Throttling The Mother

In today’s Guardian Online Arts edition: Throttling the Mother of Invention, wherein columnist Owen Adams writes about GZ’s “lengthy campaign against those who ride on his [FZ's - ed.] memory”:

Her recent ire was directed against a laughably bad fans’ monument in the east of Germany.

I wonder what’s more laughably bad:

  • A statue of FZ, financed by FZ fans in his memory
  • A petition opposing the agressive legal actions by the ZFT — signed by some 2070 fans at this point of writing
  • The ZFT prohibiting us from using 100x100px artwork thumbs in our discography
  • A ZFT endorsed Kill Ugly Radio beer
  • A ZFT endorsed Freak Out Ale
  • An official FZ site where valuable information is deemed secondary to flashy, incomprehensible, impenetrable animation
  • ZFT Newsletters that prefer to cast aside factual clarity in favor of poorly written pseudo FZ speak (“the frost is on the pumpkins!”)

I’ll just leave that choice up to you. Moving on:

What would Frank think of this barrage of lawsuits against people who just want to keep his memory alive, enraged fans wonder? My guess is he’d approve. He was a self-proclaimed capitalist-libertarian like Ron Paul with a history of lawsuits to regain control of his music.

My guess is FZ would recognize the efforts of these tribute bands/fan sites and value them for what they attempt to achieve: to keep his music alive. Sure, he was adamant about keeping control over his own music, and rightly so — but in this case we’re talking about FZ vs Big Record Companies™ and unscrupulous bootleggers looking to make a fast buck. Project/Object, Zappanale et all can hardly be categorized as such.

Surely you can’t accuse a band playing such obtuse music as Zappa’s of being only in it for the money?

To ask such a question is to answer it.

Myself, I’d much rather hear a Zappa-informed act like the Spinto Band than a huddle of Zappa acolytes recalling Brown Shoes Don’t Make It and Why Does It Hurt When I Pee. Somehow, the Mother of Invention is the only one capable of making profane songs sacred.

The issue at hand is not about what any given Zappa fan would like to hear — it is about the alleged illegality of grassroots fan sites and small time tribute bands. It is about whether such litigation, should it ever come to court, would even hold ground.

In all: a poorly informed mish mash of an article, Mr Adams, if you don’t mind my saying so. You, Sir, are terminally clueless. Admit that, at the very least. I know: takes balls though, does it not?

37 Responses to “Throttling The Mother”

  1. Paul Sempschi says:

    Cheers to that!
    Frank was a capitalist, he would see there was no capital in suing fan sites or pissant cover groups, it simply isnt profitable. Unlike Gail or Prince, he was more lucid to understand that it was a waste of time… but if they really pissed him off, he sent the FBI on em!

  2. bernard says:

    That’s again a story ‘ bout a very puzzling affair.
    Creative musicians should be allowed to earn a living. That’s the capitalist side.
    EU & US views diverge about methods.
    In US & EU there are record labels, taking risks, editing this music.
    And in Europe some of them get a living from government subsidies. However this about gov officials taking decisions.
    A better way is to create havens. Musicians, involved in that system shouldn’t care anymore about bootlegs etc.
    That’s- in US- Mills College.

  3. Brett says:

    I think you’re a bit too harsh on the author, Barry. I also disagree with him on a few points (I don’t think Frank would approve of Gail threatening dedicated fans). However, I do agree with the author that the cover bands (including ZPZ) should stay clear of the “comedy” material. For some reason, it’s just not as funny without Frank there (a horrible demonstration of this can be witnessed in the ZPZ version of “Call Any Vegetable” on the DVD). Better to stick to the instrumental stuff. Anyhow, you make it sound like the author agrees with the ZFT; I didn’t read it that way.

  4. urbangraffito says:

    Boohoo! Gail feels we fans are not “paying our dues to the estate” and “misrepresenting her Frank.” Hon, we don’t need your permission. Never did, never will. It’s not up to you or your horde of little munchkins (lawyers included) to determine how Frank is represented or misrepresented. He did enough interviews in his own lifetime to determine that for himself.
    What would Frank think? Mr Adams wonders…
    We have a saying around these parts:
    Suck that shit right outta my ass…wanna mint?

  5. urbangraffito says:

    Is it just me, or is this wounded widow routine getting really old, really quick, or what?

  6. jim says:

    WWZD?
    Sheesh.
    Frank Zappa:
    a) begrudgingly approved of tape-sharing & similar not-for-profit distribution of his musical goodies, knowing it’d bring fans around to his better-edited, better-quality albums,
    b) invited anyone & everyone to play his music, if they could – so long as they weren’t ripping him off in the process, &
    c) had a vigorous & sincere loathing for lawyers, especially when used by folks with more money than brains as judicial instruments of intimidation.
    Pheeeeee-uuuw.
    Smell the irony!

  7. mcnastie says:

    i didn’t bother to read the article, mainly because i don’t give much of a shit about this fucknut’s opinions on zappa fandom. m.o.i. devotees bug the shit out of me.
    i care about this site, and i wish that friday boots could come back. gail fucked that up for what i feel are petty reasons, so i think she’s a bitch. case closed on that one.
    i always think back to mr. and mrs. zappa’s favorable comments regarding tape-trading in ‘negative dialectics’, and zappa going out of his way to go out and thank the palladium crowd for simply giving a shit enough to want to hear an encore in ‘baby snakes’. that speaks more to me about how zappa felt about his audience and the accessibility of his work than what some random douchebag has to say post-facto.
    GOD, i miss friday boots.

  8. Roland says:

    Behind every great man there’s a great woman.
    Think about it.

  9. Dr Sharleena says:

    @ mcnastie: call Lamarr Bruister for your weekly fix.
    ………………………………………………………………>>>
    Number is to the right >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    ………………………………………………………………>>>

  10. George says:

    Just what we need, some smug, ignorant pumkinhead who oversimplifies the whole issue while he simultaneously kisses GZ’s ass. Will she be happy to answer my questions?

  11. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from jim:

    WWZD?
    Sheesh.
    Frank Zappa:
    a) begrudgingly approved of tape-sharing & similar not-for-profit distribution of his musical goodies, knowing it’d bring fans around to his better-edited, better-quality albums,
    b) invited anyone & everyone to play his music, if they could – so long as they weren’t ripping him off in the process, &
    c) had a vigorous & sincere loathing for lawyers, especially when used by folks with more money than brains as judicial instruments of intimidation.
    Pheeeeee-uuuw.
    Smell the irony!

    There are three things that smell like fish!
    Really, what are they?
    One of them is fish . . .
    The other two . . .
    Are growing somewhere in Laurel Canyon . . .

  12. not a Paultard says:

    Anyone who would compare FZ to a twit like Ron Paul is not worth reading.
    The closest thing to Zappa in the American presidential race is Mike Gravel.

  13. bernard says:

    Again the same message, now for the journalist of The Guardian.
    I suppose you do not truly adore thie 19th century German composer R. Wagner & his legacy.
    Anywway I don’t.
    There are a lot of paralells with the way FZ music is now treated.
    Wagners widow Cosima started a kind of Richard Wagner Trust, she initiated the Bayreuther Festspiele. Right now it’s still there, notwithstanding many problems within the family. It’s something for the rich and wealthy ( not exactly genuine music lovers, rather ” did you see that I was there as well” people). Thus : a money machine.
    And ” cover bands”, i e other ensembles performing Wagners music should beware of the Wagner Trust.
    By the way the UK magazine The Economist praised the latest book on that phenomenon ( the Wagner Fam. Trust) :” best book of 2007″. See one of my earlier posts.
    Yes FZ deserves better than that.
    And for those who would right now like to get hold of Wagner scores for free, after that many years. There’s International Music Score Library Project. No longer available since Oct. 2007….

  14. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Roland:

    Behind every great man there’s a great woman.
    Think about it.

    I thought about it, Roland. Behind every great man is a woman (or a family trust) willing to pick at the corpse for endless profits (the music and the fans be damned).
    BTW, bernard, FZ couldn’t stand the works of Wagner and Bach among others (he called them classical warhorses that were lacking in inventiveness and an example of elitism in music — music only for the rich). He also called folk music any kind of music that ordinary folks happened to play: Arabian music, sea shanties, etc.
    And, George, I believe you are really on to something. Of all the interviews that GZ has given (both to radio and the printed media), it appears that she does indeed seek out those similar minded, ignorant pumpkinheads who oversimplify the whole issue while simultaneously kissing her arse. People who consistently avoid the truth when they speak publicly tend to “muddle” (confuse; mix up). Is this not a perfect description of GZ, her lawyer’s C&D letters, and the secondhand FZ-isms at Zuppu dot com, last not least the Guardian Online edition?
    Hmmmm, food for thought.

  15. Alex says:

    A quote from Alex:

    Of all the interviews that GZ has given (both to radio and the printed media), it appears that she does indeed seek out those similar minded, ignorant pumpkinheads who oversimplify the whole issue while simultaneously kissing her arse.

    Has anyone entertained the idea that maybe they NEED the money? Think about it.
    This Owen Adams was a right prick, starting off with “What is there not to hate about tribute bands?” Smug little shit, isn’t he?
    Tribute bands exist for the fans – I was born seven years after John Lennon was murdered, and some 17 years after The Beatles’ last recording session. But I have seen two separate Beatles cover bands, and they were fantastic. One even did rarities they only did while at the Cavern or in Hamburg.
    While watching them, I marveled at how much they sounded like the original, but I never thought to myself, “Oh, well, this is so much better.” Not in a million years. I went home and put on a Beatles album.
    Adams misses the point: cover bands, whether it’s The Beatles, Zappa, WHOEVER, exist for the fans. I liked hearing “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It” when ZPZ did it, but nothing trumps The Mothers’ version – no Jimmy Carl, no Ray, no Roy…
    The article was published in a mainstream outlet such as the Guardian to win the uneducated masses over to GZ and her pitiful little cause. Compare the number of people who will read that piece of shit’s heartless tirade against the “laughably bad monument in Germany” with the number of people who will investigate the truth.
    Quoth the master:
    “I am gross and perverted
    I’m obsessed ‘n deranged
    I have existed for years
    But very little has changed
    I’m the tool of the Government
    And industry too
    For I am destined to rule
    And regulate you”
    Seems the ZFT are in cahoots with the very entities that Frank despised.
    Meanwhile the only option we, the true fans of Frank’s music and his legacy, have are sites being threatened with C&D letters – and for what? Posting thumbnails of FZ’s album covers, AM-radio quality bootlegs (at NO cost – the digital equivalent of tape-swapping), and thinking the whole Freak Out! Ale was the stupidest thing since Joe’s Domage. Oh, wait…that was them, too.
    Has anyone noticed at the z-pp-.com site they now boast the featuring of bootlegs on the streaming radio? How’s that for adding insult to injury?
    We just have to keep on fighting, telling our Zappa-loving friends what’s really up, and always be quick to point out that both Jimmy Carl Black and Ike Willis hate this old battle-ax (JCB referred to her almost explicitly as “that wench”); that ought to speak for something.
    Everyone else? Sit back, sip your Freak Out! ale, tune in to Zappa Radio as they feature the Beat The Boots material, and rub one out while watching ‘Does Humor Belong In Music?,’ paying no mind to the blank spaces on your DVD shelves reserved for ‘Uncle Meat,’ ’200 Motels,’ and ‘The Roxy Concert.’

  16. Freon P. Sandoz says:

    I’m listening to a cleaned up personally ripped version of one of three vinyls of Freak Out I still occasionally cue up on the turntable at high volume and scare the shit out of the voting neighbors with, pops and all. It has happened here. That’s the point.
    It’s people like Gail who make me happy to be working to BRING ON THE BOMB! Big Mother sucks as pathetically as all the other Big Siblings and Uncle Meats and Auntie Pestos. Take the Dweezel and Lisa foodie program. Please.
    Laurel Canyon still looks like an inviting hole for nuclear target practice.
    I love the music, but the man’s philosophy was shit so why is anybody surprised that his family is a bunch of bottomfeeders? Sorry. If you encourage people to vote, that’s the same as voting, and if you vote — this shit you live in? — don’t fucking complain about it to me, assholes. You’ve eked out your foxholes the old fashioned way by earning them.
    How many musical Zappa references can you identify in this obnoxious unapologetic post? I’m signing up people to piss on Gail’s grave when the biddy finally chokes on her self-righteousness. I have a few seats still unassigned.
    Fuck you all.
    And I mean that in the most genial and catholic of Jumbo go aways.

  17. Alex says:

    A quote from Alex:

    I’m listening to a cleaned up personally ripped version of one of three vinyls of Freak Out I still occasionally cue up on the turntable at high volume and scare the shit out of the voting neighbors with, pops and all. It has happened here. That’s the point.
    It’s people like Gail who make me happy to be working to BRING ON THE BOMB! Big Mother sucks as pathetically as all the other Big Siblings and Uncle Meats and Auntie Pestos. Take the Dweezel and Lisa foodie program. Please.
    Laurel Canyon still looks like an inviting hole for nuclear target practice.
    I love the music, but the man’s philosophy was shit so why is anybody surprised that his family is a bunch of bottomfeeders? Sorry. If you encourage people to vote, that’s the same as voting, and if you vote — this shit you live in? — don’t fucking complain about it to me, assholes. You’ve eked out your foxholes the old fashioned way by earning them.
    How many musical Zappa references can you identify in this obnoxious unapologetic post? I’m signing up people to piss on Gail’s grave when the biddy finally chokes on her self-righteousness. I have a few seats still unassigned.
    Fuck you all.
    And I mean that in the most genial and catholic of Jumbo go aways.

    Can anybody tell me what the fuck that was?

  18. mcnastie says:

    thanks for the tip, doc!

  19. Dan DiPaolo says:

    The closest thing to Zappa in the American presidential race is Mike Gravel.
    What an interesting analogy!
    And I do have to say that Project/Object are a bit of a snooze without Seahag, though it is always a thrill to be right there by Napoleon and Ike. And please, get a new keyboardist who can handle the parts, otherwise I might find myself more sympathetic with the author of this article than I should be …

  20. bernard says:

    Urbangr, my dear. You seem to be sharpening your pencil. Good, budy. Anyway it enriches KUR blog.
    I presented myself here as a classical music lover. And, yes, I am ( I was introduced to that when I was young enough, 13). The same goes for FZ.
    However I’m not somebody who believes that classical music is above it all. By the way I know quite a lot about jazz as well. I just happen to be interested in … music.
    The simple truth is : there’s good & bad music, in all genres.
    Was FZ influenced by classical composers? Yes for sure. Just have a look at the ( Dutch ) URL, I mentioned in an earlier post, http://www.littleumbrellas.nl/dawerdz/yellow%20shark.htm , where they make an attempt to sum things up. As for JS Bach: Uncle Meat is contrapunctus, taken further.
    What listening to FZ basically learned me is the importance to think beyond musical borders. In real life as well. The refusal to be locked up in a rectangle. Rectangle thinking that’s leading to square eyes & minds. Combining things in music : that’s quite different from the so -called fusion music. It’s about creating something truly new, combining elements from various completely different genres. FZ , the border crosser. From Tiities & Bear to Yellow Shark.
    And that sort of innovation in year head will be dominant in the 21st century. Youngsters will badly need it. Thus again: FZ music , being ahead of its time. Announcing the shape of a new future.
    That’s what makes me say: allow everybody to be enabled to listen to it, for free or at a reasonable price. Because it just captures people’s imagination.( each listener in his / her own broadened thinking).

  21. xorg says:

    My dear Bernard – try to stay on topic!
    I’ve commented at ‘The Guardian’ website so if you’re interested you can read ‘em there. Basically: tribute bands are OK; it’s silly trying to guess what FZ would think; Gail has alienated almost everyone; and her actions will ultimately be counter-productive.
    I wonder whether all this hoohah from Gail and her lawyers amounts to is the ZFT wanting Dweezil’s outfit to be the ONLY FZ tribute band, and simple short-sighted greed.

  22. Barry's Imaginary Publisher says:

    xorg: I read your comment at the Guardian article, and just wanted to commend you for it. Lucid and truthful.

  23. Freon P. Sandoz says:

    A quote from mcnastie:

    thanks for the tip, doc!

    Shirley, you jest.

  24. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    BTW, bernard, FZ couldn’t stand the works of Wagner and Bach among others (he called them classical warhorses that were lacking in inventiveness and an example of elitism in music — music only for the rich). He also called folk music any kind of music that ordinary folks happened to play: Arabian music, sea shanties, etc.

    bernard, in this instance, I feel I should correct myself. Whether or not FZ could stand Wagner and Bach was something only he could determine, and I wouldn’t presuppose to be able to read his or anyone’s mind. That he called them “warhorses” is to be found in countless interviews, particularly those in which he describes the musical education of some of the original Mothers of Invention. And his fondness for a wide variety of world music is to be found not just in his own musical compositions and translations/interpretations (Handsome Cabin Boy, for instance), but those musicians that visited and recorded with him in his studio while he was alive (The Chieftains, for example).

  25. Dr Sharleena says:

    A quote from Freon P. Sandoz:

    A quote from mcnastie:

    thanks for the tip, doc!

    Shirley, you jest.

    All your base are belong to us!

  26. bernard says:

    Urbangr., thanks for the info. I really didn’ t know that FZ recorded with the Chieftains. BTW you can find more info within this blog, FR Wiki.
    As an old man ( people just change) he wrote classical scores, Yellow Shark ( financed by very generous Germans). And recorded with the Chieftains. He was very happy to be disconnected from rock business, anyway a dismal practise. He concentrated on valuable things ( cfr the interview where he’s making U2 absolutely ridiculous).
    I do not really like folk music. I only have 10 Irish folk CDs. I bought one each time I was visiting Dublin. They were for sale in the state owned Irish cultural / touristic shops. BTW I bought again all Rory Gallagher CDs again over there.
    Back to that Guardian article. It might have been a better idea ( than pretending that the FZ statue in Germany is not nice – BTW I don’t see any FZ statue in the UK) for the journalist to make a suggestion : the – heavely state financed – US culture centers all over the world and the cultural tourist offices in LA should display & promote FZ as a part of US cultural heritage. Indeed the Irish happen to be much smarter., thinking beyond rectangles.
    BTW both Barry & I happen to Celtis, we both have red hair.

  27. bernard says:

    Owen Adams, did I happen to be controversial enough?
    Just publish your comment here.

  28. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from bernard:

    Back to that Guardian article. It might have been a better idea ( than pretending that the FZ statue in Germany is not nice – BTW I don’t see any FZ statue in the UK) for the journalist to make a suggestion : the – heavely state financed – US culture centers all over the world and the cultural tourist offices in LA should display & promote FZ as a part of US cultural heritage. Indeed the Irish happen to be much smarter., thinking beyond rectangles.
    BTW both Barry & I happen to Celtis, we both have red hair.

    I don’t think the removal of the FZ bust in Bad Doberan had thing one to do with its aesthetic qualities, bernard. Rather, it had to do with BD town council wanting to avoid an unpleasant court fight (recall that most locals thought that FZ was a farmer) and to do with GZ and the ZFT using litigation to bully anyone that doesn’t think the way that they do. As for Mr. Adams, if he and his paper are what is currently passing for respectable journalism these days, then Barry and Dr. Sharleena can expect a Pulitzer Prize any day now for Kill Ugly Radio.
    Bravo, Barry! Bravo Dr. Sharleena! Speech! Speech!

  29. jane23 says:

    The FZ bust was removed?
    I hadn’t heard that. Was gail going to sue the city of Bad Doberan???
    I have a bust of zappa in my recording studio, should I put a covering over it for fear of violating a ZFT trademark? I also have a bust of Varese, what would louise do?
    As for Zappa’s disinterest in the classical workhorses.
    Modern orchestras do not play modern music.
    They play the same pieces over and over again.
    For someone who was constantly seeking new sound this would have to be maddening.
    Arthur Honnegger stated in his book, “I am a Composer”, that it takes a year to write a piece of music, several more months to copy the parts, make arrangements for the performance hall, the piece is performed and never played again during the life of the composer.
    The present day composer refuses to die.
    But, they are of little use until they do.

  30. urbangraffito says:

    I’m no doubt getting ahead of myself regarding the removal of the bust of FZ in Bad Doberan, but does anyone really see them going to court with the ZFT over a bust they didn’t even pay for in the first place? My guess is that when push comes to shove, they’ll take the path of least resistance and do the ZFT’s bidding…and since I’m not going to be attending Zuppunale anytime soon, to me at least, that bust is as good as gone…

  31. Freon P. Sandoz says:

    A quote from Dr Sharleena:

    A quote from Freon P. Sandoz:

    A quote from mcnastie:

    thanks for the tip, doc!

    Shirley, you jest.

    All your base are belong to us!

    Arf, she said.

  32. urbangraffito says:

    A quote from Freon P. Sandoz:

    A quote from Dr Sharleena:

    A quote from Freon P. Sandoz:

    A quote from mcnastie:

    thanks for the tip, doc!

    Shirley, you jest.

    All your base are belong to us!

    Arf, she said.

    I think I’m being watched.

  33. Roland says:

    “Tokio Hotel” played at the “Roxy”, Sunset Boulevard in L.A. ! This is Germany´s revenge to the ZFT to be so nasty sending C & D all over the place.

  34. Owen Adams says:

    Wow, it’s the first time I’ve been called a pumpkinhead, and smug little shit – little being the operative word, cos I’m quite fat, you know.
    Ok, the main gist of what I was saying – when isolated fragments of the piece are pulled out, it doesn’t really give the whole picture – was that tribute bands, per se, are a bad thing because they discourage creativity and new ideas and that’s why I’d rather listen to a band informed and inspired by Zappa (such as the Spinto Band) rather than one playing his music. But I was saying Gail Zappa has gone too far in her protectionism, though Frank was a protectionist, surely no one can really deny that. I’m sorry but no Beatles tribute band can be the Beatles, no Led Zep tribute can be Led Zep, and no Zappa band can be Zappa. But, as I pointed out in the piece, I would go and watch a Zappa tribute band if they played my local venue, because it would be a relief from all the more populist tribute bands that dominate the venue, and I wouldn’t want to shut the Zappa tributes down – anyone who read this article would have realised this (I just suspect that Frank would). But I’d much prefer it if they did their own thing. I concede that orchestras and jazz bands playing other people’s works are beyond criticism, and as Zappa’s work verged on classical and jazz, the same rationale could apply. Give me your petition, and I’ll sign it – I don’t agree with what’s happening, you know.

  35. Nicola Battista says:

    You CAN actually use photos from album covers… there is a legal way… go to Amazon and join their “Associates” program… Amazon.com or .co.uk …their affiliation program.
    Then get codes to SELL Zappa products onto your page. You can get text links but also graphic links with covers, often even larger versions, not just small 100×100 pixels.
    Only, you will use those codes to get free, pre-cleared and legal record cover art as illustrations for your websites; then if some people even click on them and buy anything from Amazon, that’s just a bonus for you.
    And if ZFT sends another letter, the answer is:
    1) go sue Amazon and whoever gave them the albums and uploaded the cover (ie the record labels and distributors) :)
    2) you geniuses, don’t you see that these are affiliation codes and you are potentially profiting from them?
    3) go on, sue us and we are going have some real fun when a Court finds about points 1) and 2) :-D
    regards,
    Nicola Battista
    http://www.musicblob.it

  36. Barry's Imaginary Publisher says:

    Nicola: thanks for the heads up! Where possible, I’ve redone the discography pages accordingly…

  37. kissucks says:

    somebody please explain how gene simmons got with 200 feet of black napkins
    gene fucking simmons ¿¿