August 6, 2021

Zappa De la Fuente – Diary16

Many many years ago, at a very, very distant age, the book that Alain Dister published on Frank Zappa fell into my hands; It was fundamental to enter his universe, because I had just started in his music, belatedly, it is not that I did not know him but the time of my epiphany had not arrived: a very worked LP of Apostrophe (‘) and another from a part of the Joe’s Garage, which included “Watermelon in Easter Hay,” which was joined by Sheik Yerbouti, One size fits all and a Zappa in New York The one who was missing a piece of the vinyl edge on the second album, being already mature and a couple of years before the death of the Master, they would hallucinate me to the point of having marked a before and after in my person in every way .

At that time I was already listening to a lot of music of all kinds and the final part of the «Sheik Yerbouti Tango», fleeing from the tonality always playing the same interval of a complete tone, I was not surprised by novelty but by the ability to use that rare harmony with a hypersaturated electric guitar when what you would expect was the prototype blues melody that Zappa himself controlled so well.

Zappa is the Mozart of the 20th century. I have been defending this idea for years, because he is a musician played with the grace of having processed the music of his time, having digested it and having opened the floodgates of a sonic cosmos that leads to a possible future. Zappa is more rock than anyone, his 70’s are insurmountable; Zappa is more avant-garde than anyone, his 60’s have no limits; Zappa is more activist than anyone, his 80’s are brutal; and Zappa is more music than most, his obsession with filling staves reveals a composer so peculiar that only a Varèse (so decisive in his life), a Messiaen, a Cage or an overwhelming Beethoven can be compared, nothing of a popular artist pretending to be a serious piece of music: he’s serious music.

Manuel de la Fuente, except for some “freaky” hidden in his dungeon or a brother-in-law, is the person who knows the most about Zappa in this peninsula and beyond. With a brilliant academic career that helps him organize his work with extreme rigor, having translated the The Real Frank Zappa Book, a very interesting memoir, or the testimonial book of his secretary during the “freak” stage of Laurel Canyon, Pauline Butcher: Hallucinate! My life with Frank Zappa, in addition to a capital study on his thinking: Zappa in hell. Rock as a mobilization for political dissent, De la Fuente has just published in Alianza Editorial Music refuses to die: Frank Zappa. Unauthorized Biography.

Indispensable for any follower of the music of the North American creator, in reality this biography can be read as a chronicle of the social and political changes in the second half of the 20th century, not only in the USA but also in its environment of planetary influence. Zappa was a filter of his reality, therefore the book is very intelligently articulated giving the keys to understand the why of Zappa’s answers. It is not a hagiographic anecdote for fans … yes, there is also the juice of a very busy life but, finally, perfectly annotated and accredited with investigative fury; what this book does is a credible legend of the intellectual motives of someone who can only be defined as a tireless genius.

De la Fuente places Zappa’s work in a deserved place (and that the musician himself would have liked): as a classical composer who, far from succumbing to a life of barely covered basic needs, knew how to manage the market and maintain at the same time sufficient dignity to never deliver a bad product or get carried away by the strictly commercial; Zappa started with Varèse, Bartok, Stravinsky and the Vienna School and his popular success never made him leave those circles, although at the end of his life and with the dollars already settled he decided to turn to composition more abstractly. This biography shows a surprising Zappa for some who moves in the world of politics and commercial management, even with diplomatic audacity, and who curiously is radical in the liberal-economic (even anti-communist) but staunch defender of a non-intervening State that, however, guarantees equal conditions through universal access to a high-level education for all citizens and minimum rights that do not undermine individual dignity, secular of course and leaving any belief or opinion in the personal jurisdiction .

Beyond the topic of engaging the convinced of Zappa’s music for his reading, which is what these types of books usually do, it works the other way around: most likely someone who has not heard his music and gets an idea with this volume of what it was and the character, it is very likely that you will end up hearing the enormous amount of recorded work (which does not stop appearing) of this monster and, in addition, better understand the intricacies of the current situation on this planet (and The Simpson), because Zappa has already seen (and profuse quotes prove it) the fascist theocracy that has been trying to control us for decades. This is a history book that exposes Reaganism as a lasting knock, which today continues with other forms …

My sense of humor, my critical or analytical skills, my musical knowledge, my way of playing the guitar (and those scales that I half dreamed up with his solos), my concept of sexuality, my ideas about Art, my daydreams politicians and the way to confront an audience when I have to… would not be the same without Zappa. For me this book has been a nurturing pleasure that I must share with you; If you know the one from Baltimore, you will enjoy it as I do, if not: this work by Manuel De la Fuente is going to be canonical in Hispanic literature about him, run before you miss it or tell you about it.