# # Happy Birthday, Frank

Brother, I Can See Your Skull.

Brother, I Can See Your Skull. - The Coreyshead Blog

Happy Birthday, Frank

The first time I was ever made aware of Frank Zappa, it was 1985 or so and I was shopping for records (cassettes, actually) at a surprisingly decent mall store in Fort Collins, Colorado.

One of the employees, a doughy, little nebbish of a guy named “Ralph,” if I’m not mistaken, engaged me in a conversation regarding the actions of the Parents Music Resource Center, which had only recently succeeded in plastering the following graphic all over parts of America’s pop-culture:

So fresh was this ridiculous bit of stickerage that merchants, artists, and record labels, yet to realize what a wonderful marketing boon it would turn out to be, were still protesting it. Folks such as myself, Ralph, and most of our peers felt the same way, seeing it as just one more step down the slippery-slope towards a world not unlike that depicted in Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”

“You seen Zappa’s response?” Ralph asked.
I indicated that I hadn’t but not in such a way as to let him know that I had virtually no knowledge of Zappa outside the guy’s famous facial hair and something about yellow snow.

Beckoning me with a pudgy finger, Ralph led the way to the records (fresh vinyl and I was buying cassettes? groan … ), pulled Frank Zappa’s “Meets The Mothers of Prevention” album out of the rack, and pointed to a large, yellow, red, and black sticker affixed to the sleeve, which read:


This album contains material which a truly free society would neither fear nor suppress.

In some socially retarded areas, religious fanatics and ultra-conservative political organizations violate your First Amendment Rights by attempting to censor rock & roll albums. We feel that this is un-Constitutional and un-American.

As an alternative to these government-supported programs (designed to keep you docile and ignorant), Barking Pumpkin is pleased to provide stimulating digital audio entertainment for those of you who have outgrown -the ordinary-.


This guarantee is as real as the threats of the video fundamentalists who use attacks on rock music in their attempt to transform America into a nation of check-mailing nincompoops (in the name of Jesus Christ).

If there is a hell, its fires wait for them, not us.“

I loved it. Now I had to check out the music.

I picked up the same album Ralph had showed me (on cassette, sigh) and spent the next couple of weeks turning into the Frank Zappa fanatic that, to the chagrin of virtually all of my friends and family, I have remained.

Much of what first attracted me to Frank’s music – the politics, juvenalia, and genitalia of his more commonly hurrahed tunes – no longer appeals to me except on a sentimental level, and I tend to skip over such tracks (how many people over the emotional age of fourteen need to hear songs like “Titties and Beer”, “The Illinois Enema Bandit”, or “Dickie’s Such An Asshole” more than once?).

The things that confounded me at first, however; the unique time signatures, the long orchestral bits, the intense and uncompromising fusion of jazz, rock, classical, and … Zappa into something other than else – the meat, in other words, that I was initially too numb and dumb from feeding only at the slop trough that constitutes Amnerika’s pop-fare to be able to properly process – now fills what others might refer to as my soul in a way that very little else does. When I begin to feel alien in this world into which I was thrust, all I need do is listen to a couple of minutes of Zappa to be reminded that I am not alone, even if he is gone.

Happy Birthday, FZ.

And thanks.

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6 Responses to “Happy Birthday, Frank”

  1. diablomonkey says:

    Ya Hozna, Brother.

  2. KJT says:

    Excellent! I had to forward this to Ryan…

  3. bleakzone says:

    You mirror my feelings about Zappa. It was Lumpy Gravy that first spun my world (and still does) — throwing a cloud of unshakable influence into every artistic thing I approach. Today I reacted to your words by listening to “Five-Five-Five” at full volume. Brilliant.

  4. cae says:

    > It was Lumpy Gravy that first spun my world

    Wow! What an amazing intro that must have been. I assume you’re aware of the upcoming LumpyMoney release …

  5. Bill Not Lantz says:

    Thanks for sharing this.
    I used to go to Finest Records in Fort Collins from 1979-1984.

  6. cae says:

    Finest used to be a really great store – if you went often around that time we probably unknowingly ran into each other. I scored most of my Zappa vinyl through them before it was all rereleased on CD. Memories …

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