The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Friday, December 19, 2008

Frank zappa

12-19-08 It’s Frank Zappa’s birthday on 12/21!

I do not usually blog on weekends – so today I mention that this coming Sunday, American composer Frank Zappa would’ve been 67 (68?) years old. He passed away 15 years ago, as several friends reminded me.

I continue to be a fan of Mr. Zappa’s music. Some of his early records are defining moments in my own life. Records that helped make me who I am – whoever that is! I cannot over-state how influential records like “Absolutely Free”, “We’re Only In It For The Money” and “Lumpy Gravy” were to me. Those records helped ‘open my ears’. I heard them all when I was so young – it was a time when just about anything still could’ve entered my consciousness – on the deepest possible level.

I listened to all of those LP’s so extensively and deeply – every word, every nuance is permanently etched in my brain / heart / soul. Yep, I can hear the differences between the mono and stereo versions of “We’re Only In It For The Money” quite easily. I once sat down and wrote out what I could determine were all of the points of difference, between the two versions – it ran to something 140 points! I grew up with the first three Zappa LP’s in mono, and that’s how I know them best. So far, none of the mono versions have ever appeared on CD, legit. You can hear a pretty good version of “Freak Out” in the 4CD “MOFO – Making of Freak Out” boxed set; “Absolutely Free” always sounds ‘processed” (echo / reverb?) on CD; the MFSL gold disc of “We’re Only In It For The Money” sounds good, but it’s the (slightly) edited stereo version. “Lumpy Gravy” sounds good on the re-mastered CD; there is no CD of the LP version of “Cruisin’ With Ruben & The Jets” (also no CD of the LP version of “Hot Rats”).

Perhaps you have records like this in your collection – records you know completely, which are part of your ‘experience’. Records that helped ‘define you’. Maybe they’re not Frank Zappa records – but those are definitely mine. Some records are nostalgia, others remain relevant in your everyday life. In my instance, I grew ever more fond of the early Zappa records, as the years moved on – I ‘agreed’ with most of what was said and how it was said, I clearly understood the author’s intention etc. Let’s say I have interpreted those early Frank Zappa albums as “truth” – in my book.

So, I hope to help everybody remember the works of Mr. Zappa. The majority of his works are superlative musical efforts, in my opinion. In most cases, it is not what I would call “Popular music” – but rather music that is for individuals. Your experience with Zappa’s music can be very personal. I have several friends I can really discuss Frank Zappa with – but most people tend to be dismissive towards his work, as though all of it was atonal, and filled with objectionable language (and / or ideas).

Thanks for reading my words about Mr. Frank Zappa. If you’re a fan – what are your favorite works of Mr. Zappa? If you’re not a fan – why not?



Blogger chas_m said...

I can't say I'm a "fan" of Zappa -- I don't collect his records and am not familiar with most of his stuff -- but that's not to say I don't recognise and admire his influence, and much of what I've heard I've liked.

As for your speaking of how young you were when you experienced it, allowing his music to get deep inside the consciousness, that's probably my problem -- I missed out on a lot of that. I've heard "Valley Girl" more often than any other single track he did.

The one Zappa track that HAS worked it's way into my brain in the fashion you describe is a claymation-based video seen on the legendary Night Flight and hiding on a beta tape somewhere in my in-storage collection. It was "City of Tiny Lights" and I was mesmerised by it both musically and visually.

... and I just found it on YouTube! Yay!

3:21 PM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...


The Bruce Bickford animation and music for "City Of Tiny Lights" is on "Baby Snakes" - happily available on DVD.

Perhaps I should try and guide you through the vast Zappa chasm? I'd be happy to.


6:46 AM  

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