Thursday, February 21, 2008

95. FRANK ZAPPA: Hungry Freaks, Daddy (Part One)

A detailed analysis of the above Frank Zappa composition.


Hungry Freaks, Daddy
LYRICS
Other Official Versions:

Mothermania (1969)
The MOFO Project/Object (fazedooh) (2 CD) (2006)
The MOFO Project/Object (4 CD) (2006)
Understanding America (2012)
Road Tapes, Venue #1 (2012)



Mister America walk on by
Your schools that do not teach

We believe that this is one of the most important little tidbits of information ever dispensed by FZ. And he practiced what he preached, with regard to his own children (he gave them permission to exit the public school system as soon as it was legal to do so). So when we tell our children to stop complaining about bad teachers and stupid classes and to go the library and EDUCATE YOURSELF (note how FZ's advice is in bold type), we hope the kids are listening. Because no matter which path you choose -- doctor, lawyer, Indian Chief -- you still have to EDUCATE YOURSELF regardless of what school you go to -- at least if your plans include actually learning something worthwhile. He knew it in 1966, we know it now, and hopefully our kids will remember it, too. When FZ quotes Dylan Thomas' poetry from memory (with only slight deviations from the original poem) in the middle of a show ("Don't Eat The Yellow Snow" from You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 1), you can be sure that the poem in question was probably something impressed upon the fabric of the brain during a session of SELF-EDUCATION! Recited to and stomped upon, indeed!

Mister America walk on by
The minds that won't be reached

Again, putting aside the delicious alliteration of "teach" and "reached," the point is underscored by this last line. Not only is very little real "teaching" happening in the schools, but no effort is made to reach any student who falls either above or below the Line of Mediocrity. The only real learning that ever occurs is when children are encouraged to explore knowledge ON THEIR OWN TIME! Go to the library, surf the net for real information, and learn how to use reference tools! Ask questions, challenge authority, when appropriate, etc. Enough. Point made. 1966 or 2008, the more things change, the more they --

Mister America try to hide
The emptiness that's you inside
But once you find that the way you lied
And all the corny tricks you tried
Will not forestall the rising tide of
Hungry Freaks, Daddy

Let us now approach the whole "Mister America" concept! MisterAmerica, the father of the alienated, pock-marked 1966 teenager. He "walks on by" the schools and the minds and now tries to hide his emptiness, because he can't really "defend an unpopular policy ("Plastic People" from Absolutely Free). He also cannot "forestall" this "rising tide" which even the densest among us in 1966 (we first heard this in 1968) picked up on as FZ telling us that WE ARE PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER and that WE ARE NOT ALONE!

Again, however, it's really important to notice that THE WHOLE PACKAGE (cover art, lyric, music, the posturing attitude) -- influences one's PERCEPTION of a lyric. The "rising tide" section, for example, as a BIG NOTE-type event, had the effect of initiating us into United Mutations (most of us never sent in for our badges, but nevertheless, a lyric like this made us feel as though we were full-fledged members!) because we were part of this "rising tide." Conformity was the norm. Who really knows how many young people back then actually became better individuals because Frank Zappa urged them to join this "rising tide" and nurture our individuality? (We'll begin to count with ourselves -- at least one!)

Actually, FZ is making many comments on many different levels here. Mister America, the plastic generation of our parents, is depicted as oblivious to the education and enlightenment of his children. We believe FZ, by using the words "walk on by," also meant to indicate Mister America's general apathy to all things of substance and value. Mister America, is in fact the same "BEIGE-BLANDISH GOD" who certifies that:

"Only the boring and bland shall survive!
Only the lamest of lameness will thrive!"
(from "The Torchum' Never Stops" from Thing-Fish)
[-- note the misspelling of "BEIGE" ("BIEGE") in the booklet!]
In other words, kids [this is FZ talkin' now], listen to this music and maybe go check out some of the 179 names up on that ol' list in the liner notes, and listen to them too, and don't let Mister America dictate his tastes to you!
Let us imagine Mister America visiting a Sam Goody's record store in 1966. You know Sam, the guy who even stocks records with electronic noises on 'em -- uses 'em to demonstrate new hi-fi sets! So Mister America walks right on by the Varèse, and up and down the classical section. Hmm, guess we'll pick up one of the 15,000 recordings of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, and maybe another Brahm's Fourth. Okay, now quickly to the pop section, and -- let's see -- we'll grab this new Perry Como record and just to be really hip, how about this new one by The Kingston Trio!

It is a miracle that Eric Dolphy or Karlheinz Stockhausen ever sold one record. Because put Mister America up against them or FZ and the Mediocrity Machine will triumph. So that's Mister America.

On a personal note, until very recently we believed the lyric to be "and all corny drinks you tried." We were disappointed to learn the true lyric, because we had always maintained a strong mental image of one of our parents' frequent cocktail parties where someone invariably had a stupid-looking drink with about four electric neon colors in it and a dumb little umbrella or something. That "corny drink" imagery accompanied thousands of listenings. Better equipment 40 years later is allowing us to adjust our mental image to "tricks" (Nixon, anyone?)...

They won't go for no more
Great Midwestern hardware store
Philosophy that turns away
From those who aren't afraid to say
What's on their minds
The left-behinds
Of The Great Society

The analysis of this section of the lyric is synergistically bound up with the music -- see analysis below.

Your supermarket dream

Our take on this: When we lived in Paris in the early 70's, supermarkets were extremely rare. Until recently, most Europeans could not imagine shopping in one huge store for everything. In any case, we believe this simply refers to Mister America's taking the "dream" of one-stop shopping for granted.

The liquor store supreme

As well as the Alky Superstore. Again, "walk on by" seems to infer a state of oblivion.

Mister America try to hide
The product of your savage pride
The useful minds that it denied
The day you shrugged and stepped aside
You saw their clothes and then you cried
Those Hungry Freaks, Daddy

We are somewhat fascinated by the deviations and deletions which accompany lyric sheets, even "official" ones such as the one which is published in the booklet accompanying this release from The Old Masters, Box 1. In the lyrics booklet "savage" is replaced by "foolish" and "The useful minds that it denied" is missing entirely. Can you imagine a nice slow ballad entitled "These Savage Things (Remind Me Of You)"?

Let's go to the liner notes and see if FZ has provided any commentary on this lyric!

NOTES ON THE COMPOSITIONS INCLUDED HEREIN:

"HUNGRY FREAKS, DADDY was written for Carl Orestes Franzoni. He is freaky down to his toe nails. Some day he will live next door to you and your lawn will die. Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go the library and educate yourself if you've got any guts. Some of you like pep rallies and plastic robots who tell you what to read. Forget I mentioned it. This song* has no message. Rise for the flag salute."

*FZ mistakenly refers to this composition by another term. Forget he mentioned it.

If you ever lived next door to Mr. Franzoni, we would like to know how frequently you have to fertilize your lawn.

Part Two

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