“Make a Sex Noise Here”: Frank Zappa, Sex and Popular Music

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Abstract

Throughout his controversial career, Frank Zappa was often associated with provocative music, which challenged society’s understanding of the First Amendment Although his very public confrontation with the Parents Music Resource Centre (PMRC) in September 1985 is probably the pinnacle of his antipathy toward state prescribed restrictions, it is apparent that his entire compositional portfolio is littered with both overt and more subliminal references to sex. One of the first instances of this practice occurred in 1964 after Zappa was arrested and imprisoned for producing an audiotape of simulated sexual acts while still a jobbing musician, and was to continue for the next three decades. There is a matrix of sexual reference to Zappa’s oeuvre, with examples ranging from seemingly immature references to sex, to quasi-moral narratives about sexually transmitted diseases, to sex as a conduit for social and religious satire, to sustained science fiction visions of sexual dystopia, to conspiracy driven accounts of the rise of AIDS, to humorous narratives about sex appliances, to the voyeuristic orgasm through torture dystopia of “The Torture Never Stops” on Zoot Allures (1976). Zappa rationalized his liberalistic views on sex by stating that the ‘sex equals sin’ propaganda instilled by pressure groups such as the PMRC only resulted in the institutionalization of the “neurotic misconception that keeps pornographers in business” and that lack of sex had the potential to result in some of the USA’s social problems (Courier 2002: 416). At times a libertarian with principles that seem to match aural explorations with oral expediency, Zappa remains one of the most extraordinary and far-reaching figures in popular music to have explored sex in the analysis of the human condition in all its cruelty, comedy and potential for the expression of freedom.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2009
Event International Association of Popular Music - Halle an der Saale, Germany
Duration: 1 Sept 20091 Sept 2009

Presentation

Presentation International Association of Popular Music
Period1/09/091/09/09

Keywords

  • frank zappa
  • popular music
  • sex

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