Once when I was around 14 and full of zeal of a certain kind, I went to hear Frank Zappa and his rock band "The Mothers of Invention". Zappa was a brainiac cross fertilized rock and roller with a strong interest in 20th century classical music and a more than passing understanding of jazz. Unlike most rockers of the 60’s and 70’s Zappa looked down on the use of drugs and he used to whip out a flashlight and train it on the audience, casting about until he saw someone who looked especially stoned. He would really make fun of that poor, witless guy. The man hated playing to a stoned theater. He wrote inventive and outlandish songs about drug users. He would sing: "who you jiving’ with that cosmic debris?"
Frank Zappa could also play a peppery, lickety-split lead guitar and while other kids my age talked endlessly of the guitar mastery of Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix, I was convinced that FZ had the real chops. I can still hear Zappa’s transcendent guitar solo from the song "Zombie Woof" on his album "Over-Nite Sensation"—I can hear it in memory, note for note, the way Hemingway said he could follow a trout stream in his imagination.
Frank Zappa died all too early from prostate cancer and I find that on this particular autumn day I miss his brand of social satire and his exceptional musicianship. All I want to do is go down to my local record store and buy the latest from "the Mothers".
Here’s to intelligent and impatient rock and roll. Here’s to a deep distrust of lazy audiences. Here’s to living the art while disdaining the commercial music industry.
Here’s to a hot suspicion of authority but without all the contemporary cheap perfume of despair.