Frank Zappa Lester Bangs - Essay

Lester Bangs

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Hot Rats] brings together a set of mostly little-known talents that whale the tar out of every other informal "jam" album released in rock and roll for the past two years. If Hot Rats is any indication of where Zappa is headed on his own, we are in for some fiendish rides indeed.

In the past both Zappa's high-flown "serious music" and his greasy Fifties routines grew heavy-handed, but this album suggests he may be off on a new and much more individual direction, inspired by Captain Beefheart, who is featured prominently on Hot Rats…. Beefheart is one of the true originals of our day, and his raffish dadaism is an excellent tonic for a Zappa too often pre-occupied with polemics—his influence shows clearly in much of this record, whether he's actually performing or not.

The new Zappa has dumped both his Frankensteinian classicism and his pachuko-rock. He's into the new jazz heavily, same as Beefheart, and applying all his technical savvy until the music sounds a far and purposely ragged cry from the self-indulgence of the current crop of young white John Coltranes. (p. 46)

If you're eager for a first taste of Beefheart or interested in the new approaches to instrumental style and improvisational technique being developed these days, this is as good a place to start as any…. (p. 48)

Lester Bangs, "Records: 'Hot Rats'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1970; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 53, March 7, 1970, pp. 46, 48.