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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for the Maturing Zappa Fan, February 23, 2001
This review is from: The Real Frank Zappa Book (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. 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.
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Initial post: Mar 25, 2013 10:05:55 PM PDT
As I understand it, Frank Zappa did not get Cal Schenkel to participate in the artwork for this book because by 1988 when it was written, they had fallen out. It is a side of Frank that he of course doesn't comment on in this book - why did he fall out with so many people he worked with? But I agree with you, a must-on-the-shelf for any FZ fan.
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