The opportunity to catch a Frank Zappa concert presented itself in the month before Nixon’s landslide re-election (CREEP was his MAGA), lest you think having Frank Z. in town makes life bearable – it still wasn’t, but was fun as hell to get away every once in a while. I was in my last semester of college, working on an underground weekly, where I was sports editor and a variety of other things on the distribution and sales end. It was enough to make me think I might score an interview.
When the gig was ending, he had an 8 or 9 piece, very jazzy, outfit – maybe called the Petite Wazoo? I told my pals to wait for me, I was going to talk to Frank. They did, and I did, too. I guessed the side door they’d be likely to exit, and after Frank climbed aboard the bus, still with a leg brace for the assault the year earlier in London, a large security guy blocked my entry. (Photo credit: By Helge Øverås – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1878412)
Knowing that the last thing he’d be interested in is another college kid asking inane questions about the true color of the sky, or if he knew the original lyrics to Louie Louie, I told the security guy not to worry, that I was a sports writer. Frank calls up front, What’d he say? Guy says he says he’s a sportswriter. Frank says, let him in.
I was under the influence of many foreign sources at the time, such as Eugene Ionesco and Samuel Beckett, and Julian Beck and the Living Theatre – they are American but didn’t act like it. I’d also recently spent a year as a philosophy major, which is a major obstruction along any path to Nirvana. So I opened my pocket notebook and asked Frank a series of questions as if for his high school yearbook profile. I threw in an existential question, for balance, and he played along like the sport I knew him to be.
Then he asked me if I really worked on an underground newspaper and I gave him the same sales pitch I did to everybody back then. I was very proud of our unbelievably naive attempt to take on the establishment in a one newspaper town. I asked if I could send him a copy for his feedback and he took the notebook and wrote his business address and F. ZAPPA, in case I’d forget. I did lose the notebook, though, and never got around to send him a copy because my interview got printed in a box in the middle of a full-page review of the concert by the paper’s hair care guy. Yup, we had a weekly column on how to take good care of your freak flag, your flowing sacramental locks.
Guy must’ve had hairballs in his ears because he wrote as stupid a concert review as I’ve ever seen – and I’ve written plenty bad ones myself. It would embarrass me to have Frank think I consort with such squares, and it would be fake of me to pretend that I don’t. Consequently, I’ve been stranded between the hooks of a dilemma for fifty years!