I blogged this guy last year, but he'd have been 75 today and that's a big one. That's right, it's the second 75th birthday post in three days... the week before Christmas 1940 had the gifts flowing a bit early, didn't it?
I oughtn't need to tell you who Frank Zappa was and is, so I won't. He made exactly 100 albums in 53 years on Earth. If he had just been a guitar player, people would still be saying his name 20+ years in the grave as he is. That he looms over the entirety of the music of our lifetimes makes him a figure for the ages, with very few parallels in modern music and culture.
I was introduced to him, via a tuneup at Joe's Garage, by one of my closest childhood friends, probably the best guitar player in our high school class. That was at age 12, merely 37 years ago... thanks Lloyd. And I haven't stopped since. I am by no means alone, thankfully.
We were discussing the other day about one of his most under-the-radar innovations, which is commonplace today but was unprecedented when he started doing it in the mid 1970s. This technique, called xenocrony -- wherein the constituent elements of one song are transposed over another, completely unrelated track in the studio -- was never even attempted before FZ came along.
Artists of today, from Lady Gaga to Rufus Wainwright, owe him a debt in terms of how they address their body of work as a fully-organic "project-object". And then of course, there's the fact that his music is and will always be at once intensely serious and entirely frivolous and humor-involved. Not many people can be as hilarious as he was and is and do it in 19/16 time, but then not many people even know what that is anymore. This is what happens when you take music out of the schools, folks.
I consider this man as much a teacher and a philosopher of our times as I do a guitar player or a rock star, and that assessment holds water from any perspective. Whether it meant dragging rock music into the zillions of ulterior areas he did or stepping up to explain to the coin-operated clowns in Congress why censorship is a bad thing, Frank is one stop-shopping for cultural provocateurism (yes I just made up that word, FZ having given me permission via Ouija Board!) -- even now, as I said, so long departed from us.
It's not often I do a tribute to someone I've tributed previously, but exceptional Maestros make for exceptions to the rules. So today I will get personal and share my personal Zappa tape that I keep in my phone, for when I am tooling around the Bay Area grooving to Willie the Pimp and Titties & Beer.
It contains all manner of unique edits and track transitions I did, in homage to the man who did so much to bring the tape editing tricks and studio twists -- whether they be the introduction of 20th century musique concrete into rock or being among the first, as he was, to use digital recording gear like the Fairlight CMI -- into popular music.
Phases One & Two
Eat That Question
01 The Voice of Cheese
02 I'm the Slime
03 Directly from My Heart to You
04 Peaches En Regalia
05 Transylvania Boogie
06 My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama
07 Willie the Pimp
08 Eat That Question
09 Who Needs the Peace Corps?
10 Absolutely Free (intro)
11 The Little House I Used to Live In (excerpt)
12 Oh No/Son of Orange County
13 More Trouble Every Day
14 Little Umbrellas
15 Holiday In Berlin (single edit)
17 Dog Breath
18 The Dog Breath Variations
19 The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbeque (edit)
20 Cosmik Debris
Total time: 1:19:30
The Night of the Iron Sausage
01 Joe's Garage
02 The Torture Never Stops
03 Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy
04 Wind Up Workin' In a Gas Station
05 Titties & Beer
06 Dancin' Fool
07 Regyptian Strut
08 San Ber'dino
09 Bobby Brown
10 Broken Hearts Are for Assholes
11 Valley Girl
12 Catholic Girls
13 Jewish Princess
14 Watermelon In Easter Hay
15 You Are What You Is
16 Lemme Take You to the Beach
Total time: 1:18:41
2 CD set compiled from the most recent FZ remaster series in 2012, including several edits made by me that are not on anything else
1 GB FLAC/December 2015 archive link
If you are unfamiliar with the life and work of this most extraordinary and essential musician, this would be a very fine place to dip a toe into The Purple Lagoon of the Zappaverse. Anyway, pull it down, enjoy and of course do pay your respects to Frank Zappa, born this day in 1940 and in no danger of going away anytime soon. A most happy Franksgiving and a most auspicious Zappadan to you and yours!--J.
12.21.1940 - 12.4.1993