Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Conventional Wisdom/Indigenous Soul
Unlike populist rabble-rousers, I've never been one to venerate the supposed collective intelligence of "the people." I mean, look at some of the political decisions that vaunted fount of wisdom, "we the people" have made lately.
Being in the news business, I all too painfully know how ill-informed people generally are, and how low their threshold is for accepting rumor and folklore as fact. Essentially, people believe what they want to believe regardless of the factual information available to them. They cherry-pick fact-fragments that reinforce their pre-existing views. That's how it is and how it's always going to be.
As you know, popular perceptions of Frank Zappa are laden with misinformation, fueled to a great extent by media weasels like myself. I'd go so far as to say that there has probably never been a more misunderstood popular musician.
And yet, I don't see what's so hard to understand about him at all. Frank seems like a logical, extremely intelligent person who happened to be unfettered by the illusions and false assumptions that keep most of us from realizing our potential. No wonder he confuses "the people."
The mythology persists. I've had people tell me they smoked big fat doobies with Frank, and worse. I'm not going to repeat some of the more pernicious memes, and if I ever read the description of Frank as "Rock's Rasputin" again, I'm going to have a major white-guy hissyfit and throw the magazine across the room, scaring my old cat.
This past week I went out on the streets of Arcata asking people – mostly street people – what they know or think they know about Frank. What I got was a heady mix of genuine insight and fairly appalling misinformation, plus some funny moments.
I recorded it all, and will play some of the clips on the August 17 show. One is an interview with a couple of guys named Jay and Daryl who have a musical unit of sorts called "Indigenous Soul." They even performed a song for me, called "Kelly." It was, to plug in some lame-ass music critic terminology here, an acoustic/rap fusion featuring Jay on guitar and Daryl on mouth percussion and attempted harmonies.
Was their song Zappa-influenced? I'd say yes, in that Frank stretched boundaries and made imagination permissible, so while "Kelly" wouldn't have been something Frank came up with, it's not inconceivable that it wouldn't exist in the same form without Zappa having done what he did. Anyway, you can decide Friday night when I play the song.
Apart from Indigenous Soul, there were some other folks with remarkable insights and whatever the opposite of that is. Suffice to say that among us walk many people who have a working knowledge of Frank, and can name several of his songs/albums/musicians/slogans.
We are not alone.