Encounter with Gen Z

I had the Jr. girls out at the Mall on Friday, first time I’ve spent with the 14-year-old in a bit and it was extra-fun. We were at Game Stop and I was perusing a rack of Popmarket Vinyl Figures- you may not have heard of them. There are all kinds of Pop figures in vinyl, covering the current culture of movies, music, anime, and I’ve bought a few Star Wars characters for Nova. My eyes suddenly stopped at a figure in the center of the display and I did a double-take. How did a Frank Zappa figure find its way into that stack of pop-culture heroes whose names I don’t recognize? I was tickled and got a little excited, starting up a survey within the store starting with the youngsters standing at the cash register…

Hey, kids! Do you know who Frank Zappa is? Ever heard of him?

They looked at each other, shook their heads no.

I tried to explain as I picked up the figure and carried it around to the counter, Have you heard of the The Mothers? The Mothers of Invention? (Blank stares) Let’s see, I don’t think he ever had any real “hits” other than “Please don’t eat the yellow snow” and that’s not a good example. He was a guitarist, but he defied genre, playing jazz that rocked…

The young man on the ladder joined in, saying, I like jazz from the 40s… I knew I’d lost them, so decided to mess with them a little… Maybe you’ve heard of his children, Dweezil and Moon Unit? They were laughing now, the girl said, Okay, now you’re making stuff up…No, I’m serious! You know the soul patch? They’d at least heard of that… Well, Zappa Invented that… Now they know…

It just seemed to be so random to find Zappa in that setting and trying to explain his music was difficult. Back in the 70s I saw him three times. Once with a group of girlfriends up in Indy where we were first in line at the doors, hours before they opened. One of my friends convinced the security guards that we Needed to use the bathroom and he let 3 or 4 of us in. At the time, Frank was touring with Flo and Eddie, doing the whole “Live at Fillmore East” album; after we went to the bathroom, we sneaked out to the seats, where we watch Zappa and the Mothers warming up? going through sound checks and deciding on the set list. I loved that concert, one of my favorites. The other two times he was playing with the Mahavishnu Orchestra (John McLaughlin) and it was avant garde, not my favorite stuff. Still, he was Amazing, truly one of the best guitarists of our age and a freaking genius.

Though a lot of it is rated PG, of course, my children listened to Zappa, especially “Dog Breath”, and “Peaches en Regalia” and Even the grandies are familiar with “Call Any Vegetable”… I’m sorry that Gen Z isn’t hip to him, but maybe one of those kids googled him and will become a fan…

So I bought the Zappa figure, even though he looks Nothing like Frank…he looks more like Captain Beefheart (another obscure reference) or Johnny Depp. I’m not sure you could get Zappa’s nose right on vinyl, and his hair was way longer and messy. But it’s the thought that counts, and I’m happy to have him on my shelf…

And I hauled out the Zappa music to welcome him…


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