As we’re currently in the midst of the festival of Zappadan, I thought I’d slap together a few of my personal memories of Frank.
When I was in high school, I mostly just listened to electronic stuff like Kraftwerk, Walter/Wendy Carlos, Isao Tomita and Synergy, and pseudojazz, aka “fusion,” such as Weather Report, Return to Forever, Spyro-stinking-gyra and that wizard of the electric jazz violin, Jean-Luc Ponty. Kinda sad, I know, but at least it meant I didn’t have to go along when my friends would go on their annual pilgrimage to Nassau Coliseum to see (ulp) Styx.
However, there were a few exceptions to the no-rock rule for me: Pink Floyd, David Bowie, and yes, Frank Zappa
I had to be careful who I told about that, though. For the most part, if you told people in my high school that you liked Frank, you could expect them to start quoting some of Moon’s lines from Valley Girl — their favorite track from the only Zappa album they’d ever listened to, Sheik Yerbouti. Gag me with a spoon.
Every year I’d see a few kids with t-shirts indicating that they’d been to Zappa’s annual Halloweenie concert at the Palladium in New York (die heißeste stadt), but I’d heard scary stories about that place (before it turned into a giant disco) and I never went, stupid kid that I was.
I did finally get to see Zappa live my freshman year of college, which would have been in 1981 or 1982, at the hockey arena on the campus of Boston University. It was a pretty damn cool show, but I have to admit that the most memorable part of the evening came at the end. After a few encores, the lights came up and for some reason everyone ran out of the arena as if someone had just thrown a grenade into the room. The exit my friend and I took wasn’t exactly an exit. Once we were outside, we found ourselves stuck behind a rather high chain link fence, and we and about twenty other fans had to climb over the damn thing. Chaos can be fun, kids.
Check out the videos below. It’s Zappa on the old Steve Allen show in 1963, demonstrating ways to create music with a bicycle. In between dumb jokes, Allen actually attempts to relate this to free jazz and other experimental forms.
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