A musical masterpiece, the mixture of avant garde jazz-rock is so unique.
If you had to pick a list of ten songs that for you define your enjoyment of Zappa, what would it look like? Here is mine..
1. Oh No/Orange County Lumber Truck
2. Sleeping in a Jar
3. Dog Breath
4. Call Any Vegetable
5. The Duke of Prunes
6. Lonely Little Girl
7. Little Umbrellas
9. Mother People
10.Who Are the Brain Police?
Feel free to list your own in the form of a comment/response.
Usually when someone identifies popular mainstream music with orchestral like implementations together they draw comparisons to elevator or mall music, but never the likes of Frank Zappa. The reality of an artist being both a pop musician and a classical composer seems a bit far-fetched too many. However, as rare as it might be, Zappa stood alone as one of the only men in popular music to have significant achievements in the field of composition, with the exception of the occasional piece produced by Paul McCartney and the Beatles. Although Frank Zappa is best known for his work as an innovative Jazz and Rock guitarist, political agitator, social critic and founder of the band Mothers of Invention, he had a long and passionate interest in contemporary music. Beginning from a very early age, Zappa became fascinated with the likes of innovative classical composers Igor Stravinsky, Anton Webern, and Edgard Varèse.
Strangely enough, prior to this course “Frank Zappa: Composer and Social Critic”, I, like most people I’m sure, was not particularly familiar with Zappa’s contributions to popular music. Sadly, it is only now, years after his death, that I have come to know this alternate artistic and strangely beautiful side of him and his music. Since making such discoveries, I have been continuously surprised about what I hear and discover about the man. It has almost come to the point where I am no longer shocked by what I hear, read, and discover about the man, I now see that the possibilities of his genius stretch farther then the eye or ear can interpret. Surely, out of all the pop musicians I’ve heard throughout the years, he would be the one most capable of both being so misunderstood. By appearance, one might gasp at the idea of his capability to compose such ground breaking work held in such high accord. He truly is a testament, to the saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”
Although his obvious unique and unmatched skill places him in a realm all his own, It is his attitude towards the business of music which truly singles him out. It appears as if he had no desire or time for the things associated with fame, his work was not meant to be for the sake of his reputation as a great musician, but for the work itself. This is something that not only a fan of his music can implore, but any human being with an appreciate and understanding for music or an individuals character. My discovery of Frank Zappa, both his music and character, has given me a new perspective on popular culture and the way I view and look at music. In my opinion, Zappa’s true legacy does not only exist in his music, but in his approach to it. Never again will I look at an absurd individual or piece of music with a cocked eye brow, but rather, with an open mind and new found acceptance.
The album entitled “Freak Out” was the debut album of the experimental rock band The Mothers of Invention, released in June of 1966 on Verve Records. The album became the first ever double record debut and is considered to be one of the first concept records in the genre of Rock ’n” Roll. The concept behind the record centres around band leader Frank Zappa’s understanding of American pop culture and his satirical attitude towards it. It was a brilliantly placed and timed counter-attack on the flower power hippie movement that was taking place within American pop culture during the 1960’s.
The record presented listeners to the duel genius that was Frank Zappa, and gave them a sample of what they would gradually come to respect. On one side, you had this very serious musician who wished to express his feelings about the conditions of the world around him. While on the other side, you had a lyricist who rebelled to push the boundaries of music and social norms. Through musical content which included rhythm and blues, doo-wop, blues inspired rock and orchestral arrangements of the avant-garde format, the band was able to mask it’s cultural satire and outspoken political commentary on the record.
Initially poorly received in the United States, it made a much bigger impact on the European mainstream before making it’s way back to America. Freak Out presented itself as the birth of a cultural revolution, inspiring the music and culture of America to expand its horizons and explore the limitless boundaries and innovation of sound. It’s influence has been compared to that of the Sex Pistols album “Never Mind the Bollocks”, which was released in 1977, as they both sparked and marked a new era in music. Furthermore, the album has been directly attributed to having a large influence on the production of The Beatles, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, due to it’s experimental innovations of combining avant and musique concrete styles with mainstream rock and pop.
Since it’s release, the album has garnered the respect of receiving the honour of the Grammy Hall of Fame Award, and being ranked amongst the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine. All in all, Freak out! is not your typical rock and roll album, but then again, Zappa was not your typical rock artist. In many ways, creativity is a matter of individual interpretation, thus it is really in the ears of the record holder to decide just how influential and profound this controversial album really is. Happy listening…
It has been sixteen years as of December the 4th, 2009, that we lost arguably one of the most important and influential voices of the 20th century. His name was Frank ‘Vincent’ Zappa, an eccentric and highly debatable genius whose lifetime achievements included work as an American composer, electric guitarist, record producer, film director, political activist, and social critic. In a career spanning more then 30 years, Zappa took to writing music in the genres of rock, jazz, electronic, orchestral, and musique concrete. Zappa also made a name for himself directing films, shooting raw video footage, music videos, and designing his own album covers. A legendary workaholic and demanding musician, Zappa produced almost all of the more than 60 albums that he released while with the band, The Mothers of Invention, and as a self proclaimed solo artist. With such an extensive body of work, its obvious to see just how poignant a genius he was and why many believe he remains one of the most influential music icons of the 20th century.
Music, however, is not all Zappa is, and should be, remember for. The breadth of his influence extended into the political arena on a number of notable occasions, which perhaps has only lent to his legacy. In short, his outspoken political and social activism had a profound influence on American culture. This paper focuses on Zappa’s political influences. More specifically, his involvement with the Parents Music Resource Centre (PMRC), which took him all the way to the halls of Congress to testify against music censorship. His appointed role as special ambassador of Czechoslovakia to the west on trade, culture and tourism under president Vaclav Havel. And, lastly, his disapproval of conformity and continuous lampooning of the flower power idealism of the 60‘s hippie culture. Although there are undoubtedly more, these specific examples best illustrate how Frank Zappa’s political influence has had a lasting impression on the music industry, the people around him, and mainstream American culture.
Up until the late 1980’s, when he became a political defender of First Amendment Rights, Zappa used music and film as a medium to convey his political aspirations. It wasn’t until the Parents Music Resource Centre (PMRC) set out to have all music albums rated by a board of censors (appointed by the PMRC), that Zappa took to more tangible social and political involvement.
The aforementioned PMRC was a committee shaped in 1985, lead by Tipper Gore and three fellow wives of congress. Also known and referred to as the “Washington Wives” because of there husbands’ connection to the federal government, the PMRC first garnered attention following their abhorrent and outspoken reaction to the violent nature of Ice-T’s “Cop Killer” and Prince’s hit song, “Darling Nikki”, which made direct references to sex and masturbation. Both songs were, respectively, charged with increasing rates of violence against police officers in East Los Angeles and a degradation of social values amongst youth.
The PMRC, in efforts to censor and eliminate these new forms of controversial music, brought forth the idea of placing warning labels on music deemed as having explicit and potentially offensive content. They argued that the music was seriously “infecting the youth of the world with messages they cannot handle.” In an effort to counter the emerging threat of censorship against individual musical freedom, Frank Zappa spoke before congress and delivered a pointed and powerful speech against the guidelines and rating system the PMRC looked to introduce. In it, Zappa drew remarkable comparisons to the potential censorship of music and other types of censorship which have existed throughout history. Most famously, he stated:
“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 Don’t 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 held little back in his attack, even alluding to the PMRC as “wives of big brother,” an obvious reference to Orwellian ideologies of a dystopian world in which governmental control engulfs society and eliminates individual thought and creativity.
Following the congressional hearing, the Recording Industry Association of America agreed to put generic “Parental Advisory” stickers on selected releases at their own discretion. This, however, was a compromise to the stringent categorization and evaluation criteria recommend by the PMRC. So while Zappa’s fight against censorship wasn’t a complete success, it’s probably fair to say that his political activism spared music from required labelling similar to video games (rated M) and TV programming, which specifies violent, sexual, and other controversial content. It is also important to mention that Zappa was not only merely representing himself as a musician, but rather himself as parental figure, stating in an interview on CBS morning news in 1985, “I have four children, and I want them to grow up in a country that has a working First Amendment.”
Fact: In a humorous twist, and undoubtedly connected to his involvement as an opposing witness, Zappa’s album “Jazz From Hell” received the “Parental Advisory” sticker despite the fact that it was a collection of instrumental pieces and contained no lyrics on it at all.
One of the most odd and surprising political endeavours of Frank Zappa’s career is his relationship with the Czech Republic and former Czechoslovakia. This began in the years leading up to 1989 and Czechoslovakia‘s Velvet Revolution – a non-violent movement that saw an increasingly frustrated and dissident portion of the population overthrow the Communist government in a call for democratic rights and ideals.
Prior to the revolution, the Communist party of Czechoslovakia, then under Russian rule, instituted intense censorship and blacklisting of artistic content in an effort to assume power and restrict western ideas from permeating the country. As many kinds of music, film, and literature were being banned, however, bootlegging proliferated. Oddly enough and unbeknown to him, Frank Zappa‘s albums turned quite popular amongst the dissident population. In fact, his albums gained so much popularity that they have even been accredited as a major inspiration to the anti-communist movement leading up to the revolution.
One could argue that Frank Zappa’s music, having been specifically blacklisted, represented freedom and independent thinking to the Czech people. What the Czech people saw in Frank, was an unsuppressed free spirit, who wasn’t afraid to express himself on any grounds or subject matter; something unfounded of under communist rule. His musical influence even went as far as inspiring a new generation of Czech rockers, including the band Plastic People of the Universe, whose name derived from Zappa’s song “plastic people”.
In 1990, under the invitation of president Vaclav Havel, Zappa was invited for a meeting in Prague, to which he was, indeed, greeted like rock star. Engineer, Dave Dondorf, recalls the moments:
“Frank was shocked at the adulation, if you will. It was well over the top. It wasn’t subtle, it wasn’t blasé, it wasn’t cool. I mean these people went nuts. It was like the ‘King of Freedom’ had showed up. It was pretty strange.”
Vaclav Havel was, himself, a lifelong fan of Zappa’s music himself. Havel felt that “Frank Zappa was one of the gods of the Czech underground.” “I thought of him as a friend,” said Havel, “Whenever I feel like escaping from the world of the Presidency, I think of him.” In a move to show his true appreciation, Havel appointed Zappa as the Special Ambassador to the West on Trade, Culture and Tourism, to which he accepted.
Following there first meeting, Zappa met again to discuss ideas about increasing tourism within the country, introducing credit cards and television shopping networks with Havel, his Finance ministers, and the Ministry of Culture and Trade. Havel was hoping that Zappa could help Czechoslovakia get western goods and services within the country.
Just as Zappa was embracing his new position as special ambassador, his previous political past caught up with him. U.S. Secretary of State, James Baker, intervened, advising Havel he could either do business with the United States and receive continued economic aid, or continue his association with Frank Zappa. Badly in need of aid at the time, Havel had no choice but to side with the American government and cut political ties with Frank Zappa. Believed to be behind this ultimatum, was James Baker, husband to wife Susan Baker, a member of the not-so-Zappa-friendly PMRC. Surprisingly, Zappa did little to oppose the matter, backing away entirely upon realizing he was in over his head. Zappa’s acceptance of Bakers actions signified Zappa’s understanding of the political climate at the time, and the fragility of Czechoslovakia at such a crucial stage in its early democratic development. Regardless of Frank Zappa’s short reign as Special Ambassador, his influence on Czechoslovakia helped shape the county’s history forever.
Although many artists throughout the 1960’s promoted and contributed to the hippie flower power and psychedelic movements, Zappa stood staunchly against many of the values they represented. This was a direct example of Zappa’s tendency to resist conformity where many others around him wouldn’t. Found in much of his music during the 1960’s were social and political views against the conformity of middle class American youth and their “vegetable” like qualities; absorbing all and questioning nothing. On August 26, 1967, in a British interview, Zappa said:
“I believe in love – but not phoney bullshit love – it makes me feel sick, it makes me feel bad to see these kids walking about in the streets. It’s a waste of kids. They’re misguided and deluded. I see them blindly accepting anything offered to them by the hippie machine. Sing a song and put ‘love’ in it and take a picture of the group in a flower patch and the kids will buy. The flowers and love thing is just a new way of packaging a product.”
As a testament to his hatred for the flower power and psychedelic movements, Zappa released arguably his finest work, “We’re only in it for the money.” The cover of the album featured a parody of the Beatles, “Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band,” in which vegetables replaced flowers, satirizing many aspects of the era’s culture. More specifically, Zappa noticed and realized the trending cultural effect that the flower power scene was continuing to have on popular culture, and looked negatively upon it. His main quarrel being the hypocrites and fakers who appeared to parade about something they knew little to nothing about. As he saw it, they were all conforming to an artificially manufactured fad without substance.
Due to his counter-cultural stance, Zappa increasingly pushed himself outside the mainstream. Inadvertently, this also spawned a movement all his own. Known as the L.A. Freaks, they were, to put it mildly, unlike the San Francisco hippie culture. Instead, the Freaks premised their movement on a more individualistic basis, striving to promote independent thought both politically and musically. As one commenter suggests on a Zappa forum:
“It always seemed to me (born in 52) that hippies were a media defined project, all form and little content. They visited the scene to “experience” it, while freaks inhabited the scene. Freaks seemed to fly below the radar a bit, had ideas to ponder, and didn’t care about hygiene. Hippies were McCartney; freaks were Lennon.”
Although it’s debatable what definitive political impact the L.A. Freak movement actually had, there is no questioning that it was political in nature. Zappa’s hope was to engage the young “vegetables” of America, inciting them to think and question government and corporate interests. To Zappa, the music was merely a medium to convey what were most definitely messages of a political ilk.
In conclusion, Zappa has made a lasting impression on American culture and the music industry, generating respect from all corners of society. His attempts to educate and engage the youth of America has paved the way for new perspectives within mainstream popular culture. His role as a social critic and activist established his illustrious career as much more than just his music. His willingness to break down conventional norms set him apart amongst his peers, and has helped shape American culture. His political involvement is apparent in his music and ideals, something he spoke and acted openly about, as we have learned. It is Zappa’s direct involvement in protesting the ambitions of the Parents Music Resource Centre, that helped contain the threat of censorship in the music industry and reserve American rights to the First Amendment. Secondly, his brief but influential role within Czechoslovakia has established him as a hero of the velvet revolution in the eyes of many Czech’s, because he was an advocate of freedom and independent thought. And, lastly, his continued denouncement of conformity in America and the 1960’s psychedelic hippie culture have cemented him as one of the most highly respected, influential, and brilliant minds of the 20th century. His conceptual continuity lays transparent in all his political endeavours, as well, has had a lasting impression on the music industry, the people around him, and mainstream American culture as we have explored.
Having produced the movie, Frank Zappa explains that the idea for the film came to him while the Mothers of Invention were touring. The movie portrays the life of the Mothers of Invention, who are all mainly playing themselves minus a few parts, touring on the road. “Touring can make you crazy”, announces ex-Beatle Ringo Starr at the start of the movie, And that’s exactly what 200 Motels embodies and is all about. With the band stopping in Centerville (“a real nice place to raise your kids up”), another stopover on a long tour, the members deal with the concerns of the constant search for groupies, the desire to get paid, and arguments within the band. Although absurd and witty, throughout the movie there are a wide range of connections that resonate between the film and Frank Zappa’s life, career, and artistic opus which contribute to his conceptual continuity as a whole.
Perhaps the most obvious example of Frank Zappa’s conceptual continuity being carried throughout the film is in the role of the groupies. The groupies are played by Janet Ferguson, a real life groupie playing herself, and Lucy Offerall, a member of the GTO’s. Following the opening of the film, we are quickly immersed into the lifestyle of the groupie culture, as we are introduced to the girls as they prepare themselves for an evening of meeting rock stars. The girls appear in a bizarre nudity sequence, along with the Hot Nun who is overdosing on drugs, being played by The Who’s drummer Keith Moon. The scene depicts groupies as being cynical, sceptical, grotesque, and aggressive in nature almost. The songs “she painted up her face” and “Daddy, daddy, daddy” outline these ideas of the young groupie girls getting ready to go to the bar where guys from the musical groups are. On the other side of things, you have the band members competing with one another over the groupies and there attention. This concept of the girls following musicians from town to town in the film is a draw from Frank Zappa’s and the Mothers of Inventions real life on the road, it is an almost autobiography of the situations and dilemmas a band must cope and deal with.
What I found to be most amusing about the film was the casting of Ringo Starr, the drummer of the pop group The Beatles, as Frank Zappa. The Beatles directly contributed to the growth of the music industry and are known as one of the most influential bands ever. But regardless of how influential they are, there is a very apparent and evident difference between their genius and Zappa’s genius. It’s like, On one hand you have The Beatles who pushed the music and entertainment industry to the masses, and on the other you have Zappa who used his musical force to counter popular culture and trends. Knowing that Frank Zappa apparently never thought much of The Beatles, I find it too strange a coincidence to have Ringo Starr playing his character in the film. It was Frank Zappa who first approached Ringo about playing the role of Larry the dwarf and the leader of the MOI, to which he accepted on the notion that he was getting “a bit browned-off” with his good-guy image. Having Ringo Starr appear as Larry the Dwarf lends some humorous narration to the film, as well as a taste of delicious irony. Placing Ringo in the role of Frank Zappa allows one to draw parallels between the two icons. Whether it was to show that Frank Zappa wasn’t just some vulgar, dirty, and obscene musician by presenting the polished and well respected image of Ringo or if it was strictly for promotion, the ironic symbolism is still apparent. Furthermore, To anyone who knows any accounts of what really went on behind the scenes on The Beatles tours, the fact that Zappa was able to persuade Ringo Starr to appear in 200 Motels is rather tongue and cheek in nature.
Finally, one of the more concentrated themes throughout the film 200 Motels and Zappa’s life, career, and artistic material that contribute to his conceptual continuity is that of the dragged-out disoriented states of band members. Frank Zappa’s moral stance on drugs has always been a bit of a revelation and paradox within itself, I mean, how can someone who was so intertwined with the psychedelic and groupie rock scenes of the 60’s and 70’s have such an anti-drug stance? Truth is Frank cared more for his music then he did about the lifestyle that accompanied it, believing that people who were on drugs were “assholes in action”. He took a strong anti-drug approach to the musicians that he played with, having absolutely no tolerance for band members and there dealings with drugs, making sure there was no use of drugs whatsoever on stage. Over the course of Zappa’s career he has fired and removed numerous members from his band for poor conduct in relation to drugs and alcohol. This theme of the disoriented state of band members plays an integral part in 200 Motels, which appears when Jeff, a former band member, takes drugs in a motel room and subsequently decides he is wasting his life and talent in Zappa’s band, when one of the band members creates a potion and feeds it to another musician, who returns to his hotel room to hallucinate. These scenes outline a history of events that Zappa has dealt with throughout his career as a musician. Thus, Zappa uses the film 200 Motels as a medium to display what happens to bands and musicians along the way, the temptations vs. the expectations of touring on the road.
In conclusion, the film 200 Motels is a portrayal of Zappa’s concepts, ideas, and morals as a whole. It is not a single movie about something, but rather a movie about everything. Through using actors who are mainly playing themselves he is able to introduce his audience to his version of what it is like to tour with a band, and how it affects everyone differently. This is Zappa’s kick at creating a rock opera of his own standards, and includes all his ideas and concepts ranging from groupies to disorientated band members, but all together contributing to his conceptual continuity
Frank Zappa’s image as a popular icon is some what an anomaly. He is widely regarded as one of the most misunderstood men in the history of popular music. Having been a part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll scene during the 60’s and 70’s, Zappa has been assimilated with the image and values that accompany the Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle. The highly experimental psychedelic era in music brought about the Beatles acid fuelled album “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”, and portrayed the genre as being chemically influenced. Frank Zappa having a rather unique sound and approach; a characteristic of psychedelic music, was inadvertently linked to this way of life. It isn’t until now, in his death, that we are able to clearly understand and gain perspective on who the real Frank Zappa was.
Frank Zappa did not take drugs or drink alcohol , like many people undoubtedly assume. In fact, he took an aggressive anti-drug approach to the drug culture of the 60’s, which evolved from LSD to heroine to cocaine. He believed that taking drugs would transform people and mutate their personalities and values. In believing this, he was very adamant in promoting a no drug policy among his band members, ensuring that there was no drug use while on the road touring. His hard nosed stance led to the dismissal of fellow band members Lowell George and Ike Willis over the years. Many people are sceptical of Frank Zappa’s stance on drugs, finding him to be hypocritical, after all he did have a well known addiction to nicotine and caffeine. On one hand he was this anti-drug advocator, but on the other he smoked and drank copious amount of cigarettes and coffee. Perhaps Zappa did apply double standard in demanding complete sobriety of his musicians, while he himself took to his own remedies. However, coffee and cigarettes can’t be placed into the same category as drugs because they don’t share the same altering effects on the mind and body. “To me, a cigarette is food,” said Zappa in his autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book. “I live my life smoking these things, and drinking the ‘black water’ in this cup here.” As depicted in this quote, coffee and cigarettes were a normal function of life, and had little deterrent on his musical production and creativity. Thus, Frank Zappa’s truculent stance on drugs and alcohol are justified and admirable.
As an individual, Frank Zappa was very dogmatic. He felt everyone was entitled to his opinion, and he had a point of view on everything. While he was largely conservative and against the use of drugs, he admits to trying marijuana perhaps ten times during the sixties, but didn’t find it appealing. So, it’s hard to say he didn’t understand the use of drugs, when he had tried it for himself. He understood, he just didn’t believe there was a place for them in his own life. He took his music very seriously, working day and night without sleep, getting his relaxation through his work. For him to be classified as narrow minded for his personal outlook on drugs would be unjust and irrational. Frank Zappa was simply just a workaholic who would not bring play into his place of business, for him the music came first.
The theory that Zappa’s attitude and views on drugs are a direct result from his time spent in incarceration for audio pornography, seems too far fetched. He served a ten day sentence for his actions, during which time he visualized hard guitar cords, so loud that they could break the prison walls surrounding him. This experience may have served to be a learning lesson, but was not instrumental in forming his opinion on drugs. He has been stated as saying he had tried drugs throughout the 60’s, meaning he had tried marijuana following his 1962 incarceration. This leads us to believe that he was not at all entirely taken back by the notion of the drug following his time served.
The groupie lifestyle has changed throughout the decades. Based on popular consensus, a groupie is outlined as a person who seeks sexual and emotional intimacy with a celebrity; in our case it pertains to a musical group. Frank Zappa, the leader of the Mothers of Invention, defines a groupie simply as “a girl who goes to bed with members of rock and roll bands.” While the groupie phenomenon may only date back to the 1950s, groupie behaviour has been explicit throughout history. One comparison that has been drawn with the contemporary groupie phenomenon is that of the women who worshiped the 19th century British Romantic poets.
The groupie phenomenon is closely tied to feminism. This phenomenon has done both good and bad for feminism over the years. Some believe the name “Groupie” has become synonymous with “whore.” While others, such as Pamela Des Barres (a 1960’s rock and roll groupie) feels that “groupies are feminists of the highest order because we do what we want.” Who is to say which side was right? After all, many of the groupies of the early 1960’s were breaking down the conventional norms and values placed on women in previous decades. Who’s to say, if it weren’t for the groupie phenomenon, that a lot of societies stereotypes and conventions placed on women prior to the 1960’s would not still be in place. The women involved within the phenomenon made a choice, a choice to go against the conforms of society in an attempt to revolutionize the image of women, and remove them from the sexually oppressed ages of the past.
In societies eyes, it would appear that sex is what draws the line between what is considered healthy idolization of popular stars and a depraved pursuit of them. However, it is the thin line between infatuation and obsession that I believe can determine what is healthy and just idolization. We tend to idolize others because they have qualities we want for ourselves, it is normal and a part of becoming the person we want to be. But, when the idolization of a star turns from infatuation into obsession, individuals can become delusional and the search for ones self lost.
Creativity of the marginalized; creativity for all:
Creativity is something that all individuals possess to some degree, it lays in all of us waiting to be portrayed in our daily lives; it is the act of making something new. Furthermore, the degree and type of creativity may vary from person to person determined through there thoughts and expressions. If creativity was confined to limited individuals with exceptional abilities within society we would be at a loss of self expression. Frank Zappa believed in the creativity of the marginalized, and his selection of musicians for his first band “the Mothers of Invention”, are a testament to his belief. None of the musicians that Frank Zappa selected for his first band were masters at their own respective instruments, but they possessed the attitude to express themselves creatively. Any individual is capable of being creative at any given time, sometimes it takes the chance or opportunity, and other times it takes the attitude and inner approach.
Creativity has no limits. It has nothing to do with any activity in particular, whether it be painting, dancing, singing, or playing an instrument for that matter. The act of these activities doesn’t require creativity at all, because the act is neither creative nor uncreative. Anything can be creative, you as an individual bring the skill and quality to the activity. A person can sing in an uncreative way, no? Creativity comes from the attitude in which an individual looks at things. So, if one expresses themselves purely and passionately with a creative attitude, there is no denying there creativity. Therefore, creativity is not just a product of the arts, but of all aspects of life which range from philosophy, economics, psychology, and business to name a few.
Frank Zappa’s goal of showcasing and celebrating the special qualities of the most marginalized people in American society, while simultaneously establishing a creative role for audience members and others connected through his music is at the bare minimum a worthy one. During a time of conformity, Frank Zappa took a stand against mainstream music, politics, religion, education, and censorship. He was very much a musical pioneer, which can be seen through his ability to combine rock, jazz, electronic, and orchestral music together. He broke down many conventions in music and opened the door for other musicians to experiment, leaving a footprint on the history of rock and roll. Even if his music didn’t inspire every eardrum it touched, his attitude and persistence went unmatched and were admirable. If you are unable to reconcile your traditional ideas about what constitutes “good music”, then Frank Zappa is not strongly recommended. However, if you are willing to open your mind to a new kind of musical outlook and approach there is no better fit.
“Most people wouldn’t know good music if it came up and bit them in the ass.” – Frank Zappa