Portal:Frank Zappa

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Frank Vincent Zappa (/ˈzæpə/; December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American composer, electric guitarist, record producer, and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa wrote rock, jazz, electronic, orchestral, and musique concrète works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. Zappa produced almost all of the more than 60 albums he released with the band Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist.

In his teens, he acquired a taste for percussion-based avant-garde composers such as Edgard Varèse and 1950s rhythm and blues music. He began writing classical music in high school, while at the same time playing drums in rhythm and blues bands—he later switched to electric guitar. He was a self-taught composer and performer, and his diverse musical influences led him to create music that was often impossible to categorize. 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. His later albums shared this eclectic and experimental approach, irrespective of whether the fundamental format was one of rock, jazz or classical. He wrote the lyrics to all his songs, which—often humorously—reflected his iconoclastic view of established social and political processes, structures and movements. He was a strident critic of mainstream education and organized religion, and a forthright and passionate advocate for freedom of speech and the abolition of censorship.

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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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Mothers of invention, Théâtre de Clichy, Paris, 1970


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