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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 9:11 am 
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Hey,

After listening to Hot Rats and opening up to different music, I decided that I'm really interested in the life and times of FZ. From googling I realized that there were quite a few books written about him. Can you tell me which one is the fullest and/or authorized?

Another thing: I heared Zappa was self taught. Can someone point to me the milestones of his musical education (books, courses etc?)
Do you know of any other interesting musicians (from rock, jazz or classical- well, from all areas of good music) who are largely self taught (I hunt for them via soulseek :))

Thanks!


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 1:55 pm 
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The only "authorized" biography if you want to call it that is "The Real Frank Zappa Book". It's by FZ and highly entertaining but doesn't really serve as an effective autobiography. My personal favorite is Cosmic Debris by Greg Russo. It gives kind of a journalistic blow by blow account of his career. Lots of details about fz happenings and references in the songs. Just the facts, mam.

I've also read "Zappa" by Barry Miles. Some fans don't like it because it pretty critical of FZ at times but it gives a perspective that other books don't.

"Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play" is either highly entertaining or total bullshit depending on how you look at it. It's written as a academic dissertation examining the music in a scholarly fashion comparing FZ's lyrics (mostly) and music to Shakespeare, Philip Dick, and other writers and philosophers (some well known and others obscure - at least to me). I liked it.

Years ago I also read the Walley book though I imagine it's quite dated by now. There are many others that I haven't read.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:03 pm 
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KillUgly wrote:
Years ago I also read the Walley book though I imagine it's quite dated by now.


EDIT: What a mental aberration I had here, David Walley's book is "No Commercial Potential" and I agree it's a bit dated. It's interesting but hardly comprehensive. I liked it the first time I read it back in the 70s but the guy comes across a bit nutty to me now.

"Electric Don Quixote" is by Neil Slaven and is a good one to get. It is a good book as a complete biography. It's a pity he hasn't come back to it and fixed up the errors for a second edition. None the less, overall it's a good read and gives a complete picture of FZ's life. I'd hardly call it dated given it was written at the end of FZ's life. I would strongly recommend it if you want a complete biography of FZ.

I also liked the Barry Miles book, you don't have to agree with everything he says to get something out of his book. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever agreed 100% with any book of non fiction. Even Zappa's own book needs the odd pinch of salt.

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Last edited by polydigm on Mon Sep 07, 2009 12:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 7:25 pm 
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Philip Dick rocks.

I'm more interested in his first steps as a thinking musician i.e about the first inspirations, first guitar, the Varese phone-call etc.

Thanks, I'll check those books right away.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 9:35 pm 
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I think the Walley book was called "No Commercial Potential". I read it a long time ago - late 70's I think. Maybe he revised/updated it. I also remember another biography called "Mother!" that I read a long time ago.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:26 pm 
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Walley's book was trashed by FZ himself. The best non-FZ bio I have yet encountered in terms of factual accuracy (interestingly FZ wasn't too accurate about some things and occasionally messed up his dates) is Dangerous Kitchen by Kevin Courrier. It is also the least opinionated, which to me is a must for a good biography. DK is also still reasonably up-to-date.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:33 pm 
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I'd recommend Electric Don Quixote by Neil Slaven. I don't think you will get from The Real Frank Zappa book what you are after at this stage. Get that one when you are into him a lot more.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 12:45 am 
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On the topic of "Electric Don Quixote", I didn't notice as many errors as others have said about it, but then I have the 2003 edition. Is it possible that some corrections were made? Which edition do others here have?

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 5:01 am 
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For the French readers, I really enjoyed Christophe Delbrouck's trilogy:

  • Frank Zappa & les mères de l'invention, Tome 1 (1940-1972), ISBN 2-85920-529-2, Le Castor Astral, 2003
  • Frank Zappa & la dînette de chrome, Tome 2 (1972-1978), ISBN 2-85920-604-3, Le Castor Astral, 2005
  • Frank Zappa & l'Amérique parfaite, Tome 3 (1978-1993), ISBN 2-85920-638-8, Le Castor Astral, 2006

The covers pictures are drawings by Jean Solé (remember 'Tis The Season To Be Jelly?):

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 8:41 am 
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Thanks. I'll have to get Electric Don Quixote and Dangerous Kitchen. I haven't read either. I need to get some books that I know I will read cover to cover. It seems that these days very few topics ensure me of this. I know Zappa will do it for me.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 10:36 pm 
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polydigm wrote:
On the topic of "Electric Don Quixote", I didn't notice as many errors as others have said about it, but then I have the 2003 edition. Is it possible that some corrections were made? Which edition do others here have?


I have the 2003 edition.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 3:04 am 
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Boy do I feel, Dumb All Over, I only read the learn a word a day toilet paper. But I got `er done! :mrgreen:

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 4:39 am 
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The F.B.I. have a pretty good biography on Frank.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 6:33 am 
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From memory,Dangerous Kitchen gets my vote. It seems pretty comprehensive to me.
No Commercial Potential is ok.
Necessity is ...by Billy James gives a perspective led by ex-Mothers, which is interesting.
Mother by Michael Gray was ok.
Poodleplay was a difficult read. Full of shit that I didn't understand, but entertaining none-the less.
Electric Don Quixote-ok.

I've got a couple more-Nigey Lennon's book is slightly bizarre.

I try and buy/read a Zappa biog every couple of years, and marry-up the chronology with listening to the albums, but get about as far as Chunga before I get ahead of myself.
There is a lot of repetition in all the books-Courrier's is so good because it has facsimilies/photos/copies of all sorts of artefacts.
Barry Miles' book is the only one left that I haven't read-been on the shelf a while. Probably read it next year.


TRFZB is pretty good too!

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 8:13 am 
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Gray's book was horrible. It claimed that Zappa was a bad husband... though he never interviewed Gail.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 12:40 pm 
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GROW UP :| :wink:

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 11:14 pm 
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just plain doug wrote:
The F.B.I. have a pretty good biography on Frank.

On everyone else,from A-Z.!! FZ,did hook up briefly in NY/w/John & Yoko! So figure that would take a whole platoon of code breakers `n' such in a Nixon state of mind,such as it was.I read his book(FZ's) Peter O. doe's a bang up job***** I just can not finish it! 7pgs to go,I know the out come!? Anyone else a Zappa Phreak Like-me????? I don't want no Nigey Lennon answer,please :roll: 8) . :mrgreen:

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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 8:10 am 
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Since there was an old topic, just would like to give a thumbs up on Slaven.

The pre Mothers freak section is not all that interesting, but I am sure the whole concept was hard to capture. I think we need film to explain LA freak scene. How did they all survive, peanut butter?

Reading it as e book on Kindle and my phone.


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 7:59 am 
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I think Courrier is best on the facts and Watson is best (by far) on the critical cultural analysis.

Gray and Miles have moments of interesting reminisence but they're too anti-FZ in tone.


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 10:32 am 
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Miles gets his facts wrong. A lot. He just went for sensation. That's not at all an uncommon sight in biographies but it does mean in fifty years from now when the Z-kids aren't there to testify against it, people are going to believe he's a child molestor.

With TRFZB, Necessity is... and Dangerous Kitchen you have a very good overview of the man's life and works. Anything else is primarily going to honk up place on your bookshelf and cost you money. If you want to get more technical with FZ compositions, check http://www.zappa-analysis.com/.

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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 12:24 pm 
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Nobody writes a Zappa biography with the idea of reaping high sales from it, that just doesn't happen. Barry Miles is a turd who wrote with an agena and with intent as a credible historian which he is not. Miles is a stool posing as a biographer who wiped his ass on a pile of paper and got his shit published. No monetary motive there just a yellow journalist with an insupportable claim to inside knowledge that no one cares to dispute. He took Mother Zappa and fucked him good and hard which does qualify him as a true motherfucker.

--Batchain :evil:
BBP wrote:
Miles gets his facts wrong. A lot. He just went for sensation. That's not at all an uncommon sight in biographies but it does mean in fifty years from now when the Z-kids aren't there to testify against it, people are going to believe he's a child molestor.

With TRFZB, Necessity is... and Dangerous Kitchen you have a very good overview of the man's life and works. Anything else is primarily going to honk up place on your bookshelf and cost you money. If you want to get more technical with FZ compositions, check http://www.zappa-analysis.com/.

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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 2:25 pm 
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I don't know... I still find Miles' book fairly entertaining for what it is. It's definitely an interesting companion piece to The Real FZ Book, given how little Frank actually writes about his personal life. Miles exposes some dirt without stooping to personal attacks like Walley does in his book. Having said that, there are a few spots where Miles does do a little too much editorializing for my comfort.

I'm tempted to read The Dangerous Kitchen and Electric Don Quixote, but I kind feel like the last thing my book shelf needs is yet another Zappa book.


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 5:07 pm 
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madcow1515 wrote:
I don't know... I still find Miles' book fairly entertaining for what it is. It's definitely an interesting companion piece to The Real FZ Book, given how little Frank actually writes about his personal life. Miles exposes some dirt without stooping to personal attacks like Walley does in his book. Having said that, there are a few spots where Miles does do a little too much editorializing for my comfort.

I'm tempted to read The Dangerous Kitchen and Electric Don Quixote, but I kind feel like the last thing my book shelf needs is yet another Zappa book.
What's most notable about Zappa biographies is that the shittiest things are done by Zappa, the shittiest things are said by Zappa while no one else mentioned in the biographies ever does anything anywhere near as shitty as what Zappa does. Somehow I can't believe that of all the people mentioned no one can be as shitty as Zappa. Period! Nobody ever!

--Batchain
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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 7:13 pm 
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madcow1515 wrote:
I don't know... I still find Miles' book fairly entertaining for what it is. It's definitely an interesting companion piece to The Real FZ Book, given how little Frank actually writes about his personal life. Miles exposes some dirt without stooping to personal attacks like Walley does in his book. Having said that, there are a few spots where Miles does do a little too much editorializing for my comfort.

I'm tempted to read The Dangerous Kitchen and Electric Don Quixote, but I kind feel like the last thing my book shelf needs is yet another Zappa book.

Kinda where I'm at. I don't need to hear about how Zappa discovered Varese for the 57th time. There does seem to be a few new tidbits and perspectives when I read a new one though.


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 10:16 pm 
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Batchain1001 wrote:
[size=150] Barry Miles is a turd who wrote with an agena and with intent

I think it's right next to his hymen

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