Ian Penman: “Don’t Do That On Stage Anymore”

Did Mr Penman get it right back in 1995, when FZ’s back catalog was being re-issued by Ryko? Let’s have a look…

For the pop life of me, I cannot see why anyone past the age of 17 would want to listen to Frank Zappa again, never mind revere him as a deep and important artist, never mind worship at the tottering edifice of his recollected, remastered and repackaged works. Surely the only pertinent use for Zappa was as an interim stage for young lads ‹ scared witless by what they suddenly perceive as the transience or hollowness of popular culture ‹ for whom Zappa represents a gi-normous prefab sneer of self-importance behind which they can shelter for a while. (And, lest we forget: in the pre-Viz, pre-Mayall and Edmondson 1970s, he was the only legitimate supplier of fart and bum and willy jokes).

I beg, as they say, to differ.

41 Responses to “Ian Penman: “Don’t Do That On Stage Anymore””

  1. Sharleena says:

    Between one solitary song by Brian Wilson or the entire Zappa back catalogue I’d choose the latter if I were stuck on the proverbial desert island.

  2. disciple of "Bob" says:

    Oh, look. It’s a journalist in love with the smell of his own farts, devoting pages and pages and pages to the majesty of his opinion.

    As someone once said, nobody has ever built a monument to a critic.

  3. urbangraffito says:

    from Ian Penman:

    “The only way Zappa could ever wow anyone, finally, was through quantity not quality. He was a jack-off of all trades, and master of none.”

    Shit. This fucker doesn’t even make an attempt at objectivity. He just uses every negative aspect of Zappa’s music, lyrics, and catalogue and life as an excuse to piss on everything Zappa. I knew their was a very good reason I never read the Wire or Rolling Stone. Pompous asses that they are…

  4. clarkgwent says:

    Buried in this piece are not a few valid opinions about FZ, but by and large Penman negates these by commiting exactly the sin of “blanket cynicism” that he accusues Zappa of.

    But what else to expect from The Wire? That dismal magazine is so stuffy and humorless that I find myself struggling to read an interview with an artist I like eg Robert Wyatt. Anyone taking music less than seriously is immediately disparaged, and they don’t seem to even know the meaning of the word “satire”. I daresay even their positive FZ reviews fail to mention that aspect of his work.

  5. Grimpo says:

    lets not ask Pierre Boulez or Nicolas Slominisky what they think. What compositions dis this “Ian Penman” write?

  6. Tjodolf says:

    It’s English humour; it’s hard to detect as such because English humour isn’t funny, nor is it meant to be. I don’t know if Ian Penman likes Frank Zappa or not; this rambling nonsense isn’t intended to express an opinion either way. It’s an English thing – if you don’t understand, good for you.

  7. clarkgwent says:

    Yeah!! I’m Welsh and I live next door to the English and I don’t grok this “humor”:- what chance the greater universe?

  8. Andrew Bean says:

    Penman used to write for the NME in the early-mid 80s, and was intensely annoying then too….more concerned with impenetrable & self-obsessed cultural commentary than music journalism. At least the above is relatively intelligible…ill-informed nonsense though it be….

  9. Fabienne Shine says:

    Warren said it best … “They don’t realise that there’s notes involved”

  10. gooey miles says:

    Why give this ahole any ink…….what music did he release?

  11. DAVE says:

    Another case of a music writer unwillingly letting us know in capital letters that the problem with music journalism is the fact that most of these guys/gals *believe* what they read in the media. Theses fools buy the hype! I thought they would be the first to know that it’s ALL about PR. But in my first-hand experience (I run a label), music journalists obviously don’t know how the music industry works. And anyone who thinks he can make a line in the sand that divides what is a genius and breakthrough with a 2 page article is an idiot. It’s impossible to resume such complex things so simply and with assurance. You have to wait a hundred years at least!

    It’s obvious that Ian Penman is a very self-conscious man who trained his brain to make sure that *music* that does not fit some checklists of ‘arbitrary things’ remains incompatible with the thing he used to listen to during adolescence to impress his mates. It’s certainly more complex than that, but it did scar him for life, like many people who are into music journalism and music geekery.

    Music speaks to our inner self, and since our inner self is in constant change, I don’t understand how a supposedly intelligent person would prefer to have only one song by Brian Wilson (a composer I like as well) over an entire catalog of hundreds of songs which, seriously now, are NOT ALL about parodies and cynicism. There are a few dozen in the Zappa repertoire which can give me chills, and more than a few dozen in Brian Wilson’s oeuvre which I find utterly boring. And vice versa.

    In the end, this Penman guy isn’t writing about Zappa, he’s writing about himself.

  12. plotDevice says:

    “For the pop life of me”

    I’m an American. Now more than ever, we have a lot of people in the public eye that make daily statements that would seem like hilarious satire, except that they REALLY MEAN IT. I am exposed to this sort of thing all the time. It’s come to the point where it is extremely difficult to tell whether someone is joking or not, because for every person who spouts a ridiculous claim in jest, you can find two others who spout the same, or a similarly ridiculous claim. in all sincerity. For example, if a prominent member of Congress went on TV today and claimed, “I believe that the current President is part of an invasion force from the recently-discovered socialist planet Xort, and True Americans must unite against his evil plans,” it would be very difficult for me to tell whether or not this was meant as a joke.

    So, I read this entire article, unable to tell whether it REALLY IS several pages of utter idiocy, or if it’s just a sort of satirical, sarcastic joke. I honestly can’t tell.

  13. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from DAVE:

    In the end, this Penman guy isn’t writing about Zappa, he’s writing about himself.

    Indeed, Dave. Any fan of Frank Zappa’s music is already well acquainted with the man’s persian flaws. They are as varied and as necessary to FZ’s music as the notes themselves. The only people that Penman’s article will reach are those with only a passing notion of Zappa, or none at all (given how entirely out of context many of his Zappa references are in the article). If all you hear is the scatological humor of “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow”, “Dirty Love”, “Dinah-Moe Humm” and “Magdalena” – of course, you’ll be deaf to entire albums like Hot Rats, Waka/Jawaka, and The Grand Wazoo.

    One of the greatest things about being a fan of Zappa’s music was never knowing when the trip you were on would suddenly take a sudden wide left turn into unknown musical territory. Nightmare territory to the likes of Penman (i.e. Rolling Stone, robots).

  14. Thinman says:

    There are four groups of Zappa-ignorants:
    – the first one thinks, the only thing he did was being photographed on the toilet
    – the second one thinks, he was a one-hit wonder (Bobby Brown) from the eighties, came out of nowhere, did just this one single and disappeared into nothingness and eternity immediately thereafter
    – the third one hasn’t heard of him at all
    – the forth one are so called music-journalists

  15. brett says:

    Horrible, annoying writing. Why do people like this exist?

  16. jonnybutter says:

    He really needs to squat on the cosmic utensil.

    What i’ve never understood about people like Penman is, given that they a.) know nothing about music (hardly the same thing as ‘pop culture’), and b.) aren’t interested in/don’t like, music, why do they write about it? And why does anyone pay them to do it? It would be like someone who hates ballet writing reviews of it. Unthinkable…unless it’s Pop Music.

    The word is ‘insufferable’. Would that people like Penman were merely redundant. Alas, no.

    BTW, this sort of thing *is* an example of a kind of ‘British Humour’. Hard to believe that a mixture of bleating ignorance and self-loathing – pretending to be criticism – could amuse anyone, but I guess it takes all kinds. Some people like cock fights.

  17. mtiberio says:

    interesting, a few valid points, a lot of bullsh*t. frank on the other hand had a lot of valid points, and some bullsh*t. check one off for frank…

    you can’t approach franks discography from the outside. you either were hooked after the first (or first few) listen, or you’ll always be on the outside trying to figure it out…

  18. exile says: