Frank Words From Hell

    To all intents and counter-purposes as those Sixties suddenly became Seventies, the hitherto diabolical music of Frank Zappa somehow entered the denimed underground mainstream via that bitchy little largely instrumental brew known, to this day, as Hot Rats.

Now, maybe it was its utterly polarizing – not to mention polarized – cover art, its hotcha buncha proto-fusion guitar solos, or maybe even (as I’d like to think) the fact that none other than Captain Beefheart scored a Billboard album chart placing courtesy of his magnificent Rats showcase “Willie The Pimp.”  Yet whatever the cases may be, this album’s opening three and a half minutes, “Peaches En Regalia,” quickly became a hep FM staple throughout those glorious Nixon years (before becoming totally co-opted as late night chat show breaks thanks to Paul Shaffer and his ilk), and before he could say “hmmmm,” FZ found himself on the road to eventual artistic Stadium Rock ruin and, as a direct result, the disintegration of his first, classic, and BEST-ever batch of manic musical Mothers.  Pity…

Still, despite its current digital sheen (wherein such essential elements as Ian Underwood’s mightily majestic “organus maximus,” not to mention “Peaches’” concluding Hare Krishna finger-cymbals, seem to have been all but obliterated during remix by FRANK’S LEAD GUITAR), Hot Rats still recalls to what’s left of my mind glad-happy High School daze spent with partner-in-teen-mischief Richard, crashing the local stoners’ TV parties and serving them up mayo-on-catfood sandwiches …all to the hot-rockin’ accompaniment of “The Gumbo Variations,” y’know.


2 thoughts on “Frank Words From Hell”

  1. ….plus,

    in the always spot-on words

    of the one and only Domenic Priore

    (and I quote)…..


    Aw, I love Hot Rats, on a shut up and play your guitar level.  It may be my most-played Zappa album, and I didn’t realize it was "the One" for popular F.M. airplay because around here, Zappa’s music just wafted, ubiquitious.   Walk in to Poo Bah Records in Pasadena, most any time, they’d be playing Zappa or Beeheart stuff.  Of course, the F.M. stations here treated his catalog like a staple, as did Rusty’s garagage, where the whole hep (Monterey Park) neighborhood used to go to smoke marijuana on a daily basis. People dropped in, the door was always open… two doors from my house.
    These days I do play the first two albums a whole lot, and Burnt Weenie Sandwich gets a lot of spins.  When I finally got to High School it was Apostrophe, Overnight Sensation and then "Black Napkins".  Finally, the first time I got to see him, it was the Lather concert at U.C.L.A.  By that time F.M. underground had become corporate rock so KROQ embraced Zappa and Punk at the same time.  So that carried him into the new generation here, with "Jewish Princess" getting banned, same for "Catholic Girls" and so it became "Valley Girl".  He was hip up ’til about the time of YouAreWhatYouIs and "I Don’t Want To Get Drafted" and then we really stopped hearing him for some reason.  I’m not going to get into a critical why and wherefore, I just know that in all those years, this is how I heard Frank Zappa everywhere I went.
    I’d see him in guitar player after that and I’d heard rumors that he’d gotten too slick.  Then before you knew it, he was gone.  Over all those years, I’d picked up a Zappa album here and there, but shortly after he passed away there was a short-lived record shop in Silver Lake’s early days that had every original album in his catalog for like, 5 bucks a pop, and I laid down for all of it and made the purchase.  I think I got the full collection up to about the album with "Valley Girl" on it.
    So I really don’t know nothing about him after that.  Where I was 1966-1982, he was popular and you heard him everywhere.  Imagine that.  Best story; I went to the 1977 World Series, the first game at Dodger Stadium vs Yankees (Linda Ronstadt sang the national anthem that night).  I was on the blue level, high above the Dodger dugout… nice seats for viewing the ballgame.  Anyway, there was a hippie guy in front of me and well before the game, during  batting practice, we got to talking… about music (Eve Babitz once wrote that going to a Dodger game looked like a Dylan concert… but with a lot of little kids with long hair).  Turns out he was a sound engineer from Temple City and he had just built the sound system that Zappa was going to use at the Lather concert, and this guy talked me into going because he of course was talking technically about why it was the best concert sound system ever built because he and Zappa bla bla bla… but not bragging, just facts.  He was really cool about it, not stupid Hollywood bodacious (which wasn’t as acceptable then as it is today).  This was just a mellow, cool guy with a lot of good, hip science in his brain.  He was also telling me about how great Lather was going to be.  So he talked me into going to my first Zappa concert, and the sound was as he had described.  Incredible (as was Zappa).
    A few weeks ago I went to a screening of Baby Snakes and saw Jed the Fish walk up to Gail and tell her the detailed story of how the insiders at KROQ and Frank had set up the Lather airing… real inside radio meeting stuff, and a very interesting rap.
    If you read my intro to Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long, you’ll see my mention of Zappa, in juxtaposition to the apolitical, scared-to-talk-about-anything vibe that exists here in L.A. these days outside of Silver Lake or Venice (and especially in the Valley and on the West Side).  I remember Harvey Kubernik even stopping a conversation and saying "why do you have to be such a lefty?" which of course inspired me to write that intro.  The L.A. Free Press was where Zappa got his popular start in town (the ads from that era are incredible), and also where I got my first taste of what the Sunset Strip meant outside of Shebang and Hollywood a Go Go (which I still love as part of the whole wazoo).

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