By Barbara Lewis
(PSS)—Frank Zappa may be a legend is Yugoslavia, but even if he were not, he would be remembered by those he encountered during a recent three-day tour of the socialist country.
Zappa drew applause from those who recognized him and stares from those who did not. Under any circumstances, Zappa's unique appearance would draw attention. But in Zagreb and Ljubljana, where he did two concerts, he chose to wear a floor-length multicolored coat with a matching woolen dunce cap.
His attire kept him out of the dining rooms of the posh new Intercontinental Hotel in Zagreb and almost kept him from appearing at his concert in Ljubljana when entry guards refused to admit him at the gate. The government representative, who had invited Zappa and his Mothers of Invention to perform in Yugoslavia, convinced the arena attendant to let the goateed musician in, but nothing moved the hotel's maitre d'. Consequently, while members of his group scared up spare jackets and ties, their leader ate alone in his suite.
Zappa's invitation to Yugoslavia was to draw attention to Interdisc, the country's international record festival. which began this year and marked Yugoslavia's entry as a viable music market. The music exhibition was held in the Chinese Pavillion at Zagreb's International Industrial Fair, held each spring and fall. Since Peking has not made use of its fair facilities in three years, the Yugoslavs appropriated the building for Interdisc. Curiously, Zappa's only connection with the exhibition was one visit where he met with the local rock press.
Many of the questions centered around the American rock star's wealth, and that visibly irritated him.
"How do you know if I have money?" Zappa roared back.
We have read about it," one of the English-speaking writers retorted.
"Well, don't believe what you read," Zappa said. "Uncle Sam has all the money."
One of the writers asked Zappa his opinion of the Beatles. His reply: "They're only in it for the money."
Others were interested in whether he thought he could create music in a socialist state. Zappa's replies were spontaneous. "I doubt that I could release as much product."
Many of Zappa's quotes, however, are unprintable, including a statement he made on live radio. Zappa is the king of shock rock and he made no effort to temper his act for his first appearance in a socialist country.
Zappa appeared in Yugoslavia as a guest of the government, which offered to provide him, his group, his crew, his management team and one American journalist with transportation and hotel accommodations.
Both the government and Zappa had ulterior purposes. The Yugoslavs wanted to focus attention on Interdisc and Zappa wanted to showcase his act in hopes that he could open up concert dates behind the Iron Curtain Yugoslavia, he said, was a first step.
Unlike many rock groups that do concerts at a loss to promote albums, Zappa and company realize profits from personal appearances. His record sales, while profitable, have not matched his status as a superstar. His current album, "Bongo," made with Captain Beefheart, who is also managed by Herb Cohen, Zappa's manager, is the first of his 11 that shows hope of cracking the magic million mark.
Despite Zappa's retort to the Yugoslavia music press, he is a money maker. And his manager is the first to say so.
As if offering an annual market report, Cohen states, "Business is up 35% this year and has shown a steady pattern of increase each.
Perhaps one of the reasons for Zappa's financial success is that, despite his zany appearance and demeanor, he's a solid businessman underneath. He hires members for the Mothers of Invention as he needs them. And they are paid by the week. Doing it this way, he says, he avoids the personality clashes that have split other groups run as a partnership, and he eliminates unnecessary salaries for non-performing weeks.
Zappa also owns his own sound and light company as well as a bus system. Instead of paying rent for concert equipment, or for transportation, he is building equity in his own property which is leased out to other groups when he is not using it.
During the three-day trip to Zagreb, the equipment was being used conveniently by Beefheart, while Zappa rented equipment in London. The company they had planned to rent the lights from declared bankruptcy the day the material was to be shipped. A last-minute crew was assembled to go along with the leased equipment.
To add to the last minute problems, the concerts were held in ice hockey arenas and the stage was put directly over the ice. Not only did the performers suffer from the cold, but the instruments did as well.
Zappa talked continuously to the audience while he tuned his guitar.
"I might have spoken a little more slowly than I do with an American audience, but I told them I was doing the some show I did everywhere else. And I did."
The audiences, both in Zagreb and Ljubljana, looked like rock audiences anywhere, in blue jeans, long hair and platform shoes. They were quiet and attentive, which disturbed the performers until they received three standing ovations.
While marijuana is apparently available in the country, it is not used in public places, particularly rock concerts. In fact, a youth was arrested at a concert a year ago and the case became a cause celebre. The culprit was given a heavy jail term to set an example.
Uniformed police guarded the doors but were polite and friendly as they escorted drunks from the arena.
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