Interview with Larry King
King: The famed Frank Zappa has just written a new book: "The Real Frank Zappa Book", written with my friend Peter Occhiogrosso who wrote my book with me. There you see Frank's book "The Real Frank Zappa", it is published by Poseidon, it is an autobiography but really not as more of an entertainment as Frank waxes poetic on many things in a wide range of subjects. What do we mean by the title? is there a fake Frank Zappa?
Zappa: The title of the book is "The Real Frank Zappa Book". There are a number of, i would say, rather stupid exploitation type books that have been written about me by other people.
King: This is the real Frank Zappa book?
Zappa: Yes, because i wrote it. It is the only one out there that i wrote.
King: Okay Frank, is it a... is there any... is it a history? Do you tell us about birth, do you give us highlight points of life, school events etc.?
Zappa: No, it’s got you know, certain amount of nostalgic stuff that was prerequisite for doing the book, but the agreement that i had with the publisher was, (coughs) excuse me, that i would be able to, instead of just doing an ordinary autobiography type thing, put some portions of the book to be assays about topics that interest me. So it’s about fifty-fifty.
King: Do you think the kind of person you are, very opinionated person, does that command to your writing?
Zappa: Ooh yes.
King: Someone with a good ear would know that this is an angry man?
Zappa: No, I think that most people, the response to the book, found it to be very funny.
King: Do you think you're funny?
Zappa: Well i think i can be funny...
King: Because your image is one more of a..of a..a person who is pounding his fists saying "that’s wrong".
Zappa: Well, in today’s world of situational efforts if you pound your fist and say "it’s wrong", that could be funny.
King: Okay, let’s discuss some other things, one: the new issue of ‘billboard magazine' says that “The United States Congress has been privately advised as long as two years ago by its legal council that it has the constitutional right to regulate explicit sound recording lyrics and to restrict minors’ access to them”. Wanna comment?
Zappa: I mean, it is unfortunate.
King: That’s your only comment?
Zappa: That’s my only comment. It is unfortunate.
King: Unfortunate that the legal council feels that way?
Zappa: Unfortunate that people are making such a big deal about lyrics on records.
King: Well, elaborate for me. You think that’s not a big deal we should not be concerned about?
Zappa: We should not be concerned about it. I say this: if lyrics on records could produce the kinds of negative results that certain people claim they produce, then take this example: most of the records which are broadcasted on the radio are songs about love. Ninety-nine percent is about love. And all we hear on the radio is love. So if the lyrics were impressing our society what would we have here: Disneyland. But we don't.
King: So therefore the lyrics aren’t working?
Zappa: I don’t think that the argument that if you hear a lyric you’re gonna act out the lyric, holds much worth.
King: Is that still in the…, I mean, we haven’t heard from from typical much… that's still an issue? Do you expect that to come before congress again?
Zappa: In this country anything is possible.
King: Don’t you feel better about this administration than the prior one?
Zappa: Well, I try to give it the benefit of doubt. I didn’t vote for George Bush, but I would say, to be fair, you know you gotta let him develop and see what he’s going to do. I’m waiting, I’m waiting for some positive results from this administration but basically what I see is indecision, a mugwump syndrome where you’re sitting on a fence and trying not to really do anything because along with the deed comes the responsibility for the deed.
King: Okay, you are angry about televangelists too, are you not?
Zappa: Well, i don’t like them very much.
King: No. Alright. But you would not deny their right to purchase the time?
Zappa: No, i think they do have the right to purchase the time. What i do object is the fact that when a man purchases time on a television channel, and he is paying very good money for this time especially in some of the independent channels, in some cases an extremely high rate for this time, it gives him a certain amount of leverage to control the rest of the content on the channel. In other words, if i went to a broadcaster and said i wanna do a show on your channel, and Jimmy Swaggart for example was another person buying time on the channel, and he was paying a large amount of money for this time, he could in fact say "I don’t want to be on the same channel with this type of entertainment or that type of entertainment or I’m taking my show – which pays you a lot of money mr. Licenseholder- to another channel." So it gives him leverage to control the content of the rest of what’s on the air.
King: There. Economic threat?
Zappa: That’s right.
King: Okay. Some other things, we’ll take your calls by the way if you wanna talk to Frank Zappa, “The Real Frank Zappa Book” is out from Poseidon at 202-8987600. You named your kids ‘Moon Unit’, ‘Dweezil’, ‘Ahmet Rodan’ and ‘Diva’.
Zappa: Ahmet Emuukha Rodan.
King: Ameeka Rodan?
Zappa: Emuukha, e-m-u-u-k-h-a.
King: Okay. Why not Charles, Billy, Willy and Sarah?
Zappa: I didn’t feel like it.
King (laughs) Why do you not listen to the radio?
Zappa: Because I don’t find anything on it that’s interesting.
King: You find nothing on the radio that’s interesting?
Zappa: No. I like the news, if there is news radio and if I’m in a car I'll listen to news radio, but I don’t like the American entertainment radio.
King: You have not driven a car in twenty years?
Zappa: Yeah, my license expired in 1967.
King: Why Frank?
Zappa: Why did my license expire?
King: No no. Why Frank, don’t you drive?
Zappa: Because when it expired, I refused to ever in life stand in line of the department of motor vehicles in California again.
King (laughs) You mean based on the fact that it might take an hour or two of your time you’ve decided it’s better not to drive?
Zappa: How about four hours of my time?
King: Okay, foouur hours Frank.
Zappa: Foouur hours of my time and i refuuuse to be subjected to that ever again in life...
Zappa: ...and I’m not going anywhere, anyway, so I’m just gonna stay home and I only need to go from my house to the airport or from my house down to CNN every once in a while, why?
King (laughs): Okay Frank, let’s take some calls. “The Real Frank Zappa Book” is out from Poseidon. Ridgewood, New Jersey, hello!
Audience: Hi Larry, Hi Frank.
Audience: Frank, i just wanna know what prompted John Lennon joining you on stage at the Filmore in ’71 and secondly if there was a rock’n roll band in the great hereafter, what instrument is the ayatollah playing?
Zappa: Heh. It’s a type of flute.
Zappa: A type of flute. Yeah let's dwell on that for a moment.
King: What happened with the John Lennon thing?
Zappa: He was introduced to me that afternoon by a journalist and that was the first time I’ve met him and i, we were already recording at Filmore east that night and i invited him to come down and join us on stage. Just a simple invitation.
King: You’ve done over fifty albums. You’re interested in a wide range of music. Did you like The Beatles' music?
Zappa: Hmm a few songs. I have my favorites, but most of it i didn’t like.
King: Didn’t like?
King: How would you describe, to someone who’ve never heard it, the 'Zappa Sound'?
Zappa: Well, I do a lot of different kinds of music, ranging from orchestral music to big band music to fuzz tone music...
King: There is no Zappa sound then?
Zappa: There are many Zappa sounds and you could specialize in one, if you wanna listen to only guitar type stuff i could give you a list of albums that have that, if you like orchestral music that’s another list, so that’s a variety.
King: You always have –is it fair to call it - a large cultish following?
Zappa: I would say that there has been a cultist following, whether or not it is large i can’t prove.
King: Philadelphia for Frank Zappa, hello!
Audience: Is your stance against drugs that is obviously that way, was that from personal experience back in the old ruben and jets (?) days or were you smart enough then to know that they were a bad thing?
Zappa: No, I was smart enough then to know and I’ve been saying the same thing for over twenty years.
King: Which is?
Zappa: Stay away from drugs.
King: Do you favour they are remaining illegal?
Zappa: No i do not.
King: So you’d make them legal but urge people not to use them?
Zappa: That's right.
King: As you would tobacco and liquor?
Zappa: That’s right.
King: Our guest is Frank Zappa. the book “The Real Frank Zappa Book” is published by Poseidon, you’re watching Larry King Live and we'll take more phone calls for Frank.
Audience: Make it more interesting!
Zappa: I wish i could but unfortunately i don’t have access to the media.
King: What do you mean?
Zappa: Because in order to make music more interesting you have to have your musical product placed in the marketplace where music is consumed, that means radio and musical video shows that play that sort of thing and i think that basically this is a medium in which one must pay to enter.
King: So in other words, the fact that you have what you perceive as pure talent doesn’t mean that you get an audience?
Zappa: No, you won’t get an audience unless you are cooperating with the system which i think is...
Zappa: That would be a nice way to say it.
King: Okay. we go to Long Island, New York with Frank Zappa, hello!
Audience: Hi Frank.
Audience: Frank, your music in the earliest 70’s was considered outrageous, in fact the lyrics were – in my opinion- incoherent and unacceptable to the times. I’d like to know how you developed your lyrics?
Zappa: I write songs about whatever happens to pop into my head. The last album and in fact the cd version of this album “Broadway The Hard Way” has just come out and most of the lyrics on that album had to do with the 1988 political campaign and just whatever was happening at the time that i write the song.
King: What period is he ref... in the earliest 70’s... was that a particular period of memory do you, Frank, find the lyrics incoherent?
Zappa: I have no idea what he is talking about?
King: Okay, we go to, where?, Caro, Michigan. hello!
Audience: Hello Larry and Frank. I have two comments and a question. My first comment is that i like to thank Frank for fighting the PMRC with all his heart, my second is that i think your musical version of Stairway To Heaven is beautiful.
Zappa: Hehe, thank you.
Audience: You’re welcome. And my question is, are there any college or underground bands that you really think are better than most of the crap that’s on the radio?
Zappa: I'm sure there are hundreds maybe even thousands of them out there, unfortunately they won’t get a chance to record.
King: Can you give me an example of a major group or individual who’s played on the radio who you think is terrible?
Zappa: I wouldn't.
King: You wouldn’t name someone?
Zappa: No I wouldn't, because first of all I believe people have the right to consume any kind of music they like to hear, regardless of whether or not I enjoy it.
King: But generally you think what you hear on the radio is terrible?
Zappa: I think basically it’s a product. And the reason why it is being manufactured is basically just to make money and it seems to me they have very little to do with the basic reasons for making music in the first place.
King: Okay, Frank, thanks for being with us and hey I don’t know how to say this, but we’ll see you tomorrow night on the radio show.
Zappa: (disgusted tone and manner) Ooo-kay.
King: (laughs) A program Frank has never heard. Frank Zappa, author of “The Real Frank Zappa Book” published by Poseidon Press.