Thursday, January 20, 2011


When I was in college, Frank Zappa played a concert at Nassau Coliseum.  I remember reading that he covered "Stairway To Heaven" note for note... until Page's face-melting guitar solo, when a horn section popped up on stage and played a horn arrangement of said solo. I remember thinking that the show would have been a bit over my head, but I wished I'd gone.

I still wish I'd gone to that show. It would have been over my head, but I would have got lots of it.

Back then, I didn't own any Zappa albums.  Now, I have a few, and I have a great admiration for the man and his music, even if I don't always like his music.

Right now I'm watching a live DVD recorded in 1981, (which I received in the mail, gratis, that's my full disclosure) The Torture Never Stops. Kind of the same deal.  Very, very muso type stuff. I'm sure all the musicians were some of the best at their instruments. The band includes Steve Vai, before he came to fame as David Lee Roth's guitar player, later joining Johnny Rotten in P.I.L. and then David Coverdale in Whitesnake. I wonder what it's like, playing in Whitesnake, after spending time in Zappa's band.

I generally don't go for too much cynicism, but Zappa was so intelligent, and so on point. Songs like "Dumb All Over" and "Heavenly Bank Account" (during which Frank yelled "Tax the churches!  Tax the businesses owned by the churches!") are pretty timeless. He goes after all kinds of sacred cows, from the church, to dead rock stars, to living untouchables like Dylan. I just think he encouraged people to think for themselves, not to take anything for granted, and to not take anything as gospel.  Another quote from the DVD that comes to mind is, "Remember, there's a big difference between kneeling down and bending over!"

Looking back on that Nassau Coliseum show that I missed, I'm amazed at the fact that a guy as odd, outsider-y, and subversive as Frank Zappa could play such a large venue. I wonder who was at that show, and I wonder how many of them are leaders today.  They couldn't really be followers.

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