Recently, when returning from one of my long musical escapades, I was driving home via Fillmore, listening to music (one of my favorite activities) on a long, dark stretch of highway.
The soundtrack was largely Frank Zappa and his often-counterpart-in-madness, Captain Beefheart. While listening to “Muffin Man” released on their dual album “Bongo Fury,” I had a recurring thought that always happens when hearing either one’s music. Why hasn’t my hometown done anything substantial to honor these two local heroes?
Now, there are a few reasons why this hasn’t happened. For one, I don’t think anyone really wants to honor any musical heroes, especially dirty rock n’ rollers, unless they can somehow make a buck in the process. For example, would you really go to Winslow, Arizona, if you couldn’t stand on a corner and see a little plaque that says, “Take It Easy?”
Another issue could be that the voting base of the Antelope Valley has been traditionally Conservative, however, Frank Zappa regularly spoke out against conservatives — from testifying against censorship at the infamous PMRC hearing in the 1980s, to being actively vocal against former President Ronald Reagan’s policies.
So I can see how, naturally, a proposal to honor these two peddlers of freaky music might not be taken as seriously as a proposal to honor someone like Chuck Yeager.
The other reason this hasn’t happened could be due to Zappa’s stance on his legacy. In an interview for the “Today Show” in 1993, shortly before his passing, he was asked how he would want to be remembered.
“It’s not important to even be remembered,” he said. “The people who worry about being remembered are guys like Reagan and Bush. These are guys that want to be remembered. And they’ll spend a lot of money and do a lot of work to make sure their remembrance is just terrific.”
Also, according to the LA Times in 2011, there was a proposal to name Antelope Valley High School after Zappa. He and Captain Beefheart both graduated from there.
However, the proposal was shot down (rumored to be because Zappa hated attending high school there).
On the one hand, I believe in respecting an artist’s wish in an instance like this. However, I think naming a building or getting a statue in their honor is a traditional way to celebrate someone. But Zappa was anything but traditional. To honor that beautiful absurdity with something as pedestrian as letters on stucco, would be a square thing to do.
For years, it has been in the hands of locals, to celebrate his music. Lou Allred, local Zappa enthusiast, collected about 450 pieces of Zappa memorabilia and hosted an annual jam at his place for many years. I had the good fortune to attend one of these, before Allred sold most of his collection.
With the upcoming hologram tour sanctioned by most of the Zappa family and with Frank’s son, Dweezil Zappa, touring and waving the flag for his father’s music, it’s clear that people still care about Frank Zappa and what he represented.
There must be a cool way we can honor his spirit in the Valley, in a non-traditional way. What better way to develop a culture than to include the spirit of two of the most unique musicians of all time, along with it?