On the anniversary of Frank Zappa’s death, I thought it appropriate for me to write my own tribute to him. As a young person growing up in the 1970’s, I was introduced to Zappa’s music at around the age of 14. The album was Apostr0phe, and the first thing I remember latching on to was his humour – this guy was so intelligent and funny! As I had only just started playing the guitar at that point it took a couple of months to get his guitar playing. As he moved outside of the predictable blues riffs of many of his contemporaries, the angular rhythmic approach of his playing initially took some getting used to – but once I did – Amazing.
In the years that followed Zappa was a constant but peripheral part of my musical landscape, as I continued to be impressed by his irreverent approach to the establishment, something that seemed to appeal to my generation, as it had to the generations before. Although I heard fragments of albums such as the London Symphony orchestra recordings, I have to admit I initially thought his experiments with ‘classical music’ were a gimmick. However, I WAS WRONG! When revisiting his music over the last several years with more mature ears, and listening intently to all of his orchestral material (in addition to all those albums recorded before my time), I realise that not only was he a quick witted satirist, a brilliant guitarist, and a talented songwriter, but also an outstanding composer. What other ‘rock’ musician had his music accepted and recorded by Pierre Boulez?
Of late my work has given me the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Ben Watson and a select group of others, and examine Zappa from an academic perspective. In fact I am currently awaiting on a decision from Ashgate publishers to give the green light to set in motion an edited collection of essays on him – something that I hope will contribute to the understanding of one of the greatest composers of this age.
After finishing this post, I am going to raise a glass to Frank Vincent Zappa and thank him for the jaw dropping joy he has given me over the last 30 years. I will be listening to his music with a particular sadness this week, as like legends such as Hendrix, I can’t help but wonder where his musical genius would have taken him if he were around today. However, he did pack an incredible amount into the years he was with us, so there is only one thing to say – THANK YOU