July 10, 2016


Frank Zappa was so left, he was right  : A documentary profile of the avant-garage musician reveals his political conservatism. (J.R. Jones, 7/07/16, Chicago Reader)

The "porn wars," as Zappa liked to call them, were particularly revealing in that they touched on his own parenting. Eat That Question includes footage from the Senate hearing in which Florida senator Paula Hawkins scolds Zappa for letting his wife buy the children's toys and Zappa invites her over to the house to take a look at them, to the laughter of the audience. In his book, Zappa gently twits himself as the put-upon dad, watching groceries pour into his house and get eaten up by the kids before he can get to them. He describes himself as a laissez-faire parent with a deep suspicion of American education: "We do all the regular stuff, like trying to keep [the kids] away from danger and out of trouble, but after that, we have the responsibility of providing them with the basic data they're never going to get in school." Zappa urged his kids to take the California high school equivalency test as soon as possible. In Eat That Question, when he's asked about his relationship with his children, he replies simply, "They like me."

Schütte has really covered the waterfront with these clips, and one of the more fascinating is Zappa's sit-down with a trooper (and professed Zappa fan) from the Pennsylvania state police in 1981. Zappa favored drug legalization, but he also insisted that his band members leave all drugs behind when they went on tour. In the interview he defends the policy as a business necessity: "Aside from the chemical damage, there's the legal risk that somebody's gonna take their freedom away, and I'm gonna be sitting there going, 'Where's the drummer?' " When the cop asks Zappa if he resents his fans perpetuating the myth of his own drug excess, Zappa blames not the fans but the press. "It's another way that the media keeps me from getting my point of view across. The more abstract and weird they make me look, the less access that I have to a normal channel of communication with the people who might benefit from what I have to say."

What Zappa had to say was always unpredictable. Politically he was a libertarian who wanted the government out of his life, philosophically a secular humanist who wanted the church out of his government. The Real Frank Zappa Book contains a long chapter, "Practical Conservatism," that lays out his wacky political ideas, from a national sales tax on all goods and services to arming every family in America with a bazooka and box of grenades in case of a terrorist attack. His opposition to the drug war is founded on the conviction that "people own themselves" and that "in a democracy, government exists because (and only so long as) individual citizens give it a 'temporary license to exist'--in exchange for a promise that it will behave itself."

Posted by at July 10, 2016 8:03 AM