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.