Audience: Approx. 500.
Day: 27th May, 1969.
Time: 1.00 pm
A film was shown. Mothers of Invention playing in the background. Blinking lights. Speeded up. Colours.
Film ends. Brief silence. Zappa and entourage enter stage entrance. Zappa sits on the single chair on the stage, the entourage on steps leading to the stage, the floor and amongst audience. One of the entourage resembles Julie Felix. About 5 cameramen using flash guns click away throughout the meeting. Zappa takes his time, moves slowly and takes his seat. He speaks slowly. The audience sits in suspense, obviously impressed by the film, many having watched his TV appearances expected God. The personality cult by the mass media works devastatingly. A long silence. Nervous laughter.
Zappa begins to talk. He starts by saying that he prefers discussion to speeches. Questions from the floor would start it off. Silence again. Artificial nervous questions begin. Inane questions like 'What was the point the film was trying to make? Did Zappa have something he wanted to communicate? Why did he make the film?' Answer: 'I like making movies'.
Short cryptic unfriendly answers are the response to a host of idiot questions about technical aspects. He shot the film slow and speeded it up. The film borrowed from material he named. No, he did not go to see underground movies and he had seen nothing of Andy Warhol. He did not believe in scenes. To be fair to him, the questions were insane, but this was so because of the high expectations entertained by the audience. In a way, Zappa must have seen the gap in the audience's mind between what the personality cult had created and reality. But the way in which he dealt with this was not one of communicating but antagonising by rude quips.
The natural reaction followed. The politicos, who had started by giving Zappa the benefit of their doubts, now reacted by seeking a reason for this lack of communication with the audience. Suddenly serious questions started to f flow. Martin Tomkinson asked Zappa what he thought of the events at Berkeley. One must remember that the audience linked Zappa to the West Coast Movement in America, a movement which has recently become increasingly politicised. Zappa continued his flippant answers — he wasn't there. The audience pushed him to reply. Zappa said demonstrations were not his scene, He did not approve of demonstrations. He was asked for his alternative and his answer destroyed any chances of rapport that may have existed. He said we have tried all these things, why not try to infiltrate and change, do this without harming others or violence. A dialogue followed:
Q: What are you going to do about America shitting all over the world.
A: What do you expect me to, stick my finger up its arse.
A comrade from India asked what Zappa expected a peasant in India to do, join the British bourgeoisie and fight to reform it from within? There were some rather more hostile heckles by now, accusing him of wanting to get as rich as Rockefeller before reforming the world. These gave way to a more volatile debate.
Martin pointed out to Zappa that although it may be possible for both of them to infiltrate, it was not credible advice to the negro sitting in Harlem. Unless he acted, no one was going to do it for him. It may well be more meaningful to talk in terms of taking up arms in certain circumstances than talking of infiltration. In reply Zappa treated this criticism with an affectionate appeal to 'Martin' (recognition of another famous person) and attacked demonstrations as this year's fad. 'We have tried everything else, why not inviltrate'.
Someone questioned how it was possible for the Vietnamese peasant to infiltrate an army without killing?
A: Plenty of jobs that do not involve killing
Heckle: Like loading the gun
Q: What would you do if people came and burnt your house down.
A: I would just go and build another one.
Heckle: You have the money.
Q: If you had something stolen would you call the police?
A: Yes, if it was big enough. Aside: That's what we pay taxes for. We might as well screw them for as much as we can get.
And so the discussion went on. What annoyed certain students was not that Zappa did not care about humanity in a particular way but his capitalisation of the trendy progressive image and the hypocrisy this involves. But he is a brilliant musical talent and he made his position on music in the following exchange.
Q: What is music.
A: Just music.
Q: Do you think music should exist for itself.
A: Yes it should.
This is O.K. but it is when Zappa has the nerve to advance political views (infiltration and love) that he becomes unacceptable.
I don't care whether Zappa gets his Cadillac or not. I hope for his sake that he does. Many less worthy men have. But when he comes to LSE and attacks the methods of the oppressed whether in Vietnam, Berkley or Harlem then he is clarifying which side of the barricades he's on.
The question that summed it all up was:
Q: What distinguished you from Bob Hope?
A: That's a good question.
Heckle: Bob Hope is a lot more successful and a lot funnier.
A: Does Bob Hope have a lot of supporters here?
Read by OCR software. If you spot errors, let me know afka (at) afka.net