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Frank Zappa

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Frank Vincent Zappa
Biography: 

Frank Vincent Zappa was an American guitarist, composer, record producer and film director born in Baltimore, Maryland, on December 21, 1940. Zappa joined his first band, ‘The Ramblers,’ at Mission Bay High School in San Diego. Zappa worked for a short period in advertising.

His break in the commercial world was brief, but gave him valuable insights into how it works. Throughout his career, he took a keen interest in the visual presentation of his work, designing some of his album covers and directing his own films and videos. Zappa was involved in a band called; ‘The Mothers of Invention’ at the early stage of his career.

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The Mothers of Invention recorded the groundbreaking double album ‘Freak Out!’ (1966) with a live studio orchestra. It mixed R&B, doo-wop and experimental sound collages that captured the "freak" subculture of Los Angeles at that time. The album immediately established Zappa as a radical new voice in rock music, providing an antidote to, as Zappa called it, "The relentless consumer culture of America.”

Towards the end of the 1970s, Zappa launched his solo career into full swing with the albums ‘Sheik Yerbouti,’ which contained the Grammy-nominated single "Dancin' Fool", which reached #45 on the Billboard charts, and his more renowned album, ‘Joe’s Garage,’ which contained one of Zappa’s most recognized guitar pieces, ‘Watermelon in Easter Hay'. In 1981, Zappa focused on his image as a instrumental guitar soloist with albums such as, ‘Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar,’ ‘Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar Some More’ and ‘The Return of Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar.’ Most of Zappa's projects came to a halt in 1990, when he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. The disease had been developing unnoticed for ten years and was considered inoperable. 

Zappa’s last musical project included his love for classical music and orchestration in the world-acclaimed Frankfurt Festival in 1992 with composers such as John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen. It would become his last professional public appearance, as the cancer was spreading to such an extent that he was in too much pain to enjoy an event that he otherwise found elating. Frank Zappa died on Saturday, December 4th 1993 and on December 6th; his family publicly announced that Frank Zappa had left for his final tour just before 6:00pm on Saturday (the day after his funeral).

Mathew Jones

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This information is provided as a brief overview and not as a definitive guide, there are other sources on the net for that. If however you have a story or information that is not generally known we would love to hear from you. Content@rokpool.com

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Don Vliet
Biography: 

Captain Beefheart, born Don Vliet in 1941, is often labeled one of modern music’s true innovators, having a true impact across punk, new wave and post-rock genres.

In his teens, Vilet and his family moved to the Mojave Desert, where the teen was befriended by a young Frank Zappa. In time, Vliet taught himself saxophone and harmonica, and joined a pair of local R&B groups, the Omens and the Blackouts.

After a semester at college, he and Zappa moved to California, where they planned to shoot a film, ‘Captain Beefheart Meets the Grunt People’. As the project remained in limbo, Zappa finally moved to Los Angeles, where he founded the Mothers of Invention, whilst Vliet later returned to his native Mojave area, adopted the Beefheart name and formed the first lineup of his backing group the Magic Band with guitarists Alex St. Clair and Doug Moon, bassist Jerry Handley and drummer Paul Blakely in 1964.

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In their original incarnation, the Magic Band were a blues-rock outfit who quickly signed to A&M Records, where the success of the single ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’ earned them the opportunity to record a full-length album. Comprised of Van Vliet compositions like ‘Frying Pan’, ‘Electricity’ and ‘Zig Zag Wanderer’, the rejected the completed record as "too negative," and a crushed Beefheart went into seclusion. After replacing Moon and Blakely with guitarist Antennae Jimmy Semens and drummer John "Drumbo" French, the group (fleshed out by guitarist Ry Cooder) recut the songs in 1967 as ‘Safe as Milk’.

After producer Bob Krasnow radically remixed 1968's ‘Strictly Personal’ without Beefheart's approval, he again retired. At the same time, however, Zappa formed his own label, Straight Records, and he soon approached Van Vliet with the promise of complete creative control; a deal was struck and after writing 28 songs in a nine-hour frenzy, to record the seminal 1969 double album ‘Trout Mask Replica’.

Following 1970s similarly outre ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’, Beefheart adopted an almost commercial sound for the 1972 releases ‘The Spotlight Kid’ and ‘Clear Spot’. Shortly thereafter, the Magic Band broke off to form Mallard, and Beefheart was dropped by his label. After a two-year layoff, he released a pair of pop-blues albums, ‘Unconditionally Guaranteed’ and ‘Bluejeans and Moonbeams’, with a new, short-lived Magic Band.

In 1982 Van Vliet again retired from music, this time for good. He returned to the desert, took up residence in a trailer and focused on painting. In 1985, he mounted the first major exhibit of his work, done in an abstract, primitive style reminiscent of Francis Bacon. Like his music, his art won wide acclaim, and some of his paintings sold for as much as $25,000. In the 1990s Van Vliet dropped completely from sight when he fell prey to multiple sclerosis.

Carly Page

This information is provided as a brief overview and not as a definitive guide, there are other sources on the net for that. If however you have a story or information that is not generally known we would love to hear from you. Content@rokpool.com.

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