1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2012
already reading the book for a second time..because of the much detailed perspective of what Frank was going through from his teenage years up to his unfortunate death that i needed to research some of the outline information either it be the members of the band to the PMRC and some of the orchestral shows he did...and the fact that it is by Frank Zappa and if the fans knows Frank ..he remembers alot of everything that's going on...again just a great read ..
on June 6, 2004
We start with Zappa's rather sarcastic yet opinionated introduction in which he claims that he never reads. That claim may be misinterpreted by a few, yet I took it as a stab of sarcasm at those who never bother to, preferring to keep their mind on what's on TV at the time. From that point, it's a short read to the first chapter, which opens with a quote from a Baltimore Sun interview in which Zappa observes: "I never set out to be weird. It was always other people who called me weird". The first chapter is a brief recollection of his childhood years, in which he describes in detail why his birth certificate lists his first name as Frank rather than Francis and his early interests in science. In the second chapter, he talks about developing a love for music (Rock, Jazz and Classical especially Stravinsky) and his first attempts at bands.
It continues that way through the first half of the book. We get chapters on his various bands through the years up until 1988 (when this book was written), his association with Lenny Bruce, his formation of The Mothers Of Invention, Various tour stories, a treatise on why he doesn't like Great Britain and a chapter devoted to his own dad.
The second half of the book shifts gears totally and moves away from the memoir side to the polemical side. We get chapters in which Zappa comments on marriage, the failed drug war, the PMRC, Reagan, Republicans, the religious right, Big government, high taxes and so on.
What's interesting about the polemical second half of the book is that while a lot of the events that much of it was written in response to are now history, so many of the rants about them are still on target. From the opening of his Church and State chapter: "A lot of the mongos in the TV religion industry claim to be conservative. But are in fact the US equivalent of the Mongos blowing the shlt out of the Middle East".
In the chapter titled "Practical Conservatism", Zappa makes a strong case for the Libertarian point of view and offers up a good skewering of so-called anti big government Republicans. I also highly recommend reading the chapter entitled "Porn Wars" in which Zappa details his battle with the PMRC. Highly essential reading, especially in the recent puritanical crackdown by the FCC on people such as Howard Stern.
The final two chapters in the book feature Zappa showing off some of his more outrageous ideas that never really came to fruition (IE: A Football Opera) and the last one allows him to get in a few more digs at certain political targets as well as offering some advice to the readers (IE: Vote!).
The Real Frank Zappa book is an interesting read overall. I liked both halves of it equally. But some of the not so politically minded readers will prefer the first half. Puritanical types are advised not to read the second half, as it will doubtlessly infuriate you. Pick up a copy! Another unconventional Amazon quick-pick I heartily recommend is THE LOSERS CLUB by Richard Perez -- just wonderful!
on April 30, 2004
As a guitarist and very amateur composer, someone like Frank Zappa was someone I had always admired on multiple levels. As a guitarist, he was never what you would call "overly gifted". His solos were madcap forays into his own influences, and he could hit it really big sometimes, and sometimes he could be rather choppy and noisy. But that's OK, Frank never touted himself as a virtuoso or even a premier kind of soloist. He had fun with it, he did it with gusto and panache and I was always entertained by what he did. As a composer, he ranks up there with Copeland in my opinion.
This book is not a big hoorah about how culturally important he was and still is, or anything pretentious and high falutin. He was a very normal man with a grasp of the absurd, a very vivid imagination and a firm hold on reality that few other people have. This book is about the MAN and his views on the world. I think he wanted people to really understand that he's not this weirdo genius that other people tried to make him into, but a normal man who writes (brilliant) music and has very intelligent views of the world around him.
His political views virtually mirror my own (very Libertarian) and his stories of the old rock and roll days are amusing. But I loved the fact that, despite all of the weirdness around him, he retained a very grounded view of himself and the world. His caustic wit and acute observations of things he came into contact with are, in my view, utterly brilliant and shows the man for what he was. A true genius and a very nice man who didn't like a lot of what he saw in this world, especially the political powers-that-be in the US.
I still miss him greatly, and this is a great book because you get to see him as he wanted to be seen and, in my opinion, how he really was. I'd recommend it to anyone, anywhere at any time. It was such a loss for everyone in the world when we lost Frank Zappa. Besides the music he left behind, this book is an incredibly humble view of a great man.
on July 16, 2003
I was never a huge Zappa fan growing up. His music was incredible, but his lyrics were stupid, so I thought then. I started to pay attention to him when the rock and roll trials happened during the 1980's. He skewered the PMRC during both the hearings and late night news talk shows. It was this reason I decided to read his book. What came out of the book was a very thoughtful man who looked on his life with a great deal of humor. He writes about his early childhood along with the early years of the Mothers of Invention. The various stories of life on the road with the hanger-ons is truly hysterical.
This book is not about his music per se, but how he views the world. His decriptions of his version of the rock and roll hearings and the meanings behind them may seem a bit dated today, however they were certainly very important at the time. Zappa also explores his views on marriage and children. What comes across is a man who is very devoted to his loved ones and is actually very ordinary despite the insanity that seemed to surround him with the music world. His section on "What Frank Eats" is truly one of my favorite parts of the book.
My only complaint with the book is that he does not spend enough time on his later work, which I think is a true shame and he does not do analysis of his music. As you read his book you will left thinking that he would think this portion would be a waste of time. This is a wonderful book and is highley reccommended.
on July 5, 2003
I spent 20 years of my life in Sicily and I know Sicilian genealogy and nobody in the 20th century had a genealogy like Zappa's (including Zappa). Early in the book he claims his father was of Greek-Arab background but Sicilian by birth. What the hell does that mean? When exactly did Zap's dad's ancestors come from Greece to Sicily? 2500 years ago maybe? Yes 2500 years ago. That's the time the Greeks were colonizing Sicily 750-500BC. And exactly how were Zap's ancestors arabic? What Arab land did they hail from. Syria? Saudia Arabia? Jordan? And when? 1000 years ago or more? By the AD 1000's the Normans had the Muslims of Sicily under Christian control and over the next couple of centuries the Islamic folks were nearly completely expelled frpom the island. Or maybe Zap's father is referring to the Carthaginian occupation of the island (also in the BC era!). And there's more. According to Zappa his ancestors on his mom's side go back to France! Yeah like any French folks would really want to move to that poor starving Sicilian island (or even Naples). He elaborates very little on all this and it looks to me like these are nothing more than totally unsubstantiated family legends containing not a kernel of truth. It appears Zappa's dad was well-educated and knew Sicilian history and in an effort to distance himself from the mafia, in the eyes of Americans around him, created these fanastic stories that he was of recent Greek-Arab origin. And to make the family seem classy claimed his wife was of French origin. Old Mr. Zappa probably feeling that claiming himself to be all three was too farfetched. On another note, I remind you all this book was written by someone else alongside Zappa and the words in it may not be the musician's all the time. Some parts of this book look rather fictional indeed.
on June 19, 2002
Working at a library has almost no perks. I shelve the travel section so there isn't much stimulation in the way of brain waves(then again, my job is pretty tedious to begin with). However, one day while wondering through a friend's section I found a gem. I found The Real Frank Zappa Book. When their were breaks in my work, I would grab this book and read it feverously. Even with my increasing respect and love for Zappa's work, I still found this a great book. It packs a sharp wit, biting comentary, and overal, is just a good quick read.
The book covers Zappa's origin, his early musical influences, the tough times of M.O.I.(Mothers of Invention), insight as to his musical creation process, and even a indepth look into his battle with the well-known PMRC. The great thing is even with all this retrospect, the man never loses his sense of humor. Sometimes slapstick, sometimes satire, always truthful.
Anyone interested in the man that was Zappa, I highly recommend this book. Those who are interested in becoming a musician, I also recomend this book(his musical insight is very inspiring). In fact, I recomend this book to all. Its just a shame he died before his time. Zappa was a true inovator of music. There will never be another Frank Zappa.
on March 30, 2001
By way of dissing Zappa's famous appearance before Congress to argue against warning labels on records, my favorite conservative columnist Don Feder derisively refers to Frank Zappa as a "rock creature" and makes fun of him for naming his daughter Moon Unit. (You'll find these remarks in _A Jewish Conservative Looks at Pagan America_. Feder is usually better than this.)
But the fact is that Zappa was a genuine homegrown American original, a musical genius, and a thoroughly subversive Enemy Of The State. And whatever one thinksof their names, the rest of us should have children like Zappa's. (They're all grown up now, of course, but Moon was a highly poised young lady even at the age of thirteen. I don't remember seeing any of Feder's kids on talk shows when _they_ were teenagers.)
Love or hate his music; agree or disagree that his sometimes-acerbic social commentary often went over the line into sheer pornography. If you want to meet the man himself, this book is the only one you need to read.
It's all in his own words, as told to Peter Occhiogrosso. The style will be recognizable to anyone who has ever read the liner notes on a Zappa album. And the content is part autobiography, part correction of underground-rock-grapevine misconceptions, part almost-libertarian political activism, part musing on the nature of musical composition.
A handful of highlights, chosen from among many: He proposes that music could be digitally downloaded, an idea whose time apparently hadn't come when Zappa first thought of it. The chapter on his "pornography trial" in the UK is hilarious, not least because it includes selections from the actual transcripts. And if you want to know _why_ his kids turned out so well-spoken and mature at such early ages, check out his advice on childrearing.
By the way, Zappa did not do drugs, no matter how many well-meaning imbeciles tell you otherwise. On the contrary, he was one of a handful of anti-drug crusaders in the music industry, and one of an even smaller handful who wasn't a recovering addict himself. Reality is better than drugs anyway, and Zappa knew it.
His untimely death from prostate cancer left a gaping hole; he was irreplaceable. But thank goodness for this book.
on February 23, 2001
This is not casual reading, summer reading, something you just pick up. It's an inside account for the fact- and tidbit-hungry FZ fan-atic, for those FZ-crazed psychos who have to know more than you do about one of rock's ultimate musical geniuses. This book is written for the Zappa fan by FZ himself, and as such it is an essential addition to an FZ fan's collection. If you've listened to your FZ albums to the point where you know the songs' lyrics, have heard/read some of the rumors and legends, and wish to expand "your mythology" and "conceptual continuity," you're ready.
FZ's music leads the way, as it should, and you'll either love it or hate it pretty quickly. Reading up on FZ before you start listening to his recordings isn't going to help you, and more likely would serve to confuse. This being said, this book is best for the FZ listener who has made the critical personal decision to become an FZ fan, and who wants to educate himself/herself a little bit more about the man who makes the noises come out of the speaker.
And this book is the best place to start. As an (assisted) autobiography, this is the real deal, the observations, memories, and facts directly from the source. FZ says himself in the introduction, "...I do not think of my life as amazing in any sense--however, the opportunity to say stuff in print about tangential subjects is appealing." The countless FZ web pages and fanzines contain all of the information contained in this book and then some, but this is the best place to start your FZ education. FZ's dedication of the book to "Gail, the kids, Stephen Hawking and Ko-Ko" (the 'talking' gorilla) provide the very first indication that the reader is in for a better glimpse of FZ than you can get from listening to the sonic eccentricity of "Billy The Mountain" or "Weasels Ripped My Flesh."
The format is essentially chronological, but wide open, free flowing, with quick jumps to new subjects as diverse as "Jazz: The Music of Unemployment" and "How To Raise Unbelievable Children." There are lists, poetry, instructions, lyrics, interview snippets, letters, transcripts of congressional testimony, tables, photos, and wonderful illustrations. The illustrations are fine, detailed and punctuating the text well, done by the mysterious hieroglyph-signature artist whose name escapes me. What is surprising is that FZ couldn't get longtime FZ album cover artist Cal Schenkel to contribute his talents to the book.
The book is a great investment, a fine addition to an eclectic library, and a wonderful repeat read.
on July 24, 2000
At the risk of causing offence by comparing this tome to the other "Good Book", I would like to make it clear how good this book is at offering advice on life. Everything from solving societies ills in a practical manner to raising kids in a loving and open environment.
One of the books other strengths is its humour; even the non-Zappa nuts who have borrowed this book from me have enjoyed the relaxed and enjoyable writing style.
I have read this book so many times now that it is falling apart, and needs to be replaced. It is always the first in the suitcase, come holiday time!
One of the most amusing topics in the book is Frank's less than successful inventions. One of which was the idea of somehow digitising music and sending it down the telephone line. So, not only did he invent the gatefold sleeve and the concept album, he also conceived MP3.com over 10 years before it happened!
A truly remarkable man whos presence is greatly missed. The other one book that everone should own.
on June 7, 2000
We get some of everything with this one.
It gives us a feel for his personality and speaking style. Italics, underlining, and boldface are used liberally; I could hear his voice as I read.
It gives us a nice collection of anecdotes from various stages of Zappa's career, from his high school years up through the orchestral work with the LSO - even a couple of tales from the 1988 'Best Band You Never Heard'. If you like these, you will wish there were more, though.
It gives us what has to be the best general description of a composer's work ever ('wiggling air molecules, changing over time'). That chapter alone is worth the cost of the book, if you are at all interested in music or art.
We also get the political Zappa, some lyrics, the Zappa home life, and even a bit of What Frank Eats (whatever the kids don't, apparently).
The only thing we don't get (and this is why I wish he'd lived another 30 years) is some detailed analysis of his compositions. We get a couple of places where he is discussing musical theory and practice from a technical perspective (chord progressions that cannot occur in doowop, or why jazz drummers are not normally appropriate in a Zappa band), there is no music printed in the book to help the interested reader follow along. Certainly I can't fault the book for this, but, man, it would have been nice if he'd written one like that.
If you are a student of music, a budding composer, artist, or just think Frank freaks folks out, this is for you.