Frank Zappa

By Julie Moller

Obelisk II, 1978


After the usual pre-concert entertainment provided by beach balls and frisbees, the light dimmed and Frank Zappa was greeted by a round of applause and a standing ovation. [1]

The enthusiastic crowd screamed and lit matches as Zappa began by introducing the band and himself. Dressed in a magenta T-shirt and pants. Zappa danced across the stage using gestures to emphasize his lyrics.

His low, clear voice filled the smoky auditorium as he played compositions from his new album, Le├Ąther (pronounced leather) and as of the concert, unrecorded material.

The performance was accented by an outstanding light show, especially during "Up Jumped the Devil," where Zappa sold his soul to the devil, played by drummer Terry Bozzio, for various earthly paraphernalia.

Although Zappa claimed he is not a "college-type person," he offered to help SIU students celebrate the 1977 Homecoming by "whipping cheerleaders on stage."

"I feel that college is a kindergarten for big kids," commented Zappa during a press conference at Marion Holiday Inn. "That was back in the '60's. Now it may even be educational."

Zappa said he spends six months on tour, using the rest of the time to work on albums. His show, usually running two hours in length, utilizes equipment which fills two 45-foot trucks and weighs 85,000 pounds.

According to Zappa, the only way to get things done is to do them yourself. "I can only do so much during one year."

Zappa seemed relaxed during the press conference in a dimly lit Holiday Inn room. "I have trouble finding time for myself. I need to sleep," he commented.

What keeps a person motivated for this continual pressure? "I'm not suited for any other form of life," said Zappa, in his navy blue shirt, faded jeans and snakeskin shoes.

Zappa was subdued during the interview, smoking an occasional Winston, which is the drug he uses for relaxation.

According to Zappa, money is the biggest limiting factor in his production. "Without certain types of money, you can't produce certain types of work."

"Studio time is approximately $170 per hour, and shipping equipment and performers all around the world isn't cheap," explained Zappa.

Zappa's band also produces limitations. He writes according to their talents and limitations. Stylistic preferences and different instruments are also matters of consideration.

According to Zappa, he is no longer nervous before going on stage. "In order to get psyched up for a performance I sit in my dressing room and practice."

Accompanying Zappa during the two-hour homecoming show, were Adrian Belew, rhythm guitar and vocals; Peter Wolf and Tony Mars on keyboards; Ed Mann, percussion and vocals; Patrick O'Hearn, bass and vocals; and Terry Bozzio, drums and vocals.

Zappa ended the homecoming festivities for many on a good note when he came out for two encores including "Dynamo Hum" and "Camarillo Brillo."

Leading his fans in hand clapping and shouts of "heys," Zappa encouraged the stage-rushers who ran to meet him.

In his final words to his audience, Zappa told them to go out and celebrate their homecoming. He probably didn't realize that with his exceptional performance, they already had.


1. According to Frank Zappa Gig List: 1977, this article is about Zappa's concert in Carbondale, October 1, 1977. This concert is not taped and detailed setlist is not known.

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