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The Real Frank Zappa Book Paperback – May 15, 1990

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Editorial Reviews Review

This is the second-best way to expose yourself to the particular genius of Frank Zappa (music is the best, after all)--through his own words. In addition to being an idiosyncratic American composer of some degree of controversy, Zappa was an orator of no small ability or scope. He was known for his ability to expound at great length (and to hilarious effect) on any number of topics. The Real Frank Zappa Book faithfully captures this side of its author, composed of essays on everything from his background and upbringing, to politics, capitalism, and raising children. Zappa takes the opportunity to dispel some of the most pervasive rumors that surrounded him right up to (and even persist after) his death in 1993 (no he didn't do drugs, or sleep with all those groupies). If you're familiar with the man, you will be able to hear his distinctive enunciations (aided by the bold-facing of certain words and Zappaisms) as you read the assorted road stories, his views on making music for a living, and scenes from two--count them, two--organized hearings on obscenity in music. Of course, the chapter titles speak for themselves and include such Zappa winners as "All About Schmucks," "Marriage (As a Dada Concept)," and "America Drinks and Goes Marching."

From Library Journal

Determined to write a book that had " real stuff in it," the outspoken Zappa, one of the most inventive and controversial artists of the past 20 years, is frank, often disgusting, and always entertaining in describing his life ("How weird am I, anyway?"), his philosophy of music ("Take it or leave it, I now will this to be music "), and art in general ("The most important thing in art is The Frame "). Zappa also relates his opinions about the music performing and recording industries, but then rattles on about a myriad of things: church, drugs, yuppies, politics. The book would have benefited from a discography and a bibliography. Recommended for libraries with large pop culture collections.
- Donald W. Maxwell, Carmel Clay P.L., Ind.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reprint edition (May 15, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671705725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671705725
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 80 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on March 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
By way of dissing Zappa's famous appearance before Congress to argue against warning labels on records, 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 thinks of 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.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Sir Charles Panther VINE VOICE on February 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
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.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. C. Paulsen on June 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
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.
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