Although the first place I heard the composition G-Spot Tornado was on Zappa’s The Yellow Shark album, it was first released on Jazz From Hell. My father owned a copy of the The Yellow Shark and there was an excerpt of the first page of the score and whenever I looked at that excerpt, I knew that one day I would start writing full scores.
The composition has an almost Stravinskian feel to it, with a pulsing bass drum ostinato, and this huge monorhythmic theme on top of it. It was incredibly infectious and I probably listened to the performance -given by the Ensemble Moderne- about 100 times a day for at least two months. When I came across a copy of Jazz From Hell, I was actually disappointed to find a piece of synclavier music, but I’ve grown to love that album above Zappa’s other releases from the 1980s, like Tinsel Town Rebellion, Thing-Fish, and Them or Us. I think John Zorn had made a comment at one point that Zappa’s best work from the end of his life was his synclavier music because Zappa had become so enveloped in misanthropy by that point. I can hear it—actually, it is obvious his best work from the end of his life, his most enduring work, is the music from his synclavier and “classical” albums.
I consider Zappa's music a "gateway drug" of sorts, serving to introduce me to Varèse, Webern, Stravinsky, and Bartok -which eventually lead to my exposure to this book called The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play by Ben Watson. That book mentioned people like Boulez, Stockhausen, Nono, Ferneyhough, and many others. These were new names for me, at the age of 13. Zappa was also influential in terms of the topics of his social commentary, often criticizing humans for their inability to control themselves in their nihilistic drive towards fulfilling their animalistic impulses —a topic which he was in fact an expert, due to his experience as a touring musician during the 60s and 70s. Because of his open criticism of human sexuality, the misogyny issue has come up quite a bit with Zappa, and while there are depictions in his music of men doing awful things to women, I have found songs like “Dinah-Moe Humm”, “Honey, Don’t You Want A Man Like Me?”, and “Stevie’s Spanking” to all ring more true and realistic than songs like “Let’s Stay Together” or “My Heart Will Go On” ever could hope to in their most idealized statements about human love.
Zappa has consistently influenced me throughout the first period of my life (which ended in 2014), I think I matured slowly and Zappa was always there along the way, explaining things to me through his music, giving me direction and renewed perspective on sexuality, relationships, race issues, politics, and music composition. While Zappa came before Webern for me, this was the first piece of his that I was obsessed with after Webern. My father preferred the strictly R&B albums from the 70s, the music from his adolescence. It was the The Yellow Shark where I found an island in my first attempts to swim out into Zappa’s vast catalogue. So this, coupled with Webern, changed my life. And I am forever grateful. . .