Portal:Frank Zappa

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Zappa performing live at Ekeberghallen in Oslo, Norway, 1977

Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American musician, composer, activist and filmmaker. His work is characterized by nonconformity, free-form improvisation, sound experiments, musical virtuosity, and satire of American culture. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa composed rock, pop, jazz, jazz fusion, orchestral and musique concrète works, and produced almost all of the 60-plus albums that he released with his band the Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist. Zappa also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. He is considered one of the most innovative and stylistically diverse rock musicians of his era.

As a self-taught composer and performer, Zappa's diverse musical influences led him to create music that was sometimes difficult to categorize. While in his teens, he acquired a taste for 20th-century classical composers such as Edgard Varèse, Igor Stravinsky, and Anton Webern, along with 1950s rhythm and blues and doo-wop music. He began writing classical music in high school, while at the same time playing drums in rhythm and blues bands, later switching to electric guitar. His 1966 debut album with the Mothers of Invention, Freak Out!, combined songs in conventional rock and roll format with collective improvisations and studio-generated sound collages. He continued this eclectic and experimental approach, irrespective of whether the fundamental format was rock, jazz or classical.

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200 Motels is a 1971 British musical film featuring Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, produced at Pinewood Studios, England. Directed and written by Frank Zappa and Tony Palmer, with special material written by Howard Kaylan, Mark Volman, and Jeff Simmons. Actors included Ringo Starr, Theodore Bikel and Keith Moon. A double album of the soundtrack was released in the same year. The plot is both nebulous and nonexistent as a narrative or as a series of vignettes and production numbers. According to Zappa, only a third of his script was filmed.

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Zappa 16011977 01 300.jpg

"Absolutely Free" is a song written by Frank Zappa and released on the Mothers of Invention album We're Only in It for the Money in 1968. The song is not to be confused with the Mothers of Invention album of the same name.

Like many of the songs on We're Only in It for the Money, "Absolutely Free" criticizes the hippie movement and the Summer of Love. The song's lyrics are a parody of psychedelia, especially the idea of expanding one's consciousness through the use of drugs. To this end, the song frequently mentions the word "discorporate", which is explained by Zappa in the spoken introduction to the song ("The first word in this song is discorporate. It means to leave your body"). The lyrics also reference the song "Mellow Yellow" by singer-songwriter Donovan, who is often associated with the hippie movement ("The dreams as they live them are all mellow yellow").

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Apostrophe (’) is an album by Frank Zappa, his eighteenth, released on April 22, 1974 in both stereo and quadraphonic formats. An edited version of its lead-off track, “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow”, was Zappa’s first chart single, reaching position 86. Apostrophe (’) was Zappa’s biggest commercial success, reaching number 10 on the Billboard charts and going gold on March 7, 1976.

Continuing from the commercial breakthrough of Over-Nite Sensation (1973), this album is a similar mix of short songs showcasing Zappa’s humor and musical arrangements. The record’s lyrical themes are often bizarre or obscure, with the exception of “Uncle Remus” which is an extension of Zappa’s feelings on racial disharmony featured on his earlier song "Trouble Every Day".

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Frank and Gail Zappa, in their Hollywood Hills home, 1988


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