Monday, June 18, 2012

Immortality and how to keep it.

I was thinking today about Frank Zappa. Most folks know I'm a big fan of his music. There's just something about the surrealistic feel of some of his numbers; the ideas he managed to convey through sound were simply amazing. If The Powers That Be were in tune with the real world, he would easily be one of the greatest composers of the 20th Century, and not just remembered by the mainstream for a couple of novelty songs in the late seventies and early eighties.

A friend of mine told me he had died back in December of 1993. It was so sudden to me, back in those days before the prevalence of the Internet. I don't think I've ever really come to terms with that bit of bad news, simply for that fact. But I continue to listen to his music almost every day. With one exception.

I have all of Frank's studio albums except one, and all the albums he intended to put out while he was living. In the grand scene of Frank's "Conceptual Continuity", I currently have everything he put out in which he made the listener part of that continuity. Bootlegs of concerts don't really count, as they were part of the conceptual continuity of the band and THAT particular audience. Unless Frank released them himself, they aren't his composition. I hope that's easier to understand than it is to explain.

The album I'm currently missing, "The Perfect Stranger" is one I've heard. But I still haven't played one album. "Thingfish" was one of Frank's pseudo-rock operas, much like "Joe's Garage" or "Billy the Mountain." I've read the lyrics and it is hilarious at times. But right now, I have no inclination to listen to it.

Why? Because once I listen to that final album, there's no more. The conceptual continuity that I'm in will be finished. My part as a receptor for this long-running piece of aural art will be over. And Frank will finally be dead for me.

Can you understand the idea I'm trying to relay here? I love pulp magazines from the thirties and forties, particularly Doc Savage. He was basically Batman-without-a-cape, for you youngsters in the crowd. I've been reading reprints of his books since I was about ten years old. There are 181 original stories featuring Doc. I'm only up to number 157. Why? Again, because when I finish them, there will be no more. Sure, some other writer will occasionally put out a short series of books (there's actually a new series out right now), but no matter who writes them, the feeling it rarely the same. I've had the whole series on my Kindle for about four years now. I read a Doc Savage novel, and then read about ten or fifteen other books before going to the next.  I think that for as long as there is still another adventure to read, I'll be as ageless as Doc and his men. "An indubitably ludicrous apprehension" as Doc's wordy assistant Johnny would probably say, though with much bigger words.

I think I grab onto these little things like many people do, to have some semblance of control over their lives. Things change far, far too quickly nowadays. People come and go. Just a little anchor can help keep a person sane, even if it seems completely meaningless to someone else. Everything has some meaning, some value to someone out there.


Edited by L. B. Clark

Here is a collection of excellent short stories, all with the theme of music running through them.

Reading this book to review it inspired this post, and all the proceeds go to the MusiCares Foundation, which helps musicians through hard times.