“I Still Love You, Frank,” by Abiezer Coppe

Like many artists, Frank Zappa had a juvenile attitude and never really grew up. His anarcho-capitalist politics were puerile. He treated his wife Gail badly. He consumed groupies. His sexual politics sucked. He hated Communism and hippies. He hated a lot of things. He chainsmoked himself, defiantly, to an early grave. He called tobacco his favourite vegetable.
Parts of his early albums like Absolutely Free are almost unlistenable. I still prefer The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s to Frank Zappa’s scathing and justifiable skit on it, We’re Only In It For The Money. His guitar solos can be sterile displays of pyrotechnic virtuosity. Yet there are also passages of astonishing beauty.
So why do I still love you, Frank? Part of it has to do with being banged up in a girl free boys’ boarding school, aged 16 and horny, with no fag inclinations, and listening to Brown Shoes Don’t Make It for the first time. Off the planet weird genius sings about unmentionable sexual acts with 13 year old girls. Excellent. We had to hear more.
We devoured the early Mothers albums. He was the politically incorrect antidote to stuffy English conformism. We the interned and hungry for anything that smacked of life thought it was cool.
He is the greatest satirist in rock music. He can be laugh-out-loud funny. Just listen to Jewish Princess or Bobby Brown Goes Down if you have any doubt. He is the antithesis of Political Correctness, much needed in these PC times.
He produced outstanding concept albums like Joe’s Garage. He is completely unsparing of evangelical religiosity, attacking its exponents with cruelly aimed barbs, often to hilarious effect. He created the greatest satire of mindless American conformism and submission to consumer culture ever written, I’m the Slime, yet he was also an extreme conservative and hated drugs. His targets were pretense, falsity, West Coast hippies and gay men, pseuds, religious evangelists and just about anyone he had in his crosshairs…
He is a great singer with a rich mocking baritone and a highly irritating falsetto. He is one of the world’s greatest rock guitarists, up there with Jimmy Page, Hendrix and the rest. He was disciplined, had a phenomenal work rate and was a perfectionist. He gave his musicians hell. Listen to the production values of the Hot Rats album, or any of the live albums. Who else had such astonishing productivity and variety in 26 years of artistic endeavor?
Finally he had a musical range unmatched by any other rock composer. He tried his hand at most genres within popular music, even country. He crossed over into jazz rock. Along with Chicago he created jazz rock. How many rock composers can you mention in the same breath as Karl Stockhausen and Edgar Varese? I still look forward to my first encounter with his last classical piece, Yellow Shark (1993).
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8 thoughts on ““I Still Love You, Frank,” by Abiezer Coppe”

  1. The King Kong Suite from Uncle Meat. Montana – surely his greatest moment. Hot Rats. Apostrophe and Overnite Sensation. His spoof on Bob Dylan on Sheikh Yerbouti. Apart from that there’s a whole ocean of his stuff I hardly know. I got about 40 of his albums over the last 20 years and I’ve barely reached the foothills. NOT a great guitarist though – I don’t think he can even solo over chord changes. All his solos are over one chord repeated funk riffs – decent but basic beginners rock guitar. The trick is getting the band to back you.
    Still, I could quibble but he was a one-off and ‘his like will never be there again’.

    ” “She had a snake for a pet And an amulet
    And she was breeding a dwarf But she wasn’t done yet
    She had gray-green skin A doll with a pin
    I told her she was awright But I couldn’t come in (actually, I was very busy then).”?

  2. Indefatigable Lafayette…Ok, to be honest Lafayette I don’t know much about Zappa as a guitarist, and guitar solos bore me. I’ve always liked moving to Montana. On the guitar Zappa sounds pretty fluent, and fluid here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKCXS9WKzuo&feature=related. But I’m no musician. Zappa’s marvellously offensive lyrics please me most (so I guess I never grew up either), plus the endless musical invention on his best albums.
    This is Budapest 1991. You owned 40 vinyl albums!
    Then you’re a bigger Zappa fan than me…I’ve never owned a single Zappa album. I have a couple now off thepiratebay: Absolutely Free and Sheik Yerbouti. But I’ve dipped into his work many times over the years. This ain’t rock music, but I like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gr3y2MUdq7U&feature=PlayList&p=C67A68C5766C99A7&index=2&playnext=2. Vaguely reminds me of Copland… and this
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnZKSdGzxoE&feature=related – an extract from his Yellow Shark Overture.

  3. I posted a reply to this but it must be in the spam folder, probably because I linked to an MP3 download site.
    Anyway, the Bob Dylan parody on Sheikh Yerbouti is a section of the track ‘Flakes’ – it’s about cowboy builders. The ‘harp solo’ is particularly hilarious.

  4. Yup…found it! It’s a killer…he’s the best parodist in the business, too…I forgot to put that in the article.
    His version of Stairway to Heaven is also a parody isn’t it?

  5. A few words from a Pagrovian:

    God, you bring back some hilarious memories of Zappa. Now there was a multi-dimensional creative dude who laughed at himself. Did you ever see the large poster that was going around in the late-1960s with Zappa sitting on the toilet, pants around his ankles, and with the caption “Phi Zappa Crappa”? I owned it and it hung on my bedroom wall along with all of my blacklight posters of Hendrix, Dylan, Janis, the Doors, etc.

    By sharp contrast, Dylan once sued a radio station in L.A. that played a spoof commercial in which some comedian feigned the Dylan voice and was advertising the complete retro-collection of Dylan. It was done in a style and format that mirrored those legitimate (though pathetic) commercials where some has-been music star is hyping their own retro-collections in an effort to make money in the wake of their careers having crashed and burned. The spoof on Dylan was fucking hilarious, but Dylan didn’t see it that way and sued the bejezus out of everyone who had anything to do with it. Zappa would never have been so lame.

    I met Frank Zappa, Sr in 1969. My dad was head of facilities engineering at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in Burbank (near L.A.) and Frank Sr was an aerospace engineer there. My dad called me one day to say he worked with a guy whose son was a rock star, and told me his Lockheed pal’s name was Frank Zappa, Sr. I about shit my pants and had my dad arrange for me to meet the guy. Sure enough, when I met Frank Sr. he looked like Frank Jrs’ older twin brother. We went to lunch together and Frank Sr. gave me a total blow-by-blow walk through Frank Jrs’ life story. He was a very proud father. He boasted to me that Frank Jr could play 27 instruments, all of them with respectable skill. Of course, as a 19-year-old kid who admired the Zappa we all knew, I asked the dad if I could meet his rock star son. He said he would do that when it was feasible, but my dad quit Lockheed a few months later to go back into business for himself so I lost the connection.

    Are you aware that the first music video was done by Zappa? Zappa and his Mothers of Invention shot a strange and hilarious film that Zappa wrote on the fly titled “200 Motels”, all in video tape, not film. That was 1967. I saw it at some sleazy back-street alley theater in Hollywood when it came out. It was so fucking bizarre, so Zappa-esque.

  6. my favorite is the Fillmore East 1971 live album, but I love Jewish Princess and Bobby Brown. comedy does have a place in music.

    i will never forget my top 5 horrible faux pas of singing Jewish Princess at the dinner table during college when there was one bona-fide JAP at the table and the (Jewish) daughter of an original Goldman Sachs Partner.

  7. Well from the first para or two about Zappa which I find to be the most totally ignorant, false and slanderous statements on Zappa I have ever read read.

    Like most artists he never really grew up???

    Highly subjective with very little understanding of his music, politics or catalogue.

    You just seem to take a school-boy delight in discovering something subversive.

    Don’t let his children read this as they could find it deeply hurtful and sue you. If this is the kind of thing you want to post on a blog then forget it you will soon find yourself writing for no-one but yourself.

    Invented jazz rock ? What nonsense! Now to find something good to say about it.

    No. Re-reading it tells me more about your own infantile sexuality than Frank Zappa.

    What of his involvement in politics in Czechoslovakia?

    This is the most dreadful piece of opinionated nonsense I have read in along time , poorly written with a poor grasp of the artists oeuvre, starting every sentence with a pronoun reads badly.

    Just damn well THINK what it is you are stating here to anyone in the world to read here. Who are you to judge?

    There are some huge gaping holes in your knowledge and ‘appreciation’ of Zappa and I strongly recommend you bone up a bit by reading the Wikipedia article for a start.

    You are so wrong on so many levels here I am quite FRANKly appalled, all your post reveals is an attraction as an adolescent age of someone who sniggered at his lyrics. You’ve not begun to understand the subtlety of his satire. Hated hippies? Parodied more like.

    Have you heard live at Fillmore East 71? Waka-Jawaka? 200 motels? Production values is a pretentious term.

    You’re really in no position to write on Zappa whatsoever, your opening para in particular is offensive to anyone who loved the man and his tragic early death of cancer of the prostrate shows little compassion.

    Those of us who have been serious fans of Zappa for over 40 years could never stomach some of the silly, slanderous statements you’ve made. You will just set yourself up for lots of hate mail. you seem to have taken this Lindsay chap’s attitude to try to be as offensive, opinionated and subjective as possible.

    You slightly redeem yourself with last dozen sentences from. He is a great singer , was a great singer surely. It’s just the opening para especially offensive. Perhaps I should lend you a book on the man.

    I give up.

    Probably best to write about things you understand, music is quite difficult to write about and you’re a long, long way from being anywhere near able to write intelligently about one of Baltimore’s greatest sons.

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