An Explosion Of Non-Communication
By Chris Welch
"ZAPPA won on points." "Zappa was a flop." "Zappa was RIGHT!" Not a cross-section of public opinion painstakingly assessed by selected interviews; just a cross section of personal reactions to the Mother Superior's "lecture" to students at the London School of Economics.
When the Lords of the spray-can came into collision with the Mother Of Invention in their slogan-daubed lecture hall on Tuesday of last week, there was an explosion of non-communication, an embarrassment spectacular, more aimless than the most inane TV panel show.
The blame can be shared fairly equally. It is tempting to assume Zappa's intentions when he came on to talk about "student unrest." Perhaps he saw them as young monkeys he could easily annihilate. Perhaps they saw him as a Che Guevara of pop.
The monkeys nearly annihilated Zappa. Che Guevara crashed to the ground in a cloud of dust.
They appointed him as a prophet, When he failed to make the grade with the right answers to a barrage of questions that began to sound like a McCarthy witch-hunt, he was rejected and attacked.
LSE is a "hot" university. The walls of the lecture hall have slogans sprayed across them – "Act Now" and "Strike." The people there are impatient. A lot walked out before Zappa finished, perhaps to eat sandwiches, perhaps to fill sandbags.
The students were in deadly earnest, unconcerned with absurdities or liberalism. They embraced Zappa, lured by his LPs, stray quotes in magazines and filmed interviews, found him wanting and sprayed him with abuse.
Zappa came armed with a cool manner, some Groucho Marx-type quips, both to be burned by shining idealism.
The lecture began with Frank asking: "Any questions?" Friendly laughter – a settling down for the revelations and super-chat to come.
"How seriously do you take yourself and your music?" A question to set the ball rolling.
"Not enough to be dangerous." Ho-hos, then silence. Further questions, fail to spark much response.
Then the heavies got to work. One strident voice likened him to Bob Hope which earned a hearty round of applause.
They stamped on his "facetiousness" and clamoured for some positive statements on his beliefs. Sadly his delivery of the concept of infiltration of media, government, church, army, etc. instead of direct confrontation, sounded weak and feeble. It merely induced groans and jeers.
"What are you doing?" demanded one youth, hotly. "I'm sitting here being abused." But there was to be no more laughter for Zappa wisecracks, and he lapsed into a kind of dazed silence.
"Are you upset Frank?" asked one kindly student summoning reserves of pity from his vastness.
" No, I'm not upset."
The students were upset, however, at statements like: "Everybody is part of an establishment. What makes you think you are not part of an establishment here? I'm in favour of being comfortable. People have different ideas on how to be comfortable. I just aim for that goal the same as anybody else."
"What happened at Berkeley last week?" "Oh, you want a hot poop – an inside on the demo? I'm not hot on demonstrations." "Yeah, demos aren't comfortable," called out one chap.
"People are really thrilled about rioting in the street. It's this year's flower power."
A cry of "ballocks" greeted this remark, and Frank was accused of being a narrow-minded, fantastically hostile, snappish bigot.
Zappa had failed to fill their need for a hero figure.
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