Music

Rock Legend Frank Zappa Battles Censorship, Communism, and Conformity in a New Documentary

Alex Winter's new film celebrates the Rock Hall of Famer's individualism, anti-authoritarianism, and entrepreneurship.

|

HD Download

Before his death from prostate cancer in 1993, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Frank Zappa spent time in jail for making an obscene recording requested by undercover cops, released 60 records in every genre imaginable, became one of the first modern musical artists to start his own company, testified before Congress that labeling music due to lyrical content was an attack on free speech, and inspired Vaclav Havel and others fighting Czechoslovakia's repressive communist regime. He packed a hell of a lot into 52 years, and made a lot of waves and enemies along the way.

Zappa is the subject of an eponymous new documentary by Alex Winter, whose previous films include Downloaded (a study of Napster and unauthorized file sharing), Deep Web (a look at Ross Ulbricht and the Silk Road), and Trust Machine (an exploration of how blockchain technology decentralizes power; go here for a Reason interview with him about that film).

"Zappa," says Winter, who is also well-known for his acting in the Bill & Ted series and other films, "matters because he was an extremely talented and composer but also because…he was very anti-authoritarian, very anti-fascist, very pro–citizens' rights. He also saw the tech revolution coming. In all of these extremely interesting ways, Zappa was ahead of the curve." Although his politics, like his music, defy easy (or any, really) categorization, Winter says that Zappa's overriding beliefs in free speech, individualism, and entrepreneurship carried strong libertarian connotations.

Narrated by Nick Gillespie; edited by Meredith Bragg.

Photo Credits: SONY PICTURES CLASSICS / Album/Newscom; Album / Francesc Fàbregas/Newscom; Philippe Gras/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Keystone Press Agency/ZUMA Press/Newscom; SONY PICTURES CLASSICS / Album/Newscom; Philippe Gras / Le Pictorium/Newscom; Rowntree, Bill/Mirrorpix/Newscom; KEYSTONE Pictures USA/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Alain Dister/DAPR/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Tschiponnique Skupin/ZUMApress/Newscom; Pamela Price/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Mirrorpix/Newscom

NEXT: Should the Federal Government Assume a Larger Role in Managing the Economy? A Soho Forum Debate

HD Download Music Counterculture Culture Cold War Entrepreneurship Innovation Censorship Individualism Hippies Drugs

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

Please to post comments

57 responses to “Rock Legend Frank Zappa Battles Censorship, Communism, and Conformity in a New Documentary

  1. Whoa, dude, an excellent trip in the time machine!

    1. Easy and easy job on-line from home. begin obtaining paid weekly quite $4k by simply doing this simple home job. I actually have created $4823 last week from this simple job. Its a simple and easy job to try to to and its earnings ar far better than regular workplace job. everyone will currently get additional greenbacks on-line by simply open this link and follow directions to urge started.

      ========= Click here

      1. Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than GBC regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
        on this page……..MORE READ

      2. I get paid 95 $ each hour for work at home on my PC. I never thought I’d have the option to do it however my EFgy old buddy is gaining 65k$/month to month by carrying out this responsibility and she gave me how.

        Give it a shot on following website……Visit……….Home Profit System

    2. Easy and easy job on-line from home. begin obtaining paid weekly quite 2000 DOLLARS by simply doing this simple home job. I actually have created $4823 last week from this simple job. Thanks A lot Here……USA TOP JOB.

    3. [ PART TIME JOB FOR USA ] Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple works from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better thanVFE regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
      on this page…. Visit Here

    4. [ PART TIME JOB FOR USA ] Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple works from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simpleDFR job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
      on this page…. Visit Here

  2. Meanwhile, Reason gives us Cosmik Debris.

    1. I am now making extra $19k or more every month from home by doing very simple and easy job online from home. I have received exactly $20845 last month from this home job. Join now this job and start making extra cash onlineFik by follow instruction on the given website……… Visit Here

    2. Real online home based work to make more than $14k. Last month i have made $15738 from this home job. Very simple and easy to do and earnings RTGbnj from this are just awesome for details. For more detail visit the given link……….Visit……….Home Profit System

    3. I figure the odds are 50/50….

      1. I get paid 95 $ each hour for work at home on my PC. I never thought I’d have the option to do it however WJD my old buddy is gaining 65k$/month to month by carrying out this responsibility and she gave me how.

        Give it a shot on following website……..READ MORE

  3. I am making a good MONEY (500$ to 700$ / hr )online on my Ipad .Last month my pay check of nearly 30k$.This online work is like draw straight-arrow and earn money.Do not go to office.I do not claim to be others,I just work.You will call yourself after doing this JOB,It’s a REAL job. Click here for more info.

  4. Yeah sure, but did Zappa vote for Trump? That’s the crucial information we need to know he’s one of the good guys are an eebil soshulist.

    1. You’re not going to get over being exposed as a dickless little bitch, are you

      1. Trump reply guys are the hardest hit by his exit from the White House.

        Watching them desperately maneuver to work Trump into every conversation is amusing.

        1. ?????PART TIME JOBS FOR US RESIDENTS??????
          I quit working at shop rite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online!
          My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… QSr after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

          Here’s what I do…….. Visit………..USA ONLINE JOBS

    2. Yeah sure, but did Zappa vote for Trump?

      He died in 1993, so no, he voted for Biden. Several times.

    3. I wonder what he would think of politics now. Probably nothing good. In the 80s he was really down on Republicans and Reagan. But back then they were still big on censorship of “obscenity” rather broadly defined, which was his big issue.
      I don’t think Zappa was any kind of doctrinaire liberatarian, but he certainly had no time for people telling him what to do and was very much an individualist and an excellent proponent of free speech.

      1. But all sorts of former free speech warriors from the Seventies are now sticking their rears in the air and pleading for a little vaseline, so who knows.

        I personally suspect Zappa was more interested in getting his jollies from popping monocles, than in actual free speech.

        1. He was pretty much the opposite of a virtue signaller, though and the last person who would go along to get along. I expect he would have remained consistent on speech and censorship and have a lot to say on the insanity going on now. I guess we’ll never know.

          1. “Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.” – Frank Zappa

        2. The left has clearly shifted into Handmaid’s Tale territory, but no one sees it. Public flogging and ruining lives for the greater good.

      2. Zappa would get cancelled hard nowadays. Appropriation of the indigenous? Mocking the legacy of civil rights movement? Oh, hell no – and that’s just one album!

        1. I think he’d have a good shot at being uncancellable, though. Some people seem to be more or less immune. Like South Park. Or Joe Rogan. His whole career was him working hard and making his own thing so no one could tell him what he could or couldn’t put on his records.

        2. Cancelled from what? He really didn’t give a shit about popularity. He was asked about the radio success of Valley Girl, he said something to the effect of songs come on the radio, and songs go off the radio.

          Zappa would hate the left because he hated people who would force their morality onto others.

      3. Great comment. I highly recommend the Zappa documentary, if you haven’t seen it (and are interested.) After watching it, I had the same question: What would Zappa think about what’s happening now? What would Hunter S. Thompson think?

        Given Zappa’s stance on PMRC censorship in the mid-80s and his philosophy as a musician, composer, and artist, I’d wager that he would have a difficult time accepting “cancel” culture and the types of censorship that we’re currently experiencing.

        Regarding the political climate, as bad as he may have thought American politics had devolved from Nixon to Carter to Reagan, I doubt that he would be taking sides. America in 2021 would probably be unrecognizable to 1993 Frank Zappa.

    4. Brandybuck you are an embarrassing asshole.

    5. Frank is dead. He was a staunch democrat who was beginning to see the light. What was Trump running for prior to 1993?

  5. And Dinah Mo Hum, her sister, the Illinois Enema Bandit, and the Fur Trapper were libertarian than anyone at Reason.

    1. So was Lucille, but she messed my mind up. And let’s not forget Carmelita Scarfoni and Toni Carboni.

      1. Don’t forget Mary. On the bus!

  6. Flakes (by Frank Zappa in 1979)

    Flakes, flakes
    Flakes, flakes
    They don’t do no good
    They never be workin’ when they oughta should
    They waste your time
    They’re wastin’ mine
    California’s got the most of them
    Boy, they got a host of them
    Swear to God they got the most
    At every business on the coast, yeah
    Swear to god they got the most
    At every business on the coast
    They got the flakes
    Flakes, flakes
    They can’t fix your brakes
    You ask ’em, “where’s my motor?”
    “Well, it was eaten by snakes”
    You can stab and shoot and spit
    But they won’t be fixin’ it
    They’re lyin’ and lazy
    They can be drivin’ you crazy
    Swear to god they got the most
    At every business on the coast, yeah
    Swear to god they got the most
    At every business on the coast
    Take it away, Bob
    I asked as nice as I could
    If my job would
    Somehow be finished by Friday
    Well, the whole damn weekend came and went, Frankie
    Wanna buy some mandies, Bob?
    You know what, they didn’t do nothin’
    But they charged me double for Sunday
    Now, you know, no matter what you do
    They gonna cheat and rob you
    And then they’ll give you a bill
    That’ll get your senses reelin’
    And if you do not pay
    They got computer collectors
    That’ll get you so crazy
    ‘Til your head’ll go through the ceilin’
    Yes it will
    I’m a moron and this is my wife
    She’s frosting a cake with a paper knife
    All what we got here’s American made
    It’s a little bit cheesy, but it’s nicely displayed
    Well, we don’t get excited when it crumbles ‘n breaks
    We just get on the phone and call up some Flakes
    They rush on over and wreck it some more
    And we are so dumb, they’re linin’ up at our door
    Well, my toilet went crazy yesterday afternoon
    The plumber he says, “never flush a tampoon”
    This great information cost me half a week’s pay
    And the toilet blew up later on the next day, ay, ay
    Yay, yay, yay
    Yay, yay, yay
    Yay, yay, yay
    Blew up the next day
    Woo
    One, two, three, four
    Ooh, ooh, ooh
    Flakes, flakes
    Ooh, ooh, ooh
    Flakes, flakes
    Ooh, ooh, ooh
    Flakes, flakes
    Ooh, ooh, ooh
    One, two, three, four (flakes)
    Ah, ah, ah, ah (bow, dow, dow, dow)
    Ah, ah, ah, ah (bow, dow, dow, dow)
    Ah, ah, ah, ah (bow, dow, dow, dow)
    Ah, ah, ah, ah
    We are millions and millions
    We’re coming to get you
    We’re protected by unions
    So don’t let it upset you
    Can’t escape the conclusion
    It’s probably God’s will
    That civilization
    Will grind to a standstill
    And we are the people
    Who will make it all happen
    While your children is sleepin’
    Your puppy is crappin’
    You might call us flakes
    Or something else you might coin us
    We know you’re so greedy
    That you’ll probably join us
    We’re coming to get you, we’re coming to get you
    We’re coming to get you, we’re coming to get you
    We’re coming to get you, we’re coming to get you
    We’re coming to get you, we’re coming to get you

    1. Forgot how off the hook the Ike-ettes are in that, off to Amazon now for Over-Nite Sensation

      1. It sounds like he had Nixon doing backing vocals on thatcnumber! 🙂

  7. ‘Trouble Every Day’ is as relevant now, or more so than ever. One of his few tracks without satirical elements. Talks about the fucked up nature of news media and racial rioting in America. Zappa nails it. From the Mothers’ first record in ’66.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFNkacckLBU

    Well, I seen the fires burnin’
    And the local people turnin’
    On the merchants and the shops
    Who used to sell their brooms and mops
    And every other household item
    Watched a mob just turn and bite ’em
    And they say it served ’em right
    Because a few of them are white
    And it’s the same across the nation
    Black and white discrimination
    Yellin’ “You can’t understand me!”
    ‘N all that other jazz they hand me
    In the papers and TV
    And all that mass stupidity
    That seems to grow more every day
    Each time you hear some nitwit say
    He wants to go and do you in
    Cause the color of your skin
    Just don’t appeal to him
    (No matter if it’s black or white)
    Because he’s out for blood tonight

    1. Both timely to his time and timeless in our time! The music accompanying the lyrics is very reminiscent of Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf, especially the song “Spoonful”, that musical condemnation of “zero-sum” economics.

  8. Good to know.

    The documentary about Thomas Sowell that was released today on youtube, prime and vimeo also deserves attention here, I think.

    1. For anyone interested:

      https://www.sowellfilm.com/

      “Thomas Sowell: Common Sense in a Senseless World, A Personal Exploration by Jason Riley”

      1. Wow! Definitely something to pre-empt the streaming binge to watch!

        I just hope this isn’t a “very special” Thomas Sowell documentary, although he is certainly of a ripe old age. If anyone needs suspended animation or neurons uploaded to permanent storage it is Thomas Sowell!

        1. I interruped a binge sesh of Monty Python’s Flying Circus to watch this documentary last night and it was fantastic! I played catch-up and learned a lot I didn’t know about this great man! For instance, I did not know he was a Marine and that he is a pal of Steven Pinker. He also wrote several books I didn’t know about that I have to add to my reading list. Well worth watching!

          1. Correction: Thomas Sowell is a Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine!

  9. A 70’s dope smoking, anti-war, radical hippie thinks the current Democrats are the problem. That should tell you something.

    1. Dope smoking? Hippie? Frank Zappa? No, not even close.

    2. Zappa NEVER used drugs. And didn’t want musicians who did to excess, because his music was too complex to play if you were messed up.

      1. Only a couple of quarts of beer so the intonations do not offend the ear.

  10. nesI’am made $84, 8254 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. Im using an online busis opportunity I heard about and I’AM made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I do,.for more information simply open this link thank you ……. USA ONLINE JOBS

  11. Zappa was not at the cutting edge. He was the cutting edge.

    He played with many fantastic musicians. I like drums. Here is the band doing a cover of whipping post. Frank as always takes it to another level. The nerdy glasses wearing guy behind the drum kit is Chad Wackerman.

    https://youtu.be/Mu32TgPeXM8

    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35HoabXm41E

      Stairway to Heaven with the horn section doing the guitar solo.

  12. Every_one says more and more but i asked..READ MORE

  13. Real online home based work to make more than $14k. Last month i have made $15738 from this home job. Very simple and easy to do and earnings FTRyuv from this are just awesome for details. For more detail visit the given link……….Visit……….Home Profit System

  14. AWS Course in Chennai is the best option to build knowledge on cloud computing from AWS.read more