Celebrities (Or Not) & FZ

This is an incomplete list of allegedly famous people who have declared some degree of fondness, influence or even just knowledge of FZ. Special thanks to Kjell Knudde, who provided most of the quotations.

See also:

 

Jan Akkerman (Focus)

WIU2B, Zappateers, January 11, 2008

Jan Akkerman is a big fan. I met him a few months ago and of course I brought up the subject. The band made some jokes about his soloing on one chord and Jan told me he used some FZ guitar licks in Focus. He also told about his first FZ concert in 67 or 68 in the 'Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. I send him a copy of the '68 stage recording.

Jan Akkerman, interviewed by Hans Beckes, Veronica 538, November 24, 1973

I like Zappa [as a guitarist] very much, but I admire him more as a composer. He's a genius and he makes very human, awakening music. Very pure so to speak.

Jan Akkerman, interviewed in progressor.net, quoted in Zappa Wiki Jawaka

Zappa was one of the leading avant-garde guitarists in the course of the sixties and the seventies, and his creation has run all through my life. Frank sometimes played only one chord, but he did it with such expressive delivery and unusual coloring that it just could not have been compared to anything. I also attempted to play in that manner, though with my own vision of music. As an example, "Hocus Pocus" was written under the influence of Zappa. Although I can't say he exerted much influence upon the formation of my own style of playing, I have always been greatly impressed at his mastery. Once I met him, in London in 1969. Frank came, and we jammed. All of his accompanying musicians were Europeans. Then Zappa said me: "You greatly play guitar and you have your own image as a musician. I would even invite you to play in my band."

 

Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull)

Ian Anderson, interviewed by Harry Doherty, Melody Maker, May 15, 1976

Sophistication is something that happens to anybody who begins their career as a naive artist. Take Frank Zappa. Each of his albums has an identity of its own. You like some and you don't like some of the others, but each one is different. And thank Christ for Frank Zappa who is, for me, the only thing that's come out of America, apart from Captain Beefheart at his best or worst, that means a light to me.

Ian Anderson, interviewed by Chris Barry, Montreal Mirror, August 15, 2002

It upset me more in the early '70s when Frank Zappa said he didn't like us. I was quite a fan of Zappa's music, I admired and revered him as a contemporary, and yeah, having him turn around and suddenly slap us down obviously hurt a little bit.

It made it that much more difficult a few years ago when I got a message from his son saying that Frank, who was terminally ill at the time, would really like me to call him and left me his home phone number. I sat and looked at this number, I even dialed it a few times and hung up, because I just didn't know what you would say to a dying man, especially one who was on record as not liking my work. But I wanted to speak to him, I just found it really difficult. Then I heard on the news one day that he'd died. I felt a profound sense of loss and deep regret that I had never made that call. I would have liked to have spoken to him, just for a minute.

 

Jon Anderson (Yes)

Jon Anderson, interviewed by Kike Posada, November, 2013

I think the first song that changed me was a song on Revolver, the Beatle album, "Tomorrow Never Knows." It's one of the most extraordinary soundscape music on things, the lyrics are amazing—it wasn't a hit, but it was great, you know?

And that's why I would listen to Frank Zappa—he didn't have many hit records, but his music was great. And that's what Yes was about. You know, we didn't have many hit records, but our music was great.

 

Roseanne Barr

Roseanne Barr, interviewed by Tim Arthur, Tim, Timeout London, October 9, 2008

I was, like, the first blogger. I started blogging in 1996. I got the idea from my friend, Frank Zappa. He was very involved with the early internet, and I've been in love with it for a long, long time. [...]

I don't know if "awe" is the right word, but I've been inspired by a lot of people and I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of my heroes. I mean, Zappa to me was God. Just to be able to go and hang out with him, and to be there when he was dying. That guy might have been the smartest guy and the greatest mind there ever was. He toppled governments. Václav Havel listened to his music and it inspired him to topple Communism. Once people hear what free thought sounds like it energises their cells and they go to another level of being, kind of.

Kjell Knudde, August 15, 2015

Ahmet, one of Zappa's sons, also played Roy, roommate of the character Mark in the sixth season of Roseanne. When Zappa passed away in 1993 the episode "Busted" was dedicated as an "in memoriam" to him. Roseanne and her husband Tom Arnold are also thanked in the liner notes of The Yellow Shark (1993).

 

Jello Biafra

Dead Kennedys Band Info, AlternativeTentacles.com

Biafra stumbled upon a reproduction of a painting by European artist H.R. Giger titled "Landscape No. 20: Where We Are Coming From." The painting, which features dismembered, ugly genitals copulating in what looks like sludge, had been reproduced in many books and magazines over the years, and Biafra secured the rights to include it as part of the Frankenchrist package. About the painting, Biafra says "I began to realize, 'My god, we have met the enemy and it is us, this is what we do to each other every day in consumer-oriented society. Wait a minute, this is what we're talking about on a lot of the Frankenchrist songs.' I thought the Giger painting would be a great way to drive home the point, even if some people in high positions of power with no sense of humor didn't seem to understand."

Originally, the painting was meant to be the gatefold inner cover for Frankenchrist, but a member of DKs vehemently objected and it was instead inserted into the album as a poster. Although the poster was expected to raise some eyebrows, no one expected it to cause as much trouble as it did. A warning sticker, albeit a sarcastic one, was affixed to the cover, partially to parody the warning stickers that the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was demanding at the time, partially to cover themselves in case there was difficulty. The sticker read : "WARNING : The inside fold out to this record cover is a work of art by H.R. Giger that some people may find shocking, repulsive or offensive. Life can sometimes be that way."

When a San Fernando Valley mother complained that her 13- year old daughter had purchased the record as a gift for her 11-year old brother (at a Wherehouse Records outlet in a large mall), the LA City Attorney's Office decided to prosecute the case. Deputy city attorney Michael Guarino, the prosecutor in the case, admitted they chose to prosecute the DKs because it would be a "cost-effective" way to send a message to other musicians, record companies and fans. Guarino had been considering prosecuting several other groups when this case came along, and he thought he could win this one.

The first Biafra heard of all this was when he was awakened from his sleep one morning by the sound of his window being broken and several police officers invading his house, supposedly to seize the "evidence." ( No one bothered to knock.) They took numerous personal effects, including his address book, as well as a few copies of Frankenchrist and the business ledgers of Alternative Tentacles, making it impossible to conduct business for a while.

Charged in the case were Biafra, and four others, including the 67-year old man whose company pressed the Frankenchrist disc. Conspicuously not charged were Wherehouse Records which sold the offending album. They had agreed to stop selling Frankenchrist and all other Dead Kennedys albums when the controversy first surfaced.

Biafra and the others decided to fight the charges of distributing harmful matter to minors, and set up the No More Censorship Defense Fund, which along with helping with the legal fees in the Frankenchrist case, makes available copies of articles dealing with censorship and plans to help others who are being harassed. Contributions came in mostly from fans of alternative music; envelopes of teenager's allowance and an encouraging note were common. Not so common were contributions from those popular figures who stood to suffer if Biafra lost the case. Three notable figures who did come to Biafra's aid were Frank Zappa, Little Steven Van Zandt and Paul Kantner.

Although Tipper Gore's PMRC did not claim credit for the case, they certainly approved of it, and it was their talk of rating records that led to the pro-censorship climate of the mid and late 1980's. ( Of course, they are very loath to call it censorship, even though several major record store chains had agreed to not to carry any record that contained a negative rating label.) The No More Censorship Defense Fund called for a boycott of Coors beer and other companies that financed the PMRC, and chronicled their activities in the newsletters inserted in DKs albums.

Finally, after months of delay, during which Biafra's time was taxed enough that he had no time to work on his music, the case went to trial. After a week-long trial in which witnesses such as Greil Marcus testified on the group's behalf, and a respected art teacher attempted to show how the poster was an integral part of the Frankenchrist package, the jury came out deadlocked (7-5 in favor of acquittal), and the judge dismissed the case.

Ironically, the painting which stirred up all the controversy had been printed in several books which could be found in libraries all across the U.S., all published without incident. Giger is a highly respected artist who had even won an academy award ( for his Alien set design), and found all the controversy very strange.

Alternative Tentacles News, May 16, 2001

The famous obscenity trial for the DK's Frankenchrist album resulted in a precedent setting victory for free speech, but nearly bankrupted the label. Amazingly, despite the numerous famous artists under attack at that time, only Frank Zappa and a couple of others tried to help.

RIP Magazine, June, 1986

RIP: They're cracking down on rock 'n' roll in other ways too. Look at the lawsuit against Jello Biafra stemming from the poster inside of the Dead Kennedys' Frankenchrist album. Or the suit against Ozzy Osbourne because some father claims that it's Ozzy's fault that his kid committed suicide while one of Ozzy's records was playing. A spokesman from the L.A. District Attorney's office stated that he has a deskful of other possible rock 'n' roll prosecutions. Is this too going to become fashionable?

ZAPPA: It depends on the outcome of the Biafra case. Right now I'd take that folder on the other prosecutions and use it as evidence in the Biafra case to prove it's a conspiracy on the part of the judiciary and the law-enforcement officers in California, and that it's completely prejudicial and has nothing to do with anything in rock 'n' roll.

What I want to know is, how can a person in the San Fernando Valley who becomes irate at a rock 'n' roll poster in an album suddenly get a search warrant from the State Attorney General's office, requiring the service of six vice-squad officers plus three more flown up from Los Angeles, to search someone's house in San Francisco who's not presumed to be dangerous? That's nine guys, armed, going up to someone's house with a search warrant from the State Attorney General for the purpose of, as the warrant says, "To pick up three copies of the album." First of all, why not go to a record store and buy them? Then there's the slight matter of who's been indicted here, right down to the guy who pressed the albums. Notice it's not the Wherehouse record store that sold the records—a curious omission. And, they have to prove that by seeing this poster, someone has been irreparably damaged. It's an absurd case.

Richard Abowitz, Gadfly, May, 1999

When the punk label Alternative Tentacles was attacked by the government for the artwork included with a Dead Kennedys album, Zappa put his money alongside his mouth. Despite his antipathy for punk, Zappa made a sizeable donation to the No More Censorship Defense Fund and called up label owner and Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra. Biafra recalls being advised to remember that he was the victim and to keep his dignity. In all, they had about seven or eight conversations, and Biafra was invited over to Zappa's house.

Jeffrey Ressner, Rolling Stone, October, 1987

The two-week trial of former Dead Kennedys vocalist Jello Biafra ended on August 27th in a victory for the singer when a Los Angeles jury was unable to reach a verdict. Biafra and Michael Bonanno, the former manager of Biafra's record label, Alternative Tentacles, were charged with distributing harmful matter to a minor. It was apparently the first court case to scrutinize the contents of a rock album. The jurors deliberated a little more than a day before declaring themselves stalemated, causing the judge to declare a mistrial and throw out the case. [...] But the singer added that the victory didn't come cheaply. Since his arrest, the Dead Kennedys have disbanded, and Biafra's marriage has ended. "I've been wearing Lenny Bruce's shoes for over a year, and I don't think they fit very well," he said, referring to the late comic, whose career tailspinned after several obscenity arrests. Biafra's legal fees total more than $55,000. Few members of the music community came to Biafra's support; Frank Zappa, Steve Van Zandt and Paul Kantner were the only high-profile rock artists to contribute to his defense fund.

Jello Biafra, "Punk Politics," alternativetentacles.com, 2004

Meeting Frank Zappa was one of the few silver linings to come out of the trial. He got a hold of me and the helpers of the No More Censorship Defense Fund rather than us having to find him. He gave me some very valuable advice very early on; something that anybody subjected to that kind of harassment should remember: You are the victim. You have to constantly frame yourself that way in the mass media so you don't get branded some kind of outlaw simply because of your beliefs and the way you express your art. The outlaws are the police. I got to visit Frank two or three more times at his house in Los Angeles and those were very special times. He showed me a hilarious Christian aerobics video. The women were in their skintight leotards doing jumping jacks. "One-two, two-two, three-two, praise the Lord!" And of course the bustiest one was in a striped spandex suit dead ront center of the screen!

 

David Bowie

David Bowie, interviewed by Charles Shaar Murray, New Musical Express, 1972

Could you name four or five specific records that influenced you early on?

Yes. "Alley Oop" by the Hollywood Argyles—just a feeling that came from it. I'm afraid I'm not very technical on things like that and all I can say, at best, is that it was a feel that I had an empathy with. I don't know what it was whether it was the zaniness of the record or what.

Is that the one about the caveman?

Yes, and that was Kim Fowley as a matter of fact. He was the Hollywood Argyle that did it, and I loved parody because . . .

Zappa?

Yes, I admire Zappa, but there again I prefer Charlie Mingus. I like my parody to be a little softer because I'm a pacifist by nature and hostility in any form, even on a mental level, I find not endearing. I think Zappa may have a problem with feeling that he was not accepted on a Mingus level and he had to find himself an audience. I don't think he's ever forgotten that.

But "Pithecanthropus Erectus" is not quite the same as "Brown Shoes Don't Make It."

Well, that's the strength of my view on parody. I'm a softer person by nature. I'm not hostile. I don't believe I'm an aggressive performer, either. I like the situation that seems to develop with the audience which is generally on a very human level and they're quite friendly. It's neither screamy nor rebellious: it just has a good feeling to it. I love my audiences. I think I've not been to too many gigs, where the feeling is not nice. It's a very warm feeling I get from audiences.

[...]

The other great New York record of our times is "Summer In The City."

Yeah, I agree with that. I was a devoted fan of the [Lovin'] Spoonful. I loved them. Another record was the Mingus Oh Yeah album, particularly "Ecclesiastic," which I drew an enormous amount of pleasure from. I felt it was very 1990s—very 2001—that whole album. I was into that sort of jazz. Before Santana came, I was into the English scene and I was never able to relate to that stuff because of my earlier interest in Coltrane and Mingus as well. A lot of Zappa's things flatten me, actually.

Any of Zappa's stuff make it with you?

We're Only In It For The Money, because I mean I saw huge potential in that area for Zappa, but I don't understand Zappa and I'm not that intrigued by him to try to unwrap his problems or try to find out why.

 

Kate Bush

Kjell Knudde, September 27, 2015

In a Smash Hits Magazine interview from 1980 Bush named Frank Zappa's Over-Nite Sensation (1973) as her number one favorite album. She said that "Montana" was the first Zappa track she ever heard and "it's stuck as a firm favorite." Her number two album is Blow By Blow by A.L. Lloyd and Ewan MacColl whose "The Handsome Cabin Boy" she covered in 1991 on her album Back Sides. Zappa also covered this track on The Lost Episodes (1996).

Kate Bush, interviewed by Michael Loesl, Waz, May 10, 2011 (translation by Kjell Knudde)

Kate Bush: "I never challenged or asked for the serious interpretation and evaluation of my music. A sense of quality does not exclude humour."

Interviewer: "Do you have an ideal or predecessor for that?"

Kate Bush: "Frank Zappa was a very smart man. He said that, as an artist, you can live a free and untamed life, in case you have a solid family life. I love this idea."

Interviewer: "Why?"

Kate Bush: "I've never met Zappa, but people who have portray him as a very dear person, different from his image. I have always preferred my privacy over my public life, because I work best with a stable home base. The idea that the artist who suffers ist the best doesn't apply to me. I work better, when I'm fine."

 

Richard Carpenter (The Carpenters)

Richard Carpenter, "Carpenters Fans Ask . . . Richard Answers," richardandkarencarpenter.com, c. January, 2005

What are Richard's memories of his encounter with Frank Zappa at the Billboard Forum in June 1975? I wish I'd been there to see my two musical heroes together!

Frank was a talented fellow. I really liked the way he played the guitar, and I liked his take on certain cultural and sociological issues; he had a marvelously sardonic sense of humor. We saw each other very briefly in the 'Green Room' before going out to answer a few questions.

 

Les Claypool (Primus)

Les Claypool, interviewed by Mike Greenhaus, JamBands.com, December 21, 2010

[FZ] was a fellow who challenged himself and did what he needed to remain interested in making music and creating. I think that's very bold because when most people find their comfort zone, they stick with it. He's a shining example for guys like myself to take chances, and not be afraid to take those chances. His humor was amazing—"Dumb All Over" is still incredibly timely. It's almost scary. He knew how to hit the nail on the head and still have it tickle your funny bone or bring forth this odd imagery that would border on silly. But, he would never get ridiculous to the point of where it would undermine his stature.

 

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton, letter to Mrs. Frank Zappa, December 8, 1993

Frank Zappa truly made a difference during his life. He was a brilliant innovator in the world of music, advancing and expanding his craft and leaving a powerful legacy that other performers will long admire and study. Frank also contributed a great deal to our country as a social critic, working tirelessly to protect artistic freedom. Your husband will always be remembered for his talent, his commitment, and his humorous sense of irony.

 

Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)

Kjell Knudde, July 21, 2015

In 1988, before he became famous, [Kurt] Cobain made a tape recording where he compiled countless snippets from records, radio and TV transmissions and intercut them with stuff he recorded with the aid of a dictaphone. It could be described as an experimental track, though most of it is audibly done for laughs. Cobain named this project "Montage Of Heck" (not to be confused with the 2015 documentary of the same name). There are two versions available. A short one taking 8 minutes and a full-blown one going on for about 36 minutes. Among the various sound recordings heard on the tape we can identify several clips from Zappa songs. In chronological order:

* "Does This Kind Of Life Look Interesting To You?" (from "200 Motels" (1971))
* "King Kong" (from "Uncle Meat" (1968))
* "Invocation & Ritual Dance Of The Young Pumpkin" and "Call Any Vegetable" (from "Absolutely Free" (1967))
* "Help, I'm A Rock", "It Can't Happen Here" and "Who Are The Brain Police?" (from "Freak Out!" (1966))

The tape was never made available to the public, obviously due to copyright issues, but can be purchased on the bootleg album "The Chosen Rejects".

On January 7, 1994, Cobain performed at Seattle Center Arena in Seattle, Washington, where made the following announcement: "This song is dedicated to Frank Zappa, and River Phoenix, Fred Gwynne who played Herman Munster, Dixie Lee Ray, Thomas P, Tip O'Neil, and you, dumb ass, who just threw water on me."

 

Stewart Copeland (The Police)

Stewart Copeland, interviewed by Joe Bosso, Classic Rock, December 19, 2015

The next record that changed things for me was Frank Zappa's 200 Motels. Here's where the marriage of orchestra and rock music took place for the first time. Orchestra had been used in pop music but only as a little sugar on top, except for Ode to Billy Joe—that was beautiful and mysterious. Leaving that aside, this was the introduction of orchestra and rock band. Where Zappa got those chops, I have no idea.

I've seen the film five times—on acid, on Ecstasy, although then it was called MDMA; I don't think I ever did the peyote film experience because that involved throwing up, and the timing is tricky. I think I saw it straight, but I can't remember. It was still great every time.

 

Wes Craven

Kjell Knudde, September 27, 2015

It turns out that the director of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream franchise is a Zappa fan. Life Magazine once published a letter by him in their July 19, 1968 edition in which he praised the magazine's coverage of contemporary rock music, especially Zappa:

"Never save in dreams would I hope to read Frank Zappa in Life. I mean it's too much. As a college instructor. I know the light in the student eye when rock is mentioned or played. These artists are too busy with truth to worry about being president of the student council. More of the same, baby."

It's also interesting to mention that in Craven's Nightmare On Elm Street 2 (1985) a poster of the Zappa album Them or Us (1984) can be seen hanging on a wall.

 

Jamie Cullum

George Varga, "England's Cullum Bringing A New Attitude To Jazz," The Repository, June 18, 2006

A self-taught pianist who doesn't read music, [Jamie] Cullum is a former heavy-metal buff who loved "ridiculously fast guitar solos" by Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. His fondness for Vai led him to Frank Zappa, Vai's former employer, and—at 13—Cullum became a Zappa fan.

"I was listening to Frank Zappa way before I got into any jazz," he said. "(Zappa's 1970 album) 'Hot Rats' is still in my Top 5. And I see the (contemporary classical Zappa opus) 'Yellow Shark' every time it's performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Zappa had 10 lifetimes of music to offer."

 

Jacques Delors

CheepnisAroma, Zappateers, January 12, 2008

I saw [French politician Jacques Delors] on TV (TF 1 to be precise), he said he loved fz's music.

 

Donald Fagen (Steely Dan)

Donald Fagen, interviewed by Ben Williams, New York Magazine, March 27, 2006

When Walter [Becker] and I met, we had a constellation of enthusiasms, really—science fiction, jazz, black humor, novels by Thomas Berger, Terry Southern, Philip Roth, Vladimir Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut especially. That certainly influenced the lyric writing. We also liked comic songwriting, like Tom Lehrer. He was a piano player and songwriter who wrote these grim, funny songs. And then we were both fans of Frank Zappa and the Fugs.

The only comic rock and roll I remember was Frank Zappa, really. The Fugs were comic also, but their music was so primitive. I remember the Fugs used to play free in Tompkins Square Park in the sixties, and at one point they were really the kings of the Lower East Side.

 

Terry Gilliam

Kjell Knudde, July 21, 2015

Frank Zappa was a fan of Monty Python's Flying Circus and once described Gilliam as: "The only comic genius to come out of America." In Robert Ross' Monty Python Encyclopaedia (1997), for which Gilliam wrote the foreword he dismisses this claim: "As for that quote from Frank Zappa about me being the only comic genius to come out of America that's nonsense. I mean, it's a great quote but it's all balls!"

 

Václav Havel

 

Allan Holdsworth

Dweezil Zappa, "Allan Holdsworth," DweezilZappa.com, April 17, 2017

His approach to guitar was so unique and quite honestly baffling, especially to the 13 yeard old me who spent a summer trying to learn licks from his "Metal Fatigue" album. My dad was an admirer of Allan's playing as well. He talked about him in high regard in several interviews.

One day Allan came to our house to visit my dad. I don't recall the exact circumstances but it may have had something to do with Chad Wackerman who used to play drums with my dad and also played with Allan.

[...] I was lucky enough to know Allan after my dad had passed away. He was very kind and spoke fondly of the time he visited with my dad.

 

Chrissie Hynde (Pretenders)

Chrissie Hynde, interviewed by Dave Itzkoff, New York Times, June 11, 2014

Aren't you in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

The thing is if you don't accept an award, it creates a much bigger fuss than if you do accept. I'm in the Hall of Fame, but what does that mean? When I see who's in, the first thing I think is, Well, who isn't in?

You don't feel legitimized by these kinds of honors?

Some artists buy into it. They get their little award, and they're onstage crying, and I just think: Look at yourself. Get off the stage. To me it's disgusting. I don't understand how any self-respecting artist can recognize it as legitimate. If you want to look at the success of sales, look at McDonald's; they've sold a lot of their product. Imagine Frank Zappa crying because he got an award. Imagine Jimi Hendrix thanking everyone after he picked up his Grammy. It just wouldn't happen.

zallures, Zappateers, September 9, 2015

On the CBS morning show on Sunday they were doing a story on Chrissie and at the 3:08 mark she proudly wears a Freak Out album t-shirt.

Sunday Morning

 

Penn Jillette (Penn & Teller)

Kjell Knudde, July 21, 2015

Penn Jillette [...] has been a Zappa fan since his youth. He was a special guest during the Zappa's Universe concerts in 1991. [...]

In an interview with "Big Think" on July 8, 2010, Jillette claimed that when he became an atheist he was inspired by Martin Mull, Randy Newman and Frank Zappa, who were openly atheist. "And then with the help of Martin Mull, Randy Newman, Frank Zappa, the idea that these three men were out-of-the-closet atheists was so inspiring to me and so important to me. And reading interviews with somebody . . . And I remember being somebody in a religious—and not a religious community like wack jobs, but, you know, in a community where most everyone was Christian—having those people in interviews say the simple sentence 'There is no God' meant the world to me and gave me joy and gave me passion and gave me love and gave me confidence. And I think the first time I was interviewed, as presumptuous as this seems—and please forgive me—I remembered Frank Zappa's interviews. And I wanted to give a chance for someone else reading that to not feel they were alone."

On November 9, 2010, Jillette went deeper into his love for Zappa's music as part of a video called "Why do people love Mad Men?": "When I was a child I was very much into Frank Zappa. Always simple for me to understand Frank Zappa. The musical ideas were very clear and crisp. The literary ideas were very clear and crisp. The back of his record would tell you to read Franz Kafka's "In the Penal Colony". I would go to the library—before I listened to the record—I would get the library, get the book and read "In the Penal Colony" and then come back and understand Zappa's music."

Elton John

Sam Wolfson, "Vegas Knights: A Conversation With Sir Elton John," December 4, 2015

A few hours later, we are sitting in his dressing room talking about Miley Cyrus.

"I mean who would have thought that she'd do a record with The Flaming Lips?" says Elton. "I love that kind of thing. That on the spur of the moment, out of leftfield stuff like that. And they're gonna perform the whole album nude. I'm booking my ticket now. It's like 'I wanna see this, this is interesting'." [...]

"I mean it's fucking brilliant. It feels like something that would have happened during the 60s, something someone like Frank Zappa would have done. Good for Miley." He gives a sassy hurumph. "Break the mould, girl."

 

Jack Kirby

Michael James Zuccaro, "Audio Meets Visual," The Jack Kirby Collector #21, October, 1998

[...] While I was attending collage in Boston and was going to see Frank perform for the first time, Ona Dunbar (wife of drummer Aynsley and Frank's secretary at the time) arranged for me to sit in on the Mothers' rehearsal and meet Frank and his "pumpkin" (wife), Gail. [...]

Fast-forward several years later, [...] the Kirbys became my "West Coast parents" and I developed my [film] script with Jack and sought Frank's involvement with doing a soundtrack for the film. I suspected from Frank's early advertisements in Marvel Comics that he would be a Kirby fan and my hunch paid off. Frank wanted to meet the Kirbys, so one memorable night I took the Kirbys to the Zappas. [...]

That night I said to Frank: "You know, it took eight years for this night to happen!" He grinned and said nonchalantly, "So ya like this, huh?" This historic meeting of two of the greatest pop culture icons had to be recorded for posterity, so with my trusted Minolta auto focus in tow, I snapped a photo.

FZ & Jack Kirby, 1981
[FZ & Jack Kirby, 1981; photo by Michael James Zuccaro]

Jeff Newelt, "World's Finest—Royal Flush 6 Exclusive!," Royal Flush Magazine, October 13, 2009

I reached out to Steve [Sherman, Kirby's assistant] and turns out Jack and Frank Zappa were not only pals, but also essentially neighbors. How was this friendship kept secret so long?

A mere week later, I wind up having drinks with fellow Flusher Paul Pope and none other than Frank's youngest son, Ahmet Zappa!

So I had to show Ahmet my Blackberry screensaver, the image I had found of his dad and Jack together, and Ahmet goes, "Whoa, I never saw that! That's in my living room . . . Jack would come over and smoke cigars and Frank would smoke cigarettes, and they'd talk and talk. [...] One of the most significant moments in my life is when my dad said, 'meet Jack, he's the guy who created all those superheroes you love.' That blew my little mind. I thought it was awesome and weird that my dad had this friendship with this guy. It was like meeting like a real magician! [...] This was around the time Empire [Strikes Back] came out and was HUGE [1981 —ed.], and I remember Jack confided in Frank that he felt like the stories he created helped shape the Star Wars saga, that he saw direct parallels between his characters and the movie's story arcs."

Of all rock stars in the world, Zappa, famously an outspoken champion of free speech and artist's rights, was the ultimate sympathetic ear.

"He told my dad stuff like, 'Darth Vader was Doctor Doom and the Force is the Source' and that George Lucas ripped him off. Now this you may not know, and I was only a kid, but I remember learning at the dinner table that my dad was asked to write the music for Star Wars; he turned it down, he said he wasn't interested. That would've been really strange, the lives of us Star Wars fans woulda taken a different turn and that whole score woulda sounded like Tatooine Cantina music."

Brian Cronin, "Comic Book Legends Revealed #314," Comic Book Resources, May 20, 2011

After the great success of Zappa's hit song, "Valley Girl," Zappa tried to convince Kirby that Kirby should adapt the song for a comic strip!

Kirby actually went along with the idea!

Here's the first (and I believe, the only) strip . . .

Valley Girl

Not so surprising, the idea did not go anywhere, but still, how amazing is it that Jack Kirby did a comic strip based on a Frank Zappa song?

FZ, interviewed in December 22, 1989, by Den Simms, Eric Buxton and Rob Samler, Society Pages, September, 1990

I talked with Jack Kirby today . . . the comic book guy? Jack Kirby? He did Dr. Doom, and all those . . . for Marvel Comics. Well, I talked to him, and I invited him over. He's comin' over next week.

 

Larry LaLonde (Primus)

Larry LaLonde, interviewed by E. D. Menasche, Guitar School, August, 1995

When I first got into Primus, my dream was to be in a band that was sort of a cross between Frank Zappa and the Dead Kennedys. But my God, at this point, it's like I don't know what's going on. [...] My favorite guitar player ever is Frank Zappa. When I think of what makes a good guitar solo, Zappa's playing is the thing I think of. It's the ultimate example of how a guitar should sound.

 

Lucy Lawless

Lucy Lawless, "Messages From Lucy," The Official Lucy Lawless Fan Club, February 24, 2009

I spent a fun day with the fabulous Gail Zappa recording a song from one of Frank Zappa's unproduced operas, "Hunchentoot." The song we did was "FLAMBAY." It's about the alien Queen who is in love with this big ol' spider, Hunchentoot (who has a harmonica over which he hunches and toots). She is lamenting that though he lets her fondle his privates, he is, nevertheless, holding out for a woman with eight arms. This unrequited love is driving her mad.

Gail came to my show at the Roxy and came backstage afterwards. She invited me to come record with some of the musicians from Dweezil's band who won Grammys the next night. She said I could sing any song I wanted, but she really felt "FLAMBAY" was something I should consider. I listened to it with Joe, her producer, who worked on a heap of Frank's stuff, and I thought, holy shit, that's waaay too hard and in too high a key. We chose "MAGIC FINGERS" instead and then at the end of the day we had half an hour left and I said, why don't you throw on "FLAMBAY" and we'll just see what happens. I had never sung the song out loud before, thnking that the key was too high, etc. But something crazy happened, something alchemical. I have never done anything that outrageous before, and you all know that's really saying something. You will all get to hear it in time, I guess.

We just did it in one take, but Gail and Joe were in tears afterwards. To get the original music online, they had had to open a reel of tape from 1979 (or was it '73?) and it brought back a lot of memories for them. They cracked a bottle of wine, and Gin for me, and we toasted what was a great week for the Zappa family. I love those guys.

 

David Lean

Tony Palmer, "Groupies, Drugs And Boredom: On The Insanity Of Directing 200 Motels With Frank Zappa," The Talkhouse, January 23, 2017

Zappa frequently remarked during the frenzied 10 days shooting in Pinewood that he felt truly humbled to sit in the dining room surrounded by the photos and memories of the many great films that had been made in these studios. He's dead now, but I would want to suggest that he too made a small contribution to the pioneering spirit that has always been the hallmark of Pinewood. A few years later I met David Lean, a true Pinewood veteran. Whereas I wanted to ask him about Lawrence of Arabia and the rest, all he wanted to talk about was 200 Motels and how it had been done. Astonishing to me that he had seen it all; but that too was a truly humbling experience.

 

John Lennon

John Lennon, interviewed by Jann S. Wenner, Rolling Stone, January 21, 1971

I'm sick of reading things that say Paul is the musician and George is the philosopher. I wonder where I fit in, what was my contribution? I get hurt, you know, sick of it. I'd sooner be Zappa and say, "Listen, you fuckers, this is what I did, and I don't care whether you like my attitude saying it." That's what I am, you know, I'm a fucking artist, and I'm not a fucking P.R. Agent or the product of some other person's imagination. Whether you're the public or whatever, I'm standing by my work whereas before I would not stand by it.

John Lennon, interviewed by Jann S. Werner, Rolling Stone, February 4, 1971

Nobody says it, so you scream it: look at me, a genius, for fuck's sake! What do I have to do to prove to you son-of-a-bitches what I can do, and who I am? Don't dare, don't you dare fuckin' dare criticize my work like that. You, who don't know anything about it.

Fuckin' bullshit!

I know what Zappa is going through, and a half. I'm just coming out of it.

[...]

I admire Yoko's work.

I admire "Fluxus," a New York-based group of artists founded by George Macuinas. I really think what they do is beautiful and important.

I admire Andy Warhol's work, I admire Zappa a bit, but he's a fuckin' intellectual—I can't think of anybody else. I admire people from the past. I admire Fellini.

"Unheard Lennon tapes could fetch £70,000 at auction," ananova.com, April 27, 2002

Two previously unheard tapes of John Lennon telling stories, nursery rhymes and improvising songs are expected to fetch £70,000 at auction.

The 80-minute tapes were recorded in 1969 and 1970 and display for the first time the bond between Lennon and Yoko Ono's daughter, Kyoko.

[...] Lennon is then heard accompanying Kyoko in an unlikely rendition of Frank Zappa's "Jelly Roll Gum Drop".

 

Cheech Marin

Lewis Saul, "How'd Ya Meet Frank?," 2000

[June 14, 1989] The conversation is about various topics—WhyNot for awhile, and a bit of discussion about doing something connected with revitalizing the downtown L.A. area—at one point he turns to me and says, "do you realize there is NOTHING going on down there after 11PM!"—and the discussion continued. He politely barked an order to get Cheech Marin on the phone and they talked for awhile.

 

Brian May (Queen)

Brian May, interviewed in Ein Leben Als Extravaganza, December, 1994

It's strange, but totally wonderful. There's a lifetime of study in there.

I like talking about Mr. Zappa. He's a very inspiring man, you know. Also I suppose there's more and more pressure as you get more and more famous and more public. If you make a mistake, it's in front of fifty million people, you know. And Frank said, "Mistakes?" He said, "What are mistakes?" He said, "Who's gonna tell you if you played it wrong? It's your song, it's your guitar, it's your show. You can play whatever you like!" Yes, I think that's good advice and I take that to heart.

Brian May, Total Guitar, January, 2002

It's a bit of a trap, because you compose things in your head and they get on the record and after that you're kind of expected to always play them the same way. That's an interesting subject. I remember talking to Frank Zappa about it. I regard him as one of the most daring improvisational guitar players ever, and I said to him, 'How do you manage to do that? You don't feel constrained by what people expect?' He said, 'No—do you?' And I said, 'Yes,and I also feel constrained by the fact that I might mess it up if I wandered too far away from the original'. He said: 'How can you say that? How can you make a mistake? It's your song, it's your riff, it's your performance, it's your moment on that night—there is no such thing as a mistake. Whatever you play is right.' A very good attitude. He was a genius.

Brian May, Brian's Soapbox, June 5, 2005

I was fortunate enough to meet Frank Zappa, a truly great rock musician, and a very unorthodox and innovative creator. He was already very ill when I met him (I was working with his son in L.A.) I told him I admired his skill and courage in improvising so much in his music, live in front of large audiences. He said, "Courage?—What do you mean?!" I said that I was always very aware of the possibilities of making mistakes. He replied, "How can you make a mistake? It is your solo, your guitar, and you are playing a piece of your own music. Who could possibly tell you you are making a mistake?!!"

FZ, interviewed by Steve Rosen, Guitar Player, January, 1977

There are a few [guitar players] that I've heard recently who I think are real good. I like Brian May of Queen—I think he's really excellent.

 

John Mayall

John Mayall, quoted by Harvey Kubernik, Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic And The Music Of Laurel Canyon, 2009, p. 189

I had met [FZ] in 1967, in Scandinavia, when he and The Mothers Of Invention were playing there and we were in Copenhagen at the same time. So that's where I met that crowd. "If you come to America, look me up." So I did. [...]

I stayed at Zappa's cabin for the first part of my three-week vacation. If you're going to America the first time, you obviously have to head for some person you know and start from there. In the three weeks. I never really left Hollywood and Laurel Canyon. It became the confirmation for me. That's where I wanted to move eventually.

The feeling when you listen to the song "2401" is the vibe you hear. For me it was a very eccentric household, really. Frank and Gail Zappa, at the center, were the grounding factor there. The sanest people on the planet. I think really Frank encouraged that, and he kind of collected oddballs and information about America and its culture.

 

Freddie Mercury (Queen)

Geoff Higgins, quoted by Laura Jackson, Queen And I: The Brian May Story, 1994, p. 33

At Kensington Market we'd get marijuana mixed with jasmine tea, and then take it in turns to separate the grass from the tea. One day Tupp took it home and hadn't got time to separate it. Now in those days Freddie wouldn't go near dope, but he didn't know that it was still all mixed up and made himself what he thought was a pot of jasmine tea. When we got home he was smashed out of his head! He had a Frank Zappa album We're Only In It For The Money, and one one track there's a noise like a stylus scraping across a record—but it's meant to sound like that. Well, Freddie was busy wheeling around the room, arms flapping, and he'd put on his Zappa LP. When it came to this bit he thought somebody had scratched his precious album and went flying across to the turntable, throwing himself on the LP to check it. He was clean out of his box that day!

 

Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono, interviewed by Mike Greenhaus, JamBands.com, December 21, 2010

We come from more or less the same background, the classical avant-garde, though in our work we expressed ourselves quite differently. As a composer, I felt a close comradeship to [FZ] amongst more rock orientated singer/songwriters. He is one of the geniuses of our time and will always have a place there. He will go on and on and on!

 

The Roots

"The Roots Cover Frank Zappa On The Tonight Show," JamBase, September 22, 2015

On the August 31st episode when [Jimmy] Fallon introduced his house band The Roots covered FZ's "Peaches En Regalia" which frontman Black Thought freestyled over. The next night The Roots tackled "Titties & Beer" following Jimmy's introduction.

 

Robi Draco Rosa

Rafer Guzmán, "Bopping To A Bilingual Beat," Music Review, June 19, 2004

[Robi Draco Rosa] drew a large and excitable crowd to the Bowery Ballroom. Chants of "Robi! Robi!" coaxed him onstage 10 minutes early. With his boyish good looks and muscular arms, Rosa played the Latino heartthrob, but also threw his audience a few curves. At one point he spoke of passion and love, then added, "On that note, long live Mr. Frank Zappa." The crowd hesitated—Frank who?—then cheered anyway.

Manuel Lebon, "Intenso romance jazz y rock," El Universal, July 19, 2004

Acerca de sus influencias, Rosa destaca al jazzista Miles Davis, quien "es muy importante para mí por muchas razones, en especial por su manera de trabajar la idea de la improvisación y la espontaneidad. Otros músicos como Frank Zappa son muy relevantes para mi carrera y los vocalistas que prefiero han sido tres: Sly Stone, Jim Morrison y el cantante flamenco Camarón de la Isla".

Google Translate:

About [his] influences, Rosa emphasizes jazz musician Miles Davis, who "is very important to me for many reasons, especially for his way of working the idea of improvisation and spontaneity." Other musicians such as Frank Zappa are very relevant to my career and the vocalists I prefer have been three: Sly Stone, Jim Morrison and flamenco singer Camarón de la Isla. "

 

Salman Rushdie

Kjell Knudde, July 21, 2015

In a radio interview conducted in the 1990s and available here Rushdie talks about several topics, among which Zappa. Among the 9:00 mark of the 14:22 interview he mentioned that Weasels Ripped My Flesh [(1970)] is his favorite Zappa record.

Zappa is also briefly mentioned in Rushdie's novel The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1989) on page 267: "Now we're blasting the material at them round the clock, he says, Hendrix and Joplin and Zappa, making war on war."

Ty Segall

Chloe Schildhause, "Ty Segall And Director Matt Yoka Discuss 'Emotional Mugger,' Digital Addiction, And Living In The Wrong Time," Uproxx, February 9, 2016

Where did the idea for the Emotional Mugger video start?

Ty Segall: The music video, for us, started in 2006.

What was that exact moment?

Segall: We were stoned watching Easy Rider.

Matt Yoka: And then stoned watching Frank Zappa interact with the static on the TV.

Segall: Baby Snakes.

Yoka: Yellow Snow.

Segall: Oh yeah, right.

Yoka: Your roommate was in there at the same time, that's the hair that broke the camel's back for him. He's like, "I can't handle you guys," [laughs].

Segall: And he split. Where's he from?

Yoka: We just went back to your room and his stuff was gone.

Segall: He could not hang.

Yoka: But I remember Ty was like, "You gotta check out this Frank Zappa album," and I had never heard Frank Zappa before. So, we sat down in his room and he put on Don't Eat the Yellow Snow and then it just so happened that the TV was on and it was static. And then Ty turned it up loud and the noise frequency was penetrating the television static, and the static was rhythmically responding.

Segall: There must have been a ground issue in retrospect. Some electrical issue between the two devices, but because of that, the electronics of the television were connected to the stereo, and I don't even know why the TV was on.

Yoka: [Laughs] That's just how your room was. A TV and a lightbulb swinging at all times.

 

Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran, RTL Late Night, February 24, 2017

The whole industry—four chords. Unless you're Frank Zappa. Frank Zappa goes a bit fucking weird with it. Or Stevie Wonder. Stevie Wonder uses about eighteen chords.

 

Thundercat

Thundercat, interviewed by Tom Power, Q, CBC Radio, April 18, 2017

Tom Power: What did you get from [FZ]?

Thundercat: Everything, man. Zappa was the one.

 

Usher

Ross McDonagh, "'We can rebuild him': Usher posts psychedelic video as he is about to undergo foot surgery and be rebuilt 'like the Six Million Dollar Man'," Daily Mail, April 4, 2015

[Usher] has posted a video from his hospital bed as he is about to undergo foot surgery.

[...] "They're getting ready to roll me away. They say they're getting ready to take good care of me . . . I guess I gotta believe them right?" he says, sounding groggy. [...] Usher then proclaims "Man . . . wooo . . . I feel like Frank Zappa," before he throws up a peace sign and the video takes a trippy psychedelic turn, as Zappa himself can be heard singing "I wish I was an Eskimo," the opening lyrics to his song "Don't Eat Yellow Snow."

 

Jack White

ivester, Zappateers, April 16, 2017

At the end of his very cool concert on Austin City Limits (with two different bands), Jack White said to the audience, "Goodnight Austin, Texas, wherever you are!"

 

Weird Al Yankovic

Weird Al Yankovic, interviewed by Doug Elfman, Las Vegas Review-Journal, June 20, 2003

Q: Who are the best musicians you've parodied over the years?

A: Oh boy. Um, well, I just did a Zappa-style tribute to him on the new album. We weren't duplicating specifically any Zappa licks. But . . . I was blown away by his musicianship and the musicianship of the people he played with. It was really a challenge to live up to that quality.

Q: When I heard that song, I thought: It must be tough to satirize Zappa's songs, because he was singing lines like, "Bend over and smell my anal vapors." Where do you go from there?

A: Right, right, right. I had to do a song that was a little less demented. (He laughs.)

Weird Al Yankovic, interviewed by Mike Greenhaus, JamBands.com, December 21, 2010

While Frank is unquestionably a guitar virtuoso, I've never been a big fan of long solos. I've always been more of an admirer of his compositional acumen, which I had to study religiously when I did my Zappa homage, "Genius In France." I call songs like that "style parodies" where I dissect the style of one of my favorite artists and try to step in their shoes, hopefully creating a composition not unlike something they may have put out themselves. I felt extra pressure doing that with Frank Zappa, since he's one of my all-time heroes, and frankly, I didn't want to screw it up. That's one of the reasons why "Genius In France" is 9 minutes long—there are so many components to Frank's style that I felt I would be doing him a disservice if I tried to emulate it in 3 or 4 minutes. People may remember Frank as a guitar god or a defender of free speech, but of course, he'll always have a warm place in my heart for categorically proving to the unwashed masses once and for all that humor really does belong in music.

Marah Eakin, "'Weird Al' Yankovic answers our 11 Questions," A.V. Club, July 18, 2014

AVC: Do you have anybody's autograph?

WAY: I'm not a big autograph collector, but when I was working in the mailroom in the early '80s back at Westwood One, Dr. Demento would have special guests coming in every night. And one time, Frank Zappa came in, and he's one of my all-time heroes. So I brought up my tattered copy of Freak Out!, which I probably bought for 99 cents at a used record store. And it kind of blew my mind, because he was like, "Oh, you're the 'Another One Rides The Bus' [1981] guy! My son Dweezil likes that song. Can I get an autograph for him?" Dweezil was like 13 years old at the time, but I couldn't even believe that Frank Zappa knew who I was, let alone asking for my autograph, so that was a huge deal for me. And that Freak Out! album, since, has gotten severely water damaged so I can't even bear to throw it away. So for the rest of my life, I will hold on to this slimy, moldy piece of cardboard with Frank Zappa's name on it.

AVC: Have you met Dweezil since?

WAY: Dweezil actually played on a song of mine called, "Genius In France," which is my homage to Frank Zappa. I figured if Dweezil played on it that would give it a little more credibility. He was amazing; he did this amazing guitar solo at the top of the song, so it was a thrill to work with Dweezil on that.

 

Neil Young

mocthezuma, Zappateers, March 11, 2015

If you check out about 3:35 in this video, when the audience is applauding for Zappa's inauguration into the rock and roll hall of fame, Neil Young is among the first people to stand up and applaud.

 

John Zorn

John Zorn, interviewed by Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times, March, 2000

Zappa was a very special person. He was really articulate; he really cared about politics. He had a lot of things going for him. I can't step in Zappa's shoes. I'm not politically aware. I don't read newspapers; I don't read magazines; I don't watch television. So I have no idea. Zappa was on top of everything, man. He was really amazing. I'm not really an articulate, politically minded, forward thinking person with goals that wants the world to be this way or that way. I'm not an interesting interview in that regard. I wish I was. I wish there was someone who could be there in Zappa's place. I'm not the guy.

John Zorn, interviewed by Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times, May, 2009

JazzTimes: You know who you sound like now? Joe Zawinul. He would say the same thing, man. He'd always say, "My band, I put this band together for these guys to be killers!"

That's right. And there's a lot of other people that don't think that way. The band is about them. They're the leader, it's all about them; they don't want anyone to sound better than them. So they keep them under wraps, they push them down, they don't give them solo space. They don't let them express themselves. You need to have a certain rein on people so that the compositional integrity is kept intact. You know, there's a frame around a composition and there are things that belong in the frame and things that don't. And it's the bandleader-composer's job to make sure that everything fits. But the most important thing is to keep that balance, where everything belongs but the players are injecting themselves into the work and doing their best. Duke Ellington was a perfect example of that.

JazzTimes: And Frank Zappa.

Yes, though Zappa in the earlier years. Then it got a little different for him. He got more and more into control. For me, in his later years, his best record is Jazz From Hell, where it's all done on a Synclavier.

JazzTimes: Yeah, I think his comment at the time was, "At last, I've found my perfect band."

There you go! It's him playing everything. Well, I don't think that way. Because the lesson I learned from Zappa was that you treat your band members like royalty. You give them as much money as you can afford to give them on the road, the best situations in the hotels, treat them to meals, thank them for their work, appreciate their creativity and just thank your lucky stars that they're in your band working with you.

 

 

Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos
http://globalia.net/donlope/fz/
This page updated: 2017-11-04