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Frank Zappa

Billy K.

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OK, the least likely music artist to be mentioned on the EC.com board.....but I think he deserves a mention....

Granted, there are two things that many people have issues with Zappa on....(1)use of profanity in many of the lyrics, and (2) the music is a bit more complex and/or weird for most peoples' tastes.

He was certainly quite a talented musician. But, most of all, being an interesting historical music figure.

Zappa produced Alice Cooper's debut album, as well as one of Grand Funk's. He also revived the Turtles' career when they had contractual problems with their label, and even came up with the name Phlourescent Leach(Flo) and Eddie, as a pseudonym for Mark Volman/Howard Kaylan.

Oddly enough, Theodore Bikel and Ringo Starr both appeared in the Zappa movie "200 Motels". The London Symphony Orchestra backed him up. The Jefferson Airplane had him on one of their songs. The Monkees had him in their movie, "Head".

James William Guercio played in Zappa's band, the Mothers of Invention, for a brief period, before becoming the producer of Chicago. Two members of a later Zappa backing band, Terry and Dale Bozzio, became the Missing Persons.

Many talented musicians were put in the public eye, thanks to Zappa....these include George Duke, Jean-Luc Ponty, Steve Vai, and a host of others.

Zappa also was known for his letter-writing. He frequently corresponded with the widow of composer Edgard Varese, as well as Pierre Boulez, and a young Vaclav Havel(who later became president of the Czech republic).

The album "Jazz From Hell" got a "parental advisory" sticker on it, due to Zappa's reputation for language usage. But as it turns out, the album happened to be all-instrumental!

And, Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" was inspired by a fire that happened at the venue where Zappa was playing, at the Montreaux music festival in Switzerland.

Ironically, Zappa did not use drugs, unlike many rockers. For the most part, he only drank beer.

Needless to say, Zappa was quite an interesting guy.

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Personally, I loved the early Mothers of Invention releases!

My awful high school band in '67-'68 played versions of "Hungry Freaks Daddy", "Trouble Coming Every Day", "Motherly Love" and "Who Are The Brain Police?"

Their first 3 albums, Freak-Out, Absolutely Free and We're Only In It For The Money (great parody of Sgt. Peppers) are all classics, IMO....Starting with Cruising With Ruben & The Jets, they started going downhill, and I quit listening to Zappa, for the most part, after he went solo.

BTW, the Mothers' first bassist, Roy Estrada, was a founding member of Little Feat.

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Unbelievable, Billy.

I went on a Zappa kick earlier this summer, mostly out of boredom and also because I'd never spent time to listen to his work.

I read a book back in the spring Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll\'s Legendary Neighborhood , that was really great and made FZ out to be Laurel Canyon's #1 resident. Joni Mitchell as close 2nd ...

Knew who he was, a few of the songs, the more famous connections (Flo and Eddie, guitarists Belew, Vai, and Mike Kennealy (who I guess isn't famous at all)). Knew he was an iconoclastic artist and pain in the rear to every stripe of politician. Also know that he eschewed drugs and was a pretty normal Home Guy when he wasn't being a Capital A Artist who let every artist and / or weirdo in LA create and crash at his Laurel Canyon house, but threw out anybody who went druggy and eventually moved himself and his family out when the place just collapsed (not literally) under its own weirdness. He let the weirdos stay.

So now I listen to the All-Zappa station on Live365 at work (with headphones) and I'm reading his definitive bio "Electric Don Quixote".

He wasn't a musician per se; he was an artist interested in sound and words and how they could fit together to portray an idea in performance.

Some of the stuff is just weirdly unlistenable, but most of the time it's intense and thought-provoking (i.e., "mindblowing, man"), often very funny (better satire than The Onion), occasionally very crude, but TOTALLY different from my usual tastes. Outrageous ensemble playing. Great experience.

He took it all too far, but boy could he play guitar. That Vai guy is a hot player, too. cool


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