NOTE: This was originally written, by request, for a certain Frank Zappa author who shall remain nameless. When I initially submitted it to her on August 31st, 2012, she rejected it on account of it being “too writerly” and forced me to rewrite and Butcher it no less than three times, even once taking the liberty to write it herself. After many attempts to please both her and myself (the important thing), I elected to decline her offer instead of editing my work. I felt like it was the right thing to do, instead of letting someone else tell me how to do MY thing. Afterall, isn’t that what Frank would’ve done? The experience was beneficial to me, though, as it taught me a valuable lesson about my voice and not letting other people influence the way I do what I DO. So, here it is, complete, unabridged, and unbutchered as it was originally intended; the way I always wanted it to be. Included also is one of the photographs I took to be included in the piece…
I was first acquainted with the music of Frank Zappa during Christmas shopping for my mother around the age of 8 or 9. My dad owned the Ryko two-fer from the mid 80’s of Apostrophe (‘) and Over-nite Sensation. I had been listening to, up until that point, a lot of 70’s groups such as Tull, Rush, and Floyd (never was I interested in the radio!), but I could tell immediately that there was something different about Frank’s music. We rode around for the day, listening to the two albums on repeat as I studied the rather menacing Apostrophe (‘) cover, as my young mind was filled with tales about Eskimos, yellow snow, mystery men, and dental floss farmers, all while listening to the searing guitar work that accompanied the bizarre humor of Frank Zappa. I remember clearly being mesmerized by “Cosmik Debris” and all of the unique sound effects that accompanied the deep narration, and was later shocked to find out that they were all performed by members of his band. However, then, it had a mystery … it was special and it was very, very different from anything I’d ever heard.
I asked my father if he had anymore Frank Zappa and he responded that he only had The Yellow Shark album and warned that it was ‘very, very different’. I elected to stay away from it for awhile, and it wasn’t until November 2005 when I was about 11, that Frank’s music found its way into my life again. Being fans of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab’s (MFSL) version of several Tull albums, when they returned out of hibernation with a Frank Zappa album, I immediately alerted my dad. We bought a strange album, entitled We’re Only in it for the Money and brought it home, expecting another Apostrophe (‘) / Over-nite Sensation style affair and to be quite honest, were both deeply disappointed by what we heard.
However, being raised in a time in which the Thrills weren’t Cheap, my dad urged me to listen again and we did, this time each with headphones, and I was hooked at that very moment, to that weird album of Beatles parodies and wild sound effects. The ensuing Christmas season was one of the greatest I’ve ever had, with my father and I gifting each other Frank Zappa albums via Amazon research. He bought me Waka / Jawaka and Roxy and Elsewhere and I gifted him Lumpy Gravy and Best Band You’ve Never Heard in Your Life, leading me to spend the Christmas season (my dad is notorious for giving early Christmas gifts!) absorbing Waka / Jawaka. Slowly, but surely, we built up an entire library of Frank Zappa CD’s, DVD’s, and vinyl until we had nearly every release, and we listened to them together, giving Zappa the distinction of being one of the few artists that my dad and I discovered together.
The thing that makes Frank Zappa so special is that he was not a passing phase. Now that I’m 19 (approaching 20 in a week!), I have since discovered many other artists and genres since Frank, but every time I return to studying the man, I seem to uncover something new that makes it all interesting to me again. Now, with these new remasters, I’ve been slowly relistening to Frank’s catalog, reevaluating them with my ‘new’ ears and matured tastes, and they seem to appeal to a different side of me. That speaks volumes to the depth of the music and the man and discovering his art so early in life has undoubtedly shaped my tastes in music and who I am.