A Tribute to Frank Zappa by Dr. Allan Zavod - Rolling Stone Magazine

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keyboard wizard Allan ZavodA Tribute to Frank Zappa (1940 - 1993)

Article by: Allan Zavod;
Extracted From Rolling Stone Magazine
February 1994

Playing with Zappa was the greatest gig that any musician could wish for. He always challenged you, stretching your musical abilities beyond you wildest imagination. As a musician, he was never boring. Each night was a new experience. We did 250 shows in one year - each show unique in some way.

The vast amount of musical material in itself was an enormous challenge to learn. Frank would pull out songs we hadn't done for six months. On the fist day of a three week rehearsal, Frank presented me with 200 tunes and asked if I could learn them in that space of time. I began to realise you could never learn all of Frank's music - it's a continuous ongoing adventure.

Sorry to kill the myth that he was weird and wild; A Tribute to Frank Zappa by Dr. Allan Zavod - Rolling Stone Magazine his lyrics may have been, but the mans was not. Zappa was a serious composer and one of the most professional musicians, I've ever been associated with. He was a disciplinarian of the severest kind when it came to leading the band into tight performances. This was done by utilising three hour sound checks for rehearsals on a daily basis.

We played so many different styles, all of which were executed sincerely and with enormous feeling. We played everything from gospel, Broadway, jazz, 20th century atonal classical, rock and humorous pieces with clichés reminiscent of Spike Jones. We never sounded like a jazz band trying to play other styles, because we played rock from the gut with sheer feel and, the next moment, we'd intellectualise on some classical music - also with soul.

So why all the bizarre and sexual lyrics in such a heavy, serious musical environment? For example: "Why does it hurt when I pee", or "Fuck me you ugly son of a bitch" or "I know a girl with a little rubber head." Zappa's lyrics were a caricature of the perverted sexual attitudes that exist in American life. There was usually a serious message behind the weird and sometimes sick lyrics.

Frank and I were neighbours in LA so I drove him home after rehearsals. I was always amused by the way he saw the world around him, his dry sense of humour. With Frank, you had to be careful you didn't reveal too much of yourself during the days or you'd end up in a song on stage that night.

Zappa the workaholic, Zappa the recluse, and Zappa the relentless objector when it came to anything that hinted at a healthy diet. Down on drugs as he was, I once accused him of being the biggest drug addict of all, because of his continuous indulgence in caffeine and nicotine. His response was that the word drug didn't apply - coffee and cigarettes were food to him.

Frank rarely surrounded himself with friends - his family were his friends. What a shock it was when one day at his house he suggested that we go out to dinner. At the Brown Derby Restaurant in blasé LA, where movie stars are commonplace, all heads turned towards Frank ...Zappa has devoted fans everywhere.

Australian composer and keyboard player Allan Zavod toured with Frank Zappa's band in the Eighties.