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Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa Paperback – October 11, 2011
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'Freak Out! provides an affectionate, revelatory but clear-eyed portrayal of the peculiar dynamic at the heart of the Mother superior's inner sanctum. Zappa’s contradictory nature is deftly delineated ("he stood in judgement on almost everyone in the outside world yet I knew no other man more unassuming, humble or compassionate") and a compelling cast of minor characters drift through the narrative: an elliptical, quixotic Captain Beefheart, the luckless, rudderless Wild Man Fischer, gentlemanly multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood, visionary sleeve artist Cal Schenkel and Pauline’s eventual charges, the unruly and elemental GTOs. A vital purchase for those that love their Mothers. 4*s' Reviewed by Oregano Rathbone Record Collector
Revelatory and keenly perceptive. In 1967, Zappa ordered a typist up to his London hotel room, and when Butcher arrived, they hit it off to such an extent that eventually he offered her a job as his personal secretary. She accepted, moved to Los Angeles, and was promptly thrown into madness that from the distance of time seems irresistible. With a backdrop of the chaotic late 1960s extending into 1972, Butcher battles Zappa's wife Gail, develops interesting friendships with musician Ian Underwood and album artist Cal Schenkel, wrangles the GTOs (an all-girl act produced by Zappa), and meets a variety of eccentrics and rock stars: Tiny Tim, Captain Beefheart, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, and members of Pink Floyd. Offering deeply personal glimpses of Zappa, Butcher's coming-of-age story is so captivating and vividly told that many will be surprised to discover it's her first book.' The Austin Chronicle
'Contains lots of inside information about the true state of the grubby log cabin. Pauline's time with the Zappas was very eventful, with an assassination attempt, constant work-related squabbles with Gail (who she says 'has three speeds: slow, very slow, and stop'), and general in-house strife. But she also had many good times, getting to see moments of pure brilliance as well as witness some of Frank's more fanciful projects (the GTOs, Wild Man Fischer, etc.). This is an honest, accurate - and very well written - account of her thoughts and feelings at the time, based as it is on her diaries and letters home. Entertaining and occasionally laugh-out loud funny, too.' Andrew Greenaway, author of Zappa the Hard Way
'Irrefutably complex, infuriatingly enigmatic Frank Zappa remained a mystery to everyone bar his inner circle. Now someone who was close to the musician throughout the turbulent 60s has broken her silence. Pauline Butcher was a quiet, shy English girl who was refreshingly free of any rock star hang ups... A fascinating insight into the life of Frank Zappa, it also stands as a wonderful fly on the wall account of a whirlwind era in the evolution of rock music. ClashMusic has gained a short extract, which includes a walk on appearance from a certain Mr M. Jagger and Miss M. Faithfull . . .' ClashMusic
From the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Naturally her perspective is from a woman's point of view, and she won't disappoint her female readers who are looking for romantic insights, comments on clothing and personality styles, and honest appraisals of herself as well as those around her. Pauline had been the product of a modest but proper English upbringing. To be thrust into a gaggle of bohemian American artists with loose morals and counter-culture lifestyles provoked a fascinating contrast which Pauline explores to the hilt in the book.
Between tours I spent much time at the Log Cabin rehearsing with the band or socializing, so I can vouch for Pauline's accurate reporting. Her recall of details and conversations is astounding, presumably owing in part to the stream of letters she sent home which were kept. I had not known of her aspirations to become a writer, or for that matter some other secrets that she reveals in the book. But now throughout all these years, she has become a very fine writer, and has a first rate published book to show for it.
Mothers of Invention
In the last few years however, we've witnessed a more interesting crop of FZ-related books popping up on the market - that is, books with a personal angle, that seek to get under the skin of the man who put mustaches back on the map. Think here of Candy Zappa, Nigey Lennon and Lisa Popeil (note: I have not read Lisa's book yet). The problem with those first two books however was that, while tantalizing in the more personal portrait of Frank that they undoubtedly painted, they were just too brief and lacking in detail to really give you the sustained insight you so craved. And that happily is where Pauline ('Parleen') Butcher's book comes in...
Beautifully written, told from a personal point of view and brimming with a million fascinating little anecdotes about FZ, Gail, Pamela Zarubica and a whole host of familiar names, that are bound to make the more stalker-ish of fans curl their toes in delight, this is easily the most insightful and healthy book in the Zappa-related canon. (I say 'healthy' because it feels like it was written by someone who is primarily telling her own story, rather than exploiting Frank's for financial gain, and hence is doing it for all the right reasons - and it shows in the personal nature and soul-searching honesty of it all).Read more ›
So, how did a prim and proper secretary bird from Twickenham get involved with Frank Zappa? It is a question that Pauline is constantly asked - read the book to find out! Perhaps they were not so far apart? Despite Zappa's zany and weird appearance and the even weirder characters who lobbed into the log cabin, Pauline reveals that his values were conservative and conventional - he hated drugs! Perhaps he was serious about running for President!
This book is no hagiography. Frank was charismatic and mesmerizing but he was no saint. He could be cool and cruel. He was aloof; always taking his meals alone.
But, this is Pauline's story and it is a page turner. We care about what happens to Pauline. Does she retain her virtue? How does she put up with the chaos of the cabin?
The detail in the book owes much to the long letters that Pauline wrote from the cabin through the years she lived there. I liked the bite-size chapters and the photos which made this book a joy to read. And now I know a lot more about the legend and the people around him.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An absolutely wonderful book. As the title implies it is not a book about Frank Zappa, but is what Pauline experienced and saw for those few years. Read morePublished 10 days ago by M. Hawling
Interesting account of life with the Zappa's and early Mothers. Good read for fans.Published 1 month ago by dean MacDonald
Reads more like a bad romance novel, but still an interesting take on Zappa, the log house, and the LA scene in the late 60's.Published 2 months ago by Richard & Pegi
I really liked this book. I'm a huge Zappa fan and have read many books about him. This one comes from a very personal perspective while many others don't. Read morePublished 3 months ago by alex
After reading a bunch of books on Zappa over the years, this one gave me the most interesting perspective on Frank the man. Read morePublished 6 months ago by OBIE
...which are two overwhelming points of focus in this book. I suppose these ''essential ingredients'' are the recipe for future stage/screen adaptations and so forth... Read morePublished 6 months ago by critic-ailleurs
Interesting inside look at developing rock culture of the '60's and '70's.Published 6 months ago by michael barcelona