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Zappa, Frank

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Music, People.

(1940-1993) US composer, singer and guitarist. Of Zappa's seventy-five albums (many credited to "Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention") some include references to Pulp-magazine heroics and monstrosities that are recognizably sf. Zappa was always happiest juxtaposing avant-garde classical, experimental, chart-pop and popular culture more generally, as in his extended jazz-fusion "King Kong" (on Uncle Meat, 1969), a version, obviously, of King Kong. Joe's Garage (1978) is a sprawling rock opera that has a good deal of knockabout fun with L Ron Hubbard's Scientology religion – on the album these become L Ron Hoover and the "First Church of Appliantology" in which adherents are taught how to have Sex with domestic machines like toasters and dishwashers. The concept album Thing-Fish (1984) concerns Mutants created by a Tuskegee-like secret government experiment, and was originally intended as a Broadway show. The songs are as sparky and charged as anything Zappa wrote, although the album flirts with racism in its portrayal of the Black victims, monstrous in appearance and speaking in caricature negro parlance. Along with other material, the book and lyrics of Thing-Fish were assembled in Them or Us (coll 1984).

Evidence of a playful science-fictional sensibility might be thought to be provided by the fact that Zappa's oldest child is called Moon Unit Zappa (1967-    ). [AR]

Frank Vincent Zappa

born Baltimore, Maryland: 21 December 1940

died Los Angeles, California: 4 December 1993


  • Them or Us (Los Angeles, California: Barfko-Swill, 1984) [coll: hb/cover image from album True Glove]


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