It's Not Easy Being a Genius

By Gordy Schonfeld

The Daily Pennsylvanian, November 11, 1977


Hi! I'm Frank Zappa, and I've got a secret! Sorry, wrong show. Anyway, I just thought I'd get your attention so that I could tell you what a genius I am. Yep, a U.S. No. 1 jenyooine genius.

The reason I'm writing this is to try to remedy a problem of mine. You see, I'm a genius, but I've got an image problem. I've been described as a pillar of obscenity, a sex fiend, a dictator, and a composer of super-weird music. I'm really none of those things, but people choose to pin those kind of labels on me because they don't understand what I'm doing. In reality, I'm just a normal, average, down-the-block genius with a taste for the bizarre. Because people, especially press people, refuse to treat me accordingly, I've given up trying to deal with them. I've found that snarling and being ambiguous are two surefire ways of inspiring fear and respect in the hearts of reporters. But I'll get back to that later.

BACK IN 1965, I made an album called Freak Out! with my band, which I called the Mothers of Invention. On it, we played a lot of funny stuff and satirized surf music and rock 'n' roll, which were the "in" sounds of the time. Satire, incidentally, is one of my main pursuits. I satirize things because it is my divine calling to do so and because I know better than to believe in the things in which most people believe.

After our second album. Absolutely Free, we made our third album, We're Only In It For The Money. Some other group thought it resembled too closely an album called Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, so its release was held up in court for about eleven months. In it, we poked fun at cops, hippies, and society, as well as being serious for a few moments.

SINCE THAT TIME, the Mothers and I have made lots of records, with titles like Lumpy Gravy, Cruising with Ruben and the Jets, Mothermania, Uncle Meat, Burnt Weeny Sandwich, Weasles Ripped My Flesh, Hot Rats, Chunga's Revenge, 200 Motels, The Mothers Fillmore East June 1971, Just Another Band From L.A., Waka-Jawaka, Grand Wazoo, Over-Nite Sensation, Apostrophe, Roxy & Elsewhere, One Size Fits All, and Zoot Allures. Not bad for a crazy Italian who drove a red car, eh?

Like I was saying before, people have singled me out as somebody singularly obscene. They base this ridiculous accusation on lyrics like "I whipped off her bloomers'n stiffened my thumb, an' applied rotation on her sugar plum / I poked'n stroked till my wrist got numb, but I still didn't hear no Dinah-Moe Humm" ("Dinah-Moe Humm," Over-Nite Sensation), or even "Slime and rot, rats and snot, and vomit on the floor, fifty ugly soldiermen holding spears by the iron door / Knives'n spikes'n guns and the likes of every tool of pain. Sister Midget with a bucket and a mop, where the blood goes down the drain" ("The Torture Never Stops," Zoot Allures). This stuff isn't obscene, I tell you; what's really obscene is that people's minds are bonded by myths associated with certain words and ideas. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, fella.

A FEW WEEKS ago I played at the Spectrum[1] with the latest edition of the Mothers (Adrian Belew - guitar & vocals, Peter Wolf - keyboards, Tommy Mars - keyboards & vocals, Ed Mann - percussion & vocals, Patrick O'Hearn - bass & vocals, and Terry Bozzio - drums & vocals). Having no opening act, we played for about two and a half hours. The bulk of the show consisted of new songs, such as "Conehead" and "You're an Asshole," from my next album. L├Ąther (pronounced "Leather"). This album, by the way, is being held up by litigation involving me, Warner Brothers (my former label), and Phonogram, which is supposed to distribute my new label, Zappa Records. The legal hassles are too complicated to describe here, so I'll simply say that Phonogram and I are right and Warner Brothers is wrong.

Getting back to that bit about press intimidation, I should mention that I was interviewed after the concert by one of your hip 34th Street reporters. Boy, did I do a number on him! He was obviously nervous, so I immediately took the offensive by being defensive. I snarled when he asked me his idiotic questions (e.g. "Do you consider yourself the Miles Davis of rock?," "What does your mother think of your music?," "Do you have any comment about the strike at Penn?," etc.), and I wore these really goofy sunglasses. It was obvious, after a while, that he thought he was the crazy one!

OH WELL, so much for your everyday genius. I'd love for you to understand what I do, but you probably can't. In that case. I guess I'll just have to continue being the genius that I am, while you're stuck in college. See ya later, suckers.

-- Frank Zappa
 by way of Gordy Schonfeld


1. Frank Zappa had concert at Spectrum Theater, Philadelphia in October 24. (Frank Zappa Gig List).
This concert is taped and full songlist is: Intro, Peaches En Regalia, The Torture Never Stops, Tryin' To Grow A Chin, City Of Tiny Lights, A Pound For A Brown, Bobby Brown, Conehead (instrumental), Flakes, Big Leg Emma, Envelopes, Disco Boy, I Promise Not To Come In Your Mouth, Wild Love, Titties 'n Beer, The Black Page, Jones Crusher, Broken Hearts Are For Assholes, Punky's Whips, Dinah-Moe Humm, Camarillo Brillo, Muffin Man, San Ber'dino (FZShows)

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