Some people just won’t let the dead die. Thank our lucky stars for that because Ahmed Zappa and several of his dad’s ex-band mates are touring The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa, in which the L.A. composer rises from the dead to sing and jam with his pals through holographic magic.
From the 60’s to the 90’s the name Zappa conjured mischief, mirth, misunderstanding and, of course, a prolific amount of music, much of it innovative, imaginative and challenging. Some of the most head-banging, ass-shaking rock and fusion funk ever. In my uneducated opinion, he has to be considered one of, if not, the greatest rock guitarist of them all. Pair that sophisticated brilliant music with his sarcastic, hilarious, irreverent lyrics and you have the stuff of genius. His tunes about tv, groupies, new age charlatans, coke-sniffing disco denizens and the rich and fatuous are unforgettable. He repeatedly launched verbal spitballs at hypocrisy, injustice, education and the mores of constipated society with a steady silly volume of verse that was as true as it was ridiculous.
To this day, many thought his inspired lunacy was drug-induced. Those in his audience were high, but he wasn’t. He was wired on coffee and cigarettes, caffeine and nicotine. With an outer frontier avant garde sparkle in his eye, Zappa carved out his own genre of music, an island, on which he rocked harder, funked funkier and out-metaled kids half his age.
There was always an element of slapstick and burlesque in his musical theater of the absurd, too. In Bizarre World, here he is again playing, singing and preaching his piercing take on reality. How about this piece of his mind: “I’m a person who likes to do what he wants to do… whether people like it or not. And what I do is designed for people who like it, not for people who don’t.” Even in death, the thought police are nipping at his ankles. Ticket Master censored the Bizarre World tour artwork for “questionable content”. One of the penguins in bondage about to be spanked is bare-assed. The new poster shows the penguin with its ass covered. You call that a job? Get a life, Mr. Censor! We count on Zappa for laughs, for kicks, for a relief from the Republican Christian Bullshit (RCB) jammed down our throats every day. In other words, the naked, bare-assed truth.
Zappa slapped his own albums with a WARNING/GUARANTEE. For Bizarre World the promo literature reads: “These concerts contain material which a truly free society would neither fear nor suppress”. That is music to my ears.
In the 80’s and 90's when a group of bored, most likely sexually-frustrated Washington insiders’ wives (Parents Music Resource Center: PMRC), Tipper Gore, among them, tried to abuse their political clout to censor lyrics and muzzle creativity by slapping warning stickers on albums, Frank Zappa addressed a public hearing in D.C. where delivered such a persuasively cogent, reasonable lecture on the folly of their quest that he just about charmed them out of their undergarments. The wives loved him. It is brilliant and waiting for you to see on YouTube.
Additional YouTube interviews with Zappa on talk shows, including the one in which he appears with his kids who insist he is just a normal dad, are must viewing. The writer of songs such as My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama, Titties and Beer, Broken Hearts Are For Assholes, Call Any Vegetable, Jesus Thinks You’re A Jerk and Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow and albums such as Lumpy Gravy, Freak Out and Sheik Yerbouti (get it?) was truly a great American.
Every time I saw him live it was a thrill, a music lesson, a loony lampoon in which he branded every sacred cow with his dangerous down-to-earth view of the world. One night in my teen years I ate some LSD and sat in a box above and off to the side of the stage. The band was blasting and I was blasting off. In between songs during a brief silence, I yelled out: “Let’s boogie”. He looked up in my direction and, with some contempt and disgust, spat: “We’re gonna do something a little more abstruse than a boogie.” Hey, I got personally humiliated by Zappa. How many people can say that?
Funny thing is, though, toward the middle of the set the band launched into a scorching funk jam, during which an impossibly sexy Black woman appeared on stage and danced like I have never ever seen anyone dance before. And, then, after that one number, she was suddenly gone. Pure Zappa.
His ex-mates, whose artistry was remarkable, recalled Zappa with whimsy, true love and respect and delivered a heaping buffet of the composer’s tasty fare with passion and virtuosity. You know Zappa was smiling slyly somewhere.
The Good Die Young.