Frank Zappa Lester Bangs - Essay

Lester Bangs

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

It may seem a quaint notion now, but there actually was a time when Frank Zappa was considered one of the prime geniuses of rock. Somehow it just didn't seem to matter all that much that those of his compositions which bore any relationship to rock 'n' roll form at all were either sarcastic exercises in calculated banality or self-indulgent parodies of Fifties group harmonies, and at the time we were still largely convinced that his perennial air of snot-mustached condescension was good for us….

[Those] early albums did contain some striking music and lyrics and were exceptionally well put-together, solid collages of satiric vitriol and Mad magazine scatology zappin' straight atacha with aim that was close enough to make the whole thing titillating….

[The] succession of albums beginning with Burnt Weenie Sandwich has been marked with a steady downward curve in quality, and with Fillmore East we have finally reached a real nadir of sorts. The sometime ribaldry of the early albums has finally been allowed to bloom like a Clearasil jackoff fantasy, resulting in two sides mostly filled with a lot of inanity about groupies and exotic fuck-props…. Most of this album was said much more convincingly and five times as concisely in "Motherly Love" way back in the censored Sixties. On the other hand, if your idea of a real daring rock 'n' roll lyric is "My dick is a dagger," then you just might find this album one of the, ah, shall we say squinkiest of the year. (p. 43)

Lester Bangs, "Records: 'Fillmore East'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1971; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 92, September 30, 1971, pp. 43-4.