Frank Zappa Addresses Issue Of Censorship
By Scott Davis
Daily Sundial, November 13, 1986
A disgruntled woman, unhappy with last Wednesday's music and lecture performance by Frank Zappa, stormed the Northridge Center's stage and complained incessantly to Zappa, interrupting a recorded music interlude.
After trying to reason with her, the eclectic high priest of musical satire reached into his wallet and produced a bill: "Here's 20 dollars. Now go away."
Flustered and embarrassed, she took the money and left the stage after considerable jeering from the audience.
Zappa visited CSUN with some unreleased live recordings, some brand new computer-composed experimental music, and his highly publicized stand on the issue of music censorship by the Parents Music Resource Center.
"If there was scientific proof that would show that when you listen to this stuff (rock music) you would turn into a werewolf, go to hell, commit murder, do a rape or have sexual relations with a close family member, then I'd be on their side," Zappa said.
Rock music is a very easy target for fundamentalist scrutiny, Zappa said, because of the visual element brought about by television news.
"Who can possibly feel sympathy for all those guys with hair like this (his hands about two feet apart) and leather clothes?" Zappa said. "They had to be the bad guys. The lines were pretty well drawn. You had very prim Washington ladies with high collars ... It was them versus Motley Crue, AC/DC and Judas Priest. The television station could seem like it was being fair by going, 'See this, see that — you decide!' "
Zappa has been one of the more vocal opponents of the PMRC, and its efforts to promote a labeling system for record albums.
"So strangely enough, the wives of people in the government (the PMRC, 'who has no legislative power') managed to take a multi-billion dollar industry and bring it to its knees. Why did the record companies let them do this? The answer is money."
There is a bill being considered by Congress (HR 2911/the Mathias Bill), which places a one cent per minute tax on blank recording tapes. It stipulates that the manufacturer pay royalties to the U.S. Treasury before selling products in the country.
This, Zappa said, will result in raising the price of his wares and that the recording companies will get a quarter billion dollars a year extra "that they didn't have to do anything for except kiss their ... Hence, the voluntary record labeling syndrome."
Zappa said that the labeling bill will hurt new artists and artists who don't have formidable record sales. They "will have to bend over even further now.
The established artist with contractual control over his album packaging is free to ignore the "understanding" because of a major loophole, Zappa says.
During one of the musical interludes, Zappa played a recording of his "Porn Wars." A large portion of the piece incorporates actual recordings of congressmen debating in favor of thwarting "rock porn ... that outrageous filth."
One senator commented that the "rock porn" session "is the most important hearing conducted by Congress this year."
Zappa, speaking to an over-capacity crowd of 950, asserted that "this, needless to say, is rather far-fetched. If it is true, we are wasting a lot of money on congressmen."
During his two-and-a-half hour presentation, Zappa also addressed the growing drug problem in America and "Nancy's Private War on Drugs."
During a hoopla-filled media circus, First Lady Nancy Reagan cuts a ribbon, and "gets some underprivileged child, touches him, and tells him to 'just say no.'
"You just can't tell kids to 'just say no' — you've got to give them more than that," Zappa said. "You must impress upon them that it is possible to be a functioning, intelligent, fun-loving human being without sticking those kind of chemicals in their bodies."
The major reason for drug use in this country, Zappa asserted, is the feeling of hopelessness and the prospects of a bleak future.
"Moreover, why is it always the kids? What about the brain surgeons and the judges and the legislators who are taking drugs?" he said.
Zappa answered his own question: "Focusing on kids gives the older people the illusion that if we squelch these little bastards that the problem will go away. The parents are wrecked too. If they're not wrecked from a dry substance, they're wrecked from a wet substance."
Among the variety of subjects that Zappa touched on, he had very harsh criticism for lawyers.
"Be a dentist," he said. "Be a veterinarian. Don't be a lawyer. There are too many lawyers. It appears to me that what has made America very difficult to get along in these days is that we produce too many lawyers and there wasn't enough work for them to go around.
"So what do they do? Nobody likes unemployment, so they manufacture regulations in their spare time to guarantee they'll always have jobs. It's almost impossible to walk across the street without a lawyer."
Pre-recorded song from an upcoming live album titled "You Can't Do that On Stage Anymore" and computer generated compositions complimented Zappa's lecture. Some of the live selections included "Keep It Greasy," "Charlena" (featuring his son, Dweezil, on electric guitar), "Bamboozled By Love'' and "The Sensual Scrutinizer."
His new ventures into digital music were extremely innovative and image-conjuring. "Night School" was a jazz style number reminiscent of some of the better synthesizer solos done by Patrick Moraz.
"Buffalo Voice," which included classical guitar played into a machine, was the kind of music you might hear in nightmares. But nothing Zappa fans would ever expect.
"I don't think there are any human beings on the planet who could have played 'Buffalo Voice.' The notes are just not on the instrument and the rhythms are pretty much unplayable by humans ..."
Zappa, sporting a turquoise sweat shirt, black sweatpants and Reeboks, said he tries to get away from rock and roll every so often so that when he returns to it, "it's a blessed relief."
During the musical riffs, hundreds of people swarmed over to the stage in a barrage of autograph-hounding. Zappa pleasantly signed everything and even stayed after the show to continue signing them.
Two feedback articles, for your information.
Daily Sundial, November 21, 1986.
By Richard Mark Davis, senior, music.
Webster's definition of a demagogue is "one who tries to stir up people's emotions so as to further his own interests" Your report on Frank Zappa's presentation at the USU is a textbook example of demagoguery in action. Mr. Zappa's arguments against the labeling of rock music albums simply obscure the real issues and promote his own self-interest in selling more albums. (Note the word "labeling," not "censoring")
First of all, he ridicules the idea that rock music could make one "commit murder, do a rape." or perform other equally outrageous antisocial acts. The truth is that all kinds of music have an enormous effect on people emotionally, physically and spiritually. Many of the world's greatest philosophers believed that music could shape individuals as well as whole societies. In our own time scientists, psychologists and music therapists are very involved in research to determine the parameters of just how music can affect an individual. Certain kinds of music are known to raise the heartbeat and increase respiration. Plants respond in a radically different manner to different kinds of music.
In addition, there are many indications that rock music is related to societal violence. In L.A. violence at rock music concerts recently caused the cancelling of the L.A. Street Scene (Editor's note: according to city officials, the Street Scene has not been cancelled), and serious injuries at concerts in the Long Beach Arena. Why do these incidents happen frequently at rock concerts and not at classical and other kinds of music concerts? Perhaps the answer lies in a couple of quotes from a group Mr. Zappa seems to defend. According to Nikki Sixx of the band Motley Crue, "We drink more Jack Daniels, see more chicks and get into more fights than any other band around and we're proud of it." He also says, "The one thing I got from Hitler was the idea of the Nazi youth I believe in the Motley youth. The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. They're young, they can be brainwashed and programmed Motley Crue believes in doing away with authority and authority figures." Perhaps Mr. Zappa believes this kind of thinking is OK, and that is his prerogative, but I respectfully disagree
Another example of Mr. Zappa's demagogic technique is his attempt to demean Tipper Gore, head of the Parents Music Resource Center, the chief proponent of album rating and labeling, by calling her and her colleagues "prim Washington ladies with high collars." These women are simply parents (some prim and some undoubtedly not) who are concerned about the influence that rock music and rock star role models have on their children.
This kind of demagoguery leads us away from what is needed the most; a rational, calm, unemotional discussion and airing of all sides. As a society we need to address the question of how much freedom our children should have to buy and do as they wish, versus how much parental control we will exert. And most importantly, we need to address as a community how much our music, and the media in general, affect our actions and our morals. Mr. Zappa does a great disservice to his audiences and the public in general with his emotional, sarcastic and lopsided presentations that only serve to justify his own involvement.
Daily Sundial, November 26, 1986.
By Alison Braun, Co-President, the Loyal Order
This is in response to Richard Davis' letter (Nov 21) bitching about what Frank Zappa had to say at his recent appearance at CSUN. Since you took the trouble to look up the word "demagogue," it's a wonder you didn't take the trouble to get your facts straight about the man you criticize (Zappa), the group you support (the Parents' Music Resource Center) and the incidents at the Long Beach Arena and L A. Street Scene.
First off, Zappa did not ridicule the idea that rock music could make one commit various crimes, he ridiculed the people who preach this with no scientific data or statistics to back up their claim.
Frank Zappa does not dispute the fact that all forms of music can shape the thinking of young people Rock music alone is not to blame for teenage problems. Parents play a big part in shaping their children's ideas. Parents should approach music „ as they do movies - when children watch scary or violent movies, parents usually exclaim that movies are not real and that normal people don't do that. Zappa does not try to impress his opinions on people the way Richard thinks. The PMRC is guilty of that. They are a small group of people trying to force their warped and "lopsided" ideas on the public, instead of just their children.
Next, if you believe rock music has many indications that it causes societal violence, why don't you use valid examples? The LA Street Scene's problems stemmed from violence that the police instigated on the crowd. I know this because I was there, witnessing people getting stomped on by horses and billy clubs because they couldn't run fast enough. As for the Long Beach Arena, the violence at the Run-DMC concert was caused by rival gangs, not the music. RunDMC is staunchly opposed to violence and drug use. If you read their lyrics you would understand this. As for using Motley Crue as an example of a band trying to systematically brainwash their fans into rejecting authority: to this I say hogwash! Nikki Sixx will say anything to anybody to get his band the notoriety he needs to sell records. Motley Crue isn't intelligent enough to spearhead a movement similar to the Hitler Youth.
How on earth can you defend the PMRC? They are stuffy, high-collared Washington wives! Is it any coincidence that Tipper Gore and all of the PMRC are married to senators, the secretary of the Treasury, or members of Congress. I defy you to find one member of the PMRC who does not have direct ties to Washington.
Rick, you can't call Zappa's involvement lopsided, because he's the only member of the music community, along with Jello Biafra, who has chosen to fight labeling and possible censorship ever since their respective careers began.
Finally, there have been forums in which both sides publically aired their differences. Again, if you had your facts straight, you would know that the TV show. "Headlines on Trial ," had opponents of both sides of the album labeling problem and several weeks ago "The Rock and Roll News" had a forum with Jello Biafra (of the Dead Kennedys ) and proponents of record labeling — so you see, the media have aired opportunities for both sides of the issue. The only difference is that the Washington Wives share the same beds with influential members of government, and people like Frank Zappa don't.
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