The Real Frank Zappa: It's not too late to get to know him
Ridge Hardy
2/26/2009 8:59:26 AM

Itís always astounding how many people are unaware of Frank Zappa in any form: Guitarist, Composer, Satirist, Free Speech Advocate, etc. How could anyone be so blatantly oblivious of this man? With over sixty albums released in his lifetime alone, films, books, concerts, and hundreds of interviews, one gets the general feeling that most people just weren't looking. And, so begins this writerís half-hatched plan on the restoration of Zappa in the annals of Night Times.

To begin with, those who are familiar with Frank Zappa come off with a sense that they truly know the man. How this comes about is anyone's guess, but I'll assume for just a minute that these assumptions rest solely on misquotes and bizarre stories passed down from generation to generation. So, when I became interested in furthering my knowledge of the life and mind of Frank Zappa, I distanced myself from those typical, tabloid-esque, oh-my-god-no-he-didn't biographies and ended up with The Real Frank Zappa Book, an unapologetic, intelligent, and opinionated testament written by the man himself with the assistance of Peter Occhiogrosso. Driven by his own frustrations with being misunderstood by the music community and world at large, Zappa sets out a path of righting every wrong and destroying every misconception that lies in his wake.

The Real Frank Zappa Book [Fireside, 1990] opens up with Zappa's recollections of childhood and his discovery that he was already unique even at a young age, i.e. creating blueprints for an even deadlier nuclear bomb than the standard prototype available during the 40's, along with new insight into his bouts with being a sickly kid, his move cross country, and his relationship with his parents. But, it almost feels as if Zappa is reticent in discussing his early life and wishes to erase any memories of a particular unhappiness. As the book progresses, Zappa delves more into his discovery of music and suddenly his hushed joy begins to compensate for the lack of insight into his previous memories. And his nostalgia on stumbling into Contemporary Classical Music and the composer who changed his life makes for fascinating reading material.

Other than occasional remembrances of his musical career, the book is devoted to Frank Zappa, the man, the mind, and the father. Whether offering no apologies for those he offended or railing against the government that he considered a "fascist theocracy", Zappa bites off more than he can chew and swallows it all. And it begins to dawn upon the reader that not only was Zappa one of the most supremely gifted composers of his time, but also, arguably, music's sharpest mind.

Frank Zappa once said that "Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read," and while some may argue this point, I can't help but feel that I'm starting to piss Frank off, and I don't want to do that.


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