The Vortex Of Zappa’s Maximalism

You didn’t think I could write a title like that, eh? Well actually I didn’t. It’s a term taken from Michel Delville & Andrew Norris, both living in Brussels, who have written a book on Zappa, Cpt. Beefheart and Californian freakdom entitled “Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and the Secret History of Maximalism”. Keep your dictionaries at the ready as I present you with a quote:

The vortex of Zappa’s maximalism is a toilet, and here we see him seizing on a creative détournement of the human body: the penis becomes a heart, a conflation of two organs of love — the literal and the symbolic are fused together in an anthropomorphic leap of imagination curiously prophetic of Van Vliet’s later pictorial style with its Wellsian miscegenations.

I love the smell of Watsonian prose in the morning!

Lit Winston

So you get a chance to meet FZ in person, chat a little, and then:

Around now the next elevator opened up, he said, “Nice talking to you,” and got on. Just as the doors were closing he realized he still had a lit cigarette and stuck his arm out to me to take it from him, “Thanks.” I took Frank’s cigarette, the doors closed, and up he went. I looked at the lit Winston, and a woman next to me said, “You’ll cherish it forever,” and smiled. I laughed, crushed it in the ashtray, and went to look for my ride to Madison Square Garden.

European Ears

It turns out that he sold roughly four times as many records in the Old Continent than in the country that provided so much of the raw material for his scabrous satirising. Gail Zappa thinks it is to do with the centuries-old tradition of church music that has made European ears receptive and sophisticated (”all we have is the marching band in the town square on July 4”); but I also felt momentarily proud of that much-maligned phenomenon, the European sensibility. We got Zappa: his twists and turns, his reckless veering between high and low culture, his sarcasm, his innovations. These were all too much for his own country, which remains, relative to its size and power, culturally simplistic.

Peter Asden meets Gail Zappa

Science Fiction Protocols

This paper traces a progression towards more intense social satire in the heavily plotted albums, and, as Zappa’s critique expands to comment on real or potential abuses of authority in American society, he comes more and more to employ science fiction (SF) poetics and tropes, what I term here “science fiction protocols”.

The Science Fiction Protocols of Frank Zappa (long, slightly Watsonian read, but looks interesting)