At last the truth can be told: Frank Zappa has no underwear

By Cherry Ripe

New Musical Express, April 17, 1976

“Wanna see the best thing I got?” Yes my friends, it’s Francis Vincent Zappa talking about his clothes.

“Now this item was given its stage debut in Hawaii – I haven’t seen any reviews yet, but I’m sure the only thing they’re gonna write is what this sucker looks like under the lights.”

It’s a skin tight tube that branches into two, which would rate as a skin-tight jumpsuit.

And you don’t wear underwear, huh?

“I don’t own any underwear.”

“Then,” he continues “for casual wear, I have these brown harem pants...” into which he casually slips for what has now turned into an impromptu private fashion parade (eat your heart out Lisa Robinson!)... “They tie at the ankles. And I have some type of impressive S & M large belt – with a large buckle, no studs. It’s understated, all sort of brown. (Aside) That may not go over in England.”

But I thought you were never going there again? “Eventually all these things go into a clip book. Then at a press conference in Bilbao somebody’s gonna pick up on something that was transmitted from Fiji… and I’ll have somebody ask me what I’ve got against black leather. The problem is they go to a clipbook and get things that were written by people like them, who went to a clipbook. There’s a bunch of these things – that I stomp on baby chickens, have a fetish about poodles.

True enough, the Police Chief in New Zealand (where he’d just come from), did go along to the show to make sure about the chickens.

“If they think I have a fetish about dogs, they are sadly mistaken. It’s not profound – it’s entertainment. Poodles serve as a convenient mechanism for conveying certain philosophical ideas that might otherwise be more difficult.

“It’s like that old saying. ‘Shoot low! They’re riding shetlands!’” I never heard that before. “See how old it is?”

Francis Vincent Zappa has just finished up a tour of the antipodes, with yet another incarnation of the Mothers without Beefheart. The line up is Roy Estrada, Napoleon Murphy Brock, keyboardist Andre Lewis, and drummer Terry Bozzio. “I’m only fourteen I’m sickly and thin, trying to grow me a chin… it popped out once, my dad pushed it in. Why did he hurt me? He’s my next of kin, a Mexican!”

“The song was constructed using every kind of cliche that folk-rock brought to the world – all those stupid bass lines. And it’s sung by the drummer who has a squeaky little teenage voice. He sings on about four other songs: everybody sings.”

Yes, it certainly has a different feel from the last Mothers line up he toured with in ’73. “I think the overall impact of that group would be that it was between pseudo-jazzette and cranial. And the people who were in the band at the time – with a couple of exceptions – were genuinely boring people. I mean – I don’t appreciate a band that likes to play chess in their off-stage hours. If you have to spend a lot of time with people who are interested in their chess boards and little card games and shite like that, it can drive you nuts. Eventually, in order to homogenise with the rest of the group, you gotta lay back so far that you’re walking like this..” Doing a limbo?

“Yeah. It’s the Chubby Checker Look – under the limbo bar!”

 There are three things that are important to me right now. The forty-piece-orchestra album. The guitar album. And the ten record set. The problem with that – we got the five thousand orders – is that if you deliver a double album, that still counts as one album. But if its a ten record album? I don’t feel that its right to count that as one album. Warner Brothers aren’t even sure they want to count it as a single album against my contract etcetera… that it’s maybe not commercial.”

Any chance you’d work with Flo and Eddie again?

“No!” Categorically? “Yes.”

“The means by which they chose to promote their careers at my expense, while I was sitting in a wheel chair trying to help them get a job and a record contract. I believe to be despicable, and will always think so, even though I regard Howard as a fine singer, and Mark as a great tambourine player and fat person.

“It’s like a tried and true formula for someone who’s not in the band anymore to go to a newspaper, or go on a radio station, and say how bad a person I am, because there’s someone always waiting to hear that, print it, pat the poor little bastard on the head.

“I was hearing things like I supposed to be stifling people’s careers. Flo and Eddie did that and still continues to do it. Beefheart was doing that when he was on his rampage. Alice Cooper did it to a certain extent. Wild Man Fischer did it, a girl named Sandy Hurvitz did it in New Musical Express…” Oh no..

“I have an expression I use... It’s not as good as ‘Shoot Low – they’re riding shetlands,’ but I try and remember this all the time – you can use it yourself – like a mantra:

“People suck.”