The other day I was reading a thread in a forum. I don’t recall what started the thread or what took me to the forum, but one of the comments in the thread was about Frank Zappa.
One participant wrote “what’s so great about Frank Zappa”. They went on to write that everyone thinks he was so wonderful yet he never had a hit and just made weird music.
I was a little taken aback by the comment but I can understand why some people would feel that way.
My introduction to Frank Zappa’s music was in high school probably around my sophomore or junior year. Someone brought “Billy the Mountain” to a party and of course a record with cussing in it was cool to all the teenage boys. (This was well before it was as commonplace as it is today.)
As I grew older I became more familiar with the recordings of Frank Zappa. Some of my favorites then and now are “One Size Fits All”, “Apostrophe”, “Over-Nite Sensation” and “Zoot Allures”. I’m sure other Zappa fans have their share of favorite recordings not mentioned here. There have been 102 Frank Zappa albums released from 1966 through 2015.
Most would probably classify him an avant-garde composer, musician, recording artist, but to me he can’t be classified.
Frank Zappa doesn’t need anyone to defend him or his music but I’ll tell you what I think is great about Frank Zappa.
Frank Zappa was honest about his work and I’m guessing about his life.
Frank Zappa could have, for lack of a better term, “sold out” and been a huge commercial success.
I came to that conclusion one day as I was listening to “Apostrophe” after not having heard it for over twenty years.
As I’m listening I’m realizing that every song has numerous hooks, great hooks. You could take four, eight, sixteen bars and there was a commercial song. You could take any one of the numerous hooks in one song, repeat it for three to four minutes and have a hit single.
But Frank Zappa never went that route. It wouldn’t have been honest.
Frank Zappa knew how to write, play, record and produce great music. Frank Zappa could cram more great music into one song than most artists can fit into an entire career.
Frank Zappa gave me an appreciation of melodic percussive instruments like marimbas and vibraphones through Ruth Underwood.
So what’s so great about Frank Zappa?
He did what he wanted, how he wanted, when he wanted, with whom he wanted and it was honest and it was great.
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