Frank Zappa

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Frank Zappa at Armadillo World Headquarters (Austin, Texas, September 13, 1977)

Frank Vincent Zappa ( listening ? / I ) (born December 21, 1940 in Baltimore , Maryland , † December 4, 1993 in Laurel Canyon , California ) was an American musician and composer. He published 62 music albums during his lifetime. Zappa was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received two Grammy Awards . Audio file / audio sample


Zappa has significantly influenced rock music , both through his compositions, which are characterized by style borrowings and rhythmic diversity, and through his lyrics. These referred to pop culture and current affairs and were often satirical or Dadaist- absurd. Zappa was also active as a music producer and film director and composed orchestral pieces. His main instrument was the electric guitar, but he was also often heard as a singer and played drums, electric bass and keyboards. Characteristic for Zappa were his stage shows, sometimes designed in larger dramaturgical contexts, his (music) films, which can be seen as models for the visual aesthetics of music television, as well as his work as an independent music producer who controlled and influenced all steps of the product creation.


Frank Zappa was the oldest child of the Sicilian immigrant Francis Zappa and his wife Rose Marie; she came from a Neapolitan immigrant family. Zappa had three siblings, brothers Bobby and Carl and sister Patrice. His father worked in the US states of Maryland and Florida at various locations for the US Department of Defense. Therefore the family had to move often. During the years on the east coast, Frank suffered from severe colds and asthma . This motivated the parents in December 1951 to move to the climatically more favorable west coast.

By the time he graduated from high school in 1958, Zappa's family had moved a total of eight times. Zappa's education took place at three high schools and three other colleges . The repeated moves and constant illnesses in Zappa's young years influenced his personality development. He is described as having a hard time making friends. Zappa was considered a loner and workaholic. The young Zappa withdrew mainly to himself and pursued his artistic inclinations. The graphically talented student won two design awards, his first compositions were created during this time. At high school, Zappa was allowed to conduct the school orchestra, and as a college student he wrote the music for a Hollywood film.

After Zappa had dropped out of music studies after one semester, he initially dealt with graphics and music. In college he met Kay Sherman; the couple married on December 28, 1960 and lived east of Los Angeles, Ontario . Both were employed, she as a bank secretary, he among other things as a designer of greeting cards, sales representative for encyclopedias and jewelry or as an employee of an advertising agency. Then Zappa turned more and more to music. From 1961 he worked in the Pal Recording Studio in Cucamonga , and he also played in various bands. The marriage with Kay did not last long and remained childless. The couple divorced in early 1964.

An incident that occurred in the spring of 1965 in Studio Z, the former Pal Recording Studio, where Zappa now lived, is significant for understanding some of his texts. For the acoustic background of a “gentlemen's evening”, he should produce a tape with noises from sexual activities. Zappa and his girlfriend at the time sat down in front of the studio microphones and did the job. Both were arrested a few days later when the tape was handed over - the client turned out to be a detective sergeant of the district police. Zappa was sentenced to six months in prison for "conspiracy to engage in pornography." He had to serve ten days in prison, the remainder of the sentence was suspended for three years. The rock journalist Barry Milesdescribes the momentous episode of Zappa in detail and concludes: “Cell C was a life trauma, and in some ways he spent the rest of his career stuffing his pornographic tape America down his throat, over and over again. He would show the Americans what their country really was like. "

In the summer of 1966, Zappa Adelaide met Gail Sloatman , who worked as an assistant to Elmer Valentine, the owner of the Whiskey a Go-Go and Trip clubs in Los Angeles. In September 1967 - a few days before his band Mothers of Invention's first European tour - Zappa married his heavily pregnant girlfriend. While the band was traveling in Scandinavia, their daughter Moon was born. This was followed by the sons Dweezil (1969), Ahmet (1974) and the daughter Diva (1979).

In December 1971 Zappa was kicked off the stage by a fan while performing in London; after that he suffered from chronic back pain all his life. He had a hole in the back of his head and a broken leg. Zappa's larynx was also affected in the fall; possibly this ensured that he later sang in a deeper and hoarse voice.

Apart from brief stays in New York (March 1967 to May 1968) and London (December 1970 to April 1971), Frank Zappa lived in the northern boroughs of Los Angeles from mid-1965. At the end of the 1970s he decided to have the utility Muffin Research Kitchen recording studio built next to his house , which began operations on September 1, 1979. This put the publication of his music - including production and distribution - almost entirely under his control.

In November 1991 it became known that Zappa had prostate cancer , although the disease was at the time of diagnosis in a very advanced stage. Zappa died on December 4, 1993 at the age of 52 and was buried in an anonymous grave in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, directly to the right of Lew Ayres and only a few meters from Roy Orbison .

Musical career


Zappa received his first record as a present on his seventh birthday: All I want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth by Spike Jones and his City Slickers. His way of combining humor with music had a lasting impact not only on Zappa's compositions, but also on how he designed his live concerts. Arabic music is also one of Zappa's early musical influences. He said: “I heard that somewhere and was immediately enthusiastic.” On the radio, when he was 13, he heard Gee from the Crows and “I” from the Velvets . The first sound carrier that Zappa bought himself was the 78 record Riot in Cell Block Number 9(from 1954) by the Robins . Zappa himself called the early rhythm and blues music a "main influence - and perhaps what really opened my ears". The affection for doo-wop music of the early 1950s can be found in a number of compositions throughout his career.

Zappa had an important encounter with orchestral music when he bought his first second-hand long-playing record in the early 1950s. He had become aware of her through a newspaper article and had been looking for her for a long time: The Complete Works of Edgar Varèse , Vol. 1 , recorded by the New York Wind Ensemble and the Juilliard Percussion Quartet . He was particularly taken with Ionisation - a piece for 13 percussionists and a pianist. He was so enthusiastic about the compositions that he asked for a long distance call with Varèse on his 15th birthday. The composers Béla Bartók and Igor Stravinsky were also included in the footnotes on the Varèse record coverand called Anton Webern . Zappa immediately began to look around for recordings of works by these representatives of new music . Varèses layering of textures and collages, his experiments with noises, voices, tapes, electronics and percussion, and also the provocative potential of his music have deeply impressed Zappa, according to musicologist Hans-Jürgen Schaal .

The young Zappa was fascinated by the musical representation in the form of notes. That was an important drive for him to compose himself, but also an explanation for the style of some of his compositions. His biographer Barry Miles first quotes him as saying: "I just like the way notes look on paper"; he adds another quote to this sentence, in which Zappa said of his early compositions: "I didn't have the slightest damned idea what it would sound like."

As a guitarist, Zappa has been influenced by rhythm and blues guitarists such as Johnny "Guitar" Watson , Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown , Eddie Jones and Matt Murphy . In the text accompanying his first album Freak Out! he also called Howlin 'Wolf and John Lee Hooker , among others .

First steps


In school, Zappa learned to play drums from 1951 - initially on “boards”. He later played the drum in the school orchestra. During a competition at the CA Keith McKillop's Monterey Summer Percussion School , he wrote his first composition Mice - a solo for snare drum - in 1953 . From 1956 he attended Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster . Some of the earliest Zappa compositions ever performed include A Pound for a Brown (On the Bus) and Sleeping in a Jar , both parts of a string quartet that Zappa had played in 1958 when his music teacher allowed him to play the Antelope Conducting Valley High School Big Band .

In October 1958, Zappa moved to Antelope Valley College in Lancaster , where he met Donald Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart . It was around this time that he was teaching himself to play the guitar. The piece Lost in a Whirlpool (first published in 1996 on the album The Lost Episodes ) was recorded in an empty college classroom in the winter of 1958/59 and is the earliest recording on which Zappa can be heard as a guitarist. In order to study harmony and composition , Zappa enrolled at Chaffee Junior College in Alta Loma in the spring of 1960a. After a little more than a semester, he stopped again because, in the opinion of Barry Miles, he had achieved his goal: "He now understood the fundamentals of music." In 1961, Zappa took another course in composition at Pomona College in Claremont .

Early bands and projects

In 1955, Zappa joined the San Diego High School R&B band The Ramblers as a drummer , after which his parents bought him his first drum kit. After his family moved two times, Zappa founded the R&B group The Black-Outs in Lancaster in 1957 , in which Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood played among others. After Zappa's departure in 1958, the group was called The Omens . He also played in the Antelope Valley High School Big Band . The quartet The Boogie Men founded Zappa in the spring of 1961, but dissolved it again a short time later. In the summer of 1961, Zappa breathed out the blackoutsa new life, only that he now played guitar instead of drums. To make money, he was also a member of the Joe Perrino & The Mellotones dance band .

From 1962 onwards, Zappa mainly took care of studio projects. With Ray Collins he made a few appearances as Sin City Boys and as Loeb & Leopold in 1963 . He also founded the short-lived group The Soots , which included Captain Beefheart . The studio work did not yield the expected income, so Zappa founded the dance band The Muthers in 1964 . He was also a member of the house band in the club The Village Inn .

In the early years, Zappa not only worked as a musician, but also pursued other projects: in 1959 he wrote the music for the low-budget film Run Home, Slow (1965, director: Ted Brenner). However, the music was not recorded until 1963. The film itself had its cinema premiere on December 15, 1965. Another film music project for which Zappa was hired in June 1961 was the B-film The World's Greatest Sinner (1962, director: Timothy Carey ).

In November 1961, Zappa worked for Paul Buff in his Pal Recording Studio . There he worked as a studio musician, composer, sound engineer and producer with a number of local artists and recorded a large number of singles. As Buff in the summer of 1964 was commissioned to act for another studio, bought Zappa the Pal studio and renamed it in Studio Z to. As a percussionist and with his own film contributions, Zappa was involved in a multimedia experimental project by Don Preston in May 1962 , who also gathered Bunk and Buzz Gardner around him.

Zappa's ambition to become known in the music business is illustrated by two events in 1963. In March he appeared as a guest on the famous Steve Allen TV show , where he performed his Concerto for Two Bicycles . The music journalist Hans-Jürgen Schaal describes the fact that Allen, a well-known jazz musician, did not have the opportunity to be taken seriously as a young composer, but instead could only appear because he presented a Dadaist avant-garde performance, as the music journalist Hans-Jürgen Schaal describes as “superior social satire, but also first resignation ”. About two months later the concert The Experimental Music of Frank Zappa took place at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, in which a number of Zappa scores were played by students of the college orchestra.

In 1964 the group The Soul Giants was looking for a new guitarist. Zappa got on board and quickly became a band leader. The group - at that time it included the two founders Roy Estrada as bassist and drummer Jimmy Carl Black as well as Ray Collins as singer and David Coronado as saxophonist - renamed itself several times. First in Captain Glasspack & His Magic Mufflers , then on Mother's Day 1964 in The Mothers . The guitarist Henry Vestine , who had been added in the meantime , was replaced by Elliot Ingber in the spring of 1966. On March 1, 1966, the Mothers received a recording contract and shortly afterwards went into the studio to record their first album, Freak Out!record. Before this could appear, the group had to rename itself under pressure from the recording company in The Mothers of Invention .

The Mothers of Invention

Zappa 1968 in the Hamburger Musikhalle

The Mothers of Invention existed for a period of about ten years. During this time the group was touring in 18 different line-ups. Taking into account the “Hot Rats Band” as well as the two different wazoo orchestras, there were 21 members, all of which only existed for a few concerts. Even the five-person original line-up was supported by dozens of other musicians during the studio recordings for the debut album. In addition, Zappa changed the formation after just a few concerts: the guitarist Elliot Ingber had to leave, Don Preston , Bunk Gardner , Ian Underwood, Billy Mundi and Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood joined them. In the large number of ensembles, however, five basic formations emerge. Apart from Zappa, the playing ability of the live bands also always depended on the skills of the rhythm section that is important for Zappa's music, and there in particular on the drummer.

Jimmy Carl Black was the drummer of the first five Mothers formations until the fall of 1969. His playing provided the foundation on which Don Preston, Ian Underwood, Bunk Gardner and Zappa, among others , could build their musical experiments and extensive improvisations . The extensive, free music and music theater parts typical of this Mothers era were held together by the compositional framework loosely set by Zappa. Significant for this phase are the Mothers appearances in New York's Garrick Theater , where the band played the rock musical Pigs & Repugnant twice on weekdays and three times on the weekend from March 23 to September 5, 1967 with short breaks(Pigs and creeps) listed. The happening-style theater performance offered all sorts of atrocities, rough humor, socially critical swipes, musical parodies and much more - including a guest appearance by Jimi Hendrix in July 1967 . For some critics the shows were nothing but “hot air”, for others they were “brilliant to great-fantastic”.

Freak out! , the first album that the Mothers of Invention released in 1966, was an elaborately double album with accompanying text. The music critic Mike Fish describes it as "one of the most brilliant debuts": The record contains satire and political criticism as well as references to doo wop and rhythm and blues as well as autobiographical references. Zappa used an entire long-playing record page in a percussive improvisation, mixed with text collages and inarticulate sounds. The 1968 album We're Only in It for the Money was described as “a relentless dark, angry and somber response to Sergeant Pepper“Designates and clearly shows Zappa's role as part of the counterculture. False hippies are parodied, and the shooting of young protesters by the police is also an issue. In September 1968, Zappa and the Mothers of Invention appeared for the first time in front of a German audience at the International Essen Song Festival .

Once on the Mothers album in April 1969, Uncle Meat already Jazz Rock -Passagen had emerged, Zappa released the Mothers in August and released without them (apart from Ian Underwood ) in October, the album Hot Rats . It is considered to be one of the first ever jazz rock albums.

Frank Zappa (Theater de Clichy, Paris, 1971)

With 200 motels , Zappa put together a four-movement work for orchestra and rock band as a contribution to the Contempo '70 music festival at the University of California . It premiered on May 15, 1970 at the Pauley Pavilion . Contributors were the Mothers and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra , conducted by Zubin Mehta . For cost reasons, only movements one, three and four of this work were played, with which Zappa wanted to try out "what the music sounds like that I wrote in motels [note: during the tours of previous years]". The British drummer Aynsley Dunbar, who came from rock music, was the drummer on this projectWith. As a result he belonged to the Mothers Formations six to nine. The music got tighter and rockier overall. When the former Turtles lead singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan joined the Mothers with band version No. 7 , the Mothers era began, which became known as the "Vaudeville Band". The stage shows until the end of 1971 were tailored to the performing and satirical abilities of these two accomplished front men.

Two incidents ended this Mothers phase: On December 4, 1971, a fire broke out at a concert by the band in the Casino Barrière in Montreux , in which the entire music system of the band was destroyed - the Deep Purple piece Smoke on the Water tells of it . A few days later, on December 10th, Zappa was pushed from the stage into the orchestra pit by a visitor during a concert at the Rainbow Theater in London . He was injured so badly that he had to spend nine months in a wheelchair. As a result, one of his legs was shortened (the song Dancing Fool from the album Sheik Yerbouticontains a reference to this fact), and his voice also sounded a third lower. Zappa had to cancel the concert tour and break up the band.

In 1972, Zappa realized two more solo projects, initially still sitting in a wheelchair: Waka / Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo . Again he turned to jazz, of which he once said: "Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny." (Jazz is not dead, it just smells strange). Zappa presented this extensive jazz rock project, in which 20 musicians participated on stage, during a two-week US and European tour. The tour then continued with half the cast ("Petit Wazoo") in America for another six weeks.

From February 1973 Ralph Humphrey (Volume No. 10 to 14), from October 1973 Chester Thompson (Volume No. 12 to 16) was the drummer of the Mothers. With the violinist Jean-Luc Ponty , the keyboardist George Duke , the percussionist Ruth Underwood and the trumpeter Sal Marquez, some versatile musicians worked in the group at this time. This enabled Zappa to approach music in a completely different way than before. In an accessible tone, but not without the ingredients typical of Zappa, he skilfully merged complex jazz rock arrangements, funk and other musical styles into compact, only three to six minutes long songs: the album Over-Nite Sensationshows a “virtuoso extraordinary band”, which in the eyes of a critic is contrasted by “scabby, pornographic texts”. The following album Apostrophe (') , which reached number 10 on the Billboard charts as a nonsense-themed album about an Eskimo in June 1974 , was released by the DiscReet Records label , which Zappa co-founded.

The Mothers' last drummer (No. 17 and 18) was Terry Bozzio , who was there from the USA tour in spring 1975. For the world tour, which began in the autumn of 1975 and lasted until the spring of 1976, Zappa rebuilt the Mothers one last time: the ensemble, which had shrunk to a quintet , included the singer and saxophonist Napoleon Murphy Brock , the keyboardist André Lewis as well as Zappa and Bozzio Bassist Roy Estrada joined the first Mothers formation.

The Zappa bands

Frank Zappa (Toronto, September 24, 1977)

After the Mothers dissolved, there were arguments between Zappa and Herb Cohen . Zappa had fired the longtime manager, who then delayed the delivery of the album Zoot Allures . In order to avoid further difficulties with Cohen, Zappa renounced the group name The Mothers of Invention and from then on only appeared under his own name.

Except for drummer Terry Bozzio, Zappa completely swapped the staff for his first band after the Mothers era. The cast of the US and Canada tour in the fall of 1976 included the guitarist and singer Ray White , the singer and keyboardist Lady Bianca (alias Bianca Odin, alias Bianca Thornton), the keyboardist and violinist Eddie Jobson and the bassist Patrick O'Hearn . The European tour that followed in spring 1977 took place without Lady Bianca. At the North American tour in late 1977 and the European tour in the spring of 1978 Eddie Jobson did not take part in more, but were in addition to the keyboard players Tommy Mars and Peter Wolf also the guitarist and singer Adrian Belewand the percussionist Ed Mann joined them.

Frank Zappa and Ike Willis (Buffalo, October 25, 1980)

Vinnie Colaiuta was the drummer for Zappa band number four, which appeared on stages in Europe and North America in the fall of 1978. Terry Bozzio, Ray White, and Adrian Belew were gone. The singer and guitarist Ike Willis , the slide guitarist Denny Walley and the bassist Arthur Barrow were new . Warren Cuccurullo joined this group for the spring 1979 European tour. A year later, Peter Wolf was no longer part of it, and Vinnie Colaiuta took a break from touring. Zappa replaced the latter in his band number six for the US-European tour in the spring of 1980 by the drummer David Logeman. Ray White was also there again.

In 1980, Zappa also had a top ten hit with Bobby Brown Goes Down (album Sheik Yerbouti ) (number 4 in the German charts), with which he became known to a wider audience not only in Germany. This piece reached 32nd place again in 1995.

Colaiuta had returned to the 1980 winter tour, and band number seven also included guitarist Steve Vai and keyboardist, trumpeter and singer Bob Harris .

The foundation for the last three Zappa bands was formed by drummer Chad Wackerman and bassist Scott Thunes , who had replaced Vinnie Colaiuta and Arthur Barrow since their autumn tour of America in 1981. Bob Harris was replaced by keyboardist, saxophonist and singer Bobby Martin in volume 8. For the tour through North America and Europe, which lasted from summer to winter 1984, the line-up of the ninth band hardly changed. With Napoleon Murphy Brock, a former Mothers member was just a two-week guest performance. Keyboardist Allan Zavod replaced Tommy Mars. In February 1988 a Zappa band went on tour for the last time, which led through North America and Europe until June of that year. Zappa had considerably strengthened his tenth ensemble and expanded it into a rock group with big band qualities. In addition to Zappa, Willis, Thunes, Wackerman and Martin, the twelve-piece band also included guitarist, keyboardist and singer Mike Keneally , percussionist Ed Mann , trumpeter Walt Fowler , trombonist Bruce Fowler and saxophonists Paul Carman, Albert Wing and Kurt McGettrick.

Orchestral music

Even before his rock career, Zappa had written pieces for symphony orchestra . The first performance took place in 1963 at St. Mary's College, Los Angeles, and was broadcast on the radio station KPFK. In 1967 he recorded the album Lumpy Gravy, composed for a 40-piece orchestra, in addition to recordings with the Mothers, and released it in 1968 as his first solo album, according to the cover with the "Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra & Chorus". After Zappa had worked with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1971 for the album and the film of the same name, 200 Motels , he released the purely orchestral album Orchestral Favorites in 1979; again the orchestra involved here bears the name "Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra" - however, some of the musicians involved are different from those in 1967. Recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra (conductor: Kent Nagano ) appeared in 1983 and 1987. These recordings were novel that the instruments were picked up individually with their own microphones, which allowed Zappa to mix it up afterwards and to make limited corrections afterwards. In the text accompanying the second record, Zappa lamented the “human peculiarities” of the recording, which was “infected with wrong notes and out of tune passages”. Collaborations with Pierre Boulez did not lead to great success either. Shortly before his death, Frank found Zappa with theEnsemble Modern created an ensemble that performed its orchestral compositions successfully and with great technical precision. Frank Zappa's orchestral work The Yellow Shark was premiered in September 1992 by the Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt am Main in the presence and in part under the musical direction of the composer. However, he had to cancel the tour due to his progressive prostate cancer.

Working with the Synclavier

Zappa purchased a Synclavier , a synthesizer with a sampling module , in 1982 . It made it possible for him to comfortably enter complex notations using the keyboard or the keyboard. These entered pieces could then be edited, saved and finally played back or printed out as notes. Zappa appreciated the high precision of the Synclavier's reproduction without the fatigue that musicians sometimes experience. Zappa saw the high expenditure of programming musical expression and, compared to working with musicians, the lack of improvisation as a disadvantageand spontaneity. Zappa used the electronic input options directly, his compositions were created directly on the device.

Regarding the cost of the device, Zappa remarked that the Synclavier was only half as expensive as the recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra, and that he greatly appreciated the possibility of being able to play his compositions at any time while they were being composed, without having to be permanently employed Having to hold up and pay musicians. Zappa worked on 250 to 300 compositions at the same time in the 1980s and revised them when the possibilities of his synclavier increased due to technical expansion. The Synclavier was on the album Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger from August 1984 for the first time - together with orchestral music by Pierre Boulezwas conducted - heard on a CD. According to Barry Miles, the pieces produced electronically on the Synclavier sound "mechanical" compared to those recorded by the Ensemble InterContemporain and the album is overall "strangely unbalanced". The Synclavier recording Francesco Zappa , published three months later by Zappa, consisted of several historical pieces by the baroque musician Francesco Zappa and was orchestrated purely electronically.

The album Jazz from Hell , released in November 1986, consisted primarily of pieces that had been recorded with the Synclavier. Barry Miles notes that the drums are mechanically repeating, the long notes do not fade away and the vibrato of the notes has failed. Ben Watson, on the other hand, sees the album as a "wonderful demonstration of Zappa's continued ability to compose melodies." Zappa's “surrealist ear for sonority” makes a melody less of a sequence of notes on paper and more of a possibility to recognize the “social satirical energies” bound in what Zappa called the aromas of the instruments. The album received a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance(Orchestra Group or Soloist) . For the project The Yellow Shark , Zappa also used the synclavier to create the scores .


Zappa's compositions are distinctive due to a number of different characteristics. The collage-like and often highly complex composition technique, the rhythmic diversity of the compositions, the style borrowings in many areas of serious and popular music , the repeatedly woven music quotations , the ironic and satirical extent in music and text, the sophisticated arrangements- All of this goes “beyond the narrow range of the stock of shapes defined as rock-typical”. In doing so, Zappa assembled the various elements in a context that was typical for him. Zappa's music concept is broader than what is usually offered in the rock genre. He composed and arranged not only for the rock band (even if these works make up the largest part of his oeuvre), but also for the jazz-oriented big band and for orchestras of various strengths from chamber orchestras to symphony orchestras.

Zappa was open to influences of all kinds, borrowed from “the most varied of shapes and materials”, and naturally used elements from a wide variety of styles and genres . Despite all the differences in the work of, for example, Edgar Varèse on the one hand and the songs of R&B groups like the Robins on the other, Zappa thought both were good music; for him "the soul seemed to come from the same universal source". Whether doo-wop hits or Stravinsky strictness, down-to-earth rhythm & blues or exuberant Spike Jones lamauk, whether Hungarian folklore or cracking hard rock, minimalistJohn Cage sounds or wild free jazz - Zappa combined all of this and much more with humor and irony to create compositions whose concern Volker Rebell sees in "attacking and unsettling entrenched listening habits". Zappa had all sorts of advocates for his way of working - in the pop music sector anyway, but also in the field of contemporary music, as the joint projects with Zubin Mehta , Pierre Boulez and Kent Nagano bear testimony to. Compositions were written for the Kronos Quartet and the Aspen Wind Quintet, and he studied with Ensemble Modern as part of the project The Yellow Sharkshortly before his death he wrote 19 compositions up to the stage of performance. The posthumously published compilation Strictly Genteel introduces Zappa's orchestral oeuvre. The German music critic Hans-Jürgen Schaal commented on this excerpt as follows: "Here we meet the father of punk and postmodernism in personal union."

Influences of classical modernism

Barry Miles refers to the influences of Edgar Varèse in Zappa's works: "The use of tone blocks, the primacy of timbre over pitch as well as varying numbers of bars, all of these are hallmarks of Varès' work". Hans-Jürgen Schaal toorefers to the role model role of modern composers: "What inspired [Zappa] about Varèse and Stravinsky - sound blocks and electronics, complex bar numbers and metric shifts, noise colors and strange harmonic extrapolations - he expected his rock band and the audience to do". Schaal attributes the “rhythmic capers” typical of Zappa, his “bizarre marching themes” and abrupt changes in tempo to Stravinsky's clear influence, which can already be seen in the early works of the Mothers of Invention and can in part also be identified as direct musical quotations in individual pieces , for example in Duke of Prunes (album Absolutely Free ) .The sociologist Ronald Hitzler generally sees Zappa's composing as a "implementation of Stravinsky's anti-purist, material-rich and 'constructive' view of the current overall musical scene".

Collage, quote and parody

Zappa's collage-like composition technique is striking, in which he interspersed his pieces with musical snippets, noises or interview material in weeks of detailed work. Frantically performed, composed passages dissolve into fragile, wistful melody that is replaced by several simultaneously played rhythms and opposing melodies, which are torn up by scraps of sound generated electronically or with tape, only to dissolve in the end in scornful band laughter. The music journalist Volker Rebell calls this compositional technique, which can be found in many examples throughout Zappa's entire creative period, “crazy - but funny” .

The sociologist Ronald Hitzler speaks of a high degree of disrespect in dealing with materials, he states a contextual deconstruction of canonized musical styles and values. In Zappa's montages, which Hitzler describes as “time-critical-satirical”, the arbitrary separation between the genres and their limitations dissolves. The elements in Zappa's compositions interlock and parody one another. Zappa skillfully uses music quotations as "exotic set pieces in the mosaic of rhythms and (dis) harmonies". This can be seen in the jazz bonds in The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue (album Weasels Ripped My Flesh) and in Be-Bop Tango (of the Old Jazzmen's Church) (album Roxy and Elsewhere ), in the Bob Dylan parody in Flakes (album Sheik Yerbouti ), or in the country and western parody in Harder Than Your Husband (album You Are What You Is ). His own pieces and compositions are also repeatedly quoted and reinterpreted. Aesthetically, the quotation underlines the intended statements and thus serves as an additional comment or ironically or parodically as an allusion to “sediments of knowledge”.


Difficult architecture, refinement and attention to detail are characteristic of the arrangements. These often include 15 or more systems of lines on the sheet of music . The often unconventional and often atypical instrumentation for rock bands is striking . Most characteristic variety is percussion : vibraphone , marimba and xylophone dominate, along with bells, are premium tubes , Schell Reif, Triangle and other Idiophone used. Keyboard instrumentsZappa appear in practically all recordings, usually using the entire sound spectrum, and Zappa also likes to use new developments that are currently available, such as the Minimoog on the album Fillmore East, June 1971 . In addition to the electric guitar, which besides Zappa also other band musicians play as rhythm, lead or “stunt” guitar, acoustic guitars are also used. Wind instruments can also be heard frequently, even less common ones for rock bands, such as the Sarrusophone , the double bass clarinet or the bass saxophone .

Zappa retains full control over his arrangements, and introductions and transitions are precisely planned and defined. Characteristic of Zappa's work are the frantic unison runs of several instruments, whereby instruments or the human voice are often used in contrasts.

Beat, meter and rhythm

Typical of Zappa is the rhythmic diversity to be found in individual compositions as well as in the entirety of his work. According to Volker Rebell, there is “hardly a time signature - no matter how cranky it may be - that Zappa has not already drummed out”. Even the first known Zappa composition - at the age of twelve he wrote the piece Mice , a solo for drums - shows his pronounced interest in rhythm. This becomes - also visually - clear in the piece The Black Page , also a piece for percussion instruments, whose name goes back to the many notes on the sheet of music.

Zappa's metrics use different time signatures that often change within a piece. In addition to the 4/4 time, which mainly appears in rock-oriented pieces and solos , Zappa often uses three-time measures such as 3/4, 6/8 and 12/8 time. For example, What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body (album We're Only in It for the Money ) is in 6/8 time and The Illinois Enema Bandit (album Zappa in New York ) is in 12/8 time. The 3/4 time is found more frequently, for example in King Kong (album Uncle Meat ), Sofa (album One Size Fits All ) orOverture to a Holiday in Berlin (album Burnt Weeny Sandwich ). Zappa often uses the 2/4 time where echoes of marching music should be evident, for example in Who Needs the Peace Corps (album We're Only in It for the Money ).

But even odd time signatures, which are less common in Western Europe, are characteristic of Zappa. These include 5/4, 5/8, 7/4 and 7/8 time as well as ternary , i.e. meters played in a shuffle rhythm. Some lines of text for the song What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body (album We're Only in It for the Money ) are written in 7/8 time.

Loudspeaker.svg Audio sample: Change from 7/8 to 3/4 time with additional drums (not available in the original, built in for the purpose of demonstration) in the title Big Swifty from the album Waka / Jawaka

The main motif of Big Swifty (album Waka / Jawaka ) is carried in parallel decimals and changes twice from a 7/8 to a 3/4 time, until after several repetitions and variations in the chorus a 4/4 time is finally reached. In general, odd time signatures are often coupled with basic patterns that are repeated. But there are also different meters with repeated patterns or constant meters with changing basic patterns. In some cases, Zappa also uses polyrhythmics : In the piece Rubber ShirtFor example, a bass track in 4/4 time and a drum track in 11/4 time overlap. The two tracks were recorded on different occasions and only subsequently combined in the studio.

Time changes also often mark transitions in terms of content or melody and are used, for example, when changing motifs and for forming phrases and themes . For some tracks, such as The Dangerous Kitchen (album The Man from Utopia ), the metric is adjusted to the underlying spoken text. This leads to constant clock changes. Zappa himself confessed: "I am particularly interested in the unusual time signatures."

Rhythmic variations with Frank Zappa using the example of the piece Big Swifty from the album Waka / Jawaka

The rhythm in Zappa's music is style-forming and very complex, it is often in the foreground. The note and rest values ​​show a wide range. Often triplets or quintuplets are used. Triplets, quadruplets or quintuplets are doing but also to two or more beats played. These so-called pitch-length conflicts as well as the rhythmic shifts in accents ( hemioli ) and shifts in the center of the beat ( syncope ) are typical of Zappa. This often leads to unexpected effects.

In The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue (album Weasel's Ripped My Flesh ), hemioli are used to achieve a clear acceleration by reducing the length of the notes beyond the bar boundaries. However, the tempo , i.e. the number of basic beats per minute, remains the same.

The musicologist Wolfgang Ludwig compares the asymmetrical arrangement of uniform note values ​​caused in some pieces by accentuation with Igor Fjodorowitsch Stravinsky . This technique, which is also characteristic of jazz music, can be found for example in Igor's Boogie on the album Burnt Weeny Sandwich .

Rhythmic-metric permutations and polymetrics are also a common style element at Zappa. The latter can be found, for example, in The Little House I Used to Live In (album Burnt Weeny Sandwich ): A melody line with a duration of 12/8 beats is added to the initial bass riff (11/8). With each repetition, the beginning of the melody shifts by 1/8 note value, giving the piece a special dynamic of its own.

A rhythmic variation of motifs and phrases typical for Zappa is used, for example, in Big Swifty from the album Waka / Jawaka .

Zappa frequently used augmentation and diminution . The ratio of the note values ​​within a topic remains the same, but the speed changes, for example with Big Swifty .

Deviations from basic rhythmic patterns can be found in almost all of Zappa's pieces. With the exception of riff formations and accompanying voices in solos, there are seldom phases in his pieces during which a certain rhythm is maintained for longer.


Zappa himself attached great importance to the creation of melodies: “I'm interested in melodies and it's the one thing I find lacking in most of the music today. […] It's a big challenge to write a melody ”(“ I'm interested in melodies, and that's what most music lacks these days. It's a big challenge to write a good melody ”).

The frequency analysis of the intervals occurring in Zappa's melodies shows a difference to the usual distributions in rock music. The interval most frequently used in Zappa's melodies is the fourth , which makes up about a third of all pitch changes that occur, followed by the minor third with 23 percent and the major third with 13 percent. Also noticeable are the small and large September jumps , which make up 15 percent.

The frequent fourth jumps are quite unusual, while seconds and thirds "[...] generally appear most frequently in the melodic design." In a division of the intervals based on jazz, the third is assigned a special echo sound as the primary consonance , while the major seventh is considered a dissonance . The effect of the fourth is described as differing. The use of these intervals by Zappa shows a wide range and is a characteristic style element of his melodies.

Multiple tone repetitions from You didn't try to call me from the album Freak Out!

Often, sequences can also be found at Zappa . The same tone sequences are repeated offset, for example in the melodic sequence in King Kong from the album Uncle Meat . Zappa also uses multiple tone repetitions, for example in the song You Didn't Try to Call Me on the album Freak Out!

Change of direction in Absolutely Free from the album We're Only in It for the Money .

Frequent changes in the direction of movement are also typical of the melodies, in which there is a step-by-step change between raising and lowering the tone, demonstrated here with a short excerpt from the song Absolutely Free from the album We're Only in It for the Money : The changes from note to note Direction in which the pitch changes.

Audio file / audio sample Audio sample :? / i Krebs inZombie Wooffrom the albumOver-Nite Sensation

Zappa also employs contrapuntal techniques that are not usually found in rock music. This includes, for example, the cancer in which the melody is played first forwards and then backwards again, for example in Zombie Woof from the album Over-Nite Sensation . Other stylistic elements include the trill , the rapid and repeated playing of two notes that are close together. These are particularly popular with vibraphones, for example in What's New in Baltimore from the album Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention . Also glissandi , rapid continuous pitch changes, are found in many pieces.

When it comes to voices, it is noticeable that the distribution of the vocal syllables to the melody tones is often consciously shaped: In certain sections exactly one tone is sung per syllable, this technique, also known as syllabic , is used in the bridge by The Illinois Enema Bandit (album Zappa in New York ) used. The opposite - the distribution of several notes on one syllable, the so-called melismatics  - is also used as a stylistic device, for example in Advance Romance from the album Bongo Fury .


The harmonic systems and connections used by Zappa are generally considered to be more conventional, which does not exclude the possibility of individual tension-generating chord depressions and contrast-creating increments . If he uses classical harmony schemes , passage chords , modulations and dissonant harmonies provide variation. However, many pieces are also atonal . Kelly Fisher Lowe refers to the influence of Stravinskys, which is also in the album 200 Motelsfinds where the orchestral music is not only inserted into other pieces for the first time, but also forms the framework itself. Atonal passages can already be found on Zappa's first album, for example in the second movement of Help, I'm a Rock (album Freak Out! ), Which is entitled 2nd Movement: In Memoriam Edgar Varese , as well as on the album Lumpy Gravy and im piece the Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue from album Weasels Ripped My Flesh .

The guitarist

In addition to his qualities as a composer, arranger and band leader, Zappa was also able to convince on the electric guitar as an instrumentalist. He saw himself “as a composer whose main instrument is the guitar”. Others counted him among the most talented and gifted guitarists of his time, one of the "real guitar heroes of the sixties" or "one of the most idiosyncratic and competent guitarists on the scene". His idiosyncratic way of playing was admired, "for example in the title The Orange County Lumber Truck (album Weasel's Ripped My Flesh ), a piece that leads to one of the most swinging guitar solos in pop music."

Typical of his playing style is the great joy in experimenting with which Zappa went to work. Another characteristic is the length of his solos, which is unusual for rock music. On the two double CDs Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar and Guitar - both contain only solos - the shortest contributions are 1:39 and 2:12 minutes, while the longest are 10:12 and 6:58 minutes. Zappa was different from many other guitarists also the fact that he in his game all documentsof the fingerboard. He himself did not consider his playing technique, which is sometimes characterized by breathtaking speed, to be outstanding: “I'm not a virtuoso guitar player. A virtuoso can play everything, I can't. ”However, he sees himself in a position to play what he knows and has developed a sufficiently quick manual skill. “If I hit a note with my right hand, I play five with my left hand. I don't play all the notes that I play. I also do things where I use the opening pick on the fretboard, push it down and hit it at the same time. It then sounds a bit like a Bulgarian bagpipe sound. "

Frank Zappa in Ekeberghall (Oslo, Norway, January 16, 1977)

Main influences for the guitarist Zappa were Guitar Slim and Johnny Watson . In his autobiography, Zappa wrote: “Although I cannot say that I am able to play a guitar slim lick today, his 'torment her and choke her' attitude had a strong aesthetic influence on the style I finally developed it. ”Watson's first hit, Those Lonely Lonely Nights, hit him in 1955attentive: “Watson is the original minimalist among guitarists. The solo on 'Lonely Nights' - the 'One-Note-Guitar-Solo': That says it all. In a nutshell. ”According to his own statement, Zappa oriented his solo playing to“ linguistically influenced rhythm and harmony, both of which are oriented either to the pentatonic scale or to many ”. His improvisations were often based on songs in D minor. Zappa: “In fact, 80 percent of our pieces that contain solos are in this key and contain the same time changes. I just love D minor improvisation; D minor with a major chord in front gives a nice modal effect. "

The result of his “content-rich, inspirational” style of playing carried by “high risk and great enthusiasm for experimentation”, which “also leaves room for mocking phrasing ”, were solos in which at the end you could “literally hear the audience gasp in surprise” - for the rock journalist Volker Rebell simply “outside the categories”.

Zappa worked with a variety of guitar sounds. Contributions on acoustic guitar (mostly played on an ovation with an electric guitar neck) can be found as well as the entire range of electric guitar sounds, from undistorted ("clean") to slightly distorted to extremely overdriven bombastic sounds like on the album Tinsel Town rebellion . Zappa mainly influenced the timbre with the wah-wah pedal, which he mainly used statically. Phasing , flanging and chorus effects can also be heard, although not too often, and he used an echo device less often .

The character of the wild rock solos in Rat Tomago (album Sheik Yerbouti ) or Willie the Pimp (album Hot Rats ), the sustained guitar duet Sleep Dirt recorded on acoustic instruments (album Sleep Dirt ), the swinging solo in The Orange County Lumber Truck (partial version on the album Weasels Ripped My Flesh ; full version on Ahead of Their Time ), the jazzy solo in Grand Wazoo (album The Grand Wazoo), each with an oriental feel to the guitar instrumental Theme from the 3rd Movement of Sinister Footwear (album You Are What You Is ) as well as the opening solo in Filthy Habits (album Sleep Dirt ), the worn instrumental number Pink Napkins (album Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar ), melodious, floating solos such as in Inca Roads (album One Size Fits All ) or Any Kind of Pain (album Broadway The Hard Way ), the solo in Son of Orange County , which is as much a melody as driving rock (AlbumRoxy & Elsewhere ) or Zoot Allures (album Zoot Allures ), a guitar instrumental with a lot of feedback .

The text author

Frank Zappa (1974)

As funny as they can be in detail, as much contradiction they have often triggered - Zappa's texts play a rather subordinate role in the entirety of his work. Considering these to be an inevitable accessory, he said: “I do not claim to be a poet. My texts are for entertainment only and are not intended for internal use. ”Viewed in this way, however, they have fulfilled their function. As with his compositions, Zappa's approach as a copywriter was differentiated.

Following the attitude of a number of cabaret artists of his time, Zappa did not care about the broad lines of politics in his contributions, but in individual cases this did not prevent him from harshly criticizing the grievances he had identified in society. In Trouble Every Day (album Freak Out! ), For example, he branded the race riots in Los Angeles in the mid-1960s and the way in which the media marketed the misfortunes of others; he commented on his attitude in the piece himself with the words: “I'm not black. But there's a whole lots a times, I wish I could say, I'm not white ”(“ I'm not black , but very often I wish I could tell myself that I'm not white ”). In the piece I'm the Slimefrom the album Over-Nite Sensation he looked at the seductive omnipotence of television , which for him oozes like slime from the television sets. He not only described the mechanisms of action of the medium with the words "I may be vile and pernicious, but you can't look away" ("I may be hideous and harmful, but you cannot look away"), but also named their beneficiaries: "I am the tool of the government and industry too, for I am destined to rule and regulate you" ("I am the tool of the government and also of the industry, and I am there to control you and determine your behavior" ). In Dumb All Over and Heavenly Bank Account (both on the album You Are What You Is) he denounced the greed of American television evangelists , their entanglements with politics and their influence on society. Zappa's conclusion: “Religious fanatics can make it be all gone” (“Religious fanatics can ruin everything”).

Zappa also saw himself as a journalist who reports on life as he observes it. He shared his observations relentlessly and regardless of taboos, neglecting any classification and evaluation of what was said. Barry Miles calls Zappa's view of things "relentlessly satirical". His lyrics are ironic and often cynical. Zappa was shaped by the burgeoning sexual revolution and also dealt in his texts with the way American society deals with sexuality. As a rule, he portrayed these in a clichéd and silhouette-like manner. Zappa insisted vehemently on the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution not only in his well-known appearance on the CNN television show Crossfireeveryone granted the right of free speech. His appearance at the congressional hearing on September 19, 1985 on the planned ban on pornographic text contributions on records can also be seen against this background - it was not even about Zappa's contributions, but about the play Darling Nikki by Prince , among other things .

Zappa said: “America doesn't consist of anything else: twisted sexual desires and extreme drug use.” Zappa did not place any restrictions on sexual issues. For example, in Catholic Girls (album Joe's Garage ) he sang about the sexual experiences of adolescents during puberty or, in the penis dimension (album Frank Zappa's 200 Motels ), the attitudes of men and women towards their penis or their breasts. In Dinah-Moe Humm (Album Over-Nite Sensation ) was about group sex and voyeurism in Brown Shoes Do not Make It (Album Absolutely Free) about the fantasies of a politician about incestuous sex with the underage daughter and in Crew Slut (album Joe's Garage ) about the relationships between band members and groupies . In Bobby Brown Goes Down (album Sheik Yerbouti ) he made sex toys (the "Tower of Power") and urophile sexual practices ("golden shower") the topic as well as stereotypes about homosexuals . Zappa also sings about sexually transmitted diseases in Why Does It Hurt When I Pee? (Album Joe's Garage). Zappa saw and described all of this without commenting, nor did he distance himself. Because of this attitude, he was often accused of sexism and misogyny , and he was therefore controversial among music critics. Barry Miles criticized the piece Fine Girl (album Tinsel Town Rebellion ) for being an "insult to the black population group" and saw the piece as Zappa's blatant dislike of the women's movement. Kelly Fisher Lowe, on the other hand, thinks the play is so exaggerated that he assumes a parody. The writer Carl-Ludwig Reichertnotes that Zappa's "sexual satires," which are based on empiricism and observation of reality, have often been confused with pornography. Opinions are divided on the track Easy Meat from the same album, in which a woman is described as "easy meat", in German about "light beute / fresh meat". While Miles sees a derogatory attack on women in the song and states a deeply rooted double standard in Zappa, Lowe sees the piece as the “ Rosetta Stone“For the Zappa review. He points out that the woman described exercises control over her sexuality and formulates her own wishes, and that different critics interpret the piece completely differently. Anyone can read into the piece whatever they want. Zappa always defended himself against accusations that he saw his task in "social documentation" and is supported in this by Ben Watson, for whom Zappa's portrayal of "people and places about which the 'educated person' does not want to know" and his "humorless " sexist junk" justifies.

Zappa also approached other subject areas by describing them - rather amused. In Cosmik Debris (album Apostrophe (') ) he dealt with the emerging esoteric boom by describing a conversation with one of the impostor “gurus” in which he tried in vain to sell the first person narrator esoteric “mumbo jumbo”. The song Valley Girl (album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch ), to which Zappa's daughter Moon contributed the lyrics, described the self-loving scene jargon of immature teenagers of better society and reached number 32 on the Billboard charts.Often , Zappa also dedicated himself Phenomena of the times, such as the hippie culture (Flower Punk , album We're Only in It for the Money ), the disco scene ( Disco Boy , album Zoot Allures ) or the yuppies ( Yo Cats , album Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers Of Prevention ).

Zappa had a strong weakness for Dadaism and for the absurd, which was also reflected in his texts. In Montana (album Over-Nite Sensation ), for example, he described the desire to harvest dental floss as a farmer riding through the wide landscape with large rhinestone tweezers. In the Eskimo suite (album Apostrophe (') ) he tells the story of the young Eskimo Nanook , who takes revenge on a seal hunter by blinding him with snow that is mixed with husky urine. The track The Dangerous Kitchen from the album The Man from Utopiadeals with absurd threats that can lurk in the drain of a kitchen sink. "He takes on the everyday, exaggerates it, charges it with meaning and thus makes it a symbol for the human in itself," says Barry Miles, describing Zappa's approach to this piece as one that artists from the field of pop would expect Kind knows.

Especially in the first half of his creative phase, Zappa often worked in larger dramaturgical contexts. Musically designed skits were always part of his stage shows. Examples were the rock musical Pigs & Repugnant , which was performed live for several months in the Garrick Theater in 1967 , the almost 25-minute long drama Billy the Mountain (album Just Another Band from LA ) and the aforementioned Yellow , which is almost eleven minutes and four pieces long -Snow -Suite about the Eskimo Nanook on the album Apostrophe (') . The piece What Kind of Girl Do You Think We Are? (Album Fillmore East, June 1971) describes Ben Watson as a real rock opera , the technical achievements of which other rock operas, such as Tommy , did not reach.

Frank Zappa's 200 Motels , a full-length cinema film and double album in which Zappa describes the touring life of a rock band, was about even greater dramaturgical contexts . On the triple album Joe's Garage , Zappa tells about guitarist Joe's fight against censorship and a total music ban and mocks the Scientologists in the character of L. Ron Hoover . The Thing Fish cycle, also published as a triple album / double CD, was originally conceived as a Broadway musical . It tells the story of the Evil Prince Thing Fish, who tries to get the good old Broadway musicals back on stage.

Some of his posts fall into the "sappy love song" category. They sprang from Zappa's predilection for rhythm and blues and doo wop , two pop music styles of the 1950s that had a great influence on Zappa's compositions. Examples of such banal, by no means satirical texts can be found in pieces such as Love of My Life and Fountain of Love (both on the album Cruising with Ruben & The Jets ) and in Sharleena (album Chunga's Revenge ). A song like Big Leg Emma (album Zappa in New York) shows that Zappa sometimes took note of this genre with a wink.

“Touring can make you crazy”: Many of Zappa's texts deal with the rock music business and its protagonists. He not only devoted an entire album including a full-length film (Frank Zappa's 200 Motels) to his abundant experience in this regard . Again and again there are songs on his albums that deal with various processes in rock. Stevie's Spanking (album Them or Us ), for example, describes a nightly adventure of his guitarist Steve Vai with a concert-goer, while Punky's Whips (album Zappa in New York ) describes a fictional romance between drummer Terry Bozzio and a PR photo of angel guitarist Punky Meadows . InYo 'Mama (album Sheik Yerbouti ) was addressed to keyboardist Tommy Mars with the line “Maybe you should stay with yo' mama” after he forgot to play a zappa piece during a band rehearsal . The treadmill that aspiring musicians have to go through if they want to make a career is described by Zappa in the title song of his album Tinsel Town Rebellion .

Zappa attacked taboos and brought the repressed to light. He exposed hollowness and self-love, platitudes and old wives' tales and exposed them to ridicule. Satire and ridicule are not only conveyed through the choice of words and tone of voice, but are "a substantial part of composition and arrangement". This is the view of rock journalist Volker Rebellis confirmed by a statement by Zappa: "In part, I am not only interested in the content, but I also write according to aural aspects." As a result, text and music enter into a reciprocal relationship and are inextricably linked, as the music comments on the text content, while the vocal contribution interprets the musical events. These compositions of text and music, which are typical for Zappa, are influenced by the aforementioned Spike Jones . Volker Rebell judged: "Zappa has mastered the oeuvre of music satire like hardly any other rock composer."

As far as the field of topics worked by Zappa is, so extensive is the range of shapes that he used. There are contributions in the classic structure with verse , chorus and hook line as well as text contributions in free narrative style. In rhyming contributions you can find the couple rhyme , the cross rhyme , embracing rhymes or the tail rhyme ; Both pure and impure rhymes occur, and in some texts the rhyme is completely dispensed with.

Most Zappa lyrics are sung, but also Chanting found in his plays. Zappa took up a form of lecture stemming from Afro-American culture, which appeared in the blues as "Talking Blues" from around the 1920s, and made it known to a larger audience in the field of pop culture long before rap and hip-hop had a mass effect. Examples of this chant can be found in the pieces Trouble Every Day , I'm the Slime , Dinah-Moe Humm , Dumb All Over and The Dangerous Kitchen .



Even if Zappa distanced himself from bourgeois ideals in his early years by appearing and dressing as a freak , he quickly distanced himself from the hippie movement that emerged in the 1960s . He often satirically recorded the "flower children" in his songs and in concert remarks. An attempt to become their spokesman was only temporary. In his songs, in interviews as well as radio and television spots, he repeatedly spoke out against drug use - he also tried to prevent his band members from using it.

Hippie movement

In the early 1960s, a new youth culture developed in America, each of which was clearly different from region to region. The San Francisco scene was shaped by the hippies , but in Los Angeles, where Zappa lived, they were referred to as freaks . Zappa initially saw their way of life as an adequate "remedy for America's merciless consumer culture". He fully agreed with the young people's demand for an expansion of consciousness in the sense of free thinking. Free love, open marriages - these aspects of a different way of life propagated by the scene also corresponded to his attitude towards life.

During the short heyday of this subculture in Los Angeles, the Mothers of Invention became known. Zappa took advantage of the popularity of the band in the scene and after the release of the album Freak Out! existing advertising material to his own ideas of a counterculture in sometimes multi-page advertisements and in supplements to the newspaper Los Angeles Free Pressto publish. Zappa wanted society to change, and he tried to co-opt his fans to achieve that goal. As a result, Zappa and the Mothers were seen by many as the mouthpiece of the scene. Many others, on the other hand, rubbed against Zappa's declarations, perceiving them, as Barry Miles writes, "simply as inflated and patriarchal". Even Mothers singer Ray Collins took a public position against Zappa in a letter to the editor.

At first, Zappa had mildly scoffed at the flower children: “In San Francisco they approached the matter in a somewhat local way.” However, he soon noticed how the scene was also being appropriated by other sources: “When the counterculture began, it was perceived by the American media It was already firmly in the hands of the corporations. ”He himself began to satirically comment on some forms of freak existence. The part of Laurel Canyon, in which many dropouts lived at the time (he also lived there himself), was for him the “freak reserve” or “hallucinogenic wasteland”. In some of his songs he made fun of Hungry Freaks (album Freak Out! ). On the album Burnt Weeny SandwichIn the song The Little House I Used To Live In, recorded live in the summer of 1969 , Zappa can hear a heckler: “Everybody in this room is wearing a uniform, and don't kid yourself” (“Everyone in this room wears Uniform - don't fool yourself ”). Zappa's criticism grew harsher over time and culminated in 1985 with the song We're Turning Again , published on Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention . In it, Zappa dismissed the hippie movement as “folklore”, whose followers “have no sense of humor”, are too comfortable to worry, believe “never to be mistaken”, and are therefore “totally empty” and open their minds "Posters to hang up" were put on the bedroom wall.

In her autobiography, Jefferson Airplane singer Grace Slick describes that Zappa made “bluntly fun” of the whole counterculture, “which he kept going”. Zappa biographer Barry Miles concludes that Zappa was never a hippie, more like a late beatnik - a loner and a “fellow traveler who was traveling on a parallel course: alone”.


Zappa smoked a lot, he also drank plenty of coffee - and he made fun of both habits: “To me, a cigarette is food. I live my life eating these things and drinking the 'black water' in this cup here ”(“ For me a cigarette is food. I spend my life eating these things and drinking the 'black water' in this cup here drink. ”), he said during a reading in San Francisco in front of the television camera. However , he always refused to use drugs of any other kind - especially for himself.

In his autobiography, I Am the American Dream , he described how he explored the “joys of socializing marijuana joints ” on perhaps ten occasions between 1962 and 1968 : “I got a dry throat and it made me sleepy. I couldn't understand why others like it so much. [...] If I had liked it, I might even take it today - I like smoking itself. "

Grace Slick wrote in her autobiography, “Drugs were never Frank's business.” Barry Miles even claims that Zappa didn't even know the difference between hash and heroin for a while . He describes an anecdote that occurred after a Pink Floyd concert at the UFO Clubhappened in London. Outside the door of the club someone shook Frank's hand and slipped him a piece of hashish. Frank would have thrown a perplexed look at it and, to the astonishment of the hippies around, asked: “What is this?” His prison experience in 1965 and the fear of repetition for which he was not responsible may have led him to forbid visitors from using drugs in his house. "It also seems to me to be an impractical pastime, as you can go to jail for it."

Barry Miles sees another cause of Zappa's negative attitude towards drugs in a character trait of the artist: Zappa was considered a “control freak” who absolutely wanted to keep the reins of the action in hand. He suspected a US government conspiracy behind the drug use. "The drugs are part of the government's strategy to keep us all under control." When it came to work - whether it was during rehearsals, recording sessions in the studio or on tour - Zappa insisted that his musicians never do drugs took. Many of his musicians were by no means abstinent, at least not when the work was done. Jimmy Carl Black: “He didn't like it at all and kept his distance. That was fine with us - because we were sure to have more fun than him. “Instead, Zappa observed the drug use of his fellow musicians and processed it in his work. This is how it plays in the film200 Motels Keyboardist Don Preston plays the role of the monster Biff Debris, who experiments with hallucinogenic substances in a laboratory.

In the 20th year after the founding of the Mothers, the consumption of drugs had consequences for a Zappa musician: Napoleon Murphy Brock had to leave the group after a few appearances on the 1984 US tour because of drug use.

Otherwise, Zappa's attitude towards drugs was somewhere between tolerance and distance. This was confirmed, for example, by Zappa's daughter Moon, who was quoted by Miles as follows: “I didn't take drugs because they weren't available at home. But nobody would have stopped me either. ” Rosemarie Heinikel, who had a lot of contact with musicians in the Munich scene in the 1960s and 1970s, described in her autobiography the night she spent with the band and with Zappa after a Mothers concert. Circling joints are mentioned several times: "Frank put the ashtray on my bed [...] Frank didn't pull the joint." Although Zappa recorded several anti-drug spots for radio and television in the course of his career, he also took a position against American drug laws. In March 1986 Zappa was seen in the well-known television series Miami Vice in the role of the drug dealer Mario Fuente in the episode Payback (German title: Schuld um Schuld ). Zappa's ambiguous stance on drugs resulted in ex- GTO Pamela Des Barres to the point. In the mid-1960s, he tried to convince her that drugs were pointless.

Political commitment

The music critic Ben Watson describes "Zappas Mothers of Invention" as "the most politically effective musical force since Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill " because of their radical, current reference to the negative aspects of mass society. His music caught the attention of the new left.

On October 16, 1968, Zappa played with the Mothers of Invention in the Berlin Sports Palace and was asked by students to call for a demonstration against the American government during the concert. Zappa refused - protesters stormed the stage and called the band "Mothers of Reaction". At a lecture given by Zappa at the London School of Economics in 1969, Zappa condemned demonstrations as "useless" - men should instead infiltrate the establishment with neat hairstyles and women marry influential men. That this statement can also be understood ironically, but at least multilayered, is shown in the lyrics of Brown Shoes Don't Make It (album Absolutely Free), which says about the adapted protagonist: “Smile at every ugly shine on your shoes and cut your hair. Be a jerk and go to work ”(“ Smile at every ugly sheen on your shoes and cut your hair. Be a fool and go to work ”).

Later, however, Zappa also became directly politically active. Since the album Fillmore East, June 1971 , Zappa has repeatedly urged his American fans in concerts and also on the record sleeves with the note “Don't forget to register to vote” to exercise their right to vote and to register themselves on the electoral roll allow.

A campaign launched by the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) in 1985 by the wives of American senators at the time (first and foremost Tipper Gore ) demanded that offensive song lyrics should be banned or at least marked with a sticker on the records. Zappa was not on the list of artists to be censored, but musicians like Bruce Springsteen for I'm on Fire and Prince for Darling Nikki from the album Purple Rain . Frank Zappa sat down in what he called the Porn Wars discussion at the Congress Hearingon September 19, 1985 with John Denver among others for freedom of expression. He used parts of the hearing in the album Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention . Zappa was of the opinion that music could not incite people to illegal actions: “There are more love songs than other songs. If music could get people to do certain things, then we would all love each other. "

Nevertheless, Zappa acted quite provocatively, for example with the Jewish Princess and by referring to the freedoms of the hippie generation. Clear political references can be found, for example, in the song Son of Orange County , the home of Richard Nixon , which Zappa quotes with the words “I am not a crook” (“I am not a crook”). Refrain text: “I just can't believe you are such a fool” (“I just can't believe you're such a fool”). Because of the song Jewish Princess , Zappa was sued by B'nai B'rith - albeit unsuccessfully.

Frank Zappa with Václav Havel

Under Václav Havel , Zappa was cultural attaché of Czechoslovakia . In his 1989 autobiography, in which he described himself as a “practical conservative”, Zappa developed ideas on tax law, defense and other political issues. Zappa gave up his candidacy for the US presidency, which he announced in an interview in 1991, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.


During his lifetime

In December 1970, the jazz magazine Down Beat named Frank Zappa Pop Musician of the Year 1970. In 1988, Zappa's album Jazz from Hell received a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance . The album was mostly recorded on the Synclavier and Zappa speculated that the nomination was an accident or was based on a "perverse understanding of humor" by many. His first encounter with the award-winning National Academy of Recording Arts and SciencesZappa had already 20 years earlier. With the Mothers he was supposed to provide "entertainment" in 1968 at one of the official Grammy dinners. The band did it their own way - and got boos. As the rock journalist Barry Miles reports, Zappa's name only appeared again in a Grammy program in 1979: he received two nominations for the album Sheik Yerbouti ( Best Rock Vocal Performance - male for Dancin 'Fool and Best Rock Instrument Performance for advice Tomago ). In 1982 the Academy nominated Zappa and his daughter Moon for the album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch in the category Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocalfor the song Valley Girl .


The thorough appreciation began after Zappa's death. Posthumously, Zappa received the last two Grammys: Zappa and his widow Gail were awarded in 1995 for the packaging of the album Civilization Phaze III in the category Best Recording Package - Boxed ; In 1997 Zappa's life's work was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award .

Frank Zappa was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. The song Brown Shoes Don't Make It , played by the Mothers, was inducted into the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll list by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Board of Trustees .

The American music magazine Rolling Stone recognized Zappa's work several times. He ranks 71st among the 100 greatest musicians of all time . In the list of the 100 best guitarists of all time from 2015, he is ranked 22nd. In the list of the 500 best albums of all time , the Mothers albums Freak Out! on rank 243 and We're Only In It For the Money on rank 296. Also in the list The Essential Rock Collection from 1997 the album Freak Out! called.

The musicologist Hans-Jürgen Schaal attributes to Zappa the invention of the "underground", the concept album, the rock double album, jazz-rock and the "pop music as society satire and surrealist world theater". Zappa was the first to enforce the electronically amplified big band, electronically manipulated woodwind instruments, the wah-wah pedal and other effects devices.

Frank Zappa - Monument by Václav Česák in Bad Doberan, the venue of the annual Zappanale

The Zappanale , the largest Zappa festival in the world , has been taking place in Bad Doberan since 1990 . In addition to former Zappa musicians such as Mike Keneally , Ike Willis , Napoleon Murphy Brock , Jimmy Carl Black and others, Zappa cover bands and musicians influenced or impressed by Zappa perform.

Frank-Zappa-Strasse in Berlin-Marzahn

In the Berlin district of Marzahn-Hellersdorf , the 400-meter-long “Strasse 13” (Frank-Zappa-Strasse) was named after Zappa on July 28, 2007 at the initiative of the ORWOhaus association and at the request of the Die Linke party . In the street there is a building that was previously used by the film manufacturer ORWO and in which more than 150 bands have their rehearsal rooms today. The NRW state capital Düsseldorf followed suit in 2016: on June 4, the Lord Mayor opened the new Frank-Zappa-Strasse in the Flingern-Nord district .

The city of Baltimore , where Zappa was born, also paid tribute to the artist: In 2007, Mayor Sheila Dixon declared August 9th to be “Frank Zappa Day”. In May 2008, the Baltimore Art Committee decided to set up a replica of the bronze Zappa bust that has stood in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius since 1995 .

The influential Czech underground band Plastic People of the Universe named themselves after one of his songs . There are many groups around the world who influenced Zappa's work in different ways. They also include the Grandmothers , Klaus König Orchestra (Germany), Sammlas Mammas Manna (Sweden), Omnibus Wind Ensemble (Sweden), Ensemble Modern , Steve Vai , Mike Keneally , Sheik Yerbouti (Germany), Le Concert Impromptu & Bossini (France) ) and last but not least Zappa's son Dweezil Zappa , who in 2006, 2007 and 2009 with the Zappa Plays Zappa project was on a European tour and continues to interpret his father's compositions.

The name Frank Zappas has also found expression in the natural sciences. Named after him

  • the gene "ZapA Proteus mirabilis",
  • the fish "Zappa confluentus",
  • the jellyfish "Phialella zappai",
  • the mollusk "Amauratoma zappa",
  • the spider "Pachygnatha zappa",
  • the asteroid " (3834) Zappafrank ", which orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter in the central main belt and
  • the bacterium "Propionibacterium acnes type Zappae".

A Boeing 737-800 from Lauda Air with the registration OE-LNR and the serial number 33833 was delivered in April 2005 and named "Frank Zappa".

The Hamburg comic artist Wittek converted the Zappa album Joe's Garage into a six-page comic in 1994, which was published in the magazine Uncomfortable . Following the example of Cal Schenkel , nothing was drawn, the entire comic consists of collages .

On the 2011 album I'm with You by Red Hot Chili Peppers, lead singer Anthony Kiedis pays tribute to the Mothers of Invention when he sings in the song Happiness Loves Company : "The Mothers of Invention are the best." Emphasized in a later interview Kiedis that the group's former guitarist, John Frusciante , is a great admirer of Frank Zappa's music.



The following list contains all of Zappa's albums that have either been produced or approved by Frank Zappa himself or by the Zappa Family Trust .

  • Baby Snakes - March 1983
  • London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 1 - June 1983
  • Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger - August 1984
  • Them or Us - October 1984
  • Thing-Fish - November 1984
  • Francesco Zappa - November 1984
  • The Old Masters Box 1 - April 1985
  • FZ Meets the Mothers of Prevention - November 1985
  • FZ Meets the Mothers of Prevention, European Version - 1986
  • Does Humor Belong in Music? - January 1986
  • Jazz from Hell - November 1986
  • The Old Masters Box 2 - November 1986
  • London Symphony Orchestra Volume II - September 1987
  • The Old Masters Box 3 - December 1987
  • Guitar - April 1988
  • You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Volume I - May 1988
  • You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Volume II - July 1988
  • Broadway the Hard Way - October 1988
  • You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Volume III - November 1989
  • The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life - April 1991
  • You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Volume IV - May 1991
  • Make a Jazz Noise Here - June 1991
  • You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Volume V - July 1992
  • You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Volume VI - July 1992
  • Playground Psychotics - October 1992
  • Ahead of Their Time - March 1993
  • The Yellow Shark - October 1993 (together with Ensemble Modern)

Official publications after Zappa's death

  • Civilization Phaze III - December 1994
  • The Lost Episodes - February 1996
  • Läther - September 1996
  • Frank Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa: A Memorial Tribute - October 1996
  • Have I Offended Someone? - April 1997
  • Mystery Disc - September 1998
  • Everything Is Healing Nicely - December 1999
  • FZ: OZ - August 2002
  • Halloween - February 2003 (DVD-Audio)
  • Joe's Corsage - May 2004
  • Joe's Domage - September 2004
  • QuAUDIOPHILIAc - October 2004 (DVD-Audio)
  • Joe's XMasage - December 2005
  • Imaginary Diseases - January 2006
  • Trance Fusion - October 2006
  • The MOFO Project / Object - December 2006 (4-CD)
  • The MOFO Project / Object - December 2006 (2-CD)
  • Buffalo - April 2007
  • The Dub Room Special! - September 2007
  • Wazoo - October 2007
  • One Shot Deal - June 2008
  • Philly 76 - December 2009 (2-CD)
  • Congress Shall Make No Law - September 2010
  • Hammersmith Odeon - November 2010 (3-CD)
  • Finer Moments - December 2012 (2-CD)
  • Joe's Camouflage - January 2014 (CD)
  • Dance Me This - June 2015 (the final, 100th album in the catalog)
  • Roxy - The Soundtrack - October 2015
  • Frank Zappa: 200 Motels - The Suites - November 2015
  • Road Tapes, Venue # 3 - May 2016
  • The Crux Of The Biscuit - July 2016
  • Frank Zappa For President - July 2016
  • ZAPPAtite (Frank Zappa's Tastiest Tracks) - September 2016
  • Meat Light - The Uncle Meat Project / Object Audio Documentary - November 2016
  • Little Dots - November 2016
  • Chicago '78 - November 2016
  • Halloween 77 (Box Set) - October 2017
  • Halloween 77 (3-CD) - October 2017
  • The Roxy Performances - February 2018
  • Zappa In New York - 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition - March 2019
A drudel on the cover of the 1982 LP Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch

Chart placements


year title Top ranking, total weeks, awardChart placementsChart placements
(Year, title, rankings, weeks, awards, notes)
DE DE AT AT CH CH UK UK US USTemplate: chart table / maintenance / charts non-existent
1969 Hot rats DE45 (1 week)
- - UK9 (29 weeks)
US173 (6 weeks)
Chart entry in DE only in 2019
1970 Chunga's Revenge - - - UK43 (1 week)
US119 (14 weeks)
1971 Frank Zappa's 200 motels - - - - US59 (13 weeks)
1972 Waka / Jawaka - Hot Rats - - - - US152 (7 weeks)
1974 Apostrophes (') - - - - US10

(43 weeks)US
1975 One size fits all - - - - US26 (12 weeks)
Bongo Fury - - - - US66 (8 weeks)
1976 Zoot Allures - - - UK-
US61 (13 weeks)
1977 Zappa in New York DE20 (1 week)
AT74 (1 week)
CH64 (1 week)
UK55 (1 week)
US57 (8 weeks)
Chart entry in DE, AT & CH only in 2019
1978 Studio Tan - - - - US147 (6 weeks)
1979 Sleep Dirt - - - - US175 (4 weeks)
Sheik Yerbouti DE10

(36 weeks)DE
AT6 (20 weeks)
- UK32 (7 weeks)
US21 (23 weeks)
Orchestral Favorites DE48 (1 week)
- CH77 (1 week)
- US168 (4 weeks)
Chart entry in DE & CH only in 2019
Joe's Garage Act I. DE41 (1 week)
AT8 (8 weeks)
- UK62 (3 weeks)
US27 (25 weeks)
Joe's Garage Acts II & III DE31 (33 weeks)
AT9 (10 weeks)
- UK75 (1 week)
US53 (12 weeks)
1981 Tinseltown Rebellion DE23 (9 weeks)
AT9 (8 weeks)
- UK55 (4 weeks)
US66 (11 weeks)
You Are What You Is - - - UK51 (2 weeks)
US93 (7 weeks)
1982 Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch DE65 (1 week)
- - UK61 (4 weeks)
US23 (22 weeks)
1983 The Man From Utopia - - - UK87 (1 week)
US153 (5 weeks)
1984 Them Or Us DE42 (4 weeks)
- - UK53 (2 weeks)
1986 FZ Meets The MOP - - - - US153 (6 weeks)
1988 Guitar DE40 (5 weeks)
AT25 (2 weeks)
- UK82 (2 weeks)
1991 The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life - - CH30 (53 weeks)
- -
1993 The Yellow Shark DE61 (8 weeks)
AT30 (1 week)
- - -
1995 Civilization Phaze III DE87 (5 weeks)
- - - -
Strictly Commercial - Best Of DE51 (8 weeks)
- CH12 (5 weeks)
UK45 (3 weeks)
2015 Roxy - The Movie DE39 (1 week)
- - - -
2018 The Roxy Performances DE55 (1 week)
- - - -
2019 Halloween 73 DE56 (1 week)
- - - -
2020 The Mothers 1970 DE30 (1 week)
- CH46 (1 week)
- -
Halloween 81: Live At The Palladium, New York City DE38 (1 week)
- CH77 (1 week)
- -

gray hatching : no chart data available for this year


year Title
Top ranking, total weeks, awardChart placementsChart placements
(Jahr, Titel, Album, Plat­zie­rungen, Wo­chen, Aus­zeich­nungen, Anmer­kungen)
1974 Don't Eat The Yellow Snow
Apostrophe (')
- - - - US86 (4 weeks)
1979 Dancin 'fool
- - - - US45 (8 weeks)
1980 Bobby Brown
Sheik Yerbouti
DE4 (50 weeks)

(31 weeks)AT
CH5 (24 weeks)
- -
I don't wanna get drafted
DE71 (3 weeks)
- - - -
1982 Valley girl
- - - - US32 (12 weeks)
1991 Stairway to Heaven
- - CH9 (8 weeks)
- -
1998 Cheap Thrills
Cheap Thrills
- - - UK83 (5 weeks)

Video albums

year title Top ranking, total weeks, awardChart placementsChartplatzierungen
(Jahr, Titel, Plat­zie­rungen, Wo­chen, Aus­zeich­nungen, Anmer­kungen)
1986 Does Humor Belong In Music - - - - US-
2004 Baby snakes DE67 (1 week)
- - - US-

Awards for music sales

Golden record

  • KanadaCanada Canada
    • 1979: for the album Joe's Garage Act I.
    • 1979: for the album Sheik Yerbouti
  • SchwedenSweden Sweden
    • 1993: for the single Bobby Brown
Country / Region Silver record icon.svg silver Gold record icon.svg gold Platinum record icon.svg platinum Sales swell
Aus­zeich­nung­en für Mu­sik­ver­käu­fe
(Land/Region, Auszeichnungen, Verkäufe, Quellen)
Germany (BVMI) Germany (BVMI) 0! S- Gold record icon.svg Gold1 0! P- 250,000
Canada (MC) Canada (MC) 0! S- Gold record icon.svg 2× Gold2 0! P- 100,000
Austria (IFPI) Austria (IFPI) 0! S- Gold record icon.svg Gold1 0! P- 25,000
Sweden (IFPI) Sweden (IFPI) 0! S- Gold record icon.svg Gold1 0! P- 25,000 ( Memento from May 21, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
United States (RIAA) United States (RIAA) 0! S- Gold record icon.svg 3× Gold3 0! P- 600,000
United Kingdom (BPI) United Kingdom (BPI) Silver record icon.svg Silber1 0! G- 0! P- 60,000
All in all Silver record icon.svg Silber1 Gold record icon.svg 8× Gold8th -

Beat the Boots - the official bootlegs

Frank Zappa was often the victim of bootleggers . Zappa approached the problem in his own way: Avoiding lengthy arguments through legal action, he founded the label Foo-Eee with Rhino Records and now copied a selection of 15 well-known bootlegs including the album title and cover designs. This is how the Beat the Boots series was created in 1991 , which - distributed on LPs and CDs - contains 15 bootleg albums: ( Beat the Boots I + II each as an LP box, Beat the Boots I as individual CDs and Beat the Boots II as a CD box).

Due to the high number of all bootlegs that have ever been in circulation, a complete list cannot be given here (see web links and other Zappa catalogs on the Internet). At this point only the works “ennobled” by Frank Zappa through his publication are mentioned and briefly explained with the location and year of recording.

  • Beat the Boots I - 1991, contains:
    • Frank Zappa: As An Am - Cologne 1982, New York 1981
    • The Mothers of Invention: The Ark - Boston 1968
    • Frank Zappa: Freaks & Motherfu **** - Los Angeles 1970
    • Zappa / Mothers: Unmitigated Audacity - South Bend / Indiana 1974
    • Frank Zappa: Anyway the Wind Blows # 1 + 2 - Paris 1979
    • The Mothers of Invention: 'Tis the Season to Be Jelly - Stockholm 1967
    • Frank Zappa: Saarbrücken 1978 - Saarbrücken 1978
    • Frank Zappa: Piquantique - Stockholm 1973
  • Beat the Boots II - 1991, contains:
    • Zappa / Mothers: Disconnected Synapses - Paris 1970
    • Zappa / Mothers: Tengo na minchia tanta - New York 1970
    • Zappa / Mothers: Electric Aunt Jemima - Amsterdam, Denver, Essen 1968
    • Frank Zappa: At the Circus - Munich 1978
    • Zappa / Mothers: Swiss Cheese / Fire! - Montreux 1971
    • Zappa / Mothers: Our Man in Nirvana - Fullerton / California 1968
    • Frank Zappa: Conceptual Continuity - Detroit 1976

Zappa on Rykodisc

The recording company Rykodisc acquired the right to publish the albums that were released up to Zappa's death and to use this material to bring out new samplers and multiple boxes. The latter are shown in the list below.

  • Strictly Commercial - August 1995
  • Strictly Genteel - May 1997
  • Cheap Thrills - April 1998
  • Son of Cheap Thrills - April 1999
  • Threesome No. 1 - April 2002 (includes Freak Out , Absolutely Free , We're Only in It for the Money )
  • Threesome No. 2 - April 2002 (includes Hot Rats , Waka / Jawaka , The Grand Wazoo )
  • The Best of Frank Zappa - November 2004
  • Zappa Catalog (contains all Zappa Werk albums and the Ryko samplers listed here)

Video publications

Only cinema films and purchase videos produced or approved by Frank Zappa or the Zappa Family Trust.

  • 200 Motels - October 1971 (VHS, DVD)
  • Baby Snakes - December 1979 (VHS, DVD)
  • The Dub Room Special! - October 1982 (VHS, DVD)
  • Does Humor Belong in Music? - January 1985 (VHS, DVD)
  • Video from Hell - January 1987 (VHS)
  • Uncle Meat - January 1988 (VHS)
  • The True Story of 200 Motels - January 1989 (VHS)
  • The Amazing Mr. Bickford - May 1989 (VHS)
  • Apostrophe (') / Over-Nite Sensation - 2007 (DVD)
  • The Torture Never Stops - May 2008 (DVD)
  • A Token of His Extreme - June 2013 (DVD)
  • Roxy: The Movie - October 2015 (DVD and Blu-ray Disc)
  • Frank Zappa - Eat That Question - December 2016, film by Thorsten Schütte

Book publications

  • Frank Zappa, Ian Underwood: The Frank Zappa Songbook, Vol. 1 . Frank Zappa Music Inc./Munchkin Music Co., Los Angeles 1973.
  • Frank Zappa, Carl Weissner: Plastic People . Two thousand and one, Frankfurt 1977.
  • Frank Zappa, Carl Weissner: Plastic People Songbook. Corrected Copy . Zweiausendeins, Frankfurt am Main 1977. Lyrics by Freak Out! to Bongo Fury in the original corrected by Frank Zappa and translated by Carl Weissner.
  • Frank Zappa, Steve Vai: The Frank Zappa Guitar Book . Hal Leonard, Milwaukee 1982, ISBN 0-7119-0223-2 .
  • Frank Zappa: Them or Us (The Book) . Barfko Swill, Los Angeles 1984.
  • Frank Zappa, Peter Occhiogrosso: The Real Frank Zappa Book . Poseidon Press, New York 1989, ISBN 0-671-63870-X . Zappa's autobiography, published in German under I Am the American Dream . Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-442-32536-6 .
  • Frank Zappa, Carl Weissner: Zonx, Texts 1977–1994 . Zweiausendeins, Frankfurt am Main 1996, ISBN 3-86150-179-1 . Original lyrics from Zoot Allures to You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Volume IV and translated by Carl Weissner.
  • Frank Zappa, Andy Aledort: Hot Rats . Hal Leonard, Milwaukee 2001, ISBN 0-634-02152-4 .
  • Frank Zappa, Andy Aledort: Apostrophe (') . Hal Leonard, Milwaukee 2002, ISBN 0-634-03321-2 .


  • Jean-Luc Ponty : King Kong: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa (1970)
  • BRT Big Band: The BRT Big Band Plays Frank Zappa (1990)
  • Yahonza: Yahozna Plays Zappa (1992)
  • Joel Thome / Orchestra of Our Time: Zappa's Universe - A Celebration of 25 Years of Frank Zappa's Music (1993)
  • Harmonia Ensemble : Harmonia Meets Zappa (1994)
  • Omnibus Wind Ensemble : Music by Frank Zappa (1995)
  • Muffin Men : Frankincense: The Muffin Men Play Zappa (1997)
  • The Ed Palermo Big Band: Plays the Music of Frank Zappa (1997)
  • CoCö Anderson: Dischordancies Abundant (1997)
  • The Persuasions : Frankly a cappella (2000)
  • Ensemble Ambrosius : The Zappa Album (2000)
  • Bohuslän Big Band : Bohuslän Big Band Plays Frank Zappa (2000)
  • Gotan Project : Chunga's Revenge (on La Revancha del Tango) (2001)
  • Ensemble Modern : Ensemble Modern Plays Frank Zappa: Greggery Peccary & Other Persuasions (2003)
  • UMO Jazz Orchestra : UMO Plays Frank Zappa Feat. Marzi Nyman (2003)
  • Colin Towns & NDR Bigband : Frank Zappa's Hot Licks (And Funny Smells) (2004)
  • Lemme Take You to the Beach: Surf Instrumental Bands Playing the Music of Zappa (Cordelia Records, 2005)
  • The Ed Palermo Big Band: Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance (2006)
  • Inventionis Mater: Does Humor Belong in Classical Music? (2012)
  • Inventionis Mater: Kong's Revenge (2014)
  • The Ed Palermo Big Band: Oh No! Not jazz !! (Cuneiform Records 2014) also with own compositions by Ed Palermo
  • Inventionis Mater: Zapping (2016)
  • Inventionis Mater Trio (feat. Napoleon Murphy Brock): Live on "Zappa plays for Bach" (2018).


watch TV


Main literature that was used to create the article and is not necessarily referenced individually with footnotes:

Further reading:

  • Dominique Chevalier: Viva! Zappa. An Alchemist and His Work . Omnibus Press 1986, ISBN 0-7119-0977-6 . English. Illustrated tour of Frank Zappa's early career, including discography and lots of pictures.
  • Alain Dister: Frank Zappa. The underground rebel . Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-453-80042-7 . Title of the French original edition: Frank Zappa et les Mothers of Invention Ed .: Alain Dister, Paris 1975, ISBN 2-226-00196-4 . Alain Dister followed Frank Zappa's career for many years. In his book, which was a great success in France, he reports on the life and career of the artist.
  • Urban Gwerder: Alla Zappa : Festschrift on the occasion of the Zark Expo & Mothers concerts in Zurich in March 1976. Painting Box Press, Zurich 1976, DNB 949178950 .
  • Manuel de la Fuente Soler: Frank Zappa en el infierno. The rock como movilización para la disidencia política. Biblioteca Nueva, 2006, ISBN 84-9742-592-8 .
  • Michael Gray: The Frank Zappa Story . VGS Verlagsgesellschaft, Cologne 1994, ISBN 3-8025-2300-8 .
  • Richard Kostelanetz , John Rocco (Eds.): The Frank Zappa Companion: Four Decades of Commentary . Schirmer Books, New York 1997, ISBN 0-02-864628-2 .
  • Billy James: Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention - The Early Years . Hannibal Verlag, Höfen 2007, ISBN 978-3-85445-279-9 (Original edition: Necessity Is ... Early Years Of Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention )
  • Kelly Fisher Lowe: The Words and Music of Frank Zappa. With a new introduction by the author. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln / London 2007, ISBN 978-0-8032-6005-4
  • Wolfgang Ludwig: Investigations into the musical work of Frank Zappa: a music-sociological and analytical study to determine a musical style (= European university publications , series 36, musicology , volume 88). Lang, Frankfurt am Main / Berlin / Bern / New York NY / Paris / Vienna 1992, ISBN 3-631-45128-8 (dissertation FU Berlin 1991, 300 pages).
  • Ingo Meyer: Frank Zappa . Philipp Reclam jun. Verlag, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-15-018811-8 .
  • Barry Miles: Zappa - A Visual Documentary by Miles . Omnibus Press 1993, ISBN 0-7119-3099-6 . English. Illustrated chronology of Frank Zappa's career.
  • Norbert Obermanns: Zappalog . 2nd Edition, Rhino Books, Los Angeles, 1982. Standard work for fans and collectors of the early 1980s, including illustrations of the singles and LP versions that had been released worldwide up to that point.
  • Thomas Phleps: “The Crux of the Biscuit…” - About political and other “atrocities” in Frank Zappa's music. In: Thomas Phleps: Between Adorno and Zappa. Semantic and functional presentations in the music of the 20th century. Series: Between / Töne, New Series 2. Weidler Buchverlag, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-89693-184-9 .
  • Andreas Rausch: Zappaesk . Ehapa, Cologne 2005, ISBN 3-7704-2888-9 .
  • Wolfgang Reimers: Social criticism in rock music using the example of Frank Zappa . Centaurus-Verlagsges., Pfaffenweiler 1985, ISBN 3-89085-044-8 .
  • Daniel Schröder: The composer Frank Zappa . Büchner-Verlag, Darmstadt 2012, ISBN 978-3-941310-28-5 .
  • Neil Slaven: Electric Don Quixote - The Ultimate Story by Frank Zappa. German edition. Bosworth Music, 2006, ISBN 978-3-86543-042-7 .
  • David Walley: No Commercial Potential: The Saga of Frank Zappa . Updated Edition, Da Capo Press, New York 1996, ISBN 0-306-80710-6 . The first edition appeared in 1980 with Zappa's comment "This book is going to be around for a long time".
  • Ben Watson: Frank Zappa The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play . Quartet Books, London 1995, ISBN 0-7043-0242-X .
  • Frank Wonneberg : Grand Zappa - International Frank Zappa Discology . Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-89602-581-4 .
  • Geoff Wills: Zappa and Jazz: Did it really smell funny, Frank? (English), 2015, ISBN 978-1784623913 .
  • Moon Unit Zappa: America the Beautiful . Heyne Verlag, 2001, ISBN 3-453-19061-0 . Frank Zappa's oldest child, Moon Unit, deals with her life as the daughter of a famous father in the novel.

Web links

Commons : Frank Zappa  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Frank Zappa in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  2. Frank Zappa at
  3. ^ Miles (2005), p. 110
  4. FZ giglist 1967 (as of June 2008)
  5. a b When Frank Zappa was pushed off the stage and pronounced dead. December 4, 2020, accessed on December 5, 2020 (German).
  6. List of Celebrities in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
  7. Miles (2005), p. 33
  8. Miles (2005), p. 35 f.
  9. a b c d e f Hans-Jürgen Schaal: Between all chairs - Frank Zappa, Das Orchester: Zeitschrift für deutsche Orchesterkultur und Rundfunk-Chorwesen , Mainz, Vol. 50, 2002, pp. 34–41
  10. ^ Miles (2005), p. 42f
  11. Lost in a Whirlpool (as of December 9, 2006)
  12. ^ Miles (2005), p. 76f
  13. ^ Miles (2005), p. 43
  14. ^ Miles (2005), p. 80
  15. Miles (2005), p. 79 f.
  16. a b Norbert Obermanns: Zappalog. 2nd Edition, Rhino Books, Los Angeles, 1982, p. 101
  17. ^ Miles (2005), p. 91
  18. ^ Miles (2005), pp. 82, 102
  19. ^ Concerto For Two Bicycles , YouTube
  20. ^ Miles (2005), pp. 90, 95
  21. FZ giglist 1967 (as of December 16, 2006)
  22. ^ Rebell (1977), p. 259
  23. a b Mike Fish and Ben Watson: Frank Zappa on Disk , reprint of the article from The Wire , Vol. 91, September 1991. In: Kostelanetz (1997), p. 132.
  24. Uncle Meat review on Allmusic (English, with sound examples, as of March 2010)
  25. ^ Miles (2005), p. 231ff
  26. Trevor Charles Howell was the assassin. At the scene of the crime, he gave the reason that his wife had fallen in love with Zappa. Source: Rolling Stone magazine, January 6, 1972, p. 11
  27. from: Be-Bop Tango (Of The Old Jazzmen's Church) on the live album Roxy & Elsewhere
  28. Mike Fish and Ben Watson: Frank Zappa on Disk , reprint of the article from The Wire , Vol. 91, September 1991. In: Kostelanetz, p. 137.
  29. Reichert (2000), p. 87
  30. Lady Bianca (as of December 17, 2006)
  31. Interview in Melody Maker , 1974 (as of May 2010)
  32. ^ Rebell (1977), p. 261
  33. Lumpy Gravy review on the Babyblauen Seiten (status: May 2010)
  34. Orchestral Favorites on (as of May 2010)
  35. Watson (1997), pp. 458-459
  36. Rick Davies: Music Technology , February 1987, p. 48, quoted in Watson (1996), p. 459
  37. ^ Watson (1996, p. 460)
  38. ^ Miles (2005), p. 372
  39. ^ Miles (2005), p. 395
  40. ^ Watson (1997), p. 469
  41. ^ Rebell (1977), p. 251
  42. ^ Rebell (1977), p. 234
  43. ^ Miles (2005), p. 42
  44. ^ Rebell (1977), p. 251
  45. Hans-Jürgen Schaal: The yellow shark. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , October 28, 1998.
  46. Miles (2005), p. 41
  47. ^ A b Ronald Hitzler: Collages of a rogue. On the aesthetic style of Francis Vincent Zappa . In: jazzforschung , Vol. 17, Graz 1985, ISSN  0075-3572 , pp. 111-133
  48. Ludwig (1990), p. 178 f.
  49. ^ Rebell (1977), p. 252
  50. Miles (2005), p. 33
  51. The following section on measure, meter and rhythm follows Ludwig (1991), pp. 79–116
  52. Harvey Siders: Meet the Grand Wazoo , in: Down Beat of November 9, 1972, p. 13 and p. 36, quoted in Ludwig (1991)
  53. Liner notes for the album Sheik Yerbouti
  54. Frank Zappa quoted from Volker Rebell: Frank Zappa. Freak genius with tailcoat habit , in Jörg Gülden / Klaus Hoffmann (eds.): Rock Session. Magazin der popular Musik , Vol. 1, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1977, p. 252, quoted in Ludwig (1991)
  55. Ludwig (1991), p. 110
  56. Quoted from Frank Schaffer: The Perspective of Frank Zappa , in: Down Beat , September 13, 1973, p. 14, quoted in Ludwig (1991), p. 117.
  57. Ludwig (1991), p. 117.
  58. ^ Frank Haunschild : Die neue Harmonielehre , Volume 1, AMA-Verlag, Brühl 1998, p. 41.
  59. Ludwig (1991), p. 128 ff.
  60. Lowe (2007), p. 94
  61. Ludwig (1991), p. 61
  62. Part II , Time 4:26, based on Ludwig (1991), p. 213
  63. ^ Billy James: Necessity Is ...: The Early Years of Frank Zappa , 2nd edition, London 2005, ISBN 0-946719-51-9 , p. 9
  64. ^ Miles (2004), p. 88
  65. ^ Tibor Kneif: Sachlexikon Rockmusik . Rowohlt, Hamburg 1985, ISBN 3-499-16223-7 , p. 97
  66. ^ Miles (2005), p. 436
  67. Volker Rebell: Frank Zappa - freak genius with tailcoat habit . In: Rocksession 1 , Rororo Sachbuch, 1977, ISBN 3-499-17086-8 , p. 257
  68. ^ Rebell (1977), p. 265
  69. ^ Miles (2005), p. 335
  70. ^ "I'm not a virtuoso guitar player. A virtuoso can play anything , and I can't ", Ochigrosso 1989, p. 179
  71. a b Steve Rosen: Frank Zappa - It all started with a drum kit for $ 90 . In: Fachblatt Musikmagazin , Cologne, May 1979, ISSN  0930-0171 , pp. 6-19
  72. Zappa (1991), p. 202
  73. ^ Noë Goldwasser: Frank Zappa - Musical Inferno . In: Fachblatt Musikmagazin , Cologne, April 1987, ISSN  0930-0171 , pp. 10-20
  74. ^ Miles (2005), p. 437
  75. ^ Miles (2005), p. 335
  76. ^ Rebell (1977), pp. 257,270
  77. Fachblatt Musik Magazin 5/1979, p. 11, quoted from Ludwig 1992
  78. Zappa (1991), p. 207
  79. ^ Miles 2005, p. 274
  80. ^ Miles (2005), p. 440
  81. ^ Sylvie Simmons: Frank Zappa. In: Musik Express , Sounds-Verlag, Hamburg, July 1982, ISSN  0723-4651 , pp. 24-27
  82. ^ Miles 2006, p. 330
  83. ^ Lowe 2007, p. 162
  84. ^ Carl Ludwig Reichert: Frank Zappa . Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-423-31039-1 , pp. 58 .
  85. Lowe (2007), p. 163
  86. Watson 2003, p. Xxx
  87. ^ Miles (2005), p. 373
  88. ^ Watson (1997), p. 190
  89. ^ Rebell (1977), p. 254
  90. ^ Miles (2004), p. 85
  91. ^ Rebell (1977), p. 254
  92. ^ Miles (2005), p. 138
  93. ^ Miles (2005), p. 154
  94. ^ Miles (2005), p. 133
  95. ^ Miles (2005), p. 139
  96. ^ Miles (2005), pp. 142, 147
  97. Frank Zappa: Zonx, Texts 1977–1994 . Zweiausendeins Frankfurt am Main 1996, ISBN 3-86150-179-1 , p. 530ff
  98. a b Grace Slick : Somebody to Love? A Rock and Roll Memoir , Warner, New York 1998, cited in Miles 2006, p. 200.
  99. ^ Miles (2005), pp. 438f
  100. ^ Frank Zappa: Does Humor Belong in Music? Picture Music International, 1985, VHS Video
  101. Frank Zappa, Peter Occhiogrosso: I Am the American Dream . Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-442-32536-6 , pp. 257f
  102. ^ Miles (2005), p. 200
  103. Miles (2004), p. 70
  104. ^ Miles (2005), p. 147
  105. ^ Miles (2004), p. 72
  106. ^ Miles (2005), p. 140
  107. ^ Miles (2005), p. 348
  108. Rosemarie Heinikel : Rosy Rosy. Rowohlt Taschenbuchverlag, Reinbek 1983, ISBN 3-499-15074-3
  109. Norbert Obermanns: Zappalog. 2nd edition. Rhino Books, Los Angeles, 1982, pp. 98 f.
  110. ^ Miles (2005), p. 440
  111. ^ Carl-Ludwig Reichert: Frank Zappa . DTV, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-423-31039-1 , p. 119
  112. ^ Miles (2005), p. 133
  113. Ben Watson, 1993, p. 130
  114. Barbara Bollwahn: Caretaker of Rock n Roll . In: taz , August 29, 2009
  115. ^ Carl-Ludwig Reichert: Frank Zappa . DTV, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-423-31039-1
  116. FZ giglist 1968 (as of December 9, 2006)
  117. Mike Bourne, “An Interview with Frank Zappa,” Downbeat 1971, p. 38, cited in Ben Watson (1993), p. 131
  118. Playboy , May 2, 1993, online version ( Memento from July 22, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  119. ^ Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith .
  120. ^ Frank Zappa: The Real Frank Zappa Book (1989)
  121. Bob Guccione, JR: "Signs of the Times" in Spin , July 1991, printed in Kostelanetz (1997), p. 222
  122. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as of June 2008)
  123. 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll ( Memento from August 26, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) (as of June 2008)
  124. 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Rolling Stone , December 2, 2010, accessed August 8, 2017 .
  125. 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Rolling Stone , December 18, 2015, accessed August 8, 2017 .
  126. The 500 best albums of all time (as of June 2008)
  127. The Essential Rock Collection (as of June 2008)
  128. It should be noted that Zappa used all these things intensively and made them popular, but it has not been proven that he was actually the first to use the wah-wah pedal; first double album will also Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan called.
  129. ^ Frank-Zappa-Strasse. In: Street name lexicon of the Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein (near  Kaupert )
  130. Frank-Zappa-Straße ( Memento from October 18, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) (blog
  131. Lord Mayor reveals street sign "Frank-Zappa-Straße" , press release City of Düsseldorf, accessed on June 3, 2016
  132. ^ Frank Zappa Day, Johnathan Pitts: Zappa redux., August 5, 2007. (As of June 2008)
  133. Gail Zappa . In: Der Spiegel . No. 21 , 2008 ( online - to the bronze bust in Baltimore).
  134. Zappa bust in Vilnius
  135. Natural phenomena named after Zappa ( Memento from March 1, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (Status: June 2008)
  136. Wittek comic for the album Joe's Garage (as of June 2019)
  138. a b c Chart sources: DE AT CH UK US
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on December 14, 2009 in this version .