Frank Zappa's live shows, much like his studio albums, were regarded as much for their irreverent playfulness as their technical virtuosity: They were wildly unpredictable, genre-hopping musical sideshows that united freaks and misfits of all varieties. But on Dec. 10, 1971, that chaotic unpredictability turned ugly, when disgruntled fan Trevor Charles Howell pushed Zappa off the stage at London's Rainbow Theatre, inflicting multiple injuries upon the versatile guitarist and composer, ultimately leaving him bound to a wheelchair.
Frank Zappa was one of the most innovative and versatile rock musicians of his generation, creating a vast body of work that encompassed almost every genre of music -- but he wouldn't have wanted to hear it. The mercurial genius actively resisted those kinds of labels and effusive public praise, focusing instead on the work itself in a career that spanned more than three decades. He died on Dec. 4, 1993 at the age of 52 after a long battle with prostate cancer.
On Dec. 2, 1968, a mysterious group of pompadoured cartoon faces turned back the clock of music history to highlight the golden era of doo-wop with their self-referencing album ‘Cruising With Ruben & the Jets.’
If Frank Zappa was still alive, you can bet he'd be the last person who'd want to celebrate the anniversary of 'Studio Tan,' an album he didn't sanction, sequence, or even approve cover art for. He was caught in a legal battle with Warner Bros. Records and former manager Herb Cohen at the time. On top of that, none of the songs included on 'Studio Tan' were even recorded in 1978; most of the tracks allegedly date from sessions between 1974 and 1976, with a couple of cuts even going as far back as 1969.
One of the most confounding musicians ever to grace the rock genre, Frank Zappa had a penchant for taking what essentially amounted to full-blown avant garde compositions and arranging them for rock ensemble playing. His bizarre, conceptual live performances were an astonishing mix of exceptional musicianship, onstage theatrics and pop culture satire. On May 16, 1988 Zappa showcased some of the standout live tracks from various eras of his development by releasing a career-spanning double live album titled 'You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol 1.'
Frank Zappa is often regarded as one of the most brilliant, idiosyncratic musicians in rock music. But, looking back at his eclectic, monstrous body of work as a composer, guitarist, vocalist, and bandleader, Zappa really wasn't a "rock" musician. That fact is cemented on 'Lumpy Gravy,' Zappa's first official solo album, which was released 45 years ago today (May 13, 1968).