Monday, October 11, 2010

More Zappa

Apostrophe Zoot Allures

Time for some more Zappa! In my previous blog post I did an in-depth appreciation of the man and his work. Now it's time to dig into the archives for more Frank goodies.
Guitar Player magazine, the longest running guitar magazine still in existence, has give Frank plenty of ink over the years. They took him seriously as a guitarist, composer and thinker, and gave him great latitude to air his opinions with his usual wicked, unforgiving, sarcastic wit. In return he gave them some great interviews and wrote some fantastic articles and columns for the magazine.
I first started getting Guitar Player in 1976; my collection of monthly issues has been for the most part unbroken, right up to the present day. So from my collection, here's some Zappa memories. Clikc on images for larger view.

January 1977 - Zappa was the cover story, billed as "Rock Guitar Vanguard." All hail! On the cover he is posing with a Fender Stratocaster guitar that belonged to Jimi Hendrix. He explains in the article that it was played (and burned) by Hendrix at the Miami Pop Festival, not Monterey as one would guess. After having it for years hanging it on the wall, Frank decided to have it refurbished and made playable. In the photo you can see signs of the extensive customization that he typically did to his guitars, but he left the burned and blistered pickup covers, just for show, apparently. In addition to an excellent, long and wide ranging interview, Frank also contributed an essay called "Good Guitar Stuff or Stereotypifications? The Evolution of the Guitar's Use In Pop Music: Brief Version." Classic Zappa - insightful, witty, sarcastic.

For about a year, Frank wrote a (usually) monthly column for GP called "Absolutely Frank," then changed to "Non-Foods." Above is a sample from the Dec. 82 issue. The column is entitled "Putting Some Garlic In Your Playing," In every column he goes into some very practical discussions on how he thinks about writing and playing, and there is plenty of Frank's philosophy about the business, art and science of making music.

In Feb. 1983, FZ was on the cover again, sporting a mini Strat. A very long, interesting interview, plus a sidebar interview with a 22-year-old Steve Vai.

January 1987 - For the magazine's 20th anniversary issue, Frank contributed a recording for their flexi-disc Soundpage insert (remember them?) - a recording of the first time Frank brought his son Dweezil onstage to jam together live, on the song "Sharleena" - Dweezil was 14 at the time. The issue also includes a reprint of Frank's essay from the Jan. 1977 issue, updated with some discussion about the state of guitar in the 80's. The article was re-titled "The 80's Guitar Clone," so you know where he's heading.

1992 - Zappa! - a Guitar Player magazine special publication, entirely devoted to FZ. Includes a huge new interview with Frank, plus interviews with wife Gail,  all four of his kids, the staff of the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen, guitarist Warren DiMartini, and Matt Groening, creator of the Simpsons, who declared that Zappa was "my Elvis."

 In December 1993, Frank succumbed to prostate cancer at age 53. After his passing, the March 1994 issue paid tribute to Frank by simply letting him speak for himself, via quotes from his various interviews over the years.

 Musician Magazine, February 1994 did a great tribute piece featuring recollections and thoughts from friends and fellow musicians, and included these incredible shots.

The October 1995 issue of GP included an outstanding in-depth analysis of Frank's guitar style by James Rotondi, Frank's solo on "Penguins In Bondage," transcribed by Mike Keneally, and some bits from his "Non-Foods" lesson/columns from the 80's, featuring excerpts and ideas from the Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar series. That should keep you busy for a few years!

In 2006, Dweezil launched Zappa Plays Zappa, and shared the cover of the August 2006 GP with Steve Vai and the ghost of Frank. Features a great interview with Dweezil, plus a sidebar with Vai and a feature on Joe Travers, who is drummer and co-director of the Zappa Plays Zappa show, as well as manager of the huge archive of Zappa recordings.

Finally, just out this month is the December 2010 issue of GP, in which Dweezil, at long last, gets the cover all to himself, albeit with the headline "Prodigal Son." Includes an interview, plus a feature on the Dweezilla Music Boot Camp, a four day event featuring classes, lessons and performances by the musicians and crew of the Zappa Plays Zappa tour.

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  1. I love that first Guitar Player cover of Frank you have! What an awesome guitar!

    Isn't Dweezil's PRS on the recent cover gorgeous!

  2. At first, I thought it was Ben's strat....