"I don't want to spend the rest of my life explaining myself. You either get it or you don't."


It's hard to make any sort of brief statement about Frank Zappa and his value as an artist. There are so many angles you can approach him from. Boorish types everywhere will remember him for sarcastic little ditties like "Titties and Beer" and "Dynamo Hum". The average person who is at least familiar with him just knows that he was responsible for "Valley Girl" in the early 80's, which drew more attention to his children's odd names than it did to his musical legacy.

Zappa was probably one of the more misunderstood composers of the 20th century as a result of these forays into pop culture. The power of his writing is not as evident in "Valley Girl" as it is in other pieces, such as "Echidna's Arf (of you)" from 1972's Roxy and Elsewhere or "Peaches en Regalia". What becomes apparent from a lot of these compositions is that although Zappa was using a rock band as his modus operandi, his writing was of a different sphere altogether. This became more and more obvious with his later Synclavier excursions like 1985's Jazz From Hell and the posthumous Civilization Phaze III, as well as his usually ill-fated attempts at orchestral works.

Another facet of Zappa's legacy is his eye for talented musicians. Much like Miles Davis, Zappa had an undeniable knack for assembling many different players who were able to complement both each other and the music they were playing like very few others. Perusing the liner notes from Zappa albums produces a list of very accomplished players, some of whom continue to push musical boundaries today. George Duke, Jean-Luc Ponty, Terry Bozzio, Michael Brecker, Vinnie Colaiuta and Steve Vai all put in time with FZ, and there are many more who contribute some transcendent musical moments on the 70+ CDs released throughout Zappa's career. To point out the memorable ones would be a Herculean task at the bare minimum. I've provided links to some of the better efforts at the bottom of the page.

Selected Discography

"Watch out where the huskies go, and don't you eat that yellow snow." Truer words were never spoken.

This 3-CD set covers virtually all aspects of Zappa's music, which is no easy task.

Live in New York
The debut of "The Black Page," a piece originally written as a challenge to polyrhythmic whiz-kid drummer Terry Bozzio, this live set also features Don Pardo on "sophisticated narration."

The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life
This album, along with Make a Jazz Noise Here and Broadway the Hard Way, chronicle the ill-fated 1988 tour. The band learned a ridiculous number of Zappa tunes down cold, only to have the tour cut short due to internal strife in the band, most notably between bassist Scott Thunes and percussionist Ed Mann. The horn section is a killer.

You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Volume 2
Zappa at his freewheeling best with a crack live unit that featured George Duke on keyboards and Ruth Underwood on percussion. The group dances effortlessly between complex structures and off-the-cuff silliness in ways that Phish only dreams about.

Zappa on the Web

St. Alphonso's Pancake Homepage contains the FAQ for Frank Zappa, with extensive discographies, personnel, and other tidbits.

There is also now an Official Frank Zappa Site, where you can send e-mail to Gail, Dweezil, and Ahmet, among other things.

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