Frank Zappa “Eat That Question”

Always a Freak, Never a Hippie: What I got out of the Frank Zappa Documentary “Eat That Question”
Written by PawL BaziLe

Punk Rock Homework Assign: Watch this film.  Yes, it’s that good, in fact, it’s a masterpiece and agree or disagree with Zappa’s points of view, he made them clear and this film demonstrates how it did it.

Some of you might be youngsters, and even more of you probably aren’t into “Progressive Rock” and “Experimental Jazz”, so quickly, let me explain Frank Zappa in a nutshell:  Frank was first a musician.  A great Musician.  Frank Zappa was the most prolific and important composer of the last century.  You may have another opinion, but understand your opinion is incorrect.  Frank was weird.  He looked weird, he played weird music, he made music from things that weren’t meant to be played as instruments and he played with some of the greatest “nuts and bolts” musicians ever.  Frank loved freedom.  Really loved freedom.  He said what he wanted to, looked how he wanted to, and he acted how he wanted… and used the framework of common sense and logic in such a way it upset people.  By all accounts he was an atheist, a capitalist, a libertarian, and a non-drug user.  That’s the bare bones of Frank.

A couple months ago I attended the Asbury Park Music in Film Festival (the South by Southwest of the Northeast) and got to see an early showing of this Zappa documentary “Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in his own Words” directed by Thorsten Schütte.  It is 100% archival footage from T.V. interviews, performances, and films featuring Zappa.  The project put together an undeniable view of Zappa’s relationship with the media.  Bear in mind, this was pre-internet age where now “we all” have a public image and a way we’d like to be perceived by everyone we feel is watching.  At 90 minutes it’s easy to watch, Frank is a likeable, alpha guy.  Zappa was quick if nothing else, quick, precise, logical, and destructive.  His personality was something apparent in his music, and his films.  You might hate his music, you might not be interested in his music or it might not be your cup of tea… if this is the case that’s cool, but what made him an American hero was leading the fight on censorship against the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center).

The PMRC was a government committee spearheaded by Tipper Gore (you know, the wife of the guy who was Vice President for the guy whose wife is currently running for president) to regulate and label the content of music for “the sake of the children”.

“But PawL, labeling the content of music isn’t a big deal”

-Some of you might say.

Well, it is when the people who get to decide what’s obscene are way more sensitive than the general public.

“So what P-Man… It’s not like they banned the music”

-Some others of you might point out

Not really, except for the fact that chain stores, like Walmart, refuse to carry materials with a “Parental Advisory” sticker, forcing some artists to choose between the purity of their message, or making a living.

“Whatever PawL, you bad motherfucker, I’m sure some content IS inappropriate and the government would put good people on it making sure nothing gets mislabeled.”

-One douche bag who doesn’t know when he’s losing an argument might chime in.

Expect for the time an “Explicit Lyrics” sticker made it’s way on a Frank Zappa album called “Jazz from Hell” that was completely instrumental and devoid of lyrics.  Frank fought, and better yet fought intelligently on a side destine to lose so he could breed future free thinkers, like myself, and expose the people who will fight to take away the public’s freedom of choice (down to CHOICE OF WORDS) under the guise that other people out there know what best for you.

I’m not going to go through the film point by point, go see it, or don’t, I don’t care and the film doesn’t cut me a check.  What I really want to talk about is what I saw in this film that relates to today’s modern, western people.  If Frank Zappa were with us today he’d be eaten alive by Social Justice Warriors and publicly shunned every time he made a statement… not that he couldn’t handle it.  The people who would be doing it today would not be the square, empty suit, family friendly conservative of his day, but the kids with the funny hair.  The leftist cultural Marxists that we see on the Internet everyday constantly looking for something to be offended by would be clutching their collective chests at the radical, blunt, brutal free talk Frank was famous for.

Sitting in the crowd full of Frank Zappa fans, mostly liberals, we were very into the film together.  We laughed at the funny parts.  We clapped at Frank reducing an argument to the most logic conclusion as only he could; there was one uncomfortable moment when the audience didn’t know how to respond: When Frank said “Fuck Communism”.  Don’t you find that interesting?  I did.  I was sitting in a crowd of people mumbling amongst themselves in a strange awkward hush. One of Zappa’s philosophies was “There is no such thing as a bad word,” how many people on a college campus would agree with that today?  How many PUNK ROCKERS would agree with that today?  Yesterday’s punk couldn’t wait to shock you; today’s punk can’t wait to call you out for using the wrong word.  It’s virtue signaling at it worst.  It’s not a good look for “fringe” groups or “subcultures” either.  I don’t know how it changed but I want to change it into something else.  Frank Zappa wouldn’t let it slide.

Zappa was punk rock before it had a word, he just got too good of a musician to fit in with “the Clash”.  He was what punk always was meant to be; misfits trying different things with an open mind, not trying to fall into group think, and perfecting their art or message to a science until they are the best at being uniquely themselves as an artist and human being.  I’m glad a saw “Eat That Question” and I’m going to watch it again.  It’s important to see a real subculture role model at his best stand for logic, and reason, and an open exchange of ideas whether you agree with them or not. Those are things I want to represent and I know there are still punks who have my back.  Frank Zappa, amazing musician; Better Human Being.

Pawl BAzile is a filmmaker and journalist from New Jersey.

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