funnily enough i was recently in a disagreement with an acquaintance over frank zappa versus tom waits ... i said it was like comparing andy mcnab with wilfred owen (respectively) ... never really understood the adulation for zappa, or andy mcdoorknob for that matter
Nor me. I've never met anyone who admitted to liking his music and yet he was a very famous musician. I couldn't whistle you one of his tunes or even name one for that matter.
Another musical enigma for me is Steve Vai. He's considered one of the greatest guitarists going and yet I'm at a loss to recall anything memorable he's ever done. Not saying he's crap at what he does, quite the opposite, it's just a bit sterile for my tastes.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the biggest touring bands in the world, sell a ton of records and fill massive stadiums and have done for many years now but I've only ever met one person who admitted to being a fan. I've met loads of people who positively hate them. I suppose their singer might fall into the 'Marmite' category, can sound annoying at times.
I was never a dedicated Zappa / Mothers fan boy, but I did listen to them a lot and tried hard to consistently appreciate their works. I once saw Zappa and the Mothers (1975 version) perform a set at a college concert. This did nothing to help me get a coherent grasp of 'what they were all about'.
I've known extreme Zappa fans, and I've been able to hold up my end of Zappa-focused conversations with them, but I can't claim to have ever fully understood their mania for him and his music.
Here's what I believe the big problem was ...
Zappa was, at heart, a very serious student of musical trends and avant garde musical forms. This was evident in what he said on those occasions when he bothered to do interviews, and the evidence is clearly present in the musical underpinnings of his (and the Mothers') recordings.
This serious side was obscured and often overlooked because it was consistently overlaid with his famously crabby and wickedly sarcastic persona (via the lyrics).
This was something of a schizoid combination of serious / cerebral musical stylings on the one hand and in-your-face lowbrow satire on the other. Some folks 'got' the serious bit but not the satirical bit (or vice versa). If someone wanted to talk about Zappa you never knew whether they were going to emphasize one versus the other aspect.
How seriously would Fripp have been taken if King Crimson's lyrics had all come from (e.g.) Viv Stanshall? How enjoyable would the Bonzos have been if they backed everything with stuffily arcane / experimental sonic stylings? How many people listening to either would think they 'got it', much less claim to love it?
Frank's son Dweezil Zappa is also a pretty handy musician ... as legend has it, when Jimi Hendrix set fire to his guitar on stage, Frank jumped up and put it out with his bare hands ... Frank later went on to gift the guitar to Dweezil who had it restored ... I'm trying to find a link to that story with more details if anyone knows what I'm on about? ..