What do you think about the late Frank Zappa’s criticism of your work as simply “operating a guitar like a machine gun?” Do you think that Zappa was right when he said that the whole trend in the music business was that faster is better?
I think he was just jealous! I toured with Frank, and while I’ve always enjoyed his recordings, on tour he would take very, very long guitar solos, and he just didn’t have what it takes to play long guitar solos. That said, he has every right to his opinions, and in earlier days, I’m sure he had some validity in his criticisms of my playing.
I met John. I think he’s a great guitar player and I think that he’s probably done a lot to educate American audiences to some aspects of Eastern music that they wouldn’t have come into contact with before. We did a tour with McLaughlin and old Mahavishnu, we did 11 concerts with them.
update: here’s the original quote FZ said in an interview called “One Size Fits All” (1977):
Steve Rosen: What about the contemporary heavies, like Jeff Beck or John McLaughlin?
Frank Zappa: I like Jeff, yeah. I’ve listened to “Wired” [Epic], and there are a couple of solos on there that I like. And I like some of his stuff on “Rough and Ready” [Epic]. A person woud be a moron not to appreciate McLaughlin’s technique. The guy has certainly found out how to operate a guitar as if it were a machine gun. But I’m not always enthusiastic about the lines I hear or the ways in which they’re used. I don’t think you can fault him, though, for the amount of time and effort it must have taken to play an instrument that fast. I think anybody who can play that fast is just wonderful. And I’m sure 90% of teenage America would agree, since the whole trend in the business has been “faster is better.”