Matt's Reviews > Zappa: A Biography

Zappa by Barry  Miles
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Oct 26, 2011

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Matt I'm typically not a fan of Barry Miles biographies, but he seems to be there waiting in the lives of every pop culture figure I'm ever interested in, so there we find ourselves. Miles tends to play to the starstuck VH1 audience too much in lots of his books, I feel like, and the narrative is always veering deep into a nostalgic "gee look at how all this stuff came together under all these magical coincidences" tone.

That said, Miles does a great job at remaining suspicious of Zappa's intentions (screwing over younger talent all the time, screwing over old friends like Don Vliet, cynically approaching filmmaking as a financial means), results (not afraid to seriously criticize a significant portions of Frank's catalog, both musically and socially, skewering his often clueless film ideas), and taking pretty unsentimental looks at Zappa's family life, his treatment of groupies, the apparently nasty commune he ran in Laurel Canyon, and way his scorned adolescent worldview tended to run his whole life. More than most I've read from Miles, this one leaves a lot out on the table for judgment and depicts a lot of the reasons Zappa is so fascinating and yet so repellent at the same time.

A way better way to learn about him than most of the lit or (worse) TV programs out there about him, which often seem to have the family super involved with them.

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