Thursday, April 12, 2007
Very Funny, Mr. Zappa
If you had to pick out the one characteristic that most distinguishes Frank Zappa from other musicians, what would it be?
Certainly his music is among the most ambitious, his guitar work as amazing as it gets, his concerts mind-blowing. But other progressive and art-rock musicians had these capabilities to varying degrees as well. What they didn't have, almost universally, is a sense of humor, at least not one they were willing to put on a record and go on the record with.
Frank's music was, as we know, heavily imbued with funniness. Some of it was naughty, some banal and heavy-handed, some of it subtle and ironic, and some of it even musical (like when Frank would "go Hawaiian" with that wonderful little Donny and Marie punctuation).
Everywhere in life we seek humor – at work, with our families and in social circumstances. And yet when it comes to music, for some reason we have to dwell endlessly on one subject: love (actually, lust in a polite disguise). Why?
Why must music be artificially stripped of the singular feature which distinguishes humans from the other beasties that roam this earth? Other critters may have fun, and play, but they don't seem to make too many jokes. We homo-sapes do this everywhere, in every circumstance. And yet, if music contains humor, it's not "serious." Sigh. 'Tis a puzzlement.
Frank, who, as we know, thought different, was right up front with not just the funny biznis, but the sex too. No metaphoric pussyfootin' for Mr. Z. Does humor belong in music? Hell yes!
So, Zappa's Grubby Chamber Number 2 for April 13, 2007, will be all about the ha-ha/ho-ho/hee-hee aspect of Frank Zappa. What's his funniest tune? His wittiest? What's an example of his musical humor? Have any other musicians dared to approach humor? (A few have, and I'll play them.)