Zappa urges speech audience to fight censorship and conformity by thinking

By Tom Sinclair

The Diamondback, November 12, 1986

Warns against the danger of becoming 'a corporate dork

      Rock star Frank Zappa, a stalwart opponent of censorship of musical lyrics, urged a capacity crowd of about 1,000 people in the Student Union's Grand Ballroom last night to resist conformity and fight censorship.

      The best way to solve problems is by thinking – not by developing a flat stomach but a level head," he said. "It behooves everyone to learn to think."

       Zappa said students should take advantage of the relatively unstructured college environment. "Now is the time to think, when you still have a little bit of slack time," he said, warning against the mentality that has "everybody wanting to be a corporate dork."

      Although Zappa's presentation was billed as a discussion of music censorship, the 45-year-old Baltimore native spoke on other topics, including drugs, politics and religion. He was paid $12,500, according to a member of Student Entertainment Enterprises, which sponsored the event.

      Dressed in a gray suit and speaking without notes, Zappa was greeted with a rousing ovation by an enthusiastic audience that had been frisked for recording devices upon entering the room.

      Speaking on drugs, Zappa said legislation cannot solve the problem of abuse. He said "people are willing to alter their bodies chemically for three reasons": to experiment with the mind, to relax and to go "blotto".

      "You have to go discover the reasons why people want to go blotto," he concluded.

      Zappa, who noted many people use drugs as a result of peer pressure, also said of recreational drug use: "Once you start, you don't know if beginning usage will end up in addiction."

      Jumping from topic to topic, Zappa said there are "too many lawyers in the United States." He cited a California case in which a lawyer agreed to defend the wife of a mass murderer. The woman, Zappa said, sued McDonald's, claiming her husband's actions were the result of his having eaten hamburgers containing the food preservative monosodium glutamate.

       "[Lawyers] invent problems to keep themselves busy," he said. During a question-and-answer session after his 30-minute talk, Zappa, who appeared last year before a U.S. Senate subcommittee examining the effect of rock lyrics, said there was no evidence that listening to lyrics leads to deviant behavior.

      "You can't equate hearing lyrics on records with being a social liability," he said, adding that he did not consider his lyrics obscene. "I do not write obscene material. If I write any songs with mystery four-letter words, I do not consider them obscene. I consider them direct and journalistic.

      "Most songs on the radio are love songs," he said. "If words can affect you, why don't more people love each other?'

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