April A-to-Z: must-read books
The Real Frank Zappa (1989)
by Frank Zappa
Zappa was clearly one of the most unique musicians of all time, if not singularly, the most. The man had an almost supernatural imperviousness to peer pressure. That same quality which served deliberate counter-culture musical approach and theory, combined with fearless free-thinking, made him a vocal anti-drug advocate at a time when recreational drugs were rampant in the industry and among his closest associates, and a vocal contrarian to most common societal and political views.
This book, written so appropriately in his own style, literary norms be-damned—and delightfully effectively so!—was largely an effort to set a few records straight, clarify many of his opinions, and I think: to offer support to like-minded fans who probably find themselves disenfranchised by our particularly narrow-minded society. And he was an opinionated man to be sure. The book is marvelously unsubtle! The problem with being a courageous contrarian in a society where the sheep will fear your ideas, is that the sheep will spread myths about you which paint you as a simple anarchist. Not a conscious conspiracy, I suggest, just a natural consequence to our seeking comfort as we hide from the truth.
Zappa never shat on stage or bit heads off animals or whichever such nonsense was attributed him. This is a very intelligent man who thought for himself.
I loved the book and call it a must-read for selfish reasons: I agree whole-heartedly with the great majority of his opinions and not for the reason most of us do agree with what we read. This is not the common case where the author slowly seduces you with unarguable views early on, purloins your trust and strings you along through the later chapters growing progressively radical; an offense that is kind of hard to avoid. I’ve caught myself at it unintentionally!
When a man has such little care for pressures of peers and his own popularity, it enables a rare freedom for quality thinking and contemplation. Thus such a man has opinions which are worth something because they are discovered honestly; not conveniently provided.
And this book is definitely a must-read for young musicians. Zappa’s tutelage comes from wonderfully nurturing priorities which encourage his followers to let go of a lot of academic, creativity-hindering baggage! Great stuff.
A few quotes which I find amusing and comforting:
I believe that, to a certain extent, kids get weird because their parents made them weird. 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.
Stupidity has a certain charm. Ignorance does not.
I would say that today, dishonesty is the rule, and honesty the exception. It could be, statistically, that more people are honest than dishonest, but the few that really control things are not honest, and that tips the balance. I don't think we have an honest president. I don't think that he is surrounded by honest people. I don't believe that most of the people in Congress or in the senate are honest. I don't think that people who head up businesses are honest. We have let them get away with it because we're not honest enough to face up to the fact that we are 'owned and operated' by a bunch of bad people.
Politics is the Entertainment Branch of Industry.