Yeah, I know – Frank Zappa was a really great guitar player…:
…although I never really cared for him there, either.
Over the years, I’ve been told “the Mothers of Invention were the best band of the sixties!”
Which was, of course, rubbish; they were just another big, self-indulgent jam band, like the Grateful Dead without the pot-headed geniality but with all of the snide, smarter-than-thou precociousness that the world would soon call “Frank Zappa”.
Frank Zappa’s greatest trick was convincing the world that “shallow, smarter-than-thou aping of people with real talent” was “groundbreaking”. If we accept that Frank Zappa was the love child of Jerry Garcia, Jello Biafra and Weird Al Yankovic, then ask yourselves these questions:
- Can three people have a love child?
- If those three people could have a love child, would it be a good idea?
Oh, no doubt about it; Zappa was a clever fellow. “Sheik Yerbouti”, his disco parody album from the late seventies…
…was one of the best visual gag/puns of the decade.
But his music?
“But he was so clever!”
No, he wasn’t.
“But he was a groundbreaking innovator”.
No, he was a dyspeptic crank with a creative streak.
“But he was a musical genius”.
No, he was a musical footpad with a cult following.
“But he was funny…”
Yeah, I know – don’t eat yellow snow. Got it.
From the day I checked The Mothers’ “Weasels Rip My Flesh” out from the Jamestown Library, to the day he passed away (lamentably young, I’ll add), I detested his music; I’d rather be forced to listen to early-period Pink Floyd than any of Zappa’s various incarnations.
But disliking music is a fairly ambient thing. My visceral dislike for everything Zappa represented was cemented years after my ennui for his music was set in stone.
Back in 1980, Zappa appeared on the New Years’ Eve edition of ABC’s old SNL knockoff Fridays, doing a “Top Ten Albums” countdown. Predictably, he hated every album on the top ten (except for the recently-murdered John Lennon’s dismal Double Fantasy, which he called “a testimony to the good taste of the American record-buying public”).
Now, #5 for the year was Styx’s vacuous Paradise Theater, an album I personally had no time for. I’d developed a cordial dislike for Styx by this point, especially anything involving Dennis DeYoung, inflamed by having had to play the sappy, treacly, unbearable megahit “Babe” about a million times at my radio job in the past year).
But what did Zappa mention in his review? DeYoung’s whiny “woe is me” over the travails of being a spoiled rock star? The trite bombast of everythign DeYoung touched? The conceit of doing a concept album
about a theater at all?
No. He said – and I remember it word for word, 28 years and change later: “Styx. They grow wheat where these guys come from”, before flinging the album away.
Yes, Frank F****ng Zappa. They grow wheat where Eddie Cochrane came from, too. And they grew cotton where Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry came from. Bruce Springsteen comes from tomato country. Jimmy Hendrix? Apples. Liverpool was big for oats and potatoes. And Frank Zappa. who was not fit to carry any of their gig bags, obviously came from wherever they grow bumper crops of ass***es.
Frank Zappa – rest his soul – was a waste of musical time. He bores me. Of him, no more shall be said.