Frank Zappa ► A Musical Appreciation

Dateline December 4 – On this day in 1971 Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were on stage in Montreax, Switzerland when the casino caught fire. The night was immortalized in Deep Purple’s song “Smoke on the Water.” On the same date 22 years later Frank Zappa died of prostate cancer.

The ugliest LP cover I had ever seen.
I had to own it.

Not to brag, but I was there from the beginning. I discovered Frank Zappa some time in 1966 when I first set eyes on the cover of Freak Out at my local Kresge’s record department. As one descended on the escalator into the basement, a gap opened in the wall revealing Kresge’s 2-rack record department. The farther one descended, more of the record department was revealed in the expanding triangle of the record department. As teens we’d crane our heads into that crack to see what was new each week.

One day in 1966 my eyes spied what was the ugliest record cover I had ever seen. I had to own it.

It was a double-record set in a gatefold cover, among the first for a Rock and Roll LP. The music was also a revelation. One LP was all Doo Wop, but done in a slightly demented style, as opposed to straight up. The other LP contained longer songs and musical collages that were NOTHING like demented Doo Wop, but were demented all the same. I became an instant fan and followed Frank Zappa’s career, like a lemming follows whatever a lemming follows, ever since.

When I signed up I didn’t realize that by the time it was over I’d have collected some 90 albums, many of them double and triple sets, making Frank Zappa one of the most prolific artists/composers/Rock musicians of the 20th Century. However, I wasn’t a fan because he was prolific. I was a fan because he made great music. Here’s just a small taste of what Frank Zappa composed and released. Enjoy.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.