by Robert Wilkinson
Today would have been the 73rd birthday of one of the great composers and guitar players of the 20th century!
As I have many other things on my plate, this is not as extensive as I'd like, but it should give you a taste of what this musical genius was all about. Here’s a little from Wikipedia:
Frank Zappa, (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American musician, songwriter, composer, recording engineer, record producer, and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa composed rock,jazz, orchestral and “musique concrete’” works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. Zappa produced almost all of the more than 60 albums he released with the band The Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist. While in his teens, he acquired a taste for 20th-century classical composers such as Edgard Varese, Igor Stravinsky, and Anton Webern along with 1950s rhythm and blues music. He began writing classical music in high school, while at the same time playing drums in rhythm and blues bands; he later switched to electric guitar.
Zappa was a self-taught composer and performer, and his diverse musical influences led him to create music that was often difficult to categorize. His 1966 debut album with The Mothers of Invention, “Freak Out!” combined songs in conventional rock and roll format with collective improvisations and studio-generated sound collages. His later albums shared this eclectic and experimental approach, irrespective of whether the fundamental format was rock, jazz or classical. His lyrics—often humorously—reflected his iconoclastic view of established social and political processes, structures and movements. He was a strident critic of mainstream education and organized religion, and a forthright and passionate advocate for freedom of speech, self-education, political participation and the abolition of censorship.
He was a highly productive and prolific artist and gained widespread critical acclaim. He had some commercial success, particularly in Europe, and worked as an independent artist for most of his career. He also remains a major influence on musicians and composers.
For your amazement and enjoyment, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention! "No commercial potential" of course!!
Here’s the double album that freaked out the world! Given song titles like “Hungry Freaks Daddy,” “Who Are the Brain Police,” “Wowie Zowie,” and my personal favorites, “Trouble Coming Every Day,” “Help I’m A Rock,” and “It Can’t Happen Here,” it’s no wonder no one knew what to make of this debut! For your enjoyment, the entire 60 minute masterpiece “The Mothers of Invention Freak Out!”
Here’s a very jazzed out live performance of one of the signature tunes from that album, written about the LA riots of 1965-66. “Trouble Comin’ Every Day”
To see just how radically he changed the song, here's the original studio version of the incredibly hard rocking "Trouble Comin' Every Day"
If you thought the first album was weird, this one pushed the limits even further with songs like “Plastic People” and “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It”! For your amazement, the entire 43 minute second Mothers of Invention album “Absolutely Free”
For those who want some live freaking out, from 1968, 22 minutes of The Mothers of Invention Live in London
From 1969, another of my favorite Mothers albums! Here’s the entire pioneering jazz fusion album “Hot Rats”
From December 1970, a 32 minute performance in France with Flo and Eddie! The Mothers of Invention Live in Paris (Set list: “Improvisations,” “The Air,” “Dog Breath,” “Mother People,” “You Didn't Try To Call Me,” “King Kong (excerpts)”, and “Who Are The Brain Police?”)
From 1971, the 43 minute audio-only album! The Mothers of Invention Live at the Fillmore East
As a follow up to “Hot Rats” in 1972, here’s more jazz fusion courtesy of the full 37 minute album “Waka/Jawaka
Here’s a full one hour 15 minute live video of an early show! The Mothers of Invention Live in Stockholm, Sweden 1973
From December 1973, here are 32 minutes of Frank and the Mothers live at the Roxy! Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention at the Roxy
Here’s a full 1 hour 50 minute video show from 1978! Frank Zappa Live at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ
From 1981, a full 2 hour live video show! Frank Zappa Live at the NY Paladium
We’ll start the close of this tribute with a gem from 1963! Here’s Frank Zappa on the Steve Allen Show where he “plays a bicycle.” Frank Zappa on the Steve Allen Show in 1963
I found a great 1990 7 part interview with Frank, where he discusses all kinds of early influences, other musical acts, and whatever he felt like talking about.
The Frank Zappa Lost Interview – pt. 1 (Early influences)
The Frank Zappa Lost Interview – pt. 2 (Joe McCarthy, Elvis, and racism)
The Frank Zappa Lost Interview – pt. 3 (JFK, LBJ, Nixon)
The Frank Zappa Lost Interview – pt. 4 (Beatles, Stones, Lenny Bruce, censorship)
The Frank Zappa Lost Interview – pt. 5 (Jimi Hendrix, UFOs, and sex)
The Frank Zappa Lost Interview – pt. 6 (Dictatorships and problems with democracy)
The Frank Zappa Lost Interview – pt. 7 (Message for the future)
We’ll close this birthday tribute with two video clips. First, Frank’s 33 minute appearance before Congress in 1985 when they were discussing censoring music. Have fun watching a genius not give politicians an inch! Frank Zappa Testifying at the PMRC Senate hearing in 1985.
And now, from February 1988, here’s 15 minutes of Frank shooting straight on Charlie Rose! Frank Zappa on Pat Robertson and Iran-Contra
For our encore, Frank Zappa in a live performance of the Led Zeppelin classic, “Stairway to Heaven”
Frank, you definitely helped my young mind freak out, and become absolutely free from a bunch of preconceptions! Looking forward to new releases for the next century!!
© Copyright 2013 Robert Wilkinson