BOOKS: Painfully Honest Account of an Icon; Frank Zappa: The Biography by Barry Miles, Atlantic Books, Pounds 9.99

Article excerpt

Byline: Reviewed by Andrew Cowen

Guitarist, composer, band leader and irritant, Frank Zappa died ten years ago at the age of 52.

This biography by counter-culture chronologist Barry Miles is the first of many books (including one by FZ himself) to achieve a successful studied overview of the American cultural icon's life.

It succeeds where others have failed through sheer honesty and hardnosed facts.

The myths surrounding Zappa's life are many, but Miles cuts through the hype to present a balanced and not always complimentary picture of the man who was briefly employed by Vaclav Havel to represent Czechoslovakia's commercial interests in the USZappa's famous sociopathic behaviour stemmed from a spell in prison when he was fitted up on bogus pornography charges. The nightmare he suffered inside and mistrust of authority were to remain with him throughout his life and provided material for many of his better songs.

Zappa's rampant misogyny which turned off fans in their droves is harder to understand. Miles posits that this tendency arose due to an obsessive dedication to truth and free speech, also he loved baiting his audience and critics.

The history of the first five years of Zappa's band, The Mothers Of Invention, is expertly narrated. …