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February 02, 2006

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Dan Easley

The Serious Music people should listen the The Yellow Shark - arguably (or not) the best execution of Zappa's string ensemble stuff put to tape. At the risk of sounding ridiculously hyperbolic, I put it right up there wish some of Bartok's stuff as personally evocative of strong emotions.

As funny as Thing-Fish can be, I find Joe's Garage terribly boring, along with most of his scatalogical and sexual humour pieces from the eighties. I guess I'm still smarting from that year I spent thinking Steve Vai's first record was cool.

Ralph Goldenmouth

Let's face it: getting some people (for instance, me) to appreciate the smug tool known as Frank Zappa is like trying to get someone to enjoy beets -- some folks just won't go for it. I, however, love beets. I also love that story about someone jumping up on stage and breaking his arm. Apocryphal? I hope not.

Andy Bowers

I love both Frank and the Captain. And it's a good bet that Trout Mask never would have happened without Frank's help. Anyone who's seen the documentary The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart can plainly see that Frank LOVED THE GUY!

With advanced age and experience Frank became much more of a businessman and he needed to considering how exploited musicians were (and are still) by the suits of the recording industry. It definitely soured him personally and contributed to his bitter-old-man persona toward the end of his life. But quite frankly (har) I can't deny his influence on my life anymore than that of either of my parents: not all good but not all bad either and often great.

So to all the FZ haters out there: SUCK IT UP! Genius is often misunderstood so don't be surprised if you just don't get it. I don't get Springsteen or hip-hop and I don't go crapping on them. Well, not on hip-hop. ;-)

Graham Johnston

The Zappapologist is also worthy of investigation.

poesboes

Hi,

Very interesting read! I know very little Zappa. But i am always intrigued by the way people.. many people always ask you whether you 'like' Frank Zappa. It was the frequency of the question. And the tone. The very question always starts of like something to pick a fight.

js

i think that you forgot the category of "schmarmy, pretensious, pseudo- intellectuals" in your zappa-hater categories. if you don't like his music - fine. thats your business. but until you've developed a body of work that can even come close to the zappa catalog, watch the insults you throw around so liberally. interesting and original music can also be listenable, and zappa covered a lot of ground in his time. musical fusion aside, the guy was one of the most interesting raw rock guitarist to walk the face of the earth, not to mention an outspoken advocate for important social problems (which he used his "smug" lyrics to promote). anyways, he was forced to use lyrics in order to make a living, so who can blame him for being ridiculous. isn't bad comedy better than shitty wannabe poetry? if listening to the sound of sandpaper rubbed against a microphone slowed to micro-tempo makes you feel smart, thats just fine. i prefer the dynamic and "funky" journey of an album like waka/jawaka. i'll take r. crumb's immature and well-drawn comics over marcel duchamp's toilet hanging on a wall any day of the week. so sue me.

Owen

One of the most crucial things about Zappa's art is his ability to rub all sorts of listeners the wrong way, including myself--which is why i love his music so much. Even after being an obsessive fan for the last 5 years or so, his music creates enough tension in me that it is still an incredibly dynamic, and pleasurable experience. I love to laugh, and Zappa always makes me laugh at ridiculousness, my own included. "My dick is a harley, i kick it to start." Sure, Bwana Dik could be labeled as "Sexist", but he's documenting the psychology of horny band members on the road. What is Zappa supposed to be, indifferent, hell no, Zappa goes right into the psyche of the listener--he makes art. Thing Fish is an amazing attack on Yuppies--look at how the language disintegrate. For all those post-1971 sucks fans, you are missing out, because Zappa is so consistent with his art, in so many different forms. Thing_fish asks, and makes the listener feel and ask, the same questions that "who are the Brain Police?" Does, if not much more effectively. Anyone who denies Zappa's art didn't develop is stupid. And of course Zappa played Louie Louie at the Yellow Shark concerts--like i said, he is purposefully oppositional. Who else can do that, and sound so beautiful?

Dwight

My first blog. How exciting(?) So I've read through everyone's postings, and I must say, I don't get it. Why does anyone care whether another person likes Frank Zappa or not? Based on his experimentation with a wide range of musical forms, he obviously didn't really give a rip what you or I thought. And that is how it should be. He was creating. The reaction to those objective creations can only be subjective. Some of the subjective reactions will be positive; some will be negative; some will be lukewarm. However, the nice thing is that, the way things are set up in the U.S. (at least for now) everyone is entitled to his or her subjective opinion. So why is it important to get people to love Zappa or hate Zappa with you? Are you only certain of your subjective opinion if someone else shares it with you? Yes? That doesn't say much about your self-confidence. Want to be a loner together? Enjoy the music you enjoy, and let me enjoy the music I enjoy. You might want to share something you like, but why do you have to step all over something you don't like? As Bobby Hill once asked his father Hank, "Daddy, why do you hate everything you don't understand?" I, for one, am not interested in having others' beliefs shoved down my throat just to make those others feel better about their less than confident beliefs.

At any rate, Scott Williams just seems to be offering some objective examples of Zappa's works that might alter listeners' subjective opinions. To those who still insist on posting their ranting screed in the attempt to configure WFMU into their own personal iPod, shame on you. WFMU is free-form radio. To paraphrase something I heard Ken Friedman say several year ago, the premise of WFMU is that listeners will turn off their radios from time to time to escape what offends their particular subjective tastes. Or these same listeners have the option of hanging on and maybe gaining some appreciation of something beyond the bounds of their scurvy existence.

Clark Gwent

"Beefheart wasn't the brains behind TMR John French was" HOGWASH! Why has John French done anything APPROACHING TMR since while Beefheart has, seveeral times? Proof of the pudding and that!

FeralCats

More importantly, I've heard only about two criticisms of the actual MUSIC here. And those were fair, even If I disagree with them. But the rest is about his lyrics, and even worse, his own personality. Those are rediculous reasons to write off music.

C.S. Lewiston

"Re: the SNL dis. That is pretty painful, agreed, where FZ shows he can't act for shit."

I don't think he was even trying to act. He was the musician on stage/on the air, but out of his element. He treated his SNL appeearances like the colossal goofs that they were, which IMHO gave them a lot more punch!

pesya

I really can't see what you're all talking about! (at least my taste wise) Don't Eat The Yellow Snow was actually the first thing I've ever heard of his that I know of. I did think 'okay, this isn't at all bad, but i'm really into other things now. i know i'll come back to it later' and of course i did and he holds the title of being the most frank zappa-esque. I don't care about funny or not and why should anyone else. Indeed try 'Help, I'm A Rock" no matter what your stand is. I was so surprised reading the title of this post, who could hate him? I've only ever encountered people that gave their express objections regarding beefheart. anyway. just listen and shut up.

Paul

Well, one thing I can say about Frank Zappa, is that before I heard his music, I was a pretty casual music appreciator, not very interested in anything specific, but I did very much enjoy guitar oriented music. (As I'm sure many young boys who play the air guitar can appreciate). However, since I 1st put in Apostrophe/Overnite Sensation double CD, I slowly started to expand on what my notion of music was. Growing up in the 80's and 90's I was only exposed to commercial radio and MTV-like video shows, that's all I knew about music (..and of course my parents oldies collections and boring stuff that I couldn't appreciate like classical and jazz).

Then came Zappa, at 1st it was about the guitar, but then like magic, I started to become interested in other intruments, other players, I took music lessons, and now I play 6 instruments, and now I compose music that challenges myself and even the notion of music itself. There is a whole other realm of music out there that you will never hear unless you explore it yourself. Music is art. Art is inspiring. There's plenty to be inspired about with the music of Zappa, you just need open ears and an open mind. Forget about what you've heard of or who you think this guy Zappa is. Just listen.. if you like it keep listening, if not, stop listening and get on with it.

In my opinion, things in life should be questionned and challenged if not for progress, at least to deepen our understanding of something. Music/Art/Politics/Religion/Philosophy are no different in my opinion. When you are no longer challenged by something, it's time to move on.. Hence the reason I can't stop listening to Zappa! It constantly challenges me whether musically, socially or otherwise. But I will agree that it's not easy to come to terms with at 1st, but having an open mind is the key, that may even be what his music was all about in the 1st place.

Paul

digitalmover

"A mind is like a parachute: it does not work, if it is not open" (Frank Zappa, 1940-1993).
Music is THE BEST!

David Goldman

Hi Scott!
I know you posted this earlier in the year, but I just saw it, while searching around on the Blog. I've been a Zappa fan for years, saw him 3x (including a show at the Nassau Colisem where the opening acts were Leo Kottke & the original Mahavishnu Orchestra!---I know, I'm dating myself)and own more albums than is probably healthy (about 25+, and that's still not enough half of what he released). I'm even listening to BROADWAY THE HARD WAY at the moment---it's largely political songs but amazing musically---some of it could be on B'way, actually (and the political stuff is still sadly relevant).
I think his post-Mothers stuff is a bit spotty, although MAKE A JAZZ NOISE is also instrumentally stunning in spots and the orchestral stuff is too. But yeah, the 2 Mothers albums after FREAK OUT! are great, and PEACHES is probably my favorite instrumental ever...was briefly in a Zappa cover band & we played it, although it was tough (esp. all those keyboard runs). Maybe we'll do "I'm the Slime" or "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body" one day w/the Hoof & Mouth group.
DG

Jerky

It has been my experience that people take from works of art that which they are capable of taking. A blind person can never grasp the chaotic terror of Picasso's Guernica. An illiterate will reap nothing from Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. A hollow, shriveled soul won't be able to wrap itself around the mournful majesty of Black Napkins, or the slinky angularity of Inca Roads, two among literally hundreds of standout tracks by the superlative artist so many of WFMU's uber-hipsters flippantly dismiss.

It has ever been the artist's lot to suffer the outraged squeals of ignorant swine who crack their teeth on the pearls cast before them. Unfortunately, the recent explosion in communication technologies has empowered every shrieking half-wit with an urge to broadcast his or her idiocy to the world, and increased the probability that said idiot will find a community of like-minded idiots to form a virtual echo chamber where he or she might return any time he is in need of reassurance.

Well, Zappa-haters, spit out those pearls and chew on this: Maybe the reason you don't like Frank Zappa's music is because you CAN'T like Frank Zappa's music. Maybe it's beyond your ability to appreciate. Maybe it's over your head. Maybe it sounds like crap to you because choosing to be a bottom-feeder in today's degraded and pathetic culture swamp has left your stunted little brain pathetically ill-equipped to handle anything beyond whatever falls outside your hyper-conscious style-guide universe. Maybe you're only wired for whatever crap disposable ironic kitsch-punk band it was you last saw on the tail end of an epic cocaine jag. Maybe asking you to appreciate Zappa's music is like asking you to play Unreal Tournament on a Texas Instruments pocket calculator. Maybe the circuitry is simply too primitive to handle the task.

Scott

Uggh... hey Jerky ('scuse me, did you say "Jerky"?), it's fans like you that make me wanna give up my own fandom. Basically, in your resentment towards the cool kids who won't bum you a cigarette, you're saying "yeah, well - you're too DUMB to like it"; oh, and "you can't HANDLE Frank Zappa". Uggh... I wrote this post almost 11 months ago; seems like you've been chewing over your response all that time.

All you people getting uptight on the Zappa haters here, remember: this was a sympathetic post. The Zappa haters got something you can't touch: they don't give a fuck. You should really get over it. You remind me of all the Christians who complain that Christianity gets a bad rap in the US.

I've occasionally banned Zappa on my radio show in protest against his bad fans. The ban's back on, effective immediately.

Jerky

Three points:

1. I didn't say "Jerky". I typed Jerky.

2. If other people's opinions about an artist shake your own opinion about an artist, then maybe your appreciation for said artist never had much to do with said artist's output in the first place.

3. It's not resentment. It's contempt.

4. Cool people suck.

5. I buy my own cigarettes.

6. I only recently came across your post in the WFMU archives.

7. Since when is "not giving a fuck" considered a virtue?

8. Most Christians suck almost as much as cool people.

9. Didja get any onya? Kill ugly radio! Waka Jawaka, etc.

Jerky

Um... make that nine points.

Jerky

PS - WHAT show?

frunobulax

The Jerky/Scott exchange makes the point precisely. 'Zappa-haters' are on an irony-deficient diet. Make that nine points? Er, duh.

Jeffersonic

Boy do I love the original vinyl release of "Weasels Ripped My Flesh"! The cover art blew my mind back when I was beginning my drug experiments. It's still in my top 75 faves. 30+ years on I still need to hear "Didja Get Any Onya" immediately followed by "Directly From My Heart To You" every few months. Sugarcane Harris's first three notes, his slur, and subsequent "sawing on his fiddle" at the beginning of "Directly From My Heart..." still get me...got me?

LASKO

FRANK COULD PICKUM.
SOME OF THE BEST GROUPS OF MUSICIANS EVER.
I MISS FRANK..........................
I'M GOING TO PLAY "LIVE IN NEW YORK " AGAIN.... sounds like a few BOBBY BROWNS on this blog

King F***ing Kong

"Well, Zappa-haters, spit out those pearls and chew on this: Maybe the reason you don't like Frank Zappa's music is because you CAN'T like Frank Zappa's music. Maybe it's beyond your ability to appreciate. Maybe it's over your head. Maybe it sounds like crap to you because choosing to be a bottom-feeder in today's degraded and pathetic culture swamp has left your stunted little brain pathetically ill-equipped to handle anything beyond whatever falls outside your hyper-conscious style-guide universe."

Hahaha, oh thats very funny and for reasons you'll never understand. If I want some avant garde mischief I'll go to someone who is actually good, like the Residents or Beefheart. Zappa-Zombies like you always assume people dont like Zappa because they dont understand him or his music. I understand completely, which is why I find it, in the main, utterly disposable.

Its interesting how the humourless, self-important, dullard hectoring of "Uncle" Frank's devoted fans mirrors his own so closely.

Laughable.

a long time FZ fan

Kind of a strange take on Frank's music. Who cares if people don't like it? Too bad for them. As a life long FZ fan, "Thingfish" is one of my favs, and I've always loved the Flo and Eddie period as well.

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