I am not usually around during the week before / after Christmas, each year. This year, I am at home during the week before Christmas, so I can appropriately commemorate Mr. Zappa’s birthday this year.
My older sister Marilyn is responsible for starting me on the road to Zappa fandom. As she and my other sister, Susie, baby-sat me, they played me “Wowie Zowie” from “Freak Out”, the debut Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention album. I was given Zappa’s 2nd album “Absolutely Free” as a birthday present – I had asked for it – for my 9th birthday! I guess it became a ritual – I was being given Frank Zappa records for my young birthdays, for Christmas etc. In fact, I think I was probably given all of Zappa’s Verve label albums as ‘presents’!
The important fact is that I listened to them. While I might not have understood the adult nature of some of the humor, I could hear the humor anyway. This was before it was known as “attitude”. It all got in my head before the inspector therein applied too much scrutiny to my perception of rock music.
After my sisters left home, it was up to me to get my own Zappa albums. For a short while, I depended on my dad – I would mow the front lawn (or do the edging) and get an album as a reward. “Hot Rats”, “Uncle Meat”, “Burnt Weeny Sandwich” were all obtained in this process. By the time of the Flo & Eddie / FZ albums, I was definitely watching for each new Zappa release.
I started working in record stores in the summer of 1976 – so, I quickly got whatever I had missed – that I could find. In the years between actual childhood and starting work, I had managed to find a way to get to L.A. to look for records – to buy promotional copies of albums etc. – in addition to being a valuable desirable pressing variant – promo LP’s were usually a dollar or two cheaper than buying the LP “as new”!
And when one went to the nascent record collector swap meets in the parking lot of Capitol Records in Hollywood, or to The Country Club in Reseda…I bought Zappa posters, press kits, other odd promo materials (a mobile for “One Size Fits All” etc.)
My Verve 45’s came from the Capitol swap meet – probably the top price I paid for any of ‘em was $5 in mid-70’s money. There is, of course, wonderful non-LP Zappa music to be had in this way.
Visiting Europe at the end of the 70’s – I definitely started collecting the cover variants etc. And eventually, I find that I have the beginning of a nice (and massive) Frank Zappa collection. I live in L.A., so it was easy enough to deal with the Barking Pumpkin mail-order operation of the day – expensive boxed sets, videotapes etc.
So, thanks for the music, Mr. Zappa. I am still listening.