Students Rap With Frank Zappa
A few years ago, in the era of the Beatles and the big pop groups, an admiring fan had about as much of a chance to sneak into his idol's dressing room after a performance as Custer had of winning at the Little Big Horn. Of course, this didn't keep them from trying. They came dressed as maids, disguised as waiters, or claiming to be reporters or relatives. An enterprising young thing even attempted to mail herself to the Beatles (in a rather large box ).
We can be glad that this kind of devotion has faded, along with, perhaps unfortunately, the supper-group. What has replaced it is a general trend in tastes that encompasses a variety of performers and performing styles. And the openness with which these new-generation entertainers accept admirers would make the dusty Beatle-maniacs green with envy.
Two MCHS students, John Leake and Morris Galindo, proved this easy acceptance when they walked into Frank Zappa's dressing room after a concert in Minneapolis early this fall. Recently I talked to John about the experience. He presented an interesting picture when he walked into the journalism room for the interview. With his shoulder-length hair and full beard sharply contrasting a neat pinstripe suitcoat and white pants, he looked as if he had just traded heads with a Boy Scout.
We sat on a table with a tape recorder between us. John fiddled with the dials, mumbling to himself, adjusting the volume and positioning the microphone with the acknowledged know-how of one accustomed to working with similar equipment. Satisfied at last, he opened the interview himself.
"Are there any specific questions you want to ask me?"
"Yeah, what happened?"
Not taken aback by my bluntness, he sniffled a smile and plunged in.
"The dressing room wasn't very big and was really crowded. There were the mothers, their friends and girls, some groupies, and us. Frank was sitting in a straight chair with one ankle resting on the opposite knee, reading a newspaper not paying specific attention to anything, and yet absorbing a little of everything. He seems to be a man of few words. I asked him what he thought of John Lennon's and Yoko Ono's music. He turned his head in my direction and said, "Ridiculous," and then went on reading.
He doesn't think of the Beatles as a group, either. He did say he thought "Strawberry Fields Forever" was the best song they did together.
"Apparently the public ... doesn't agree."
As Frank put it, "The public wouldn't know good music if it came up and bit 'em on the ass."
"That draws an interesting picture. What do you think of the Mothers of Invention's music?"
John produced a Frank Zappa album he just happened to have with him.
"Why don't you hear for yourself?"
I plugged in the record player we just happened to have in the journalism room. John talked as the album played.
"All their music is pretty heavy-innovative – there's a song on here that's completely percussion, drums, sticks, blocks ... . Frank did the whole thing himself using over-tracts. By the way, Morris and I are on the album, too. "
"You are ?"
"Yeah, it was recorded live the night we were there. Listen."
The song finished, and on the album the audience stomped their approval.
"That's us ," John laughed, "the audience."
"This might be a little off the subject," I said, "but reflecting on Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, do you think the Mothers' of Invention's music is drug oriented?" John tugged his beard thoughtfully.
"I couldn't say. Some of their songs are about drugs, not condemning or advocating, just about them. I don't think that Frank personally is into drugs. There was a joint going around and he ignored it. They were passing out beer and Coke and he took a Coke, if that means anything."
The record player needle was making soft scratching sounds on the run out album. John lifted it up carefully by the edges and slipped it back into its cover.
"Anything else you want to ask me?" I shook my head.
"Anything else you want to say ?"
He grinned broadly as if he had been waiting for this moment. Then, grabbing the mike he leaned pseudo-suavely on one shoulder and said clearly,
"Hotcha, boys and girls."
Read by OCR software. If you spot errors, let me know afka (at) afka.net