Animated: Frank Zappa on Why the Culturally-Bereft United States Is So Susceptible to Fads (1971)

Frank Zap­pa was always frank. You got­ta give him that.

Speak­ing with Vil­lage Voice jour­nal­ist Howard Smith in 1971, Zap­pa talked can­did­ly about the tastes, opin­ions, and beliefs of most Amer­i­cans, whether they apply to music or pol­i­tics or any­thing else. “You have a nation of peo­ple who are wait­ing for the next big thing to hap­pen.” “I see a lot of changes. But I think they’re all tem­po­rary things and any change for the good is always sub­ject to can­cel­la­tion upon the arrival of the next fad. And the same thing with any change for the worst.”

Maybe it’s like this every­where. But it’s par­tic­u­lar­ly so in Amer­i­ca says Zap­pa:

I think that’s a rea­son­able way to look at it because [the U.S.] doesn’t have any real sort of val­ues, you know? And a fad pro­vides you with a tem­po­rary occu­pa­tion for your imag­i­na­tion. Real­ly, [Amer­i­ca] doesn’t have any real cul­ture. It doesn’t have any real art. It doesn’t have any real any­thing. It’s just got fads and a gross nation­al prod­uct and a lot of infla­tion.

It’s not a flat­ter­ing por­trait of the States. But know this. Zap­pa did­n’t see him­self being above it all: “I’m an Amer­i­can. I was born here. I auto­mat­i­cal­ly got entered in a mem­ber­ship in the club.” Yeah, Frank could be frank.

The video above was ani­mat­ed by Blank on Blank. You can read a tran­script of the con­ver­sa­tion here.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon. If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stream 82 Hours of Frank Zap­pa Music: Free Playlists of Songs He Com­posed & Per­formed

Frank Zap­pa Debates Cen­sor­ship on CNN’s Cross­fire (1986)

A Young Frank Zap­pa Turns the Bicy­cle into a Musi­cal Instru­ment on The Steve Allen Show (1963)

by | Permalink | Comments (5) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (5)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Nick says:

    I’m con­fused by the “it’s not prac­ti­cal for what we do,” com­ments. Was­n’t Ruth Under­wood in the band in 71?

  • Hawkeye Doublemint says:

    Seems nei­ther the per­son who post­ed this nor that preen­ing, pompous, con­de­scend­ing twat Zap­pa (always too busy mak­ing fun of every­one else’s ideas on mak­ing the coun­try bet­ter to have his own), knew what the word ‘cul­ture’ means. Hard to believe so many self-right­eous wanks still think it’s just art, when actu­al­ly that’s only one seg­ment of all those goes into a country’s/people’s cul­ture.

  • DWTA says:

    It would have helped if the ani­ma­tor – Patrick Smith – had looked at a pic­ture of Frank Zap­pa, before draw­ing the piece.

  • Jim says:

    Frank was pre­pared to run for Pres­i­dent (know­ing that his chances of get­ting elect­ed were slim) up until his prostate can­cer diag­no­sis in ’91. He goes into some detail of his plans in dif­fer­ent inter­views around that time. Do a lit­tle research and you can find it.

  • berit branch says:

    …Dia de Musi­ca en San Fran­cis­co com Martha Rodriguez-Salazar

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.