Frank Zappa: 10 essential classics, according to Futuro

We are clear that the music by Frank Zappa is not to everyone’s taste. He knew this: he made it that way. While his peers and contemporaries incorporated R&B and blues into their psychotic rock ‘n’ roll, Zappa played with more cherished forms of music, including jazz, classical and performance-art-based collage. The music he made with Mothers of Invention, as a solo artist and in projects that are not so easy to define or classify, was almost always challenging.

Even seemingly throwaway nonsense like “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow” incorporated musical twists that would leave typical rock artists bruised after 30 seconds. Still, Zappa’s music found open audiences among traditional rockers, fans of jazz and classical music, connoisseurs of ultra-fast music, and, of course, totally stoned hippies. His discography spans almost 30 years, until his death in 1993. He released more than 60 albums during that period.

It wasn’t easy, but to remember him on the day he would have turned 82, we managed to find the 10 best Frank Zappa songs on rock radio.


In 1973, Frank Zappa returned to the studio with a new Mothers band. The sessions produced two albums: 1974’s “Apostrophe,” which was credited as a solo record, and “Over-Nite Sensation,” a 1973 LP by the band. “Montana” is the closing cut from the latter album and a six-minute tour de force for both bandleader and group. Drum fillers, stunning guitar solos, funky beats, all of that plus Tina Turner on the backing vocals.

Cosmic Debris

In this Frank Zappa classic from any classic rock station he tells the story of an up-and-coming guru babbling over a springy jazz beat that subsides for a killer guitar solo. A mid-seventies hit of “mumbo jumbo” leftover from the sixties.

Brown Shoes Don’t Make It

One of Frank Zappa’s early freeform masterpieces, a seven-minute pop blast that engulfs roughly a decade of Top 40 radio in a typically twisted takedown of waning American values. “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It” is the centerpiece of the Mothers’ second album, itself a classic of mid-’60s adventurism and a great example of Zappa’s genre brilliance in this direction.

Dancin’ Fool

Disco was huge in 1979. So, naturally, it was a ripe subject for Zappa to attack. And it’s such an apt parody of music and culture that it became his biggest hit until “Valley Girl.” The backbeat makes it easy for commercial consumption… until it all breaks down somewhere in the middle when a dozen different styles push the dance elements to the side.

Peaches In Regalia

Frank Zappa’s second solo album after the breakup of the Mothers of Invention was an instrumental work that almost completely abandoned the typical rock cues. However, influenced by the growing jazz fusion movement, “Hot Rats» remains one of Zappa’s most accessible albums. The upbeat “Peaches En Regalia” is the LP’s opening cut, an upbeat and melodious song that regularly finds its way into Zappa’s live shows.

Joe’s Garage

The title track and key cut of “Joe’s Garage,” Zappa’s three-act rock opera about the music business (and, in a way, a body slam to punk rock) features one of his most conventional tunes. Of course, the lyrics tell a different story: Top 40 music is mocked, ridiculed, and scorned throughout the six-minute track. Still, it’s one of Zappa’s most popular songs.

Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow

Frank Zappa’s first charting single (it peaked at No. 86 in 1974) is also the title track of the four-song suite that kicks off his only Top 10 album. While the song introduced Zappa to tons of new fans , also marked him with a reputation as a novel artist who contained more jokes than talent. The track’s flowing bass and springy melody subtly nod to the doo-wop music that is at the core of so many Zappa songs.

My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama

It’s no wonder this Mothers of Invention song was released as a single in 1969: it doesn’t sound all that different from other songs that came out during that musically experimental year. It even includes a rather spectacular guitar solo, fittingly. It’s also not all that surprising that a single titled “My Guitar Wants to Kill our Mama” flopped. (The song later appeared on the 1970 album “Weasels Ripped My Flesh.”)

Valley Girl

Frank Zappa’s only Top 40 hit (it peaked at No. 32) featured his 14-year-old daughter Moon on lead vocals, running a bunch of early ’80s “valley” words (if you lived it, you knew what). painful it was). But sticking with her longtime selection of fashion and cultures, “Valley Girl” is a scathing satire of West Coast emptiness, something that probably went over the heads of the young people who made it a hit.

Who Are the Brain Police?

Frank Zappa’s 1966 debut LP with Mothers of Invention is often credited as the first concept album. Like many of Zappa’s records, the double album pokes fun at a specific corner or corner of contemporary society, in this case, the burgeoning hippie culture. “Who Are the Brain Police?”, which was actually released as a single, lives up to the album’s title: it’s sonic madness built on layers of noise. Obviously it wasn’t plotted.

Frank Zappa: 10 essential classics, according to Futuro