Frank Zappa, Pop Philosopher

zappa againIt’s hardly a secret that the Bemolution’s boundary-breaking artiste of choice is the late Frank Zappa. This isn’t just because of his music. Politically, Zappa was often hard to like. He was a self-described ‘practical conservative’, a socially permissive economic libertarian who fumed at unions, taxation and big government even while launching scabrous assaults on religious fundamentalism, censorship and corporate dominance of politics and the media. He hated dumb conformism above all else, but wasn’t above wince-inducing misogyny and the kind of knuckleheaded playground humour that finds anything ‘gay’ uproariously funny. As wildly individual a product as Zappa undoubtedly was, he was still a product of his era. But it’s as a ferociously critical thinker that he remains stirringly relevant. In this interview from the late 80s he holds forth on how the Right – the big capitalist, fundamentalist Christian Right – was manipulating the media. The Bemolution is always reminded of this clip whenever right-wingers complain about the BBC’s supposed leftist bias. He might’ve been more secular Ron Paul than Noam Chomsky, but he was bang on back then and, depressingly, still bang on twenty years after his death.


And since it would be criminal to bring up Zappa without aural accompaniment, here’s a hallowed recording from a 1973 performance of ‘Montana’ filmed for Swedish TV.