Frank Zappa Eric Salzman - Essay

Eric Salzman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Frank Zappa, the Franz Liszt, Jonathan Swift, and Spike Jones of the pop avant-garde, is the standard bearer of whatever is left of that theatrical school of rock music which is at once commedia dell'arte zaniness, social critique, and high-class musicianship on a low-brow trip. Zappa has perfected a kind of rock-and-roll tone poem, with a surrealistic text scraped off the soft underbelly of American life—a dippy blues riff, some elaborate jazzy musical developments, and a rousing return to cap it off. (pp. 85, 87)

A good deal of [Roxy & Elsewhere] is taken up with funny business…. The meat of the album lies in the half-dozen tunes and a couple of good-sized instrumentals that travel the usual Zappa route from low-down to lunatic. A great deal is sometimes made out of Zappa's affinity for jazz, but I think the jazz influence on Zappa's music is fairly peripheral: his real source of inspiration is Hollywood-America, music and all. The best material here … is California-America bottom-side-up….

Everything is as tight, as mean, as lunatic, as precise as ever, and every bit of craziness is carefully in place. (p. 87)

Eric Salzman, "Popular Discs and Tapes: 'Roxy & Elsewhere'," in Stereo Review (copyright © 1975 by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company), Vol. 34, No. 3, March, 1975, pp. 85, 87.