How a Frank Zappa fixation fostered an appreciation for classical compositions

Categories: Gateway Acts

Gateway Acts is an ongoing series on Backbeat in which we examine the music that served as an entry point for our burgeoning musical obsessions, a gateway drug that tuned us in and turned us on. Today, A.H. Goldstein reflects on his Frank Zappa fixation.

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Zappa.com

Some of my earliest musical memories revolve around the tape deck in my father's car. Led Zeppelin II, the Rolling Stones' Hot Rocks compilation, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac -- these cassettes provided the daily soundtrack for drives to and from elementary school, along with complementary hand drum solos on the dashboard courtesy of my dad. Occasionally, he'd pop in a copy of Frank Zappa's Sheik Yerbouti. That record was a stark departure from the rest of the classic rock fare, with its long-form guitar solos, frenzied xylophone work and bizarre lyrics about Jewish princesses and baby snakes. It wasn't until years later, after I bought my own copy of the album on CD as a freshman in high school, that the true brilliance of the album and its creator began to sink in.

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Fugazi is a benchmark, a signpost and an example of how it could and should be done

Gateway Acts is a new ongoing series on Backbeat in which we examine the music that served as an entry point for our burgeoning musical obsessions, a gateway drug that tuned us in and turned us on. Today, guest columnist and Flattery Festival founder Ian O'Dougherty (Uphollow, Ian Cooke, TaunTaun, Eolian) asserts that if there were just one band, that band would be Fugazi.

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By Ian O'Dougherty

I started playing guitar at the age of eight after seeing La Bamba in 1987. Brian Setzer's cover of Eddie Cochran's song "Summertime Blues" on the soundtrack got me excited about guitar and led me to discover Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. I heard Nirvana on the radio in 1991 and then started playing guitar loudly. In junior high, I met a kid named Whit Sibley, who also played guitar loudly. He put the Descendents "Silly Girl" and Fugazi's "Long Division" on a mixtape for me, and in return, I gave him a Godflesh cassette to check out. We eventually decided to start a band together called Uphollow. We ended up playing hundreds of shows and did more tours than I remember.

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- Saturday: Flattery Festival at 3 Kings Tavern, 2/2/13
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- How Beck opened up a whole new world to an evangelical boy from the Midwest


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Gateway Acts: How a Rush to judgment ultimately led to more affecting music

Gateway Acts is a new ongoing series on Backbeat in which we examine the music that served as an entry point for our burgeoning musical obsessions, a gateway drug that tuned us in and turned us on. Today, Noah Hubbell gives us the goods on a Rush to judgment that he made early on.

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Aaron Thackeray
Okay, hands up: Who here loves Rush? (Spoiler alert: It's this guy.)
I grew up in a house of somewhat traditional music, where I was exposed to everything from jazz to classic rock to soul. It provided a great background for me, but for the most part, the impetus was on the importance of instrumental or vocal talent. My father was, and still is, a fanatical guitar player. I cannot remember an extended period where he wasn't practicing. In fact, he practices more at playing guitar than I've ever seen anybody practice anything. Wanting to someday be able to play an instrument like my father, I began drumming when I was twelve, and it was then that I realized how much work it takes to be a great player.

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- Gateway Acts: How Beck opened up a whole new world to an evangelical boy
- Ten essential gangsta-rap albums
- Review: Rush levels Red Rocks with three hours of power and precision


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Gateway Acts: How Beck opened up a whole new world to an evangelical boy from the Midwest

Gateway Acts is a new ongoing series on Backbeat in which we examine the music that served as an entry point for our burgeoning musical obsessions, a gateway drug that tuned us in and turned us on. Today, Josiah Hesse gives up the goods on his Beck jones.

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There is no way to listen to the music of Beck Hansen without, either actively or passively, becoming aware of the whole of 20th century American music. It's all in there: the Delta blues of Mississippi's John Hurt and Son House (One Foot In The Grave), the b-boy electro-hip-hop of Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa (Midnite Vultures), the lachrymose, orchestral folk of Townes Van Zandt and Nick Drake (Sea Change), the experimental art-noise of John Cage and Suicide (Stereopathetic Soulmanure) and the goofy punk-rock of the Frogs and the Butthole Surfers (Mellow Gold). For me, and surely for many others, getting into Beck albums was not only a joyful explosion of the senses, but a life-long infection of curiosity for the encyclopedic landscape of pop-music history.

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- Anton Newcombe on Beck, living in Germany and Bright Channel
- Beckstra! Beckstra! Have you heard about Beck's record club?
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