Shrewd, But With A Lot Of Heart

By Richard Green & Allan McDougall

New Musical Express, 4 July 1970

THE next teenage idol is going to be Edo DeWaart. Who? Edo Dewaart, according to Frank Zappa.

I met up with Frank somewhere in Sussex-by-the-Sea last week, the first time I'd seen him since I quit working for him at Straight Records in Los Angeles, seven months ago. He's changed a little since then, perhaps a nicer person now than I remembered – much more relaxed, and much less obsessed with pushing his "Underground King" image.

For no apparent reason, the subject got around to teenage idols, or rather their absence from today's scene. Zappa said:

" You'd better watch out for this guy I just met in Holland, Edo DeWaart. He has a fantastic image sort of a cross between Paul McCartney and Dr Kildare. He's a 28-year-old orchestra conductor, but he'll make it big pretty soon."

Zappa, who had been wearing his long, straggly hair "down" for photos, put it "up" in a pony-tail as he warmed to the subject.

"We sure could use some real teenage idols. They're healthy to have around. They are like the Pope, or the local parish priest, and function more or less in the same way on their own level."

How was your debut of 200 Motels? I enquired. Referring to the recent Los Angeles performance of Frank's "symphonic operatic ballet," with The Mothers and the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Zubin Mehta.

"Oh, that went along just fine, but Zubin is really the publicity-seeking, would-be playboy image. Want to be a big star with all the kids. But he doesn't stand a chance against Edo!"

I told him that Deep Purple have invited me out to California at the end of August, when they perform their own "Concerto" at the Hollywood Bowl – also with the LA Philharmonic.

"Is Zubin going to do that gig with Deep Purple?" he asked, slightly perplexed at the thought.

"No, it's going to be directed by Laurence Foster," I felt pleased to tell him.

"Yeah, well that should be better for the group. Foster seems to be cool. I must confess I only heard a little snatch of "Concerto." Would you ask Deep Purple to send an album to me?"

I said sure, and we tentatively arranged to meet again in August and perhaps go to the show together. Then we got on to the always interesting topic of a certain Donald Van Vliet – or, the weirdest man on earth – Captain Beefheart. When I was last in the USA, Zappa was Beefheart's best pal.

"I'm now Beefheart's biggest enemy, it seems. He just don't talk to me any more."

How come?

"Well, it kind of started when he got married six months ago. Not to that chick you met, the one he's been going with for ten years, but to some spaced-out woman from The Valley .... who looks exactly the same as the original one by now, thanks to Don.

"Anyway, before this happened, Beefheart asked me to assemble a bluesy, commercial album because he wanted to earn some money.

"So, I got a whole set together for him, and the next thing I know is he hates me for selling-out to commerciality, or something."

Now that's a drag, I said, because – weird though he may be – Beefheart is a unique talent in the same way that freaky jazzman Ornette Coleman (who is one of The Captain's heroes) was.

"I can dig that," Zappa said, with a hint of sadness.

"I think Don is fantastic, but very un-marketable. I hope he gets it together."

That last statement from Frank brought it all home to me what Zappa is all about. Zappa is still very aware, as a businessman, of commercial value – not the least of which is his own Underground image – but he is possibly the only person in the record business who will give someone "a shot" at recording, which they wouldn't get elsewhere.

Zappa is still a shrewd businessman. But he's got a lot of heart.

On the same page is another article by the same authores, "Canned Heat – 'Dictatorial' democracy?'":

A DAY in the country with Canned Heat, Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention and Dr. John the Night Tripper seemed like a good idea. All those musicians. a coach ride, sea air and sundry side benefits.

However, the coaches taking us from London were so delayed, for no apparent reason, that we arrived at the monastery, converted into a hotel on Clymping, Sussex, with half the musicians missing and some sitting around enjoying themselves and some eating our lunches.

When we finally all met up and sat down to lunch the people at my table were amused by my speaking to the waiters in Italian as they were under the impression that East Enders only spoke Cockney.

Aynsley Dunbar couldn't believe any of it and kept laughing and muttering "oh, no.''

Aynsley is justifiably proud about being asked to join the Mothers of Invention. Frank told me in London last year: "Aynsley Dunbar is a fantastic drummer, I saw him at a festival in Belgium. I'd like to get him to join my group if we form a new one."

Well, Frank has formed a new one and Aynsley is in. What's Aynsley's reaction to all this?

"It's much freer, but it's much more open,'' he replied. "There's no contract, so we can do a lot more things. It's not difficult working with an American band ... Zappa hasn't had an English drummer before. There's not a lot of difference between English und American drummers anyway.

"I haven't got any hang-ups with a band. I'm still free to keep the band going here, so I can do that but without the hassles that we used to have."