Frank Zappa

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Zappa, Frank (1940-1993)

American rock musician, composer and satirist. Born Frank Vincent Zappa in Baltimore, Maryland Zappa was raised in California where he grew up influenced in equal measures by avant garde composers such as Edgar Varese and Igor Stravinsky and the local Rhythm and Blues and Doo-wop groups.

After a short career as a professional songwriter (his elegiac "Memories of El Monte" was recorded by The Penguins) Zappa joined a local R'n'B band as a guitarist. A short time later he re-christened them "The Mothers" (and, later still, "The Mothers Of Invention," at the insistence of the record company.)

The Mothers were signed by well known producer Tom Wilson, and soon produced the double album "Freak Out" (1966) a mixture of often topical R'n'B and experimental sound collage. The similarly eclectic "Absolutely Free" and "Lumpy Gravy" followed the next year. Zappa also recorded "We're Only In It For The Money," a withering satire on both flower power and the prevailing mood of mainstream America; the cover parodied that of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," replacing flowers with vegetables.

After several more albums with the Mothers including the Doo Wop flavoured "Cruising With Ruben And The Jets," Zappa released the solo instrumental album "Hot Rats," featuring his free jazz inflected guitar playing, as well as a live set recorded at the Fillmore East and featuring John Lennon. He continued this high rate of production through the early 70s, including the excellent and accessible albums "One Size Fits All" and "Apostrophe," with a new versions of the Mothers.

After a break Zappa returned, and much of his later work was influenced by his use of the Synclavier as a compositional and performance tool and his mastery of studio techniques for producing specific instrumental effects. His work was also more explicitly political satirising the rise of television evangelists and the Republican party.

In the early 1990s Zappa devoted almost all of his energy to modern orchestral and synclavier works. In 1992 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, a disease which caused his death on December 4, 1993.

Zappa was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

Discography:

  • Freak Out! (1966)
  • Absolutely Free (1967)
  • Lumpy Gravy (1967)
  • We're Only In It For The Money (1968)
  • Cruising With Ruben & The Jets (1968)
  • Uncle Meat (1969)
  • Mothermania (1969)
  • Hot Rats (1969)
  • Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1969)
  • Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970)
  • Chunga's Revenge (1970)
  • Fillmore East - June 1971 (1971)
  • 200 Motels (1971)
  • Just Another Band From L.A. (1972)
  • Waka/Jawaka (1972)
  • The Grand Wazoo (1972)
  • Over-Nite Sensation (1973)
  • Apostrophe(1974)
  • Roxy & Elsewhere (1974)
  • One Size Fits All (1975)
  • Bongo Fury (1975)
  • Zoot Allures (1976)
  • Zappa In New York (1978)
  • Studio Tan (1978)
  • Sleep Dirt (1979)
  • Sheik Yerbouti (1979)
  • Orchestral Favorites (1979)
  • Joe's Garage (1979)
  • Tinseltown Rebellion (1981)
  • Shut Up 'N' Play Yer Guitar (1981)
  • You Are What You Is (1981)
  • Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch (1982)
  • The Man From Utopia (1983)
  • Baby Snakes (1983)
  • London Symphony Orchestra vol 1 (1983)
  • The Perfect Stranger (1984)
  • Them Or Us (1984)
  • Thing-Fish (1984)
  • Francesco Zappa (1984)
  • FZ Meets The Mothers Of Prevention (1985)
  • Does Humor Belong In Music? (1986)
  • Jazz From Hell (1986)
  • London Symphony Orchestra vol 2 (1987)
  • Guitar (1988)
  • You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore vol 1 (1988)
  • You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore vol 2 (1988)
  • Broadway The Hard Way (1988)
  • You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore vol 3 (1989)
  • The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life (1991)
  • You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore vol 4 (1991)
  • Make A Jazz Noise Here (1991)
  • You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore vol 5 (1992)
  • You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore vol 6 (1992)
  • Playground Psychotics (1992)
  • Ahead Of Their Time (1993)
  • The Yellow Shark (1993)
  • Civilization, Phaze III (1994)
  • Strictly Commercial (1995)
  • The Lost Episodes (1996)
  • Läther (1996)

ADDITIONAL READING MATERIAL:

"The Real Frank Zappa Book," by Frank Zappa and Peter Occhiogrosso, is the 'definitive' autobiography on Zappa
"No Commercial Potential--The Saga of Frank Zappa," by David Walley
"Frank Zappa's Negative Dialectic of Poodle Play," by Ben Watson
"In Cold Sweat-Interviews With Really Scary Musicians," by Thomas Wictor, contains an extensive interview with Scott Thunes, one of Zappa's most creative bassists
"Lunar Notes-Zoot Horn Rollo's Captain Beefheart Experience," by Bill Harkleroad, contains several references about Zappa's collaboration with Don Van Vliet

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