Frank Zappa - Musician Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Frank Zappa - Musician

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Frank Zappa (1940-1993) was an extremely prolific rock musician, having released over 60 albums during his career (and beyond).

Zappa's recording career began with the Mothers of Invention, who released the first rock double album, Freak Out! in 1966. Over the next quarter-century, Zappa's career embraced doo-wop (Cruising With Ruben And The Jets), rock opera (Joe's Garage), classical (Lumpy Gravy), albums consisting entirely of guitar solos (Shut Up 'n' Play Yer Guitar), social comment (Frank Zappa Meets The Mothers Of Prevention)1 and synclavier pieces too complicated to be played by humans (Jazz From Hell), amongst a tremendous number of studio and live albums. In addition to this, he scored a US hit single, Valley Girl2, and made three movies, including 200 Motels, which also featured a cameo appearance by Ringo Starr as... Frank Zappa.

As well as his work with the Mothers of Invention and as a solo performer, he collaborated with Captain Beefheart on 1976's Bongo Fury, and produced the Captain's legendary Trout Mask Replica album.

During his life, Frank Zappa was instrumental in the battle against American government censorship of rock 'n roll lyrics, going toe-to-toe with the one and only Tipper Gore3 in a series of congressional hearings. From that experience, the recording Outrageous Filth evolved and can still be found on his Mothers of Prevention album.

Anyone wishing to acquaint themselves with Zappa's work is advised to start with the recent Rykodisc compilations Strictly Commercial, a comprehensive best-of; Have I Offended Someone?, a selection of his more, um, suggestive work; and Strictly Genteel, a collection of classical pieces.

Alternatively, for a more eclectic overview of the Zappa legacy, try Cheap Thrills and Son Of Cheep Thrills, both of which include seemingly random selections from various albums, and sell for pleasantly small amounts of money4.

Final bizarre Zappa-related fact: Frank's former "stunt guitarist" Warren Cuccurullo is now a member of Duran Duran.

1Which is the personal favourite of this guide entry's editor.2Co-written and voiced by his daughter Moon Unit.3Not to be confused with Leslie Gore who was a songwriter of the 60s and 70s. Tipper Gore is the wife of 1992-2000 Vice President Al Gore.4If you never hear anything else that Frank Zappa recorded, you must hunt down and find a copy of Please Don't Eat the Yellow Snow which is another personal favourite of this guide entry's editor.

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