Eighth installment in a series exploring very important people in my life.
Let me start explaining how this will work: I listed 65 idols of mine. Every Friday (with the exception of those reserved for the Rock Chain posts) I’ll draw one of the names (following a system that it’s really not important to be explained here) and talk about it.
Therefore, the order in which the names will appear doesn’t necessarily shows where they rank in my preference.
As a final introductory note, this is also not a biography article. I’ll just write how I feel about people represented in it, their talent and their importance in my life.
Genius, madman or just good old pisstaker? Frank Zappa is not an easy person to describe. His songs are not easy to like, but once you got to know his personality and ideas is impossible not to admire.
Frank Vincent Zappa was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 21 December 1940. Although he came to be better known as a guitar player, it was as an avant-garde artist and as an anti-establishment, ironic and sarcastic satirist he came to be most loved.
Zappa’s vitriol against the American government (particularly Republican and especially during the eight years of Reagan administration) is simply delicious. For a good portion of that you just need to read “The Real Frank Zappa Book”, a treasure trove of hilarious quotations and stories.
But he was a musician and supposed to be good at it. And he was. As I said before, it’s something of an acquired taste but it’s worth checking out. From The Mothers Of Invention (immortalized on Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water”) to his solo career.
I, personally, didn’t like Zappa’s music when I first heard it. I remember watching the video of “You Are What You Is” on MTV and thinking it was really weird (there was a guy with a lettuce head in the video for chrissake!). Anyway, it was not until my uncle (who is a musician, by the way) showed me the wonderful album “Sheik Yerbouti” that I started to understand Zappa.
“Sheik” deserves a paragraph solely for it. It’s brilliant and fun. The Bob Dylan impersonation on “Flakes”, the fun poking at Peter Frampton on “I Have Been In You”, the genius disco-satire of “Dancin’ Fool” and the hilarious “Bobby Brown Goes Down”, probably the most openly pornographic and satirical song ever written. It’s the perfect gateway to Zappa’s world.
He had a lot of unbearable moments as well, but you must understand: the guy recorded and released more than 60 (!) albums.
And there’s one more thing: lest we forget his instrumental role, alongside John Denver and Dee Snider, at the PMRC hearings. Frank Zappa was one of the people responsible for keeping the freedom of speech in America safe. At the same time, he was also smart on the subject: he advised their attorney to settle for those sticks written “Parental Music Advisory Explicit Lyrics” (when there would be no need for it to be accepted according to the final verdict) with a simple advice: “Everything that is forbidden, sells more.” Yes, that was classic Frank Zappa.
So, Frank: “Sheik Yerbouti” and welcome to the hall.
The blog will take a one week break as I am going to the BFA (Book Fair Of America) in New York. I’ll be back on Monday, June 2nd with my impressions about the event. See you all later!
Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal”.
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