WINTER IN AMERICA
                                       
   
   
   IT'S 1987 DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR CULTURE IS?
   
   Several months ago, it seemed a refreshing and deliciously ironic
   moment when Frank Zappa was spotted on television, testifying before a
   Senate committee. He was dressed in a jacket and tie, much as he was
   more than two decades ago for an appearance - in which he musically
   played a bicycle - on the Steve Allen Show. Before the committee,
   however, with the accumulated notoriety of the intervening years in
   evidence only as subtext, the talkative, knowledgeable and apparently
   incensed musician held forth as the most reasonable voice of the
   afternoon.
   
   Considering the urgent problems you'll find on the front pages of even
   the lamest paper, the committee was holding hearings on the non-issue
   of applying ratings to rock records. Zappa had come to Washington to
   help nip this bit of protofascism in the bud. Instigated by the
   Parents' Music Resource Center, a well-connected group of Washington
   wives with kids in school and time on their hands, the committee was
   examining the possibility of a casual link between rock music and drug
   abuse, teenage pregnancy, Satanism, concert violence and other things
   which no one could seem to recall having existed before 1956.
   
   Asked how something as trivial as record-rating became the subject of
   a Senate inquiry, Zappa simply remarked, "A couple of blow-jobs here
   and there and Bingo! - you get a hearing." He added that Tipper Gore -
   wife of Senator Albert Gore and a key figure in the PMRC - had
   recently demanded that MTV president Tom Freston go to Washington to
   discuss the rating of music videos. While any legislation against the
   various music media doesn't seem likely at this point, Zappa notes
   that the current administration is doing what it can to further its
   own ideology, such as reviewing all documentaries being produced by
   both National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public
   Broadcasting.
   
   Zappa's interest in politics extends beyond those issues that are
   music related, though his perspective occasionally tends toward the
   bizarre ("For all those cowboys who think that Star Wars is gonna save
   us from alien attack: does it ever occur to you that Star Wars doesn't
   kill germs?"). He is a most vocal critic of the Reagan administration
   and its fundamentalist supporters. Referring to items ranging from
   government obfuscation to the bombing of abortion clinics, Zappa
   concludes, "We're seeing the same terrorist techniques in the U.S. as
   those used by Moslem fanatics in the Mideast - the difference is just
   a matter of costume." He points out that although the fundamentalist
   agitators may be a very small minority in the U.S., the Shiites of the
   Islamic middle east also comprise a small part of the Islamic
   community.
   
   Going on about the Mideast (in a November 1986 conversation during the
   turmoil of arms shipments to Iran), Zappa continues, "Where was Bush
   during all this?" He refers to a recent trial of arms dealers involved
   in a private, clandestine attempt to direct arms to Iran: "They played
   a tape on CNN which went, `We just got the green light - Bush says
   it's okay but Schultz doesn't like it.'" Zappa's conclusion is that
   the cover-up is far more insidious than it looks, with one object
   being to protect Bush's presidential aspirations. "They're trying to
   make the frontrunner look good."
   
   Though Zappa faults the press for allowing things to go on as they
   have been ("except for Sam Donaldson, the rest of the press has been
   napping for the last five years"), he says he's "optimistic." He feels
   the radical right is "on the run", and notes that their contributions
   have been dropping. But since the right wing agenda is still being
   pressed, Zappa vows, "So long as I can keep talking I'm gonna do what
   I can to stop 'em from getting their way." - ed.
   
   This interview took place in early '86 in Frank Zappa's home studio,
   from 11 o'clock at night until sunrise the next morning. Zappa is a
   disarmingly thoughtful, lucid and witty individual, and rather warm in
   his own way. The following is an excerpt from that conversation.
   
   
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