by Barry Miles
The definitive biography of religion-baiting, Republican-hating, chain-smoking, coffee-addicted, self-taught guitar virtuoso Frank Zappa
"I really, really admire [Zappa]. He's at least trying to do something different with the form. It's incredible how he has his band as tight as a real orchestra. I'm very impressed by the kind of discipline he can bring to rock that nobody else can seem to bring to it."
"Probably one of the straightest men I've ever met." --Ringo Starr
"Zappa was my Elvis."
--Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons
"Frank Zappa was high up there in rock heaven. . . . Whenever I think I want to escape I think of him."
--Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic
John Lennon had just moved to New York and was being shown the sights by Village Voice columnist and broadcaster Howard Smith. When Smith said he was going to interview Zappa, Lennon said: 'Wow, I always wanted to meet him. I really, really admire him.' Smith was puzzled and asked why. 'He's at least trying to do something different with the form,' said Lennon. 'It's incredible how he has his band as tight as a real orchestra. I'm very impressed by the kind of discipline he can bring to rock that nobody else can seem to bring to it.' Smith invited John to come along. 'I'd love to meet him,' said the ex-Beatle. They took John's silver Lincoln Continental to 1 Fifth, the hotel-apartment block on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 8th Street where rock bands often stayed.
Frank opened the door.
'I brought somebody along,' said Howard Smith.
'Oh hi, glad to meet you,' said Frank, absolutely deadpan.
The other Mothers, however, leapt up off their seats and rushed forwards to be introduced. Later that day, on Howard Smith's talk-show on WPLJ, John said: 'I don't know why I should have believed it, because I should know better, having had all that guff written about me, but I expected a sort of grubby maniac with naked women all over the place, you know -- sitting on the toilet. The first thing I said was, "Wow, you look so different. You look great!" And he said, "You look clean too" - he was expecting a couple of nude freaks.'
Howard told Albert Goldman that Lennon was very deferential to Frank: 'John acted like "I may be popular, but this is the real thing." Yoko acted like Frank Zappa had stolen everything he had ever done or even thought from her. Frank completely ignored her. When Howard suggested that John and Yoko might like to join Frank on stage that evening, it took Frank a moment or two realize this was a good idea.
The second show ran until the early hours. It was 2 a.m. on Sunday. Zappa had just completed a third encore and people were starting to leave their seats, when the stage lights went on again and an astonished audience realized who was on-stage. They stood on their seats and screamed while Frank scowled at them. John and Yoko were nervous wrecks and it took about a gram of cocaine to get them on stage. At first all went well as they ran through the Olympics' 1958 song 'Well (Baby Please Don't Go)' (the B-side of 'Western Movies'), which Lennon used to sing at the Cavern Club, though it was marred by Yoko's unrelated yowls. Her wailing also messed up 'King Kong', which Zappa quickly terminated. They fell into a simple blues jam over which Lennon, followed by Flo and Eddie, chanted the word 'Scumbag', while Yoko did her thing.