Maybe I’m limiting my audience with the references in the title, but I had a dream last night that this title might lead to something useful. I saw on a friend’s blog a video of one of Frank Zappa’s last interviews before his death, and it put me in the familiar state of missing Zappa and all the other really great musical figures who keep leaving this orbit on a yearly basis. Not to wax nostalgic or to rail against the crap parade that is so much popular music (of any time, including today), but I do miss people like Zappa being out there and speaking truth to power and/or idiocy (which are often packaged together). Anyhoo, in the interview, the woman from the Today Show gleefully asks the ailing Zappa if he’s heard that Tipper Gore has admitted to having played the drums in a band as a young woman. I fully expected Zappa to brush it off as silly PR, but he didn’t. He seemed genuinely (or at least politely) suprised and felt that such a tidbit of information gave him a different perspective on Mrs. Gore. He laughed, and acknowledged the Gores’ kind notice upon learning of his cancer. A really human moment, it seemed. Zappa said that he didn’t believe being remembered was important, that only the most conniving, self-interested public figures worked to secure a legacy, and that he truly didn’t care if he was remembered or not. Given his catalog, it’s a sure bet he knows he’s in little danger of obscurity for the next few hundred years, at least barring apocalypse. However, even in that grim circumstance, I can imagine a few dented souls wandering the roads with “Watermelon in Easter Hay” running through their heads. I guess the point of this rambling is this: that anyone who really needs music, whether playing it or listening to it, will ultimately find a way to have that feed them, regardless what side of the senate grilling table they find themselves on. As much as I am opposed to censorship, part of me still feels that, at the end of it all, the PMRC flap was just another pointless distraction from the real problems of the record industry: a disconnect from the idea that music can mature beyond the 15-25 year-old demographic and still be valuable as an art form and, most prominently, an emphasis on quantity over quality. Though I stand with Zappa’s position at the senate hearing, when it was all said and done, we ended up with the same boring music coming out of the same stupid radio.
At the end of his life, Zappa still made music, he loved making sounds and putting them out there to be heard. He demonstrated this in the Today interview by making burping sounds from his Synclavier; they came out like the sketch of a composition. I suspect that Mrs. Gore finds a love of music for herself as well. Maybe she’s out there in the garage woodshedding while Al tinkers with his Powerpoint. Who knows, but it seems that as the years go by and I notice more and more that the industry of music is perpetually circling the drain of irrelevancy that it’s been navigating for decades. At the same time, people who will make and listen to music do just those things, with relish and a healthy disregard for the cheap vanities of the industry. Shut up and play ‘yer guitar, indeed.