Frank Zappa fought incredibly hard against the Mothers of Prevention (as he dubbed them). These were the Congressional Wives upon whom the Steve Jackson Illuminati card was based, specifically Tipper Gore and her band of cronies, the PMRC (Parents' Music Resource Center) who got all of our music albums censored in 1985-1986. I am of course speaking of the Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics labels on all of our music. Zappa fought to have no labels at all, but if it was not for Zappa's diligence, music albums would now carrying labels similar to video games and TV shows, specifying violent, sexual, anti-social, or any other "unacceptable" content.

Frank Zappa: Statement To Congress September 19, 1985 should be required reading for all of our children. This battle was one of the most important and far-reaching events in Zappa's life, and should be remembered. At least by those of us in the United States to whom this matters.

An American Composer with a incredible discography:

Frank Vincent Zappa (b. 21 December 1940, Baltimore, MD)

Recordings:

  • Freak Out! (Mothers of Invention) Feb-66
  • Absolutely Free (FZ/Mothers of Invention) Apr-67
  • We're Only In It For The Money (FZ/Mothers of Invention) Sep-68
  • Lumpy Gravy (Frank Zappa/Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra & Chorus) Dec-67
  • Cruising With Ruben & The Jets (FZ/Mothers of Invention) Nov-68
  • Uncle Meat (FZ/Mothers of Invention) Mar-69
  • Hot Rats (Frank Zappa) Oct-69
  • Burnt Weeny Sandwich (FZ/Mothers of Invention) Feb-70
  • Weasels Ripped My Flesh (FZ/Mothers of Invention) Aug-70
  • Chunga's Revenge (Frank Zappa) Oct-70
  • "Fillmore East, June 1971" (FZ/Mothers) Aug-71
  • 200 Motels (Frank Zappa) Oct-71
  • Just Another Band From LA (FZ/Mothers) Mar-72
  • Waka/Jawaka (Frank Zappa/Hot Rats) Jul-72
  • The Grand Wazoo (FZ/Mothers) Nov-72
  • Over-Nite Sensation (FZ/Mothers) Sep-73
  • Apostrophe (') (Frank Zappa) Mar-74
  • Roxy & Elsewhere (FZ/Mothers) Jul-74
  • One Size Fits All (Frank Zappa/Mothers of Invention) Jun-75
  • Bongo Fury (Zappa/Beefheart) Oct-75
  • Zoot Allures (FZ) Oct-76
  • Zappa In New York (FZ) Mar-78
  • Studio Tan (FZ) Sep-78
  • Sleep Dirt (FZ) Jan-79
  • Sheik Yerbouti (FZ) Mar-79
  • Orchestral Favorites (FZ) May-79
  • Joe's Garage Act I (FZ) Sep-79
  • Joe's Grarage Act II & III (FZ) Nov-79
  • Tinseltown Rebellion (FZ) May-81
  • Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar (FZ) May-81
  • Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar Some More (FZ) May-81
  • Return Of The Son Of Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar (FZ) May-81
  • You Are What You Is (FZ) Sep-81
  • Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch (FZ) May-82
  • The Man From Utopia (FZ) Mar-83
  • Baby Snakes (FZ) Mar-83
  • London Symphony Orchestra Vol. I (FZ) Jun-83
  • The Perfect Stranger (Boulez/Zappa) Aug-84
  • Them Or Us (FZ) Oct-84
  • Thing-Fish (FZ) Nov-84
  • Francesco Zappa (FZ) Nov-84
  • The Old Masters Box I Apr-85
  • FZ Meets The Mothers Of Prevention (FZ) Nov-85
  • Does Humor Belong In Music? (FZ) Jan-86
  • The Old Masters Box II Nov-86
  • Jazz From Hell (FZ) Nov-86
  • London Symphony Orchestra Vol. II (FZ) Jun-87
  • The Old Masters Box III Dec-87
  • Guitar (FZ) Apr-88
  • You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. I (FZ) May-88
  • Broadway The Hard Way (FZ) Oct-88
  • You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. II (FZ) Oct-88
  • You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. III (FZ) Nov-89
  • The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life (FZ) Apr-91
  • Make A Jazz Noise Here (FZ) Jun-91
  • You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. IV (FZ) Jun-91
  • You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. V (FZ) Jul-92
  • You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. VI (FZ) Jul-92
  • Playground Psychotics (FZ/Mothers) Nov-92
  • Ahead Of Their Time (FZ/Mothers of Invention) Mar-93
  • The Yellow Shark (Frank Zappa/Ensemble Modern) Oct-93
  • Civilization Phaze III (Frank Zappa) Dec-94
  • The Lost Episodes (Frank Zappa) Feb-96
  • Läther (Frank Zappa) Sep-96
  • Frank Zappa Plays The Music of Frank Zappa: A Memorial Tribute (Frank Zappa) Nov-96
  • Have I Offended Someone? (Frank Zappa) May-97

    Films:

  • 200 Motels 1971
  • Baby Snakes 1979
  • Uncle Meat 1987

    Home Video & TV:

  • A Token Of My Extreme 1975
  • Dub Room Special 1982
  • Does Humor Belong In Music? 1984
  • The True Story Of 200 Motels 1987
  • Amazing Mr. Bickford 1987
  • Video From Hell 1987

    Books:

  • The Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa Published 1989 Poseidon Press/Simon & Schuster
  • Them Or Us by Frank Zappa Published 1984 Barfko-Swill
  • Rock journalism is people who can't write
    interviewing people who can't talk
    for people who can't read.

    Sardonic, mischievous, and intrepid, Frank never pulled his punches.

    While the antics and debauches of his bands and crew were legendary and the subject of many songs (Mudshark, Latex Solar Beef) and at least one album cover (Over-nite Sensation), the man himself didn't use anything stronger than coffee and cigarettes, and while on the job demanded complete professionalism as well as wicked chops from his musicians, even the ones who had spent the previous evening filming closeups of a blow-up doll with a mouth full of tadpoles. I'm not enough of a composer to comment on his later orchestral works, but I'll say that despite a penchant for melodically and rhythmically turning on a dime within songs, Zappa et al produced some of the grooviest rock'n'roll ever committed to vinyl. Listen to Andy or Pajama People on One Size Fits All, for example.

    He played a mean Gibson SG. Listen to Ship Ahoy from Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar. And if you like that ring modulator + echo box + harmonics tone, check out son Dweezil's cover of Baby One More Time for a brief, hilarious homage.

    Zappa was also, as noted, in the vanguard of the battle against censorship and the PMRC in particular. Vaclav Havel wanted to make him a special ambassador for music?culture? in?to? the Czech Republic, but the State Department under James A. Baker III intervened, perhaps because Baker's wife was on the PMRC.

    Strong albums: Hot Rats, One Size Fits All, Apostrophe. Though it's embarrassing to try to select the 'best' of such a rich discography, the first is jazzy and largely instrumental; the next is driving rock'n'roll; and the last is quite famous, mostly for including Don't Eat the Yellow Snow. Also, rich as the discography is, there's a lot more unreleased in the tape vault of Zappa's studio, the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen.

    The Real Frank Zappa Research Node

    From doo-wop to satirical hard-rock to serious classical composition, Frank Zappa has done it all. Whether it’s “Burnt Weenie Sandwich” , “Catholic Girls”, or “Jazz from HellZappa’s music has broken all barriers between comedic satire and pop music; experimental sounds and orchestral pieces. By combining his own creativity with influences such as Edgar Varese and Anton Webern, Zappa became one of the most respected, influencial, and controversial artists of the 1900’s. His involvment in the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) displayed Zappa’s strong dissent against censorship in America and his protective activism for First Amendment Rights. His greatest work (completed shortly before his death on December 4, 1993) is “The Yellow Shark” a full length orchestra composed by Frank Zappa. Frank Zappa’s innovative creativity in his music, combined with greatly differing influences and political and social activism made him much more than a musician; an American legend.

    Frank Zappa was born in Baltimore on December 21, 1940 ( Frank Zappa Biography). At the age of ten, he and his family moved to California where his father worked as a meteorologist for the military who researched poisonous gases.

    Zappa’s musical career began in high school as a drummer in local garage bands and the school marching band. Zappa’s life and musical tastes changed in 1954, when he read a Look Magazine story about the Sam Goody record chain, which cited its ability to sell such “weird” music as “The Complete Works of Edgar Varese, Vol. One”. When Zappa finally found a copy, he embraced its avant-garde sound. It was then that the musical mix of influences began. Zappa was just as deeply influenced by Howlin’ Wolf and the Orioles as Bach, Varese and Webern.

    Zappa’s first experience with composing classical music came as a high school sophomore in an unproduced early ‘60s pop opera titled “I Was a Teenage Maltshop” (narrated by his high school friend Don Van Vliet, who later became Captain Beefheart) (Tribute to the Great Wazoo). During the early 1960's, Frank was in various small bands including: The Ramblers (Zappa on drums); The Black-Outs; The Boogie Men; Joe Perrino and the Mellotones; The Soots (w/ Captain Beefheart; Mr. Clean, The Rotations; The Soul Giants and Captain Glaspack (thank you Psuedo_Intellectual!). Zappa’s breakthrough band was the “Mothers” (“of Invention” was added later by MGM Records). The Mother’s of Invention’s first album was called “Freak Out”, which was followed by “Absolutely Free” then “We’re Only in it for the Money” which was a strong satire of the Beatles’ “Seargent Peppers Lonley Hearts Club Band” as well as the alternative lifestyle of the Mothers’ fans (Frank Zappa Biography). During the 1960’s; however, Zappa, the Mothers’ chief writer, arranger, conceptualist and leader, was growing increasingly frustrated. This transpired in 1968’s “Cruisin’ with Ruben and the Jets,” in which the Mothers assumed an alter ego celebrating what Zappa called “cretin simplicity”. However, the Mothersrecords didn’t sell well and live work was rather rare for a band with such an eccentric sound. He became increasingly unhappy with the financial losses and the musicians whom he worked with.

    With the Mothers Of Invention, and later, under his own name, Zappa played “rock” in instrumentation only; however, the complexity of Zappa’s rock music equaled that of any classical orchestra. Zappa’s work during the later years with the Mothers was a wild juxtapositioning of styles providing a cushion for Zappa's satirical and biting humor (Does Humor Belong in Music).

    The Mothers were disbanded in 1970, when Zappa “got tired of playing for people who clap for all the wrong reasons” (Frank Zappa Biography). And while there had always been much caustic wit in his lyrics, ''Road Ladies'' (released in 1970) began a string of scatologically humorous songs that would lead many critics and to dismiss his work. Among these songs were “Dinah-Moe Humm” (about a woman who claimed she couldn't reach orgasm), “Illinois Enema Bandit”, and 1974’s “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow” (Hall of Records). During this time period, Zappa’s reputation dwindled in the eyes of many to the level of a “fringe artist” who wrote perverse songs; however, his critics often failed to acknowledge the musical talent behind the “dirty” lyrics. On the other hand, “Don’t eat the Yellow Snow” turned out to be Zappa’s first hit single after a radio DJ cut it from 10 minutes to three and played it on the air). By the late 70’s and early 80’s Zappa’s style began to shy away from the scatological humor in albums such as “Joe’s Garage” (which was a musical narration of certain homosexual activities), and moved more toward intellectually questioning the nature of musical criticism and modern culture (such as the album “Does Humor Belong in Music?”, released in 1986)(The Real Frank Zappa Homepage). Zappa’s few “hits” during this time included: 1979’s “Dancin’ Fool” satirizing disco, and 1982’s “Valley Girl” which satirized California’s shopping mall culture (which included the voice of his then-14-year-old daughter, Moon Unit)(The Real Frank Zappa Homepage).

    Zappa’s social and political involvment came to a head in the late 80’s when he took a strong stance against the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) led by Tipper Gore. This organization was lead by wives of congressman and senators, and aspired to have all music albums rated by a board or censors (appointed by the PMRC), and/or have the album’s lyrics printed on the outside cover. In 1985 Zappa spoke before Congress against the PMRC. His speech was brilliant in it’s allusions to other types of censorship and suppression of freedom and creativity. At one point Zappa proposed the question: “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?” (Civilization, Phase III).

    In September of 1992, Zappa recorded one of his most successful, creative and respected musical ventures. Through a connection with Andreas Mollich-Zebhauser, Zappa was introduced to a contemporary music group called Ensemble Modern (EM). Zappa had worked with other orchestras such as the London and Los Angeles Philharmonics; however, many of the projects had gone awry due to inadequate rehearsal, restrictive union policies, or politics. But despite his bad experiences in dealing with orchestras, Zappa agreed to work with the EM after hearing a them play pieces by Kurt Weill and Helmut Lechenmann. The project began in July of 1991 when the EM flew to L.A. at it’s own expense to rehearse with Zappa, their composer. Unlike his past experiences with orchestras, Zappa was pleased with the Ensemble member’s attitudes and motivation during rehearsals (The Yellow Shark).

    Zappa then sampled each of the eighteen players range of sounds, then programmed them into his Synclavier (an electronic instrument that aides the composition of music) (Synclavier). Using this method, Zappa could compose and hear pieces of music that would be extremely difficult for an actual human musician to play (The Yellow Shark).

    Frank Zappa, whether as a rock musician, a political defender of First Amendment Rights, or a classical composer has influenced American culture in innumerable ways. For example, The Mothers of Invention’s first album “Freak Out” was the first double album ever made. To many, Zappa remains an experimenter, a "fringe artist," or worse, "60's drug music” Zappa's mentor, Edgar Varese, summed it up when he broke free of all stereotype and called himself "One-all alone” (Tribute to the Great Wazoo). Zappa was precisely that, an individual; an individual who’s vast knowledge of many different genres of music and unwillingness to allow his (or any other recording artists) work to be mindlessly censored led him to become a true American legend.

    If you notice any mistakes, whether they be factual or gramatical, please leave me a write up and I will make then necessary changes.
    The high/low-point of the battle with the PMRC was when the Zappa album "Jazz from Hell" was immediately labelled with a "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" sticker as a knee-jerk reaction by the group and thus banned from Wal-Mart and other such evil chain-stores, despite being an entirely instrumental album. A strong argument against this type of censorship as it shows just how ill-informed the reasoning behind it actually is.

    For an introduction to Zappa, get the Rykodisc album "Cheap Thrills", which should sell for less than four quid (or probably about eight dollars in Amerikkka. Scatalogical rock'n'roll, jazz freakiness and a song called "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama".

    Frank Zappa makes a great role model on so many levels. As a musician, a social commentator, and creative person in general, Zappa brings a sharp logical wit to everything he touches. Though he was widely misunderstood by the public at large, his intelligence and integrity are noteworthy regardless of politics. Zappa believed in the freedom of the individual. He spent his life pursuing those things that interested him, and by doing so he made a lasting impression on the musical world (and some kind of impression on the political one).

    For those of us who enjoy creating, Zappa is easy to appreciate. Writing, painting, composing, and programming are the types of activities that attract people who do for the sake of doing. The concept that you can make a living doing something you enjoy is one of the greatest freedoms to emerge from modern culture. Zappa embraced this freedom and in the process created an astonishing discography spanning four decades. Yet the most inspiring thing is that he never really 'got lucky.' Zappa earned everything he got. Us commoners can relate to him because he never became part of the entertainment machine that really hit its stride during his career. He massaged a loyal cult following through pure musical creativity (too purely creative for the common listener). The few hits Zappa had during the 70s and 80s set him up for life because didn't strive for a rock star lifestyle. He made necessary business decisions, but was never forced to water down his music. Whether popular musicians have sold out is the omnipresent conundrum in an MTV age, but with Zappa there's no need to ask.

    HIs musical catalog provides old-growth forest for the construction of new popular music. Whereas most popular music these days can be thought of as recycled particle board, with some plywood, and a few innovators creating the saplings of new ideas, Zappa consistently outdoes them all in terms of raw material produced. Once you get past the often corny facade of a Zappa piece, you will be astonished by what is going on musically. And you can listen hundreds of times before really catching everything that's going on. I don't think I've ever liked a Zappa song the first time I've heard it; it takes time to digest the thick Zappa-gel. This feature makes Zappa most beloved to musicians themselves, who can use Zappa as pure inspiration due the vast variety of rhythms, melodies, and compositions he uses. Once familiar with Zappa you will start to see his influence in everything from techno to hip-hop.

    Zappa was goofy. His lyrics provide the first (and often only) impression to new listeners everywhere. In fact, I think it's safe to say most folks can't get over the lyrics, they either find them offensive or too goofy to listen to seriously. Zappa said once that he only put the lyrics there because people want lyrics. He got in a fair amount of hot water from various sources over allegations of racism and sexism in his lyrics. To Zappa, the idea that avoiding certain socially unacceptable stereotypes would prevent one from being a racist was absurd. He did not express contempt or superiority to any groups of people, he just wrote very descriptive narratives. Sure he made fun of almost everyone, but the fact that his accusers often came from the latently-racist power structure of America seems more than a bit ironic.

    Zappa's witty clear-spoken manner seems to often have an inflammatory effect, not because of his words themselves, but because of the strong images and arguments they evoke. Whether listening to interviews, reading courtroom transcripts, or reading his books, I am consistently awed at how deep Zappa's worldview is. Maybe it's just personal bias. I love what the man stood for, and how he stated it. Though his witticisms and sardonic humour have been under-appreciated by the under-informed, I think history will cast Zappa in the light of the real power of his ideas. The power of truthful observation and pure creativity.

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