Jan 262021

Sometimes I catch a clip of Frank Zappa pontificating on culture and think to myself, I don’t like that guy’s music, but I do appreciate how full of himself he is.

I am accused, with some regularity, of being full of myself. I can’t argue with that. I am. I deeply believe that we should all be a little more comfortable with being full of ourselves. The more the merrier. That’s always been a driving concept behind Rock Town Hall.

Other times I catch an interview with Zappa and think to myself, That guy is full of himself. I had to bail on this clip, for instance, at the 2:20 mark, when he asks his interviewer, “Is that too technical?”


  11 Responses to “Full of Myself”

  1. I think that’s one of the things I don’t like about his music. It always comes off as smug and self satisfied. At the risk of sounding like I’m from Boston, who does he think he is? Does he think he’s better than me!? I admire the clarity of his vision and I like him as a First Amendment advocate. And he’s a hell of a guitar player. But I generally prefer stupid music and intelligent lyrics, so Zappa’s blend of complicated modulating tempos and cord structures combined with lyrics about wee-wees is utterly unappealing to me.

  2. Although Zappa was clearly the leader of the original Mothers, his smugness, which generally undercuts his many valid opinions and even his interesting musical ideas, was undercut by the band’s journeymen roots. They could play, some of them were schooled, working musicians, but the emphasis is on working. They had personality in spades, not necessarily star power but something approaching the oddball clientele at a local watering hole. It was this blend of Zappa’s interesting point of view and creativity through the prism of the early band’s humanity that make the Mothers of Invention records work for me. A lot of the early lyrics were basically an adaptation of things that came out of these guys mouths.

    Also, I don’t want to hear the “hell of a guitar player” argument. Not that he can’t play, but beginning about 1969, his basic guitar solo schtick was an endless grind over a 4 chord vamp at a slow tempo. Goddamn was he in a 25 year rut. My favorite guitar solo of his was “Invocation and Ritual Dance of a Young Pumpkin,” on the second album, “Absolutely Free.” It’s long but uptempo, with lots of interplay between the guitar and the band. He also does a neat guitar solo on “It Must Be a Camel” from Hot Rats, where the guitar solo is in two parts, the first very stiff and strictly enunciated in the manner of late 60’s jazz players, say Larry Coryell, and the second half a rock solo with bends and loose phrasing.

  3. BigSteve

    Yeah Zappa’s guitar hero routine later in his career is weird. Here’s this guy who is so advanced, he’s a COMPOSER after all, and I’m supposed to listen to his endless guitar wanking? No thanks.

  4. I love the thought of some of the guys from REO Speedwagon sitting around, watching this, going, “yeah, Frank! You tell ’em, man!” And then hearing their own band mentioned and being all McNutty: “what the fuck did *I* do?!”

  5. Hey, I never said I enjoyed listening to him play the guitar. But he was very accomplished and had the chops to back up his (pretentious) vision.

  6. I do want to make it clear that although Zappa does totally annoy me, his original stretch of records are wonderful, full of interesting music, insightful social commentary and absurd humor. I totally stand by:

    Absolutely Free
    We’re Only in It for the Money
    Lumpy Gravy
    Cruisin’ with Reuben and the Jets
    Uncle Meat

    Freak Out is also pretty good though a little less accomplished. There are also some other good records after Uncle Meat but they all are spotty, For example, Hot Rats has some great moments like Peaches En Regalia, but bogs down with too much endless soloing over a pretty static groove..

  7. Sides 1, 2, and 3 of Freak Out are solid. Not a fan of anything else after that. Too much “Check out how clever and funny I am.” Freak Out is actually kind of funny. It seems like he became more and more annoying as a musician and a comedian as his chops grew. He’s an entertaining interview. I’ll give him that.

  8. We agree on him becoming more annoying.

  9. Geo, many years back, I read that McCartney heard Freak Out and thought it was great. That’s all I had to hear. I bought it, listened to it, and liked the first three sides a lot. Whatever was happening on side 4 was not for me. No big deal. Three out of 4 ain’t bad, especially for a double LP. The rest of the Verve LPs were mildly interesting but not enough for me to open up my wallet to check the rest of his output. In the words of James Ellroy, Zappa was/is “an acquired taste I did not want to acquire.”

  10. Very surprised that you didn’t care for “Help, I’m a Rock.”

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube