Frank Zappa Interview By Jane Pauley

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By Jane Pauley
The Today Show: June 7, 1989

Jane Pauley, The Today Show

Following is a transcript of a June 7th, 1989 interview with Frank Zappa by Jane Pauley on the Today Show.

Frank Zappa joins us this morning – an author. The title of the book: "The Real Frank Zappa Book," by Frank Zappa. You know ... can I make an observation that I'm kind of toying with, and I didn't know how to put it, but – it strikes me that you're aging well.
Why, thank you.

Yeah. You seem to be living a life that has many factors, though perhaps least of which is the fact that you used to be Frank Zappa of the Mothers of Invention.
Well, that seems to be a fact, yes.

Yeah, well, you can't help that, huh?

So here you are, you've written a book.

Now, the other thing I'm struggling with is, is the ... a question that sounds offensive, but ... do your fans read books?

If I hadn't known your answer was going to be that, I might've hesitated to ask the question. So why did you write the book?
Well, because I thought it was a, might be fun to do, but I was wondering while I was writing it, who does read books, whether it's my fans or anybody's fans?

You also have to have somebody to ... something to put in the pages. You have to have, shall we say, a ...

Well, yeah, there's, you know, there's stuff in there. I think there's ... there's some stuff in there.

I guess if you could sum it up, you wouldn't have bothered to put it in book form. But you are in real life now a social activist?

Commentator. A businessman?
For sure.

A parent.

Let's talk about the commentator part.

What ... how do you see yourself as a social commentator?
Because I have an opinion about whatever happens to pop up, and I'm not shy about expressing it. If somebody asks me a question, I'll say what I think.

You furthermore are on the bandwagon, shall we say. You registered 11,000 young people to vote?
Yeah. Seems like a waste of time, didn't it? I tried.

Well, why was it so important to you that they voted?
Well, I think that it's important for people to wake up to the fact that in the United States, politics has turned into something ... not nice. And you need to introduce to the political process new people who might take it seriously.

Okay, so that on the one hand strikes me as a little bit cynical, but on the other hand, a cynic doesn't necessarily believe in the process, which you must believe in, otherwise why would you encourage people to participate?
Well, there's not too many choices, so you have to consider the alternative. You either believe that politics could be fixed, and you could use the machinery of politics to bring about a constructive change, or constructive anything ...

Are ... to the degree that you will be remembered, and you probably will more than most, you will be remembered as Frank Zappa of the Mothers of Invention.
Yeah, the guy who had the picture taken sitting on the toilet.

Yes. Did you elevate the culture?
No. It wasn't my ...

Did you debase the culture?
No. I didn't have much involvement with the culture because I was never denied ... I was never allowed access to a major portion of the culture.

You are, as I said before, a, a businessman. If I was looking to do business with the Soviet Union, I'll admit Frank Zappa is not the first guy I'd think to call.
Well, you'd be making a mistake ...

How do you know so much?
... 'cause I could definitely help you out.

How so?
Because I was introduced to a bunch of very interesting people over there, who know an even more interesting batch of people over there, and they all want to do business with the West. And they've asked me to help them achieve certain things, and there are people in the United States who want to do business in the Soviet Union, and they've asked me could I help them out, introduce them or help their project.

You are also a, a, a, a parent, and by today's standards, you must have done OK in that your kids are not on drugs ...
They're not in jail.

... and are not in jail.
That's right. Not on drugs, not in jail. I did all right.

You did ... can you take ... claim credit for that, or were you just lucky, maybe?
No, 50 percent, because I think that ... maybe less, because my wife certainly had a large role in making the kids turn out great.

You'll acknowledge that people might find that surprising. We saw you standing on stage playing your guitar, and it's not your classic American example of Father Knows Best.
Let me point something out to you. I just came from a place called Spain. In this wonderful country, if you play a guitar, this is a good thing. People respect you because you play a guitar. In the United States, if you play guitar, you are treated as if you were a public enemy, as I have just been treated here.

Oh, wait a minute, on the other hand ...
Like playing guitar is bad.

... thousands of people were lining up to buy tickets to hear you play the guitar.
Yeah, but other people in the media would go, "Well, he plays a guitar, how can he be a good father, he's playing guitar?"

Yeah. Well, here you are.
Yeah. Here I am. I guess I'm going to be going pretty soon, too. (Everybody laughs) "Here you are and there you go!"

Well, we don't actually put it this way, we normally say "Thank you very much, and we'll be back after a message."