The Real Frank Zappa Book

As Zappa explains in his introduction, this book is based on tape-recorded conversations with his coauthor, Peter Occhiogrosso, who edited the transcribed material and sent it back to Zappa for further editing. The result is a loosely organized, conversational, and often digressive narrative. Zappa moves quickly through his youth, offering vignettes more than facts. He experimented with explosives, was fascinated by drums, did not enjoy school, and was married when he was twenty. The stories become longer as Zappa reaches the beginnings of his life as a professional musician. He meets John Wayne, remarries in 1967--without mention of a divorce--is knocked off a stage (which results in his voice dropping an octave) and so on.

As Zappa reaches the midpoint of his book, he shifts to a more thematic approach. One reads about his court battles for freedom of expression (or defending his pornography, depending which point of view the reader shares), his considerable knowledge of music, and a host of other topics, including his father, Surgeon General Koop, marriage, religion, and his political philosophy. The final chapter is an update and review.

Zappa ends his book by thanking the reader for “the talk.” His prose is colloquial, and he makes frequent use of italics and bold print for emphasis. Vignettes bring him to ideas, which he sometimes defends, or songs, which he explicates. One comes to the understanding that Zappa is more concerned with the present than with how it came to be: He offers what is important to him at the moment. Perhaps Zappa’s next autobiography will be completely different.