Rock And Other Four Letter Words
J. Marks & Linda Eastman

Bantam Books, New York
256 pp, paperback, 18 x 11 cm

Frank Zappa (pp. 132-135):

If you want to come up with a singular, most important trend in this new music, I think it has to be something like: it is original, composed by the people who perform it, created by them even if they have to fight the record companies to do it so that it is really a creative action and not a commercial pile of shit thrown together by business people who think they know what John Doe and Mr. Jones really want. We did 'Freak Out' a long time ago if you measure time the way the clock of music is running today. Our new things are not released yet; it takes a long time. Some people are just starting to find one of our records which is far behind what we're currently doing.

I think that as far as music in America today is concerned, rock is probably the most vital, most alive sort of music, but it doesn't know what the hell it's doing most of the time ... I'm not on intimate terms with most other groups, but the ones I do talk to don't seem to really know what music is. They don't have an aesthetic understanding about what or why they compose. They simply don't get into it on that level. They're concerned with this attitude of 'Doing their thing' whatever the fuck that is supposed to mean! Probably what they finally do is much better than what they are, if you know what I mean. Because they don't have the equipment or the background to really develop themselves on an aesthetic level. For me it's different. I care a great deal about music; all kinds of music. And I have helped, I really think that I've helped to turn some kids on to some of the important music they may be missing. You see, when I was a kid I used to save up for a month, so I could get an R & B album and, the same day, the completed works of Anton Webern. Maybe that means something. Maybe that tells you something about my music. So if they think it's all weirdness, well, okay, as long as they listen to it. At least they know I'm alive.

You also have to take some notice of the way rock has changed the public's ear. You know, it was pretty rough to expect most people to listen to a recorder or a Bach trumpet and that sort of instrument. For some reason it takes exposure for us to get into the sound of various instruments, let alone electronic music. We have made a lot of progress. Let's face it, kids are listening to the classical string quartet without suffering. That's pretty heavy stuff. It's like in the olden days they used to think atonally; that any chord and any key was okay ... at one time that was very advanced theory. Then they said that it was no longer necessary to even think about key at all. We'll just treat all 12 tones equally. But they didn't really do much to the space between the notes: they kept a pretty austere view of rhythm. Some of the things I write have all kinds of chords within keys that nobody expected to find there, and there are other things, some of the things we use don't even make use of what you would call noise. For me the art of composition is the art of assembling anything. The packaging is to a certain extent an extension of the work itself. If a person who gets one of our products in their home has enough perspective to sit back and view the whole package well, I think he would find some pretty revolutionary ideas.

There always was a lyrical Frank Zappa except for one thing. It's quite possible to take any tune and play it and make it sound horrid. Arranging is a science and the clothes in which you dress up any tune makes a lot of difference in the way people hear it. For instance, you can take something that's really a bullshit tune and play it on a pretty instrument or have the strings play it and it becomes nice or you can play something that's really an interesting melody and really has something happening chord-wise and play it on a fuzz-tone guitar and you're going to get a completely different effect from it. So, a lot of the things I've written have never been played prettily and mostly that was done on purpose. Also, you have to understand that most people like to perceive satire in what I do. I mean that they really aren't into the music; they are too hooked on the pure theatre side of the music. They're listening to a comedy routine and they want to listen to it that way because unfortunately, a lot of people aren't really equipped to evaluate any other kind of artistic structure. You know as well as I do that for an audience there's nothing easier than comedy.


Review in Aloha, July 1969