Frank Zappa, Steve Allen:  1963

Posted By: Paul - Mon Dec 19, 2016
Category: Bicycles and Other Human-powered Vehicles, Television, Performance Art, Bohemians, Beatniks, Hippies and Slackers, 1960s

I miss Frank.

As they finally started to play their improvised piece I was immediately struck by its resemblance to a few compositions Zappa released on record. The main piece I thought of is "The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny", the last track on "We're Only In It For The Money." It may sound discordant at first but it really is a polished composition.

"Nasal Retentive Calliope Music" from the same album will give you a taste of Zappa's offbeat humor. Listen for the surf music parody at the end.
Posted by KDP in Madill, OK on 12/19/16 at 04:14 PM
Save for the few "hits" he wrote to get airplay, all of Frank's compositions were a cacophony of noise and weird instrumentation. Even in the wildly popular Montana (Dental Floss) song, his crew goes into a 17-note bar, I believe... or something similar. Just before he sings, "I'm gonna buy me a horse. Just about this big."
Posted by Greg in cognito on 12/19/16 at 08:28 PM
Would not have thought Frank was ever clean-shaven, much less wearing a suit and skinny tie.
Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 12/20/16 at 08:08 AM
Dweezil(sic), Franks son, and the rest of the family are battling over whether he can perform the early stuff commercially. The M.O.I. recordings from the mid '60s are as relevant now as then as social commentary. We do indeed need more composers that will thumb their noses at the power structure.
Posted by John on 12/20/16 at 01:20 PM
I had no idea that (clean cut) Frank Zappa effectively predated the Beatles. However, I'm not surprised that Steve Allen mostly made fun of him; after all, he made fun of Elvis too, having him sing "Hound Dog" to an actual hound dog.
Posted by Brian in PA on 12/20/16 at 03:22 PM
Having a name based on a Frank track I've got to comment.

"World's Greatest Sinner" is actually a quite interesting movie. Frank's soundtrack is the highlight, of course, but Carrey certainly had an interesting idea. Well worth a watch.

I'm hoping the Zappa kids will pull their collective heads out of their rectal areas and work out some sort of agreement. It's all ridiculous and ugly.
Posted by PupTentacle on 12/20/16 at 07:53 PM
I'd have thought the significance of this early TV appearance is that it shows, somewhat surprisingly, that, Zappa who was later lauded as an anti-mainstream original by the mainstream media was early-on promoted making his silly sounds by that same mainstream media. Isn't that the weird thing here?
Posted by Nick on 12/23/16 at 05:22 PM
@Nick - Not really. He appeared on Letterman, Mike Douglas, Arsenio Hall and other "mainstream media" outlets as well long after he became a "counter culture" icon. He, like most artists, wasn't unwilling to subvert the very norms he was lampooning to get himself out in front of new eyes. The music business is a business, and Frank said over and over that he understood that.

Also, I believe this was during a period where Frank was not only trying to break through as a composer, but he was working with a gentleman named Paul Buff who taught him how to engineer and operate a studio. The two of them did a series of singles, most of which were novelty records recorded quickly, cheaply and made for the sole purpose of making money. He mentions one during the Allen appearance ("How's Your Bird?"). Frank said he did the more accessible rock stuff in order to make money in order to write his more serious music.

If anyone is interested there are a TON of books about Zappa. I think I've read most of them. My personal favorite is "Frank Zappa:The Biography" by Barry Miles. Miles is a good writer who approaches Zappa as an interesting figure, not as a hardcore fan. Good book by a good biographer that gives a nice overview of what made the man tick.
Posted by PupTentacle on 12/23/16 at 10:26 PM
PupTentacle, that just means the mainstream media promoted the counter-culture even when it was explicitly just that, and that a counter-cultural icon like Zappa was happy to support the mainstream culture in return. Like I say, weird.

Posted by Nick on 12/25/16 at 05:52 PM
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