Heroes And Villains

By Juan Rodriguez

Pop-See-Cul, Autumn 1967

On our cover: Frank Zappa leader of the Mothers of Invention. The L.A. group’s latest album, “Absolutely Free” is now available: the long delay in its release was due to MGM’s refusal to publish the lyrics to the lp’s songs as was originally planed. Zappa, who composes classical music as well as rock satire, behind all the hair and cutting, often vulgar lyrics, might be termed one of the nicest guys in the bizz. Well, forget that “nice guy” crap; I’m sure Zappa doesn’t appreciate it as it does little to enhance his “repulsive” public image.

When I talked to Zappa, he was in a bad mood, constantly castigating everything in American society. Zappa is an almost frighteningly earnest person; his concern over what’s happening all over the place result in a harsh bitterness easily misunderstood for irresponsibility. He talked about Vietnam, the Los Angeles police force (“storm troopers”), smog, daddies screwing their daughters, and the concept of being underground, all in hopeless terms. While many claim that the Village Voice has gone “establishment” and turn to the East Village Other for relief, Zappa brought up the point that the Voice is still a better paper if only for the reason that it is a successful dissenting voice in the establishment mass media. The Voice may not be quite as ‘in’ with some as it used to be, but Zappa contends that to be in is nothing but a lie anyway.

According to Zappa, there is already to much lying going on. “Make a list,” he said. “One: people lie to themselves about who they really are. Two: employers lie to their employees. Three: parents lie to their children…” etc. In order to change this condition, efforts should be directed within society, within the mass media. “You’ve got to play by their rules if you hope to have a chance.”

Thus Zappa & Co. have recorded two albums on Verve that have sold amazingly well and (not by mere coincidence) they contain the strongest and most pertinent satire in America. In fact, “Absolutely Free” contains more “Love” than all the psychedelic flower power records put together because it is an awfully honest album. Instead of go through all this, why not just go live in a cave and compose nice music? “Sure, that’s a nice thing to do, but before you can do it you’ve got to make sure that no one is going to bomb you, and that everyone else has the same opportunity to do it, too.”