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Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa

Overview
Frank Vincent Zappa was an American composer, singer-songwriter, electric guitarist, record producer and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa wrote rock, jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, orchestral and musique concrète
Musique concrète
Musique concrète is a form of electroacoustic music that utilises acousmatic sound as a compositional resource. The compositional material is not restricted to the inclusion of sounds derived from musical instruments or voices, nor to elements traditionally thought of as "musical"...

works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. Zappa produced almost all of the more than 60 albums he released with the band The Mothers of Invention
The Mothers of Invention
The Mothers of Invention were an American band active from 1964 to 1969, and again from 1970 to 1975.They mainly performed works by, and were the original recording group of, US composer and guitarist Frank Zappa , although other members have had the occasional writing credit...

 and as a solo artist.

While in his teens, he acquired a taste for percussion-based avant-garde
Avant-garde music
Avant-garde music is a term used to characterize music which is thought to be ahead of its time, i.e. containing innovative elements or fusing different genres....

composers such as Edgard Varèse
Edgard Varèse
Edgard Victor Achille Charles Varèse, , whose name was also spelled Edgar Varèse , was an innovative French-born composer who spent the greater part of his career in the United States....

 and 1950s rhythm and blues
Rhythm and blues
Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated to R&B, is a genre of popular African American music that originated in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a...

 music.
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Quotations

Remember there's a big difference between kneeling down and bending over.

Heavenly Bank Account (1981)
Encyclopedia
Frank Vincent Zappa was an American composer, singer-songwriter, electric guitarist, record producer and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa wrote rock, jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, orchestral and musique concrète
Musique concrète
Musique concrète is a form of electroacoustic music that utilises acousmatic sound as a compositional resource. The compositional material is not restricted to the inclusion of sounds derived from musical instruments or voices, nor to elements traditionally thought of as "musical"...

works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. Zappa produced almost all of the more than 60 albums he released with the band The Mothers of Invention
The Mothers of Invention
The Mothers of Invention were an American band active from 1964 to 1969, and again from 1970 to 1975.They mainly performed works by, and were the original recording group of, US composer and guitarist Frank Zappa , although other members have had the occasional writing credit...

 and as a solo artist.

While in his teens, he acquired a taste for percussion-based avant-garde
Avant-garde music
Avant-garde music is a term used to characterize music which is thought to be ahead of its time, i.e. containing innovative elements or fusing different genres....

composers such as Edgard Varèse
Edgard Varèse
Edgard Victor Achille Charles Varèse, , whose name was also spelled Edgar Varèse , was an innovative French-born composer who spent the greater part of his career in the United States....

 and 1950s rhythm and blues
Rhythm and blues
Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated to R&B, is a genre of popular African American music that originated in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a...

 music. He began writing classical music in high school, while at the same time playing drums in rhythm and blues bands; he later switched to electric guitar. He was a self-taught composer and performer, and his diverse musical influences led him to create music that was often impossible to categorize. His 1966 debut album with The Mothers of Invention, Freak Out!
Freak Out!
Freak Out! is the debut album by American band The Mothers of Invention, released June 27, 1966 on Verve Records. Often cited as one of rock music's first concept albums, the album is a satirical expression of frontman Frank Zappa's perception of American pop culture...

, combined songs in conventional rock and roll format with collective improvisations and studio-generated sound collages. His later albums shared this eclectic and experimental approach, irrespective of whether the fundamental format was one of rock, jazz or classical. He wrote the lyrics to all his songs, which—often humorously—reflected his iconoclast
Iconoclast
An iconoclast is someone who engages in iconoclasm—destruction of religious symbols or, by extension, established dogma or conventions.Iconoclast may also refer to:...

ic view of established social and political processes, structures and movements. He was a strident critic of mainstream education and organized religion, and a forthright and passionate advocate for freedom of speech
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...

, self-education
Autodidacticism
Autodidacticism is self-education or self-directed learning. In a sense, autodidacticism is "learning on your own" or "by yourself", and an autodidact is a person who teaches him or herself something. The term has its roots in the Ancient Greek words αὐτός and διδακτικός...

, political participation and the abolition of censorship
Censorship
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

.

Zappa was a highly productive and prolific artist and gained widespread critical acclaim. Many of his albums are considered essential in rock and jazz history. He is regarded as one of the most original guitarists and composers of his time. He also remains a major influence on musicians and composers. He had some commercial success, particularly in Europe, and for most of his career was able to work as an independent artist. Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a museum located on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, United States. It is dedicated to archiving the history of some of the best-known and most influential artists, producers, engineers and others who have, in some major way,...

 in 1995 and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded by the Recording Academy to "performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording."...

 in 1997.

Zappa was married to Kathryn J. "Kay" Sherman from 1960 to 1964. In 1967, he married Adelaide Gail Sloatman
Gail Zappa
Gail Zappa was the second wife of the late musician and composer Frank Zappa and is the executrix of the Zappa Family Trust. They met in 1966 when she was working at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles, and they were married on September 21, 1967, while she was pregnant with her first child, Moon...

, with whom he remained until his death from prostate cancer
Prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system. Most prostate cancers are slow growing; however, there are cases of aggressive prostate cancers. The cancer cells may metastasize from the prostate to other parts of the body, particularly...

 in 1993. They had four children: Moon Unit
Moon Zappa
Moon Unit Zappa is an American actress, musician and author. She goes by the name Moon Zappa; "Unit" is her middle name.-Personal life:...

, Dweezil
Dweezil Zappa
Dweezil Zappa is an American rock guitarist and occasional actor.-Early life:Zappa was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of musician Frank Zappa and Adelaide Gail Sloatman, who worked in business. He is the second of four siblings: his older sister, Moon, younger sister Diva and younger...

, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan
Ahmet Zappa
Ahmet Emuukha Rodan Zappa is an American musician, actor and novelist.-Early life:Ahmet was born in Los Angeles, California, the third of four children born to businesswoman Adelaide Gail Sloatman and musician Frank Zappa. Ahmet's father was of Sicilian, Greek-Arab and French descent and his...

 and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen
Diva Zappa
Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen Zappa is an American artist, also known for several acting roles in film and television, as well as recording a one-off comedy single. She is the youngest daughter of musician Frank Zappa.-Personal life:...

. Gail Zappa manages the businesses of her late husband under the name the Zappa Family Trust.

Early life


Frank Zappa was born in Baltimore
Baltimore
Baltimore is the largest independent city in the United States and the largest city and cultural center of the US state of Maryland. The city is located in central Maryland along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is sometimes referred to as Baltimore...

, Maryland, on December 21, 1940. His mother, Rose Marie Colimore, was of Italian
Italian American
An Italian American , is an American of Italian ancestry. The designation may also refer to someone possessing Italian and American dual citizenship...

 and French
French American
French Americans or Franco-Americans are Americans of French or French Canadian descent. About 11.8 million U.S. residents are of this descent, and about 1.6 million speak French at home.An additional 450,000 U.S...

 ancestry; his father, Francesco Vincente Zappa, was an immigrant from Partinico
Partinico
Partinico is a town and comune in the province of Palermo, Sicily, southern Italy...

, Sicily. Zappa was the eldest of four children. The family moved often because his father, a chemist
Chemist
A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties such as density and acidity. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms...

 and mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

, worked in the defense industry. After a time in Florida in the 1940s, the family returned to Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, where Zappa's father worked at the Edgewood
Edgewood, Maryland
Edgewood is a census-designated place in Harford County, Maryland, United States. The population was 23,378 at the 2000 census.-History:Pooles Island Light was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.-Geography:...

 Arsenal chemical warfare
Chemical warfare
Chemical warfare involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons. This type of warfare is distinct from Nuclear warfare and Biological warfare, which together make up NBC, the military acronym for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical...

 facility of the Aberdeen Proving Ground
Aberdeen Proving Ground
Aberdeen Proving Ground is a United States Army facility located near Aberdeen, Maryland, . Part of the facility is a census-designated place , which had a population of 3,116 at the 2000 census.- History :...

. Due to their home's nearness to the arsenal, which stored mustard gas
Sulfur mustard
The sulfur mustards, or sulphur mustards, commonly known as mustard gas, are a class of related cytotoxic, vesicant chemical warfare agents with the ability to form large blisters on exposed skin. Pure sulfur mustards are colorless, viscous liquids at room temperature...

, gas masks were kept in the home. This had a profound effect on Zappa, and references to germs, germ warfare and the defense industry occur throughout his work.

Zappa was often sick as a child, suffering from asthma
Asthma
Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath...

, earaches
Otalgia
Otalgia or an earache is ear pain. Primary otalgia is ear pain that originates inside the ear. Referred otalgia is ear pain that originates from outside the ear.Otalgia is not always associated with ear disease...

 and sinus problems. A doctor treated his sinusitis by inserting a pellet of radium
Radium
Radium is a chemical element with atomic number 88, represented by the symbol Ra. Radium is an almost pure-white alkaline earth metal, but it readily oxidizes on exposure to air, becoming black in color. All isotopes of radium are highly radioactive, with the most stable isotope being radium-226,...

 into each of Zappa's nostrils; little was known about the potential dangers of even small amounts of therapeutic radiation. Nasal imagery and references appear in his music and lyrics, as well as in the collage album covers created by his long-time collaborator Cal Schenkel
Cal Schenkel
Cal Schenkel is an artist specialising in album cover design. He was the main visual collaborator for Frank Zappa and was responsible for the art and graphic design of many of Zappa's most well-known album covers. Schenkel's work is iconic and distinctive in style; a forerunner of punk art and...

.

Many of Zappa's childhood diseases may have been due to exposure to mustard gas. His health worsened when he lived in Baltimore
Baltimore
Baltimore is the largest independent city in the United States and the largest city and cultural center of the US state of Maryland. The city is located in central Maryland along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is sometimes referred to as Baltimore...

. In 1952, his family relocated for reasons of health. They moved next to Monterey, California
Monterey, California
The City of Monterey in Monterey County is located on Monterey Bay along the Pacific coast in Central California. Monterey lies at an elevation of 26 feet above sea level. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 27,810. Monterey is of historical importance because it was the capital of...

, where his father taught metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy is a domain of materials science that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements, their intermetallic compounds, and their mixtures, which are called alloys. It is also the technology of metals: the way in which science is applied to their practical use...

 at the Naval Postgraduate School
Naval Postgraduate School
The Naval Postgraduate School is an accredited research university operated by the United States Navy. Located in Monterey, California, it grants master's degrees, Engineer's degrees and doctoral degrees...

. They soon moved to Claremont
Claremont, California
Claremont is a small affluent college town in eastern Los Angeles County, California, United States, about east of downtown Los Angeles at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. The population as of the 2010 census is 34,926. Claremont is known for its seven higher-education institutions, its...

, then to El Cajon
El Cajon, California
-History:El Cajon is located on the Rancho El Cajon Mexican land grant made in 1845 to María Antonia Estudillo, wife of Miguel Pedrorena. In 1876 Amaziah Lord Knox , a New Englander who had recently moved to California, established a hotel there to serve the growing number of people traveling...

, before finally settling in San Diego.

Musical influences


Zappa joined his first band at Mission Bay High School in San Diego. He was the band's drummer. About the same time his parents bought a phonograph, which allowed him to develop his interest in music, and to begin building his record collection.
R&B
Rhythm and blues
Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated to R&B, is a genre of popular African American music that originated in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a...

 singles were early purchases, starting a large collection he kept for the rest of his life. He was interested in sounds for their own sake, particularly the sounds of drums and other percussion instruments. By age 12, he had obtained a snare drum and began learning the basics of orchestral percussion. Zappa's deep interest in modern classical music began when he read a LOOK
Look (American magazine)
Look was a bi-weekly, general-interest magazine published in Des Moines, Iowa from 1937 to 1971, with more of an emphasis on photographs than articles...

magazine article about the Sam Goody
Sam Goody
Sam Goody was a music and entertainment retailer in the United States and United Kingdom, and was owned and operated by Trans World Entertainment which also runs FYE, Saturday Matinee, and Suncoast Motion Picture Company. It specialized in music, video, and video game sales...

 record store chain that lauded its ability to sell an LP as obscure as The Complete Works of Edgard Varèse, Volume One. The article described Varèse's
Edgard Varèse
Edgard Victor Achille Charles Varèse, , whose name was also spelled Edgar Varèse , was an innovative French-born composer who spent the greater part of his career in the United States....

 percussion composition Ionisation
Ionisation (Varèse)
Ionisation is a musical composition by Edgard Varèse written for thirteen percussionists, the first concert hall composition for percussion ensemble alone. The premiere was at Steinway Hall, on March 6, 1933, conducted by Nicolas Slonimsky, to whom the piece was later dedicated...

, produced by EMS Recordings
EMS Recordings
EMS Recordings was founded in 1949 by Jack Skurnick in New York City. The company won first prize at the Audio Fair of 1950 for the high quality and interest of its recordings....

, as "a weird jumble of drums and other unpleasant sounds". Zappa decided to seek out Varèse's music. After searching for over a year, Zappa found a copy (he noticed the LP because of the "mad scientist" looking photo of Varèse on the cover). Not having enough money with him, he persuaded the salesman to sell him the record at a discount. Thus began his lifelong passion for Varèse's music and that of other modern classical composers.
Zappa grew up influenced by avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 composers such as Varèse, Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

 and Anton Webern
Anton Webern
Anton Webern was an Austrian composer and conductor. He was a member of the Second Viennese School. As a student and significant follower of Arnold Schoenberg, he became one of the best-known exponents of the twelve-tone technique; in addition, his innovations regarding schematic organization of...

, R&B and doo-wop
Doo-wop
The name Doo-wop is given to a style of vocal-based rhythm and blues music that developed in African American communities in the 1940s and achieved mainstream popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s. It emerged from New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, Newark, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and...

 groups (including the Medallions
The Medallions
The Medallions were a rhythm and blues band led by Vernon Green . They were the first doo-wop group to record for Dootone Records. Their first release, "Buick 59," was backed with a ballad called"The Letter." "The Letter" contained the nonsense lyric, "the 'puppetutes' of love," which was later...

 and local pachuco
Pachuco
Pachucos are Chicano youths who developed their own subculture during the 1930s and 1940s in the Southwestern United States. They wore distinctive clothing and spoke their own dialect of Mexican Spanish, called Caló or Pachuco...

 groups), and modern jazz. His own heterogeneous ethnic background, and the diverse social and cultural mix in and around greater Los Angeles, were crucial in the formation of Zappa as a practitioner of underground music
Underground music
Underground music comprises a range of different musical genres that operate outside of mainstream culture. Such music can typically share common values, such as the valuing of sincerity and intimacy; an emphasis on freedom of creative expression; an appreciation of artistic creativity...

 and of his later distrustful and openly critical attitude towards "mainstream" social, political and musical movements. He frequently lampooned musical fads like psychedelia, rock opera
Rock opera
A rock opera is a work of rock music that presents a storyline told over multiple parts, songs or sections in the manner of opera. A rock opera differs from a conventional rock album, which usually includes songs that are not unified by a common theme or narrative. More recent developments include...

 and disco
Disco
Disco is a genre of dance music. Disco acts charted high during the mid-1970s, and the genre's popularity peaked during the late 1970s. It had its roots in clubs that catered to African American, gay, psychedelic, and other communities in New York City and Philadelphia during the late 1960s and...

. Television also exerted a strong influence, as demonstrated by quotations from show themes and advertising jingles found in his later works.

Youth and beginning of career (1955–1960)


By 1956, the Zappa family had moved to Lancaster
Lancaster, California
Lancaster is a charter city in northern Los Angeles County, in the high desert, near the Kern County line. Lancaster currently ranks as the 30th largest city in California, and the 148th largest city in the United States. Lancaster is the principal city within the Antelope Valley...

, a small aerospace
Aerospace
Aerospace comprises the atmosphere of Earth and surrounding space. Typically the term is used to refer to the industry that researches, designs, manufactures, operates, and maintains vehicles moving through air and space...

 and farming town in the Antelope Valley
Antelope Valley
The Antelope Valley in California, United States, is located in northern Los Angeles County and the southeastern portion of Kern County, California, and constitutes the western tip of the Mojave Desert...

 of the Mojave Desert
Mojave Desert
The Mojave Desert occupies a significant portion of southeastern California and smaller parts of central California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona, in the United States...

 close to Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located on the border of Kern County, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County, California, in the Antelope Valley. It is southwest of the central business district of North Edwards, California and due east of Rosamond.It is named in...

, in northern Los Angeles
Los Angeles County, California
Los Angeles County is a county in the U.S. state of California. As of 2010 U.S. Census, the county had a population of 9,818,605, making it the most populous county in the United States. Los Angeles County alone is more populous than 42 individual U.S. states...

 County. Zappa's mother encouraged him in his musical interests. Although she disliked Varèse's music, she was indulgent enough to give her son a long distance call to the composer as a 15th birthday present. Unfortunately, Varèse was in Europe at the time, so Zappa spoke to the composer's wife. He later received a letter from Varèse thanking him for his interest, and telling him about a composition he was working on called "Déserts
Déserts
Déserts is a piece by Edgard Varèse for brass , percussion , piano, and tape. Percussion instruments are exploited for their resonant potential, rather than used solely as accompaniment...

". Living in the desert town of Lancaster, Zappa found this very exciting. Varèse invited him to visit if he ever came to New York. The meeting never took place (Varèse died in 1965), but Zappa framed the letter and kept it on display for the rest of his life.

At Antelope Valley High School
Antelope Valley High School
Antelope Valley High School is located in Lancaster, California, and is part of the Antelope Valley Union High School District, in northernmost Los Angeles County, California. It was founded in 1912. It is located near the western edge of the Mojave Desert...

, Zappa met Don Vliet (who later expanded his name to Don Van Vliet and adopted the stage name Captain Beefheart
Captain Beefheart
Don Van Vliet January 15, 1941 December 17, 2010) was an American musician, singer-songwriter and artist best known by the stage name Captain Beefheart. His musical work was conducted with a rotating ensemble of musicians called The Magic Band, active between 1965 and 1982, with whom he recorded 12...

). Zappa and Vliet became close friends, sharing an interest in R&B records and influencing each other musically throughout their careers. Around the same time, Zappa started playing drums in a local band, The Blackouts. The band was racially diverse, and included Euclid James "Motorhead" Sherwood
Euclid James Sherwood
Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood is an American rock musician notable for playing soprano, tenor and baritone saxophone, tambourine, vocals and vocal sound effects in Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention...

 who later became a member of The Mothers of Invention. Zappa's interest in the guitar grew, and in 1957 he was given his first guitar. Among his early influences were Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Howlin' Wolf
Howlin' Wolf
Chester Arthur Burnett , known as Howlin' Wolf, was an influential American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player....

 and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. (In the 1970s and '80s, he invited Watson to perform on several albums.) Zappa considered soloing as the equivalent of forming "air sculptures", and developed an eclectic, innovative and highly personal style.

Zappa's interest in composing and arranging proliferated in his last high-school years. By his final year, he was writing, arranging
Arrangement
The American Federation of Musicians defines arranging as "the art of preparing and adapting an already written composition for presentation in other than its original form. An arrangement may include reharmonization, paraphrasing, and/or development of a composition, so that it fully represents...

 and conducting avant-garde performance pieces for the school orchestra. He graduated from Antelope Valley High School in 1958, and later acknowledged two of his music teachers on the sleeve of the 1966 album Freak Out! Due to his family's frequent moves, Zappa attended at least six different high schools, and as a student he was often bored and given to distracting the rest of the class with juvenile antics. He left community college after one semester, and maintained thereafter a disdain for formal education, taking his children out of school at age 15 and refusing to pay for their college.

Zappa left home in 1959, and moved into a small apartment in Echo Park
Echo Park, Los Angeles, California
Echo Park is a hilly neighborhood in Los Angeles, California, northwest of Downtown Los Angeles and southeast of Hollywood.-History:At the end of the 19th century, when the hills were still covered with native vegetation, a horse-drawn streetcar line served the dirt road that is now Echo Park Avenue...

, Los Angeles. After meeting Kathryn J. "Kay" Sherman during his short stay at Pomona College
Pomona College
Pomona College is a private, residential, liberal arts college in Claremont, California. Founded in 1887 in Pomona, California by a group of Congregationalists, the college moved to Claremont in 1889 to the site of a hotel, retaining its name. The school enrolls 1,548 students.The founding member...

, they moved in together in Ontario
Ontario, California
Ontario is a city located in San Bernardino County, California, United States, 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Located in the western part of the Inland Empire region, it lies just east of the Los Angeles county line and is part of the Greater Los Angeles Area...

, and were married December 28, 1960. Zappa worked for a short period in advertising. His sojourn in the commercial world was brief, but gave him valuable insights into how it works. Throughout his career, he took a keen interest in the visual presentation of his work, designing some of his album covers and directing his own films and videos.

Early 1960s: Studio Z


Zappa attempted to earn a living as a musician and composer, and played different nightclub gigs, some with a new version of The Blackouts. Financially more rewarding were Zappa's earliest professional recordings, two soundtracks for the low-budget films The World's Greatest Sinner
The World's Greatest Sinner
The World's Greatest Sinner is a 1962 underground film written, directed and starring the character actor Timothy Carey. The self-financed film tells the story of an average man, Clarence Hilliard , who quits his day job as an insurance salesman and forms a rock band...

(1962) and Run Home Slow (1965). The former score was commissioned by actor-producer Timothy Carey
Timothy Carey
Timothy Agoglia Carey was an American film and television actor....

 and recorded in 1961. It contains many themes that appeared on later Zappa records. The latter soundtrack was recorded in 1963 after the film was completed, but it was commissioned by one of Zappa's former high school teachers in 1959 and Zappa may have worked on it before the film was shot. Excerpts from the soundtrack can be heard on the posthumous album The Lost Episodes
The Lost Episodes
The Lost Episodes is a 1996 posthumous album by Frank Zappa which compiles previously unreleased material. Much of the material covered dates from early in his career, and as early as 1958, into the mid-1970s...

(1996).

During the early 1960s, Zappa wrote and produced songs for other local artists, often working with singer-songwriter Ray Collins
Ray Collins (rock musician)
Ray Collins was born on November 19, 1936 and grew up in Pomona, California singing in his school choir, the son of a local police officer. He quit high school to get married. He started his musical career singing falsetto backup vocals for various 'doo-wop' groups in the Los Angeles area in the...

 and producer Paul Buff. Their "Memories of El Monte
Memories of El Monte
"Memories of El Monte" is a metasong released in 1963 by the Penguins featuring Cleve Duncan. It was written by Frank Zappa and Ray Collins before they were in the Mothers of Invention...

" was recorded by The Penguins
The Penguins
The Penguins were an American doo-wop group of the 1950s and early 1960s, best remembered for their only Top 40 hit, "Earth Angel ", which was one of the first rhythm and blues hits to cross over to the pop charts...

, although only Cleve Duncan of the original group was featured. Buff owned the small Pal Recording Studio
Pal Recording Studio
Pal Recording Studio was an independent recording studio that operated in Cucamonga, California The studio was started by engineer/innovator Paul Buff. The studio is known for its instrumental Surf music recordings like Wipeout and the original demo recording of Pipeline. The original location...

 in Cucamonga
Rancho Cucamonga, California
Rancho Cucamonga is a suburban city in San Bernardino County, California. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 165,269, up from 127,743 at the 2000 census. L. Dennis Michael was elected as Mayor on November 2, 2010. Jack Lam is the City Manager...

, which included a unique five-track tape recorder he had built. At that time, only a handful of the most sophisticated commercial studios had multi-track
Multitrack recording
Multitrack recording is a method of sound recording that allows for the separate recording of multiple sound sources to create a cohesive whole...

 facilities; the industry standard for smaller studios was still mono or two-track. Although none of the recordings from the period achieved major commercial success, Zappa earned enough money to allow him to stage a concert of his orchestral music in 1963 and to broadcast and record it. He appeared on Steve Allen
Steve Allen
Steve Allen may refer to:*Steve Allen , American musician, comedian, and writer*Steve Allen , presenter on the London-based talk radio station LBC 97.3...

's syndicated late night show the same year, in which he played a bicycle as a musical instrument. With Captain Beefheart, Zappa recorded some songs under the name of The Soots. They were rejected by Dot Records
Dot Records
Dot Records was an American record label and company that was active between 1950 and 1977. It was founded by Randy Wood. In Gallatin, Tennessee, Wood had earlier started a mail order record shop, known for its radio ads on WLAC in Nashville and its R&B air personality Bill "Hoss" Allen...

 for having "no commercial potential", a verdict Zappa subsequently quoted on the sleeve of Freak Out!
Freak Out!
Freak Out! is the debut album by American band The Mothers of Invention, released June 27, 1966 on Verve Records. Often cited as one of rock music's first concept albums, the album is a satirical expression of frontman Frank Zappa's perception of American pop culture...



In 1964, after his marriage started to break up, he moved into the Pal studio and began routinely working 12 hours or more per day recording and experimenting with overdubbing
Overdubbing
Overdubbing is a technique used by recording studios to add a supplementary recorded sound to a previously recorded performance....

 and audio tape manipulation. This set a work pattern that endured for most of his life. Aided by his income from film composing, Zappa took over the studio from Paul Buff, who was now working with Art Laboe
Art Laboe
Art Laboe is an American pioneering disc jockey, songwriter, record producer, and radio station owner who is generally credited with coining the term "Oldies But Goodies."....

 at Original Sound
Original Sound
Original Sound is a Los Angeles, California-based record label. It was founded in the early 1950s by KPOP deejay Art Laboe. It began as a small label that specialized in compiling and re-releasing "oldies" R&B and rock 'n' roll songs...

. It was renamed Studio Z. Studio Z was rarely booked for recordings by other musicians. Instead, friends moved in, notably James "Motorhead" Sherwood. Zappa started performing as guitarist with a power trio
Power trio
A power trio is a rock and roll band format where the traditional power trio has a lineup of guitar, bass and drums, leaving out the rhythm guitar or keyboard that are used in other rock music to fill out the sound with chords...

, The Muthers, in local bars in order to support himself.

An article in the local press describing Zappa as "the Movie King of Cucamonga" prompted the local police to suspect that he was making pornographic
Pornography
Pornography or porn is the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual arousal and erotic satisfaction.Pornography may use any of a variety of media, ranging from books, magazines, postcards, photos, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video,...

 films. In March 1965, Zappa was approached by a vice squad undercover officer, and accepted an offer of $100 to produce a suggestive audio tape for an alleged stag party
Bachelor party
A bachelor party , also known as a stag party, stag night or stag do , a bull's party , or a buck's party or buck's night , is a party held for a man shortly before he enters marriage, to celebrate his "last night of freedom" or merely to spend...

. Zappa and a female friend recorded a faked erotic episode. When Zappa was about to hand over the tape, he was arrested, and the police stripped the studio of all recorded material. The press was tipped off beforehand, and next day's The Daily Report wrote that "Vice Squad investigators stilled the tape recorders of a free-swinging, a-go-go film and recording studio here Friday and arrested a self-styled movie producer". Zappa was charged with "conspiracy to commit pornography". This felony
Felony
A felony is a serious crime in the common law countries. The term originates from English common law where felonies were originally crimes which involved the confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods; other crimes were called misdemeanors...

 charge was reduced and he was sentenced to six months in jail on a misdemeanor
Misdemeanor
A misdemeanor is a "lesser" criminal act in many common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punished much less severely than felonies, but theoretically more so than administrative infractions and regulatory offences...

, with all but ten days suspended. His brief imprisonment left a permanent mark, and was key in the formation of his anti-authoritarian stance. Zappa lost several recordings made at Studio Z in the process, as the police only returned 30 out of 80 hours of tape seized. Eventually, he could no longer afford to pay the rent on the studio and was evicted. Zappa managed to recover some of his possessions before the studio was torn down in 1966.

Late 1960s: The Mothers of Invention


In 1965, Zappa was approached by Ray Collins
Ray Collins (rock musician)
Ray Collins was born on November 19, 1936 and grew up in Pomona, California singing in his school choir, the son of a local police officer. He quit high school to get married. He started his musical career singing falsetto backup vocals for various 'doo-wop' groups in the Los Angeles area in the...

 who asked him to take over as the guitarist in local R&B band The Soul Giants, following a fight between Collins and the group's original guitarist. Zappa accepted, and soon he assumed leadership and the role as co-lead singer (even though he never considered himself a singer). He convinced the other members that they should play his music to increase the chances of getting a record contract. The band was renamed The Mothers, coincidentally on Mother's Day
Mother's Day (United States)
In the United States, Mother's Day is an annual holiday celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Mother's Day recognizes mothers, motherhood and maternal bonds in general, as well the positive contributions that they make to society....

. The group increased their bookings after beginning an association with manager Herb Cohen
Herb Cohen
Herbert "Herb" Cohen was an American personal manager, record company executive, and music publisher, best known as the manager of Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, and many other Los Angeles-based musicians in the 1960s and 1970s.-Life and career:Cohen was born in New York...

, while they gradually gained attention on the burgeoning Los Angeles underground music
Underground music
Underground music comprises a range of different musical genres that operate outside of mainstream culture. Such music can typically share common values, such as the valuing of sincerity and intimacy; an emphasis on freedom of creative expression; an appreciation of artistic creativity...

 scene. In early 1966, they were spotted by leading record producer Tom Wilson when playing "Trouble Every Day", a song about the Watts Riots
Watts Riots
The Watts Riots or the Watts Rebellion was a civil disturbance in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, California from August 11 to August 15, 1965. The 5-day riot resulted in 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries, and 3,438 arrests...

. Wilson had earned acclaim as the producer for singer-songwriter Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, musician, poet, film director and painter. He has been a major and profoundly influential figure in popular music and culture for five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler and a seemingly...

 and the folk-rock act Simon & Garfunkel, and was notable as one of the few African Americans working as a major label pop music producer at this time.

Wilson signed The Mothers to the Verve Records
Verve Records
Verve Records is an American jazz record label now owned by Universal Music Group. It was founded by Norman Granz in 1956, absorbing the catalogues of his earlier labels, Clef Records and Norgran Records , and material which had been licensed to Mercury previously.-Jazz and folk origins:The Verve...

 division of MGM Records
MGM Records
MGM Records was a record label started by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio in 1946, for the purpose of releasing soundtrack albums of their musical films. Later it became a pop label, lasting into the 1970s...

, which had built up a strong reputation in the music industry for its releases of modern jazz recordings in the 1940s and 1950s, but was attempting to diversify into pop and rock audiences. Verve insisted that the band officially re-name themselves because "Mother", in slang terminology, was short for "motherfucker
Motherfucker
Motherfucker is a vulgarism which, in its most literal sense, refers to one who participates in sexual intercourse with a mother, either someone else's mother, or his own.- Variants :...

" — a term that apart from its profane meanings can denote a skilled musician. The label suggested the name "The Mothers Auxiliary", which prompted Zappa to come up with the name "The Mothers of Invention."

Debut album: Freak Out! (1966)


With Wilson credited as producer, The Mothers of Invention, augmented by a studio orchestra, recorded the groundbreaking Freak Out!
Freak Out!
Freak Out! is the debut album by American band The Mothers of Invention, released June 27, 1966 on Verve Records. Often cited as one of rock music's first concept albums, the album is a satirical expression of frontman Frank Zappa's perception of American pop culture...

(1966) which, preceded by Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde
Blonde on Blonde
Blonde on Blonde is American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan's seventh studio album, released in May or June 1966 on Columbia Records and produced by Bob Johnston. Recording sessions commenced in New York in October 1965, with a plethora of backing musicians, including members of Dylan's live backing...

, was the second rock double album ever released. It mixed R&B, doo-wop
Doo-wop
The name Doo-wop is given to a style of vocal-based rhythm and blues music that developed in African American communities in the 1940s and achieved mainstream popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s. It emerged from New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, Newark, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and...

, musique concrète, and experimental sound collage
Sound collage
In music, montage or sound collage is a technique where sound objects or compositions, including songs, are created from collage, also known as montage, the use of portions of previous recordings or scores...

s that captured the "freak" subculture of Los Angeles at that time. Although he was dissatisfied with the final product—in a late '60s radio interview (included in the posthumous MOFO Project/Object compilation) Zappa recounted that the side-long closing track "Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" was intended to be the basic track for a much more complex work which Verve did not allow him to complete – Freak Out immediately established Zappa as a radical new voice in rock music, providing an antidote to the "relentless consumer culture of America". The sound was raw, but the arrangement
Arrangement
The American Federation of Musicians defines arranging as "the art of preparing and adapting an already written composition for presentation in other than its original form. An arrangement may include reharmonization, paraphrasing, and/or development of a composition, so that it fully represents...

s were sophisticated. While recording in the studio, some of the additional session musician
Session musician
Session musicians are instrumental and vocal performers, musicians, who are available to work with others at live performances or recording sessions. Usually such musicians are not permanent members of a musical ensemble and often do not achieve fame in their own right as soloists or bandleaders...

s were shocked that they were expected to read the notes on sheet music from charts
Chord chart
A chord chart is a form of musical notation that in addition to writing out non-embellished melody, describes harmonic and rhythmic information. It is the most common form of notation used by professional session musicians playing jazz or popular music. It is intended primarily for a rhythm section...

 with Zappa conducting them, since it was not standard when recording rock music. The lyrics praised non-conformity, disparaged authorities, and had dada
Dada
Dada or Dadaism is a cultural movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked from 1916 to 1922. The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature—poetry, art manifestoes, art theory—theatre, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a...

ist elements. Yet, there was a place for seemingly conventional love songs. Most compositions are Zappa's, which set a precedent for the rest of his recording career. He had full control over the arrangements and musical decisions and did most overdubs
Overdubbing
Overdubbing is a technique used by recording studios to add a supplementary recorded sound to a previously recorded performance....

. Wilson provided the industry clout and connections to get the group the financial resources needed.
During the recording of Freak Out!, Zappa moved into a house in Laurel Canyon
Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, California
Laurel Canyon is a canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. It was first developed in the 1910s, and became a part of the city of Los Angeles in 1923 ....

 with friend Pamela Zarubica
Suzy Creamcheese
Suzy Creamcheese was a fictional vocalist and character on and in a number of albums by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. On the album Freak Out! , Suzy Creamcheese was played by Jeannie Vassoir; on Absolutely Free and Mothermania it was Lisa Cohen; and on We're Only in It for the Money and...

, who appeared on the album. The house became a meeting (and living) place for many LA musicians and groupie
Groupie
A groupie is a person who seeks emotional and sexual intimacy with a musician or other celebrity. "Groupie" is derived from group in reference to a musical group, but the word is also used in a more general sense, especially in casual conversation....

s of the time, despite Zappa's disapproval of their illicit drug use. He labeled people on drugs "assholes in action", and he tried cannabis
Cannabis (drug)
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among many other names, refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. The English term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word marihuana...

 only a few times, but without any pleasure. He was a regular tobacco smoker for most of his life, and strongly critical of anti-tobacco campaigns. After a short promotional tour following the release of Freak Out!, Zappa met Adelaide Gail Sloatman
Gail Zappa
Gail Zappa was the second wife of the late musician and composer Frank Zappa and is the executrix of the Zappa Family Trust. They met in 1966 when she was working at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles, and they were married on September 21, 1967, while she was pregnant with her first child, Moon...

. He fell in love within "a couple of minutes", and she moved into the house over the summer. They married in 1967, had four children and remained together until Zappa's death.

Wilson nominally produced The Mothers' second album Absolutely Free
Absolutely Free
Absolutely Free is the second album by The Mothers of Invention, led by Frank Zappa. Absolutely Free is, again, a display of complex musical composition with political and social satire. The band had been augmented since Freak Out! by the addition of saxophone player Bunk Gardner, keyboardist Don...

(1967), which was recorded in November 1966, and later mixed
Audio mixing (recorded music)
In audio recording, audio mixing is the process by which multiple recorded sounds are combined into one or more channels, most commonly two-channel stereo. In the process, the source signals' level, frequency content, dynamics, and panoramic position are manipulated and effects such as reverb may...

 in New York, although by this time Zappa was in de facto control of most facets of the production. It featured extended playing by The Mothers of Invention and focused on songs that defined Zappa's compositional style of introducing abrupt, rhythmical changes into songs that were built from diverse elements. Examples are "Plastic People" and "Brown Shoes Don't Make It", which contained lyrics critical of the hypocrisy and conformity of American society, but also of the counterculture of the 1960s
Counterculture of the 1960s
The counterculture of the 1960s refers to a cultural movement that mainly developed in the United States and spread throughout much of the western world between 1960 and 1973. The movement gained momentum during the U.S. government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam...

. As Zappa put it, "[W]e're satirists, and we are out to satirize everything." At the same time, Zappa had recorded material for a self-produced album based on orchestral works to be released under his own name. Due to contractual problems, the recordings were shelved and only made ready for release late in 1967. Zappa took the opportunity to radically restructure the contents, adding newly recorded, improvised dialogue to finalize what became his first solo album (under the name Francis Vincent Zappa), Lumpy Gravy
Lumpy Gravy
Lumpy Gravy is the first solo album by Frank Zappa, originally released in 1967, but not generally available until May 1968. Zappa was credited as conductor on the album cover and he described the contents as "a curiously inconsistent piece, which started out to be a BALLET, but probably didn't...

(1968). It is an "incredible ambitious musical project", a "monument to John Cage
John Cage
John Milton Cage Jr. was an American composer, music theorist, writer, philosopher and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde...

", which intertwines orchestral themes, spoken words and electronic noises through radical audio editing techniques.

New York period (1966–1968)


The Mothers of Invention played in New York in late 1966 and were offered a contract at the Garrick Theater during Easter 1967. This proved successful and Herb Cohen extended the booking, which eventually lasted half a year. As a result, Zappa and his wife, along with The Mothers of Invention, moved to New York. Their shows became a combination of improvised acts showcasing individual talents of the band as well as tight performances of Zappa's music. Everything was directed by Zappa's famous hand signals. Guest performers and audience participation became a regular part of the Garrick Theater shows. One evening, Zappa managed to entice some U.S. Marines from the audience onto the stage, where they proceeded to dismember a big baby doll, having been told by Zappa to pretend that it was a "gook
Gook
Gook is a derogatory term for East Asians which came to prominence in reference to enemy soldiers. U.S. Marines serving in the Philippines in the early 20th century used the word to refer to Filipinos. The term continued to be used by American soldiers stationed around the world to refer to...

 baby".

Situated in New York, and only interrupted by the band's first European tour, The Mothers of Invention recorded the album widely regarded as the peak of the group's late 1960s work, We're Only in It for the Money
We're Only in It for the Money
We're Only in It For the Money is the third studio album by The Mothers of Invention, released in March 1968. The album peaked at number thirty on the Billboard 200...

(released 1968). It was produced by Zappa, with Wilson credited as executive producer. From then on, Zappa produced all albums released by The Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist. We're Only in It for the Money featured some of the most creative audio editing and production yet heard in pop music, and the songs ruthlessly satirized the hippie
Hippie
The hippie subculture was originally a youth movement that arose in the United States during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world. The etymology of the term 'hippie' is from hipster, and was initially used to describe beatniks who had moved into San Francisco's...

 and flower power
Flower power
Flower power is a slogan used by the American counterculture movement during the late 1960s and early 1970s as a symbol of passive resistance and non-violence ideology. It is rooted in the opposition movement to the Vietnam War. The expression was coined by the American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in...

 phenomena. The cover photo parodied that of The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The cover art was provided by Cal Schenkel
Cal Schenkel
Cal Schenkel is an artist specialising in album cover design. He was the main visual collaborator for Frank Zappa and was responsible for the art and graphic design of many of Zappa's most well-known album covers. Schenkel's work is iconic and distinctive in style; a forerunner of punk art and...

 whom Zappa met in New York. This initiated a life-long collaboration in which Schenkel designed covers for numerous Zappa and Mothers albums.

Reflecting Zappa's eclectic approach to music, the next album, Cruising with Ruben & the Jets
Cruising with Ruben & the Jets
Cruising With Ruben & The Jets is an album by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, released in December 1968, and controversially reissued in an alternate mix with newly recorded bass and percussion in 1984.-Concept:...

(1968), was very different. It represented a collection of doo-wop
Doo-wop
The name Doo-wop is given to a style of vocal-based rhythm and blues music that developed in African American communities in the 1940s and achieved mainstream popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s. It emerged from New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, Newark, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and...

 songs; listeners and critics were not sure whether the album was a satire or a tribute. Zappa has noted that the album was conceived in the way Stravinsky's compositions were in his neo-classical period: "If he could take the forms and clichés of the classical era and pervert them, why not do the same ... to doo-wop in the fifties?" A theme from Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring
The Rite of Spring
The Rite of Spring, original French title Le sacre du printemps , is a ballet with music by Igor Stravinsky; choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky; and concept, set design and costumes by Nicholas Roerich...

is heard during one song.

In New York, Zappa increasingly used tape editing as a compositional tool. A prime example is found on the double album Uncle Meat
Uncle Meat
Uncle Meat is the fifth studio album by the Mothers of Invention, released in 1969. It is billed as a supposed "soundtrack" to a film by The Mothers of Invention which was, in the end, never made. The front cover, designed by Cal Schenkel, included the words ""...

(1969), where the track "King Kong" is edited from various studio and live performances. Zappa had begun regularly recording concerts, and because of his insistence on precise tuning
Out of Tune
Out of Tune is a British children's TV sitcom which was shown on CBBC from 1996 to 1998.It features a group of fictional children that belong to a church choir at a school and their practice sessions. However the choir is humorously bad, hence the name 'Out of Tune', and the practice sessions are...

 and timing, he was able to augment his studio productions with excerpts from live shows, and vice versa. Later, he combined recordings of different compositions into new pieces, irrespective of the tempo
Tempo
In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. Tempo is a crucial element of any musical composition, as it can affect the mood and difficulty of a piece.-Measuring tempo:...

 or meter
Meter (music)
Meter or metre is a term that music has inherited from the rhythmic element of poetry where it means the number of lines in a verse, the number of syllables in each line and the arrangement of those syllables as long or short, accented or unaccented...

 of the sources. He dubbed this process "xenochrony
Xenochrony
Xenochrony is a studio-based musical technique developed at an unknown date, but possibly as early as the early 1960s, by Frank Zappa, who used it on several albums. Xenochrony is executed by extracting a guitar solo or other musical part from its original context and placing it into a completely...

" (strange synchronizations) — reflecting the Greek "xeno" (alien or strange) and "chrono" (time). Zappa also evolved a compositional approach which he called "conceptual continuity," meaning that any project or album was part of a larger project. Everything was connected, and musical themes and lyrics reappeared in different form on later albums. Conceptual continuity clues are found throughout Zappa's entire œuvre.

During the late 1960s, Zappa continued to develop the business sides of his career. He and Herb Cohen formed the Bizarre Records
Bizarre Records
Bizarre Records was a record label formed for artists discovered by rock musician Frank Zappa and his business partner/manager Herb Cohen.Bizarre was originally formed as a production company...

 and Straight Records
Straight Records
Straight Records was a record label formed in 1969 to distribute productions and discoveries of Frank Zappa and his business partner/manager Herb Cohen. Straight was formed at the same time as a companion label, Bizarre Records. Straight and Bizarre were manufactured and distributed in the U.S. by...

 labels, distributed by Warner Bros. Records
Warner Bros. Records
Warner Bros. Records Inc. is an American record label. It was the foundation label of the present-day Warner Music Group, and now operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of that corporation. It maintains a close relationship with its former parent, Warner Bros. Pictures, although the two companies...

, as ventures to aid the funding of projects and to increase creative control. Zappa produced the double album Trout Mask Replica
Trout Mask Replica
Trout Mask Replica is the third album by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, released in June 1969. Produced by Beefheart's friend and former schoolmate Frank Zappa, it was originally released as a double album on Zappa's Straight Records label...

for Captain Beefheart
Captain Beefheart
Don Van Vliet January 15, 1941 December 17, 2010) was an American musician, singer-songwriter and artist best known by the stage name Captain Beefheart. His musical work was conducted with a rotating ensemble of musicians called The Magic Band, active between 1965 and 1982, with whom he recorded 12...

, and releases by Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper is an American rock singer, songwriter and musician whose career spans more than four decades...

, Wild Man Fischer
Wild Man Fischer
Larry Wayne Fischer , better known as Wild Man Fischer, was an American songwriter in the outsider genre. He was notable for being responsible for Rhino Records' first release, Go To Rhino Records...

, and The GTOs
The GTOs
The GTOs were a "groupie group" that consisted of Miss Pamela , Miss Sparky , Miss Lucy , Miss Christine , Miss Sandra , Miss Mercy and Miss Cynderella...

, as well as Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce
Leonard Alfred Schneider , better known by the stage name Lenny Bruce, was a Jewish-American comedian, social critic and satirist...

's last live performance.

Disbanding the original Mothers of Invention (1969)


Zappa and The Mothers of Invention returned to Los Angeles in the summer of 1968, and the Zappas moved into a house on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, only to move again to one on Woodrow Wilson Drive in the autumn. This was to be Zappa's home for the rest of his life. Despite being a success with fans in Europe, The Mothers of Invention were not faring well financially. Their first records were vocally oriented, but Zappa wrote more instrumental jazz and classical oriented music for the band's concerts, which confused audiences. Zappa felt that audiences failed to appreciate his "electrical chamber music".

In 1969 there were nine band members and Zappa was supporting the group himself from his publishing royalties
Royalties
Royalties are usage-based payments made by one party to another for the right to ongoing use of an asset, sometimes an intellectual property...

 whether they played or not. 1969 was also the year Zappa, fed up with MGM's interference, left MGM Records for Warner Bros. Records' Reprise Records
Reprise Records
Reprise Records is an American record label, founded in 1960 by Frank Sinatra. It is owned by Warner Music Group, and operated through Warner Bros. Records.-Beginnings:...

 subsidiary where Zappa/Mothers recordings would bear the Bizarre Records imprint.
In late 1969, Zappa broke up the band. He often cited the financial strain as the main reason, but also commented on the band members' lack of sufficient effort. Many band members were bitter about Zappa's decision, and some took it as a sign of Zappa's concern for perfection at the expense of human feeling. Others were irritated by 'his autocratic
Autocracy
An autocracy is a form of government in which one person is the supreme power within the state. It is derived from the Greek : and , and may be translated as "one who rules by himself". It is distinct from oligarchy and democracy...

 ways', exemplified by Zappa's never staying at the same hotel as the band members. Several members would, however, play for Zappa in years to come. Remaining recordings with the band from this period were collected on Weasels Ripped My Flesh
Weasels Ripped My Flesh
Weasels Ripped My Flesh is an album by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, released in 1970.Given Zappa's already stated penchant for expressing his music in "phases"—We're Only in It for the Money was written up as "phase one of Lumpy Gravy"—conceptually, Zappa fans occasionally label this...

and Burnt Weeny Sandwich
Burnt Weeny Sandwich
Burnt Weeny Sandwich is a live and studio compilation album by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, released in 1970 ....

(both released in 1970).

After he disbanded The Mothers of Invention, Zappa released the acclaimed solo album Hot Rats
Hot Rats
Hot Rats is the second solo album by Frank Zappa. It was released in October 1969. Five of the six songs are instrumental . It was Zappa's first recording project after the dissolution of the original Mothers of Invention...

(1969). It features, for the first time on record, Zappa playing extended guitar solos and contains one of his most enduring compositions, "Peaches en Regalia
Peaches en Regalia
"Peaches en Regalia" is an instrumental jazz fusion composition by Frank Zappa. It was released on Zappa's album Hot Rats in 1969 and has been recorded many times since. It was also released as a single in 1970, with "Little Umbrellas" as the B-side...

", which reappeared several times on future recordings. It was backed by jazz, blues and R&B session players including violinist Don "Sugarcane" Harris, drummers John Guerin and Paul Humphrey
Paul Humphrey
Paul Nelson Humphrey is an American jazz and funk/R+B drummer.He worked as a session drummer in the 1960s for jazz artists such as Wes Montgomery, Les McCann, Kai Winding, Charles Mingus, Lee Konitz, Blue Mitchell and Gene Ammons.As a bandleader, he recorded under the name Paul Humphrey and the...

, multi-instrumentalist and previous member of Mothers of Invention Ian Underwood
Ian Underwood
Ian Robertson Underwood is a woodwind and keyboards player. He began his career by playing San Francisco Bay Area coffeehouses and bars with his improvisational group the Jazz Mice in the mid 1960s before he became a member of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention in 1967 for their third studio...

, and multi-instrumentalist Shuggie Otis
Shuggie Otis
Shuggie Otis is an American singer-songwriter, recording artist, and multi-instrumentalist....

 on bass, along with a guest appearance by Captain Beefheart (providing vocals to the only non-instrumental track, "Willie the Pimp"). It became a popular album in England, and had a major influence on the development of the jazz-rock fusion genre.

1970s: From The Mothers to Zappa


In 1970 Zappa met conductor Zubin Mehta
Zubin Mehta
Zubin Mehta is an Indian conductor of western classical music. He is the Music Director for Life of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.-Biography:...

. They arranged a May 1970 concert where Mehta conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic
The Los Angeles Philharmonic is an American orchestra based in Los Angeles, California, United States. It has a regular season of concerts from October through June at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and a summer season at the Hollywood Bowl from July through September...

 augmented by a rock band. According to Zappa, the music was mostly written in motel rooms while on tour with The Mothers of Invention. Some of it was later featured in the movie 200 Motels
200 Motels
200 Motels is a 1971 American-British musical surrealist film cowritten and directed by Frank Zappa and Tony Palmer and starring The Mothers of Invention, Theodore Bikel and Ringo Starr. The film covers a loose storyline about The Mothers of Invention going crazy in the small town Centerville...

. Although the concert was a success, Zappa's experience working with a symphony orchestra was not a happy one. His dissatisfaction became a recurring theme throughout his career; he often felt that the quality of performance of his material delivered by orchestras was not commensurate with the money he spent on orchestral concerts and recordings.

Rebirth of The Mothers and filmmaking (1970)


Later in 1970, Zappa formed a new version of The Mothers (from then on, he mostly dropped the "of Invention"). It included British drummer Aynsley Dunbar
Aynsley Dunbar
Aynsley Thomas Dunbar is an English drummer. He has worked with some of the top names in rock, including Eric Burdon, John Mayall, Frank Zappa, Ian Hunter, Lou Reed, Jefferson Starship, Jeff Beck, David Bowie, Whitesnake, Sammy Hagar, UFO, and Journey...

, jazz keyboardist George Duke
George Duke
George Duke is a multi-faceted American musician, known as a keyboard pioneer, composer, singer and producer in both jazz and popular mainstream musical genres. He has worked with numerous acclaimed artists as arranger, music director, writer and co-writer, record producer and professor of music...

, Ian Underwood
Ian Underwood
Ian Robertson Underwood is a woodwind and keyboards player. He began his career by playing San Francisco Bay Area coffeehouses and bars with his improvisational group the Jazz Mice in the mid 1960s before he became a member of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention in 1967 for their third studio...

, Jeff Simmons
Jeff Simmons (musician)
Jeff Simmons, born May 1949 in Seattle, Washington, is a rock musician and former member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. Simmons provided bass, guitar, and backing vocals for the group between 1970 and 1971. He left The Mothers just prior to the filming of 200 Motels in mid 1971...

 (bass, rhythm guitar), and three members of The Turtles
The Turtles
The Turtles are an American rock group led by vocalists Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. The band became notable for several Top 40 hits beginning with its cover version of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe" in 1965...

: bass player Jim Pons
Jim Pons
Jim Pons was a bass guitarist and singer for several 1960s rock bands, including The Leaves, The Turtles, and The Mothers of Invention....

, and singers Mark Volman
Mark Volman
Mark Volman is an American rock and roll singer, best known as a founding member of the 1960s band The Turtles. At times during his career he has used the pseudonym "The Phlorescent Leech"...

 and Howard Kaylan
Howard Kaylan
Howard Kaylan is an American rock and roll musician, best known as a founding member and lead singer of the 1960s band, The Turtles, and "Eddie" of 1970's rock band Flo & Eddie.-Early days:...

, who, due to persistent legal and contractual problems, adopted the stage name "The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie", or "Flo & Eddie
Flo & Eddie
Flo & Eddie are a comedic musical duo.The two were the original founding members of the Top 40 rock group the Turtles. After the Turtles dissolved, Volman and Kaylan first joined the Mothers of Invention as "Phlorescent Leech & Eddie"...

".

This version of The Mothers debuted on Zappa's next solo album Chunga's Revenge
Chunga's Revenge
Chunga's Revenge is an album by Frank Zappa, released on October 23, 1970. Zappa's first effort of the 1970s marks the first appearance of former Turtles members Flo & Eddie on a Zappa record, and signals the dawn of a controversial epoch in Zappa's history...

(1970), which was followed by the double-album soundtrack to the movie 200 Motels (1971), featuring The Mothers, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is a British orchestra based in London. It tours widely, and is sometimes referred to as "Britain's national orchestra"...

, Ringo Starr
Ringo Starr
Richard Starkey, MBE better known by his stage name Ringo Starr, is an English musician and actor who gained worldwide fame as the drummer for The Beatles. When the band formed in 1960, Starr was a member of another Liverpool band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. He became The Beatles' drummer in...

, Theodore Bikel
Theodore Bikel
Theodore Meir Bikel is a character actor, folk singer and musician. He made his film debut in The African Queen and was nominated for an Academy award for his supporting role as Sheriff Max Muller in The Defiant Ones ....

, and Keith Moon
Keith Moon
Keith John Moon was an English musician, best known for being the drummer of the English rock group The Who. He gained acclaim for his exuberant and innovative drumming style, and notoriety for his eccentric and often self-destructive behaviour, earning him the nickname "Moon the Loon". Moon...

. Co-directed by Zappa and Tony Palmer, it was filmed in a week at Pinewood Studios
Pinewood Studios
Pinewood Studios is a major British film studio situated in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, approximately west of central London. The studios have played host to many productions over the years from huge blockbuster films to television shows to commercials to pop promos.The purchase of Shepperton...

 outside London. Tensions between Zappa and several cast and crew members arose before and during shooting. The film deals loosely with life on the road as a rock musician. It was the first feature film photographed on videotape
Videotape
A videotape is a recording of images and sounds on to magnetic tape as opposed to film stock or random access digital media. Videotapes are also used for storing scientific or medical data, such as the data produced by an electrocardiogram...

 and transferred to 35 mm film
35 mm film
35 mm film is the film gauge most commonly used for chemical still photography and motion pictures. The name of the gauge refers to the width of the photographic film, which consists of strips 35 millimeters in width...

, a process which allowed for novel visual effects. It was released to mixed reviews. The score relied extensively on orchestral music, and Zappa's dissatisfaction with the classical music world intensified when a concert, scheduled at the Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall situated on the northern edge of the South Kensington area, in the City of Westminster, London, England, best known for holding the annual summer Proms concerts since 1941....

 after filming, was canceled because a representative of the venue found some of the lyrics obscene. In 1975, he lost a lawsuit against the Royal Albert Hall for breach of contract.

After 200 Motels, the band went on tour, which resulted in two live albums, Fillmore East - June 1971
Fillmore East - June 1971
Fillmore East – June 1971 is a live album by The Mothers, released in 1971. It was the twelfth album by Frank Zappa. It was produced by Frank Zappa, and mixed by Toby Foster.-History:This was a live concept-like album...

and Just Another Band From L.A.
Just Another Band from L.A.
Just Another Band from L.A. is a live album by The Mothers, released in 1972 . It was recorded live on August 7, 1971 in Pauley Pavilion on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles. A notable inclusion on this album is Billy the Mountain, Zappa's long, narrative parody of rock operas, which were gaining...

; the latter included the 20-minute track "Billy the Mountain
Billy the Mountain
"Billy the Mountain" is a Frank Zappa song first made available on the album Just Another Band from L.A. in 1972. The original recording of this song, which took more than a half-hour to perform, was from a live tour performance on August 7, 1971 in Los Angeles, performed by Zappa with his band The...

", Zappa's satire on rock opera set in Southern California. This track was representative of the band's theatrical performances in which songs were used to build up sketches based on 200 Motels scenes as well as new situations often portraying the band members' sexual encounters on the road.

Accident, attack and their aftermath (1971–1972)



In December 1971, there were two serious setbacks. While performing at Casino de Montreux
Montreux Casino
Montreux Casino ' is a casino located in Montreux, Switzerland, on the shoreline of Lake Geneva. It has served as the venue for the Montreux Jazz Festival and was rebuilt following a 1971 fire memorialized in the Deep Purple song "Smoke on the Water." It is a property of Groupe Lucien...

 in Switzerland, The Mothers' equipment was destroyed when a flare set off by an audience member started a fire that burned down the casino. Immortalized in Deep Purple
Deep Purple
Deep Purple are an English rock band formed in Hertford in 1968. Along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, they are considered to be among the pioneers of heavy metal and modern hard rock, although some band members believe that their music cannot be categorised as belonging to any one genre...

's song "Smoke on the Water
Smoke on the Water
"Smoke on the Water" is a song by the British hard rock band Deep Purple. It was first released on their 1972 album Machine Head. In 2004, the song was ranked number 426 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, and in March 2005, Q magazine placed "Smoke on the Water"...

", the event and immediate aftermath can be heard on the bootleg album Swiss Cheese/Fire, released legally as part of Zappa's Beat the Boots II
Beat the Boots II
Beat the Boots II is a box set by Frank Zappa. It compiles bootleg recordings which were previously available illegally, and was released through Rhino Entertainment in 1992 as part of Zappa's campaign to dissuade his fans from buying illegal recordings of his concerts...

compilation. After a week's break, The Mothers played at the Rainbow Theatre, London, with rented gear. During the encore, an audience member pushed Zappa off the stage and into the concrete-floored orchestra pit. The band thought Zappa had been killed—he had suffered serious fractures, head trauma and injuries to his back, leg, and neck, as well as a crushed larynx
Larynx
The larynx , commonly called the voice box, is an organ in the neck of amphibians, reptiles and mammals involved in breathing, sound production, and protecting the trachea against food aspiration. It manipulates pitch and volume...

, which ultimately caused his voice to drop a third
Major third
In classical music from Western culture, a third is a musical interval encompassing three staff positions , and the major third is one of two commonly occurring thirds. It is qualified as major because it is the largest of the two: the major third spans four semitones, the minor third three...

 after healing. This accident resulted in him using a wheelchair for an extended period, forcing him off the road for over half a year. Upon his return to the stage in September 1972, he was still wearing a leg brace, had a noticeable limp and could not stand for very long while on stage. Zappa noted that one leg healed "shorter than the other" (a reference later found in the lyrics of songs "Zomby Woof" and "Dancin' Fool"), resulting in chronic back pain. Meanwhile, The Mothers were left in limbo and eventually formed the core of Flo and Eddie's band as they set out on their own.

During 1971–1972 Zappa released two strongly jazz-oriented solo LPs, Waka/Jawaka
Waka/Jawaka
Waka/Jawaka is an album by Frank Zappa, released in 1972. The album is the jazz-influenced precursor to The Grand Wazoo, and, as the front cover indicates, sequel of sorts to 1969's Hot Rats. Miles Davis's Bitches Brew-era influence is readily apparent on this and its sister album, The Grand Wazoo...

and The Grand Wazoo
The Grand Wazoo
The Grand Wazoo is a 1972 jazz fusion album by Frank Zappa. Composed and recorded during Zappa's period of convalescence following his assault in London, the album, along with its "twin brother" Waka/Jawaka, represent Zappa's foray into big band fusion, the logical progression from Hot Rats, which...

, which were recorded during the forced layoff from concert touring, using floating line-ups of session players and Mothers alumni. Musically, the albums were akin to Hot Rats. Zappa began touring again in late 1972. His first effort was a series of concerts in September 1972 with a 20-piece big band
Big band
A big band is a type of musical ensemble associated with jazz and the Swing Era typically consisting of rhythm, brass, and woodwind instruments totaling approximately twelve to twenty-five musicians...

 referred to as the Grand Wazoo. This was followed by a scaled-down version known as the Petit Wazoo that toured the U.S. for five weeks from October to December 1972.

Top 10 album (1973–1975)


Zappa then formed and toured with smaller groups that variously included Ian Underwood
Ian Underwood
Ian Robertson Underwood is a woodwind and keyboards player. He began his career by playing San Francisco Bay Area coffeehouses and bars with his improvisational group the Jazz Mice in the mid 1960s before he became a member of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention in 1967 for their third studio...

 (reeds, keyboards), Ruth Underwood
Ruth Underwood
Ruth Underwood is a retired professional musician, best known for playing xylophone, marimba, vibraphone and other percussion instruments in Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention from 1967 to 1977....

 (vibes, marimba), Sal Marquez (trumpet, vocals), Napoleon Murphy Brock
Napoleon Murphy Brock
Napoleon Murphy Brock is an American singer, saxophonist and flute player who is best known for his work with Frank Zappa in the 1970s, including the albums One Size Fits All, Roxy and Elsewhere, and Bongo Fury...

 (sax, flute and vocals), Bruce Fowler
Bruce Fowler
Bruce Lambourne Fowler is a prominent American trombone player and composer. He notably played trombone on many Frank Zappa records, as well as with Captain Beefheart, and in the Fowler Brothers Band...

 (trombone), Tom Fowler (bass), Chester Thompson
Chester Thompson
Chester Cortez Thompson is an American drummer and session musician.-Biography:Thompson made his name as a session drummer, going on to play in Frank Zappa's touring band and with Weather Report...

 (drums), Ralph Humphrey (drums), George Duke
George Duke
George Duke is a multi-faceted American musician, known as a keyboard pioneer, composer, singer and producer in both jazz and popular mainstream musical genres. He has worked with numerous acclaimed artists as arranger, music director, writer and co-writer, record producer and professor of music...

 (keyboards, vocals), and Jean-Luc Ponty
Jean-Luc Ponty
Jean-Luc Ponty is a French virtuoso violinist and jazz composer.- Early years:Ponty was born into a family of classical musicians on 29 September 1942 in Avranches, France. His father taught violin, his mother taught piano...

 (violin).

By 1973 the Bizarre and Straight labels were discontinued. In their place, Zappa and Cohen created DiscReet Records
DiscReet Records
DiscReet Records was a company founded by Frank Zappa and his then business partner/manager Herb Cohen. It was created in 1973 when their previous companies Bizarre Records and Straight Records were discontinued...

, also distributed by Warner Bros. Zappa continued a high rate of production through the first half of the 1970s, including the solo album Apostrophe (') (1974), which reached a career-high No. 10 on the Billboard
Billboard charts
The Billboard charts tabulate the relative weekly popularity of songs or albums in the United States. The results are published in Billboard magazine...

 pop album charts helped by the chart single "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow". Other albums from the period are Over-Nite Sensation
Over-Nite Sensation
Over-Nite Sensation is an album by Frank Zappa & The Mothers, released in 1973 . It was recorded in March – June 1973 at these studios: Bolic Sound in Inglewood, Whitney, in Glendale, and Paramount in Los Angeles...

(1973), which contained several future concert favorites, such as "Dinah-Moe Humm" and "Montana
Montana (Frank Zappa song)
Montana is a song composed by Frank Zappa for his 1973 LP Over-Nite Sensation. The last track on the album is one of Zappa's most famous and renowned compositions...

", and the albums Roxy & Elsewhere
Roxy & Elsewhere
Roxy & Elsewhere is a live album by Frank Zappa & The Mothers which was released in 1974. Most of the songs were recorded at The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood, California on December 8, 9 and 10, 1973...

(1974) and One Size Fits All
One Size Fits All
One Size Fits All is a 1975 rock album by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. It is the last Zappa album to be released with the subheading of "Mothers of Invention". A special four-channel Quadraphonic version of the album was prepared and advertised, but not released...

(1975) which feature ever-changing versions of a band still called The Mothers, and are notable for the tight renditions of highly difficult jazz fusion
Jazz fusion
Jazz fusion is a musical fusion genre that developed from mixing funk and R&B rhythms and the amplification and electronic effects of rock, complex time signatures derived from non-Western music and extended, typically instrumental compositions with a jazz approach to lengthy group improvisations,...

 songs in such pieces as "Inca Roads", "Echidna's Arf (Of You)" and "Be-Bop Tango (Of the Old Jazzmen's Church)". A live recording from 1974, You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 2
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 2
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 2 is a live album by Frank Zappa. Despite the subtitle "The Helsinki Concert," the album is not one complete concert, but was, in fact, assembled from two different concerts performed in Helsinki in 1974...

(1988), captures "the full spirit and excellence of the 1973–75 band". Zappa released Bongo Fury
Bongo Fury
Bongo Fury is a mostly live album released by Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart in 1975. The live portions were recorded on May 20 & 21, 1975 at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas...

(1975), which featured live recordings from a tour the same year that reunited him with Captain Beefheart
Captain Beefheart
Don Van Vliet January 15, 1941 December 17, 2010) was an American musician, singer-songwriter and artist best known by the stage name Captain Beefheart. His musical work was conducted with a rotating ensemble of musicians called The Magic Band, active between 1965 and 1982, with whom he recorded 12...

 for a brief period. They later became estranged for a period of years, but were in contact at the end of Zappa's life.

Business breakups and touring (1976–1979)



Zappa's relationship with long-time manager Herb Cohen ended in 1976. Zappa sued Cohen for skimming more than he was allocated from DiscReet Records, as well as for signing acts of which Zappa did not approve. Cohen filed a lawsuit against Zappa in return, which froze the money Zappa and Cohen had gained from an out-of-court settlement with MGM over the rights of the early Mothers of Invention recordings. It also prevented Zappa having access to any of his previously recorded material during the trials. Zappa therefore took his personal master copies of the rock-oriented Zoot Allures
Zoot Allures
Zoot Allures is a 1976 rock album by Frank Zappa. This was Zappa's only release on the Warner Bros. Records label. Due to a lawsuit with his former manager Herb Cohen Frank Zappa's recording contract was temporarily re-assigned from DiscReet Records to Warner Bros.The title is a pun on the French...

(1976) directly to Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., also known as Warner Bros. Pictures or simply Warner Bros. , is an American producer of film and television entertainment.One of the major film studios, it is a subsidiary of Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank,...

, thereby bypassing DiscReet.

In the mid-1970s Zappa prepared material for Läther
Läther
Läther is an album by Frank Zappa which was released on CD posthumously in 1996. Produced by Zappa in 1977, the recordings contained in Läther were made between 1972 and 1977 . A collection of these tapes was delivered to Warner Bros...

, a four-LP project. Läther encapsulated all the aspects of Zappa's musical styles — rock tunes, orchestral works, complex instrumentals, and Zappa's own trademark distortion-drenched guitar solos. Wary of a quadruple-LP, Warner Bros. Records refused to release it. Zappa managed to get an agreement with Mercury-Phonogram
Phonogram Records
Phonogram Records was started in 1962 as a joint venture between Philips Records and Deutsche Grammophon. In 1972, Phonogram was merged with Polydor Records into PolyGram....

, and test pressings were made targeted at a Halloween 1977 release, but Warner Bros. prevented the release by claiming rights over the material. Zappa responded by appearing on the Pasadena
Pasadena, California
Pasadena is a city in Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although famous for hosting the annual Rose Bowl football game and Tournament of Roses Parade, Pasadena is the home to many scientific and cultural institutions, including the California Institute of Technology , the Jet...

, California radio station KROQ
KROQ-FM
KROQ-FM — branded 106.7 KROQ — is a commercial modern rock radio station licensed to Pasadena, California serving the Greater Los Angeles. The call sign is pronounced "kay rock." It is the flagship station of Loveline hosted by Dr...

, allowing them to broadcast Läther and encouraging listeners to make their own tape recordings. A lawsuit between Zappa and Warner Bros. followed, during which no Zappa material was released for more than a year. Eventually, Warner Bros. issued different versions of much of the Läther material in 1978 and 1979 as four individual albums (five full length LPs) with limited promotion
Promotion (marketing)
Promotion is one of the four elements of marketing mix . It is the communication link between sellers and buyers for the purpose of influencing, informing, or persuading a potential buyer's purchasing decision....

. When the music was first released on CD in 1991 Zappa chose to release the four individual albums. Läther was released posthumously in 1996.

Although Zappa eventually gained the rights to all his material created under the MGM and Warner Bros. contracts, the various lawsuits meant that for a period Zappa's only income came from touring, which he therefore did extensively in 1975–1977 with relatively small, mainly rock-oriented, bands. Drummer Terry Bozzio
Terry Bozzio
Terry John Bozzio is an American drummer best known for his work with Missing Persons and Frank Zappa.-Biography:Terry Bozzio was born December 27, 1950 in San Francisco, California. He started at age 6 playing makeshift drum sets. At the age of 13 he saw The Beatles premier performance on The Ed...

 became a regular band member, Napoleon Murphy Brock stayed on for a while, and original Mothers of Invention bassist Roy Estrada
Roy Estrada
Roy Estrada is an American musician and backing vocalist, best known for his bass guitar work with Frank Zappa and for co-founding Little Feat.-Biography:With drummer Jimmy Carl Black and Ray Collins, Estrada was an original member of Frank Zappa's...

 joined. Among other musicians were bassist Patrick O'Hearn
Patrick O'Hearn
Patrick O'Hearn is an American multi-instrumentalist musician, composer and recording artist. While his musical repertoire spans a diverse range of music, he is an acclaimed New Age artist in his solo career...

, singer-guitarist Ray White
Ray White
Ray White is a soul vocalist and rock and blues guitarist, best known as a member of Frank Zappa's touring ensembles. He was drafted into Zappa's band in the fall of 1976, being featured on rhythm guitar and vocals, forming a memorable vocal harmony partnership with Ike Willis on later tours in...

 and keyboardist Eddie Jobson
Eddie Jobson
Edwin "Eddie" Jobson is an English keyboardist and violinist noted for his use of synthesizers. He has been a member of several progressive rock bands, including Curved Air, Roxy Music, U.K., and Jethro Tull. He was also part of Frank Zappa's band in 1976-77...

. In December 1976, Zappa appeared as a featured musical guest on the NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

 television show Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live is a live American late-night television sketch comedy and variety show developed by Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title of NBC's Saturday Night.The show's sketches often parody contemporary American culture...

. The performances included an impromptu musical collaboration with cast member John Belushi
John Belushi
John Adam Belushi was an American comedian, actor, and musician, best known as one of the original cast members of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, The Star of the Films National Lampoon's Animal House and the The Blues Brothers and for fronting the American blues and soul...

 during the instrumental piece "The Purple Lagoon". Belushi appeared as his Samurai Futaba character playing the tenor sax with Zappa conducting. Zappa's song, "I'm the Slime", was performed with a voice-over by SNL booth announcer Don Pardo
Don Pardo
Dominick George "Don" Pardo is an American radio and television announcer. He is best known as the voice of the long-running late night sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live....

, who also introduced "Peaches En Regalia" on the same airing.

Zappa's band at the time, with the additions of Ruth Underwood and a horn section (featuring Michael
Michael Brecker
Michael Leonard Brecker was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Acknowledged as "a quiet, gentle musician widely regarded as the most influential tenor saxophonist since John Coltrane," he has been awarded 15 Grammy Awards as both performer and composer and was inducted into Down Beat Jazz...

 and Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
Randal "Randy" Brecker is an American trumpeter and flugelhornist. He is a highly sought after performer in the genres of jazz, rock, and R&B, and has performed or recorded with Stanley Turrentine, Billy Cobham, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, Sandip Burman, Charles Mingus, Blood, Sweat & Tears,...

), performed during Christmas in New York, recordings of which appear on one of the albums Warner Bros. culled from the Läther project, Zappa in New York
Zappa in New York
Zappa in New York is a live double album by Frank Zappa. It was recorded at a series of concerts at New York City's Palladium in December 1976. It was released by Zappa's DiscReet Records label in 1977, then quickly withdrawn. A second version was re-released in 1978 with changes ordered by...

(1978). It mixes intense instrumentals such as "The Black Page
The Black Page
"The Black Page" is a piece by American composer Frank Zappa known for being extraordinarily difficult to play. Originally written for the drum kit and melodic percussion, the piece was later rearranged in several versions, including a disco and a so-called New Age version.Drummer Terry Bozzio said...

" and humorous songs like "Titties and Beer". The former composition, written originally for drum kit but later developed for larger bands, is notorious for its complexity in rhythmic structure and short, densely arranged passages.
Zappa in New York featured a song about sex criminal Michael H. Kenyon
Michael H. Kenyon
Michael Hubert Kenyon is an American criminal nicknamed the Enema Bandit. He pleaded guilty to a decade-long series of armed robberies of female victims, some of which involved sexual assaults where he would give them enemas...

, "The Illinois Enema Bandit", which featured Don Pardo providing the opening narrative in the song. Like many songs on the album, it contained numerous sexual references, leading to many critics objecting and being offended by the content. Zappa dismissed the criticism by noting that he was a journalist reporting on life as he saw it. Predating his later fight against censorship, he remarked: "What do you make of a society that is so primitive that it clings to the belief that certain words in its language are so powerful that they could corrupt you the moment you hear them?" The remaining albums released by Warner Bros. Records without Zappa's consent were Studio Tan
Studio Tan
Studio Tan is an album by Frank Zappa, first released in September, 1978 on his own DiscReet Records label. It reached #147 on the Billboard 200 albums chart...

in 1978 and Sleep Dirt
Sleep Dirt
Sleep Dirt is an album by Frank Zappa released in January, 1979 on his own DiscReet Records label. It reached 175 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart...

in 1979, which contained complex suites of instrumentally-based tunes recorded between 1973 and 1976, and whose release was overlooked in the midst of the legal problems. Also released by the label without the artist's consent was Orchestral Favorites
Orchestral Favorites
Orchestral Favorites is an album by Frank Zappa first released in May, 1979 on his own DiscReet Records label. The album is instrumental and features music performed by the 37-piece Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra...

in 1979, which featured recordings of a concert with orchestral music from 1975.

Zappa as an independent artist (1979)



Resolving the lawsuits successfully, Zappa ended the 1970s "stronger than ever", by releasing two of his most successful albums in 1979: the best selling album of his career, Sheik Yerbouti
Sheik Yerbouti
Sheik Yerbouti is a double vinyl album by Frank Zappa made up of material recorded in 1977 and 1978. It was first released on March 3 1979 as the first release on Zappa Records and re-issued on compact disc, first in unauthorized form by EMI in 1986 and then by Rykodisc in 1990 and then again in 1995...

, and the "bona fide masterpiece", Joe's Garage
Joe's Garage
Joe's Garage is a 1979 rock opera by Frank Zappa. Zappa stated that along with Lumpy Gravy, this album was one of his finest achievements. It was originally released as two separate albums, the first comprising Act I, and the second part as a double-album which made up Acts II & III. All three...

. The double album Sheik Yerbouti was the first release on Zappa Records
Zappa Records
Zappa Records was a short-lived record label founded by Frank Zappa in 1979 after he severed his ties with Warner Bros. Records which distributed his Bizarre Records, Straight Records and DiscReet Records. It was distributed by Mercury Records. Three albums were released on the Zappa label, Sheik...

, (distributed by Mercury Records
Mercury Records
Mercury Records is a record label operating as a standalone company in the UK and as part of the Island Def Jam Motown Music Group in the US; both are subsidiaries of Universal Music Group. There is also a Mercury Records in Australia, which is a local artist and repertoire division of Universal...

) and contained the Grammy
Grammy Award
A Grammy Award — or Grammy — is an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry...

-nominated single "Dancin' Fool", which reached No. 45 on the Billboard charts, and "Jewish Princess", which received attention when a Jewish lobby group, the Anti-Defamation League
Anti-Defamation League
The Anti-Defamation League is an international non-governmental organization based in the United States. Describing itself as "the nation's premier civil rights/human relations agency", the ADL states that it "fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects...

 (ADL), attempted to prevent the song from receiving radio airplay due to its alleged anti-Semitic lyrics. Zappa vehemently denied any anti-Semitic sentiments and dismissed the ADL as a "noisemaking organization that tries to apply pressure on people in order to manufacture a stereotype image of Jews that suits their idea of a good time". The album's commercial success was attributable in part to "Bobby Brown
Bobby Brown (Goes Down)
"Bobby Brown " is a song by Frank Zappa released on his album Sheik Yerbouti in 1979. One of his best known songs, it was hugely successful in Europe....

". Due to its explicit lyrics about a young man's encounter with a "dyke by the name of Freddie", the song did not get airplay in the U.S., but it topped the charts in several European countries where English is not the primary language. The triple LP Joe's Garage featured lead singer Ike Willis
Ike Willis
Ike Willis is a singer and guitarist who was a regular sideman for Frank Zappa, first joining Zappa's band for the fall 1978 tour and remaining in the band for several years. He did not tour with Zappa in 1981 and 1982 for personal reasons, but returned to touring with Zappa for his final two...

 as the voice of the character "Joe" in a rock opera
Rock opera
A rock opera is a work of rock music that presents a storyline told over multiple parts, songs or sections in the manner of opera. A rock opera differs from a conventional rock album, which usually includes songs that are not unified by a common theme or narrative. More recent developments include...

 about the danger of political system
Political system
A political system is a system of politics and government. It is usually compared to the legal system, economic system, cultural system, and other social systems...

s, the suppression of freedom of speech
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...

 and music — inspired in part by the Islamic revolution that had made music illegal within its jurisdiction at the time — and about the "strange relationship Americans have with sex and sexual frankness". The album contains rock songs like "Catholic Girls" (a riposte
Riposte
In fencing, the riposte is an offensive action with the intent of hitting one's opponent, made by the fencer who has just parried an attack....

 to the controversies of "Jewish Princess"), "Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up", and the title track, as well as extended live-recorded guitar improvisations combined with a studio backup band dominated by drummer Vinnie Colaiuta
Vinnie Colaiuta
Vincent Colaiuta is an American drummer based in Los Angeles. Originally from Republic, Pennsylvania, he began playing drums as a child and received his first full drum kit from his parents at the age of 14...

 (with whom Zappa had a particularly good musical rapport) adopting the xenochrony
Xenochrony
Xenochrony is a studio-based musical technique developed at an unknown date, but possibly as early as the early 1960s, by Frank Zappa, who used it on several albums. Xenochrony is executed by extracting a guitar solo or other musical part from its original context and placing it into a completely...

 process. The album contains one of Zappa's most famous guitar "signature pieces", "Watermelon in Easter Hay".

On December 21, 1979, Zappa's movie Baby Snakes
Baby Snakes
Baby Snakes is a movie which includes footage from Frank Zappa's 1977 Halloween concert at New York City's Palladium Theater, backstage antics from the crew, and stop motion clay animation from award-winning animator Bruce Bickford....

premiered in New York. The movie's tagline was "A movie about people who do stuff that is not normal". The 2 hour and 40 minutes movie was based on footage from concerts in New York around Halloween 1977, with a band featuring keyboardist Tommy Mars
Tommy Mars
Tommy Mars is a keyboard player, best known for his work with Frank Zappa.Born in Connecticut, U.S.A., 26 October 1951 Mars began piano lessons at age eight, and later his instrument range expanded to various keyboards and synthesizers. Mars graduated in 1972 from the Hartt College of Music in...

 and percussionist Ed Mann
Ed Mann
Ed Mann has been "a drummer and piano dabbler since childhood", best known for his mallet percusion recorded and live work with Frank Zappa from 1977 to the end of Zappa's career.- Career :...

 (who would both return on later tours) as well as guitarist Adrian Belew
Adrian Belew
Adrian Belew is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer...

. It also contained several extraordinary sequences of clay animation
Clay animation
Clay animation or claymation is one of many forms of stop motion animation. Each animated piece, either character or background, is "deformable"—made of a malleable substance, usually Plasticine clay....

 by Bruce Bickford who had earlier provided animation sequences to Zappa for a 1974 TV special (which later become available on the video The Dub Room Special
The Dub Room Special
The Dub Room Special is a film produced by Frank Zappa for direct-to-video release in October, 1982. The video combines footage from a performance at the KCET studios in Los Angeles on August 27, 1974, a concert performed at The Palladium, NYC on October 31, 1981, some clay animation by Bruce...

(1982)). The movie did not do well in theatrical distribution, but won the Premier Grand Prix at the First International Music Festival in Paris in 1981. The Zappa Family Trust released it on DVD, and it has been available since 2003.

Zappa later expanded on his television appearances in a non-musical role. He was an actor or voice artist in episodes of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre
Faerie Tale Theatre
Faerie Tale Theatre is a live-action children's television anthology series retelling popular fairy tales. Shelley Duvall serves as narrator, host and executive producer of the program, and occasionally stars in episodes...

, Miami Vice
Miami Vice
Miami Vice is an American television series produced by Michael Mann for NBC. The series starred Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as two Metro-Dade Police Department detectives working undercover in Miami. It ran for five seasons on NBC from 1984–1989...

and The Ren and Stimpy Show
The Ren and Stimpy Show
The Ren & Stimpy Show, often simply referred to as Ren & Stimpy, is an American animated television series, created by Canadian animator John Kricfalusi for Nickelodeon. The series focuses on the titular characters: Ren Höek, a psychotic chihuahua, and Stimpson J. Cat, a good-natured, dimwitted cat...

. A voice part in The Simpsons
The Simpsons
The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical parody of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its family of the same name, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie...

never materialized, to creator Matt Groening
Matt Groening
Matthew Abram "Matt" Groening is an American cartoonist, screenwriter, and producer. He is the creator of the comic strip Life in Hell as well as two successful television series, The Simpsons and Futurama....

's disappointment (Groening was a neighbor of Zappa's, and a lifelong fan).

1980s: Productive as ever


In 1980, Zappa cut his ties with Mercury Records after the label refused to release his song "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted." It was picked up by CBS Records
Sony Music Entertainment
Sony Music Entertainment ' is the second-largest global recorded music company of the "big four" record companies and is controlled by Sony Corporation of America, the United States subsidiary of Japan's Sony Corporation....

 and released on the Zappa label in North America and the CBS label internationally. After spending most of 1980 on the road, Zappa released Tinsel Town Rebellion
Tinsel Town Rebellion
Tinseltown Rebellion is a double-album released by Frank Zappa in 1981. It was reissued on a single CD by Rykodisc in 1990. Complaints regarding the significantly inferior sound quality led to a remaster by Spencer Chrislu in 1998.The opening track, "Fine Girl" is a studio recording...

in 1981. It was the first release on his own Barking Pumpkin Records
Barking Pumpkin Records
Barking Pumpkin Records was a record label created by Frank Zappa in 1981. The label was initially distributed by CBS Records from 1981–1984 and Capitol Records from 1984 - 1993. Records sold outside of the US and Canada were distributed by the Music for Nations label. In 1993, after Zappa's death,...

, and it contains songs taken from a 1979 tour, one studio track and material from the 1980 tours. The album is a mixture of complicated instrumentals and Zappa's use of sprechstimme (speaking song or voice)—a compositional technique utilized by such composers as Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

 and Alban Berg
Alban Berg
Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer. He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique.-Early life:Berg was born in...

 — showcasing some of the most accomplished bands Zappa ever had (mostly featuring drummer Vinnie Colaiuta
Vinnie Colaiuta
Vincent Colaiuta is an American drummer based in Los Angeles. Originally from Republic, Pennsylvania, he began playing drums as a child and received his first full drum kit from his parents at the age of 14...

). While some lyrics still raised controversy among critics, in the sense that some found them sexist, the political and sociological satire in songs like the title track and "The Blue Light" have been described as a "hilarious critique of the willingness of the American people to believe anything". The album is also notable for the presence of guitar virtuoso
Virtuoso
A virtuoso is an individual who possesses outstanding technical ability in the fine arts, at singing or playing a musical instrument. The plural form is either virtuosi or the Anglicisation, virtuosos, and the feminine form sometimes used is virtuosa...

 Steve Vai
Steve Vai
Steven Siro "Steve" Vai is a three time Grammy Award-winning American guitarist, songwriter and producer who has sold over 15 million albums. Steve Vai is widely known as a flamboyant guitar virtuoso....

, who joined Zappa's touring band in the fall of 1980.

The same year the double album You Are What You Is
You Are What You Is
You Are What You Is is a double album by Frank Zappa. It was originally released as a two-record set in 1981 and later by Rykodisc as a 20-song CD. The album relies on a heavy use of overdubbing. This album was the first one to feature material recorded using Zappa's home studio Utility Muffin...

was released. Most of it was recorded in Zappa's brand new Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen was the name of the recording studio that Frank Zappa had built and used extensively at his home for many of his musical recordings....

 (UMRK) studios, which were located at his house, thereby giving him complete freedom to work. The album included one complex instrumental, "Theme from the 3rd Movement of Sinister Footwear", but focused mainly on rock songs with Zappa's sardonic social commentary—satirical lyrics targeted at teenagers, the media, and religious and political hypocrisy. "Dumb All Over" is a tirade on religion, as is "Heavenly Bank Account", wherein Zappa rails against TV evangelists
Televangelism
Televangelism is the use of television to communicate the Christian faith. The word is a portmanteau of television and evangelism and was coined by Time magazine. A “televangelist” is a Christian minister who devotes a large portion of his ministry to television broadcasting...

 such as Jerry Falwell
Jerry Falwell
Jerry Lamon Falwell, Sr. was an evangelical fundamentalist Southern Baptist pastor, televangelist, and a conservative commentator from the United States. He was the founding pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church, a megachurch in Lynchburg, Virginia...

 and Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson
Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson is a media mogul, television evangelist, ex-Baptist minister and businessman who is politically aligned with the Christian Right in the United States....

 for their purported influence on the U.S. administration as well as their use of religion as a means of raising money. Songs like "Society Pages" and "I'm a Beautiful Guy" show Zappa's dismay with the Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 era and its "obscene pursuit of wealth and happiness".

In 1981, Zappa also released three instrumental albums, Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar
Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar
Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar is a triple vinyl album, originally issued mail order-only as three separate volumes, featuring live material recorded by Frank Zappa between February 1977 and December 1980. The final track, "Canard du Jour", is a duet with Frank Zappa on electric bouzouki and Jean-Luc...

, Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar Some More, and The Return of the Son of Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar, which were initially sold via mail order, but later released through the CBS
CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

 label due to popular demand. The albums focus exclusively on Frank Zappa as a guitar soloist, and the tracks are predominantly live recordings from 1979–1980; they highlight Zappa's improvisational skills with "beautiful performances from the backing group as well". Another guitar-only album, Guitar, was released in 1988, and a third, Trance-Fusion
Trance-Fusion
Trance-Fusion is the name of an album of guitar solos completed by Frank Zappa shortly before his death, but not released until 2006. The album had previously been announced for release in 1999, and 2003 and again announced in 2005 in relation to the Zappa Plays Zappa tour...

, which Zappa completed shortly before his death, was released in 2006.

From hit single to classical performances


In May 1982, Zappa released Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch
Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch
Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch is an album by Frank Zappa, released in May 1982 and digitally remastered in 1991. It features five tracks composed by Zappa, and one song, "Valley Girl", co-written with Moon Unit Zappa, his daughter, who provided the spoken monologue mocking some of...

, which featured his biggest selling single ever, the Grammy Award
Grammy Award
A Grammy Award — or Grammy — is an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry...

-nominated song "Valley Girl
Valley Girl (song)
"Valley Girl" is a song by the musician Frank Zappa and his 14 year-old daughter, Moon Unit Zappa. It was released on Zappa's 1982 album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch. Moon supplied Frank with much of the content, speaking typical "Valley girl" or "Valspeak" phrases she heard at...

" (topping out at No. 32 on the Billboard charts). In her improvised lyrics to the song, Zappa's daughter Moon Unit
Moon Zappa
Moon Unit Zappa is an American actress, musician and author. She goes by the name Moon Zappa; "Unit" is her middle name.-Personal life:...

 satirized the vapid speech of teenage girls from the San Fernando Valley
San Fernando Valley
The San Fernando Valley is an urbanized valley located in the Los Angeles metropolitan area of southern California, United States, defined by the dramatic mountains of the Transverse Ranges circling it...

, which popularized many "Valspeak
Valspeak
Valleyspeak or Valspeak is a common name for an American sociolect, originally of Los Angeles, California, in particular Valley girls. This stereotype, which originated in the 1970s, became an international fad for a certain period...

" expressions such as "gag me with a spoon," "fer sure, fer sure," "grody" (gross), and "barf out". Most Americans who only knew Zappa from his few singles successes now thought of him as a person writing "novelty song
Novelty song
A novelty song is a comical or nonsensical song, performed principally for its comical effect. Humorous songs, or those containing humorous elements, are not necessarily novelty songs. The term arose in Tin Pan Alley to describe one of the major divisions of popular music. The other two divisions...

s", even though the rest of the album contained highly challenging music. Zappa was irritated by this and never played the song live.

In 1983, two different projects were released, beginning with The Man from Utopia
The Man from Utopia
The Man from Utopia is a 1983 album by Frank Zappa. It is a more song-driven, and less conceptual work than many others in Zappa's oeuvre. The album is named after a 1950s song, written by Donald and Doris Woods, which Zappa covers as part of "The Man from Utopia Meets Mary Lou".The sleeve art...

,
a rock-oriented work. The album is eclectic, featuring the vocal-led "Dangerous Kitchen" and "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats", both continuations of the sprechstimme excursions on Tinseltown Rebellion. The second album, London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 1
London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 1
London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 1 is a 1983 album by Frank Zappa. It features the London Symphony Orchestra's renditions of four of Zappa's compositions — "Sad Jane", "Pedro's Dowry", "Envelopes", and "Mo 'n Herb's Vacation" — from sessions recorded in January 1983...

, contained orchestral Zappa compositions conducted by Kent Nagano
Kent Nagano
__FORCETOC__Kent George Nagano is an American conductor and opera administrator. He is currently the music director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and the Bavarian State Opera.-Biography:...

 and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
The London Symphony Orchestra is a major orchestra of the United Kingdom, as well as one of the best-known orchestras in the world. Since 1982, the LSO has been based in London's Barbican Centre.-History:...

 (LSO). A second record of these sessions, London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 2
London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 2
London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 2 is a 1987 album featuring Frank Zappa's music performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. It is the follow-up to 1983's London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 1, and was recorded at the same sessions, in January 1983. The two albums were later combined, and re-released on...

was released in 1987. The material was recorded under a tight schedule with Zappa providing all funding, helped by the commercial success of "Valley Girl". Zappa was not satisfied with the LSO recordings. One reason is "Strictly Genteel", which was recorded after the trumpet section had been out for drinks on a break: the track took 40 edits to hide out-of-tune notes. Conductor Nagano, who was pleased with the experience, noted that in "fairness to the orchestra, the music is humanly very, very difficult". Some reviews noted that the recordings were the best representation of Zappa's orchestral work so far. In 1984 Zappa teamed again with Nagano and the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra for a live performance of A Zappa Affair with augmented orchestra, life-size puppets, and moving stage sets. Although critically acclaimed the work was a financial failure, and only performed twice. Zappa was invited by conference organizer Thomas Wells
Thomas Wells (composer)
Thomas Wells is an American composer, pianist, organist, and arts-organization administrator.-Biography:...

 to be the keynote speaker at the American Society of University Composers at the Ohio State University
Ohio State University
The Ohio State University, commonly referred to as Ohio State, is a public research university located in Columbus, Ohio. It was originally founded in 1870 as a land-grant university and is currently the third largest university campus in the United States...

. It was there Zappa delivered his famous "Bingo! There Goes Your Tenure" address, and had two of his orchestra pieces, "Dupree's Paradise" and "Naval Aviation in Art?" performed by the Columbus Symphony and ProMusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus.

Synclavier


For the remainder of his career, much of Zappa's work was influenced by his use of the Synclavier
Synclavier
The Synclavier System was an early digital synthesizer, polyphonic digital sampling system, and music workstation, manufactured by New England Digital Corporation, Norwich, VT. The original design and development of the Synclavier prototype occurred at Dartmouth College with the collaboration of...

 as a compositional and performance tool. Even considering the complexity of the music he wrote, the Synclavier could realize anything he could dream up. The Synclavier could be programmed to play almost anything conceivable, to perfection: "With the Synclavier, any group of imaginary instruments can be invited to play the most difficult passages ... with one-millisecond accuracy—every time". Even though it essentially did away with the need for musicians, Zappa viewed the Synclavier and real-life musicians as separate. In 1984, he released four albums. Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger
Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger
Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger is a 1984 album featuring the music of Frank Zappa, conducted, in part, by Pierre Boulez. It is also known as, simply, The Perfect Stranger...

,
contains orchestral works commissioned and conducted by world-renowned conductor Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez is a French composer of contemporary classical music, a pianist, and a conductor.-Early years:Boulez was born in Montbrison, Loire, France. As a child he began piano lessons and demonstrated aptitude in both music and mathematics...

 (who was listed as an influence on Freak Out!) and performed by his Ensemble InterContemporain
Ensemble InterContemporain
The Ensemble InterContemporain is a French chamber orchestra, based in Paris at the Cité de la musique and IRCAM, which specialises in contemporary classical music....

, juxtaposed with premiere Synclavier pieces. Again, Zappa was not satisfied with the performances of his orchestral works as he found them under-rehearsed, but in the album liner notes he respectfully thanks Boulez's demands for precision. The Synclavier pieces stood in contrast to the orchestral works, as the sounds were electronically generated and not, as became possible shortly thereafter, sampled
Sampling (music)
In music, sampling is the act of taking a portion, or sample, of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a different sound recording of a song or piece. Sampling was originally developed by experimental musicians working with musique concrète and electroacoustic music, who physically...

.

The album Thing-Fish
Thing-Fish
-1995 Rykodisc CD Release:- Cast :*Thing-Fish—Ike Willis*Harry—Terry Bozzio*Rhonda—Dale Bozzio*The Evil Prince—Napoleon Murphy Brock*Harry-As-A-Boy—Bob Harris*Brown Moses—Johnny "Guitar" Watson*Owl-Gonkwin-Jane Cowhoon—Ray White- Musicians :...

was an ambitious three-record set in the style of a Broadway play dealing with a dystopia
Dystopia
A dystopia is the idea of a society in a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian, as characterized in books like Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four...

n "what-if" scenario involving feminism, homosexuality, manufacturing and distribution of the AIDS virus, and a eugenics
Eugenics
Eugenics is the "applied science or the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population", usually referring to human populations. The origins of the concept of eugenics began with certain interpretations of Mendelian inheritance,...

 program conducted by the United States government. New vocals were combined with previously released tracks and new Synclavier music; "the work is an extraordinary example of bricolage
Bricolage
Bricolage is a term used in several disciplines, among them the visual arts, to refer to the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process...

". Finally, in 1984, Zappa released Francesco Zappa
Francesco Zappa (album)
Francesco Zappa is a 1984 album by Frank Zappa. It features chamber music by the Italian composer Francesco Zappa, who composed between 1763 and 1788. David Ocker played a piece of Francesco Zappa's music for Frank Zappa because it was popular with some college music students...

, a Synclavier rendition of works by 18th century composer Francesco Zappa
Francesco Zappa
Francesco Zappa was an Italian cellist and composer. He is known for his virtuoso cello playing.-Life:...

 (no known relation), and Them or Us
Them or Us
Them or Us is an album by Frank Zappa, released in October 1984. Its opening and closing tracks are covers: "The Closer You Are", which was written by Earl Lewis and Morgan Robinson and originally released by The Channels; and "Whippin' Post", originally recorded by The Allman Brothers Band. ...

,
a two-record set of heavily edited live and session pieces.

Senate testimony


On September 19, 1985, Zappa testified before the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 Commerce, Technology, and Transportation committee, attacking the Parents Music Resource Center or PMRC, a music organization co-founded by Tipper Gore
Tipper Gore
Mary Elizabeth "Tipper" Gore , née Aitcheson, is an author, photographer, former second lady of the United States, and the estranged wife of Al Gore...

, wife of then-senator Al Gore
Al Gore
Albert Arnold "Al" Gore, Jr. served as the 45th Vice President of the United States , under President Bill Clinton. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for President in the 2000 U.S. presidential election....

. The PMRC consisted of many wives of politicians, including the wives of five members of the committee, and was founded to address the issue of song lyrics with sexual or satanic content. Zappa saw their activities as on a path towards censorship, and called their proposal for voluntary labelling of records
Parental Advisory
Parental Advisory is a message affixed by the Recording Industry Association of America to audio and recordings in the United States containing excessive use of profane language and/or sexual references. Albums began to be labeled for "explicit lyrics" in 1985, after pressure from the Parents...

 with explicit content "extortion" of the music industry. In his prepared statement, he said:

The PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretational and enforcemental problems inherent in the proposal's design. It is my understanding that, in law, First Amendment issues are decided with a preference for the least restrictive alternative. In this context, the PMRC's demands are the equivalent of treating dandruff
Dandruff
Dandruff is the shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp . Dandruff is sometimes caused by frequent exposure to extreme heat and cold. As it is normal for skin cells to die and flake off, a small amount of flaking is normal and common; about 487,000 cells/cm2 get released normally after...

 by decapitation
Decapitation
Decapitation is the separation of the head from the body. Beheading typically refers to the act of intentional decapitation, e.g., as a means of murder or execution; it may be accomplished, for example, with an axe, sword, knife, wire, or by other more sophisticated means such as a guillotine...

 ... The establishment of a rating system, voluntary or otherwise, opens the door to an endless parade of moral quality control programs based on things certain Christians do not like. What if the next bunch of Washington wives demands a large yellow "J"
Yellow badge
The yellow badge , also referred to as a Jewish badge, was a cloth patch that Jews were ordered to sew on their outer garments in order to mark them as Jews in public. It is intended to be a badge of shame associated with antisemitism...

 on all material written or performed by Jews, in order to save helpless children from exposure to concealed Zionist doctrine?


Zappa set excerpts from the PMRC hearings to Synclavier music in his composition "Porn Wars" on the 1985 album Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention
Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention
Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention is a 1985 album by Frank Zappa. It was originally released in two slightly different versions in the US and Europe. The two versions were later combined and reissued on a compact disc: first in the US on Rykodisc in 1986 Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of...

, and the full recording was released in 2010 as Congress Shall Make No Law...
Congress Shall Make No Law...
Congress Shall Make No Law... is an album by Frank Zappa, released posthumously in 2010 by the Zappa Family Trust on Zappa Records. It contains a full recording of Zappa's September 19, 1985 testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, during which he...

. Zappa is heard interacting with Senators Fritz Hollings, Slade Gorton
Slade Gorton
Thomas Slade Gorton III is an American politician. A Republican, he was a U.S. senator from Washington state from 1981 to 1987, and from 1989 to 2001. He held both of the state's Senate seats in his career and was narrowly defeated for reelection twice as an incumbent: in 1986 by Brock Adams, and...

, Al Gore
Al Gore
Albert Arnold "Al" Gore, Jr. served as the 45th Vice President of the United States , under President Bill Clinton. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for President in the 2000 U.S. presidential election....

 (who claimed, at the hearing, to be a Zappa fan), and in an exchange with Florida Senator Paula Hawkins
Paula Hawkins
Paula Hawkins was an U.S. politician from Florida. She is to date the only woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Florida. She was the first woman ever elected to a full term in the Senate without a family connection....

 over what toys Zappa's children played with. Zappa expressed opinions on censorship when he appeared on CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

's Crossfire TV series
Crossfire (TV series)
Crossfire was a current events debate television program that aired from 1982 to 2005 on CNN. Its format was designed to present and challenge the opinions of a politically liberal pundit and a conservative pundit.-Format:...

and debated issues with Washington Times commentator John Lofton
John Lofton
John Lofton is an American conservative political commentator and editor of The American View radio program run by Michael Peroutka. Lofton has also been a newspaper editor, a journalist, a columnist, and a political advisor...

 in 1986. Zappa's passion for US politics was becoming a bigger part of his life. He had always encouraged his fans to register to vote
Voter registration
Voter registration is the requirement in some democracies for citizens and residents to check in with some central registry specifically for the purpose of being allowed to vote in elections. An effort to get people to register is known as a voter registration drive.-Centralized/compulsory vs...

 on album covers, and throughout 1988 he had registration booths at his concerts. He even considered running for President of the United States.

Digital medium and last tour


Around 1986, Zappa undertook a comprehensive re-release program of his earlier vinyl recordings. He personally oversaw the remastering of all his 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s albums for the new digital compact disc medium. Certain aspects of these re-issues were, however, criticized by some fans as being unfaithful to the original recordings. Nearly twenty years before the advent of online music stores, Zappa had proposed to replace "phonographic record merchandising" of music by "direct digital-to-digital transfer" through phone or cable TV (with royalty payments and consumer billing automatically built into the accompanying software). In 1989, Zappa considered his idea a "miserable flop".

The album Jazz From Hell
Jazz from Hell
Jazz from Hell is a Grammy Award–winning instrumental album from Frank Zappa. It was released in 1986 by Barking Pumpkin Records and by Rykodisc .-Album information:...

,
released in 1986, earned Zappa his first Grammy Award
Grammy Award
A Grammy Award — or Grammy — is an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry...

 in 1987 for Best Rock Instrumental Performance
Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance
The Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance was an honor presented to recording artists for quality instrumental rock performances at the Grammy Awards, a ceremony that was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards...

. Except for one live guitar solo (St. Etienne), the album exclusively featured compositions brought to life by the Synclavier. Although an instrumental
Instrumental
An instrumental is a musical composition or recording without lyrics or singing, although it might include some non-articulate vocal input; the music is primarily or exclusively produced by musical instruments....

 album, containing no lyrics whatsoever, Meyer Music Markets sold Jazz from Hell featuring an "explicit lyrics" sticker — a warning label introduced by the Recording Industry Association of America
Recording Industry Association of America
The Recording Industry Association of America is a trade organization that represents the recording industry distributors in the United States...

 in an agreement with the PMRC.

Zappa's last tour in a rock and jazz band format took place in 1988 with a 12-piece group which had a repertoire of over 100 (mostly Zappa) compositions, but which split under acrimonious circumstances before the tour was completed. The tour was documented on the albums Broadway the Hard Way
Broadway the Hard Way
Broadway the Hard Way is a Frank Zappa live album recorded at various performances along his 1988 world tour. It was first released as a 9-track vinyl through Zappa's mail order label Barking Pumpkin in October 1988, and subsequently as a 17-track CD through Rykodisc in 1989.This album was...

(new material featuring songs with strong political emphasis), The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life
The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life
The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life is a double disc live album by Frank Zappa, released in 1991 . The album was one of three to be recorded during the 1988 world tour, along with Broadway the Hard Way and Make a Jazz Noise Here...

(Zappa "standards" and an eclectic collection of cover tunes, ranging from Maurice Ravel
Maurice Ravel
Joseph-Maurice Ravel was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects...

's Boléro
Boléro
Boléro is a one-movement orchestral piece by Maurice Ravel . Originally composed as a ballet commissioned by Russian ballerina Ida Rubinstein, the piece, which premiered in 1928, is Ravel's most famous musical composition....

to Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham...

's "Stairway to Heaven
Stairway to Heaven
"Stairway to Heaven" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, released in late 1971. It was composed by guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant for the band's untitled fourth studio album . The song, running eight minutes and two seconds, is composed of several sections, which...

"), and Make a Jazz Noise Here
Make a Jazz Noise Here
Make a Jazz Noise Here is a live double album by Frank Zappa. It was first released in June 1991, and was the third Zappa album to be compiled of recordings from his 1988 world tour, following Broadway the Hard Way and The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life .The album is made up mostly of...

(mostly instrumental and avant-garde music
Avant-garde music
Avant-garde music is a term used to characterize music which is thought to be ahead of its time, i.e. containing innovative elements or fusing different genres....

). Parts are also found on You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, volumes 4
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 4
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 4 is a two-CD set of live recordings by Frank Zappa, recorded between 1969 and 1988, and released in 1991.-Disc one:#"Little Rubber Girl" - #*...

 and 6
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 6
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 6 is the last of six double disc collection volumes of live performances by Frank Zappa recorded between 1970 and 1988. All of the material on Disc one has a sexual theme. It was released on October 23, 1992 under the label Rykodisc.-Disc one:#"The M.O.I...

.

1990s: Classical music and death


In early 1990, Zappa visited Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 at the request of President Václav Havel
Václav Havel
Václav Havel is a Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. He was the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic . He has written over twenty plays and numerous non-fiction works, translated internationally...

, and was asked to serve as consultant for the government on trade, cultural matters and tourism. Havel was a lifelong fan of Zappa who had great influence in the avant-garde and underground scene in Central Europe in the 1970s and 1980s (a Czech rock group
The Plastic People of the Universe
The Plastic People of the Universe is a rock band from Prague, Czech Republic. It was the foremost representative of Prague's underground culture . This avant-garde group went against the grain of the Communist regime and due to its non-conformism often suffered serious problems such as arrests...

 that was imprisoned in 1976 took its name from Zappa's 1968 song "Plastic People
Plastic People
"Plastic People" is the first track of the Frank Zappa album Absolutely Free. It also was featured on the You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore compilation as Track 1 on disc 2, along with a "Louie, Louie/Plastic People"-like version entitled "Ruthie, Ruthie" as Track 10 on disc 1...

"). Zappa enthusiastically agreed and began meeting with corporate officials interested in investing in Czechoslovakia. Within a few weeks, however, the U.S. administration put pressure on the Czech government to withdraw the appointment. Havel made Zappa an unofficial cultural attaché
Cultural attaché
A cultural attaché is a diplomat with special responsibility for promoting the culture of his or her homeland. The position has been used as an official cover for intelligence agents. Historically, the post has often been filled by writers and artists, giving them a steady income, allowing them to...

 instead. Zappa also planned to develop an international consulting enterprise to facilitate trade between the former Eastern Bloc and Western businesses.

Most of Zappa's projects came to a halt in 1990, when he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer
Prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system. Most prostate cancers are slow growing; however, there are cases of aggressive prostate cancers. The cancer cells may metastasize from the prostate to other parts of the body, particularly...

. The disease had been developing unnoticed for ten years and was considered inoperable. After his diagnosis, Zappa devoted most of his energy to modern orchestral and Synclavier works. In 1993 he completed Civilization, Phaze III
Civilization, Phaze III
Civilization Phaze III is a double album by Frank Zappa. It was the last album he completed before his death in 1993, and was released posthumously in December 1994 by The Zappa Family Trust on Barking Pumpkin Records....

shortly before his death. It was a major Synclavier work which he had begun in the 1980s.

In 1991, Zappa was chosen to be one of four featured composers at the world-acclaimed Frankfurt Festival in 1992 (the others were John Cage
John Cage
John Milton Cage Jr. was an American composer, music theorist, writer, philosopher and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde...

, Karlheinz Stockhausen
Karlheinz Stockhausen
Karlheinz Stockhausen was a German composer, widely acknowledged by critics as one of the most important but also controversial composers of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Another critic calls him "one of the great visionaries of 20th-century music"...

 and Alexander Knaifel). Zappa was approached by the German chamber ensemble, Ensemble Modern
Ensemble Modern
Ensemble Modern is a chamber ensemble dedicated to the music of modern composers. Formed in 1980, the group is based in Frankfurt, Germany and made up variously of about twenty members from numerous countries....

, which was interested in playing his music for the event. Although ill, Zappa invited them to Los Angeles for rehearsals of new compositions and new arrangements of older material. In addition to being satisfied with the ensemble's performances of his music, Zappa also got along with the musicians, and the concerts in Germany and Austria were set up for the fall. In September 1992, the concerts went ahead as scheduled, but Zappa could only appear at two in Frankfurt due to illness. At the first concert, he conducted the opening "Overture", and the final "G-Spot Tornado" as well as the theatrical "Food Gathering in Post-Industrial America, 1992" and "Welcome to the United States" (the remainder of the program was conducted by the ensemble's regular conductor Peter Rundel). Zappa received a 20-minute ovation. It would become his last professional public appearance, as the cancer was spreading to such an extent that he was in too much pain to enjoy an event that he otherwise found "exhilarating". Recordings from the concerts appeared on The Yellow Shark
The Yellow Shark
The Yellow Shark is an album of orchestral music by Frank Zappa, released in 1993. It features live recordings from the Ensemble Modern's 1992 performances of Zappa's compositions. It was the last Zappa album released before his death. Tom Waits has listed it as one of his favourite albums,...

(1993), Zappa's last release during his lifetime, and some material from studio rehearsals appeared on the posthumous Everything Is Healing Nicely
Everything Is Healing Nicely
EIHN is an album by Frank Zappa, posthumously released through the Zappa Family Trust in December 1999. It features recordings made with the Ensemble Modern in preparation for The Yellow Shark .-Track listing:...

(1999).

Frank Zappa died on Saturday, December 4, 1993 in his home surrounded by his wife and children. At a private ceremony the following day, Zappa was interred in an unmarked grave at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
The Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery is a cemetery in the Westwood Village area of Los Angeles, California. It is located at 1218 Glendon Avenue in Westwood....

 in Westwood, Los Angeles
Westwood, Los Angeles, California
Westwood is a neighborhood on the Westside of Los Angeles, California, United States. It is the home of the University of California, Los Angeles .-History:...

, next to the eventual (1996) grave of actor Lew Ayres
Lew Ayres
Lew Ayres was an American actor, best known for starring as Paul in All Quiet on the Western Front and for playing Dr...

. On Monday, December 6 his family publicly announced that "Composer Frank Zappa left for his final tour just before 6:00 pm on Saturday".

Acclaim and honors


Zappa earned widespread critical acclaim in his lifetime and after his death. The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004) writes: "Frank Zappa dabbled in virtually all kinds of music — and, whether guised as a satirical rocker, jazz-rock fusionist, guitar virtuoso, electronics wizard, or orchestral innovator, his eccentric genius was undeniable". Even though his work drew inspiration from many different genres, Zappa was seen establishing a coherent and personal expression. In 1971, biographer David Walley noted that "The whole structure of his music is unified, not neatly divided by dates or time sequences and it is all building into a composite". On commenting on Zappa's music, politics and philosophy, Barry Miles
Barry Miles
Barry Miles is an English author known for his participation in and writing on the subject of the 1960s London underground. He has written numerous books and his work has also regularly appeared in left-wing papers such as The Guardian...

 noted in 2004 that they cannot be separated: "It was all one; all part of his 'conceptual continuity.

Guitar Player
Guitar Player
Guitar Player is a popular magazine for guitarists founded in 1967. It contains articles, interviews, reviews and lessons of an eclectic collection of artists, genres and products. It has been in print since the late 1960s and during the 1980s, under editor Tom Wheeler, the publication was...

devoted a special issue to Zappa in 1992, and asked on the cover "Is FZ America's Best Kept Musical Secret?" Editor Don Menn remarked that the issue was about "The most important composer to come out of modern popular music". Among those contributing to the issue was composer and musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky
Nicolas Slonimsky
Nicolas Slonimsky was a Russian born American composer, conductor, musician, music critic, lexicographer and author. He described himself as a "diaskeuast" ; "a reviser or interpolator."- Life :...

, who conducted premiere performances of works of Ives
Charles Ives
Charles Edward Ives was an American modernist composer. He is one of the first American composers of international renown, though Ives' music was largely ignored during his life, and many of his works went unperformed for many years. Over time, Ives came to be regarded as an "American Original"...

 and Varèse in the 1930s. He became friends with Zappa in the 1980s, and said "I admire everything Frank does, because he practically created the new musical millennium. He does beautiful, beautiful work ... It has been my luck to have lived to see the emergence of this totally new type of music." Conductor Kent Nagano remarked in the same issue that "Frank is a genius. That's a word I don't use often ... In Frank's case it is not too strong ... He is extremely literate musically. I'm not sure if the general public knows that". Pierre Boulez stated in Musician
Musician (magazine)
Musician was a monthly magazine that covered news and information about American popular music. Initially called "Music America", it was founded in 1976 by Sam Holdsworth and Gordon Baird. The two friends borrowed $20,000 from relatives and started the publication in a barn in Colorado...

magazine's posthumous Zappa tribute article that Zappa "was an exceptional figure because he was part of the worlds of rock and classical music and that both types of his work would survive." Many music scholars acknowledge Zappa as one of the most influential composers of his generation. As an electric guitarist, he has become highly regarded.

In 1994, jazz magazine Down Beat
Down Beat
Down Beat is an American magazine devoted to "jazz, blues and beyond" to indicate its expansion beyond the jazz realm which it covered exclusively in previous years. The publication was established in 1934 in Chicago, Illinois...

's critics poll placed Zappa in its Hall of Fame. Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a museum located on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, United States. It is dedicated to archiving the history of some of the best-known and most influential artists, producers, engineers and others who have, in some major way,...

 in 1995. There, it was written that "Frank Zappa was rock and roll's sharpest musical mind and most astute social critic. He was the most prolific composer of his age, and he bridged genres — rock, jazz, classical, avant-garde and even novelty music — with masterful ease". He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded by the Recording Academy to "performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording."...

 in 1997. In 2005, the U.S. National Recording Preservation Board
National Recording Preservation Board
The United States National Recording Preservation Board selects recorded sounds for preservation in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry. The National Recording Registry was initiated to maintain and preserve "sound recordings that are culturally, historically or aesthetically...

 included We're Only in It for the Money in the National Recording Registry
National Recording Registry
The National Recording Registry is a list of sound recordings that "are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States." The registry was established by the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, which created the National Recording...

 as "Frank Zappa's inventive and iconoclastic album presents a unique political stance, both anti-conservative and anti-counterculture, and features a scathing satire on hippiedom and America's reactions to it". The same year, Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone is a US-based magazine devoted to music, liberal politics, and popular culture that is published every two weeks. Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and music critic Ralph J...

magazine ranked him at No. 71 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2011, he was ranked at No. 45 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by the same magazine.

Artists influenced by Zappa


A number of notable musicians, bands and orchestras from diverse genres have been influenced by Frank Zappa's music. Rock artists like Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper is an American rock singer, songwriter and musician whose career spans more than four decades...

, Primus
Primus (band)
Primus is an American rock band based in San Francisco, California, currently composed of bassist/vocalist Les Claypool, guitarist Larry "Ler" LaLonde and drummer Jay Lane. Primus originally formed in 1984 with Claypool and guitarist Todd Huth, later joined by Lane, though the latter two departed...

, Fee Waybill
Fee Waybill
John Waldo Waybill , known as Fee Waybill, is the lead singer and songwriter of the band the Tubes...

 of The Tubes
The Tubes
The Tubes are a San Francisco-based rock band, whose 1975 debut album included the hit single, "White Punks on Dope". During its first fifteen years or so, the band's live performances combined quasi-pornography with wild satires of media, consumerism, and politics...

 all cite Zappa's influence, as do progressive rock artists like Henry Cow
Henry Cow
Henry Cow were an English avant-rock group, founded at Cambridge University in 1968 by multi-instrumentalists Fred Frith and Tim Hodgkinson. Henry Cow's personnel fluctuated over their decade together, but drummer Chris Cutler and bassoonist/oboist Lindsay Cooper were important long-term members...

, Trey Anastasio
Trey Anastasio
Trey Anastasio is an American guitarist, composer, and vocalist most noted for his work with the rock band Phish...

 of Phish
Phish
Phish is an American rock band noted for its musical improvisation, extended jams, and exploration of music across genres. Formed at the University of Vermont in 1983 , the band's four members – Trey Anastasio , Mike Gordon , Jon Fishman , and Page McConnell Phish is an American rock band...

, and John Frusciante
John Frusciante
John Anthony Frusciante is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, record and film producer. He is best known as the former lead guitarist of the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers, with whom he had been for a number of years and recorded five studio albums...

. Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney
Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, Hon RAM, FRCM is an English musician, singer-songwriter and composer. Formerly of The Beatles and Wings , McCartney is listed in Guinness World Records as the "most successful musician and composer in popular music history", with 60 gold discs and sales of 100...

 regarded Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the eighth studio album by the English rock band The Beatles, released on 1 June 1967 on the Parlophone label and produced by George Martin...

as The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

' Freak Out! Heavy rock and metal acts like Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath are an English heavy metal band, formed in Aston, Birmingham in 1969 by Ozzy Osbourne , Tony Iommi , Geezer Butler , and Bill Ward . The band has since experienced multiple line-up changes, with Tony Iommi the only constant presence in the band through the years. A total of 22...

, Mike Portnoy
Mike Portnoy
Michael Stephen "Mike" Portnoy is an American drummer primarily known as the former drummer, backing vocalist, and a co-founder of the progressive metal band Dream Theater, as well as the temporary drummer for the hard rock band Avenged Sevenfold. Known for his drumming prowess and technical...

, Warren DeMartini
Warren DeMartini
Warren Justin DeMartini , nicknamed Torch, is the lead guitarist for Ratt, a popular American band during the mid-to-late 1980s Los Angeles glam metal scene.-Early life:...

, Steve Vai
Steve Vai
Steven Siro "Steve" Vai is a three time Grammy Award-winning American guitarist, songwriter and producer who has sold over 15 million albums. Steve Vai is widely known as a flamboyant guitar virtuoso....

, Strapping Young Lad
Strapping Young Lad
Strapping Young Lad was a Canadian extreme metal band formed by Devin Townsend in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1994. The band started as a one-man studio project; Townsend played most of the instruments on the 1995 debut album, Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing...

, System of a Down
System of a Down
System of a Down, also known by the acronym SOAD and often shortened to System, is a rock band from Southern California. The band was formed in 1994. It consists of Serj Tankian , Daron Malakian , Shavo Odadjian and John Dolmayan...

, Clawfinger
Clawfinger
Clawfinger is a rap metal band from Sweden and was one of the earliest bands to adopt this sound. Clawfinger is known for aggressive but melodic music and tackling political and anti-racist themes in their songs.-Band history:...

, and Devin Townsend
Devin Townsend
Devin Garret Townsend is a Canadian musician and record producer. He was the founder, songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist in extreme metal band Strapping Young Lad from 1994 to 2007 and has had an extensive career as a solo artist....

 acknowledge Zappa's inspiration. On the classical music scene, Tomas Ulrich, Meridian Arts Ensemble
Meridian Arts Ensemble
The Meridian Arts Ensemble is an American chamber music ensemble based in New York City, specializing in the performance of new works for brass and percussion.-History:The Meridian Arts Ensemble was founded in 1987...

, Ensemble Ambrosius
Ensemble Ambrosius
Ensemble Ambrosius is a Finnish chamber music group that plays on baroque instruments. It originated in 1995 when three music students performed music of Frank Zappa at a school concert. They added a fourth member and began touring in 1997, adding original music to their repertoire...

 and the Fireworks Ensemble regularly perform Zappa's compositions and quote his influence. Contemporary jazz musicians and composers Bill Frisell
Bill Frisell
William Richard "Bill" Frisell is an American guitarist and composer.One of the leading guitarists in jazz since the late 1980s, Frisell's eclectic music touches on progressive folk, classical music, country music, noise and more...

 and John Zorn
John Zorn
John Zorn is an American avant-garde composer, arranger, record producer, saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist. Zorn is a prolific artist: he has hundreds of album credits as performer, composer, or producer...

 are inspired by Zappa, as is funk legend George Clinton
George Clinton (funk musician)
George Clinton is an American singer, songwriter, bandleader, and music producer and the principal architect of P-Funk. He was the mastermind of the bands Parliament and Funkadelic during the 1970s and early 1980s, and launched a solo career in 1981. He has been cited as one of the foremost...

. Other artists whose work is affected by Zappa include new age pianist George Winston
George Winston
George Winston is an American pianist who was born in Michigan, and grew up mainly in Miles City, Montana as well as Mississippi and Florida. He attended Stetson University in Deland, Florida and lives in Santa Cruz, California.-Background:...

, electronic composer Bob Gluck
Robert Gluck
Robert Gluck is a pianist and composer whose repertoire spans jazz, live electronic music, and avant-garde concert music. Karl Ackermann , wrote of the latest of Gluck’s five recordings: “As a composer and player, Gluck ranks with the likes of Andrew Hill and Cecil Taylor… Something Quiet is...

, parodist and novelty composer "Weird Al" Yankovic
"Weird Al" Yankovic
Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic is an American singer-songwriter, music producer, accordionist, actor, comedian, writer, satirist, and parodist. Yankovic is known for his humorous songs that make light of popular culture and that often parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts...

, industrial music
Industrial music
Industrial music is a style of experimental music that draws on transgressive and provocative themes. The term was coined in the mid-1970s with the founding of Industrial Records by the band Throbbing Gristle, and the creation of the slogan "industrial music for industrial people". In general, the...

 pioneer Genesis P-Orridge
Genesis P-Orridge
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is an English singer-songwriter, musician, writer and artist. P-Orridge's early confrontational performance work in COUM Transmissions in the late 1960s and early 1970s along with the industrial band Throbbing Gristle, which dealt with subjects such as prostitution,...

, and noise music
Noise music
Noise music is a term used to describe varieties of avant-garde music and sound art that may use elements such as cacophony, dissonance, atonality, noise, indeterminacy, and repetition in their realization. Noise music can feature distortion, various types of acoustically or electronically...

 artist Masami Akita of Merzbow
Merzbow
is the main recording name of the Japanese noise musician , born in 1956. Since 1979 he has released in excess of 350 recordings.The name "Merzbow" comes from German artist Kurt Schwitters' artwork, "Merzbau”. This was chosen to reflect Akita's dada influence and junk art aesthetic...

.

External links