Sean's Reviews > Electric Don Quixote: The Definitive Story of Frank Zappa

Electric Don Quixote by Neil Slaven
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Feb 17, 2011

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bookshelves: biography, music
Read in January, 2011

This being the only book about F.Z. that I've read so far, I'm not sure how it stacks up against the growing volume of muso-lit concerning him.

Slaven is clearly a mega-fan and his writing shows it. He seems reluctant to criticize even Zappa's lyrical excesses, such as in "Jewish Princess" and "Dinah-Moe-Hum"...and possibly his nadir, "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats" (don't ask). The only time he even dares to is when he's discussing the almost-universally panned "Thing Fish" album.

There are some fascinating insights into Frank's childhood and his schooldays. I found the anecdotes about the early years of the Mothers Of Invention quite interesting as well. I was hoping for more detail on F.Z.'s contentious relationship with Don Van Vliet (a.k.a. 'Captain Beefheart'), but the little that's there seems (naturally) more slanted in Zappa's favour.

The chapters on the '80s and '90s just seem a treadmill of album, tour, album, tour, band personnel change, album, tour, etc. and didn't hold my attention as much. The only highlight being Zappa's fights with Tipper Gore's "Parent's Music Resource Center". It was funny to me, reading about that again - and almost how quaint some of the musical "evil" that the P.M.R.C. was concerned about seems now (remember W.A.S.P.'s "Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)"? or Twisted Sister?).

Slaven does treat Zappa's bout with cancer and untimely death with reverence and poignance. Even if you don't like his personality or his music, one does feel that F.Z. had a lot more music to create and was stopped too soon.

"Electric Don Quixote" moves along at a good pace and would probably be good for the casual F.Z. fan. The hardcore may want to try one of the other books on offer.
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