Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Gaga, Zappa and the Glorious West

I was going to make this post about Lady Gaga and how when I was a kid I travelled from Hong Kong to Ulan Bator through China during the Cultural Revolution (my dad was living in Mongolia at the time) and later I spent a lot of time in the Soviet Union and other Communist countries and as a result I realised that Communism was not just horrible and inefficient, but also colourless, dull, dreary, unexciting and completely lacking in frivolity (although this could partly be blamed on the people Communism chose to hang around with).

I was going to go on to say that a) it gives me a thrill to imagine that every time Lady Gaga yells out, ‘I’m a free bitch baby’ in Bad Romance, oppressive Islamist men have apoplexies all over the world and b) I think her music and performances are exactly the kind of top notch frivolity that epitomises freedom – a species of highly-skilled silliness that involves hard work and huge attention to detail and is very American and wonderful and probably epitomised by this .

And I was going to bolster my argument about Communism by quoting Frank Zappa on the subject. But then I looked up to check exactly what he said, (which was ‘Communism doesn't work because people like to own stuff’) and I realised he said so many brilliant things that it would be three hundred times as amusing just to copy them and make them into today’s post instead. So here they are:

“Stupidity is the basic building block of the universe.
Tobacco is my favorite vegetable.
There is no hell. There is only France.
Jazz is not dead; it just smells funny.
Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid.
It is always advisable to be a loser if you cannot become a winner.
A mind is like a parachute. It doesnt work if it's not open.
If we can't be free at least we can be cheap.
Sometimes you got to get sick before you can feel better.
You can't be a Real Country unless you have a BEER and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a BEER.
There will never be a nuclear war; there's too much real estate involved.
Consider for a moment any beauty in the name Ralph.
Why do you necessarily have to be wrong just because a few million people think you are?
Outdoors for me is walking from the car to the ticket desk at the airport
You drank beer, you played golf, you watched football - WE EVOLVED!
You have just destroyed one model XQJ-37 nuclear powered pansexual roto-plooker....and you're gonna have to pay for it.
Interviewer: "So Frank, you have long hair. Does that make you a woman?"
FZ: "You have a wooden leg. Does that make you a table?"
Without deviation from the norm, 'progress' is not possible.
Who are the brain police?
The people of your century no longer require the service of composers.
A composer is as useful to a person in a jogging suit as a dinosaur turd in the middle of his runway.
There are more love songs than anything else.
If songs could make you do something we'd all love one another.
Hey, you know something people? I'm not black, but there's a whole lots a times I wish I could say I'm not white.
Most people wouldn't know good music if it came up and bit them in the ass.
Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.
There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.
There are three things that smell of fish. One of them is fish. The other two are growing on you!
May your shit come to life and kiss you on the face.
Let's not be too rough on our own ignorance, it's what makes America great.
Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST.
Beauty is a pair of shoes that makes you wanna die.
The creation and destruction of harmonic and 'statistical' tensions is essential to the maintenance of compositional drama. Any composition (or improvisation) which remains consonant and 'regular' throughout is, for me, equivalent to watching a movie with only 'good guys' in it, or eating cottage cheese.
Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.
Everybody believes in something and everybody, by virtue of the fact that they believe in something, use that something to support their own existence.
I think it is good that books still exist, but they do make me sleepy.
In the fight between you and the world, back the world.
The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.
Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read.”

‘In the fight between you and the world, back the world’ is one I like particularly - but I have to admit that all this sudden exposure to Zappa has gone immediately to my head. All I can think of now is moving to Montana soon (I’m going to be a dental floss tycoon – at least that’s the plan.)

Not quite yet though. First there’s this clip to watch, featuring Zappa and Norman Gunston, another entirely frivolous character who wouldn’t have lasted 10 seconds under the Commies.


  1. I think you got close to establishing the meaning of life there. Which is usually very tricky.

  2. I know nothing about Zappa, apart from what he looked like, and that his kids have stupid names. Sounds like a cool guy though

  3. Aw, Gaw, you are kind - but I did have Zappa, Cagney, Bob Hope and the great Gaga to help me (plus I think we may still have the odd loose end to tie up).
    Alas poor Worm, what have you missed - but I hope at least you saw him in the Gunston clip at the end.

  4. "my dad was living in Mongolia at the time"

    Not a sentence you read very often and one that raises all sorts of questions.

  5. Of course, Mongolia is famous for its eponymous rolling clusterfeck. Westminster right now must take you right back, eh z?

  6. Recusant - after about 1963 (or so) I believe there were always several British students resident in Ulan Bator, sent over by Leeds University, which had a Mongolian programme (thanks to Montague Burton of Burton Tailoring, as I understand it,) so it's not that rare really.
    Gaw - It was a Soviet satellite then, pretty simple to work out who was in control. Now I know nothing. I saw Weeping Camel though, which is a terrific film.

  7. Montague Burton, eh? My ex-brother-in-law's grandfather. Gosh, that almost makes us related, zmkc. God knows what he had to do with Mongolia though being, as he was, a Latvian Jew.

  8. Recusant - Maybe he had an interest in the Mongolians because they were, like the Latvians, under the Soviet yoke.