The Godfather of Experimental and Eclectic Rock has to be the legendary musician Frank Zappa. Born in Baltimore on December 21st 1940, Frank was heavily influenced by avant-garde composers, R&B and doo-wop groups and modern jazz. He frequently lampooned musical fads like psychedelia, rock opera and disco. TV also had a very strong influence on his music, with numerous quotes and references popping up during his career.
In the early 1960’s Zappa attempted to make a living as a musician and composer playing a variety of nightclubs in Los Angeles, before making his two first professional recordings for low budget film scores. In 1964, Frank started to experiment with overdubbing and audio tape manipulation, often spending over 12 hours a day ‘playing around’ (which heavily influenced his future work).
His debut album Freak Out, released in 1964, was only the second rock double album ever released. Mixing together a combination of R&B, doo-wop and experimental sound collages, Zappa was able to capture the sound of the ‘freak’ subculture of LA during that time. Freak Out established Zappa as a radical new voice within the rock world, and was seen as the ‘antidote to the relentless consumer culture of America’.
From June 1964 till October 1993, Zappa released a total of 62 albums, with a mixture of studio, live, rock and classical albums. Following his death from prostate cancer in 1993 there was even a total of 37 albums released posthumously.
During the course of his life Zappa was not only a notable musician, but also a political activist (always encouraging his fans to vote), fought censorship constraints against the PMRC and influenced a huge number of bands including The Beatles, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Aside from the accolades and the musical achievements, Frank Zappa has one of the greatest moustaches in rock music history (alongside Freddie’s). His signature soup strainer still impresses by today’s standards. Check out some Frank’s greatest performances below.