Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Frank: The Returning! Budapest; (Televised); 1991



While browsing through YouTube, looking for an interesting Frank Zappa clip to post after too many weeks of abstinence, I stumbled upon this thrilling piece, which I'd never seen before and which apparently aired on Hungarian television back in 1991. In it, a graying and clearly-unwell Zappa plays some heartbreakingly beautiful guitar--I don't recognize the composition, and I'm afraid I don't speak or read Hungarian, either; can any readers identify this piece for me? Anyway, interspersed with the music is footage of Zappa speaking with an unidentified (but English-speaking) man in what I will describe as a fascinating, classic Zappa interview brimming with timeless political observations. Below, I've transcribed the money quotes for you (emphasis mine):

FZ: "I am in the process of doing what we call a feasibility study to see if it's possible for me to run for President in the United States against George Bush*."

Interviewer: That's quite a comment--do you feel there's a chance?

FZ: "Umm, yes. Not a good one--because, you know, he has more balloons than I do. [laughs] But I certainly don't agree with his policies, and I think that the Democrats have nothing to offer. And my idea is, if I do decide to run, to run as an anti-partisan candidate. Because I believe both the political parties in the United States have let the public down, and they generate more rhetoric than results. And it's not often that a voter in the United States gets a clear-cut choice between two candidates, because they tend to resemble each other physically, rhetorically, aesthetically--every other way; it's a choice between Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. And, er, if the feasibility study works out right, I would at least be able to say, If you get tired of those other two guys, you know, take a look at me."

Interviewer: Makes a lot of sense...the next time I interview you, I may be calling you Mr. President instead of Mr. Zappa?

FZ: [Shrugs and smiles] "Maybe..."


Frank Zappa died of prostate cancer in December, 1993. Given that his interest in--and involvement with--American politics was intensifying with every passing year, and knowing that he was both a fierce defender of the First Amendment and an active supporter of voting and participatory democracy, I don't doubt that, had he beaten the cancer, Zappa would have run for office at some point. And I've often wondered what he'd have to say about the nation electing the son of his then-nemesis, George Bush Sr.

Just as I've often wondered what he'd have to say about the condition of the country, the economy, and the Bill of Rights after the eight years during which Bush II lead us perilously close to becoming the "fascist theocracy" Zappa envisioned--and warned us about--during the Reagan years.

And, of course, I continue to muse about what Zappa would have to say about our new president, the unusually-named black son of a single mother. Our new president--he of the non-partisan approach to politics; he, an autodidact from a truly non-elite background. Our new president, who characterizes the philosophies of self-reliance and fiscal responsibility as being complementary to a belief in the power of union and the citizen's duty to community and nation. As did the great conservative president Abraham Lincoln; as did Zappa himself.

Our new president, a man who could hardly be described as resembling--physically, rhetorically, or aesthetically--any U.S. president elected heretofore.

* Zappa is referring to then-president George H. W. Bush, father of George W. Bush.

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