As a fan of the late great Frank Zappa, I often get requests to either offer examples of his work, explain the kind of music he plays, or defend his lyrics when people find them objectionable.....
Yet with more than 80 albums to his credit and many being double albums, where should I start with the examples? How can any example or collection of, offer more than a brush stroke of an artistic masterpiece? Can George Orwell or Amos Oz be defined on the basis of a few pages from a couple books? Which pages from which book would you choose? My favorite songs are constantly changing as I listen to new ones or revisit old ones. As for explaining the kind of music he plays, that is not much easier.... He utilizes virtually every genre there is, often combining them into the same song while leading the listener on a new musical adventure. From rock to classical to jazz, add in elements of opera, rap, reggae, country, blues, new wave, and more while pushing each individual genre beyond definition. His lyrics are no less eclectic, but count on a heavy dose of satire and shock value to expose the injustices, foolish stereotypes and hypocrisy present in our society. If you are never willing to probe beyond the surface of his lyrics for meaning, do not appreciate or understand satire, and/or are offended by some words in the English language..... stick with the instrumentals.
a quick blurb copied from an a MTV bio
Composer, guitarist, singer, and bandleader Frank Zappa was a singular musical figure during a performing and recording career that lasted from the 1960s to the '90s. His disparate influences included doo wop music and avant-garde classical music; although he led groups that could be called rock & roll bands for much of his career, he used them to create a hybrid style that bordered on jazz and complicated, modern serious music, sometimes inducing orchestras to play along. As if his music were not challenging enough, he overlay it with highly satirical and sometimes abstractly humorous lyrics and song titles that marked him as coming out of a provocative literary tradition that included Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg and edgy comedians like Lenny Bruce. Nominally, he was a popular musician, but his recordings rarely earned significant airplay or sales, yet he was able to gain control of his recorded work and issue it successfully through his own labels while also touring internationally, in part because of the respect he earned from a dedicated cult of fans and many serious musicians, and also because he was an articulate spokesman who promoted himself into a media star through extensive interviews he considered to be a part of his creative effort just like his music. The Mothers of Invention, the '60s group he led, often seemed to offer a parody of popular music and the counterculture (although he affected long hair and jeans, Zappa was openly scornful of hippies and drug use). By the '80s, he was testifying before Congress in opposition to censorship (and editing his testimony into one of his albums). But these comic and serious sides were complementary, not contradictory. In statement and in practice, Zappa was an iconoclastic defender of the freest possible expression of ideas. And most of all, he was a composer far more ambitious than any other rock musician of his time and most classical musicians, as well.
For those interested in music and wish to push the boundaries of your comfort zone, I have a private club called Cosmik Debris consisting of FZ aficionados and the curious wishing to learn more about this unique musical genius...... Feel free to request membership, we would love to have you join us. Oh yeah, we play a lot of chess too! In any case, explore FZ at your leisure, but expect your own opinion of his music to change with every album, if not every song you listen to.