Some good email comments from Steven Rubio re: Zappa, which he said I could use here.
…an interesting discussion might be had about Ruben and the Jets. [Zappa’s] love of doo wop oozes from the record, but he can’t help himself, he has to fuck with it, so the album works more as comedy than as doo wop. You could say he’s messing with our expectations, and that can be a good thing.
I’m not immune to him, or at least I wasn’t at one time. The first four Mothers albums got played a lot, although now that I think about it, I never owned any of them, it was always friends. But we showed how cool we were by referencing Suzy Creamcheese, and to this day, when I hear the word “rutabaga”, I burst into “Call Any Vegetable.” After Ruben and the Jets, though, I lost track of him (maybe I just changed friends). Not that there’s any real connection, but I like Beefheart much more than Zappa.
But my reaction to Zappa is entwined with my thoughts about his stance re: rock and roll. And the older I get, the more I appreciate that there is room for a multitude of stances.
Again, as with the Penman piece, a bunch of stuff in there to eventually, over time, try and unpack: the doo-wop-as-comedy angle; the idea of Zappa “[fucking] with it” (clearly the most [over?]used move in Zappa’s bag of tricks); the Beefheart connection, which btw I think is very real on several levels, including the critical one (for every rock critic who loves Beefheart there are 75 who loathe Zappa); finally, and perhaps most importantly, the idea of Zappa having a particular “stance re: rock and roll.” I think I know exactly what Steven’s talking about with that, and though I think it’s a hugely arguable point, I’ve long pegged it as the #1 reason why Frank Zappa is the most critically-despised rock musician of all-time (can you think of someone more universally reviled?).