Frank Zappa Lester Bangs - Essay

Lester Bangs

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Frank Zappa is a genius. Right. Frank Zappa probably knows more about music than you and I and 3/4 of the other professional musicians in this country put together. Right. Frank Zappa has made an incredible contribution towards broadening the scope of the average American kid's listening habits. Absolutely. Frank Zappa has certain possibly dangerous Machiavellian, manipulative tendencies. Yeah, probably so, but so what? Frank Zappa is a snob who underestimates his audience. Hmmm. Think so, huh?…

The public may not be quite as ignorant or as debased in its tastes as Zappa possibly thinks, and I suspect a lot of them are going to be even more let down by Chunga's Revenge than they were by the last two albums. It doesn't have the long boring solos, but the grab-bag Weasels feeling remains.

After giving all credit where credit is due, we have to start asking some other questions. When Zappa dissolved the Mothers, he explained that they were going to "wait for the audience to catch up" with them. Whatever that meant at the time, it takes on increasing irony as the passing months bring new Zappa and old Mothers. Uncle Meat was a good album, but not nearly as involving as the three that preceded it.

Most of the albums released since then have been insubstantial, even allowing for the fact that something like Burnt Weenie Sandwich is something of a Mother's sampler….

Zappa can go on putting out dull records like these indefinitely and always find somebody who'll buy them, out of respect for his name if nothing else. And it is a name worthy of much respect. The original Mothers of Invention were a significant force in the music of our time. But these diddlings are not only insignificant, not only do they suggest that one genius is not at present working towards anything in particular, but they also smack of a rather cynical condescending attitude towards a public that may be getting ready to pass Zappa by.

Lester Bangs, "Records: 'Chunga's Revenge'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1970; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 73, December 24, 1970, p. 52.