20 Years On: A Few Great Zappa Moments
Musician, composer, filmmaker, technology enthusiast, freedom fighter, visionary. There are many ways that one can describe the brilliant Frank Zappa--who passed away 20 years ago today--but we'll let him do the talking. Here's a few of Zappa's great moments, both on and off the stage.
In October of 1968, Frank Zappa & The Mothers Invention dropped by the BBC to play "King Kong" on the popular British music program Colour Me Pop.
Many Zappa enthusiasts consider the December 8-10, 1973 run at Los Angeles' Roxy Theatre to be one of the high points of Zappa's storied career--and one of, if not the, greatest band he ever assembled. Recordings from these shows made up the bulk of Zappa's classic 1974 live release Roxy & Elsewhere, though most of the multi-cam footage has yet to reach audiences. Fortunately, this over half-hour clip from the run has been floating around, and the long-awaited Live at The Roxy concert film is reportedly set for release in the near future. (We'll have to see it to believe it.)
In 1988, Zappa assembled a 12-piece ensemble for what would end up being his final tour. The band infamously disbanded in the middle of the tour, forcing the cancellation of the remainder of their dates. Nevertheless, they managed to get some great shows in during their time on the road, including this May 17 performance at the Palacio de Deportes in Barcelona--which includes takes on The Allman Brothers Band classic "Whipping Post" and The Beatles' "I Am The Walrus"
While Zappa was certainly a musical genius, he was also pretty sharp in other arenas. He famously waged a public anti-censorship battle, even going so far as to testify before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee (along with Dee Snider and John Denver) during their 1985 hearing on labeling "explicit" recordings. Needless to say, Zappa wasn't a big fan of singling out music that certain people in high places didn't like.
Zappa took his anti-censorship case to the media as well, appearing on a number of programs in the years following his Senate testimony. One such instance was a 1986 episode of CNN's Crossfire, during which Zappa made pro-censorship Washington Times columnist John Lofton look like a blubbering, reactionary moron. (Skip to the 7th minute for an, ironically, censored Zappa quip).