Riffing from King Kong to Lenny Bruce

By ?

Pop/Rock Music, December 1968

Francis Vincent Zappa finds American rock audience apathetic. He describes them as insensitive to the point that anything from the quagmire to the most saccharine music of the last pop decade will suit them just fine. The only way to get to them, and this he must feel is worthwhile in the end, is to shock them. And the only way to shock an American audience, says Frank Zappa, master mind of the Mothers of Invention, is to insult them.

Zappa is from Baltimore. He likes shrimp creole and sometimes peanut butter. Literally a wild and woolly man with a creative genius matched by few, Zappa's uniqueness lies in his versatility in all areas of music – classical, pop, rock, pop-rock, raga-rock, folk, rock and roll ... His kind of music is Varèse, Kagel, Stravinsky, Boulez and Stockhausen, or any cogent contemporary serious music of experimental tendencies. His characteristic long hair, that he describes as actually brainends, is yet another part of his musical genius, for he feels that the longer the hair the greater the perception.

An extremely fine guitarist, Zappa writes and arranges most of the Mother's numbers and laughingly tells everyone that despite their unwholesome appearance, The Mothers of Invention make more money than most people would like to think. It is also a curious fact to the Boss Mother that his group, virtually unaired in radio, sells so well by word of mouth. A tribute perhaps, says Zappa, that what the music industry thinks the public wants and what the public actually does want do not realistically walk hand in hand.

Zappa says that people play it cool, where music is concerned, because they are used to those groups who perform to their lowest common taste. Zappa's shock treatment lies in treating these supposedly safe songs with an insulting, embarrassing act that let the subtle insults pour on and on. The audience can do nothing but react.

Zappa's project is a defecating on the audience. He has great faith, he says, in where it will lead.