Zappa's Political Connection

Opinions And Comment On The Social/Political Issues Of Our Day

By Edward Lagrossa

The Aquarian Weekly, October 25, 1995

Frank Zappa was not only an incredibly accomplished and innovative musician/composer, he was also one of the most politically active rock musicians ever. And on Sept. 19, 1985, smack dab in the middle of the Rightwing Reagan years, Zappa made a statement before Congress in an attempt to stop them from putting "profanity" warning stickers on records and CDs. The censorship sticker became standard by 1990, forcing many radio stations to not play "advisory" stickered records. To this day, some large retail outlets refuse to carry any product with "advisory" stickers because of morality clauses in their contracts with shopping malls. There are, of course, double platinum exceptions, such as Nine Inch Nails' Downward Spiral and Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

In 1985, the corporate music executives immediately bowed down to the Washington power wives and never backed up Frank's public fight with them. On his own initiative, Zappa unofficially represented thousands of music artists who resented the intrusion, into their constitutional right to free speech by these power brokers. These executives are cautious in signing untried bands that use profanity or sing of political issues like police oppression. Music executives will demand "clean" lyrics from their artist if they can get away with it, but many artists conform to it voluntarily, just to avoid the economic limitations in having a sticker.

This music censorship hysteria of 1985 was created by the wife of current Vice-President AI Gore, the Second Lady, Tipper Gore. (Why are the censors always from the South?)

She started the hated Parents Music Resource Center, PMRC, with her gaggle of bored Washington wives, which mandated a standard for musicians that harkened back to the days of Father Knows Best (the show that people like her love to compare themselves to when defining society's morality).

In 1985, Tipper was outraged that her 12-year-old daughter could buy a Prince album about a woman masturbating ("Darling Nikki"). Apparently Tipper doesn't think anyone should talk about masturbation publicly even though doctors have said that virtually every living adult has masturbated at least once in their lives. Today's PMRC president, Barbara Wyatt is attempting to establish a rating system, like the movies have, on music, but her secret goal is political with the 1996 election coming up. Expect the music business to cave in to her pressure.

Frank Zappa's opinions on political issues have become a huge part of a rocker philosophy that lives on today. These are his own words on some of the international issues, still relevant today:

National Defense

"The strongest defense any nation can have is a robust economy. A nation is really strong when everybody's got a piece of the action. Everybody. We have been criminalized by our own tax code – 90 percent of the population has to chisel and scam to survive... Nuclear explosions under the Nevada desert? What the fuck are we testing for? (There has been a three year moratorium on testing since he wrote this but Clinton wants to resume testing.) We already know the shit blows up. We're building machinery for a war that is as unlikely as it would be unwinnable, and, in the process, creating environmental side effects that defy contemplation.

Defense money should be put into manpower and equipment appropriate to the kinds of conflicts we are really going to encounter in the next quarter-century.

Central America

Washington, DC, a city infested with statues-and congressional Blow-Boys who wish they were statues.

Did these fine statesmen really think Nicaragua was a menace to our national security? Yeah? Then why the fuck did they hire an amateur army to look after our 'interests' down there? Wait a minute – What are our 'interests' down there? We have just spent eight years being governed by dorks [Reaganites] who acted like building a wall around Texas to ward off Sandinistas marching up through Mexico could be a super-bitchin' strategic idea.

Economic Strategy For Central America

Help their economies to grow – don't just move in and rape the labor force. Besides, these developing nations could become important new customers.

The Middle East

It is absurd that people are dying over such a miserable piece of real estate. Israel has a right to exist and the Palestinians are entitled to their own state.

The land issue would have been settled long ago if it weren't for the religious fanatics on both sides, the misguided efforts of the U.S. Israel lobby, the weakness and shortsightedness of several U.S. administrations, and our friends in the weapons business. Guys who live on yachts purchased with the proceeds of bullet sales tend to feel awkward and out-of-place in the unemployment line. This often leads them to ingenious forms of 'product promotion.' Is it not a slight embarrassment that many of these gentlemen are of the American persuasion?

Liberal Media Blast

'CNN – Your Network of Record' has devolved into 'CNN – Your Network of Bullshit, Superficial Speculation and Calculated Innuendo.' They have a knack for dispensing 'opinion-shaping' video-factoids disguised as 'hard news.' (For example, the words 'Star Wars' or 'Strategic Defense Initiative' are seldom uttered on CNN without the viewer being subjected to a rerun of an animated clip showing nuclear missiles from the evil Empire with big red stars on them being vaporized by what appears to be a Saturday morning cartoon ray gun. Clever subtext. 'Who could argue with the deployment of this wonderful family-saving defense system? Why, of course it works! See there! Just blew up another one!') ...

The concept of liberal news media ... has been exposed for the pitiful manipulation it always was ... The license holders for most broadcastoot1'ets ... are board of directors. [This] scam was a smoke screen, designed to conceal the squads of White House spin doctors, sprinkling antiseptic on each morsel of 'news' as it wafted past the rotor blades in The Gipper's back yard and in the name of balance and fairness, of course'.

"The political and intellectual side of Frank Zappa will also be sorely missed.


The Real Frank Zappa Book, Frank Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso, Poseidon Press, 1989, pgs. 318-23, 349-50.