Zappa & The Mothers – Does Geography and Media Influence Musical Tastes

Having grown up on the Bible Belt of Western Canada where the only sources of musical entertainment for the longest time were the local Country & Western and adult easy listening radio stations, it’s hard to imagine such a place nurturing such a Zappa and Mothers freak as myself. That’s right, two stations on the AM dial. The rock music format did not even reach Northern Alberta until the mid-60s, and then, it was top 40 radio, and the usual repetitious one that so many are accustomed to with that particular format. FM radio wouldn’t even appear until the mid-70s. So, local record stores followed these top 40 stations as a guide on what to order, and likewise promoters on which touring acts to bring through town.

How then, did the music of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention disseminate in such a conservative environment? It wasn’t through the media, I can assure you.

Growing up, everyone I knew who had Zappa and Mothers of Invention albums had been turned on to the music by somebody else – a friend, a brother, a cousin. Even the albums themselves had to be imported from more liberal and cosmopolitan Canadian cities at the time – Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal.

Word of mouth was really the only means of promoting Zappa in those days. Certainly the local top 40 station never played one cut of Mothers music in my memory. Indeed, as I’ve mentioned here at KUR often, my discovery of Zappa occurred when I was seven years old, finding a copy of Just Another Band From L.A. on a cousin’s stereo turntable. The rest, they say, is history.

That chance musical encounter affected my musical tastes far, far more than all the Country and adult easy listening music I was forced to endure at my parent’s hands. It set me on a collision course with them, musically speaking, which resulted in many of my Zappa and Mothers albums being flung against the hard plaster walls of their house.

Indeed, it may very well have been one of the reasons which lead to my moving out of their house at age 16 (but not the reason, I’m sure). Even now, 31 years later, my surviving parent and siblings still refer to Zappa and the Mothers as “that music”. And if ever I find it necessary to clear my present flat of family, all I need do is play a little Zappa, and they are “gone, gone, gone”.

Note: the image above is the issue of Down Beat, October 30, 1969, featuring Larry Kart’s essay “Frank Zappa: The Mother of Us All

2 Responses to “Zappa & The Mothers – Does Geography and Media Influence Musical Tastes”

  1. Alex says:

    DownBeat was a fun magazine in the late sixties as they tried to figure out just what the hell was going on. Jazz was not dead…

  2. Slap says:

    During my teen years in the long-ago ’70s, Down Beat was an essential resource — their thoughtful, deeply knowledgeable reviews gave me musical insights I never would have obtained from rock journos. And their openness was astonishing, favorably reviewing ambitious rock music with the same seriousness they applied to jazz. First review I ever read of Tommy Bolin’s Teaser album was in DB (four stars, iirc); as a newly-minted jazz and fusion fan in those days, DB was manna from heaven. I was knowledgeable about George Duke and Jean Luc-Ponty long before I began my Zappabout.

    Thank you, DownBeat!

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