Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
Ascended Fanon: Once during a concert, a fan called out for "Whipping Post" by The Allman Brothers Band, but Zappa and his band didn't know it at the time. They would go on to learn it and it would be performed often, including at the concert that produced the Does Humor Belong In Music? album.
Author Phobia: Many of the things that functioned as berserk buttons for Zappa were things that he was also afraid of. He really did not like the idea of government-mandated restriction and control over people's lives, whether it be censorship or lack of choice.
Black Sheep Hit: The rather catchy (with the obligatory share of Lyrical Dissonance) "Bobby Brown Goes Down" from Sheik Yerbouti. In a documentary, Frank admitted to being amused that it kept climbing to #1 in Norway every once in a while, to the point where he wanted to send an anthropologist to find out why this was happening. Also fitting the bill are his two biggest hits in the US, "Dancin' Fool" and his only Top 40 hit, "Valley Girl".
One of the first cases of Zappa and Executive Meddling, comes from his first Album, Freak Out!". You know "Return of the Son of Monster Magnet"? The 12 Minute finale that's nothing but a bunch of drums and sound effects? Well, that's just the rhythm track. Zappa wanted to do more, but due to budget problems with the Studio he was a part of at the time, and due to the fact that the percussion work for what they did make was $12,000 (An insanely high amount of money for just a rhythm track), the studio wouldn't let him finish it. That is why it's subtitled is "An Unfinished Ballet in Two Tableaux'''. Unlike most of his other works, however, Zappa would never finish this track.
Lumpy Gravy was originally released in 1967 as a 22-minute orchestral album by Capitol Records. MGM sued Capitol claiming that Zappa was not allowed to record for them because he was signed to Verve Records, even though his contract stated that he was allowed to work on outside projects in which he did not perform; all of the music on the original Lumpy Gravy was performed by an orchestra. This Executive Meddling didn't turn out too bad, though, because Zappa ended up reediting the original album into a longer and more avant-garde album released by Verve in 1968, containing dadaist improvised spoken word pieces and archival excerpts from older surf, jazz and blues recordings, turning it into one of Zappa's most acclaimed albums.
We're Only In It For The Money had several bits edited out on its original release. Then the label pulled the album and released an even more edited version. Zappa heard the heavily censored release when he was receiving an award for that album, and consequently refused the award because it was now the censor's album, not his.
In the '70s, Zappa prepared an album called Lšther and delivered it to Warner Bros. Records. It consisted of 4 LPs of material which included orchestral pieces, studio recordings in various styles, live rock songs and Lumpy Gravy-esque dadaist spoken word pieces. Warner refused to release the box set, and insisted that his contract owed the label four more albums. Zappa cut three single albums and a live double album from the original recordings: Zappa In New York, Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites, which would fulfill his contract. The label initially agreed to release this, putting out Zappa In New York with Zappa's prepared artwork, but removed the song "Punky's Whips", in which Terry Bozzio described a fictional sexual encounter with Punky Meadows of the glam rock band Angel, and insisted that Zappa still owed them four more albums, leading Zappa to sue Warner Bros. for breach of contract, and Warner Bros. to issue the rest of the albums with artwork by Gary Panter that he did not approve, and in fact, hated, once he saw the covers. These events spurred Zappa's "Warner Bros. Sucks" campaign and several critical references to the label throughout his career. Ironically, Warner later distributed posthumous Zappa releases by Rykodisc and later the Zappa Family Trust.
Even more egregious about Warner's unauthorized issuing of Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites is that in addition to the fact that Zappa prepared no artwork or even liner notes for the albums (meaning that the original albums were devoid of any crediting towards the original musicians), Zappa had not completed mixing on the original albums.
The title track to Apostrophe (') is a jam with Zappa on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass and Jim Gordon on drums. Bruce would later deny his involvement, claiming he only provided the "skronk" noise (made by a cello) that opens the song.
Highlights of Belew's appearances on Sheik Yerbouti include the hilariously accurate Bob Dylan impersonation on "Flakes" and lead vocals on "City of Tiny Lites".
Tina Turner and the Ikettes provide guest vocals on "I'm The Slime" and "Montana" from Over-Nite Sensation. They were brought in because they happened to be recording in the same studio, but struggled with the more complicated vocal arrangement of "Montana". After they finally got the vocal track recorded, Tina brought in Ike from the next room to listen to the result. Ike listened for a minute, yelled "What the hell is this shit?" and left the studio.
Mark "Flo" Volman and Howard "Eddie" Kaylan were the lead singers of The Turtles before hooking up with Zappa in 1970-'71.
Magnum Opus Dissonance: Even though Zappa never named Thing-Fish his masterpiece he often called it an essential album because of the political message. Yet to this day many Zappa fans revile it as his worst, least imaginative and most unenjoyable record ever, partly because unlike most of his other albums it contains little new music; many of the backing tracks are from previous Zappa songs and just have new vocal tracks. Disenchanted fans consider the political aspect so far-fetched that it's impossible to take seriously: it's a bizarre and obscene parody of a Broadway musical, featuring a chorus of mutant black men who've been the victims of medical experiments that have made their heads shaped like potatoes, and also featuring an uptight yuppie couple in the audience who are reluctantly drawn into the action, a baby with an eerie robot voice and many, many different kinds of sex acts. Despite its weirdness, some fans do prize it as a masterpiece - making it also a Base Breaker.
Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood was named that way long before Motorhead existed.
Zappa's song "Any Way The Wind Blows" is unrelated to J.J. Cale's song of the same name, or Tom Barman's film Any Way The Wind Blows (2003).
One-Hit Wonder: As mentioned above, Zappa has just one Top 40 single to his credit, "Valley Girl".
One of Us: He was the quintessential band geek (He played snare, to be specific), and loved "monster movies". Also, he enjoyed listening to modern classical music, being especially fond of difficult modernist composers like Anton Webern, Igor Stravinsky, Edgard Varese, Pierre Boulez and Elliott Carter.
Zappa was also a big fan of cheap B-movies, and wrote a song about them, called "Cheepnis", extolling the virtue of So Bad, It's Good examples of the genre. Another one "The Radio Is Broken" spoofs science fiction ones.
What Could Have Been: He was pretty much past his peak dexterity as a guitarist and had to call Steve Vai in for help near the end... But he could have gone on a damned sight longer as a composer.
Sheesh...be thankful that he lived as long as he did - an on-stage accident at the Rainbow Theatre in London in 1971 could easily have killed him, and even though it didn't, his injuries were so serious that they kept him in a wheelchair and off the road for six months.
That accident also lowered his vocal range by at least half an octave...if not more.
Sub-example: Between Zappa's tour with his "Grand Wazoo" big band and his return to a small rock/jazz group, there was a 3 month period at the end of 1972 where Zappa toured with a much smaller brass combo known as the Petit Wazoo. Zappa fans love the Petit Wazoo, are hungry for any material from that era, and frequently lament it only lasted for 24 concerts.
Sub-sub-example: One album has been composed of material from the Petit Wazoo era under the title Imaginary Diseases.
One can only guess what Zappa's late '70's output had sounded like if Bianca Odin didn't succumb to continually abrasive audiences and stuck with the band past 1976.
In his last days, he quit the guitar and seemed to not be considering returning to rock music. Instead, he spent quite a bit of time with musicians of different 'folk' traditions— the Tuvan Throat Singers, Huur-Huun-Tuur, and the Irish Chieftains. It seemed like World Music was the next genre he was really going to experiment with— some examples of this can be heard on his last album.