Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

The composer is dead
Long live the music
The present day composer refuses to die
Saltavit. Placuit. Mortuus est.

R.I.P. Frank Zappa

A Personal Discovery of Zappa's Music

I first discovered Zappa's music, way back in 1971, my final year of high school. The album was Chunga's Revenge. I knew nothing about it, but I was intrigued by the cover when I spotted it in my parents' record shop. I had this habit of playing music because of the cover. Around the same time, I discovered King Crimson because of the bizarre cover of In The Court Of The Crimson King. I played Chunga's Revenge, gasped, and taped it, and played it to death in secret while away at boarding school. It was like nothing I'd ever heard before.

Next year was my first year at Uni, and I was out there collecting any Zappa I could find. Over the next few years, I managed to get all the Zappa that had been released, and I kept up with the new releases.

This was in North Queensland, and it was hard to find the releases. It proved easier in the late 70s when Gary Hunn opened up Wavelength records and catered for people like me. He did a marvelous job and I managed to get the Zappa collection completely in shape. Later, I managed to find another Zappaphile. In a city of 100,000, there appeared to be only two people interested in Zappa's music. It took me ages to find the other guy, but Gary Hunn kept telling me about this guy and arranged a meeting. Noel Grant was a bit older than me, and had been listening to Zappa's music almost from the beginning. He taught me heaps, and got me to listen to the very early stuff. Until then, I favoured the mid-70s stuff and the new releases. Noel persuaded me to listen thoroughly to the early lps, and develop an appreciation for it. Now I live in Sydney, a city of 4,000,000+ people, and I know no-one else here who likes Zappa's music. This is probably more to do with me being a hermit, than the lack of Zappafans in Sydney.

When I moved to Sydney in 1988, I did some foolish things with my Zappa collection. I gave Noel my early compilation lps. I don't begrudge that so much, because I know they went to a very good home where they were appreciated. But I started doing the record fairs and selling off my vinyl, including my Zappa vinyl. Stupidly, I assumed that the Zappa cds that were coming out would be exactly the same as the lps. Silly me. They were different, usually in small ways, often in gross ways. By the time I discovered this, about half my vinyl was gone. Since then, I've been trying to recover it all. So far, I'm only missing the boxed sets of Shut Up'N Play yer Guitar, and Thing-Fish. And wouldn't you know it, these are the most expensive items to get back in good condition. Not to worry. I'll get them all soon.

Listening to Zappa's Music

There are many ways of appreciation Frank Zappa's releases. Firstly, there is the pleasure in listening to the music. 60 official cd releases, with 18 of them double cds, and two triple cds, provides a lot of listening pleasure. Add to that all the bootlegs and tapes of life performances, and there is a huge amount of happy listening to get through. And the variety!! Rock, classical, musique concrete, jazz, musicals, instrumentals, synthesiser music, experimental music, freak music. Such variety. I play more of Zappa's music than any other composer/performer because I never get bored with it.

It usually takes me ages to absorb a new bit of Zappa's music. Some of the early stuff, like Burnt Weeny Sandwich, I never really adapted to, and I'm just discovering the music now. The recent releases that broke new Zappa ground, like Yellow Shark and the posthumous Civilization Phaze III, I didn't like much when I first heard them, but now, a few years down the track, I have absorbed the new sounds, and am starting to like them. In a few more years, they will be old hat and I will love them and hum them and jiggle to them and recognise them whenever they appear unexpectedly.

Perhaps the only common thread throughout all Zappa's music, is humour. In all his music, you can tell that he is a person who enjoyed life, the good bits and the silly bits. In his music, he mocked the stupidity he saw, he sang about funny incidents, and generally had a good time. He enjoyed himself, and it came through clearly in his music. The answer to that album title, Does Humor Belong In Music? is obviously Yes.

One of the things that I liked about collecting Zappa's music, was that as I got older, I found more to appreciate in the early music, and the new music was getting more and more complex. As I age, my tastes are changing so that I seek out the more complex in all forms. I enjoy more complex books, more complex films, and complex music. And Zappa complemented my search for the more complex, by producing more complex music as he aged. I never considered that this mutual satisfaction would end: Zappa producing more complex music while I sought more complex music. I never considered that he would die so young. There were rumours of cancer, around 1991, but I heard nothing specific till 1993 when he died. I had to face up to the fact that there would be more music from Zappa despite his death, but that the complexity of it would be frozen in 1993. Yellow Shark and Civilization Phaze III showed me where he was heading, and that he was capable of producing better and better works as he got older. I was very sad that I was going to be denied the pleasure of hearing some fabulous new work in 2020. This is, of course, very selfish of me. He was deprived of the pleasure of breathing in the year 2020, and all I am concerned about is my own musical listening pleasure.

Collecting Zappa's Music

The second way of appreciating Zappa's releases, is collecting. I am a collector. I collect things. I collect stamps, books, cds, comics, anything that takes my fancy. As I have become older and found that there is a limit to the amount of space I can afford, I have refined my collecting to specifics. I collect Cerebus comics, not just any comics. I collect Australian MUH stamps, not just anything. I collect Zappa lps and cds, and specific things that I am interested in, not just any old lp or cd. Zappa is great for collecting because everything changed so much. Early stuff was censored in different ways and in different countries. The cd releases were different to the vinyl, and the final cd releases were different to the first cds. I have decided on collecting one of each of the vinyl and cd releases from Australia, Britain and the USA, and whatever European items that come my way. That means a couple of hundred lps, and about 300 cds. I'm half way there.

[Zappa boxes]

Sometime later when it's translated to HTML, I will put my detailed discography here. In the meantime, for those of you who are interested in collecting Zappa, here is a simplified discography. Note that you won't be able to get Mothermania from your local cd shop. It isn't available on cd yet. It probably never will be, but you shouldn't worry as the music is found on other releases (avoiding the version variations - this is a simplified listing.

If you are new to Zappa, might I recommend Strictly Commercial, a best-of release. If you like that, try Broadway the Hard Way, Hot Rats, then Roxy & Elsewhere and Sheik Yerbouti. If you still like what you are hearing, buy the rest of the cds in any order. They are all great bits of music, and trying to choose one above the other when you're working out what will be your 25th purchase is ludicrous.

A Detailed Discography

Click here for a detailed discography of Zappa's long play releases.

A Simplified Discography

Official # Year Title Common Type
1 1966 Freak Out! CD
2 1967 Absolutely Free CD
3 1968 Lumpy Gravy CD
4 1968 We're Only In It For The Money CD
5 1968 Cruising With Ruben And The Jets CD
6 1969 Uncle Meat CD
7 1969 Mothermania LP
8 1969 Hot Rats CD
9 1969 Burnt Weeny Sandwich CD
10 1970 Weasels Ripped My Flesh CD
11 1970 Chunga's Revenge CD
12 1971 Fillmore East - 1971 CD
13 1971 200 Motels 2CD
14 1972 Just Another Band From LA CD
15 1972 Waka/Jawaka CD
16 1972 The Grand Wazoo CD
17 1973 Overnite Sensation CD
18 1974 Apostrophe CD
19 1974 Roxy & Elsewhere CD
20 1975 One Size Fits All CD
21 1975 Bongo Fury CD
22 1976 Zoot Allures CD
23 1978 Zappa In New York 2CD
24 1978 Studio Tan CD
25 1979 Sleep Dirt CD
26 1979 Sheik Yerbouti CD
27 1979 Orchestral Favorites CD
28 & 29 1979 Joe's Garage Acts I, II & III 2CD
30 1981 Tinseltown Rebellion CD
31 1981 Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar CD
32 1981 Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar Some More CD
33 1981 Return Of The Son Of Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar CD
34 1981 You Are What You Is CD
35 1982 Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch CD
  1982 Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar Box Set 3CD
36 1983 The Man From Utopia CD
37 1983 Baby Snakes CD
38 1983 London Symphony Orchestra Volume 1 CD
39 1984 The Perfect Stranger CD
40 1984 Them Or Us CD
41 1984 Thingfish 2CD
42 1984 Francesco Zappa CD
43 1985 The Old Masters Box I 7LP
44 1985 Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention CD
45 1986 Does Humor Belong in Music? CD
46 1986 The Old Masters Box II 9LP
47 1986 Jazz From Hell CD
48 1987 London Symphony Orchestra Volume 2 CD
49 1987 The Old Masters Box III 9LP
50 1988 Guitar 2CD
51 1988 You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Volume 1 2CD
52 1988 You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Volume 2 - The Helsinki Concert 2CD
53 1988 Broadway the Hard Way CD
54 1989 You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Volume 3 2CD
55 1991 The Best Band You've Never Heard In Your Life 2CD
56 1991 You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Volume 4 2CD
57 1991 Make a Jazz Noise Here 2CD
58 1992 You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Volume 5 2CD
59 1992 You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Volume 6 2CD
60 1992 Playground Psychotics 2CD
61 1993 Ahead Of Their Time CD
62 1993 The Yellow Shark CD
63 1994 Civilization Phaze III 2CD
  1995 Strictly Commercial (Ryko Compilation) CD
64 1996 The Lost Episodes CD
65 1996 Lšther 3CD
66 1996 Frank Zappa Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa CD
67 1997 Have I Offended Someone? (Ryko Compilation) CD
  1997 Strictly Genteel (Zappa Records Classical Compilation) CD
68 1998 Mystery Disc CD
  1998 Cheap Thrills (Zappa Records compilation) CD
69 1999 Everything Is Healing Nicely CD
  1999 Son of Cheep Thrills (Zappa Records Compilation) CD
70 2002 FZ In Oz 2CD
71 2003 Halloween: Live In NYC 1978 DVD Audio
72 2004 Joe's Corsage CD
73 2004 Joe's Dormage CD
74 2004 QuAUDIOPHILIAc CD
75 2005 Joe's XMASage CD
76 2006 Imaginary Diseases CD
  2006 AAAFNRAA (Anything Anytime Anywhere For No Reason At All) Birthday Bundle iTunes
77 2006 MOFO 4CD
78 2006 MOFO 2CD
79 2006 Trance Fusion CD
80 2007 Buffalo 2CD
81 2007 Dub Room Special CD
82 2007 Wazoo 2CD
83 2008 One Shot Deal CD
84 2008 Joe's Menage CD
  2008 AAAFNRAAA (Anything Anytime Anywhere For No Reason At All Again) Birthday Bundle iTunes
85 2009 Lumpy Money 3CD
7 2009 Mothermania Download
86 2010 Philly 76 2CD
87 2010 Greasy Love Songs CD
88 2010 Congress Shall Make No Law CD
89 2010 Hammersmith Odeon 3CD
  2011 AAAFNRAAAA (Anything Anytime Anywhere For No Reason At All, Again Also) Birthday Bundle iTunes
90 2011 Feeding The Monkies At Ma Maison CD
91 2011 Carnegie Hall 4CD
  2011 AAAFNRAAAAAM (Anything Anytime Anywhere For No Reason At All, Again Also And Mathilda) Birthday Bundle iTunes

Other Links

These are a few other links to Zappa pages that could help.

The REAL Frank Zappa Home Page Run by Zappa's family
St. Alphonzo's Pancake Homepage A top Zappa site with all the information you could possibly want