The passing of time can both be significant and irrelevant depending on what position you’d take when reviewing certain issues in life. The internet, for instance, changes very rapidly. Information that wasn’t at hand a week ago, can all of a sudden be available in numerous pages, elegantly coughed up by your favorite search engine and its not lesser spin-offs: as if the internet is a fairy godmother supplying us with answers to questions that have burned holes in the back of our mind for years. And despite those holes, it hasn’t stopped us from persevering in our search, exercising some Zen and patience along the way.
The innovative streak of technical wonder continues to amaze even the most stoic among us. One of the latest fashions is the e-book, a downloadable digital version of an actual printed book you can now read in digital format using an e-reader. We’d like to bring one of those e-books to your undivided attention…
The death of Frank Zappa, in 1993, triggered something essential in author Nigey Lennon. It brought back an episode of her life she then managed to capture in a book, Being Frank. In vivid colors and with an obvious sane and witty mind she describes the insanity of the early 70s and her relationship with Frank Zappa. The book has been out of print for some years, but was nevertheless in demand. So it’s been made available as an e-book now at www.scribd.com (Boryana Books) and also via Amazon Kindle.
We asked Nigey Lennon some questions about the digital release of her book. Not having read Nigey Lennon’s book may definitely be a loss for those who seek insightful notes to add to their understanding of Frank Zappa as an individual, a human being beyond the cult figure he’d become.
Being Frank is a personal collection of observations and memories, perhaps even a rare coming of age testimony of a 17-year old girl who crossed paths with the eccentric musician Frank Zappa. Can anyone claim to not have been deeply influenced by the man’s music in those early and vulnerable teen years, seeking food for confused thought, hoping for similar wavelengths and levels of understanding, gratification for the wandering soul and hungry mind? Imagine what it can be like if you’re up, close and personal with the subject of your admiration…
Nigey and her Gibson ES-335
What Nigey Lennon offers her readers, and Frank Zappa fans, is a journey back in time with the present coherence of mind, bound to offer various depths in articulate pondering on a personal experience that however does flirt knowledgeable with the history of music we know by fact. Grasping the bigger picture when reading is always the reward and as such you will not be let down with Being Frank.
Click HERE for an essay on Frank Zappa and author Lionel Rolfe over at Boryana Books.
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M6:There is now an e-book version available of Being Frank. What prompted you to release such a version now and in what respect does this e-book differ from the previous editions?
NL: The book, after being published in 1995, went through two editions and three printings. It sold out shortly after being reprinted in 2003, but there continued to be an audience for it. Since most people who are interested in Frank Zappa are also interested in technology, I thought an e-book edition would be a good solution. The e-book version is based on that final 2003 printing, with text corrections and new front and back matter.
What does Frank Zappa mean to you now, compared to when you first started to write the book, and what were your thoughts in the process of editing it for the new e-book edition..?
When I began writing the book in early 1994, Frank had recently died, and my main concern was capturing in writing the flood of memories I was experiencing. I spent a lot of time thinking about him and the nature of our relationship, how I fit into his world (and vice versa). The emotional experience was intense, and I was far from objective in my descriptions, something that strikes me rather forcibly when I try to re-read the book now. For better or worse, he was the center of my universe during those early years. Today he still has a niche in my consciousness (though it’s growing steadily smaller as time passes), but I tend to think of him as only one influential person in my life (a member of an ever-changing group) rather than as a static, monolithic sort of figure.
In what way have things or opinions changed when you look back on it all?
Well, I’ve changed immeasurably in the 17 years since I wrote the book; nothing about my life is even remotely the way it was then. And in the intervening years a lot of information about Frank has been made public as well, information that was definitely not available while he was alive or shortly after his death. I knew Frank when I was in my late teens and early 20’s, and now I’m 55. My view of him now is definitely a long view, looking back at my misspent youth :), as opposed to being too young, too close and too credulous. It’s not just me; although some people still tend to idealize him, I think the rigid Zappa “orthodoxy” that existed for a few years after he died, has loosened up considerably. People can now admit he wasn’t exactly the way he presented himself; now that he’s been gone awhile, the self-created FZ iconography doesn’t seem as important as his music. I think that’s a healthy thing.
What do you think of the FZ legacy in general when it comes to his work, there seems to be much controversion and a strict control by FZ’s heirs. Is that reasonable or should musicians be allowed to interpret Zappa as freely as they like?
I feel that copyright laws should be obeyed, but beyond that, no copyright holder has any right to overstep their authority and harass performers who want, with all due respect, merely to perform the material in question. That’s morally if not legally reprehensible. Just because someone has access to a battery of lawyers shouldn’t give them the right to be frivolously litigious. As long as the appropriate royalties are paid to the composer or the estate, I believe any performer should be allowed to perform or record any material. Here’s a prime example of how Frank’s legacy is being badly served: he always claimed to support free speech and free expression, so why this active and repressive censorship by his estate of musicians who only want to perform his music? It’s all come down to money, and control. Sad.
Do you think you’ve said all there is to say this time, or can we expect more in future releases?
I had originally intended to do a bit of rewriting on the printed text for the e-book edition, but that got me off on a tangent of reworking and rethinking the whole book. After about six weeks of feeling frustrated that all these different threads weren’t adding up to anything coherent, I realized I needed to leave the original book alone and simply reissue it as it stood.
The future is, well, in the future.
What’s the most positive and most negative effect or influence FZ had or has on you, if considered in all these years since the time you first met?
He certainly wasn’t the most positive role model for a rebellious 17-year-old girl. He didn’t understand or respect women at all, and I was too young and blind to comprehend the depth of his misogyny. I’m afraid he influenced me quite negatively about my own gender, at a time when such ideas (so conducive to self loathing) were probably the last thing I needed to hear. On the positive side, he often exhibited an incredible creative energy that was totally inspiring. That was his main legacy to me, if there was one — the idea of finding inspiration in any situation, and going on to create something totally original from it. In the end, that inspiration has compensated for whatever negative influence he had on me. Even today, when I’m feeling uninspired, I only have to remember that feeling of absurd, creative exhilaration, and suddenly anything seems possible again.