Frank Zappa is best remembered for his guitar virtuosity, complex compositions, satirical lyrics, moustache and leadership of the band Mothers of Invention, all of which combined to result in a vast back-catalogue of recorded music that covers an astonishing range of rock/avant-garde musical explorations spanning more than 25 years.
Less well documented is his love of arts and crafts – primarily as a chef and dressmaker; Frank’s ambitions in the kitchen occasionally pushed the boundaries of good taste and several of his albums jokingly referred to less-than-wholly successful culinary experiments, such as ‘Hot Rats’, ‘Lumpy Gravy’, ‘Burnt Weeny Sandwich’ and ‘Winkle Drizzle Cake’, while ‘Chunga’s Revenge’ harked back to a particularly (and as it transpired, ill-timed) spicy chilli that Frank served his band before going on-stage in Milwaukee during a tour in early 1970, resulting in the Mothers of Invention playing their typical three-hour set in less than 45 minutes. On the other hand, the song title, ‘Peaches En Regalia’, usually credited with having sexual undertones, is in fact the name of a delicious dessert Zappa would whip up while relaxing at home with friends and neighbours.
Frank’s insistence on all members of his band wearing dresses designed and handmade by him for the centrespread of the sleeve to ‘We’re Only In It For The Money’ created some internal dissent at the time; it is perhaps interesting to note that Zappa-inspired fashion lines continue to do good business to the present day.
Always keen to develop his skills, Frank turned his hands to knitting when he ran up a woolly hat for Mike Nesmith to wear in an episode of ‘The Monkees’ (in which he made a guest appearance); the cable-knit sweater he later designed for Val Doonican was deemed inappropriate for Saturday evening mainstream TV; sadly the garment was subsequently lost, along with the recording of the duet they worked on for Val’s 1970 Christmas show, although David Bowie and Bing Crosby famously reprised it (the song, not the jumper) in 1977; Frank’s increasing facination for four-ply was subtly hinted at in the title to his album, ‘Waka/Jawaka’ (Portuguese for knit one, purl one).
editor's note: some or all of this might not be true