Zappa zaps religion and drugs

By Daniel S. Smith

The Lantern, September 21, 1978


If the world is divided into leaders and followers, Frank Zappa is definitely a leader. Tuesday at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Zappa was in complete control of his seven-piece band, of the enthusiastic crowd, and himself. [1]

Zappa, with his back to the audience, carefully conducted the band through the most intricate of instrumental offerings. He told the crowd when to applaud, when to sing along, when to stand up or sit down and when to keep quiet, always with striking success. He led himself through extended guitar solos while choreographing every sound with mechanized hand and body movements.

He followed the band onstage, sauntering to the center, stoically watching his fingering of the complicated guitar introduction. Dressed casually in gray double-knit pants and a white bowling shirt with "Burlington Lumber" printed on the back , the 37-year-old calmly dedicated the next song, "Dancin' Fool ," and slinked across the stage.

Who is this man? The second coming, perhaps? Zappa himself discounts this notion as hardly possible.

"Most people know me from sitting on a toilet in a picture going dooey," he said during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

But don't get the man wrong, there is more to him than his humorous and sometimes nonsensical lyrics suggest. He is an intellectual with strong convictions about the American way, and musically, as a composer, arranger and performer he borders on genius.

"I started writing songs at 14. I was influenced by mainly chamber music and orchestra music. I didn't write a rock 'n' roll song until I was 22.

"Americans, in general, know very little about music. They like to hear words, so I give them words — sometimes they overlook the music involved," he said.

Early in the set, Zappa removed his guitar, poured himself a cup of coffee, lit a cigarette, settled cross-legged on his stool and listened to xylophone player-percussionist Ed Mann play a snappy, jazzlike improvisation. As if conducting an audition, Zappa bowed his head and nodded before giving Mann the thumb-forefinger OK sign and directing keyboardist Tom [Mars] to do his solo.

Announcing that "corruption and perversion are the cornerstones of the American way of life," Zappa continued the set with a mockery of Peter Frampton's "I'm In You," calling his version "I Have Been In You." The song flowed gracefully with the band's precise orchestration and accomplished what Zappa intended — a perfect mockery of rock 'n' roll hype.

"I hate hype," he said bluntly. "I don't go in for press releases at all — that's why I choose to confront the world by giving my own interviews — like this one. I can't see letting someone else talk for me."

Immediately, the band broke into the sound-effect laden "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow-St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast" side from Zappa's "Apostrophe " album. Zappa commanded the audience to stand up at the outset of the number, telling them to sit down after two minutes of constant cheering. Again, mockery played a big part in Zappa's side comments to the crowd, this time "druggies with their downers and alcohol" and "Jesus freaks" receiving the brunt of his social comment.

"I don't go to parties — they 're too predictable. I'm not a social person, I'm not interested in watching people do things they'll regret later. People think I'm drugoriented because they believe that to be creative, a person must be chemically oriented. Well. I think most doctors, lawyers and politicians are chemically oriented. People that drink and do drugs use it as an excuse to do things that are stupid," Zappa charged.

His tirade continued.

"Religion is bad for your mental health, it makes people dependent and emotional cripples. It creates neurosis in people. There would be no sin unless religion was there to manufacture it. "

The 40-minute encore began with two new songs, probably from Zappa's soon to be released "Martian Love Songs." Zappa was content to conduct (wand and all) his band through "Bamboozled by Love ," a straight forward rock 'n' roll number featuring an excellent performance by slide guitarist Doug Walley.

Like a TV evangelist, Zappa led the audience in a philosophizing chant: "Information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, wisdom is not truth, truth is not love, love is not music because music is the best." The crowd was into it — Zappa had complete control.

All that remained were speeded up versions of two Zappa favorites, "Dinah Mo Hum " and "Camarillo Brillo." The music was hurried and Zappa and the band seemed only to be appeasing the crowd's desire for familiar music rather than striving for perfection as they had done elsewhere throughout the show.

Absent from the program were selections from Zappa's most recent Warner Brothers release ,"Studio Tan." He explained the void in the afternoon interview.

"I delivered four tapes to Warner last March as our contract specified and they released this one without telling me. I have received no advance or no royalties from Warner. I consider it a bootleg or pirate album and I'm suing the record company in California. I've broken off with Warner and am now with Phonogram Records."

1. Concert in September 19, 1978, in Columbus, Ohio, as a part of world tour. This concert was taped and setlist was: The Deathless Horsie, Dancin' Fool, Easy Meat, Honey Don't You Want A Man Like Me?, Keep It Greasey, Bobby Brown, Conehead, Mo's Vacation, The Black Page, I Have Been In You, Flakes, Magic Fingers, Yellow Snow Suite, Bamboozled By Love, Sy Borg, Little House I Used To Live In, Dinah-Moe Humm, Camarillo Brillo, Muffin Man, Strictly Genteel. (FZshows)

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