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Frank Zappa

Composer, guitarist, singer, and bandleader Frank Zappa was a singular musical figure during a performing andrecordingcareerthatlastedfromthe 1960s to the '90s. His disparate influences included doo wop music and avant-garde classicalmusic;although he ledgroupsthatcould becalled rock & roll bands for much of his career, he used them to create a hybridstyle that bordered on jazzandcomplicated,modernseriousmusic, sometimes inducing orchestras to play along. As if hismusic were not challenging enough, he overlayitwith highlysatiricalandsometimes abstractly humorous lyrics and songtitles that ...read more

Composer, guitarist, singer, and bandleader Frank Zappa was a singular musical figure during a performing andrecordingcareerthatlastedfromthe 1960s to the '90s. His disparate influences included doo wop music and avant-garde classicalmusic;although he ledgroupsthatcould becalled rock & roll bands for much of his career, he used them to create a hybridstyle that bordered on jazzandcomplicated,modernseriousmusic, sometimes inducing orchestras to play along. As if hismusic were not challenging enough, he overlayitwith highlysatiricalandsometimes abstractly humorous lyrics and songtitles that marked him as coming out of a provocative literarytraditionthatincluded Beatpoetslike Allen Ginsberg and edgycomedians like Lenny Bruce. Nominally, he was a popular musician, but hisrecordingsrarelyearnedsignificantairplay or sales,yet he was able to gain control of his recorded work and issue it successfully through hisownlabelswhilealsotouringinternationally, in part because of the respect he earned from a dedicated cult of fans and manyseriousmusicians,andalsobecausehe was an articulate spokesman who promoted himself into a media star through extensive interviewsheconsideredto be apartof hiscreative effort just like his music. The Mothers of Invention, the '60s group he led, often seemed to offeraparodyof popular musicandthecounterculture (although he affected long hair and jeans, Zappa was openly scornful ofhippies and drug use).By the'80s, hewastestifyingbefore Congress in opposition to censorship (and editing his testimonyinto one of his albums). But these comicandserioussideswerecomplementary, not contradictory. In statement and inpractice, Zappa was an iconoclastic defender of thefreestpossibleexpression ofideas.And most of all, he was a composerfar more ambitious than any other rock musician of his time andmostclassicalmusicians, as well.

Zappa was born Frank Vincent Zappa in Baltimore, MD, on December 21, 1940. For most of his life, he wasunderthemistakenimpressionthathe had been named exactly after his father, a Sicilian immigrant who was a high school teacher at thetimeofhisson's birth, that hewas"Francis Vincent Zappa, Jr." That was what he told interviewers, and it was extensively reported.It wasonlymanyyears later thatZappaexamined his birth certificate and discovered that, in fact, his first name was Frank,not Francis. The realFrancisZappatook a job withtheNavy during World War II, and he spent the rest of his career workingin one capacity or another for thegovernmentor inthedefenseindustry, resulting in many family moves. Zappa's mother,Rose Marie (Colimore) Zappa, was a former librarianand typist.Duringhisearlychildhood, the family lived in Baltimore, Opa-Locka, FL, and Edgewood, MD. In December 1951, they moved toCaliforniawhenZappa'sfathertook a job teachingmetallurgy at the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey. The same year, Zappa had firstshown aninterestinbecomingamusician, joining the school band and playing the snare drum.

Although the Zappa family continued to live in California for the rest of Zappa's childhood, they still movedfrequently;bythetimeZappagraduated from Antelope Valley Joint Union High School in Lancaster in June 1958, it was the seventh highschoolhehadattended.Meanwhile,his interest in music had grown. He had become particularly attracted to R&B, joining a band asadrummerin1955.Simultaneously, he hadbecome a fan of avant-garde classical music, particularly the work of EdgardVarèse. After hishighschoolgraduation,Zappa studied music atseveral local colleges off and on. He also switched to playingthe guitar.

Zappa married Kathryn J. Sherman on December 28, 1960; the marriage ended in divorce in 1964. Meanwhile, he playedinbandsandworkedonthe scores of low-budget films. It was in seeking to record his score for one of these films, The World'sGreatest Sinner,thathebeganworking atthe tiny Pal recording studio in Cucamonga, CA, run by Paul Buff, in November1961. He and Buff began writingandrecordingpopmusic withstudio groups and licensing the results to such labels as Del-FiRecords and Original Sound Records. On August1,1964,Zappabought the studiofrom Buff and renamed it Studio Z. OnMarch 26, 1965, he was arrested by a local undercover policeofficerwhohadentrapped him by askinghim to record apornographic audiotape. Convicted of a misdemeanor, he spent ten days in jail,anexperiencethatembittered him.Aftercompleting his sentence, he closed the studio, moved into Los Angeles, and joined a band calledtheSoulGiantsthatfeatured his friend,singer Ray Collins, along with bass player Roy Estrada and drummer Jimmy Carl Black. Inshortorder,heinduced thegroup to play his originalcompositions instead of covers, and to change their name to the Mothers (reportedlyonMother'sDay,May 10,1965).

In Los Angeles, the Mothers were able to obtain a manager, Herb Cohen, and audition successfully to appear inpopularnightclubssuchastheWhiskey Go-Go by the fall of 1965. There they were seen by record executive Tom Wilson, who signedthem totheVerveRecordssubsidiaryof MGM Records on March 1, 1966. (Verve required that the suggestive name "TheMothers" be modified to"TheMothersofInvention.") Thecontract called for the group to submit five albums in two years,and they immediately went into the studio torecordthefirstof those albums,Freak Out! By this time, Elliot Ingber had joinedthe group on guitar, making it a quintet. An excess ofmaterialandZappa'sagreement toaccept a reduced publishing royaltyled to the highly unusual decision to release it as a double. LP,anunprecedentedindulgencefor a debut actthat waspractically unheard, much less for an established one. (Bob Dylan's Blonde onBlondeappeared during thesameperiod, but itwas hisseventh album.)Freak Out! was released on June 27, 1966. It was not an immediatesuccesscommercially, but itenteredthe Billboardchartfor the week ending February 11, 1967, and eventually spent 23 weeks in the charts. InJuly1966, Zappa metAdelaideGailSloatman;they married in September 1967, prior to the birth, on September 28, 1967, of their first child,adaughter namedMoonUnitZappa who wouldrecord with her father. She was followed by a son, Dweezil, on September 5, 1969. He,too,wouldbecome arecordingartist, as would AhmetZappa, born May 15, 1974. A fourth child, Diva, was born in August 1979.During thesummer of1966, Zappahireddrummer Denny Bruce andkeyboardist Don Preston, making the Mothers of Inventiona septet, but by November1966, whenthe MothersofInvention went back into thestudio to record their second album,Absolutely Free, Bruce had been replaced by BillyMundi;Ingber hadbeenreplaced by Jim Fielder; andZappa had hired twohorn players, Bunk Gardner on wind instruments and Jim"Motorhead"Sherwoodonsaxophone, bringing the band up to anine-piece unit. The album was recorded in four days and released in June 1967.It enteredthe chartsinJuly and reached the Top50.

The Mothers of Invention moved to New York City in November 1966 for a booking at a Greenwich Village club calledtheBalloonFarmthatbeganon Thanksgiving Day and ran through New Year's Day, 1967. After a two-week stint in Montreal,they returnedtoCalifornia,whereFielder left thegroup in February. In March, Zappa began recording his first solo album,Lumpy Gravy, having signedtoCapitol Recordsunderthe impressionthat he was not signed as an individual to Verve, aposition Verve would dispute. Later that month,theMothers ofInventionreturned to New YorkCity for another extendedengagement at the Garrick Theater in Greenwich Village that randuringEaster weekand wassufficiently successfulthat HerbCohen booked the theater for the summer. That run began on May 24, 1967, andran offand onthroughSeptember 5. Duringthisperiod, Ian Underwood joined the band, playing saxophone and piano. In August, the groupbeganrecordingitsthirdalbum, We're Only in It forthe Money.

In September 1967, the Mothers of Invention toured Europe for the first time, playing in the U.K., Sweden, andDenmark.OnOctober1,Vervefailed to exercise its option to extend the band's contract, although they still owed the label three moreLPs.TheyfinishedrecordingWe'reOnly in It for the Money in October, but its release was held up because of legal concernsabout its proposedcoverphotograph,anelaborateparody of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which wasfinally resolved by putting the picture ontheinside ofthefold-out LPsleeve. We're Only in It for the Money was released onMarch 4, 1968, and it reached the Top 30. Anotherlegaldisputewasresolved whenVerve purchased the tapes of LumpyGravy from Capitol. Zappa then finished recording this orchestral work,andVervereleasedit under hisname (and that of "theAbnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra and Chorus") on May 13, 1968; itspentfiveweeks in thecharts.

Although the Mothers of Invention still owed one more LP to Verve, Zappa already was thinking ahead. In the fallof1967,hebeganrecordingUncle Meat, the soundtrack for a proposed film, with work continuing through February 1968. During thisperiod,BillyMundileft theband andwas replaced on drums by Arthur Dyer Tripp III. In March, Zappa and Herb Cohenannounced that they were settinguptheirownrecord label,Bizarre Records, to be distributed by the Reprise Recordssubsidiary of Warner Bros. Records. The label wasintendedtorecordnot only theMothers of Invention, but also acts Zappadiscovered. Early in the summer, Ray Collins quit the MothersofInvention,whocontinued to tour.Their performance at theRoyal Festival Hall in London on October 25, 1968, was released in 1991 asthealbum AheadofTheir Time. Thatmonth,Bizarre was formally launched with the release of the single "The Circle," by Los Angeles streetsingerWildManFischer. InNovember,guitarist Lowell George joined the Mothers of Invention. In December, Verve released the band'sfinalalbumonitscontract, Cruisin' withRuben & the Jets, on which Zappa for once played it straight, leading the group through asetofapparentlysinceredoo wop and R&B material.The LP spent 12 weeks in the charts. (Zappa was then free of Verve, althoughhis disputeswiththe companywerenot over. Verve put out acompilation, Mothermania: The Best of the Mothers, in March1969, and it spent nine weeks inthecharts..

The ambitious double-LP Uncle Meat, the fifth Mothers of Invention album, was released by Bizarre on April 21, 1969. Itreached the Top 50. (The movie it was supposed to accompany did not appear until a home video release in 1989.) In May,Bizarre releasedPrettiesforYou,thedebut album by Alice Cooper, the only act discovered by the label that would go on tosubstantial success (afterswitchingtoWarnerBros.Records proper, that is).The same month, Lowell George left the band;later, he and Roy Estrada would form LittleFeat.Zappabeganworkingon a second solo album, Hot Rats, in July 1969. OnAugust 19, the Mothers of Invention gave their final performanceintheiroriginalform,playing on Canadian TV at the end of atour. One week later, Zappa announced that he was breaking up the band,although,as itturnedout,this did not mean thathe would not use the name "the Mothers of Invention" for groups he led in the future. Hot Rats,thesecondalbumtobecredited to Frank Zappa, was released on October 10, 1969. It spent only six weeks in the charts at the time, butitwouldbecomeoneofZappa's best-loved collections, with the instrumental "Peaches en Regalia" a particular favorite. Although theMothersofInventionnolongerexisted as a performing unit, Zappa possessed extensive tapes of them, live and in the studio,and using that material,heassembledanewalbum, Burnt Weeny Sandwich, released in February 1970; it made the Top 100.

At the invitation of Zubin Mehta, conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Zappa assembled a newgroupofrockmusiciansdubbedthe Mothers for the performance, with the orchestra, of a work called 200 Motels at UCLA on May15,1970.Addingsingers HowardKaylan andMark Volman, formerly of the Turtles, Zappa launched a tour with this version of theMothers in June1970.(Alsoincluded were areturning IanUnderwood, keyboardist George Duke, drummer Aynsley Dunbar,and guitarist Jeff Simmons.) InAugust,Bizarrereleasedanother archivalMothers of Invention album, Weasels Ripped MyFlesh, which charted. Chunga's Revenge, released inOctober,wasbilled as aZappa soloalbum, even though it featured thecurrent lineup of the Mothers; it spent 14 weeks in the charts. Aftertouring theU.S.that fall,the groupwent to Europe onDecember 1. From January 28 to February 5, 1971, they were in Pinewood Studios in theU.K.making amovieversion of200Motels with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and co-stars Theodore Bikel, Ringo Starr, and Keith Moon oftheWho.Zappahadplanned aconcert with the Royal Philharmonic at the Royal Albert Hall on February 8 as a money-saving tactic,sinceaccordingtounion rules,he couldthen pay them for the filming/recording session as if it were rehearsals for the concert. Butthis strategybackfiredwhenthe RoyalAlbert Hallcanceled the concert, alleging that Zappa's lyrics were too vulgar. Headded to his expenses by suing theRoyalAlbertHall,eventually losing incourt.

On June 5 and 6, 1971, the Mothers appeared during the closing week of the Fillmore East theater in New York City,recordingtheirshowsforalive album, Fillmore East, June 1971, quickly released on August 2. It became Zappa's first album to reachthe Top 40since We'reOnlyinItfor the Money three years earlier. John Lennon and Yoko Ono had appeared as guestsduring the June 6 show,andtheyusedtheirperformance on their 1972 album Some Time in New York City. the Mothers gavea concert at the Pauley Pavilion at UCLAonAugust7,1971,and the show was recorded for the album Just Another Bandfrom L.A., released in May 1972, which made the Top100.Theycontinuedto tourinto the fall. 200 Motels premiered in movietheaters on October 29, 1971, with a double-LP soundtrack albumreleasedbyUnitedArtists thatmade the Top 100.Meanwhile, the Mothers' European tour was eventful, to say the least. On December 4,1971,thegroupappeared attheMontreux Casino in Geneva, Switzerland, but their show stopped when a fan fired off a flare gun that set thevenueonfire.Theincidentwas the inspiration for Deep Purple's song "Smoke on the Water." Six days later, as the Mothers wereperformingattheRainbowTheatre inLondon on December 10, a deranged fan jumped on-stage and pushed Zappa into the orchestrapit. Hesuffered abrokenankle,among otherinjuries, and was forced to recuperate for months. This was the end both of thetour and of this edition oftheMothers.

While convalescing at home in Los Angeles, Zappa organized a new big band to play jazz-fusion music; he dubbedittheGrandWazooOrchestraand recorded two albums with it. Waka/Jawaka, billed as a Zappa solo album, came out in July 1972and spentsevenweeksin thecharts. TheGrand Wazoo, credited to the Mothers, appeared in December and missed thecharts. By September 10, Zappafeltwellenough toplay twoweeks of dates with the group, now billed as the Mothers,starting at the Hollywood Bowl. He then cut thepersonneldownto tenpieces (the"Petit Wazoo" band) and toured from lateOctober to mid-December.

The start of 1973 marked a new and surprisingly popular phase in Zappa's career. He assembled a new lineup of Mothers,madeabatchofnewrecordings on which he himself sang lead vocals (his voice having dropped half an octave as a result ofinjuring his neckwhenhewasthrownfrom the stage), and hit the road for the most extensive touring of his career.Inaugurating the new band inFayetteville,NC,onFebruary 23,he spent 183 days of 1973 on the road, including tours of theU.S., Europe, and Australia. Meanwhile, theBizarreRecordsdealwithReprise/Warner had run out, and he launched a newlabel, also distributed by Warner, DiscReet Records, its firstrelease beingOver-NiteSensation in September 1973. The albumreached the Top 40, stayed in the charts nearly a year, and went gold. It wasfollowedinApril1974by a Zappa solo album,Apostrophe (‘). Much to Zappa's surprise, radio stations began playing a track called "Don't EattheYellowSnow."Asingleedit of the song actually spent several weeks in the lower reaches of the Hot 100, and Apostrophe (‘) peaked atnumbertenfortheweekending June 29, 1974, the highest chart position ever achieved by a Zappa album. The LP also went gold.

Zappa continued to tour extensively in 1974. His next album, the double-LP live collection Roxy&Elsewhere,creditedto"Zappa/Mothers,"appeared in September 1974 and made the Top 30. Adding his old friend Captain Beefheart to theband,heplayedshows atthe ArmadilloWorld Headquarters in Austin, TX, on May 20 and 21, 1975, that he recorded for the albumBongoFury,credited toFrankZappa/CaptainBeefheart/the Mothers, released in October; it made the Top 100. Prior to thathad come One Size FitsAll,credited toFrankZappa & theMothers of Invention, released in June; it made the Top 30. OnSeptember 17 and 18, 1975, two concertsofZappa'sorchestralmusic wereperformed by a group dubbed the AbnucealsEmuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra (in memory of LumpyGravy)andconducted byMichaelZearott at Royce Hall, UCLA.The shows were recorded, but the material was not released until May 1979asOrchestralFavorites,which spentseveralweeks in the charts. Starting on September 27, 1975, Zappa launched another extended periodoftouring,staying in theU.S.through aNew Years concert at the Forum in Los Angeles, then playing in Australia, Japan, and Europe,finishingonMarch17, 1976. Thisended anotherphase in his career. He split with his longtime manager Herb Cohen and disbandedhisgroup,which,because of legal disputeswith Cohen,would turn out to have been the last one called the Mothers or the MothersofInvention.Hereafter, hewould perform and recordsimply asFrank Zappa. There were also other legal issues. In October1976, he reached anout-of-courtsettlement ina suit he had wagedagainstMGM/Verve that resulted in his winning therights to the masters of his early albums.

Zappa surprised fans when his name turned up as the producer of a new album by Grand Funk Railroad, GoodSingin',GoodPlayin',inAugust1976. In September, he launched his first world tour under his own name, playing in the U.S., the FarEast,andEuropethroughFebruary1977. Zoot Allures, the last album to be credited to the Mothers, was released on Warner Bros.Records onOctober 29,1976,theDiscReetlabel apparently being claimed by Cohen; it reached the Top 100. Zappa was alsoseeking to end his deal withWarner. InMarch1977,hedelivered four albums to the label simultaneously (the initial titleswere Studio Tan, Hot Rats III [Waka/Jawaka havingcountedasHotRatsII], Zappa's Orchestral Favorites, and the doublealbum Live in New York, recorded in December 1976); hedemandedthefour$60,000advances the albums called for, andsued Warner for breach of contract when it did not pay. In the summer of1977,heannouncedthat hehad concluded hiscontract with Warner. He declared that the four albums really constituted a single workcalledLeather(laterspelledLäther),which he sold to Mercury/Phonogram Records. Warner then sued to block its release.

On September 8, 1977, Zappa launched another North American tour, staying on the road until New Year's Eve. His showsfrom October 28. 31at the Palladium in New York City were filmed and recorded, the material later emerging in the movie BabySnakes. TheEuropeanlegofthetour opened in London on January 24, 1978. The resolutions of Zappa's legal disputes led toan unusually large numberofreleasesoverthenext year. Zappa in New York (originally called Live in New York) was releasedon DiscReet in March 1978 and made theTop100.StudioTanappeared in September 1978 and charted. Sleep Dirt (originallycalled Hot Rats III) was released in January1979andcharted.OrchestralFavorites completed the releases of the materialZappa had delivered to Warner in March 1977. With thesematterssettled,ZappalaunchedZappa Records, with distributionthrough Mercury/Phonogram in the U.S. and CBS Records in the rest of theworld,releasingthedouble-LPSheik Yerbouti onMarch 3, 1979. The album managed to distinguish itself from all the other Zappa albums in therecordbinsandpeakedatnumber 21, Zappa's best showing in five years, promoted by the single "Dancin' Fool," which made the Top50.Thattrackwasnominatedfor a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance (Male), and "Rat Tomago," another track on the album,gotaGrammynominationfor BestRock Instrumental Performance.

Zappa toured Europe and Japan in the spring of 1979, then returned to the U.S., where he completed work on hishomestudio,calledtheUtilityMuffin Research Kitchen, on September 1. The home studio and his continuing practice of recordinghis shows,alongwithgreatercontrol overhis record releases, seemed to free Zappa to issue more records. Joe's Garage ActI was released in September1979andmadethe Top 30; itwas followed in November by the double-LP Joe's Garage Acts II &III, which made the Top 100. Baby Snakes, thefilmofthe1977 Halloweenshows in New York, opened on December 21,1979. A soundtrack album did not appear until 1983. Zappa spentmuchof1980on the road,beginning a tour of NorthAmerica and Europe on March 25, with dates continuing through July 3, and thentouringagainfromOctober 10throughChristmas.

Amazingly, Zappa did not release an album during 1980. (A single, "I Don't Wanna Get Drafter," just missed making the Hot100inMay.)Buthemade up for that in 1981. In May, yet another new label, Barking Pumpkin Records, was launched withthe release of a double-LP,TinseltownRebellion, which made the Top 100. By now, Zappa had perfected a method of meldingstudio and live performancesonhisrecords,such thatthe finished versions were a combination of the two. Also in May 1981,he simultaneously releasedthreeinstrumentalalbums via mailorder:Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar, Shut Up ‘N Play Yer GuitarSome More, and Return of the Son of Shut Up‘NPlay YerGuitar. In Septembercameanother double album, You Are WhatYou Is, that made the Top 100.

Zappa's spring/summer tour of Europe in 1982 was plagued with problems including canceled dates and even a riotatoneshow;afterfinishingthe stint on July 14, he did not tour again for two years. Meanwhile, on May 3, 1982, he released a newalbum,ShipArriving TooLateto Savea Drowning Witch, and it featured another of his surprise hit singles, as radio picked upon "Valley Girl," atrackfeaturing a vocalbyhisdaughter Moon Unit Zappa, imitating the character and employing the slang ofa typical Southern California valleygirl.The songpeakedatnumber 32 on September 11, 1982, making it the most successfulsingle of Zappa's career. It was nominated for aGrammyAwardforBestRock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Thealbum made the Top 30. After coming off the road, Zappaconcentratedonrecordingandon his orchestral music. On January11, 1983, conductor Kent Nagano led the London Symphony Orchestra in aconcert ofZappa'sworks attheBarbican ArtsCentre in London, preparatory to three days of recordings that resulted, initially, in thealbumLondonSymphonyOrchestra,Vol.1, released in June 1983. (A second volume followed in September 1987.) Prior to that, Zappa hadreleased anewrockalbum,The Man fromUtopia, on March 28, 1983, which charted for several weeks.

As he had the year before, Zappa saw some of his orchestral music recorded in January 1984, this timebytheEnsembleInterContemporainofconductor Pierre Boulez. With other material, these recordings would be released by AngelRecordsonAugust23, 1984, as BoulezConductsZappa: The Perfect Stranger. The other material was Zappa's own recording onanadvancedsynthesizerinstrument he had purchasedcalledthe Synclavier, capable of replicating orchestral arrangements. TheSynclavier freedZappa fromthetechnical limitations (and, in somecases,the objections) of live musicians, especiallyclassical musicians, and he turned to itincreasinglyfromthis point on. Havingdiscoveredmanuscripts of music composed inthe 18th century by an ancestor of his, Francesco Zappa, herecordedanalbum of it on theSynclavier inMarch 1984,releasing the results on an LP called Francesco Zappa on November 21, 1984.

On July 18, 1984, two years after the end of his last tour, Zappa went back on the road for an extensive,worldwidetrekthatranthroughDecember 23. On October 18, he released a two-LP set, Them or Us. A month later came the triple-LP boxset,Thing-Fish,onthesame day asthe Francesco Zappa album. By this time, Zappa's records were no longer reaching thecharts, as he focusedon hisexistingfanbase, heavilymarketing to them through mail order. Having re-acquired the mastersto his Verve/MGM albums, he had foundthetapes indirecondition andhad re-recorded the bass and drum parts for thealbums We're Only in It for the Money and Cruisin' with RubenandtheJets,which were partof a box set he offered to hismailing list, The Old Masters Box 1, in April 1985. (The Old Masters Box 2 followedin1986,andthe series wascompleted withThe Old Masters Box 3 in 1987..

During the year 1985, a group of wives of prominent politicians in Washington, D.C., formed the ParentsMusicResourceCenter(PMRC)andlobbed Congress for restrictions on what they saw as obscenity in popular music. Zappa, long anopponentofcensorship, became aleaderofthe opposition to the PMRC, and on September 19, 1985, he testified before theSenate CommerceTechnologyandTransportationCommitteeto voice his opinions. Of course, his testimony was a matter ofpublic record, and he quickly used therecordingsinan album heassembledcalled Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers ofPrevention, released in November 1985. In January 1986, itbecame his33rdand lastalbum to reachthe Billboard chart.

In January 1986, a Zappa live album drawn from the 1984 tour, Does Humor Belong in Music?, was released inEurope,butquicklywithdrawn.Itwas an accompaniment to a home video of the same name that was taken from a single date on thetour. Thealbumwas laterreissuedwith anew mix. Meanwhile, Zappa signed a contract with the independent CD labelRykodisc to reissue his albums onCD.Thereissueprogram waslaunched in the fall of the year. At the same time, Zappareleased a new instrumental album largelyconsistingofmaterialrecorded on theSynclavier, Jazz from Hell. The album wonhim his first Grammy Award for Best RockInstrumentalPerformance(Orchestra,Group or Soloist),and the track "Jazz fromHell" itself earned a nomination for Best InstrumentalComposition.

On February 2, 1988, Zappa launched what would prove to be his final tour, playing 81 dates in North AmericaandEuropethroughJune9.Meanwhile, he continued to issue new recordings. In April came a double album of guitar solos in the mannerof theShutUp ‘N PlayYerGuitarseries, simply called Guitar, and the first in a series of double-CD archival live recordings,You Can't Do That onStageAnymore, Vol.1.Intypically unusual Zappa style, the series found him editing together liveperformances by different configurations oftheMothersandhisbackup bands at different times. By 1992, the seriesextended to six volumes. The second volume, which actuallyreplicatedasingleconcertperformed in Helsinki in 1974,appeared in October 1988 at the same time as an album of recordings from the1988tour,Broadway theHardWay.Launching a home video line, Honker, in 1989, Zappa finally issued Uncle Meat on VHS tape, alongwiththedocumentary TheTrueStoryof 200 Motels and Video from Hell. (The following year, Honker issued The Amazing Mr.Bickford,adocumentaryabout theanimatorresponsible for the clay animation work seen in Baby Snakes.) In May 1989,Zappapublishedhisautobiography, The Real FrankZappa Book,co-authored with Peter Occhiogrosso. And in another surprising non. musicalcareerdevelopmentin 1989, Zappa began travelingto Russia as abusiness liaison. These efforts were extended in January1990, whenhe went toCzechoslovakia,where he met the recentlyinstalledpresident, playwright and Zappa fan VáclavHavel, and agreed to become atraderepresentative for thecountry. Understandably, thisranafoul of the Administration ofAmerican President George Bush, however, andZappa'srole became unofficial.

It's hard to say what might have come of Zappa's trade efforts with the former Soviet Union and the former IronCurtaincountries,wherehewassomething of a cultural hero. In May 1990, he suddenly canceled scheduled appearances in Europeand returnedto the U.S. duetoillness.Hemanaged to go to Czechoslovakia and Hungary in June 1991, however. In themeantime, he continued to issuevolumes of theYouCan't DoThaton Stage Anymore series and albums drawn from the 1988tour, The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Lifein April 1991,andMake aJazz NoiseHere in June 1991. In July 1991, in yetanother unusual marketing move, he assembled a collection of eightbootlegalbumsthathad appearedover the years andoffered his own version of them (mastered directly from the bootleg LPs themselves) as aboxsetcalledBeat the Boots;thealbums were also released individually, and a second Beat the Boots box was released in June 1992.

Zappa was scheduled to appear in New York for a performance by a group of alumni from his bands called"Zappa'sUniverse"onNovember7,1991. When he was unable to attend due to illness, his children explained publicly for the first time thathewassufferingfromprostatecancer. He managed to fly to Germany on July 13, 1992, to work with the Ensemble Modern on apiece ithadcommissioned fromhim,TheYellow Shark, and he was present for concerts it performed in September. InOctober, Zappa releasedPlaygroundPsychotics,anarchivalalbum of previously unreleased material from the 1970-1971edition of the Mothers. The Yellow Shark wasreleasedinNovember1993. Zappadied at age 52 on December 4, 1993.

After Zappa's death, his widow sold his existing catalog outright to Rykodisc. But, like such well-established rock artistsastheGratefulDead,hehad produced a tremendous archive of studio and live recordings that Gail Zappa was able to assembleintoposthumousalbums forhislegionsof fans. The first of these was the ambitious Civilization Phaze III, which Zappa wasworking on in the periodup to hisdeath,releasedinDecember 1994, and other albums, either containing concerts or othermaterial, have also appeared, along withexpandedversionsofpreviouslyreleased albums such as Freak Out! Decades afterZappa's death, this stream of releases showed no evidenceofstopping, aslongas Zappa fanswere interested in buying. « hide

Similar Bands: The Mothers of Invention, Dweezil Zappa, Jean-Luc Ponty, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, Edgard Varese

LPs
Dance Me This
2015

3.4
15 Votes
Everything Is Healing Nicely
1999

3.3
20 Votes
Civilization, Phaze III
1994

3.7
42 Votes
London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. II
1987

3.2
35 Votes
Jazz From Hell
1986

3.4
138 Votes
Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention
1985

3.2
50 Votes
Thing-Fish
1984

2.6
66 Votes
Francesco Zappa
1984

2.7
48 Votes
Them or Us
1984

3.5
59 Votes
Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger
1984

3.1
35 Votes
London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 1
1983

2.9
41 Votes
The Man from Utopia
1983

3.1
75 Votes
Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch
1982

3.4
87 Votes
You Are What You Is
1981

3.8
126 Votes
Joe’s Garage
1979

4.4
354 Votes
Orchestral Favorites
1979

2.7
45 Votes
Sleep Dirt
1979

3.3
83 Votes
Studio Tan
1978

3.1
64 Votes
Zoot Allures
1976

3.9
178 Votes
Apostrophe
1974

4.2
524 Votes
The Grand Wazoo
1972

4.1
233 Votes
Waka/Jawaka
1972

3.8
155 Votes
Chunga's Revenge
1970

3.6
149 Votes
Hot Rats
1969

4.4
893 Votes
Lumpy Gravy
1968

3.6
169 Votes
Lumpy Gravy (Capitol Version)
1967

1.9
38 Votes
Live Albums
Chicago '78
2016

Little Dots
2016

Road Tapes, Venue 3
2016

3.5
2 Votes
Roxy The Movie
2015

3.8
4 Votes
200 Motels: The Suites
2015

A Token Of His Extreme (Soundtrack)
11/25/2013

3.5
2 Votes
Road Tapes, Venue 2
10/31/2013

3.5
3 Votes
Road Tapes, Venue 1
10/30/2013

2.7
3 Votes
Hammersmith Odeon
2010

4.2
15 Votes
Philly '76
2009

Zappa's Menage
2008

3.1
8 Votes
Wazoo
2007

4.3
13 Votes
Buffalo
2007

3.9
16 Votes
Trance-Fusion
2006

3.5
34 Votes
Imaginary Diseases
2006

3.9
18 Votes
Halloween
2003

3.5
12 Votes
FZ:OZ
2002

3.8
12 Votes
The Yellow Shark
1993

3.9
49 Votes
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Vol 6
1992

3.3
3 Votes
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Vol 5
1992

4
5 Votes
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Vol 4
1991

3.7
23 Votes
Make a Jazz Noise Here
1991

3.8
36 Votes
The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life
1991

4.1
47 Votes
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Vol 3
1989

3.7
19 Votes
Broadway the Hard Way
1989

3.6
40 Votes
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 2
1988

4.1
33 Votes
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 1
1988

3.7
29 Votes
Guitar
1988

3
52 Votes
Does Humor Belong in Music?
1986

3.6
25 Votes
Baby Snakes
1983

3.5
29 Votes
Tinsel Town Rebellion
1981

3.5
46 Votes
Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar
1981

3.9
103 Votes
Sheik Yerbouti
1979

3.9
285 Votes
Zappa In New York
1978

4.2
74 Votes
Bongo Fury
1975

3.7
78 Votes
Compilations
ZAPPAtite (Frank Zappa's Tastiest Tracks)
2016

Frank Zappa For President
2016

The Crux Of The Biscuit
2016

Joe's Camouflage
2014

3.8
4 Votes
Finer Moments
12/18/2012

2.5
1 Votes
Feeding the Monkies at Ma Maison
2011

2.5
3 Votes
Congress Shall Make No Law...
2010

5
1 Votes
The Dub Room Special
2007

3.3
9 Votes
The MOFO Project/Object
2006

3.9
7 Votes
Joe's XMASage
2005

2.6
8 Votes
The Best of Frank Zappa
2004

3.5
9 Votes
Joe's Domage
2004

2.7
8 Votes
QuAUDIOPHILIAc
2004

3.7
6 Votes
Joe's Corsage
2004

3.3
10 Votes
Mystery Disc
1998

3.2
13 Votes
Have I Offended Someone?
1997

3.8
11 Votes
Frank Zappa Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa
1996

3.6
8 Votes
Läther
1996

4.2
53 Votes
The Lost Episodes
1996

3.4
17 Votes
Strictly Commercial
1995

3.8
57 Votes
200 Motels
1971

3.5
47 Votes

Contributors: Ziguvan, seymourbutts, rockandmetaljunkie, Frippertronics, Oldfield, Mad., organizedsound, Jethro42, djon96, dominickvobiscum, Axle505, biohazardfan, Egglord, MusicFan2007, Lunarfall, TheMisterBungle, tom79, Cygnus Inter Anates, 204409, pulseczar, Alex101, Deconstruction, Skyler, ArsMoriendi, DrGonzo1937, altertide0, arcane, eddie95, Frippertronics, taylormemer, FritzTheCat420, dante1991, Edwin,

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