December 29, 2014

"Zappa Dummy."

A radio segment I enjoyed on my drive. It's about a music professor who teaches a course called "The Music of Frank Zappa" and who, as a teenager, assigned in art class to make something out of textiles, constructed a life-size dummy of Frank Zappa.

This has nothing to do with the Frank Zappa song "Dummy Up." Haven't thought about that song in years, but it came up in my search for that radio show.
[FZ:] The evil corrupter of youth is going to take him from Step One, which is a mere high-school diploma stuffed with a gym sock, to Step Two, which is a college-degree stuffed with absolutely nothing at all. Smoke that and it'll really get you out there!... No no, the college-degree is stuffed with absolutely nothing at all, you get . . . you get nothing with your college-degree...

[Napoleon:] Oh . . . But that's what I want.

[FZ:] I forgot, I'm sorry.

[Napoleon:] Well, You get nothin', but that's what I want.

[FZ:] A true Zen saying: Nothing is what I want . . . The results of a higher education!


Robert Cook said...

This bit of dialogue reminds me of how unfunny Zappa was, made the more unfunny by his very heavy reading of his "satirical" lyrics, accompanied by exaggerated face-pulling that would have been embarrassing to stereotypical villains in silent movie serials.

Aside from some material from his early years with the original Mothers, Zappa's music was equally dismal.

St. George said...

I bet Frank would have liked the Tea Party and probably would have donated a leather giraffe stuffed with whipped cream.

Lem said...

Vote for Pedro.

Quayle said...

Ah Althouse! Quoting Zappa and all!

And from the Roxy and Elsewhere album, no less. (Which was, IMHO, the best band Zappa every put together. I first saw them at Zappa's annual Halloween concert at the Felt Forum in NYC.)

For the benefit of Robert Cook, I reference another prescient Zappa song also on the Roxy and Elsewhere album, but which was first released in 1966 on Zappa and the Mothers' "Freak Out" album.

Trouble Comin' Every Day

(Just a few excerpts to tease you to read the whole text.)

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

So I'm watchin' and I'm waitin'
Hopin' for the best
Even think I'll go to prayin'
Every time I hear 'em sayin'
That there's no way to delay
That trouble comin' every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin' every day

Wednesday I watched the riot.
Seen the cops out on the street
Watched 'em throwin' rocks and stuff
And chokin' in the heat...


Hey, you know something people?
I'm not black
But there's a whole lots a times
I wish I could say I'm not white

Well, I seen the fires burnin'
And the local people turnin'
On the merchants and the shops
Who used to sell their brooms and mops
And every other household item
Watched the mob just turn and bite 'em
And they say it served 'em right
Because a few of them are white,
And it's the same across the nation
Black and white discrimination
Yellin' "You can't understand me!"
'n all that other jazz they hand me
In the papers and tv and
All that mass stupidity
That seems to grow more every day
Each time you hear some nitwit say
He wants to go and do you in
Because the color of your skin
Just don't appeal to him
(No matter if it's black or white)
Because he's out for blood tonight

You know we got to sit around at home
And watch this thing begin
But I bet there won't be many live
To see it really end
'Cause the fire in the street
Ain't like the fire in the heart
And in the eyes of all these people
Don't you know that this could start
On any street in any town
In any state if any clown
Decides that now's the time to fight
For some ideal he thinks is right
And if a million more agree
There ain't no Great Society
As it applies to you and me
Our country isn't free
And the law refuses to see
If all that you can ever be
Is just a lousy janitor
Unless your uncle owns a store
You know that five in every four
Just won't amount to nothin' more
Gonna watch the rats go across the floor
And make up songs about being poor

Blow your harmonica, son!

CatherineM said...

My fave Zappa song is Dumb All Over. I used to recite this when I was a teenager.

Ann Althouse said...

"Roxy and Elsewhere" is one of my most-listened-to Zappa albums, but I haven't listened to it in decades!

mezzrow said...

I am probably most fond of One Size Fits All, the Zappa album you could likely even play for your mother.

His tendency to vulgarity was a serious minus, but Zappa was a serious guy, who we lost far too soon. I guess that's just the musician in me talking, though.

He embodies the phenomenon of musicians' music for musicians.
He was always writing for himself.

Fernandinande said...

They had a swimming pool.

St. George said...


Will Cate said...

I'm a huge fan of "Roxy" and all the other Zappa/Mothers LPs of that era ('72-'75) ... I'm with Quayle -- that was the best Mothers band. God, those guys could really cook.

Check out "You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 2" for a legendary Helsinki, Finland concert that demonstrates this.

Anonymous said...

I can post as anonymous?

Anonymous said...

Zappa's funny stuff stopped being funny around 1968. I think he continued doing knob jokes with a beat after that to pay for the music he really wanted to make. All along, he had been composing sophisticated instrumental music with both jazz and classical components.

I saw his show at Duke in 1973. It was a smoking fusion group featuring Jean Luc Ponty and George Duke. Zappa did classical albums with the London Philharmonic and Boulez conducted a recording of his compositions. Jazz From Hell is a good place to start if you are interested in this sort of thing.
Here is a number from that album, as performed live by Ensemble Moderne right before he passes away in the early 1990's.

Todd Grimson said...

Zappa was only funny to me until I was about 13, and he musically, compositionally, vastly underachieved. Another case of someone with a million "chops" who doesn't understand or respect popular music, yet in more "serious" realms can do nothing but parodies and unfunny jokes.

JSD said...

Hot Rats in 1969. It was mostly instrumental. Standout track was Peaches en Regalia. Jean-Luc Ponty & Don Sugarcane Harris. Son of Mr Green Jeans too.

Drew W said...

I'm with Quayle. It's always nice to see Prof. Althouse disclosing the degree to which she is a Zappa fan. Sidestepping all the critiques and assessments of FZ, his music, and his politics, the Zappas this year released a delightful disc of previously unreleased material from the Roxy shows, "Roxy By Proxy." (

Drew W said...

Just remembered this. When I was in junior high, I did a report on Zappa for my English class, where I made them listen to "Trouble Comin' Every Day" (and it's long -- see lyrics above), as well as the even more severe "Mom & Dad," then "Uncle Remus," to remind everyone that FZ could be charming as well as intense.

mikee said...

Watch out where the huskies go, and don't you eat that yellow snow.

Good advice from Zappa then, good advice from Zappa now.