used tape editing as a compositional tool. A prime example is found on the double album Uncle Meat (1969), where the track "King Kong" is edited from various studio and live performances. Zappa had begun regularly recording concerts, and because of his insistence on precise tuning and timing, he was able to augment his studio productions with excerpts from live shows, and vice versa. Later, he combined recordings of different compositions into new pieces, irrespective of the tempo or meter of the sources. He dubbed this process "xenochrony" (strange synchronizations)—reflecting the Greek "xeno" (alien or strange) and "chrono" (time). Zappa also evolved a compositional approach which he called "conceptual continuity," meaning that any project or album was part of a larger project. Everything was connected, and musical themes and lyrics reappeared in different form on later albums. Conceptual continuity clues are found throughout Zappa's entire œuvre.
During the late 1960s, Zappa continued to develop the business sides of his career. He and Herb Cohen formed the Bizarre Records and Straight Records labels, distributed by Warner Bros. Records, as ventures to aid the funding of projects and to increase creative control. Zappa produced the double album Trout Mask Replica for Captain Beefheart, and releases by Alice Cooper, Wild Man Fischer, and the GTOs, as well as Lenny Bruce's last live performance.
In 1967 and 1968, Zappa made two appearances with the Monkees. The first appearance was on an episode of their TV series, "The Monkees Blow Their Minds", where he plays Mike Nesmith and Nesmith plays him. Zappa destroys a car as "Mother People" plays. He later did a cameo on the Monkees' movie Head where, leading a cow, he tells Davy Jones "the youth of America depends on you to show them the way." Zappa had respect for what the Monkees were doing, and offered Micky Dolenz a position in the Mothers. RCA/Columbia/Colgems would not allow Dolenz out of his contract.
1969: Disbanding the original Mothers of Invention
Zappa and the Mothers of Invention returned to Los Angeles in the summer of 1968, and the Zappas moved into a house on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, only to move again to one on Woodrow Wilson Drive in the autumn. This was to be Zappa's home for the rest of his life. Despite being a success with fans in Europe, the Mothers of Invention were not faring well financially. Their first records were vocally oriented, but Zappa wrote more instrumental jazz and classical oriented music for the band's concerts, which confused audiences. Zappa felt that audiences failed to appreciate his "electrical chamber music".
In 1969 there were nine band members and Zappa was supporting the group himself from his publishing royalties whether they played or not. 1969 was also the year Zappa, fed up with MGM Records' interference, left them for Warner Bros. Records' Reprise subsidiary where Zappa/Mothers recordings would bear the Bizarre Records imprint.
In late 1969, Zappa broke up the band. He often cited the financial strain as the main reason, but also commented on the band members' lack of sufficient effort. Many band members were bitter about Zappa's decision, and some took it as a sign of Zappa's concern for perfection at the expense of human feeling. Others were irritated by 'his autocratic ways', exemplified by Zappa's never staying at the same hotel as the band members. Several members would, however, play for Zappa in years to come. Remaining recordings with the band from this period were collected on Weasels Ripped My Flesh and Burnt Weeny Sandwich (both released in 1970).
After he disbanded the Mothers of Invention, Zappa released the acclaimed solo album Hot Rats (1969). It features, for the first time on record, Zappa playing extended guitar solos and contains one of his most enduring compositions, "Peaches en Regalia", which reappeared several times on future recordings. He was backed by jazz, blues and R&B session players including violinist Don "Sugarcane" Harris, drummers John Guerin and Paul Humphrey, multi-instrumentalist and previous member of the Mothers of Invention Ian Underwood, and multi-instrumentalist Shuggie Otis on bass, along with a guest appearance by Captain Beefheart (providing vocals to the only non-instrumental track, "Willie the Pimp"). It became a popular album in England, and had a major influence on the development of the jazz-rock fusion genre.Cite error: The named reference Rolling_Stone_Book was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Cite error: The named reference HighTimes1980 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 65–66. Slaven, 2003, Electric Don Quixote, p. 42. Walley, 1980, No Commercial Potential, p. 58. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 103. Nigel Leigh (March 1993), Interview with Frank Zappa (BBC Late Show), UMRK, Los Angeles, CA: BBC [TV Show] Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 25. Walley, 1980, No Commercial Potential, pp. 60–61. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 115. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 112. Watson, 2005, Frank Zappa. The Complete Guide to His Music, pp. 10–11. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 123. "How We Made It Sound That Way", interview on WDET Detroit, 13 November 1967 (excerpt included as part of the MOFO album, 2006) Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 122. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 5. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, pp. 38–43. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 135–138. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 140–141. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 56. Walley, 1980, No Commercial Potential, p. 86. Couture, François, "Lumpy Gravy. Review", AllMusic . Retrieved January 2, 2008; Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 56. The initial orchestra-only recordings were released posthumously on the box set Lumpy Money (2009). See Dolan, Casey (December 8, 2008), "The Resurrection of Frank Zappa's Soul", LA Weekly (Village Voice Media) . Retrieved February 2, 2009. James, 2000, Necessity Is ... , pp. 62–69. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 147. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 94. Huey, Steve, "We're Only in It for the Money. Review", AllMusic . Retrieved January 2, 2008. Watson, 2005, Frank Zappa. The Complete Guide to His Music, p. 15. Walley, 1980, No Commercial Potential, p. 90. Cox and Warner, 2004, Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, p. 148. As the legal aspects of using the Sgt Pepper concept were unsettled, the album was released with the cover and back on the inside of the gatefold, while the actual cover and back were a picture of the group in a pose parodying the inside of the Beatles album. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 151. Watson, 1996, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play, p. 88. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 58. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 88. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 160. James, 2000, Necessity Is ..., p. 104. In the process, he built up a vast archive of live recordings. In the late 1980s some of these recordings were collected for the 12-CD set You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore. Michie, Chris (January 2003), We are The Mothers...and This Is What We Sound Like!, MixOnline.com . Retrieved January 4, 2008. Bob Marshall, "Interview with Frank Zappa," October 22, 1988. For a comprehensive list of the appearance of parts of "old" compositions or quotes from others' music in Zappa's catalogue, see Albertos, Román García, FZ Musical Quotes, Information is Not Knowledge, globia.net/donlope . Retrieved January 21, 2008. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 173–175. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 158–159. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 74. Couture, François. "Peaches en Regalia [Song Review]". AllMusic. Retrieved April 11, 2010. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 178. Walley, 1980, No Commercial Potential, p. 116. Slaven, 2003, Electric Don Quixote, pp. 119–120. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 185–187. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 107. Slaven, 2003, Electric Don Quixote, p. 120. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 116. Huey, Steve, "Hot Rats. Review", AllMusic . Retrieved January 2, 2008. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 194. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 109.
Contents1970s: From Mothers to Zappa1.1 1970: Rebirth of the Mothers and filmmaking1.2 1971–72: Accident, attack and aftermath1.3 1973–75: Top 10 album1.4 1976–79: Business breakups and touring1.5 1979: Zappa as an independent artist
1970s: From Mothers to Zappa
In 1970 Zappa met conductor Zubin Mehta. They arranged a May 1970 concert where Mehta conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic augmented by a rock band. According to Zappa, the music was mostly written in motel rooms while on tour with the Mothers of Invention. Some of it was later featured in the movie 200 Motels. Although the concert was a success, Zappa's experience working with a symphony orchestra was not a happy one. His dissatisfaction became a recurring theme throughout his career; he often felt that the quality of performance of his material delivered by orchestras was not commensurate with the money he spent on orchestral concerts and recordings.
1970: Rebirth of the Mothers and filmmaking
Later in 1970, Zappa formed a new version of the Mothers (from then on, he mostly dropped the "of Invention"). It included British drummer Aynsley Dunbar, jazz keyboardist George Duke, Ian Underwood, Jeff Simmons (bass, rhythm guitar), and three members of the Turtles: bass player Jim Pons, and singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, who, due to persistent legal and contractual problems, adopted the stage name "The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie", or "Flo & Eddie".
This version of the Mothers debuted on Zappa's next solo album Chunga's Revenge (1970), which was followed by the double-album soundtrack to the movie 200 Motels (1971), featuring the Mothers, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Ringo Starr, Theodore Bikel, and Keith Moon. Co-directed by Zappa and Tony Palmer, it was filmed in a week at Pinewood Studios outside London. Tensions between Zappa and several cast and crew members arose before and during shooting. The film deals loosely with life on the road as a rock musician. It was the first feature film photographed on videotape and transferred to 35 mm film, a process which allowed for novel visual effects. It was released to mixed reviews. The score relied extensively on orchestral music, and Zappa's dissatisfaction with the classical music world intensified when a concert, scheduled at the Royal Albert Hall after filming, was canceled because a representative of the venue found some of the lyrics obscene. In 1975, he lost a lawsuit against the Royal Albert Hall for breach of contract.
After 200 Motels, the band went on tour, which resulted in two live albums, Fillmore East - June 1971 and Just Another Band From L.A.; the latter included the 20-minute track "Billy the Mountain", Zappa's satire on rock opera set in Southern California. This track was representative of the band's theatrical performances in which songs were used to build up sketches based on 200 Motels scenes as well as new situations often portraying the band members' sexual encounters on the road.
1971–72: Accident, attack and aftermath
In December 1971, Zappa suffered two serious setbacks. While performing at Casino de Montreux in Switzerland, the Mothers' equipment was destroyed when a flare set off by an audience member started a fire that burned down the casino. Immortalized in Deep Purple's song "Smoke on the Water", the event and immediate aftermath can be heard on the bootleg album Swiss Cheese/Fire, released legally as part of Zappa's Beat the Boots II compilation. After a week's break, the Mothers played at the Rainbow Theatre, London, with rented gear. During the encore, Trevor Howell, an audience member, pushed Zappa off the stage and into the concrete-floored orchestra pit. The band thought Zappa had been killed—he had suffered serious fractures, head trauma and injuries to his back, leg, and neck, as well as a crushed larynx, which ultimately caused his voice to drop a third after healing.
This accident resulted in an extended period of wheelchair confinement, making touring impossible for over half a year. Upon return to the stage in September 1972, Zappa was still wearing a leg brace, had a noticeable limp and could not stand for very long while on stage. Zappa noted that one leg healed "shorter than the other" (a reference later found in the lyrics of songs "Zomby Woof" and "Dancin' Fool"), resulting in chronic back pain. Meanwhile, the Mothers were left in limbo and eventually formed the core of Flo and Eddie's band as they set out on their own.
During 1971–72 Zappa released two strongly jazz-oriented solo LPs, Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo, which were recorded during the forced layoff from concert touring, using floating line-ups of session players and Mothers alumni. Musically, the albums were akin to Hot Rats. Zappa began touring again in late 1972. His first effort was a series of concerts in September 1972 with a 20-piece big band referred to as the Grand Wazoo. This was followed by a scaled-down version known as the Petit Wazoo that toured the U.S. for five weeks from October to December 1972.
1973–75: Top 10 album
Zappa then formed and toured with smaller groups that variously included Ian Underwood (reeds, keyboards), Ruth Underwood (vibes, marimba), Sal Marquez (trumpet, vocals), Napoleon Murphy Brock (sax, flute and vocals), Bruce Fowler (trombone), Tom Fowler (bass), Chester Thompson (drums), Ralph Humphrey (drums), George Duke (keyboards, vocals), and Jean-Luc Ponty (violin).
By 1973 the Bizarre and Straight labels were discontinued. In their place, Zappa and Cohen created DiscReet Records, also distributed by Warner Bros. Zappa continued a high rate of production through the first half of the 1970s, including the solo album Apostrophe (') (1974), which reached a career-high No. 10 on the Billboard pop album charts helped by the chart single "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow". Other albums from the period are Over-Nite Sensation (1973), which contained several future concert favorites, such as "Dinah-Moe Humm" and "Montana", and the albums Roxy & Elsewhere (1974) and One Size Fits All (1975) which feature ever-changing versions of a band still called the Mothers, and are notable for the tight renditions of highly difficult jazz fusion songs in such pieces as "Inca Roads", "Echidna's Arf (Of You)" and "Be-Bop Tango (Of the Old Jazzmen's Church)". A live recording from 1974, You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 2 (1988), captures "the full spirit and excellence of the 1973–75 band". Zappa released Bongo Fury (1975), which featured live recordings from a tour the same year that reunited him with Captain Beefheart for a brief period. They later became estranged for a period of years, but were in contact at the end of Zappa's life.
1976–79: Business breakups and touring
Zappa's relationship with long-time manager Herb Cohen ended in 1976. Zappa sued Cohen for skimming more than he was allocated from DiscReet Records, as well as for signing acts of which Zappa did not approve. Cohen filed a lawsuit against Zappa in return, which froze the money Zappa and Cohen had gained from an out-of-court settlement with MGM over the rights of the early Mothers of Invention recordings. It also prevented Zappa having access to any of his previously recorded material during the trials. Zappa therefore took his personal master copies of the rock-oriented Zoot Allures (1976) directly to Warner Bros., thereby bypassing DiscReet.
In the mid-1970s Zappa prepared material for Läther (pronounced "leather"), a four-LP project. Läther encapsulated all the aspects of Zappa's musical styles—rock tunes, orchestral works, complex instrumentals, and Zappa's own trademark distortion-drenched guitar solos. Wary of a quadruple-LP, Warner Bros. Records refused to release it. Zappa managed to get an agreement with Phonogram, and test pressings were made targeted at a Halloween 1977 release, but Warner Bros. prevented the release by claiming rights over the material. Zappa responded by appearing on the Pasadena, California radio station KROQ, allowing them to broadcast Läther and encouraging listeners to make their own tape recordings. A lawsuit between Zappa and Warner Bros. followed, during which no Zappa material was released for more than a year. Eventually, Warner Bros. issued different versions of much of the Läther material in 1978 and 1979 as four individual albums (five full-length LPs) with limited promotion. When the music was first released on CD in 1991, Zappa chose to rerelease the four existing albums. Läther was released posthumously in 1996.
Although Zappa eventually gained the rights to all his material created under the MGM and Warner Bros. contracts, the various lawsuits meant that for a period Zappa's only income came from touring, which he therefore did extensively in 1975–77 with relatively small, mainly rock-oriented, bands. Drummer Terry Bozzio became a regular band member, Napoleon Murphy Brock stayed on for a while, and original Mothers of Invention bassist Roy Estrada joined. Among other musicians were bassist Patrick O'Hearn, singer-guitarist Ray White and keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson. In December 1976, Zappa appeared as a featured musical guest on the NBC television show Saturday Night Live. Zappa's song "I'm the Slime" was performed with a voice-over by SNL booth announcer Don Pardo, who also introduced "Peaches En Regalia" on the same airing. In 1978, Zappa served both as host and musical act on the show, and as an actor in various sketches. The performances included an impromptu musical collaboration with cast member John Belushi during the instrumental piece "The Purple Lagoon". Belushi appeared as his Samurai Futaba character playing the tenor sax with Zappa conducting.
Zappa's band at the time, with the additions of Ruth Underwood and a horn section (featuring Michael and Randy Brecker), performed during Christmas in New York, recordings of which appear on one of the albums Warner Bros. culled from the Läther project, Zappa in New York (1978). It mixes intense instrumentals such as "The Black Page" and humorous songs like "Titties and Beer". The former composition, written originally for drum kit but later developed for larger bands, is notorious for its complexity in rhythmic structure and short, densely arranged passages.
Zappa in New York featured a song about sex criminal Michael H. Kenyon, "The Illinois Enema Bandit", which featured Don Pardo providing the opening narrative in the song. Like many songs on the album, it contained numerous sexual references, leading to many critics objecting and being offended by the content. Zappa dismissed the criticism by noting that he was a journalist reporting on life as he saw it. Predating his later fight against censorship, he remarked: "What do you make of a society that is so primitive that it clings to the belief that certain words in its language are so powerful that they could corrupt you the moment you hear them?" The remaining albums released by Warner Bros. Records without Zappa's consent were Studio Tan in 1978 and Sleep Dirt in 1979, which contained complex suites of instrumentally-based tunes recorded between 1973 and 1976, and whose release was overlooked in the midst of the legal problems. Also released by the label without the artist's consent was Orchestral Favorites in 1979, which featured recordings of a concert with orchestral music from 1975.
1979: Zappa as an independent artist
Resolving the lawsuits successfully, Zappa ended the 1970s "stronger than ever", by releasing two of his most successful albums in 1979: the best selling album of his career, Sheik Yerbouti, and in Kelley Lowe's opinion the "bona fide masterpiece", Joe's Garage. The double album Sheik Yerbouti was the first release on Zappa Records, and contained the Grammy-nominated single "Dancin' Fool", which reached No. 45 on the Billboard charts, and "Jewish Princess", which received attention when a Jewish group, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), attempted to prevent the song from receiving radio airplay due to its alleged anti-Semitic lyrics. Zappa vehemently denied any anti-Semitic sentiments and dismissed the ADL as a "noisemaking organization that tries to apply pressure on people in order to manufacture a stereotype image of Jews that suits their idea of a good time". The album's commercial success was attributable in part to "Bobby Brown". Due to its explicit lyrics about a young man's encounter with a "dyke by the name of Freddie", the song did not get airplay in the U.S., but it topped the charts in several European countries where English is not the primary language. The triple LP Joe's Garage featured lead singer Ike Willis as the voice of the character "Joe" in a rock opera about the danger of political systems, the suppression of freedom of speech and music—inspired in part by the Islamic revolution that had made music illegal within its jurisdiction at the time—and about the "strange relationship Americans have with sex and sexual frankness". The album contains rock songs like "Catholic Girls" (a riposte to the controversies of "Jewish Princess"), "Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up", and the title track, as well as extended live-recorded guitar improvisations combined with a studio backup band dominated by drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (with whom Zappa had a particularly good musical rapport) adopting the xenochrony process. The album contains one of Zappa's most famous guitar "signature pieces", "Watermelon in Easter Hay".
On December 21, 1979, Zappa's movie Baby Snakes premiered in New York. The movie's tagline was "A movie about people who do stuff that is not normal". The 2 hour and 40 minutes movie was based on footage from concerts in New York around Halloween 1977, with a band featuring keyboardist Tommy Mars and percussionist Ed Mann (who would both return on later tours) as well as guitarist Adrian Belew. It also contained several extraordinary sequences of clay animation by Bruce Bickford who had earlier provided animation sequences to Zappa for a 1974 TV special (which became available on the 1982 video The Dub Room Special). The movie did not do well in theatrical distribution, but won the Premier Grand Prix at the First International Music Festival in Paris in 1981.
Zappa later expanded on his television appearances in a non-musical role. He was an actor or voice artist in episodes of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre, Miami Vice and The Ren and Stimpy Show. A voice part in The Simpsons never materialized, to creator Matt Groening's disappointment (Groening was a neighbor of Zappa's, and a lifelong fan).Cite error: The named reference ZOp109 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Cite error: The named reference zappa88 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 142–156. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 201. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 205. Watson, 1996, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play, p. 183. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 207. Starks, 1982, Cocaine Fiends and Reefer Madness, p. 153. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 94. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 119–137. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 203–204. During the June 1971 Fillmore concerts Zappa was joined on stage by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. This performance was recorded, and Lennon released excerpts on his album Some Time In New York City in 1972. Zappa later released his version of excerpts from the concert on Playground Psychotics in 1992, including the jam track "Scumbag" and an extended avant-garde vocal piece by Ono (originally called "Au"), which Zappa renamed "A Small Eternity with Yoko Ono". Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 112–115. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 101. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 225–226. Official recordings of these bands did not emerge until more than 30 years later on Wazoo (2007) and Imaginary Diseases (2006), respectively. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 231. "Frank Zappa > Charts and Awards > Billboard Albums", AllMusic . Retrieved January 3, 2008. Huey, Steve, "Apostrophe ('). Review", AllMusic . Retrieved January 3, 2008. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, pp. 114–122. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 248. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 372. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 250. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 253; pp. 258–259. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 131. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 261. Slaven, 2003, Electric Don Quixote, p. 248. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 267. It remains debated whether Zappa had conceived the material as a four-LP set from the beginning, or only when approaching Mercury-Phonogram; see, e.g., Watson, 2005, Frank Zappa. The Complete Guide to His Music, p. 49. In the liner notes to the 1996 release, however, Gail Zappa states that "As originally conceived by Frank, Läther was always a 4-record box set." Watson, 2005, Frank Zappa. The Complete Guide to His Music, p. 49. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 262. Zappa, Frank, 1978, Zappa in New York, Liner Notes. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 132. Clement, Brett (2004), "Little dots: A study of the melodies of the guitarist / composer Frank Zappa (pdf file)" (PDF), Master Thesis (The Florida State University, School of Music): 25–48 . Retrieved December 29, 2007. Hemmings, Richard (2006), Ever wonder why your daughter looked so sad? Non-danceable beats: getting to grips with rhythmical unpredictability in Project/Object, richardhemmings.co.uk . Retrieved July 24, 2008. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 261–262; Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 134. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 234. Swenson, John (March 1980), Frank Zappa: America's Weirdest Rock Star Comes Clean, High Times Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 138. Watson, 1996, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play, p. 351. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 140. Groening, Matt; Menn, Don (1992), "The Mother of All Interviews. Act II: Matt Groening joins in on the scrutiny of the central decentralizer", in Menn, Don (ed.), Zappa! Guitar Player Presents, San Francisco, CA: Miller Freeman, p. 61, ISSN 1063-4533 Both albums made it onto the Billboard top 30."Frank Zappa > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums", AllMusic . Retrieved January 6, 2008. "Frank Zappa > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles", AllMusic . Retrieved January 6, 2008. Peterson, Chris (November 1979), "He's Only 38 and He Knows How to Nasty", Relix Magazine Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 277. Watson, 2005, Frank Zappa. The Complete Guide to His Music, p. 59. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 180. The other signature pieces are "Zoot Allures" and "Black Napkins" from Zoot Allures. See Zappa, Dweezil (1996), Greetings music lovers, Dweezil here, Liner Notes, Frank Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa: A Memorial Tribute Watson, 2005, Frank Zappa. The Complete Guide to His Music, p. 61. Baby Snakes, 2003, DVD cover, Eagle Vision. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 282. Sohmer, Adam (June 8, 2005), Baby Snakes – DVD, Big Picture Big Sound . Retrieved January 7, 2008. Frank Zappa, IMDb – The Internet Movie Database . Retrieved July 30, 2008. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 343. Eliscu, Jenny (November 8, 2002), "Homer and Me", Rolling Stone
Contents1980s: Productive as ever1.1 From hit single to classical performances1.2 Synclavier1.3 Digital medium and last tour
1980s: Productive as ever
In 1980, Zappa cut his ties with Mercury Records after the label refused to release his song "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted." It was picked up by CBS Records and released on the Zappa label in North America and the CBS label internationally. After spending most of 1980 on the road, Zappa released Tinsel Town Rebellion in 1981. It was the first release on his own Barking Pumpkin Records, and it contains songs taken from a 1979 tour, one studio track and material from the 1980 tours. The album is a mixture of complicated instrumentals and Zappa's use of sprechstimme (speaking song or voice)—a compositional technique utilized by such composers as Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg—showcasing some of the most accomplished bands Zappa ever had (mostly featuring drummer Vinnie Colaiuta). While some lyrics still raised controversy among critics, in the sense that some found them sexist, the political and sociological satire in songs like the title track and "The Blue Light" have been described as a "hilarious critique of the willingness of the American people to believe anything". The album is also notable for the presence of guitarist Steve Vai, who joined Zappa's touring band in the fall of 1980.
The same year the double album You Are What You Is was released. Most of it was recorded in Zappa's brand new Utility Muffin Research Kitchen (UMRK) studios, which were located at his house, thereby giving him complete freedom to work. The album included one complex instrumental, "Theme from the 3rd Movement of Sinister Footwear", but focused mainly on rock songs with Zappa's sardonic social commentary—satirical lyrics targeted at teenagers, the media, and religious and political hypocrisy. "Dumb All Over" is a tirade on religion, as is "Heavenly Bank Account", wherein Zappa rails against TV evangelists such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson for their purported influence on the U.S. administration as well as their use of religion as a means of raising money. Songs like "Society Pages" and "I'm a Beautiful Guy" show Zappa's dismay with the Reagan era and its "obscene pursuit of wealth and happiness".
In 1981, Zappa also released three instrumental albums, Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar, Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar Some More, and The Return of the Son of Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar, which were initially sold via mail order, but later released through the CBS label due to popular demand. The albums focus exclusively on Frank Zappa as a guitar soloist, and the tracks are predominantly live recordings from 1979–80; they highlight Zappa's improvisational skills with "beautiful performances from the backing group as well". Another guitar-only album, Guitar, was released in 1988, and a third, Trance-Fusion, which Zappa completed shortly before his death, was released in 2006.
From hit single to classical performances
In May 1982, Zappa released Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch, which featured his biggest selling single ever, the Grammy Award-nominated song "Valley Girl" (topping out at No. 32 on the Billboard charts). In her improvised lyrics to the song, Zappa's daughter Moon Unit satirized the vapid speech of teenage girls from the San Fernando Valley, which popularized many "Valspeak" expressions such as "gag me with a spoon," "fer sure, fer sure," "grody" (gross), and "barf out". Most Americans who only knew Zappa from his few singles successes now thought of him as a person writing novelty songs, even though the rest of the album contained highly challenging music. Zappa was irritated by this and never played the song live.
In 1983, two different projects were released, beginning with The Man from Utopia, a rock-oriented work. The album is eclectic, featuring the vocal-led "Dangerous Kitchen" and "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats", both continuations of the sprechstimme excursions on Tinseltown Rebellion. The second album, London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 1, contained orchestral Zappa compositions conducted by Kent Nagano and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). A second record of these sessions, London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 2 was released in 1987. The material was recorded under a tight schedule with Zappa providing all funding, helped by the commercial success of "Valley Girl". Zappa was not satisfied with the LSO recordings. One reason is "Strictly Genteel", which was recorded after the trumpet section had been out for drinks on a break: the track took 40 edits to hide out-of-tune notes. Conductor Nagano, who was pleased with the experience, noted that "in fairness to the orchestra, the music is humanly very, very difficult". Some reviews noted that the recordings were the best representation of Zappa's orchestral work so far. In 1984 Zappa teamed again with Nagano and the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra for a live performance of A Zappa Affair with augmented orchestra, life-size puppets, and moving stage sets. Although critically acclaimed the work was a financial failure, and only performed twice. Zappa was invited by conference organizer Thomas Wells to be the keynote speaker at the American Society of University Composers at the Ohio State University. It was there Zappa delivered his famous "Bingo! There Goes Your Tenure" address, and had two of his orchestra pieces, "Dupree's Paradise" and "Naval Aviation in Art?" performed by the Columbus Symphony and ProMusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus.
For the remainder of his career, much of Zappa's work was influenced by his use of the Synclavier as a compositional and performance tool. Even considering the complexity of the music he wrote, the Synclavier could realize anything he could dream up. The Synclavier could be programmed to play almost anything conceivable, to perfection: "With the Synclavier, any group of imaginary instruments can be invited to play the most difficult passages ... with one-millisecond accuracy—every time". Even though it essentially did away with the need for musicians, Zappa viewed the Synclavier and real-life musicians as separate. In 1984, he released four albums. Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger contains orchestral works commissioned and conducted by world-renowned conductor Pierre Boulez (who was listed as an influence on Freak Out!) and performed by his Ensemble InterContemporain, juxtaposed with premiere Synclavier pieces. Again, Zappa was not satisfied with the performances of his orchestral works as he found them under-rehearsed, but in the album liner notes he respectfully thanks Boulez's demands for precision. The Synclavier pieces stood in contrast to the orchestral works, as the sounds were electronically generated and not, as became possible shortly thereafter, sampled.
The album Thing-Fish was an ambitious three-record set in the style of a Broadway play dealing with a dystopian "what-if" scenario involving feminism, homosexuality, manufacturing and distribution of the AIDS virus, and a eugenics program conducted by the United States government. New vocals were combined with previously released tracks and new Synclavier music; "the work is an extraordinary example of bricolage". Finally, in 1984, Zappa released Francesco Zappa, a Synclavier rendition of works by 18th-century composer Francesco Zappa (no known relation), and Them or Us, a two-record set of heavily edited live and session pieces.
Digital medium and last tour
Around 1986, Zappa undertook a comprehensive re-release program of his earlier vinyl recordings. He personally oversaw the remastering of all his 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s albums for the new digital compact disc medium. Certain aspects of these re-issues were, however, criticized by some fans as being unfaithful to the original recordings. Nearly twenty years before the advent of online music stores, Zappa had proposed to replace "phonographic record merchandising" of music by "direct digital-to-digital transfer" through phone or cable TV (with royalty payments and consumer billing automatically built into the accompanying software). In 1989, Zappa considered his idea a "miserable flop".
The album Jazz from Hell, released in 1986, earned Zappa his first Grammy Award in 1988 for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Except for one live guitar solo ("St. Etienne"), the album exclusively featured compositions brought to life by the Synclavier. Although an instrumental album, containing no lyrics whatsoever, Meyer Music Markets sold Jazz from Hell featuring an "explicit lyrics" sticker—a warning label introduced by the Recording Industry Association of America in an agreement with the PMRC.
Zappa's last tour in a rock and jazz band format took place in 1988 with a 12-piece group which had a repertoire of over 100 (mostly Zappa) compositions, but which split under acrimonious circumstances before the tour was completed. The tour was documented on the albums Broadway the Hard Way (new material featuring songs with strong political emphasis), The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life (Zappa "standards" and an eclectic collection of cover tunes, ranging from Maurice Ravel's Boléro to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven") and Make a Jazz Noise Here. Parts are also found on You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, volumes and .Bruckner, D. J. R., ed. (2002). The New York Times Guide to the Arts of the 20th Century. Books.google.com. p. 3054. ISBN 9781579582906. Retrieved 2012-04-30. "Frank Zappa - I Don't Wanna Get Drafted! (Vinyl) at Discogs". discogs. Retrieved 2012-04-30. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 161. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 284. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 165. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 283. Cite error: The named reference Mix2003 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 269. Huey, Steve, "You Are What You Is. Review", AllMusic . Retrieved January 7, 2008. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, pp. 169–175. Zappa, Frank (November 1982), Absolutely Frank. First Steps in Odd Meters, Guitar Player Magazine, p. 116. Swenson, John (November 1981), Frank Zappa: Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar, Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar Some More, The Return of the Son of Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar, Guitar World Cite error: The named reference BBsingles was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Huey, Steve, "Valley Girl. Frank Zappa. Song Review", AllMusic . Retrieved January 7, 2008. Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 178. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 304. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 146–156. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 315. Ruhlmann, William, "London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 1. Review", AllMusic . Retrieved January 7, 2008. Berkeley Symphony Orchestra - A Zappa Affair "Bingo! There Goes Your Tenure" by Frank Zappa, 1984 Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 323. Kelp, Larry (June 18, 1984), "Zappa Pokes Into The Fine Arts", The Oakland Tribune, retrieved July 5, 2009 Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 172–173. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 319. Watson, 2005, Frank Zappa. The Complete Guide to His Music, p. 73. The musical was eventually produced for the stage in 2003. See Thing-Fish – The Return of Frank Zappa, The British Theatre Guide . Retrieved December 11, 2007. Carr, Paul; Hand, Richard J. (2007), "Frank Zappa and musical theatre: ugly ugly o'phan Annie and really deep, intense, thought-provoking Broadway symbolism", Studies in Musical Theatre (1): 44–51., doi:10.1386/smt.1.1.41/1 Full article available by free login only. Retrieved July 28, 2008. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 340. For a comprehensive comparison of vinyl of CD releases, see The Frank Zappa Album Versions Guide – Index, The Zappa Patio, lukpac.org/~handmade/patio . Retrieved January 7, 2008. For example, new drum and bass parts were used on the 1960s albums We're Only in It for the Money and Cruising with Ruben & the Jets. See Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 327. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 337–339. Nuzum, Eric (2001), Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America, HarperCollins, pp. 39, 255, ISBN 0-688-16772-1 Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 346–350.
1990s: Classical music and death
In 1990, Frank Zappa was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. The disease had been developing unnoticed for ten years and was considered inoperable. After his diagnosis, Zappa devoted most of his energy to modern orchestral and Synclavier works. Shortly before his death in 1993 he completed Civilization, Phaze III, a major Synclavier work which he had begun in the 1980s.
In 1991, Zappa was chosen to be one of four featured composers at the Frankfurt Festival in 1992 (the others were John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Alexander Knaifel). Zappa was approached by the German chamber ensemble, Ensemble Modern, which was interested in playing his music for the event. Although ill, Zappa invited them to Los Angeles for rehearsals of new compositions and new arrangements of older material. In addition to being satisfied with the ensemble's performances of his music, Zappa also got along with the musicians, and the concerts in Germany and Austria were set up for the fall. In September 1992, the concerts went ahead as scheduled, but Zappa could only appear at two in Frankfurt due to illness. At the first concert, he conducted the opening "Overture", and the final "G-Spot Tornado" as well as the theatrical "Food Gathering in Post-Industrial America, 1992" and "Welcome to the United States" (the remainder of the program was conducted by the ensemble's regular conductor Peter Rundel). Zappa received a 20-minute ovation. It would become his last professional public appearance, as the cancer was spreading to such an extent that he was in too much pain to enjoy an event that he otherwise found "exhilarating" (though he did do an audio interview in the final months of his life). Recordings from the concerts appeared on The Yellow Shark (1993), Zappa's last release during his lifetime, and some material from studio rehearsals appeared on the posthumous Everything Is Healing Nicely (1999).
Frank Zappa died on Saturday, December 4, 1993, in his home with his wife and children by his side. At a private ceremony the following day, Zappa was interred in an unmarked grave at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. On Monday, December 6 his family publicly announced that "Composer Frank Zappa left for his final tour just before 6:00 pm on Saturday".Watson, 2005, Frank Zappa. The Complete Guide to His Music, p. 100. Cite error: The named reference Pulse1993 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 374–375. It brought him a posthumous Grammy Award (with Gail Zappa) for Best Recording Package – Boxed in 1994. GRAMMY Winners, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences . Retrieved August 18, 2008. Menn, Don, ed. (1992), "Andreas Mölich-Zebhauser—Preparing the Ensemble Modern for the Frankfurt Festival", Zappa! Guitar Player Presents, San Francisco, CA: Miller Freeman, pp. 12–13, ISSN 1063-4533 Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 369. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 371. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGBwJosLesU&t=11m22s Howard Stern Show with guest Frank Zappa & Moon Unit, 1993-Jun-27) Watson, 2005, Frank Zappa. The Complete Guide to His Music, p. 552. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 379–380. Slaven, 2003, Electric Don Quixote, p. 320.
Politics and religion
Zappa was often characterized as an atheist. On Dweezil’s birth certificate, for father's religion Zappa put “musician”.
Describing his political views, Frank Zappa categorized himself as a "practical conservative", or "independent". He favored limited government and low taxes; he also stated that he approved of national defense, social security, and other federal programs, but only if recipients of such programs are willing and able to pay for them. He favored capitalism, entrepreneurship, and independent business, stating that musicians could make more from owning their own businesses than from collecting royalties. He opposed communism, stating, "A system that doesn't allow ownership [...] has—to put it mildly—a fatal design flaw." Some of his songs, concert performances, interviews and public debates in the 1980s criticized and derided Republicans and their policies, President Ronald Reagan, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), televangelism, and the Christian Right, and warned that the United States government was in danger of becoming a "fascist theocracy". Zappa expressed opinions on censorship when he appeared on CNN's Crossfire TV series and debated issues with Washington Times commentator John Lofton in 1986. He had always encouraged his fans to register to vote on album covers, and throughout 1988 he had registration booths at his concerts. He even considered running for president of the United States.
Zappa did not use illegal drugs. He tried cannabis ten times, but without any pleasure, and "never used LSD, never used cocaine, never used heroin or any of that other stuff." Zappa stated, "Drugs do not become a problem until the person who uses the drugs does something to you, or does something that would affect your life that you don't want to have happen to you, like an airline pilot who crashes because he was full of drugs." He was a regular tobacco smoker for most of his life, and strongly critical of anti-tobacco campaigns. While he disapproved of drug use, he criticized the War on Drugs, comparing it to alcohol prohibition, and stated that the United States Treasury would benefit from the decriminalization and regulation of drugs. Describing his philosophical views, Zappa stated, "I believe that people have a right to decide their own destinies; people own themselves. I also believe that, in a democracy, government exists because (and only so long as) individual citizens give it a 'temporary license to exist'—in exchange for a promise that it will behave itself. In a democracy, you own the government—it doesn't own you."
In early 1990, Zappa visited Czechoslovakia at the request of President Václav Havel. Havel designated him as Czechoslovakia's "Special Ambassador to the West on Trade, Culture and Tourism". Havel was a lifelong fan of Zappa, who had great influence in the avant-garde and underground scene in Central Europe in the 1970s and 1980s (a Czech rock group that was imprisoned in 1976 took its name from Zappa's 1968 song "Plastic People"). Under pressure from US Secretary of State James Baker, Zappa's posting was withdrawn. Havel made Zappa an unofficial cultural attaché instead. Zappa also planned to develop an international consulting enterprise to facilitate trade between the former Eastern Bloc and Western businesses.
Senate testimonyPlay mediaPlay media
On September 19, 1985, Zappa testified before the United States Senate Commerce, Technology, and Transportation committee, attacking the Parents Music Resource Center or PMRC, a music organization co-founded by Tipper Gore, wife of then-senator Al Gore. The PMRC consisted of many wives of politicians, including the wives of five members of the committee, and was founded to address the issue of song lyrics with sexual or satanic content. Zappa saw their activities as on a path towards censorship, and called their proposal for voluntary labelling of records with explicit content "extortion" of the music industry. In his prepared statement, he said:
The PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretational and enforcemental problems inherent in the proposal's design. It is my understanding that, in law, First Amendment issues are decided with a preference for the least restrictive alternative. In this context, the PMRC's demands are the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation..... The establishment of a rating system, voluntary or otherwise, opens the door to an endless parade of moral quality control programs based on things certain Christians do not like. What if the next bunch of Washington wives demands a large yellow "J" on all material written or performed by Jews, in order to save helpless children from exposure to concealed Zionist doctrine?
Zappa set excerpts from the PMRC hearings to Synclavier music in his composition "Porn Wars" on the 1985 album Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention, and the full recording was released in 2010 as Congress Shall Make No Law.... Zappa is heard interacting with Senators Fritz Hollings, Slade Gorton, Al Gore (who claimed, at the hearing, to be a Zappa fan), and in an exchange with Florida Senator Paula Hawkins over what toys Zappa's children played with.Nugent, Michael, Famous Atheists, Michael Nugent, retrieved May 5, 2011 Kaylan, Howard; Tamarkin, Jeff (2013). Shell Shocked: My Life with the Turtles, Flo and Eddie, and Frank Zappa, etc. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 9781480342934. Retrieved October 21, 2014. I was an atheist. Zappa was atheist. Stephen Bullivant, Michael Ruse, ed. (2013). The Oxford Handbook of Atheism. Oxford University Press. p. 722. ISBN 9780199644650. Of numerous atheist rock musicians, Frank Zappa ranks among the most outspoken. "Dweezil Zappa Bio". Retrieved 12 May 2014. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 315-316, 323-324; 329-330. Apodaca, Patrice. Frank Zappa, Capitalist Rocker, Los Angeles Times, December 19, 1989 Frank Zappa, Does Humor Belong in Music? (DVD), recorded August 1984, released 2003 Crossfire with Frank Zappa and John Lofton, CNN [TV Debate], March 1986 Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 348. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 365. Loder, Kurt (1988), "Rolling Stone Interview", Rolling Stone Interview by Bob Marshall, October 22, 1988 - Part 03 He considered such campaigns as yuppie inventions and noted that "Some people like garlic..... I like pepper, tobacco and coffee. That's my metabolism". Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 234–235. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 239, Extract of page 239 Pompilio, Natalie (December 4, 2013). "Frank Zappa: Revolutionary". Legacy.com. Retrieved 2014-11-09. Mitchell, Tony (May 1992), "Mixing Pop and Politics: Rock Music in Czechoslovakia before and after the Velvet Revolution", Popular Music. A Changing Europe (Cambridge University Press) 11: 187–203, doi:10.1017/s0261143000004992 Lawson, George (2005). Negotiated Revolutions: The Czech Republic, South Africa and Chile. Ashgate. p. 103. ISBN 0-7546-4327-1. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 357–361. Ouellette, Dan (August 1993), "Frank Zappa", Pulse!: 48–56. Day, 2000, Censorship, p. 53. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 267. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 262. Record Labeling. Hearing before the committee on commerce, science and transportation, U.S. Government printing office, September 19, 1985 . Retrieved December 31, 2007.
ContentsLegacy1.1 Acclaim and honors1.2 Artists influenced by Zappa1.3 References in arts and sciences
Acclaim and honors
Frank Zappa was one of the first to try tearing down the barriers between rock, jazz, and classical music. In the late Sixties his Mothers of Invention would slip from Stravinsky's "Petroushka" into The Dovells' "Bristol Stomp" before breaking down into saxophone squeals inspired by Albert AylerThe Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll
Zappa earned widespread critical acclaim in his lifetime and after his death. The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004) writes: "Frank Zappa dabbled in virtually all kinds of music—and, whether guised as a satirical rocker, jazz-rock fusionist, guitar virtuoso, electronics wizard, or orchestral innovator, his eccentric genius was undeniable." Even though his work drew inspiration from many different genres, Zappa was seen establishing a coherent and personal expression. In 1971, biographer David Walley noted that "The whole structure of his music is unified, not neatly divided by dates or time sequences and it is all building into a composite". On commenting on Zappa's music, politics and philosophy, Barry Miles noted in 2004 that they cannot be separated: "It was all one; all part of his 'conceptual continuity'."
Guitar Player devoted a special issue to Zappa in 1992, and asked on the cover "Is FZ America's Best Kept Musical Secret?" Editor Don Menn remarked that the issue was about "The most important composer to come out of modern popular music". Among those contributing to the issue was composer and musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky, who conducted premiere performances of works of Ives and Varèse in the 1930s. He became friends with Zappa in the 1980s, and said, "I admire everything Frank does, because he practically created the new musical millennium. He does beautiful, beautiful work ... It has been my luck to have lived to see the emergence of this totally new type of music." Conductor Kent Nagano remarked in the same issue that "Frank is a genius. That's a word I don't use often ... In Frank's case it is not too strong ... He is extremely literate musically. I'm not sure if the general public knows that." Pierre Boulez stated in Musician magazine's posthumous Zappa tribute article that Zappa "was an exceptional figure because he was part of the worlds of rock and classical music and that both types of his work would survive."
In 1994, jazz magazine Down Beat 's critics poll placed Zappa in its Hall of Fame. Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. There, it was written that "Frank Zappa was rock and roll's sharpest musical mind and most astute social critic. He was the most prolific composer of his age, and he bridged genres—rock, jazz, classical, avant-garde and even novelty music—with masterful ease". He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. In 2005, the U.S. National Recording Preservation Board included We're Only in It for the Money in the National Recording Registry as "Frank Zappa's inventive and iconoclastic album presents a unique political stance, both anti-conservative and anti-counterculture, and features a scathing satire on hippiedom and America's reactions to it". The same year, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at No. 71 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2011, he was ranked at No. 22 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by the same magazine.
Artists influenced by Zappa
A number of notable musicians, bands and orchestras from diverse genres have been influenced by Frank Zappa's music. Rock artists like Alice Cooper, Primus, Fee Waybill of the Tubes all cite Zappa's influence, as do progressive, alternative and experimental rock artists like Can, Pere Ubu, Henry Cow, Trey Anastasio of Phish, Jeff Buckley, Faust, John Frusciante., and Steven Wilson. Paul McCartney regarded Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as the Beatles' Freak Out! Heavy rock and metal acts like Black Sabbath, Simon Phillips, Mike Portnoy, Warren DeMartini, Steve Vai, Strapping Young Lad, System of a Down, Clawfinger, and Devin Townsend acknowledge Zappa's inspiration. On the classical music scene, Tomas Ulrich, Meridian Arts Ensemble, Ensemble Ambrosius and the Fireworks Ensemble regularly perform Zappa's compositions and quote his influence. Contemporary jazz musicians and composers Bill Frisell and John Zorn are inspired by Zappa, as is funk legend George Clinton. Other artists whose work is affected by Zappa include ambient composer Brian Eno, new age pianist George Winston, electronic composer Bob Gluck, parodist and novelty composer "Weird Al" Yankovic, industrial music pioneer Genesis P-Orridge, and noise music artist Masami Akita of Merzbow.
References in arts and sciences
Scientists from various fields have honored Zappa by naming new discoveries after him. In 1967, paleontologist Leo P. Plas, Jr. identified an extinct mollusc in Nevada and named it Amaurotoma zappa with the motivation that, "The specific name, zappa, honors Frank Zappa". In the 1980s, biologist Ed Murdy named a genus of gobiid fishes of New Guinea Zappa, with a species named Zappa confluentus. Biologist Ferdinando Boero named a Californian jellyfish Phialella zappai (1987), noting that he had "pleasure in naming this species after the modern music composer". Belgian biologists Bosmans and Bosselaers discovered in the early 1980s a Cameroonese spider, which they in 1994 named Pachygnatha zappa because "the ventral side of the abdomen of the female of this species strikingly resembles the artist's legendary moustache". A gene of the bacterium Proteus mirabilis that causes urinary tract infections was in 1995 named zapA by three biologists from Maryland. In their scientific article, they "especially thank the late Frank Zappa for inspiration and assistance with genetic nomenclature". Repeating regions of the genome of the human tumor virus KSHV were named frnk, vnct and zppa in 1996 by the Moore and Chang who discovered the virus. Also, a 143 base pair repeat sequence occurring at two positions was named waka/jwka. In the late 1990s, American paleontologists Marc Salak and Halard L. Lescinsky discovered a metazoan fossil, and named it Spygori zappania to honor "the late Frank Zappa ... whose mission paralleled that of the earliest paleontologists: to challenge conventional and traditional beliefs when such beliefs lacked roots in logic and reason".
In 1994, lobbying efforts initiated by psychiatrist John Scialli led the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center to name an asteroid in Zappa's honor: 3834 Zappafrank. The asteroid was discovered in 1980 by Czechoslovakian astronomer Ladislav Brozek, and the citation for its naming says that "Zappa was an eclectic, self-trained artist and composer ... Before 1989 he was regarded as a symbol of democracy and freedom by many people in Czechoslovakia".
In 1995, a bust of Zappa by sculptor Konstantinas Bogdanas was installed in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. The choice of Zappa was explained as "a symbol that would mark the end of communism, but at the same time express that it wasn't always doom and gloom." A replica was offered to the city of Baltimore in 2008, and on September 19, 2010—the twenty-fifth anniversary of Zappa's testimony to the U.S. Senate—a ceremony dedicating the replica was held, and the bust was at a library in the city. In 2002, a bronze bust was installed in German city Bad Doberan, location of the Zappanale since 1990, an annual music festival celebrating Zappa. At the initiative of musicians community ORWOhaus, the city of Berlin named a street in the Marzahn district "Frank-Zappa-Straße" in 2007. The same year, Baltimore mayor Sheila Dixon proclaimed August 9 as the city's official "Frank Zappa Day" citing Zappa's musical accomplishments as well as his defense of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004), The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition, New York, NY: Fireside, p. 903, ISBN 0-7432-0169-8 Walley, 1980, No Commercial Potential, p. 3. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 383. Menn, Don (1992), "From the Editor", in Menn, Don, Zappa! Guitar Player Presents, San Francisco, CA: Miller Freeman, p. 3, ISSN 1063-4533 Kozinn, Allan (December 27, 1996), "Nicolas Slonimsky, Author of Widely Used Reference Works on Music, Dies at 101", The New York Times . Retrieved August 17, 2008. In December 1981, the then 87 year old Slonimsky made a guest appearance on piano at a Zappa concert. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 295–296. Menn, Don, ed. 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(Cnidaria, Leptomedusae, Phialellidae) from central California", Journal of Natural History (Taylor & Francis Groups) 21 (2): 465–480, doi:10.1080/00222938700771131 Bosmans, Robert; Bosselaers, Jan (October 1995), "Spiders of the genera Pachygnatha, Dyschiriognatha and Glenognatha (Araneae, Tetragnathidae), with a revision of the Afrotropical species", Zoologica Scripta (The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters) 23 (4): 325–352, doi:10.1111/j.1463-6409.1994.tb00392.x Wassif, Christopher; Cheek, Diana; Belas, Robert (October 1995), "Molecular Analysis of a Metalloprotease from Proteus mirabilis", Journal of Bacteriology (American Society for Microbiology) 177 (20): 5790–8, PMC 177400, PMID 7592325 Russo, James J.; Bohenzky, Roy A.; Chien, Ming-Cheng; Chen, Jing; Yan, Ming; Maddalena, Dawn; Preston Parry, J.; Peruzzi, Daniela; Edelman, Isidore S.; Chang, Yuan; Moore, Patrick S. 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