Where Is Frank Zappa? Part II
Discoscene, June, 1968
The second in a series of articles dealing with Frank Zappa—head mother of the Mothers Of Invention. The series, generally, will present some of Zappa’s thoughts about various subjects, including kids, politics, music and today’s society. In so doing, the reader may get some insight as to where Frank Zappa is at—if that is at all possible.
Describing Zappa or The Mothers is, at best, difficult. But we’ll try anyway by quoting the liner notes (by Suzy Creamcheese) on the LP ‘Freak Out’—Verve 5005-2.
“These Mothers is crazy. You can tell by their clothes. One guy wears beads and they all smell bad. We were gonna get them for a dance after the basketball game but my best pal warned me you can never tell how many will show up ... sometimes the guy in the fur coat doesn’t show up and sometimes he does show up only he brings a big bunch of crazy people with him and they dance all over the place. None of the kids at my school like these Mothers. ‘specially since my teacher told us what the words to their songs meant.”
And to quote Zappa: “Today in the U.S., there’s a group of people I know they gotta be out there—who don’t care whether they’re hip, hep, swinging or zorch. These people have the ability to motivate social change. We’re here to assist and encourage them. I want to reach the vast minority.”
Us: In an article we read about The Mothers, you said one of your aims was to help the people who were trying to change society. How do you plan to do this?
Frank: The group and I plan to do it a number of different ways. If the youth of America get to say anything other than musically ...
Us: Don’t hate us if we say this, but you are a very articulate person.
Frank: I won’t hate you for that. I was asked to write a book for a publishing firm named Stein and Day; they’ve published Elia Kazan’s book and David Frost’s new book (entitled The English. Mr. Frost also initiated the controversial TV program a few years ago, called TW3 ... Ed.) Anyway, I was on the Alan Burke Show, and about a week after that the publisher called me up and asked me to write a book. I thought he wanted some rock and roll thing about The Mothers, but he asked me to write a political book. I was very flattered that somebody would ask me to do that, so I might just go ahead and do it. It would take a long time to finish it, though.
Us: Tell us about the kids.
Frank: Oh. If the kids today were to take over the country tomorrow, I would be terrified because they’re not ready to do it, they’re not prepared. I mean the great majority of them. It’s going to take a lot of young people to fulfill all the government posts that would need to be taken over by the young people. Most of the young people are: one, disinterested in politics. Two, they’re disinterested in their country, basically. Everybody likes to think they’re patriotic; they’ll wave a flag if somebody hands them a flag. But they really don’t give a damn. They just don’t. Because they’re too interested in what they’re going to wear the next day, whether their hair is getting long enough in the back so they can get a date this Saturday night. Or, if they’re in the short-haired set, where they’re going to get their next pair of Madras pants, or their car, or something. But their’re not interested in an overall community level. There’s very little sense of responsibility. And before any youth take-over occurs, some sense of responsibility has to happen, at least among enough of them that they could really bear the pressure of taking over. Conversely, I’ve run into a lot of kids about 15 years old who are so ready. They could go in right now and take over the job of any city councilman, or something like that. I don’t think they’re ready for the Senate at fifteen, but I have seen a lot of kids who are young, amazingly bright, well-adjusted, perceptive and interested. Yet they have no rights in the United States, because they haven’t attained the legal age. And, in a few years, they might as well lower it to 12, because the kids are getting that smart that fast. And it’s cruel to them, if they are that sensitive to their environment, and they really know and they really feel, to have them tied down by all these dumb rules which are based on some sort of Medieval concept.
Maybe that concept would apply in the South, where the kids are still in a very unfortunate state. You find them very well-mannered, but that well-mannered attitude is a product of being like slaves to their parents. We played in Louisville, Kentucky recently, and people were coming up to me and saying “Yes, sir,” and all the rest of this stuff. Good Lord, man! If you’re going to do it; if you’re going to do it to me, it’s tragic. Maybe the legal age is proper down there. But in a place like California, where sociologically it’s so far advanced from the rest of the United States, it’s stupid to have the drinking age 21, and the legal age for this and that at 18. It doesn’t mean anything because they don’t have any rights. They ought to lower that voting age, and get those kids out there in a way that they’re going to be responsible for their actions. But now, if they do something wrong they can be punished. If they do something right, it doesn’t even make a difference.
Us: Everybody seems to understand that if you just plod along, you’ll be all right.
Frank: That’s what you could call the American way. The government has been set up in such a way that it perpetuates the idea of a nation of “safe plodders.” The attitude is “We’ll get it done. We won’t do anything too weird; we’ll just get it done.” They’re not ready for radical changes, they’re not ready for old ideas. They’re not ready for anything except security, safety ... a beer when they get home and a TV set to blot out whatever happened at the office, or whatever else they’re using to anesthetize their minds. And the equivalent of that for the so called “now” generation would be all the drugs they use to blot out whatever happened to them at school, and all the rest of the things. Now all the kids who think they are hippies and think they’re really making it on a cosmic level, are doing nothing more than imitating the action of their parents on a teenage level. They’re not all using drugs for discovery. It’s better if you say, “I made some great personal discovery,” after wasting your mind on some sort of chemical preparation, than saying honestly, “I was out of my .......... gourd.” And a lot of them just say “I was out of my gourd.” Well, that makes it no better than drinking beer. Nowadays, there’s no status to being an alcoholic if you’re a teenager, but if you’ve had a cosmic experience, it gives a little more lustre and sort of rationalizes your costume.
And now they have a commission to help kids. I think it’s pathetic that they have a commission to help kids. I think it’s pathetic that they have to have commissions like that. The commission should not exist in the first place. America’s corrective surgery for all these things is always so pathetic; the way they try to combat the “ills of society” the way they see them. First of all, a lot of things they’re trying to correct don’t even need to be corrected. They’re worrying about pornography, drinking, having intercourse and gambling. There is no way to pass a law and enforce it and make people live that way. A funny thing about adults. They copy the life styles of the youth population. A mother might want to look younger, and thinks in the back of her mind, “How would I look in a mini skirt if my varicose veins didn’t show.” But if she catches her daughter wearing one, she’d be as mad as hell. Or somebody else would think: “That shameless hussy. I wonder how I would look in one of those things.” That’s the way they are. They’re hypocrites.
Us: What do you think about the Riot Commission’s report.
Frank: I didn’t read it. I know it’s out in paperback now. The accusation that the nation is a nation of racists, I’d say, is pretty close to the truth.
Us: Back to the other question, how are you going to help the kids change things?
Frank: Well, it’s very simple. There are several stages by which these events can be brought about. The way the Mothers are ... it’s not just that they look different than Bobby Darin, or look different from those other people. They are different, because they’re really honest people and they set an example every place they go. A lot of the kids who have talked to them are amazed. A lot of the Mothers are old enough to be the father of some of the kids who come to talk to them. They set an example. Every time we tour we get a chance to talk to a lot of kids.
Us: Do you think it would be good if the legal voting age were lowered to 10 or 12?
Frank: I don’t think it should be lowered to 10 or 12, but it’s got to be down to at least 18. I think the voting will take care of itself this way: let’s say the voting age is lowered to whatever age you can imagine, or even where it is now. Only the people who are interested in voting are going to vote. If a person’s really a shmuck, no matter what his age is, he’s not going to vote. If the voting age is lowered, there are still those kids who are disinterested and just don’t have time to vote. In national elections, the way they’re run by so-called “adults,” the candidate is not sold on his merits as a candidate, but sold on some sort of personality package, etc. Who’s to say that the kids would be more susceptible to this kind of hooking than their parents? I think they would be less susceptible because kids haven’t grown up, and they haven’t gotten to the point where they’ve learned to be dishonest. A lot of them are still honest. It would be a lot harder to get somebody elected if he’s just sold on the corny level that they’re doing it now.
Us: It’s really horrifying, this amount of dishonesty we’re willing to accept.
Frank: That’s all a part of the plodding along. If you want to take time to question somebody’s honesty, or evaluate this and evaluate that, you’ll be accused of rocking the boat and being a nonconformist. Now, you don’t want to run that risk, do you?
Read by OCR software. If you spot errors, let me know afka (at) afka.net