Portal:Frank Zappa

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Zappa performing in Ekeberghallen (Oslo, Norway) on January 16, 1977

Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American musician, composer, activist and filmmaker. His work is characterized by nonconformity, free-form improvisation, sound experiments, musical virtuosity, and satire of American culture. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa composed rock, pop, jazz, jazz fusion, orchestral and musique concrète works, and produced almost all of the 60-plus albums that he released with his band the Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist. Zappa also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. He is considered one of the most innovative and stylistically diverse rock musicians of his era.

As a self-taught composer and performer, Zappa's diverse musical influences led him to create music that was sometimes difficult to categorize. While in his teens, he acquired a taste for 20th-century classical composers such as Edgard Varèse, Igor Stravinsky, and Anton Webern, along with 1950s rhythm and blues and doo-wop music. He began writing classical music in high school, while at the same time playing drums in rhythm and blues bands, later switching to electric guitar. His 1966 debut album with the Mothers of Invention, Freak Out!, combined songs in conventional rock and roll format with collective improvisations and studio-generated sound collages. He continued this eclectic and experimental approach, irrespective of whether the fundamental format was rock, jazz or classical.

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200 Motels is a 1971 British musical film featuring Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, produced at Pinewood Studios, England. Directed and written by Frank Zappa and Tony Palmer, with special material written by Howard Kaylan, Mark Volman, and Jeff Simmons. Actors included Ringo Starr, Theodore Bikel and Keith Moon. A double album of the soundtrack was released in the same year. The plot is both nebulous and nonexistent as a narrative or as a series of vignettes and production numbers. According to Zappa, only a third of his script was filmed.

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"Billy the Mountain" is a Frank Zappa song, first made available on the album Just Another Band from L.A. in 1972. The original recording of this song, which took a complete half-hour to perform, was from a live tour performance on August 7, 1971 in Los Angeles during the Flo & Eddie days of Frank Zappa's band. The album recording had to be reduced to 24 minutes and 47 seconds in order to fit on one side. An alternate recording of the song was featured on the 1992 album Playground Psychotics.

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Apostrophe (’) is an album by Frank Zappa, his eighteenth, released on April 22, 1974 in both stereo and quadraphonic formats. An edited version of its lead-off track, “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow”, was Zappa’s first chart single, reaching position 86. Apostrophe (’) was Zappa’s biggest commercial success, reaching number 10 on the Billboard charts and going gold on March 7, 1976.

Continuing from the commercial breakthrough of Over-Nite Sensation (1973), this album is a similar mix of short songs showcasing Zappa’s humor and musical arrangements. The record’s lyrical themes are often bizarre or obscure, with the exception of “Uncle Remus” which is an extension of Zappa’s feelings on racial disharmony featured on his earlier song "Trouble Every Day".

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Frank and Gail Zappa, in their Hollywood Hills home, 1988


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