After Zappalooza, fans share best Frank Zappa memories
On Sunday, September 19 was officially declared Frank Zappa day in Baltimore. City officials, fans, and family of the misanthropic rocker gathered at Southeast Anchor Branch Library for a day of celebration that included the unveiling of a bust, a Q&A with his widow, and a performance by cover band Zappa Plays Zappa.
In light of the events, we asked readers, some of whom have been fans since their teens, to write in their favorite memories:
"My first Zappa show was Halloween 1977 at the Palladium in New York City. Still one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen. "Baby Snakes" was being filmed. I was a fan before then but that blew me away I remained a big fan ever since. I remember the day he died. I was in North Carolina driving around listening to a talk radio show. The host talked about how when he came in that morning the people in his office were all upset. So this guy who knew nothing about Frank Zappa beyond "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" opened his lines to Zappa fans. By the end of the show the host was dumbstruck about Zappa's career, orchestral work and other accomplishments. He kept repeating "Why didn't anybody know about all this?" wrote Brad Winters
"First took a chance on a Mothers album when I was 15. Hated it. Revisited it about a year later and played "Absolutely Free" about 10 times in a row. Went out and bought both "Freak Out" and "Lumpy Gravy." Have been a fan ever since," wrote Bob Caldwell
"First saw Frank Zappa on the Steve Allen show when I was 13. Went out and bought the "Mothermania" album, the perfect introduction. It made me a lifelong fan. Zappa was my real introduction to the world of music, people like Eric Dolphy, Edgard Varese and many others that were new to me," wrote James Garner
"I saw him twice in Germany. I actually got him to sign a record at the Frankfurt gig, and it was a record that Reprise released without his permission. He was totally cool about signing it, although he did give me a little grief (I was only 17). I kind of lost interest in his non-early-Mothers music in the 80s (still play the early records from time to time), although I always respected his freedom of expression," wrote commenter Volker"My brother, me, and a couple other guys went down the Inner Harbor one Saturday night sometime in the early 80's before we were going out to Painters Mill to See Zappa in concert. While standing in line, Frank comes walking by me wearing a wild purple jacket, yellow pants and bright, ruby red, platform shoes. He was very cool about the whole thing and even made mention of us on stage the next night. It was a true highlight because my brother and I are huge Zappa fans," wrote Hank
"I first saw him at the Felt Forum in NYC on Hallloween night 1974. Every member of the band was a virtuoso and the music was mind-bogglingly complex, blending jazz, shimmering progressive rock, classical...and satirical humor!!! I saw the same band a week later at the Capitol Theater and their set and vibe was very different. Each Zappa concert I went to was a unique event with different songs, musicians, and themes.
"And he was a great guitarist, as influential as Santana and Hendrix and Clapton and others of that time. Dweezil has really taken it on to a new level. The Zappa Plays Zappa band really floored me at the celebration in Baltimore,"wrote Doug S.
For more coverage of Sunday's event, read reporter Chris Kaltenbach's front-page story.
Ed. note: comments have been edited for length and grammar.
Photo: MONICA LOPOSSAY, BALTIMORE SUN