Saturday, August 19

The Real Frank Zappa Book:

A very entertaining read, for the most part. Published in 1989, well after Zappa's most successful albums. We read about his family life, his encounteres with different political organizations, including the Parents' Music Resource Center, who wanted every album sold in stores to bear a rating not unlike a film: general to restricted, or something similar. The PMRC really gets Zappa's bile up. We get a fair amount of Zappa's bile while reading this book, and to be fair I'd rather have Zappa's bile than pretty much anyone else's, but I did have to skip portions of one chapter, called "Practical Conservatism", which had too many words in italics or caps or bold fonts and reminded me too much of a soap box. He speaks Truth, but that doesn't mean I have to take in his bitterness when I don't want it.

Otherwise immensely enjoyable, from stories of the early days in Hicktown, California, with those who would eventually show up in songs like "Let's make the Water Turn Black", to Frank's views on the synclavier. Chapter 10, "The One You've Been Waiting For" contains a few juicy road stories, but isn't as exciting as it is elucidating of Zappa's general disregard for drunken shenanigans. The chapters on his family, his four kids, wife and pets, are clearly written with the most peace and joy than the rest of the book, which has a tone of either nearly-fond reminiscence or impatience bordering on disdain, with occasional passages of "genius at work".

A worthwhile read simply because Zappa's voice is so clear; it does feel as if he is writing his thoughts down quickly with very little critical correction. Plus, the illustrations by someone who's signature resembles "AWEST" are pleasant bonus.


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