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YMMV / Frank Zappa

  • Archive Panic: 53 albums in 35 years plus all the ones released posthumously (new releases continue to this day). Not to mention one of the most obsessive bootleg collection communities in all of fandom. Hundreds upon hundreds of high-lineage concert bootlegs zapping across the ether in lossless audio format as we speak. Not to mention the occasional rehearsal, alternate take, or unreleased studio album (!) that floats by. Good luck.
    • In fact, it inspired the cover of the posthumous 1996 release The Lost Episodes.
  • Base Breaker: Generally Zappa's 1960s and 1970s output is held in high regard by most fans. His later output is more polarizing. Some fans consider it politically dated (with explicit references to the Reagan era); others complain that although it's musically more slick, it's instrumentally less varied (the usual complaint being along the lines that the rock songs don't sound as colorful as in the 1970s); or else the fans just consider the later stuff obnoxious and irritating. Two of his most hated records are both from this time period: The Man From Utopia (1982) and Thing-Fish (1985), yet even these have their fans. His classical compositions from this era get a bit more praise, though some feel he shouldn't have used the Synclavier as much. Zappa, who hated conformity, seems to have thrived on Base Breaking.
  • Big Name Fan: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Salman Rushdie, Matt Groening, Czech president Vaclav Havél, Henry Rollins, Alice Cooper, Al Gore, Germaine Greer, The Mars Volta, Red Hot Chili Peppers, George Clinton,...
  • Crazy Awesome: Nothing more needs to be said about the man.
  • Creator Worship: Saying anything bad, ever, about Zappa is liable to trigger his fans' Berserk Button. Scroll down for evidence.
  • Czechs Love Frank Zappa: Besides the fact that he was very influential in the country's underground scene and regarded as a symbol of anti-authoritarianism, Czechoslovakia's first post-Communist president, Václav Havel, was a huge fan of Zappa and wanted to name him government consultant on trade, cultural matters and tourism. The Bush administration, probably still pissed about the PMRC thing, torpedoed the entire idea, and Havel made Zappa a cultural attaché instead.
    • Havel was imprisoned due to listening to Zappa albums - this is where the huge Czech love comes from. Also, the Bush administration flat out said that they'd break off relationships if he were to be named so.
  • Ear Worm: As artistic/innovative/influential/etc. as his music is, it'd mean nothing if it weren't also so damn catchy (see: Hot Rats, "Eat That Question" (from The Grand Wazoo), "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" (from We're Only in It for the Money) etc.).
  • Epic Fail: One of his albums, Jazz From Hell, almost got censored for having inappropriate lyrics, problem is the entire album was full with Instrumentals.
    • Reportedly, the issue the PMRC had with the album was the track title "G-Spot Tornado".
    • Truthfully though, the record store that added the label did so only because they knew nothing whatsoever about the album.
  • Epic Riff: Many, including:
  • Face of the Band: Didn't even found the Mothers of Invention, but took over almost instantly.
  • First Installment Wins: His first and third albums, Freak Out and We're Only in It for the Money, are the only ones on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time, despite being listed as one of the 100 greatest musicians by the same magazine.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Some of the songs on We're Only In It For the Money are based on the ludicrousness of the idea of cops killing hippies. Two years after the album's release, the Kent State murders happened.
    • On Joe's Garage, Frank Zappa did a decidedly tongue-in-cheek Progressive Rock parody called "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?", about the title character contracting "an unpronounceable disease," and then died of prostate cancer. However, the song's still really funny.
  • Genius Bonus: The premise behind the story of Joe's Garage.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Bassist Roy Estrada messing around with the inflatable sex doll in Baby Snakes wasn't quite as funny after Estrada was arrested and convicted for child molestation in 1994 and 2012.
    • Quite some lyrics or song titles in Zappa's oeuvre refer to STD's, which were a nuisance in the 1960s and 1970s, but back then all medically treatable. Since the arrival of AIDS in the 1980s references as such don't sit so well with modern day listeners. Especially considering Lucy Offerall, one of the groupies in 200 Motels, died from it in 1991.
    • While it's a pretty safe bet that the 9/11 attacks weren't what Zappa had in mind, this line from the "Hydrogen" section of the chapter "All About Schmucks" in The Real Frank Zappa Book reads much differently today.
    "Some people in the Imaginary Heartland of America might say,Who gives a shit? They ain't going to get us. They ain't coming over here. Why, some of 'em don't even have air-o-planes."
    • "Trouble Every Day" was written about the rioting in Watts some decades ago, but it sounds like it could've been written within the past 3-5 years. Not one word of the song even needs to be changed to be relevant to today's political and racial climate after the killings of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and many others.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In the former category, the line about hippies getting crabs in "Who Needs The Peace Corps?" became even funnier when Joe's Crab Shack released a psychedelic advertisement promoting "Peace, Love and Crabs".
    • You Are What You Is described a black man who learned how to play golf and got a good score, pretty much predicting Tiger Woods' claim to fame.
  • Misaimed Fandom
    • Became popular with hippies, a subculture he hated.
      • It's worth noting, though, that while he (justifiably) dismissed the subculture as a trend that wouldn't last, as a lifelong libertarian he was sympathetic to a large number of their socio-political aims, and the attacks on We're Only in It for the Money mostly ("Flower power sucks" in Absolutely Free is the most obvious exception) aren't on the hippie subculture as a whole but on people who were only participating in it for the sex, drugs, and/or (in the case of performers) money without caring about its social aims. By far his biggest problem with the subculture seemed to be that, while it was ostensibly aimed at attacking conformity, it had quickly evolved into yet another form of conformity due to how many people were participating in it. That said, this didn't stop him from relentlessly attacking the more ridiculous trends associated with the subculture, such as their fashion.
    • Valley Girls even though his song "Valley Girl" from Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch was really a Take That from Moon Unit Zappa at the Valley Girls at her school.
  • Not So Crazy Anymore: An almost immediate example: When We're Only in It for the Money came out a lot of people thought he was crazy because of all the references to cops shooting hippies. Slightly under three years later, the Kent State shootings happened. They were National Guardsmen rather than police, but other than that it occurred almost exactly as he predicted. The proximity of the events has also led to several cases of You Fail Rock History Forever as people have claimed that the songs on the album were inspired by the Kent State shootings.
  • Pandering to the Base: Zappa is an odd example of this trope. On one hand he simply did what he liked, telling the audience literally to get fucked if they hated what he did on stage or in his work. A huge chunk of his lyrics are inside jokes, incomprehensible to anyone but him and his band members. Yet on the other hand he did put in a lot of Running Gag material (conceptual continuity) that only his hardcore fans would recognize and cheer about.
    • Another respect in which Zappa Pandered to the Base was in concerts, later in his career: he tended to spend more time (as he put it) "walking up and down on stage being a buffoon" and less time playing music. His excuse was that people weren't necessarily coming to his concerts to hear difficult music. However, it didn't stop him making difficult music and putting it out on his studio records, and the recorded evidence showed that he was still perfectly capable of playing punishingly abstract music to stadium audiences.
  • Tear Jerker: Zappa was reportedly quite skeptical about making music that served as this trope, though he has made music that is moving beyond tears: "Watermelon In Easter Hay" (an instrumental from Joe's Garage), "Mom and Dad", "The Idiot Bastard Son" (from We're Only in It for the Money), "Oh No" (Weasels Ripped My Flesh, though the Roxy And Elsewhere version is equally moving), "Inca Roads" (One Size Fits All), "Black Napkins" (Zoot Allures), "Strictly Genteel" (200 Motels),...
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Zappa's Concept Albums and Rock Operas tended to be plotted much like a comedy routine  in which stories and anecdotes tangentially flow from one into the next  rather than having a completed story behind it. One example: Joe's Garage, a story about a man arrested for performing rock music on the eve of music getting banned from society, spends a lot of time in the middle on wild sexual adventures. The album dedicates three songs to his ex-girlfriend, who becomes a mindless sex slave after performing sexual favours for another band for over a year. The final third of Joe's Garage requires the liner notes to make sense of what is actually happening, as the libretto gives way to lengthy guitar solos.
    • Thing-Fish goes from a grave piece of High Concept toliterally devolving into a massive orgy by album's end.
  • True Art Is Angsty: Mostly averted; he frequently derided this and stuck to comedy. However, played straight with some of his more fervent protest songs, like "Heavenly Bank Account."
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Frequent, especially on his sound collages.
  • Unfortunate Implications: On songs like "Sy Borg," Zappa seemed to find the idea of homosexual sex very funny. And there's plenty of examples of women being objectified in his music, cf. the Wet T-shirt example listed above.
  • What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Frank made some of the most bizarre music ever recorded, but his only drugs of choice were caffeine and nicotine. All the more remarkable given he created 53 albums in the span of 20-25 years, on top of touring, managing his record company, and verbally bitch-slapping the PMRC. Oh, and raising four kids.
    from the Baby Snakes film: What is that, a joint? No... get that dope fiend device away from me!
    • As he points out, a lot of his stuff is so complex that you have to be sober to play it. For an example of what can happen, check out the London Symphony Orchestra's drunk version of "Strictly Genteel."
      • Once again - read Zappa the Hard Way. As someone who has studied Frank for more than 40 years and has extensively interviewed numerous bandmembers, family members and acquaintances, it's quite amazing the amount of wrong information that gets put out there.
  • Yoko Oh No: A lot of fans disliked Gail for her heavy-handed approach to handling Zappa's posthumous affairs.