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Frank Zappa

Composer, guitarist, singer, and bandleader Frank Zappa was a singular musical figure during aperformingandrecordingcareerthatlastedfromthe 1960s to the '90s. His disparate influences included doo wop music and avant-gardeclassicalmusic;although he ledgroupsthatcould becalled rock & roll bands for much of his career, he used them to create a hybridstylethatbordered on jazzandcomplicated,modernseriousmusic, sometimes inducing orchestras to play along. As if hismusic were notchallengingenough, he overlayitwith highlysatiricalandsometimes abstractly humorous lyrics and songtitles that marked ...read more

Composer, guitarist, singer, and bandleader Frank Zappa was a singular musical figure during aperformingandrecordingcareerthatlastedfromthe 1960s to the '90s. His disparate influences included doo wop music and avant-gardeclassicalmusic;although he ledgroupsthatcould becalled rock & roll bands for much of his career, he used them to create a hybridstylethatbordered on jazzandcomplicated,modernseriousmusic, sometimes inducing orchestras to play along. As if hismusic were notchallengingenough, he overlayitwith highlysatiricalandsometimes abstractly humorous lyrics and songtitles that marked him as coming out ofaprovocative literarytraditionthatincluded Beatpoetslike Allen Ginsberg and edgycomedians like Lenny Bruce. Nominally, he was apopularmusician, but hisrecordingsrarelyearnedsignificantairplay or sales,yet he was able to gain control of his recorded work and issueitsuccessfully through hisownlabelswhilealsotouringinternationally, in part because of the respect he earned from a dedicated cult of fansandmanyseriousmusicians,andalsobecausehe was an articulate spokesman who promoted himself into a media star throughextensiveinterviewsheconsideredto be apartof hiscreative effort just like his music. The Mothers of Invention, the '60s group he led, oftenseemed toofferaparodyof popular musicandthecounterculture (although he affected long hair and jeans, Zappa was openly scornful ofhippiesand druguse).By the'80s, hewastestifyingbefore Congress in opposition to censorship (and editing his testimonyinto one of his albums). Butthesecomicandserioussideswerecomplementary, not contradictory. In statement and inpractice, Zappa was an iconoclastic defenderofthefreestpossibleexpression ofideas.And most of all, he was a composerfar more ambitious than any other rock musician of histimeandmostclassicalmusicians, as well.

Zappa was born Frank Vincent Zappa in Baltimore, MD, on December 21, 1940. For most of his life, hewasunderthemistakenimpressionthathehad been named exactly after his father, a Sicilian immigrant who was a high school teacher atthetimeofhisson's birth, that hewas"FrancisVincent Zappa, Jr." That was what he told interviewers, and it was extensively reported.Itwasonlymanyyears later thatZappaexamined hisbirth certificate and discovered that, in fact, his first name was Frank,not Francis. TherealFrancisZappatook a job withtheNavy during WorldWar II, and he spent the rest of his career workingin one capacity or another forthegovernmentor inthedefenseindustry, resulting in manyfamily moves. Zappa's mother,Rose Marie (Colimore) Zappa, was a formerlibrarianand typist.Duringhisearlychildhood, the family lived inBaltimore, Opa-Locka, FL, and Edgewood, MD. In December 1951, they movedtoCaliforniawhenZappa'sfathertook a job teachingmetallurgy atthe Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey. The same year, Zappa hadfirstshown aninterestinbecomingamusician, joining the school bandand playing the snare drum.

Although the Zappa family continued to live in California for the rest of Zappa's childhood, theystillmovedfrequently;bythetimeZappagraduated from Antelope Valley Joint Union High School in Lancaster in June 1958, it was theseventhhighschoolhehadattended.Meanwhile,his interest in music had grown. He had become particularly attracted to R&B, joining abandasadrummerin1955.Simultaneously, he hadbecome a fan of avant-garde classical music, particularly the work of EdgardVarèse.Afterhishighschoolgraduation,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,heplayedinbandsandworkedonthe scores of low-budget films. It was in seeking to record his score for one of these films, TheWorld'sGreatestSinner,thathebeganworking atthe tiny Pal recording studio in Cucamonga, CA, run by Paul Buff, in November1961. He and Buffbeganwritingandrecordingpopmusic withstudio groups and licensing the results to such labels as Del-FiRecords and Original Sound Records.OnAugust1,1964,Zappabought the studiofrom Buff and renamed it Studio Z. OnMarch 26, 1965, he was arrested by a localundercoverpoliceofficerwhohadentrapped him by askinghim to record apornographic audiotape. Convicted of a misdemeanor, he spent tendays injail,anexperiencethatembittered him.Aftercompleting his sentence, he closed the studio, moved into Los Angeles, and joined abandcalledtheSoulGiantsthatfeatured his friend,singer Ray Collins, along with bass player Roy Estrada and drummer Jimmy CarlBlack.Inshortorder,heinduced thegroup to play his originalcompositions instead of covers, and to change their name to theMothers(reportedlyonMother'sDay,May 10,1965).

In Los Angeles, the Mothers were able to obtain a manager, Herb Cohen, and audition successfully toappearinpopularnightclubssuchastheWhiskey Go. Go by the fall of 1965. There they were seen by record executive Tom Wilson, whosignedthemtotheVerveRecordssubsidiaryof MGM Records on March 1, 1966. (Verve required that the suggestive name "TheMothers" bemodifiedto"TheMothersofInvention.") Thecontract called for the group to submit five albums in two years,and they immediately went into thestudiotorecordthefirstof those albums,Freak Out! By this time, Elliot Ingber had joinedthe group on guitar, making it a quintet. AnexcessofmaterialandZappa'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'sBlondeonBlondeappeared during thesameperiod, but itwas hisseventh album.)Freak Out! was released on June 27, 1966. It was notanimmediatesuccesscommercially, but itenteredthe Billboardchartfor the week ending February 11, 1967, and eventually spent 23 weeks inthecharts. InJuly1966, Zappa metAdelaideGailSloatman;they married in September 1967, prior to the birth, on September 28, 1967, of theirfirstchild,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 August1979.Duringthesummer of1966, Zappahireddrummer Denny Bruce andkeyboardist Don Preston, making the Mothers of Inventiona septet, butbyNovember1966, whenthe MothersofInvention went back into thestudio to record their second album,Absolutely Free, Bruce had beenreplacedby BillyMundi;Ingber hadbeenreplaced by Jim Fielder; andZappa had hired twohorn players, Bunk Gardner on wind instrumentsandJim"Motorhead"Sherwoodonsaxophone, bringing the band up to anine-piece unit. The album was recorded in four days and released inJune1967.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 VillageclubcalledtheBalloonFarmthatbeganon Thanksgiving Day and ran through New Year's Day, 1967. After a two-week stint inMontreal,theyreturnedtoCalifornia,whereFielder left thegroup in February. In March, Zappa began recording his first solo album,Lumpy Gravy,havingsignedtoCapitol Recordsunderthe impressionthat he was not signed as an individual to Verve, aposition Verve would dispute. Laterthatmonth,theMothers ofInventionreturned to New YorkCity for another extendedengagement at the Garrick Theater in Greenwich VillagethatranduringEaster 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,thegroupbeganrecordingitsthirdalbum, 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 labelthreemoreLPs.TheyfinishedrecordingWe'reOnly in It for the Money in October, but its release was held up because of legal concernsaboutitsproposedcoverphotograph,anelaborateparody of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which wasfinally resolved by puttingthepicture ontheinside ofthefold-out LPsleeve. We're Only in It for the Money was released onMarch 4, 1968, and it reached the Top30.Anotherlegaldisputewasresolved whenVerve purchased the tapes of LumpyGravy from Capitol. Zappa then finished recording thisorchestralwork,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. Inthefallof1967,hebeganrecordingUncle Meat, the soundtrack for a proposed film, with work continuing through February 1968.Duringthisperiod,BillyMundileft theband andwas replaced on drums by Arthur Dyer Tripp III. In March, Zappa and Herb Cohenannounced thattheywere settinguptheirownrecord label,Bizarre Records, to be distributed by the Reprise Recordssubsidiary of Warner Bros. Records. Thelabelwasintendedtorecordnot only theMothers of Invention, but also acts Zappadiscovered. Early in the summer, Ray Collins quittheMothersofInvention,whocontinued to tour.Their performance at theRoyal Festival Hall in London on October 25, 1968, was released in1991asthealbum AheadofTheir Time. Thatmonth,Bizarre was formally launched with the release of the single "The Circle," by LosAngelesstreetsingerWildManFischer. InNovember,guitarist Lowell George joined the Mothers of Invention. In December, Verve releasedtheband'sfinalalbumonitscontract, Cruisin' withRuben & the Jets, on which Zappa for once played it straight, leading the groupthroughasetofapparentlysinceredoo wop and R&B material.The LP spent 12 weeks in the charts. (Zappa was then free of Verve,althoughhisdisputeswiththe companywerenot over. Verve put out acompilation, Mothermania: The Best of the Mothers, in March1969, and itspent nineweeks 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,BizarrereleasedPrettiesforYou,thedebutalbum by Alice Cooper, the only act discovered by the label that would go on tosubstantial success(afterswitchingtoWarnerBros.Recordsproper, that is).The same month, Lowell George left the band;later, he and Roy Estrada would formLittleFeat.Zappabeganworkingon a secondsolo album, Hot Rats, in July 1969. OnAugust 19, the Mothers of Invention gave their finalperformanceintheiroriginalform,playing onCanadian TV at the end of atour. One week later, Zappa announced that he was breaking up theband,although,as itturnedout,this did notmean thathe would not use the name "the Mothers of Invention" for groups he led in the future. HotRats,thesecondalbumtobecredited toFrank Zappa, was released on October 10, 1969. It spent only six weeks in the charts at the time,butitwouldbecomeoneofZappa's best-lovedcollections, with the instrumental "Peaches en Regalia" a particular favorite. AlthoughtheMothersofInventionnolongerexisted as a performingunit, Zappa possessed extensive tapes of them, live and in the studio,and using thatmaterial,heassembledanewalbum, Burnt WeenySandwich, released in February 1970; it made the Top 100.

At the invitation of Zubin Mehta, conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Zappa assembled anewgroupofrockmusiciansdubbedtheMothers for the performance, with the orchestra, of a work called 200 Motels at UCLA onMay15,1970.Addingsingers HowardKaylan andMarkVolman, formerly of the Turtles, Zappa launched a tour with this version of theMothers inJune1970.(Alsoincluded were areturningIanUnderwood, keyboardist George Duke, drummer Aynsley Dunbar,and guitarist Jeff Simmons.)InAugust,BizarrereleasedanotherarchivalMothers of Invention album, Weasels Ripped MyFlesh, which charted. Chunga's Revenge, releasedinOctober,wasbilled as aZappasoloalbum, even though it featured thecurrent lineup of the Mothers; it spent 14 weeks in the charts.Aftertouring theU.S.that fall,thegroupwent to Europe onDecember 1. From January 28 to February 5, 1971, they were in Pinewood Studios intheU.K.making amovieversionof200Motels with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and co-stars Theodore Bikel, Ringo Starr, and Keith MoonoftheWho.Zappahadplannedaconcert with the Royal Philharmonic at the Royal Albert Hall on February 8 as a money. savingtactic,sinceaccordingtounion rules,he couldthenpay them for the filming/recording session as if it were rehearsals for the concert. Butthisstrategybackfiredwhenthe RoyalAlbert Hallcanceledthe concert, alleging that Zappa's lyrics were too vulgar. Headded to his expenses bysuing theRoyalAlbertHall,eventually losing incourt.

On June 5 and 6, 1971, the Mothers appeared during the closing week of the Fillmore East theater in NewYorkCity,recordingtheirshowsforalive album, Fillmore East, June 1971, quickly released on August 2. It became Zappa's first album toreachtheTop 40since We'reOnlyinItfor the Money three years earlier. John Lennon and Yoko Ono had appeared as guestsduring the June6show,andtheyusedtheirperformance on their 1972 album Some Time in New York City. the Mothers gavea concert at the Pauley PavilionatUCLAonAugust7,1971,and the show was recorded for the album Just Another Bandfrom L.A., released in May 1972, which madetheTop100.Theycontinuedto tourinto the fall. 200 Motels premiered in movietheaters on October 29, 1971, with a double-LPsoundtrackalbumreleasedbyUnitedArtists thatmade the Top 100.Meanwhile, the Mothers' European tour was eventful, to say the least. OnDecember4,1971,thegroupappeared attheMontreux Casino in Geneva, Switzerland, but their show stopped when a fan fired off a flare gun thatsetthevenueonfire.Theincidentwas the inspiration for Deep Purple's song "Smoke on the Water." Six days later, as theMotherswereperformingattheRainbowTheatre inLondon on December 10, a deranged fan jumped on-stage and pushed Zappa into theorchestrapit.Hesuffered abrokenankle,among otherinjuries, and was forced to recuperate for months. This was the end both of thetour and ofthis editionoftheMothers.

While convalescing at home in Los Angeles, Zappa organized a new big band to play jazz-fusion music;hedubbedittheGrandWazooOrchestraand recorded two albums with it. Waka/Jawaka, billed as a Zappa solo album, came out in July1972andspentsevenweeksin thecharts. TheGrand Wazoo, credited to the Mothers, appeared in December and missed thecharts. By September10,Zappafeltwellenough toplay twoweeks of dates with the group, now billed as the Mothers,starting at the Hollywood Bowl. He thencutthepersonneldownto 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 lineupofMothers,madeabatchofnewrecordings on which he himself sang lead vocals (his voice having dropped half an octave as a result ofinjuringhisneckwhenhewasthrownfrom the stage), and hit the road for the most extensive touring of his career.Inaugurating the newbandinFayetteville,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,itsfirstrelease beingOver-NiteSensation in September 1973. The albumreached the Top 40, stayed in the charts nearly a year, and went gold.ItwasfollowedinApril1974by a Zappa solo album,Apostrophe (‘). Much to Zappa's surprise, radio stations began playing a track called"Don'tEattheYellowSnow."Asingleedit of the song actually spent several weeks in the lower reaches of the Hot 100, and Apostrophe (‘)peakedatnumbertenfortheweekending 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 livecollectionRoxy&Elsewhere,creditedto"Zappa/Mothers,"appeared in September 1974 and made the Top 30. Adding his old friend CaptainBeefheart totheband,heplayedshows atthe ArmadilloWorld Headquarters in Austin, TX, on May 20 and 21, 1975, that he recorded forthealbumBongoFury,credited toFrankZappa/CaptainBeefheart/the Mothers, released in October; it made the Top 100. Prior to thathad comeOneSize FitsAll,credited toFrankZappa & theMothers of Invention, released in June; it made the Top 30. OnSeptember 17 and 18, 1975,twoconcertsofZappa'sorchestralmusic wereperformed by a group dubbed the AbnucealsEmuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra (in memoryofLumpyGravy)andconducted byMichaelZearott at Royce Hall, UCLA.The shows were recorded, but the material was not released untilMay1979asOrchestralFavorites,which spentseveralweeks in the charts. Starting on September 27, 1975, Zappa launched anotherextendedperiodoftouring,staying in theU.S.through aNew Years concert at the Forum in Los Angeles, then playing in Australia, Japan,andEurope,finishingonMarch17, 1976. Thisended anotherphase in his career. He split with his longtime manager Herb Cohenanddisbandedhisgroup,which,because of legal disputeswith Cohen,would turn out to have been the last one called the Mothers ortheMothersofInvention.Hereafter, hewould perform and recordsimply asFrank Zappa. There were also other legal issues. In October1976,hereached anout-of-courtsettlement ina suit he had wagedagainstMGM/Verve that resulted in his winning therights to the masters of hisearlyalbums.

Zappa surprised fans when his name turned up as the producer of a new album by Grand FunkRailroad,GoodSingin',GoodPlayin',inAugust1976. In September, he launched his first world tour under his own name, playing in the U.S.,theFarEast,andEuropethroughFebruary1977. Zoot Allures, the last album to be credited to the Mothers, was released on WarnerBros.RecordsonOctober 29,1976,theDiscReetlabel apparently being claimed by Cohen; it reached the Top 100. Zappa was alsoseeking to endhis dealwithWarner. InMarch1977,hedelivered four albums to the label simultaneously (the initial titleswere Studio Tan, Hot Rats III[Waka/JawakahavingcountedasHotRatsII], Zappa's Orchestral Favorites, and the doublealbum Live in New York, recorded in December1976);hedemandedthefour$60,000advances the albums called for, andsued Warner for breach of contract when it did not pay. In thesummerof1977,heannouncedthat hehad concluded hiscontract with Warner. He declared that the four albums really constituted asingleworkcalledLeather(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 movieBabySnakes.TheEuropeanlegofthetour opened in London on January 24, 1978. The resolutions of Zappa's legal disputes led toan unusuallylargenumberofreleasesoverthenext year. Zappa in New York (originally called Live in New York) was releasedon DiscReet in March 1978 andmadetheTop100.StudioTanappeared in September 1978 and charted. Sleep Dirt (originallycalled Hot Rats III) was releasedinJanuary1979andcharted.OrchestralFavorites completed the releases of the materialZappa had delivered to Warner in March 1977.Withthesematterssettled,ZappalaunchedZappa Records, with distributionthrough Mercury/Phonogram in the U.S. and CBS Records in the restoftheworld,releasingthedouble-LPSheik Yerbouti onMarch 3, 1979. The album managed to distinguish itself from all the other Zappa albumsintherecordbinsandpeakedatnumber 21, Zappa's best showing in five years, promoted by the single "Dancin' Fool," which madetheTop50.Thattrackwasnominatedfor a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance (Male), and "Rat Tomago," another track onthealbum,gotaGrammynominationfor BestRock Instrumental Performance.

Zappa toured Europe and Japan in the spring of 1979, then returned to the U.S., where he completed workonhishomestudio,calledtheUtilityMuffin Research Kitchen, on September 1. The home studio and his continuing practice ofrecordinghisshows,alongwithgreatercontrol overhis record releases, seemed to free Zappa to issue more records. Joe's Garage ActI wasreleased inSeptember1979andmadethe Top 30; itwas followed in November by the double-LP Joe's Garage Acts II &III, which made the Top100. BabySnakes, thefilmofthe1977 Halloweenshows in New York, opened on December 21,1979. A soundtrack album did not appear until1983. Zappaspentmuchof1980on the road,beginning a tour of NorthAmerica and Europe on March 25, with dates continuing through July 3,andthentouringagainfromOctober 10throughChristmas.

Amazingly, Zappa did not release an album during 1980. (A single, "I Don't Wanna Get Drafter," just missed makingtheHot100inMay.)Buthemade up for that in 1981. In May, yet another new label, Barking Pumpkin Records, was launched withthe release ofadouble-LP,TinseltownRebellion, which made the Top 100. By now, Zappa had perfected a method of meldingstudio andliveperformancesonhisrecords,such thatthe finished versions were a combination of the two. Also in May 1981,hesimultaneouslyreleasedthreeinstrumentalalbums via mailorder:Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar, Shut Up ‘N Play Yer GuitarSome More, and Returnof the Son ofShut 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 ariotatoneshow;afterfinishingthestint on July 14, he did not tour again for two years. Meanwhile, on May 3, 1982, he released anewalbum,ShipArriving TooLateto SaveaDrowning Witch, and it featured another of his surprise hit singles, as radio picked upon "Valley Girl,"atrackfeaturing a vocalbyhisdaughterMoon Unit Zappa, imitating the character and employing the slang ofa typical Southern Californiavalleygirl.The songpeakedatnumber 32 onSeptember 11, 1982, making it the most successfulsingle of Zappa's career. It was nominated foraGrammyAwardforBestRock Performance bya 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 inaconcert ofZappa'sworks attheBarbican ArtsCentre inLondon, preparatory to three days of recordings that resulted, initially, inthealbumLondonSymphonyOrchestra,Vol.1, released in June 1983. (Asecond volume followed in September 1987.) Prior to that, Zappahadreleased anewrockalbum,The Man fromUtopia, on March 28, 1983, whichcharted for several weeks.

As he had the year before, Zappa saw some of his orchestral music recorded in January 1984,thistimebytheEnsembleInterContemporainofconductor Pierre Boulez. With other material, these recordings would be releasedbyAngelRecordsonAugust23, 1984, as BoulezConductsZappa: The Perfect Stranger. The other material was Zappa's ownrecordingonanadvancedsynthesizerinstrument he had purchasedcalledthe Synclavier, capable of replicating orchestral arrangements.TheSynclavierfreedZappa fromthetechnical limitations (and, in somecases,the objections) of live musicians, especiallyclassical musicians, andhe turned toitincreasinglyfromthis 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 November21, 1984.

On July 18, 1984, two years after the end of his last tour, Zappa went back on the road foranextensive,worldwidetrekthatranthroughDecember 23. On October 18, he released a two-LP set, Them or Us. A month later came the triple-LPboxset,Thing-Fish,onthesame day asthe Francesco Zappa album. By this time, Zappa's records were no longer reaching thecharts, ashefocusedon hisexistingfanbase, heavilymarketing to them through mail order. Having re-acquired the mastersto his Verve/MGM albums, hehadfoundthetapes indirecondition andhad re-recorded the bass and drum parts for thealbums We're Only in It for the Money and Cruisin'withRubenandtheJets,which were partof a box set he offered to hismailing list, The Old Masters Box 1, in April 1985. (The Old Masters Box2followedin1986,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 theParentsMusicResourceCenter(PMRC)andlobbedCongress for restrictions on what they saw as obscenity in popular music. Zappa, longanopponentofcensorship, became aleaderoftheopposition to the PMRC, and on September 19, 1985, he testified before theSenateCommerceTechnologyandTransportationCommitteeto voicehis opinions. Of course, his testimony was a matter ofpublic record, and he quicklyused therecordingsinan album heassembledcalled FrankZappa Meets the Mothers ofPrevention, released in November 1985. In January 1986,itbecame his33rdand lastalbum to reachthe Billboardchart.

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

On February 2, 1988, Zappa launched what would prove to be his final tour, playing 81 dates inNorthAmericaandEuropethroughJune9.Meanwhile, he continued to issue new recordings. In April came a double album of guitar solos inthemannerof theShutUp ‘N PlayYerGuitarseries, simply called Guitar, and the first in a series of double-CD archival live recordings,You Can'tDoThat onStageAnymore, Vol.1.Intypically unusual Zappa style, the series found him editing together liveperformances bydifferentconfigurations oftheMothersandhisbackup bands at different times. By 1992, the seriesextended to six volumes. The second volume,whichactuallyreplicatedasingleconcertperformed in Helsinki in 1974,appeared in October 1988 at the same time as an album of recordingsfromthe1988tour,Broadway theHardWay.Launching a home video line, Honker, in 1989, Zappa finally issued Uncle Meat on VHStape,alongwiththedocumentary TheTrueStoryof 200 Motels and Video from Hell. (The following year, Honker issued TheAmazingMr.Bickford,adocumentaryabout theanimatorresponsible for the clay animation work seen in Baby Snakes.) InMay1989,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,whenhewent toCzechoslovakia,where he met the recentlyinstalledpresident, playwright and Zappa fan VáclavHavel, and agreed tobecomeatraderepresentative 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 theformerIronCurtaincountries,wherehewassomething of a cultural hero. In May 1990, he suddenly canceled scheduled appearances inEuropeandreturnedto the U.S. duetoillness.Hemanaged to go to Czechoslovakia and Hungary in June 1991, however. In themeantime, hecontinued toissuevolumes of theYouCan't DoThaton Stage Anymore series and albums drawn from the 1988tour, The Best Band You NeverHeard in YourLifein April 1991,andMake aJazz NoiseHere in June 1991. In July 1991, in yetanother unusual marketing move, he assembled acollection ofeightbootlegalbumsthathad appearedover the years andoffered his own version of them (mastered directly from the bootleg LPsthemselves)as aboxsetcalledBeat the Boots;thealbums were also released individually, and a second Beat the Boots box was released in June1992.

Zappa was scheduled to appear in New York for a performance by a group of alumni from hisbandscalled"Zappa'sUniverse"onNovember7,1991. When he was unable to attend due to illness, his children explained publicly for the firsttimethathewassufferingfromprostatecancer. He managed to fly to Germany on July 13, 1992, to work with the Ensemble Modern onapieceithadcommissioned fromhim,TheYellow Shark, and he was present for concerts it performed in September. InOctober,ZappareleasedPlaygroundPsychotics,anarchivalalbum of previously unreleased material from the 1970. 1971edition of the Mothers. The YellowSharkwasreleasedinNovember1993. 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-establishedrockartistsastheGratefulDead,hehad produced a tremendous archive of studio and live recordings that Gail Zappa was abletoassembleintoposthumousalbums forhislegionsof fans. The first of these was the ambitious Civilization Phaze III, which Zappa wasworkingonin the periodup to hisdeath,releasedinDecember 1994, and other albums, either containing concerts or othermaterial, have alsoappeared,along withexpandedversionsofpreviouslyreleased albums such as Freak Out! Decades afterZappa's death, this stream of releasesshowed noevidenceofstopping, aslongas Zappa fanswere interested in buying. « hide

Similar Bands: The Mothers of Invention, Dweezil Zappa, Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, Edgard Varese

LPs
Dance Me This
2015

3.4
17 Votes
Everything Is Healing Nicely
1999

3.3
21 Votes
Civilization, Phaze III
1994

3.7
45 Votes
London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. II
1987

3.2
34 Votes
Jazz From Hell
1986

3.5
147 Votes
Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention
1985

3.2
52 Votes
Thing-Fish
1984

2.6
69 Votes
Francesco Zappa
1984

2.7
49 Votes
Them or Us
1984

3.5
61 Votes
Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger
1984

3.1
36 Votes
London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 1
1983

2.9
41 Votes
The Man from Utopia
1983

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

3.3
91 Votes
You Are What You Is
1981

3.8
134 Votes
Joe's Garage
1979

4.3
385 Votes
Orchestral Favorites
1979

2.7
47 Votes
Sleep Dirt
1979

3.3
89 Votes
Studio Tan
1978

3.2
67 Votes
Zoot Allures
1976

3.9
186 Votes
Apostrophe
1974

4.2
559 Votes
The Grand Wazoo
1972

4.1
252 Votes
Waka/Jawaka
1972

3.8
166 Votes
Chunga's Revenge
1970

3.6
157 Votes
Hot Rats
1969

4.4
958 Votes
Lumpy Gravy
1968

3.6
174 Votes
Lumpy Gravy (Capitol Version)
1967

2.1
40 Votes
Live Albums
Chicago '78
2016

3.5
1 Votes
Little Dots
2016

3
1 Votes
Road Tapes, Venue 3
2016

3.8
3 Votes
Roxy The Soundtrack
2015

3.6
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

3.8
6 Votes
Road Tapes, Venue 1
10/30/2013

3
4 Votes
Hammersmith Odeon
2010

4.2
16 Votes
Philly '76
2009

Zappa's Menage
2008

3.1
8 Votes
One Shot Deal
2008

Wazoo
2007

4.3
13 Votes
Buffalo
2007

3.9
16 Votes
Trance-Fusion
2006

3.5
35 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
53 Votes
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Vol 6
1992

3.1
4 Votes
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Vol 5
1992

3.8
6 Votes
You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Vol 4
1991

3.6
24 Votes
Make a Jazz Noise Here
1991

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

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

3.6
20 Votes
Broadway the Hard Way
1988

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

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

3.6
31 Votes
Guitar
1988

3.1
54 Votes
Does Humor Belong in Music?
1986

3.5
26 Votes
Baby Snakes
1983

3.5
29 Votes
Tinsel Town Rebellion
1981

3.5
48 Votes
Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar
1981

3.9
106 Votes
Sheik Yerbouti
1979

3.9
305 Votes
Zappa In New York
1978

4.1
78 Votes
Bongo Fury
1975

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

Frank Zappa For President
2016

The Crux Of The Biscuit
2016

3
2 Votes
Joe's Camouflage
2014

3.8
4 Votes
Finer Moments
12/18/2012

2.5
1 Votes
Understanding America
10/31/2012

Feeding the Monkies at Ma Maison
2011

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

5
2 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
12 Votes
Frank Zappa Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa
1996

3.4
9 Votes
Läther
1996

4.2
56 Votes
The Lost Episodes
1996

3.4
18 Votes
Strictly Commercial
1995

3.8
57 Votes
The Old Masters Box III
1987

The Old Masters Box II
1986

The Old Masters Box I
1985

200 Motels
1971

3.5
49 Votes

Contributors: discovolante, 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, peaks40, ArsMoriendi, Ziguvan, DrGonzo1937, altertide0, arcane, eddie95, Frippertronics, taylormemer, FritzTheCat420, dante1991, Edwin,

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