Five reasons to love Frank Zappa
The maverick musician is the subject of a tribute by Ensemble musikFabrik at the EIF 2013
This article is from 2013.
Frank Zappa could be snarky, smart-arsed, cynical and just plain obnoxious, but to many people he’s a hero. Here’s why:
1. He was funny
Most popular music isn’t funny. Even some of the best wallows in self-pity or angst. Zappa didn’t like wallowing. He wanted to stimulate people, so he makes you laugh. ‘Honey, Don’t You Want A Man Like Me?’, ‘Be In My Video’ and ‘Bobby Brown’ are three of the most hilariously brutal songs ever written.
2. He was brave
He insisted on artistic and economic freedom at a time when record companies routinely fleeced musicians, and eventually bucked the system – acquiring the rights to his back catalogue and releasing it on his own label. He regularly criticised the US government when it misbehaved, and was one of very few rock stars to condemn the Gulf War.
3. He was a great musician
Zappa wasn’t so much a rock star with ambitions to be a serious composer as a serious composer who wrote for rock bands. He wrote difficult modern music long before he took guitar seriously, but became one of the most inventive and eloquent guitarists in rock (Shut Up ‘n Play Yrr Guitar) and his orchestral music is extraordinary (The Yellow Shark).
4. He was a visionary
Back in the 80s he had the idea for selling music digitally down phone or cable TV lines, long before it became standard practice. He mixes up diverse genres because he believed his audience enjoyed a challenge, placing dizzying modernist music in the middle of loping country-funk about dental floss.
5. He was an inspiration
No other rock stars have had a jellyfish, spider, fossil, Berlin street, asteroid and three genome sequences named after them. And none of his kids (Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva) have ever wanted to change their names.
Ensemble musikFabrik perform A tribute to Frank Zappa, Usher Hall, 473 2000, 28 Aug, 8pm, £12–£34.