Sunday, April 19, 2009

Zappa on Absurdity

To me — absurdity is the only reality
~ Frank Zappa

The legendary (1940–1993) was a prolific American composer, musician, record producer, and film director. In a career spanning more than thirty years, Zappa wrote rock, jazz, electronic, orchestral, and musique concrete works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. Zappa produced almost all of the more than sixty albums he released with the band Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist. 

But he was also a philosopher, and is today perhaps one of the most widely quoted musicians of the 20th century. He was also a keen observer of the absurd in much of what he saw in the world, and wasn't afraid to speak what was on his mind. Here are some of his best thoughts and reflections:

On Parenting:

    • The first thing you have to do if you want to raise nice kids, is you have to talk to them like they are people instead of talking to them like they're property.
      ~ Appearance on The Howard Stern Show (1987)

    • Parents have more to do with making their children weird than TV or rock and roll records. The only other thing that makes them weirder than TV and parents is religion and drugs.
      ~ Zappa & Occhiogrosso: Real Frank Zappa Book (1989)

    • The more boring a child is, the more the parents, when showing off the child, receive adulation for being good parents — because they have a tame child-creature in their house.
      ~ Interview with Ben Watson, Mojo Magazine (1993)

      On Politics:

        • When God created Republicans, he gave up on everything else
          ~ Appearance on Thicke of the Night (1984)

        • I have four children, and I want them to grow up in a country that has a working first amendment.
          ~ Appearance on CBS Morning News (1985)

        • The biggest threat to America today is not communism. It's moving America toward a fascist theocracy, and everything that's happened during the Reagan administration is steering us right down that pipe ... When you have a government that prefers a certain moral code derived from a certain religion and that moral code turns into legislation to suit one certain religious point of view, and if that code happens to be very, very right wing, almost toward Attila the Hun...
          ~ Appearance on Crossfire (1986) 

            On Scientology:

              • Scientology, how about that? You hold on to the tin cans and then this guy asks you a bunch of questions, and if you pay enough money you get to join the master race. How's that for a religion?
                ~ To a concert audience at the Rockpile, Toronto (1969)

                  On Rock Journalism:

                    • Being interviewed is one of the most abnormal things that you can do to somebody else. It's two steps removed from the inquisition.
                      ~ Interview on the UK's Channel 4 (6/1/1983)

                    • The rock and roll business is pretty absurd, but the world of serious music is much worse.
                      ~ Interview on London Plus (1984) 

                    • Rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, in order to provide articles for people who can't read.
                      ~ Interview with Ben Watson, Mojo Magazine (1993)

                        On Music:

                          • I'll tell you what classical music is — for those of you who don't know. Classical music is this music that was written by a bunch of dead people a long time ago. And it's formula music, the same as top forty music is formula music. In order to have a piece be classical, it has to conform to academic standards that were the current norms of that day and age... I think that people are entitled to be amused, and entertained. If they see deviations from this classical norm, it's probably good for their mental health.
                            ~ Television interview (1983)

                          • I'm probably more famous for sitting on the toilet than for anything else that I do.
                            ~ Interview on Nationwide (1983)

                          • A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians.
                            ~ Zappa & Occhiogrosso: Real Frank Zappa Book (1989)

                              On Life:

                                • Remember there's a big difference between kneeling down and bending over.
                                  ~ Lyrics to the song “Dumb All Over” on the album You Are What You Is. (1981)

                                • The most important thing to do in your life, is to not interfere with somebody else's life.
                                  ~ Appearance on The Howard Stern Show (1987)

                                • Take the Kama Sutra. How many people died from the Kama Sutra as opposed to the bible. Who wins?
                                  ~ A&E Biography

                                • It isn't necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice – there are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia.
                                  ~ Zappa & Occhiogrosso: Real Frank Zappa Book (1989)

                                    On Stupidity:

                                      • Let's not be too rough on our own ignorance, it's what makes America great!
                                        ~ Appearance on The Tonight Show (1988)

                                      • Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.
                                        ~ Zappa & Occhiogrosso: Real Frank Zappa Book (1989)

                                        On Music Censorship:

                                        For years Frank Zappa was clearly worried about open musical exploration, artistic integrity, and free speech. He released his ambitious ''Joe's Garage'' in 1979, which questioned what would happen if music were illegal. Six years later, the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) recommended voluntary album labeling. Joined by John Denver, and Twisted Sister's Dee Snider, Zappa went before the U.S. Congress and accused a Senate committee of fostering censorship. The PMRC had been co-founded by Tipper Gore, wife of Sen. Al Gore. Mrs. Gore's group had compiled a list of what they determined to be the worst offenders in music, dubbing them the "Filthy Fifteen."

                                        It was Prince's "Darling Nikki" that set Tipper off on her crusade when she bought the artist's Purple Rain album for her 11-year-old daughter and discovered (much to her horror) that the lyrics were about a teenaged girl masturbating. Zappa became Tipper's most open critic, calling her a "cultural terrorist" and branded the PMRC “a group of bored Washington housewives” who wanted to “housebreak all composers and performers because of the lyrics of a few.”

                                        At the hearing, he said, “the PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes on the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years.” He later celebrated the event in “Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention” which included 12-minutes of audio excerpts from the hearing.


                                        In the years that followed, Zappa continued to explore various levels of musical expression. In 1982, he released “Valley Girl” on his own Barking Pumpkins label as a satire of California's shopping mall culture, which he correctly saw becoming a trend that he felt would follow for years... as it did. The recording reached #32 in the Billboard Hot 100, and featured his then 14-year-old daughter, Moon Unit.

                                        Frank Zappa died as a result of prostate cancer on December 4th, 1993, a few days short of his 53rd birthday. He was probably the most changeable and audacious American composer of his generation. He was inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame in 1994, and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, the first and to date only artist to be inducted into both.



                                        The following books were sources for many of the above quotes:

                                        This was also published on Buzznet, 4/19/2009

                                        1 comment:

                                        Heartsapocolypse said...

                                        Who knew that Frank Zappa would have such great parenting advice?? Wonderful post, he was an amazing human being.