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GONZO MAGAZINE #290: Jon meets Frank Zappa's sister

Frank Zappa is one of the most enigmatic figures in the history of rock music. The term ‘genius’ is one which is often bandied about by music journalists, and it is nearly always completely misused. John Lennon, for example, was a very talented song writer, a great singer, and a punchy rhythm guitarist, but he was not a genius. In fact, to be brutally honest, the only person who is truly -in my opinion at least – deserving the term within the canon of rock and roll music is Frank Zappa. Because, he truly took rock music to places that nobody else had even envisaged, and – again, in my opinion – was up there with Stravinsky as one of the great composers of the 20th century.
One of the most admirable, though confusing, things about Zappa’s body of work is that he is famous for so many different things. He’s famous for his lavatory humour, his guitar pyrotechnics, his jazz stylings, his neo-classical composition, and for playing games with form and content in a way that truly means that the vast majority of his music is completely uncategorizable.
My relationship with Frank Zappa goes back to the summer of 1977, a few weeks before I was finally expelled from the minor public school at which my loving parents had placed me, in a vain attempt to make me compatible with the main stream of society. How, exactly, being away from my home and friends and having to attend compulsory viewing of the school rugby matches every weekend was actually going to help me in this endeavour, I have no idea. My time at this school was a completely miserable one, and – even now, four decades later – I look back at it with nothing but loathing. But, I digress.
I can’t remember where I bought it, but somehow I got hold of an album which had been released by Polydor, and which contained excerpts from some of Zappa’s early records, most notably Only in it for The Money. I heard What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body?, burst out laughing and became a life long convert to the Church of Zappa.
As I got older, I began to prefer the less scatological parts of his ouvre, with his final album The Yellow Shark being a particular favourite. But, I still regularly pay visits to the surreal adventures of his early albums, and the sheer musical filth of the Joe’s Garage trilogy, and Thing Fish.
When I started working for my old friend, Rob Ayling, at Gonzo Multimedia, some of the tasks that I enjoyed most were those that ascertained to Frank Zappa, and I was particularly happy to typeset and layout the book written by Zappa’s younger sister, Patrice. This was finished about six months ago, and I have spent much of the intervening half year trying to set up an interview with her. She readily agreed to it, but then either she or I were unavailable, and – I have to admit, in a slightly embarrassed manner - that on two occasions I fixed up interview times with her and then completely forgot. Those hardening arteries, eh?
However, last week, Patrice and I found ourselves in the same part of cyber space at the same time, and our long awaited telephone call took place. And, believe me guys, it was well worth the wait. Patrice is a charming, and entertaining raconteur, and I wish that we had longer to chat. Because, there are two sorts of interviews. The ones where both parties carry out there duties in a quiet and professional manner, and secondly: the ones where you chat away as if you have known each other for years. Judy Dyble is the best example of this latter genre that I know… at least, until now. Because, Patrice and I chatted away as if we had known each other forever. It was a massively entertaining conversation, and one that I very much hope I will be doing again very soon.


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