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Frank Zappa's Negative Dialectics Of Poodle Play [Paperback]

Ben Watson
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 28 1996
Too iconoclastic, too rude, too idiosyncratic to be easily embraced by the music world or the critics, the late Frank Zappa lives on by having established the avant-garde musical seat in the pantheon of artistic genres. Here, Watson details the esoteric and ambitious work of one of this century's most dedicated and unclassifiable masters of freedom and imagination.

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From Amazon

There is probably no figure of modern popular music who so deserves the sort of scholarly exercise undertaken by Ben Watson in this book, and I am personally convinced that Zappa will be regaled by 21st Century music historians as a "crux of the biscuit" of 20th Century music.

And this 700 page tome will certainly be cited by our music historian descendants. In fairness, it may confound today's Zappa fans with it's copious references to Adorno, Freud, and Marx, but is likely to delight the erudite with its excerpts of the playfully situationist lyrics of Zappa, completely deconstructed by Watson. There is no doubt that Zappa was a genius--albeit a peculiarly American sort--and there is no doubt that no book has yet attempted such a thorough (albeit peculiar) analysis of his genius. Highly Recommended. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Frank Zappa's manic energy and weird lyrics may make him seem like a rock-cult eccentric, but to British journalist Watson, Zappa (1940-1993), founder of the Mothers of Invention (which disbanded in 1969), was a pioneering composer who forged a third stream between classical and rock music, a radical visionary whose works attack class oppression, the conformity of mass culture and the hypocrisy of conventional morality. Fusing musical analysis, cultural criticism and biography, this overblown, provocative study discusses Zappa's music in the context of avant-garde art, William Blake, Wyndham Lewis's Vorticist prose, punk rock and the Marxist politics of the French leftist group Situationist International. Watson unravels Zappa's formative influences as he discusses the ex-Mother's film 200 Motels, Broadway-musical parody Thing-Fish, sonic experiments conducted by Pierre Boulez, freewheeling orchestral scores, electronic synthesizer compositions and recent iconoclastic songs. Including a 1993 interview with Zappa and a discography, this is the ultimate book for serious Zappa fans.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Benign Fabrications April 5 2004
Format:Hardcover
I have read the following books by or about Frank Zappa. In addition, this list constitutes a ranking of my assessment of the quality of these books.
1. THE REAL FRANK ZAPPA BOOK by Frank Zappa and Peter Occhioigrosso
2. MOTHER! THE FRANK ZAPPA STORY by Michael Gray
3. FRANK ZAPPA: THE NEGATIVE DIALECTICS OF POODLE PLAY
4. ELECTRIC DON QUIXOTE: THE DEFINITIVE STORY OF FRANK ZAPPA by Neil Slaven
5. NECESSITY IS... THE EARLY YEARS OF FRANK ZAPPA AND THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION by Billy James
6. COSMIK DEBRIS: THE COLLECTIVE HISTORY AND IMPROVISATIONS OF FRANK ZAPPA by Greg Russo
7. NO COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL: THE SAGA OF FRANK ZAPPA by David Walley
8. THEM OR US by Frank Zappa
9. UNDER THE SAME MOON by Suzannah Thana Harris
10. BEING FRANK: MY TIME WITH FRANK ZAPPA by Nigery Lennon
When I started reading FRANK ZAPPA: THE NEGATIVE DIALECTICS OF POODLE PLAY, I found myself having flashbacks to the days of my doctoral studies and to the philosophical debates emerging from the 60's liberation movement. While a Ph.D. student I studied Postmodernism, Feminism, Liberation Philosophers, etc. You know, all the stuff you'd think would have no application outside of graduate study. As a result, I was fascinated because reading this book was the first time I had to actually reflect back to the philosophies I studied. I actually found myself reading POODLE PLAY in the manner that I read my required readings as a Ph.D student. I checked and read some of the citations; I searched for more information on topics for which I was unfamiliar (i.e.," Situational International"); I discussed major themes and ideas with colleagues who were professors of economics, philosophy, sociology and political science.
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Format:Paperback
This one is very very funny!!
If you have basic knowledge about culture, literature, music, political and western history and philosophy, this is even funnier.
I have read this about ten times and it is more funnier every time.
WARNING! This is hard one to play!
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1.0 out of 5 stars Wordy and says very little .5 stars. June 19 2003
Format:Paperback
This book is guilty of trying to put FZ in clothing I am not sure he would wear.
I understand that FZ thought the book was 'good' but you can bet he never read this big paperwieght cover to cover.
Bird cage lining.
If this book was a singer it would be THE BEST OF GOLDENTHROAT.
A lot of words, and most of them for PHD's to muck about through. This book could have been about the space shuttle tragedy with the word Zappa put in here and there and nobody would have known the difference.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Psuedo-intellectual tripe Jan. 24 2003
Format:Paperback
God, how I hated this book. I'm been a huge FZ fan since the '60s; have everything he's ever put out (& then some); but if I had read this book first I would never have even given him a listen. This book is more about Mr. Watson showing off his psuedo-intellectual prowess than it is about Frank Zappa. Mr. Watson attempts to psycho-analyze every word FZ wrote when FZ himself said that on most songs his lyrics existed solely to highlight the music. FZ would spend weeks writing the music then dash out the lyrics in a half hour. Mr. Watson has certainly researched FZ's music but he has researched it to death, attributing the lyrics with all sorts of hidden meaning. Come on! 'Sometimes a banana is just a banana'.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Companion for FZ fans Sept. 18 2002
Format:Paperback
OK, it's a shame this book is out of print. I bought it years ago, and still come back to it time and again. The writing at times becomes laden with theory and reference, but the concepts are clearly outlined (kind of like Frank's music actually!)
So what was the Rhino Records guy complaining about? Ben Watson is obviously a huge fan of Zappa's, and if you love FZ you will appreciate this effort. I agree with Mr. Watson's assessment that Frank's music connects with and further develops the heaviest and oldest themes in art. Most unlucky people will never get past FZ's satire to hear the infinite layers above and below the belt... read the chapter on "Thing-Fish"!
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5.0 out of 5 stars a brillian work - worthy op a great musician July 14 2002
Format:Paperback
I am a Zappa fan with no special interest in postmodernism, Theodor Adorno, or Marxism - but Ben Watson has written an extraordinary book that enhanced my appreciation and enjoyment of every Zappa album. Every page is crammed with ideas, some silly and fanciful and others perceptive and engaging. He never lets up. If you ever enjoyed a single Zappa album, you must buy this book and find out more.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Watch out Ben! The poodle bites. March 2 2002
Format:Paperback
I hope no one will ever read this and take it seriously. Somehow I have a hard time thinkin Frank would be impressed with this self-indulgent intellectual nonsense. I will give Ben credit for be slightly amusing. Anyone who has read this book should visit Mike Keneally's web site. He has carefully pointed out all of the misinformation contained within this pompous tome. Good job Mike!
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1.0 out of 5 stars exactly what frank was talking about July 10 2001
By Howard
Format:Paperback
If there was one thing that FZ hated, it was critics. Frank hated them because they didn't understand what he was doing. Frank hated them for not understanding music in general. But mostly frank hated them because as the old adage says: those who can, do; those who can't, teach; and those who can't teach, criticize.
While this is a wonderfully written book, it is a critics view of Zappa. It expounds on the meanings Frank might have intended in his work, yet many of its quotations can be found in "The Real Frank Zappa Book." If you want to know what Zappa was really about, get that book, not "The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play." Better to get information from the man himself, instead of through the eyes of a critic.
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