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Spinal Crackers

1 comment on Spinal Crackers

"Wanna buy some mandies, Bob?"

Is Frank Zappa's music prog rock? I guess he was, as well as being jazz, metal, doowop, musique concrète ...

Good question. I think you have to go song by song with him. That particular band and the bands with George Duke and the Fowlers explored prog and fusion more than the later bands. I think it fits the mix and I always loved Flakes for its goofiness and the almost effortless musicianship. Thanks for the comment!

I've honestly never even considered the question of Zappa playing prog rock before, which is odd given all the funny time signatures and concept albums. But is it really just that his keyboard players liked (were told to like) all those big Prophet/Oberheim/Roland synth sounds that are still a staple of prog?

Flakes is a nice satire and you're right, it does fit. Sheikh Yerbouti is such an embarassment of riches though, it's not surprising it's his best selling album. I've always been partial to Dancing Fool and Yo' Mama myself.

Dancing Fool is brilliant. I think back in the 70's we labeled Zappa prog because there was nowhere else to put him. He defied labels.

I'm still very partial to the Overnite Sensation to Roxy period. Those bands sound so relaxed compared to the later bands.

I see your point, though. What about a song like Andy? RDNZL? Would you categorize them more like prog rock in structure than, say, In France or Dancing Fool?

With the long guitar solos, droopy moustaches and silly flares, it was the obvious place to put him. I guess I came to him late enough (sometime after You Are What You Is was released) that the question of genre was moot - he was just Frank Zappa.

I just played RDNZL to my wife and she thought it was definitely prog rock. But to me they smell completely different. Even at its most serious, Zappa's stuff is always more playful and not really about the 'chops' as you put it on another mix.

Not that I have anything against chops. I've been partial to a little Yes since the Relayer days and even now when I watch something like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcvByrgofjc, I'm astounded by their ability to pull off such complexity live - actually, that live version is better than the album one.

But no prog rock band could make Joe's Garage, from sleazy mic gags on Crew Slut to the brittle beauty of Watermelon In Easter Hay. And I don't think they'd want to, it's not what progr rock is about. QED: Zappa is not prog rock. :)

You can see why people end up writing long (and mostly unreadable) books about Frank.