Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Anecdote #46

my last time seeing frank zappa face to face
was just months before his death in December 1993.
I went to the zappa abode for a short visit.
he looked like the picture above,
which was a shock.
frank was obviously ill, his voice a whisper.
instead of the vibrant frank I knew
there was an older man.
only 52 but seeming very weak and tired.
in place of his usual habit of chain-drinking espresso
he was sipping orange juice freshly squeezed by his maid.
frank talked about his latest project.
the conversation drifted off.
I felt a tinge of guilt taking his time.
soon he excused himself to rest for a while.
our interlude was over.

I prefer to remember a different ending.
one night in late 1992 I woke up from a vivid dream.
I looked at the clock. 6 AM.
I couldn't get back to sleep.
in my dream frank and I were laughing and talking,
having a lively conversation about music and things.
it felt good, like a friendship.

since I couldn't sleep I went downstairs
and sat in a chair, replaying the dream.
there was no such thing as e-mail then,
about the fastest delivery was by fax.
so I decided to send a fax to frank.
in my fax I told him about the dream.
then I said I had never properly thanked him
for all he had done for me
and I wanted say "thanks".
I had no idea at that time that frank was ill and dying.

later that afternoon I got a call.
it was frank. what a great surprise!
he said to me, "that was sweet".
that's the word he used: sweet.
not a word you would normally associate
with the acerbic edgy satirist.

we proceeded then to have a wonderful conversation
much like the one in my dream.

and that's the way I remember frank.


  1. Methinks it's always good to say what you mean, and often, as soon as you think of it. It gets me in trouble sometimes, but still. It is always good to thank others for what they bring to your life. Life goes too fast. I don't think when people make a deep impression and impact, that feelings created ever go away, no matter what happens after. There is always room for happy memories. LIVE in the present moment and treasure the past. I am glad you got to say thanks when you did. No doubt, that dream came when it needed to. Thank you, too, Adrian.

  2. Damn that coffee & cigarette diet of his.
    I listen to FZ music on almost a daily basis lately. There's so much to choose from.
    I miss his WTF attitude.
    Never saw him play.

  3. I'm not trying to be wierd but I dream about you, sometimes, Adrian. The only one that I remember was that I was behind the drums and you were playing your guitar and I was all embarrassed that I couldn't keep up with jamming on Crimson.

    Um, could I have your fax number?


  4. I had read somewhere a comment by the poodlemaster that he was somewhat miffed by ingrateful alumni who never said boo. I really thought he was referring to you. Im glad to hear these stories.
    From you, one of Zappa's great achievements and gifts to my world of music. Thanks Frank!

  5. Mr. Belew-
    I've often wondered if you see your mentorship of the Slicks as similar to how David Bowie and Frank Zappa took you under their wings early in your career.

    Care to comment?

    Well, even if you don't think it's similar, I do! :-P

  6. How odd, I was just wondering whilst reading your previous post if you'd ever discuss the last time you saw Frank, and here it is. As with most of the best, he was taken early. A similar fate befell Michael Brecker at the start of the year. They leave behind them immortality - what more could anyone want?

  7. I feel so sadly when i think about death... all the culture means the death as terrible...
    I don't know if there's is a heaven or an eternal shine, the only thing i know is: you've got to do anything you feel Adrian, never stop your feelings, we don't know what is the last day on our lifes, please remember:
    since today you're living the rest of your life.
    please go with martha and your doughter and tell them how moch you love them... there will be always a morning to awake and thank to the unieverse (or father God if you believe)

    i want to write a little verse of a song by YES (survival the album YES - 1969) that says with the beautiful voice of JON ANDERSON:
    "...all that dies dies for a reason"... Oh this song sometimes makes me cry.
    have a nice life and never forget enjoy any moment.
    I admire you too mucho Mr.Belew I hope meet you someday before I die.

  8. Isn't it amazing the impact Frank had on us all? If all music were woven into a fabric in time, you would see this odd looking thread running everywhere--that would be FZ.

    Thanks for all you have done and continue to do for us.

  9. That's a beautiful story, man. Thank you for writing it down and ejecting it into the ether.

    I've thought a lot about FZ and wondered where he was coming from. It pains me to think that he might be forgotten along with his creative output.

    I guess eventually everything about human beings will be forgotten, and, in his own words, "ultimately, who gives a fuck anyway?"

    Maybe that's true, but I'm glad he "tried a little tenderness" toward the end, and I'm glad you connected with him insofar as anyone could.

    Oh! how I wish he were here to comment on the current geopolitical clusterfuck and give the powers-that-be what for. Somehow I keep having a vision of Lennon and Zappa on adjacent clouds and an endless river of vomit.

    you--we thank you and love ya-sweet-yes--as in "peachcobblers"-
    you are --anytime --we go through life--and as-JOHN-LENNON SAID-"life
    is what happens/while your busy making plans"---sometimes-you have TAKE-that time--and make that phone call/visit/e-mail-fax-letter-
    but alas--that's easier said than done---looking forward-to the future--and what it might bring--
    SIDEFOUR--IS CERTAIN--but--your post--was beatiful--and AGAIN-WE THANK YOU----GARY SLICK-

  11. That was really sweet indeed and it makes me feel good that it worked out that way. I'm reminded of some of my favorite songs which feature answering machines. I find messages on them to have a lonely, disembodied quality; they make me think of unfortunate missed connections in life:
    'All the Love' by Kate Bush,
    'A Sacred Place' by Bootsy Collins & featuring the late Eddie Hazel's voice on the answering machine,
    'Phone Call from the Moon' by you know who.

  12. Adrian,

    Have you had much contact with the Zappa clan since? Possibly as relates to Zappa plays Zappa, or playing with Dweezil?

    Second, do you see anyone(s) as spiritual successor to FZ? I often think of you as such as well as Buckethead or sometimes I think Beck. Any thoughts?

    Boston, MA

  13. Hi Adrian,
    I have always believed the ending of a relationship is as important as the beginning.Thank you for that "sweet" and very personal memory.Frank was truly gifted and unique. Though,I have to ditto Kelly, in thanking Frank for you ! And good luck in the redesign of your sacred space. Side 4 soon, yeah!

  14. knowing frank's music was how i first heard about you, adrian.

    he was and is the king.

  15. monkeyman,

    re: 'spiritual successor' to FZ--
    Beck is an Applianto--uh, I mean--a Scientologist.

  16. Three questions:
    If you only had five minutes to live...
    1. Who would you call?
    2. What would you tell them?
    3. What are you waiting for?

    thanks for making me smile adrian.

  17. Ade, that was deeply touching. I wish I had had the foresight to act like that in a similar situation.

    I admire the way that you are giving a leg-up to the next generation of musicians. Thanks for passing the torch!

  18. This was an amazing post. Frank Zappa has been one of the most amazing musical influences on my [young] life (I'm not a musician), and I would have never discovered Adrian Belew without his music.

    I'm glad there are artists like Adrian Belew out there that are still making music that can matter to me in incredibly important ways.

    Thank you!

  19. Adrian,
    Thanks for sharing that. I was fortunate enough to see FZ three times, and know what a huge influence he was on you. It's good that you were able to have that chance to talk before Frank really started to get weak. There's a street in Germany named after him now, as well as that statue to him in Lithuania. Too bad he isn't more appreciated here. It's a shame he never had the chance exert his political influence except in song, and by having the League of Women Voters signing people up at his shows. He would have been a better candidate than anyone around today, that's for sure!
    Be well, we look forward to seeing you again soon!