Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Frank Zappa




So inevitably Z comes along and the A-Z challenge comes to an end. It feels like the end of a train journey across the top of Siberia. You remember the poor food, the day the toilets blocked up and the hard beds. But there was also the night you saw the Northern Lights glittering away there beyond the low earthy dampness of the tundra and you realized you had not seen anything as beautiful for a long time.

You remember fondly the people you met in the dining car and you feel a sense of loss that the adventure is over. But you may have some of their numbers scrawled down on train tickets somewhere. You may even stay in touch.

So suddenly your feet are on the terra firma of the platform and you permit yourself a quick glance back as the last of the smoke departs from the funnel of the engine and kinks when it hits the cold air, as if it is waving you goodbye. But you don't look back twice because to do so would freeze you in time or like a pillar of salt, bitter and unmoving, like Lott's wife when she looked back on the destruction of the arid cities of the plain.

But before I go there is the small matter of Z. A lovely happy ever after ending would be good but I don't do happy endings. The sad endings are the most moving ones. In Dr Zhivago, one of the greatest love stories ever told, the star crossed lovers never end up in each others' arms again. And Lara, played by the incomparably beautiful Julie Christie and later rather alluringly by Keira Knightley, dies in one of Stalin's gulags.

This doesn't have so much to do with Frank Zappa. I'm not sure what does. But clearly Frank is a bad ending rather than a good one, he became interested in politics, for a start. I don't know so much about him but life has taught me one important lesson about Frank. If you are struggling to find a name for your kid, don't call up Frank.

Zappa named his eldest daughter Moon Unit. In a subsequent interview Moon Unit described how her upbringing left her requiring therapy. Her name clearly didn't help. Wistfully she looked at her younger siblings and wished she had normal names like Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen.


Exposure to a mustard gas factory in Baltimore affected Zappa as a child, causing him many health problems. Later in life there was the small issue of exposure to the Sixties and more chemicals, albeit with a larger degree of consent.

By the time Zappa died in 1993, rendering his role as a child name consultant moot, he had produced more than 60 albums. Zappa is renown for the use of the much of the Synclavier, a kind of protoype synthesizer the size of a small house, as a compositional and performance tool

Considering he was so productive I don't think I could recognize a Zappa song if it punched me in the nose. All of that is about to change.










Curious fact about Frank Zappa - In 1979 Zappa released a movie Baby Snakes billed as "A movie about people who do stuff that is not normal," The movie contained several extraordinary sequences of clay animation by Bruce Bickford. The movie did not do well at the box office. Dr Zhivago it was not.

24 comments:

  1. While not necessarily the happiest ending, making it through the A-Z challenge is certainly cause for celebration. Congrats!

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    1. Thanks ValleyWriter - surprised you didn't do the challenge on Valley Food

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  2. I'm sure I'll feel empty tomorrow when I don't have to post tomorrow. :)

    Teresa

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    1. It's possible Teresa - I may feel elated, though.

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  3. We've made it through...cheers! I have never listened to an entire Zappa song in my life. OMG, the Catholic Girls one is still playing as I am typing my comment...it's hilarious. Don't ask me why I find it so funny but I do. May have to listen to more now that I've heard this. Love your train trip analogy. :)

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    1. thanks Tracy - I am a big fan of trains. Don't tell anyone because it sounds sad but I have only just discovered these individual reply buttons ... I will have to relisten to Catholic Girls, probably rather frightening.

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  4. I also love the train analogy. I really don't 'get' Zappa at all. I have a lot of friends, mostly male, who are really into him though.

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    1. I started listening like today and I sure don't get him JoJo. You probably need to have taken a shed load of drugs

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  5. Congrats on making it all the way to Z!

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    1. Thanks Alyson - don't think I've heard from you since last year's challenge - maybe

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  6. Oh my gosh, you have such a way with words, David. I loved the first three paragraphs of this post. Congratulations on making it all the way to Z.

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    1. Thanks Daisy - always welcome your comments

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  7. That mustard gas must've impacted Frank's choice in baby names. I enjoyed this post, especially the bits about his kids' names. I'm wondering why the mother(s)agreed to such names. ? Perhaps she/they were mustard gas victims too.

    You did a great job with the challenge, David. Congratulations!

    xoRobyn

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    1. Thanx Robyn - that mustard has a lot to answer for. Sorry about your cat.

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  8. Wow you're finally done, huh? It went by in a flash for me! Haha. :) Congratulations on making it to the end. You chugged out some fantastic posts. I learned about a lot of new music, which I appreciate.

    I've never heard Zappa's music until now. I'm not sure I like it...? I'm confused by it. I only knew about Zappa because of his bizarre baby names. Every time I read a list of "strange baby names!" his are on top of the list. Along with Apple, Shiloh, Suri, and Blue Ivy.

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    1. Well glad you got something out of it. Yeah weirdness personified - how r u?

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  9. Actually I think Moon Unit is not that bad, she could have used just Moon. My name is quite weird too, but I liked it better than most.

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    1. It's always a good idea to lose the Unit - yours is far more cool

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  10. I have all his albums (vinyl). Yes, there might be something wrong with me...

    Pearl

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  11. really Peal - but there were like 60

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  12. "[...]rendering his role as a child name consultant moot..." Ha! That's awesome, David. Was never a Zappa fan, but HUGE Dr. Z fan. That movie gets me every time.

    Very ambitious project the A to Z - Congrats on finishing!

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    1. Thanks Jayne - and now I need a stiff drink

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  13. I thought you were going to end on ZZ Top who I saw live at the Milton Keynes bowl many moon units ago, so was pleasantly surprised to see Frank Zappa as your last entry in the A-Z chapter. Shame you don't like his stuff though, (completely understand though, it's not everyone's cup of tea by any means) the musicianship in his live shows was quite something. I saw his son perform last year at the Roundhouse in Camden and he was quite remarkable. Just want to finish by saying well done and congratulations on making it to the end of the A to Z challenge. The series of posts was excellent so thanks for thinking up the concept.

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    1. thanks Abi - appreciate your support and posting on Facebook etc. Well I'm not sure he's not my cup of tea. Just haven't heard enough. Seems odd tho

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