Frank Zappa to David Bowie: "F••• you, Captain Tom"

Originally published at: Frank Zappa to David Bowie: "F••• you, Captain Tom" | Boing Boing


Bellew was great on that tour too (not that I saw it of course) but here’s a clip of Station to Station showing how Bellew’s “stunt guitar” and all round chops were bang on:

Someone might correct me but I think he was replacing Stevie Ray Vaughan who had pulled out of the rehearsals. I’ve definitely heard a tape of him playing station in rehearsals and it’s as godawful as you would imagine. A short while after this, partially through Eno one imagines, Bellew was by law on every avant garde funk influenced NY album from Talking Heads to Laurie Anderson/


Silly Frank, David was a Count or a Duke or something by that stage.

I thought I’d seen Tokyo footage years ago but that’s Tokyo footage edited to the recorded version. Perhaps that’s what I remembered.


Bowie and Vaughan didn’t get together until around the time of Let’s Dance.


Probably helps explain the awfulness in part!


Still a couple ranks above Sergeant Pepper, though.


Zappa builds the skills, Bowie pays the bills.

I like both Zappa and Bowie, but Zappa was the asshole here. I mean Bowie’s tour wouldn’t interfere with Zappa’s, so why was he so bent out of shape? ¯_(ツ)_/¯


Well, to flip that around: if Bowie poaching Zappa’s guitarist wasn’t going to impact Zappa in any way then why bother being so secretive about it?


Part of the problem is Belew was only with FZ for a year at that point, and Frank being the maestro/taskmaster that he is had trouble finding musicians of the caliber he needed.

Which isn’t to say FZ wasn’t also a notorious asshole as well.


Zappa was interesting for a minute when I was 16 but I grew out of it.

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The exact opposite was true of me. :wink:


Well he wasn’t exactly poaching him, however if Frank’s behavior towards Adrian was such that he thought Adrian would jump ship if he got the chance then I could see his point.

I need Paul Harvey to tell me “the rest of the story”!


He had a one year contract. He was in a regional band when Zappa discovered him so I doubt he was on proper cheddar. For a hard right winger Zappa, unsurprisingly, had a poor grasp of capitalism when it didn’t work to his convenience.


If Zappa had been planning on keeping Belew around in the band after the conclusion of the tour then he might have felt that way, especially since Belew and Bowie were clearly trying to avoid letting Zappa find out about their little chat.

Zappa may have been an ass much of the time but he wasn’t wrong about Bowie and Zappa’s then-guitarist sneaking around behind his back.


What makes you say that?


Frank Zappa as a hard right winger is interesting? I hadn’t seen him that way. I’m open to how he might be considered that way. In some ways a libertarian in perhaps? But if so, more of an 80s one than the current crop.

He was for abortion rights, for example.

‘We can’t let these (anti-abortion) lunatics change the way things are done around here,’ rock musician Frank Zappa told a rally of more than 20,000 people in Los Angeles. 'Anti-choice is anti-American. If you lose this one, you’ll lose America.

‘Get the government out of your bedroom, out of your underpants and get them back to work where they belong,’ he said.

I also recall him as being very anti-GOP, to the point that he prophesied the terrible direction the GOP was going to go with conservatism by allying with the religious right.

But also honestly interested in hearing how he might be considered conservative. I don’t really know that much about him, besides his more accessible music and tidbits like the above.

And separately, I can see him as being very particular, and difficult to work with.


I also remember him randomly chanting “Tax the churches!” at his concerts.


I can see Zappa being pissed, and I can also Belew rightly making steps for his own career. And it was definitely the right long-term move for Belew.

Like being in romantic relationships, in a certain sense. People are entitled to have their own feelings about everything, and also people individually do have the right to pursue what is best for them. Especially as long as it doesn’t violate any agreements. And of course that also includes needing to renegotiate or even end those agreements, when circumstances change. Or even ending those agreements, as long as that’s explicit. Communication is key etc.

Unspoken expectations outside of agreements are understandable and human, and hurt feelings from that are understandable. They just aren’t binding, even if they feel like they are to the person who is hurt.




Honestly, we often just assume that musicians who tend to challenge the establishment must be left-wing, or left-leaning, or have progressive politics. But plenty hold more conservatives beliefs. In this case, it seems like Zappa was approaching it from a business perspective - low taxes, less regulation. His engagement with the PMRC being an example of that - as the article from the Chicago reader notes.

Which has only more recently become a right wing fixation. Libertarians (that aren’t of the modern version aligned with the religious right) have historically supported abortion rights and Gay rights (thought often NOT Black civil rights). Given when he came on the music scene, it’s not a huge stretch to say he supported old school, pre-religious right libertarian views. There is very much overlap between the 60s counterculture and libertarianism. Fred Turner has talked about this in his work:


Sure, so yes as a libertarian. It does seem like that would put Zappa as not being hard right wing either then or now, perhaps for slightly different reasons.

I’d also like to think that if Zappa hadn’t been taken by cancer, he would have grown with the times and not gone a Paul Rand route. Basically, not fall through the contrarian leftist trap door into the more modern meaning of “libertarian” - a pseudo-centrism that actively denies inconvenient evidence and stalls progress. Essentially de facto Republicans with sex and drugs.

But, we do have the sad example of another contrarian leftist musician who’s gone off the rails, Roger Waters…so who knows? Even the great Bill Hicks started to lose the plot during the Clinton administration, his very valid critiques of Clinton and power in general leading towards both-sidesism…Like in another example, what I see as more recently occurring with Russell Brand.

So it is. Ultimately I can most just do my own part in my little corner to keep information accurate for progress…


I read an interview with Laurie Anderson where they were doing a word association thing.

Q: Adrian Belew?

A: Beautiful.