Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Frank Zappa's public debut

Frank Zappa in 1963:  clean-cut and unknown
Some artists just have it

A vigorous work ethic is essential to artistic longevity (I think of anecdotes about John Coltrane playing 12 hours/day or Jimi Hendrix walking around his apartment with a guitar strapped on), but it isn't enough. Among the millions of musicians, writers, painters, dancers, photographers, and filmmakers who dedicate their lives to art, only a small number have a lasting impact.

One such artist was Frank Zappa, a frequent flyer on this blog.

Before he released the first rock concept album and double album, wowed audiences with wicked guitar chops in insanely tight touring bands, battled the Moral Majority over record labels, and served as a cultural emissary to Czechoslovakia during the Velvet Revolution, Zappa made a soft-spoken appearance on the nationally-televised Steve Allen Show at the age of 23.

I'm much more partial to Zappa's later work than this safe made-for-tv bit, but this cultural artifact provides an early peek into the adventurous mind of a musical explorer whose unique vision would be going strong five decades later.