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The Real Frank Zappa Book Paperback – May 15, 1990
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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."
Vanity Fair An autobiography of mostly hilarious stories...fireside war tales from the big bad days of the rockin' sixties...primer of the sonic avant-garde, the book bashes favorite Zappa targets and dashes a few myths about the man.
The New York Post This book belongs in every home.
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I enjoyed reading a little about the early pre-music years, but once he gets to his building interest in music, I was enraptured. I love the fact that his main love, to begin, was orchestrated music, not rock and roll which was only in its infant stages at the time of Zappa's budding music career. I loved hearing about the forming of his first band the Black-Outs; Studio Z (his run-in with the law as he took work to merely survive); his burgeoning recording skills; his relationship with Don Van Vliet; the Soul Giants and taking over that band to build the Mothers which became Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. He goes a little bit into post-Mothers material but then it stops ....
There's A LOT! we don't hear about post-mothers: the various band members and their stories, the recording of the music during those later years (basically Waka Jawaka to the date of the writing of TRFZB). I'm really not that interested in on-the-road stories, what beer does to Americans, schmucks, Porn Wars (very irrelevant with MP3s being popular today), church and state (and it should be titled Evangelical Freud instead, or something to that effect) and so on.
But overall, I enjoyed the book quite a bit, thus the four stars. Thanks Frank. RIP, brother.
I've recently been listening to a lot of Zappa's music and the urge to read this book again struck me. I figure for ten bucks, I don't mind buying a book again that I remember loving so much.
I should say that knowledge of Zappa's vast discography certainly helps in appreciating this book, as I enjoyed it more the second time, but I don't think it's required. There will be references that a non-fan won't understand, but the language and the stories that he tells here make it worth reading for anyone who is interested in music. If you are a musician, this is required reading. The middle chapter called "All about Music" is a brutal, vicious, hilarious attack on the art form that paid Frank's bills (and sometimes didn't) for most of his life. That chapter alone makes this book priceless in my mind, but the whole thing is good. His perspective on life and the world was unique. His style of storytelling reminds me a bit of Kurt Vonnegut in the way that he uses non sequiturs and tangents to paint an overall picture of the point he's getting at.
The last section of the book is mostly about his family life and his views on politics, and a lot of the political stuff may seem dated on the surface, but all I had to do was replace the names and pretty much all of it still rang true to me.
I don't really know how to review a book like this except to say that I was never bored, and I guarantee I won't be letting it out of my possession again. It's absolutely one of my favorite books. It's charming, funny, and even if some of it isn't necessarily true, it's honest. Does that make sense?
Zappa fans have already read it. All musicians should read it. Mostly, I recommend it to people who like to laugh.