Frank Zappa's musical language

Frank Zappa's musical language

A study of the music of Frank Zappa

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This little section I wrote ten years ago because I got annoyed by the blindfoldedly copying of things on internet. It has become a bit outdated, because in printed publications since, the gas chambers interpretation from below doesn't return. This interpretation stems from Ben Watson. Personally I think it's an overinterpretation, but if someone finds it's all right then I don't mind. When you do take it over, I think it should be notated as a quote from Ben, rather than a fact. I find it heard to believe that if Ben hadn't included this interpretation in his books, someone else would have come to the exact same conclusion by himself. The following continues with the text as it was:
Let's look at the lyrics of "Wind up working in a gas station". The gas station is a place Zappa considered the location of utter boredom, only fit for persons with no education whatsoever. When asked once why his musicians would invest so much time into playing his music, he replied "What else would you expect them to do, work in a gas station?". This idea gets poetrically depicted in the opening song of "Zoot allures". It goes as:

This here song might offend you some
And if you think it does it's because you're dumb
That's the way it is where I come from
And if you think that too, let me see your thumb
Show me your thumb that you're really dumb
Hey now, better make a decision
Be a moron and keep your position
You gotta know now all your education
Or else let me know how you're gonna
Wind up working in a gas station
Pumping the gas every night
Zoot Allures album:
Many the camper wants to buy some bite (fish)
1976 tour:
Many the camper wants to buy some white

The first and last sentence are grammatically twisted to fit in into the rhythm of the song. The whole song is full of rhyming words (some, dumb, from, thumb etc.). I think it's pretty obvious that rhyme is the main reason for the choice of words. Especially the last sentence is a poetrical variant upon the previous one, it's probably the first thing you notice listening to the song.
In content, I personally think, this last sentence doesn't mean much. It's the ongoing process of camper users looking for something to buy in the station store and the words bite and white (white, colourless, gas for stoves) are merely chosen because they rhyme to night.
Ben's interpretation has a lot more in it:
- White can be associated with racism
- The sentence is pronounced with a German accent
- The German automobile producer Volkswagen is known for its campers
- The gas and the whole song therefore must be a reference to the nazi gas chambers
Some people started copying this is as if it is plain truth, instead of an interpretation, and copyright doesn't exist. You might also try to check things out:
- Is Zappa saying "white" on Zoot allures?
- How do Germans pronounce their word "weit"?
- Did Volkswagen produce campers or vans?
- Why would someone who wrote things as "ram it up your poop shoot" need such a cryptical way to refer to nazis?
- Why refer to nazis anyway in this context?

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