An illustration. Last year, the girls and I went to a Project Object concert at the Variety Playhouse. Project Object, in case you have never heard of them, is a “tribute group” whose repertoire consists entirely of Frank Zappa’s music. But to call P.O. a “tribute group” does not begin to describe them, nor does it do them justice, as the term (also see “cover band”) implies a semi-skilled band that coasts along by playing (generally poor) versions of the songs they cover, “sorta” in the style of the original groups that made them popular. Not these boys, though. P.O. has several semi-permanent members (and occasional guests) who have actually played with FZ at one time or another. At the show we saw last year, for example, the lineup included Napoleon Murphy Brock, Ike Willis, and Don Preston... real honest-to-God FZ alumni of the first water... and except for the fact that FZ himself was missing, they did a remarkable job of recreating the sound and feel of the Zappa concerts of the 1970’s and 80’s. When Zappa died, I had thought that sound was lost forever, and here I was, listening to it again. The feeling of having been transported back in time literally brought tears to my eyes.
So here I am with my (then) 23- and 20-year-old daughters, listening to this amazing-yet-strange music and all of us enjoying it immensely. Elder Daughter decides to go get a beer during the break. While waiting in line at the bar, a fortyish bystander asks her what a person her age was doing at this concert - thinking, I guess, that nobody under the age of 30 would have even heard of Zappa or the Mothers. Elder Daughter responds, “Oh, I’ve been listening to this stuff all my life.” (Which is true.) Fortyish bystander then says, “God bless your parents!”
What other kids can join Dad in a rousing sing-along of “Florentine Pogen”?
OK, so exposing the kids to Zappa at an early age may have warped them a little. But there’s more.
Maybe it’s having read a lot of MAD magazine as a kid, but I have a habit of inventing silly lyrics to songs. This would probably be harmless, except for the fact that, growing up, the girls didn’t always know whether ol’ Dad was singing a real song or was making up some silly crap.
Here’s Elder Daughter, attending a performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Boston with a group of friends. And they’re all singing along:
Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ -
Who are you, what have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ, superstar -
Who in the hell do you think you are?
At this point all eyes swivel toward Elder Daughter.
“Hey, those aren’t the lyrics!”
And she responds, “Yes, they are! I learned them from... (growing realization that she has been duped)... my Dad! Aaarrrrgggh!”
Warped, I tell ya...