Saturday, February 26, 2005

Who was Frank Zappa?


Since I've taken Frank Zappa's name in vain and riffed on one of his song lyrics for the name of my blog, I should probably do homage by reminding folks who he was.

Zappa was the most complicated, sophisticated and political of the early 60s US rockers. His band, the Mothers of Invention, recorded "FREAK OUT" in February 1966 -- the first of over 50 albums whose musical forms ran the gamut from hard rock to "new music" classical.

The song "It Can't Happen Here" (on Freak Out) evokes the panic in 1960s middle America at the prospect that their children, especially daughters, might morph into free-thinking, free-being freaks! Like most of the rock of the time period, the rocker's sexual innuendo doesn't really do justice to women as self-defined sexual beings -- nonetheless I like catching the echo of a time when the feared "happening" was liberation, not repression.

Zappa was considered a genius who was a little bit much by just about everyone, from people who worked with him to the Parents Music Resource Center which wanted rating warning labels on record albums. But he was very much appreciated in eastern Europe. The Czech anti-Soviet underground adopted the Zappa song "Plastic People" as a kind of anthem; after 1989, Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright-turned-president, was so moved that he made Zappa a special ambassador to the West for culture.

Zappa died in 1993. Go here for more complete bio.


Anonymous said...

The Plastic people is a popular music group
now listed by new Yorker etc while performing in NY. No comment of course on the origen of their name of what it means to Czech political/cultural

Anonymous said...

No way to delay
That trouble comin' everyday...

Blow your harmonica, son....