Takes one to know one
Son Dweezil Zappa leads all-star tribute to often misinterpreted old man
By STEVE LALLA
Published in the Hour.ca - October 19, 2006
This week's heavily anticipated Zappa Plays Zappa concert sees Frank's son Dweezil uniting with an all-star cast to painstakingly recreate the enigmatic guitarist's most intricate songs. Felled by prostate cancer at the age of 52, Frank Zappa left behind a prolific legacy, beginning with incendiary live shows for Los Angeles's and New York City's freak scenes and snowballing into the release of over 60 albums between 1967 and 1993.
Though the mainstream most easily associates Frank Zappa with comical songs, big hair and a strange moustache, his guitar virtuosity and epic, unconventional composition style remain the foundation of his cult appeal. As such, long-time fans will be happy to hear that Dweezil plans to keep it serious.
"I don't really look at what we're presenting as trying to play the hits, because that's where the biggest misconception of Frank's music actually comes from. People who only casually know Frank's music may know Don't Eat the Yellow Snow, Valley Girl or Dancing Fool, and put them in the category of songs that they hear on Dr. Demento or Weird Al Yankovic, and that's not what Frank's about."
Zany and eccentric as he was, Frank was also clearly not about drugs, another perception that has dogged his entire career.
"He really has gone out of his way in many cases to say, 'Don't do drugs, drugs are bad for you,'" Dweezil confirms. "Even in the movie Baby Snakes you can see him do it right from the stage. So it's bizarre that people perpetuate
this myth, even as recently as an illustration of Frank in Rolling Stone where they drew him holding a joint. You know? What is wrong with you people? I think that's really irresponsible. I just want his music to speak for him."
For the entire year I've been ending my weekly Lalla Land column with a Frank Zappa quote. Before hanging up the phone with Dweezil I had to bring it up.
"One my favourite ones is 'Progress is not possible without deviation from the norm,'" says Dweezil. "That's my favourite 'cause it applies to everything. He's got a lot of good ones. Another one, that's not necessarily philosophical but was a good retort, was to somebody who was trying to make Frank look silly. He did an interview with a guy named Joe Pyne, who in the '60s was a popular host who was very conservative, and who had some wooden, uh, appurtenance, like a wooden leg, and he said to Frank, 'I guess with your long hair that makes you a lady.' And so Frank replied, 'I guess with your wooden leg that makes you a table.'"
Zappa trustees Steve Vai, Napoleon Murphy Brock and Terry Bozzio make guest appearances at what promises to be a unique listening experience.