Zappa is often described as a brainiac and a cynic. One of the ways to undermine this ludicrous mediatic reputation is to tell the various stages of the artist’s life, in music.
It all began with a recording session from three teenagers: on vocals, Beefheart, the high school friend; on the solo guitar, eighteen-year-old Frank Vincent Zappa; and his brother Bobby on rhythm guitar (“Lost in A Whirlpool”). Zappa then left his job and his woman to settle in a studio deep in the desert: the Cucamonga Valley (“Tiger Roach”). He sometimes went up to Los Angeles to do commissioned work on B-movie soundtracks (“Run Home Slow Theme”), but these were lean years work wise!
Two years later, Zappa’s new band’s debut album was finally released: Freak Out! by The Mothers of Invention. Upon listening to the song “Who Are The Brain Police?”, famous producer Tom Wilson – who thought he had hired a blues band — immediately phoned his bosses to explain the situation... “The Mothers” feel comfortable with any register: be it a Stravinsky-inspired music piece (“The Dog Breath Variations”), sharp social criticism (“The Idiot Bastard Son”), jazz, or contemporary music / happenings (“Didja Get Any Onya?”). Yet, Zappa would disband the group with bitterness, after witnessing Duke Ellington beg for advance money from the management on tour.
His solo career started in a different vein, jazz-rock-oriented (“Peaches En Regalia”) followed by a carnival phase with Flo & Eddie singing their old hit (“Happy Together”). But the party would end abruptly when an Englishman threw Zappa off the stage from a great height. He almost died in the accident and remained in a wheelchair for several months. This, however, did not prevent him from recording with a large orchestra during his convalescence period (“For Calvin”).
A change of direction followed with Zappa’s new musical formation. The musician had never been seemed as fulfilled as during this period (“I'm The Slime”, “Sofa No. 1”). But the band eventually split up and Zappa got the blues (“The Torture Never Stops”). He returned in 1978 after various attempts at forming new bands (“Baby Snakes”), even though a certain nostalgia persisted (“Watermelon In Easter Hay”).
In the early ’80s, Zappa turned up the voltage and irreverent tours (“Easy Meat”, “Tinseltown Rebellion”). In 1984, he collaborated with Pierre Boulez (“Naval Aviation In Art?”). The following year, he went to war against a bill that aimed to censor music records – a tax on blank audiotapes. To do so, he isolated himself with just a synthesizer (“H.R. 2911”, “Night School”). 1988 became the year of the tragic tour: conflicts erupted within the band while Zappa, exhausted, was diagnosed with cancer (“Filthy Habits”).
Consumed by illness, Zappa recorded his very last guitar solo (“Roland's Big Event / Strat Vindaloo"). He cried backstage while listening to his music properly performed by Ensemble Modern (“Outrage at Valdez”) before he eventually published, by way of testament, one of the strangest, darkest and most shamanic music, translated as “God lies” (“Dio Fa”).