Rhinofy-Frank Zappa Primer


Because most people would not believe it was him, didn’t know it was him and were surprised it was him when they heard it coming out of the speaker.

An instrumental, you cannot help but conduct the theoretical orchestra with your hands.

For the newbie, for the non-fan…you’ll be immediately enraptured, especially as the track unfolds.

This was not the most famous track on “Hot Rats” when it appeared, but it has become so.


The English cats were not the only ones who could write an indelible riff. “Willie The Pimp” was the most famous and played track off “Hot Rats” when the album was released back in 1969, featuring the vocal of Captain Beefheart when he was still perceived as a curio, during the “Trout Mask Replica” days…this is heavy, hypnotic music.


From the initial double album, “Freak Out,” this is Zappa’s take on the Watts riots.

Well I’m about to get sick
From watchin’ my TV
Been checkin’ out the news
Until my eyeballs fail to see
I mean to say that every day
Is just another rotten mess
And when it’s gonna change, my friend
Is anybody’s guess

Can you imagine Pink singing this?

Welcome to the sixties, where musicians commented about the world around them, the injustice, the irrationality.

This track had limited impact upon release, the album was a stiff, but it lived on, as all great things do, its image was embellished with each passing year.


The opening cut on “Freak Out.”

Mister America
Walk on by
Your schools that do not teach
Mister America
Walk on by
The minds that won’t be reached
Mister America
Try to hide
The emptiness that’s you inside
When once you find that the way you lied
And all the corny tricks you tried
Will not forestall the rising tide of
Hungry freaks daddy

We were the hungry freaks. Not all of us, not right away. But the hip listened to albums like this, the rest of us ultimately got clued in by the radio, and suddenly America was populated by a younger generation thinking for itself. Not worried about getting rich, not going to the gym to look good on Instagram, but focused on what was inside.


“Absolutely Free,” the second album, was when the Mothers started to get traction. Because it was so weird, but at the same time was not seen as outside, but a leader. Its titles entered the collective consciousness before the music did, if it did at all.

Suddenly, people would start saying brown shoes don’t make it, everybody knew the name “Suzy Creamcheese,” even if they had no idea where it came from, and of course there was the album’s opening cut “Plastic People.” But it was “Call Any Vegetable” that was most easily accessible and gained the most notoriety.


Pure genius.

I didn’t hear it until I was in college, but it perfectly encapsulated my feelings about high school.

You see today everybody is indoctrinated, everybody drinks the kool-aid, no one wants to be a loner, we live in an era of groupthink, and nowhere is it worse than in high school.

But here we’ve got Frank and his band making fun of it all, even using the sing-songy melodies of high school numbers!

The other night we painted posters
They played some records by the Coasters
Bow wow wow wow
A bunch of pom-pom girls looked down their nose at me
They had painted tons of posters, I had painted three
I hear the secret whispers everywhere I go
My school spirit is at an all time low


And here’s where we come to the apotheosis, the breakthrough, the “Sgt. Pepper” parody, “We’re Only In It For The Money.”

You couldn’t say that back then. Money came last, you couldn’t admit that was your motive. There’s a reason Gene Simmons had no success in the sixties.

“Flower Punk,” a parody of “Hey Joe,” is my favorite cut on the album, especially because of the ending, wherein there’s a different soliloquy in each channel. Talk about cognitive dissonance! I was in a friend’s basement and he made me listen, that’s how into our music we were back then. And then you turned the dial to hear what was in one speaker, and then the other. Utterly fascinating.


And after his greatest success did Frank Zappa deliver what the label desired, did he build upon what came before? No, he issued an album credited to Ruben & the Jets that was a take off on doo wop. Huh?

This track won’t make much sense until you listen to the ORIGINAL! From the initial double album, “Freak Out.” It’s a totally different number in its first incarnation, it’s got the feel of sixties flower power. Frank wasn’t just recutting his songs acoustic for MTV, but totally reworking them!

And after you listen to both versions…the lyrics truly start to resonate.

I dig you so much man, why didn’t you call me
If you could have seen me in the afternoon
I was hung up, I even washed the car
I, I reprimered the right front fender, man
We were gonna go, we were gonna go out
And get some root beer afterwards, man
And I was gonna show everybody my new carburetor
And you didn’t try to call me

Reprimering the front fender, cracks me up every time!

Unlike today, you weren’t at home upgrading your RAM, but working on your car. But one thing remains the same, the waiting…it’s truly the hardest part, when they don’t call or text or…


Featuring Don “Sugarcane” Harris, this proves, once again, that despite making innovative comedy and social commentary records, Zappa could play by everybody else’s rules and win.


From “Weasels Ripped My Flesh,” like “Directly From My Heart To You,” it featured blistering guitarwork and the title entered the public consciousness like the titles from “Absolutely Free,” even if people had never heard the actual track.


“Chunga’s Revenge” never gets any love, despite being solid throughout.

It’s the first album featuring Flo & Eddie of the Turtles, Frank renamed them…their full names were the Phlorescent Leech and Eddie.

You’ll be nodding your head to this. Then again, maybe not, especially if you haven’t been hooked by the above.


Yes, from the Edgewater Inn, where the rock stars fished out the window and…

This was our first exposure to the story.

And truly, the whole album is the story. “Fillmore East” has to be listened to from beginning to the end, like a Firesign Theatre record, to hear the story.

There are so many classic lines that I quote on a regular basis… Most regularly the line wherein the rock star asks the groupie to come on their bus and the girl asks where they’re playing tomorrow night and the musician says…TIERRA DEL FUEGO!

Frank Zappa has done more for the godforsaken archipelago than anyone else, he made tons of people aware of it, like ME!

Furthermore, Bwana Dik is a legend, enormous thou art!

If you’ve got an hour…your mind will be twisted and edified more than it will be in days of endless surfing and Facebooking.


From the subsequent live album, “Just Another Band From L.A.”

You got it even if you didn’t live in L.A. and were unaware of Zachary All.

Check it out.


What the Barenaked Ladies would sound like if they were truly dangerous.


From the true breakthrough, 1974’s “Over-Nite Sensation.”

Yes, it took a decade and a plethora of albums and then a ditty about raising dental floss in Montana that got most paying attention.


Once upon a time, SNL was a ritual, we gathered in front of the set at 11:30 to see our leaders, they weren’t just commenting on the goings-on, they WERE the goings-on!

And finally, the show featured Zappa, and during this number…the slime truly oozed from the TV monitors, check it out:

I’m The Slime


And now EVERYBODY knows Frank.

It was dumb, it was base, but our hero finally became a national star, and for that we were appreciative.


It made Moon Zappa famous. It was a hit when Top Forty ruled, and it defined an entire culture, even more than the movie of the same title. If you drive by the Sherman Oaks Galleria and this song doesn’t go through your brain, you weren’t conscious back in ’82.

The above is just a taste, an entry point, I’ve left tons of quality material out, as well as many fans’ favorites.

Zappa soldiered on, whether the records sold or not. He created a huge body of work and died before his time and unfortunately has been fading in significance as only the hits from the eras he played in sustain. But, if you were ever bitten by the bug, you’ll never forget him.

Rhinofy-Frank Zappa Primer

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