[The Real Frank Zappa Book is much more than a simple autobiography.  One could hardly expect something conventional from FZ.  What’s great about this book is that its part autobiography, part music history lesson, part socio-political dissertation, part child rearing handbook, part angry rant, part philosophical treatise and very much a great man’s last will and testament.  I’m sure FZ considered his music to be his true expression, however, he was also American society’s gad-fly, from his first run-in with THE LAW until his last, he butted his head against the walls of convention, ignorance and fear to the bitter end.  He couldn’t be silenced when alive and cannot be silenced in death, he’s the embodiment of the renaissance man in the 21st century.

(NOTE:  The italics and bolding are from the book. The book and quotes below contain “curse words!” ) 

Happily I can say that I saw FZ perform sometime in the early 1980’s.  The exact year is fuzzy.  

jbm 3/20/2017]


The Real Frank Zappa Book  – Frank Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso

“I came to him one day with a copy of “Angel in My Life” – my favorite R&B tune at the time.  I couldn’t understand why I loved that record so much, but I figured that, since he was a music teacher, maybe he knew.  “Listen to this,” I said, “and tell me why I like it so much.”  “Parallel fourths,” he concluded.  He was the first person to tell me about twelve-tone music.  It’s not that he was a fan of it, but he did mention the fact that it existed, and I was grateful to him for that.  I never would have heard Webern if it hadn’t been for him.”

“Mr. Ballard threw me out of the marching band for smoking in uniform – and for that I will be eternally grateful.”

“Meanwhile, my marriage fell apart.  I filed for divorce, moved out of the house on G Street, and into ‘Studio Z,’ beginning a life of obsessive overdubbage – nonstop, twelve hours a day.”

“The Ontario Daily Report ran a feature story on me and my project in its Sunday centerfold – about how a weird guy in Cucamonga [California] was trying to make a science fiction movie called Captain Beefheart vs. the Grunt People.  It was probably that story which caused the San Bernardino County vice squad to take an interest in me.”

“By then my Dad had been able to hire a lawyer, who said my only hope was to plead nolo contendere (no contest – or “I’m so broke I can’t even buy justice in Cucamonga, so I’ll just give a thousand bucks to this lawyer here and keep my fucking mouth shut, hoping you don’t give me the death penalty.)”

“I was charged with “conspiracy to commit pornography.” The pornography charge was, under state law, a misdemeanor.  The conspiracy charge, on the other hand, was a felony – requiring impressive amounts of penal servitude.”

“The scene in Los Angeles was far more bizarre.  No matter how ‘peace-love’ the San Francisco bands might try to make themselves, they eventually had to come south to evil ol’ Hollywood to get a record deal.”

“The bassoon is one of my favorite instruments.  It has the medieval aroma – like the days when everything used to sound like that.  Some people crave baseball – I find this unfathomable – but I can easily understand why a person could get excited about playing a bassoon.  Its a great noise – nothing else makes that noise.”

“Other countries have cultures that go back thousands of years.  Ours goes back a couple hundred years and it’s not even that bitchen (since the bulk of what we pound our chests over was abducted from somewhere else), and we go around trying to inflict this ‘nonculture’ on people all over The International Elsewhere – people regarded by many Americans as ‘less than human’ (of course, this attitude is justified if we’re talking about the British – but seriously, folks ).”

“Believe it or not, there are places in the world where music is important.   There are places in the world where all of the arts are a matter of national pride.  We come in, making that fucking ‘dancer face’ and demand that everybody respect us – do we have any idea how ridiculous that looks?”

“I feel that if you live life in pursuit of ‘certification,’ ‘appreciation,’ or ‘compensation’ in any form from your parents, you’re making a  big mistake.  The sooner you can say, “Okay, they’re them and I’m me, and lets make the best of it,” the better off you’re going to be.”

“Committees make it possible for incompetent corpo-weasels to maintain their perks (and the fiction of fiscal prudence), while spending mega-budgets on ‘sure-thing’ movies, ‘sure-thing’ Broadway shows and ‘sure-thing’ recording artists.”

“The major labels are more interested in merchandising than music.  The idea is to get ONE blockbuster monster motherfucker hit album every year.”

“The manner in which Americans ‘consume’ music has a lot to do with leaving it on their coffee tables, or using it as wallpaper for their lifestyles, like the score of a movie – it’s consumed that way without any regard for how or why it’s made.”

“For each type of music, there are listeners who think that reviewers don’t know what they’re talking about.  These listeners, when excited about a certain group or style of music, will fight for it in their hometowns.  These are the people who have made it possible for me to stay in music through the years – and I thank them for it.”

“Through the magic of Altered Body Chemistry, America in the eighties has devolved into an enormous hatchery for consumers.  Corporate policy (itself influenced by drugs and alcohol) has decreed the breeding and maintenance of hundreds of  millions of helpless illiterates, destined to spend their lives buying useless shit.  When the shopping spree is over, the victims of this policy will gather in sad little groups and show their ‘treasures’to each other, discussing how they’re going to keep them since the government is always trying to tax them away.”

“Maybe there is a chemical in beer that stimulates the [male] brain to do violence while moving in the same direction as other guys who smell like them…Beer seems to produce behavioral results which are psycho-chemically different from those produced by other alcoholic beverages.”

“I suggest we learn how to take anything bad that happens to us and polarize it.  Instead of being overwhelmed by a negative event, dodge to the side like those t’ai chi guys and let it whizz by your pants.  Maybe it makes a little breeze – big deal. (Please, don’t mistake this for optimism).”

“People should be encouraged to look after their own self-interest, but avoid inflicting themselves on other people – especially don’t inflict yourself on a schmuck.  The guy has already made his choice.  Cut the schmuck some slack.”

“There’s no question in my mind – the beer, the balloons and the bunting all start with “B” for some Cosmic reason.  Bullshit also starts with a “B.” If you took Beer, Balloons and Bunting, then stirred in the Bullshit, you’d wind up with a scientific description of how the Republican Party works its Special Magic on the American electorate.  Oh – let’s add Bourbon, Blow Jobs and the Bohemian Grove.”

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe.  I dispute that.  I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe…We are not talking light-hearted foolishness here – when we go for stupid we go for BIG STUPID – like people who shoot at you on the freeway, or the Rambos and Rambo-ettes who blow people away in shopping malls and fast-food restaurants with automatic weapons.”

“Our school systems train kids to be ignorant, with style – functional ignoramuses.  They do not equip students to deal with things like logic; they don’t give them the criteria by which to judge between good and bad in any product or situation.  They are groomed and launched to function as mindless buying machines for the products and concept of a multinational military industrial complex that needs a World of Dumbells to survive.”

“Daylight is an ugly time of day.  So many people are awake, and if I go outside, I know what they’re all thinking.  They are mainly doing bad things.  White-collar criminals fucking up the world.  Phooey on them.   Nighttime is better.  It’s not just that it’s quieter, but I can feel the absence of daytime bullshit.  People have stopped scurrying.  (I don’t mind them scurrying when I’m asleep during the day – I’ll find out what they were up to when I wake up and watch the six o’clock news.)”

“I don’t have any time for ‘social activities.’  I do, however, have a wonderful wife and four totally unbelievable children, and that , folks, is way better.

“As far as raising children goes, the basic idea I try to keep in mind is that a child is a person.  Just because they happen to be a little shorter than you doesn’t mean they are dumber than you.  A lot of people make that mistake, and forget how much value  there is in raw intuition – and there’s plenty of that in every child…Whatever they’re going to do in life, they’re going to do regardless of home instruction.”

“Kids have a natural sense of mysticism, and a feeling of being connected to nature.  The natural world is very exciting when it’s all brand-new.  For example, kids have an appreciation for snow which is generally not shared by the guy who has to shovel a driveway.  The older you get the more you take nature for granted (unless you’re Euell Gibbons and you want to eat everything that’s lying on the ground until you die from it”

“It is also useful to show kids ‘what the guidelines are,’ and tell them that you expect them to adhere to those guidelines.  If they don’t adhere to the guidelines, then you think of different ways to reimpress the guidelines to them.”

“[raising children] We have made sure that they acquired all the basic skills – like being able to read and write, knowing how to do arithmetic and having some basic knowledge of science – and also some manners.  After that, they’re encouraged to make it up as they go along.”

“It is my personal feeling that lyrics cannot harm anyone.  There is no sound that you can make with your mouth, or word that will come out of your mouth, that is so powerful that it will make you go to hell.  It’s also not going to turn anyone into a ‘social liability’.” [testimony before the Maryland state legislature 2/14/1986.]

“If the artist can’t sing the song he wants to sing, release the record he wants to release, and earn the living he is entitled to earn from doing what he loves, he is cheated, and the audience is cheated – because they don’t get to hear the best work of the artist – only that which he is allowed to release.   Will the artists ever get back in control?  Tune in again tomorrow, folks.”


Copyright 1989 by Frank Zappa
Frank website: http://www.zappa.com
[recommend documentary:  “Eat That Question”]
Eat That Question trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB7XUpSUnoQ
A Day in the Life documentary (youtube):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aFRBbnF-ag
biography:  http://www.allmusic.com/artist/frank-zappa-mn0000138699/biography
photo: Michael Putland/Getty Images