In my youth, I felt like I had an easier time introducing my friends to Zappa. I used to simply play “Bobby Brown Goes Down,” because when you’re 14 or 15 years old, it’s the funniest thing you could possibly hear. It had swear words in it, he was making fun of the jocks we all collectively hated, and it was catchy as Hell! Similar cases could be made for other tunes like “Stick It Out,” “Catholic Girls,” and “Jewish Princess.”
This changed for me in college, specifically after I’d dated a girl who had been raped. Suddenly that line was no longer funny, and that mentality no longer seemed worth giving the time of day to lampoon. Now, nearly ten years later, the song is almost a guilty pleasure for me. In the event I do play this song for a friend, I introduce it with a long apologetic intro, saying that Frank was kidding, this wasn’t really how he felt, and that he was making a point by taking up the voice of his target.
As time goes on, it seems that Zappa’s more touchy material – mostly the stuff dealing with sex and gender roles – isn’t aging well at all. Kelley Fisher Lowe goes to extreme lengths discussing it in The Words and Music of…, but his views are tilted. He condemns “Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy” as being sick and unfunny, for example. I think it’s a beautiful song musically, and lyrically it’s nowhere near as brutal as “Venus In Furs” or even (to stick with Zappa) “Honey, Don’t You Want A Man Like Me?” or “Bamboozled By Love.”
The problem is the uncertainty of his satire. How much is he really kidding? With that said, does contemporary society still get the joke?
This brings me to the discussion question:
Do you find yourself having to make apologies for Zappa’s material when playing it for your friends? Are there songs you avoid playing for people? Or do you simply say, “Fuck it, if they don’t get it, it’s them, not me, and definitely not Frank!”
I’m eager to hear how fans of different walks of life, age, and gender feel about this.
PS – This is my first posting at KUR after my recent promotion from former comment troll to contributing writer. Bear with me as I learn HTML coding and all that fun stuff.