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Zappadan Plus One! December 5, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, music.
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Yesterday I was overly busy, and missed celebrating the First Day of Zappadan, the 17 day festival during which we Zappaphiles keep Frank’s flame burning, holding the fort from the anniversary of his passing to the anniversary of his birth.

You have NO IDEA how hard it was for me to avoid capitalizing the H’s in “his,” such is my admiration of the man.

Frank Zappa, for those of you who aren’t devotees, was, simply put, one of the most brilliant musical minds of the Twentieth Century. While the American musical scene treated him as the Clown King of Hippy Music, the rest of the Western World saw him as a force to be reckoned with. He composed symphonic pieces for most of Europe’s national symphonies, original stuff which was on many occasions declared too difficult to be performed  – until Maestro Zappa played it for them on his guitar, proving them wrong, and throwing down a gauntlet which the best orchestras picked up, exceeding their own expectations of what they were capable of.

Frank was many things to many people. Virtually every serious guitar player in the world held him in highest esteem, whether they liked his style or not. He was that technically gifted.

He was a composer of such worldwide import that we in America may never know the extent of his genius.

He was an Equal Opportunity Destroyer, skewering social artifice wherever he found it, taking down religious pretensions, and demanding introspection wherever he saw false claims of rightful dominion.

And He (OK, I caved on the “H”) was perhaps the most vocal advocate for FREEDOM OF SPEECH in His lifetime. From appearances on Firing Line, where His disdain for censorship and those who advocated it was unequivocal, to his appearances before Congress wherein He defended FREEDOM OF SPEECH and skewered His adversaries, Frank was unbowed and unrelenting.

And as a band leader, Frank was a merciless task master. You can’t play that convoluted line?… OUT!  You show up for practice high… OUT!   (This chagrined us hippies back in the day, but it was for our own good.) Frank didn’t suffer fools or those who squandered their potential pursuing temporary pleasures.

Well, that’s enough adulation for an intro. I hope to post a few more love letters to Frank during His brief-but-too-long absence from the world.

Meanwhile, I invite you to enjoy this piece of orchestral music, performed by Frank’s frequently boisterous and comical band, who can rock like no classical orchestra ever could, but can do the Classical Thing as well as anybody. I’m particularly taken by the horn section, prominent on most of Zappa’s clowning-around recordings, and here playing it straight, no chaser.

Kinda makes one want to re-evaluate the funny stuff with an eye to their absolute excellence.

Frank Zappa and Crew playing Ravel’s Bolero:

Dig the fabulous Zappa-esque electric piano playing throughout, and the trombonist’s infamous “monkey dance” beginning around 3:50.

More Zappa will punctuate my postings throughout Zappadan, though I lack the time or impetus to do Him justice by posting daily on the subject. Suffice it to say that I’ve worshiped the man since my first encounter, and will do sill ’till I join Him in Musician’s Heaven.

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Comments»

1. Aaron B. Pryor - December 5, 2012

Merry Zappadan to you!

2. littlebangtheory - December 5, 2012

Well said, though “Merry” might slip the point of Frank’s leaving. I’ll keep my head up. That’s all I can promise at this sad point in The Cycle…

3. susancrow - December 13, 2012

I saw the Mothers perform as often as I could and never got enough. As I remember, Frank was also very demanding of his audiences and never, but never, played requests. His shows were invariably amazing and never twice the same even during the same tour. I still miss him for all the reasons you mentioned and more you haven’t – yet.

The first time I heard ‘Peaches en Regalia’ there were tears streaming down my face. I very rarely cry.

4. littlebangtheory - December 14, 2012

Susan, good on you for actively seeking out this emotional gold. I can barely imagine “Peaches” performed live, it must have been a debilitating experience! I only saw him live once, and was too young to appreciate what was a wholly serious show. I guess I expected more “clown” from the Clown King.

Oh well, that was my loss. At least I get it now.


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