Frank Zappa

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Being cynical is the only way to deal with modern civilization — you can't just swallow it whole.
Freaking Out is a process whereby an individual casts off outmoded and restricting standards of thinking, dress, and social etiquette in order to express creatively his relationship to his immediate environment and the social structure as a whole.

Frank Vincent Zappa (21 December 19404 December 1993) was an American musician, composer and satirist.

Quotes[edit]

Time and those waves are at the disposal of anyone who wants to use them
I don't give a fuck if they remember me at all.
Their stupidity does not amaze me, its when they're smart that amazes me.
I have four children, and I want them to grow up in a country that has a working First Amendment.
The most important thing to do in your life is to not interfere with somebody else's life.
The first thing you have to do if you want to raise nice kids, is you have to talk to them like they are people instead of talking to them like they're property.
To me, absurdity is the only reality.
Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is the best…
  • On a personal level, Freaking Out is a process whereby an individual casts off outmoded and restricting standards of thinking, dress, and social etiquette in order to express creatively his relationship to his immediate environment and the social structure as a whole.
    • Liner notes for the album Freak Out! (27 June 1966).
  • If your children ever find out how lame you really are, they’ll murder you in your sleep.
    • To tourists at the Whisky-a-Go-Go, Los Angeles CA, December 1965
    • Liner notes for the album Freak Out! (27 June 1966).
  • Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you've got any guts. Some of you like Pep rallies and plastic robots who tell you what to read. Forget I mentioned it. This song has no message. Rise for the flag salute.
    • Liner notes for the album Freak Out! (27 June 1966).
  • Scientology, how about that? You hold on to the tin cans and then this guy asks you a bunch of questions, and if you pay enough money you get to join the master race. How's that for a religion?
    • Concert address to audience at the Rockpile, Toronto (May 1969).
  • I consider that the building materials are exactly the same as what anybody else makes the thing out of. It's just the way they look at those materials is perhaps a narrower perspective. Time and those waves are at the disposal of anyone who wants to use them.
    • As quoted in No Commercial Potential : The Saga of Frank Zappa (1972) by David Walley, p. 3.
  • I think it's really tragic when people get serious about stuff. It's such an absurdity to take anything really seriously … I make an honest attempt not to take anything seriously: I worked that attitude out about the time I was eighteen, I mean, what does it all mean when you get right down to it, what's the story here? Being alive is so weird.
    • As quoted in No Commercial Potential : The Saga of Frank Zappa (1972) by David Walley, p. 4.
  • I think that if a person doesn't feel cynical then they're out of phase with the 20th century. Being cynical is the only way to deal with modern civilization — you can't just swallow it whole.
  • Being interviewed is one of the most abnormal things that you can do to somebody else. It's two steps removed from the Inquisition.
  • I'm probably more famous for sitting on the toilet than for anything else that I do.
    • Interview on Nationwide (1 July 1983).
  • I'll tell you what classical music is, for those of you who don't know. Classical music is this music that was written by a bunch of dead people a long time ago. And it's formula music, the same as top forty music is formula music. In order to have a piece be classical, it has to conform to academic standards that were the current norms of that day and age … I think that people are entitled to be amused, and entertained. If they see deviations from this classical norm, it's probably good for their mental health.
  • Their stupidity does not amaze me, its when they're smart that amazes me. It's baffling whenever you find someone who's smart — incredible. Soon you'll have zoos for such things.
    • When asked what amazes him about people, in an interview with Grace Slick on Rockplace (11 February 1984) - YouTube video
  • A wise man once said, "never discuss philosophy or politics in a disco environment."
    • Interview with Grace Slick on Rockplace (11 February 1984).
  • I like to watch the news, because I don't like people very much and when you watch the news... if you ever had an idea that people were really terrible, you could watch the news and know that you're right.
    • Appearance on Thicke of the Night (28 April 1984).
  • The rock and roll business is pretty absurd, but the world of serious music is much worse.
  • The most important thing to do in your life is to not interfere with somebody else's life.
  • The first thing you have to do if you want to raise nice kids, is you have to talk to them like they are people instead of talking to them like they're property.
    • Appearance on The Howard Stern Show (1987).
  • Let's not be too rough on our own ignorance; it's what makes America great!
  • The essence of Christianity is told to us in the Garden of Eden history. The fruit that was forbidden was on the Tree of Knowledge. The subtext is, All the suffering you have is because you wanted to find out what was going on. You could be in the Garden of Eden if you had just kept your fucking mouth shut and hadn't asked any questions.
    • Interview in Playboy (2 May 1993).
  • The more boring a child is, the more the parents, when showing off the child, receive adulation for being good parents — because they have a tame child-creature in their house.
    • "Ben Watson interviews Frank Zappa", in MOJO magazine (October 1993).
  • Rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, in order to provide articles for people who can't read.
    • "Ben Watson interviews Frank Zappa", in MOJO magazine (October 1993).
  • Take the Kama Sutra. How many people died from the Kama Sutra, as opposed to the Bible? Who wins?
    • Late Night Special BBC (1993); the American version this documentary was presented on A&E Biography.
  • Tobacco is my favorite vegetable.
    • Interview on the Today Show NBC (1993).
  • My solos are speech-influenced rhythmically; and harmonically, they're either pentatonic, or poly-scale oriented. And there's the mixolydian mode that I also use a lot...But I'm more interested in melodic things I think the biggest challenge when you go to play a solo is trying to invent a melody on the spot.
    • As quoted in The Guitar Handbook (2002) by Ralph Denyer, p. 102

Freak Out! (1966)[edit]

Recorded March 9–12, 1966, released 27 June 1966
  • So I'm watchin' and I'm waitin'
    Hopin' for the best
    Even think I'll go to prayin'
    Every time I hear 'em sayin'
    That there's no way to delay
    That trouble comin' every day
    No way to delay
    That trouble comin' every day
  • Hey, you know something people?
    I'm not black,
    But there's a whole lots a times
    I wish I could say I'm not white.
    • "Trouble Every Day".
  • And it's the same across the nation
    Black and white discrimination
    Yellin' "You can't understand me!"
    'N all that other jazz they hand me
    In the papers and TV and
    All that mass stupidity
    That seems to grow more every day
    Each time you hear some nitwit say
    He wants to go and do you in
    Because the color of your skin
    Just don't appeal to him
    (No matter if it's black or white)
    Because he's out for blood tonight.
    • "Trouble Every Day"

Over-Nite Sensation (1973)[edit]

Recorded 1969 - 1973, Released 7 September 1973
  • I may be vile and pernicious
    But you can't look away
    I make you think I'm delicious
    With the stuff that I say
    I'm the best you can get
    Have you guessed me yet?
    I'm the slime oozin' out
    From your TV set.

Apostrophe (') (1974)[edit]

Watch out where the huskies go,
and don't you eat that yellow snow.
Recorded 1969 - 1974, Released 22 March 1974
  • Watch out where the huskies go,
    and don't you eat that yellow snow.
    • "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow".
  • Look here brother, who you jivin' with that cosmik debris?

Roxy & Elsewhere (1974)[edit]

Recorded 8 - 10 December 1973, 8 & 11 May 1974; Released 10 September 1974
  • Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.
    • 'Be-Bop Tango (Of the Old Jazzmen's Church)

Tinseltown Rebellion (1981)[edit]

  • I have an important message to deliver to all the cute people all over the world. If you're out there and you're cute, maybe you're beautiful. I just want to tell you somethin' — there's more of us UGLY MOTHERFUCKERS than you are, hey-y, so watch out.
    • "Dance Contest"

"Sheik Yerbouti" (1979)[edit]

  • You're an asshole! You're an asshole!
    That's right! You're an asshole!
    You're an asshole! Yes yes! You might pretend you ain't got one on the bottom of you!
    • "Broken Hearts are for Assholes"

"Joe's Garage Acts II & III" (1979)[edit]

  • Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is the best…
    • "Packard Goose"

Oui interview (1979)[edit]

I can’t see any authority on the horizon that’s got any answers that seem worthwhile. Most of the things that are suggested are probably detrimental to your mental health.
"A Conversation With Frank Zappa" by Dave Rothman, in Oui (April 1979)
Certification from one source or another seems to be the most important thing to people all over the world. … People are just waiting around to get certified.
Just because somebody hears something you say, or reads something that you write, doesn’t mean you’ve reached them.
Everything on this planet has something to do with music. Music functions in the realm of sculptured air.
  • You know, people are basically shitty. It’s when they prove it over and over again that it gets obnoxious.
  • We live in a very special time right now. At no other time in history has there been such mass disillusionment in terms of reliance on governing functions. Most people don’t want to come to terms with that. It’s been proven over and over again that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, but most people don’t like to look at naked emperors. In the process of turning around to avert their eyes, they saw the discotheques and a few other things and latched onto them.
  • There’s no reason to assume that my idea of what‘s better would really be better. I resent it when other people try to inflict their ideas of betterness on me. I don’t think they know. And I can’t see any authority on the horizon that’s got any answers that seem worthwhile. Most of the things that are suggested are probably detrimental to your mental health.
  • Organized religions by their very natures are misleading. The bottom line is always money. What that’s got to do with your spiritual well-being still eludes me. It’s always the bucks, no matter how they disguise it. If you need that sort of assistance to keep yourself together, you may be paying a higher rate to a fake religion than you would to a psychotherapist. Which is not to say that a psychotherapist is going to give you any better value per dollar either. lf you’re going to deal with reality, you’re going to have to make one big discovery: Reality is something that belongs to you as an individual. If you wanna grow up, which most people don’t, the thing to do is take responsibility for your own reality and deal with it on your own terms. Don’t expect that because you pay some money to somebody else or take a pledge or join a club or run down the street or wear a special bunch of clothes or play a certain sport or even drink Perrier water, it’s going to take care of everything for you. Because it all comes from inside. As a matter of fact, that’s where it stays.
  • Certification from one source or another seems to be the most important thing to people all over the world. A piece of paper from a school that says you’re smart, a pat on the head from your parents that says you’re good or some reinforcement from your peers that makes you think what you’re doing is worthwhile. People are just waiting around to get certified.
  • The lifestyle that I have is probably neither desirable nor useful to most people. Most people are probably better off getting the certification they desire and spindling their lives away the way they’re doing. I don’t think they’d enjoy living any other way. There are millions of people who acquire all sorts of wonderful feelings from watching a football game and drinking a bottle of beer. It makes them really happy. Doesn’t do shit for me. But for them it’s life itself. As long as they can believe in the beer and the football, then they’ve really got something. And it’s probably more useful to them than religion. So why take it away? Why tell them what’s really going on? Let ’em be happy.
  • If a person wants to write music and lyrics, he has a perfect right to express his views on a certain subject. I would feel wrong if I were to express anything that I didn’t believe in. I write what I like to write. Those who like to listen to it, listen to it. And the ones who don’t, watch football and drink beer, jog, go to discos and so forth. I never claimed to be a man for all seasons.
  • Just because somebody hears something you say, or reads something that you write, doesn’t mean you’ve reached them. With reading comprehension being what it is in the U. S., you can safely toss that one out the window. If you want to judge by the listening habits of people who buy records, the first thing they do is put it on and talk over it.
  • So much gets lost in the translation. Even if you sat there listening to it with a microscope, there’s no way you’re gonna find out what it means.
  • People have preposterous ideas about what those songs are about and what the music means. They start spouting all this shit that’s so far off the mark, it’s revolting. But if that’s how they derive pleasure, who am I to deprive them of it? Let ’em enjoy it. It’s there for their edification. But total comprehension is out of the question.
  • I can’t talk to you about music because you don’t know anything about music. I can talk to you about politics or sociology and all that peripheral stuff, but I can’t talk to you about music. There’s not enough information in common that I could say to you so you’d be able to understand. Besides, the people who read OUI don’t give a fuck about music anyway.
  • The cool-person syndrome is peculiarly American. Part of that has to do with the way the educational business is run in the U.S. It’s not based on how much you can teach your child: it’s based on how much money the suppliers of basic materials can make off your child. Somewhere along the line most people pick up the desire to be a cool person, which is just another way to make them buy things. Once you’ve decided that you need to be a cool person, it makes you a possible victim of anyone whose products are the equivalent of bottled smoke. Somebody tells you to buy this particularly useless item and you’ll be a cool person. No matter how stupid it seems, you have to buy it. Pet Rocks. Pringle’s potato chips. whatever it is — the newest, the latest. Since the cool-person thing is something you learn in school, and since the school business is pretty suspicious and definitely tied up with the government, it makes you wonder whether or not the desire to be cool is part of a government plot to make you buy stupid things.
  • The U.S. is a mere pup tent of a civilization. We’ve got two hundred years of stupidity behind us and we think we’re right up there with everyone else who’s been doing it for thousands of years.
  • The richest people in the world aren’t particularly smart or happy. And the happiest people in the world aren’t particularly smart or rich.… That leaves me making music. But we can’t talk about that.
  • Everything on this planet has something to do with music. Music functions in the realm of sculptured air. Polluted as our atmosphere might be, air is the thing that makes music work. Since all other things that occur in the sound domain are transmitted to the ear through that swirling mass, depending on how wide you want to make your definition, you could perceive quite a bit of human experience in terms of music.
  • I think the music of the Fifties is really good. I suspect it’s much better musically than much of what’s available now. Not in terms of production, but in terms of content. One good believable song about some guy’s girlfriend and how they broke up — a sincere one — is better than twenty albums of English rock that’s ever been produced.
  • Most people don’t think I’m rational. They’re too busy featuring their hurt. They find it irrational not to feature your hurt. That’s how fucked up they are.
  • There isn’t anything weird about my music. Weird is a skeleton in the closet, wearing a rubber mask with warts all over its nose, and all that kind of shit. That’s not what I do. The thing that makes my music unusual is that people only hear one kind of music all the time over the radio. It’s wallpaper to their lives. Audile wallpaper. There’s one acceptable beat and there are three acceptable chord progressions. There are five acceptable words: baby, love, tears, yat yat. Just because I don’t deal in those terms doesn’t mean I’m weird. So tell these people: I ain’t weird; I’m rational. I’m a person who can choose to write stuff like that, or choose to write stuff that includes all the notes on the piano played at once, followed by a cement truck driving over the piano, followed by a small atomic explosion. Nothing weird about that as long as you do it in a meaningful way.

You Are What You Is (1981)[edit]

Recorded July - September, 1980, released 23 September 1981
Remember there's a big difference between kneeling down and bending over.
  • Beauty is a pair of shoes that makes you wanna die.
    • Beauty Knows No Pain.
  • After all, he wrote this book here, and in the book it says he made us all to be just like him! So if we're dumb, then God is dumb — and maybe even a little ugly on the side.
    • Dumb All Over.
  • Remember there's a big difference between kneeling down and bending over.
    • "Heavenly Bank Account".
  • There are three things that smell of fish. One of them is fish. The other two are growing on you!
    • "Jumbo Go Away".
  • You say your life's a bum deal 'n yer up against the wall. Well, people, you ain't even got no deal at all. 'Cause what they do in Washington. They just takes care of Number One. An' Number One ain't you. You ain't even Number Two!
    • "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing"

Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch (1982)[edit]

  • Shes a valley girl
    In a clothing store
    Okay, fine...
    Fer sure, fer sure.
  • On Ventura, there she goes
    She just bought some bitch'n clothes
    Tosses her head n flips her hair
    She got a whole bunch of nothin in there
    • "Valley Girl"

Crossfire debate on censorship (1986)[edit]

I think that if you use the so-called "strong words" you'll get your point across faster and you can save a lot of beating around the bush. Why are people afraid of words?
Appearance on Crossfire, CNN (1986) - YouTube video
  • I think that if you use the so-called "strong words" you'll get your point across faster and you can save a lot of beating around the bush. Why are people afraid of words? Sometimes the dumbest thing that gets said makes the point for you.
  • I'm a conservative, and you might not like that, but I am, and the fact of the matter is, this bill that they're talking about in Maryland is stupid.
  • Do you think you are protecting somebody by taking away seven words?
  • Tell you what — Kiss my ass! How do you like that…?
    • After John Lofton calls him an idiot because of his opposition to censorship.
  • Why should I smile when I'm sitting here with you?
  • The biggest threat to America today is not communism. It's moving America toward a fascist theocracy, and everything that's happened during the Reagan administration is steering us right down that pipe … I really think that. … When you have a government that prefers a certain moral code derived from a certain religion and that moral code turns into legislation to suit one certain religious point of view, and if that code happens to be very, very right wing, almost toward Attila the Hun...

Rolling Stone interview (1988)[edit]

1988 interview by Kurt Loder for Rolling Stone Magazine, republished in Loder's book "Bat Chain Puller" Loder, Kurt (2002). Bat Chain Puller: Rock and Roll in the Age of Celebrity. Cooper Square Press. pp. 408. ISBN 978-0815412250. Retrieved on November 2, 2012. 
  • I've smoked ten marijuana cigarettes in my life, and probably the last time I had one near my face was twelve, fifteen years ago. And the reason I did was because, since I do smoke, people would say, "Here, smoke this, you'll get high." So I smoked it, and it gave me a sore throat and made me sleepy. And I must either presume that that's what high means, or something was wrong. But I've never had a positive result from smoking marijuana. It just wasn't my cup of tea. And I never used LSD, never used cocaine, never used heroin or any of that other stuff.

The Real Frank Zappa Book (1989)[edit]

I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.
Co-written with Peter Occhiogrosso
  • For the record, folks; I never took a shit on stage and the closest I ever came to eating shit anywhere was at a Holiday Inn buffet in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1973.
    • p. 14.
  • The bassoon is one of my favorite instruments. It has the medieval aroma, like the days when everything used to sound like that. Some people crave baseball...I find this unfathomable, but I can easily understand why a person could get excited about playing the bassoon.
    • p. 144.
  • A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians.
    • p. 162.
  • It isn't necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice — there are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia.
    • p. 203.
  • If you wind up with a boring, miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on TV telling you how to do your shit, then YOU DESERVE IT.
    • p. 233.
  • Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.
    • p. 239; this may be derived from a similar observation by Harlan Ellison which is sometimes misattributed to Zappa: "The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity."
  • We're not talking light-hearted foolishness here — when we go for stupid we go for BIG STUPID — like people who shoot at you on the freeway, or the Rambos and Rambo-ettes who blow people away in shopping malls and fast-food restaurants with automatic weapons.
    • p. 239.
  • My best advice to anyone who wants to raise a happy, mentally healthy child is: Keep him or her as far away from a church as you can. Children are naive — they trust everyone. School is bad enough, but, if you put a child anywhere in the vicinity of a church, you're asking for trouble.
    • p. 259.
  • Gail has said in interviews that one of the things that makes our relationship work is the fact that we hardly ever get to talk to each other.
  • The creation and destruction of harmonic and 'statistical' tensions is essential to the maintenance of compositional drama. Any composition (or improvisation) which remains consistent and 'regular' throughout is, for me, equivalent to watching a movie with only "good guys" in it, or eating cottage cheese.
  • A drug is not bad. A drug is a chemical compound. The problem comes in when people who take drugs treat them like a license to behave like an asshole.
  • The Ultimate Rule ought to be: 'If it sounds GOOD to you, it's bitchin'; if it sounds BAD to YOU, it's shitty. The more your musical experience, the easier it is to define for yourself what you like and what you don't like. American radio listeners, raised on a diet of _____ (fill in the blank), have experienced a musical universe so small they cannot begin to know what they like.

You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore (1991)[edit]

  • There is no hell. There is only France.

Zen Masters : The Wisdom of Frank Zappa (2003)[edit]

Fact of the matter is, there is no hip world, there is no straight world. There's a world, you see which has people in it who believe a variety of different things.
Quotes of Zappa in W. C. Privy's Original Bathroom Companion (2003) by Jack Mingo and Erin Barrett, p. 134
  • Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.
  • There are more love songs than anything else. If songs could make you do something, we'd all love one another.
  • The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.
  • Without deviation, progress is not possible.
  • Communism doesn't work because people like to own stuff.
  • Fact of the matter is, there is no hip world, there is no straight world. There's a world, you see which has people in it who believe a variety of different things. Everybody believes in something and everybody, by virtue of the fact that they believe in something, use that something to support their own existence.

The MOFO Project/Object (2006)[edit]

The lessons learnt in the '60s about merchandising stupidity to the American public on a large scale have been used over and over again since that time.
Recorded 9–12 March 1966, released 5 December 2006
  • The '60s was really stupid … It was a type of merchandising, Americans had this hideous weakness, they had this desire to be OK, fun guys and gals, and they haven't come to terms with the reality of the situation: we were not created equal. Some people can do carpentry, some people can do mathematics, some people are brain surgeons and some people are winos and that's the way it is, and we're not all the same. This concept of one world-ism, everything blended and smoothed out to this mediocre norm that everybody downgrades themselves to be is stupid. The '60s was merchandised to the public at large... My pet theory about the '60s is that there is a sinister plot behind it... The lessons learnt in the '60s about merchandising stupidity to the American public on a large scale have been used over and over again since that time.
    • "My Pet Theory" on the second disc of the twin CD version


Misattributed[edit]

  • In the fight between you and the world, back the world.
    • Franz Kafka, Betrachtungen [Reflections], Number 52, (c. 1917)

Quotes about Zappa[edit]

Laced in with Zappa’s unrelenting cynicism, the hilarity was always there — regardless of what mood he was in. ~ Dave Rothman
  • People close to Zappa told me there was a good chance he could be diagnosed as manic-depressive if "they" ever got a chance to look at him. There was no way I could know if he'd have the patience to give me one minute or one hour. Expect anything, they said. Radical mood swing is the core of Zappa’s personality — and no doubt the core of his creativity as well.
    When I knocked on Frank’s door, he opened it with the slightest possible shred of acknowledgment. No handshake. I knew immediately where his mood swing was at the moment – several fathoms below sea level. That long black cloud was down and was there to stay for the duration of our first interview. His disdain for the ‘interrogation,’ as he called it, remained obvious. On our next encounter, the cloud disappeared and Zappa lightened up, rapping casually with fans who wandered in, and generally enjoying himself. Surprisingly, the results of both sessions were somehow consistent: Laced in with Zappa’s unrelenting cynicism, the hilarity was always there — regardless of what mood he was in. The only difference seemed to be whether or not he was laughing.

External links[edit]

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