It’s 1991 and the controversial American musician Frank Zappa is standing in front of a crowd in the Prague sports hall

After the end of the Cold War and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, he was invited to the Czech Republic to play a concert

Before a note is played in front of the stage, he offers this advice to his audience and the country

“I’m sure you already know, but this is only the beginning of your new future and as you face the changes in your country, please try to keep your country unique

Coming from an artist who is considered by many to be a freak among freaks, it seemed odd advice to tell them to keep their history, even as they threw off the yoke of Soviet tyranny

‘But this incident is just one of the many obvious contradictions in the life of an artist once described by band member Ruth Underwood as a “walking set of contradictions”

“And yet at the same time he was very consistent in these contradictions, “she remarked

On this basis, one can rightly say that Frank Zappa could be the most misunderstood artist of his generation

Productive and relevant for decades, here was a family man who openly flaunted his infidelity A countercultural icon who enjoyed mocking hippies A businessman who condemned the effects of capitalism

Who can ever forget their vicious parody of the Beatles’ Sgt? Pepper album titled “We’re Just In For The Money”

Take your time listening to songs like Call any Vegetable or the epic piece Billy the Mountain and you just have to laugh out loud

Now, a new documentary called Zappa takes on the complex task of revealing the man in myth, the principles he stood for, and the demons that drove him

“My father was my greatest inspiration he was great and a rock and roller, a modern day composer, a genius and he gave the best hugs ever and i miss him “

Directed by Alex Winter, the documentary was shot with full access to Zappa’s extensive archive for music and film

As the musician explains, he recorded everything he played in the studio and made miles of films

If you look at the story, it is clear that no topic is out of bounds, including dirty details of street life and his love for groupies. Even now, his response can be shocking

“I’m human, I like to be laid. You go out on the street, buckle up some girls and come back to the house,” he said

“You think you got the gossip. Are you going to keep it a secret from your wife? I come and say,” Hey, I got the gossip, get a recipe for yourself””

“I wouldn’t have made some of his choices, his infidelity I’m just not that wired,” he said “I think after walking in his shoes, playing in a band, I can give him a lot of forgiveness”

But the real surprises don’t come so much from Zappa’s excesses, but from professional discipline and the destruction of the myths that surrounded him

First, as the film quickly shows, Frank never used drugs or encouraged anyone to use them

As his son explains, this mainly surprises people who never knew his father

“[Years later] I would have these donkeys show up and say, ‘Hey man, I would come into the studio at Laurel Canyon and the nice smell of pot smoke, it would be in the air’ and I would, ‘Yeah ! It never happened Didn’t happen ‘”

“If I told people that they didn’t do drugs, they’d say, ‘How can anyone have such a cool fantasy without drugs?’ which I find sad”

The second myth being torn apart is that the music Frank Zappa made was random in some way

His bands rehearsed tirelessly – five days a week, eight or more hours a day

Steve Vai, who played in his group, simply says, “We were a tool for a composer”

This approach, combined with the musicians’ desire to develop themselves, led many to believe that he was cruel, thoughtless and loveless towards those who gave him so much of themselves musically

This view is disputed by those who knew him Ruth Underwood, who played in many of his bands with her husband Ian, says: “Zappa was loyal to people he saw as friends”

Zappa’s wife Gail agrees “He was very loyal to the people who helped him along the way, even if they were the worst mum If he didn’t know you, you had a chance He was hardcore”

One thing that was close to his heart was his hatred of big companies, especially music conglomerates

He hated her ability to bleach life out of music. He hated her urge for conformity in modern music and spoke out against her desire to move units

“I think any artistic decision based on whether or not to make money is not really an artistic decision, but a business decision,” he once said

Zappa was one of the first artists to start his own record company. He sold his own musical goods to fund his work

In fact, his business model worked so well that he could save enough money to hire the London Symphony Orchestra on one of his avant-garde pieces of classical music, which he recorded and sold through his label

The film doesn’t just show Frank Zappa’s work as an artist and businessman

It also shows its important contribution to the public debate on issues of censorship, restrictions on freedom of expression and corporate bullying

In the late 1980s, when Susan Baker, the wife of then US Secretary of State James Baker, began a campaign banning certain artists and calling for new censorship, Zappa went to Washington to testify before Congress

His suggestion was, if you don’t want unsuspecting people to buy these records, let’s put the lyrics of each song on each record

When he returned from Prague in the early 1990s, he was given the role of commercial agent for the Czech government

James Baker had other ideas Upon examining the documentary, it became clear that Baker had gone to Prague and told the government that they would get no help or assistance unless they abandoned Frank Zappa. So much for democracy and freedom of speech

Finally, one thought remains: How could this lifelong “provocateur” hold its own in the world of the internet, social media and music streaming services? Ahmet Zappa’s answer is illuminating

“I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had been one of the founders of Google or YouTube, and he definitely would have had a platform that celebrated all viewpoints,” he said

“He would have fought mega-corporations to reduce the value of music I think we would have better streaming services and better ways for artists to communicate and make a living”

He may be right, he may be wrong, but in 2021 you suspect the world and the music industry could deal with a few more Frank Zappas

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Frank Zappa

Weltnachrichten – AU – ‘A Freak Among Freaks’: New document reveals the myths about Frank Zappa

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-14/frank-zappa-documentary-the-man-the-myth-demons-that-drove-him/13141168