Frank Zappa is arguably one of the most eccentric and influential rock & roll stars of all time. The man single-handedly produced 113 studio albums while never settling on a singular style of music. Zappa is so popular and influential that scientists have adopted his name for their discoveries and his music helped lead a revolution in a foreign country. Through various forms of musical exploration and expression Zappa’s fans stuck by his side, although a few followers of his music nearly caused his death on three different occasions. Let’s take a closer look at the wonderfully strange life of Frank Zappa.
Zappa’s Instrumental Album Came With A Parental Advisory Sticker
We’re not sure if it was the Jazz from Hell album title or the track “G-Spot Tornado” but the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) decided that Frank Zappa’s instrumental album deserved to feature a parental warning label. The label was applied, we assume, because of the words used for the album since no actual words were spoken or sung throughout the album.
Zappa fought the PMRC and added his own sticker, which stated the album featured music “which a truly free society would neither fear nor suppress.” Zappa went on to tell his potential listeners that it would also not “cause eternal torment in the place where the guy with the horns and pointed stick conducts his business.”
You can take a listen to Jazz From Hell below:
Scientists Love Naming Newly Discovered Organisms After Him
We get a strange feeling that a lot of scientists rock out to Frank Zappa as they work. The rock & roll superstar has various living organisms named after him. For example, if you know where to look you can find the bacteria P. Zappae. The bacteria got its name because of its “unpredictable” behavior.
There’s also the Zappa Confluentus fish and the Phialella Zappai jellyfish. Not enough for you? Check out the Pachygnatha Zappa, a type of spider. The spider features coal-black bristles that mimic the look of Zappa’s mustache.
It’s not just organisms that have received some Zappa fandom from scientists; if you look up into the night sky with a telescope you can also search for the asteroid known as 3834 Zappafrank.
Zappa Named His Son, Dweezil, After his Wife’s Toe
When Frank Zappa’s son was born the hospital wouldn’t let him put the name “Dweezil” on the birth certificate. The name came from a nickname Zappa used for his wife’s oddly-shaped toe. When doctors refused the name, he changed it to Ian Donald Calvin Euclid Zappa. The legal name was just a combination of names from musicians Zappa had played with over the years.
When Zappa’s son was five years old he learned that his original name was supposed to be Dweezil. His kid loved the name so much that he demanded Frank and his wife legally change his name to the originally intended moniker. Apparently, the hospital didn’t have a problem with his daughters’ names; Diva and Moon Unit.
His Only Top 40 Hit Was Started As A Joke
Despite millions of fans and a music catalog that can rival any other artist, Frank Zappa’s only top 40 song came in the form of “Valley Girl.” The track was created in 1982 when his daughter, Moon, slipped a note under the studio door to showcase the funny voice she could pull off.
The song was recorded and Zappa immediately left for a tour in Europe. Hoping to receive airplay for the track, Moon went around to KROQ studios in Los Angeles and convinced DJs to give it a shot. Frank Zappa wasn’t impressed by his song’s chart success and used the money earned from the track to create a higher-brow album with the London Symphony.
“Like oh my god” here’s the track:
His Music Helped Fuel A Revolution In Czechoslovakia
Frank Zappa loved to stand up for the underdog and as his career progressed he became increasingly political. The rock star’s political influence wasn’t limited to the United States, on the contrary, he was a hero within Czechoslovakia. During the country’s “Velvet Revolution,” Zappa’s music was a rallying cry. The Velvet Underground, The Rolling Stones, and Frank Zappa were specifically banned by the former communist regime because of the rebellious nature of their music.
When new president Václav Havel took over, he gave Zappa his very own official title for the country. Havel was a lifelong Zappa fan and named him the Cultural Ambassador of Czechoslovakia.
Sadly, Zappa’s role was removed when former US Secretary of State James Baker threw a fit because Zappa had gone after his wife, Susan Baker, who worked with the PMRC. This was the very same group that forced a mature content warning label to be applied to his instrumental album. Zappa public decried the wives of the PMRC, claiming that they were forcing their husbands to hold up passage of a cassette tape tax meant to discourage piracy.
Zappa’s Fans Nearly Ended His Life… Three Times
Frank Zappa’s nearly lethal run-ins with fans are legendary. During a concert in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1971, a fan with a flare gunshot at the ceiling of the Montreux casino hall, starting a fire that burned the casino to the ground. Nobody was hurt but it was a dangerous event that led to Zappa creating the song “Deep Purple.”
In another incident that also took place in 1971, the Mothers were playing a show at the Rainbow Theatre in London, England when a wild fan jumped on stage and tackled Zappa. Frank fell onto the concrete floor, sustaining a concussion and other severe injuries. The fan crushed his larynx, which led to Zappa’s voice lowering permanently by a third.
In what was surely the scariest of all his fan run-ins, Zappa was confronted by a crazed man in 1968. When Zappa answered the door at his Log Cabin in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, a man named “Raven” said he had a present for Zappa. The man then showed him a plastic bag filled with blood and a gun which he pointed at Zappa’s chest. Zappa asked the man to walk to a nearby lake with him. Various spectators followed the two men. Once at the lake, Zappa asked everyone to throw their undesired objects into the lake. The deranged man decided to toss the gun. Zappa never pressed charges because he didn’t believe anyone deserved to be thrown in jail.
Frank Zappa lived a truly weird and wonderful life and has left behind a musical legacy unlike any other musician.