I’m a massive Frank Zappa fan – as most of you know. His intellect and sense of humor are as admirable as his musical vision and output.
A few months ago, when I was searching for interesting content to post for my followers on twitter, I remembered that quotes are always a popular thing to tweet. I went straight to my Frank Zappa quote-book, and promptly started sending out a regular helping of wit and wisdom from the great composer. Here are my top 10 favorites:
- “You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.”
Why I like it: Frank demolishes, in a single sarcastic sentence, nationalism and jingoism. Brilliant.
- “Most rock journalism is people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, for people who can’t read.”
Why I like it: I publish a weekly series of Deep Music Criticism on this blog. I get technical, and really explain why a song is good for bad. I like to think that I’m the kind of “journalist” Frank would’ve appreciated.
- “If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library.”
Why I like it: As a follower of the great contrarian writers James Altucher and Gary North, I’ve come to appreciate the great scam that is college. I’m exhorting my nephew to skip it. Love that Frank felt this way, too.
- “The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.”
Why I like it: Here we have Frank the libertarian (or anarchist?). Yay.
- “Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.”
Why I like it: Here we have Frank the economist – the libertarian economist. Frank’s context was the 1970s and 80s – when communism was a real thing, and leftist intellectuals of the west still thought that it was a viable and moral system. This is Frank’s classic one-liner, soft-pedal of a criticism of that evil political and economic philosophy.
- “Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.”
Why I like it: Again, libertarian deep thoughts. The one thing those evil men & women in power fear most is not being hated, maligned, distrusted – they fear being mocked and laughed at. Frank must’ve realized their Achilles heal since he was the master of reductio ad absurdum.
- “You can’t always write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream.”
Why I like it: Not only does this describe the true composer’s process (intentionally selecting musical elements to express something – e.g. a dissonant chord for an ugly mood), but he brilliantly explains in one sentence why it is that he never just stopped at the music, but was always concerned with theatrics and image in his performances – and absurdity.
- “If we can’t be free at least we can be cheap.”
Why I like it: Hilarious, absurd mockery of an un-free America.
- “The mainstream comes to you, but you have to go to the underground.”
Why I like it: This is the reality of being a “niche” recording artist. Frank’s niche was his own – and other musicians have tried to identify within it (including yours truly).
- “The typical rock fan is not smart enough to know when he is being dumped on.”
Why I like it: This is aimed squarely at Frank’s fans, who were often completely oblivious to the fact that they were being lampooned in their favorite Zappa song. Fat, chauvinist beer drinking guys earnestly fist-pumped to “Titties n’ Beer”. Irony?