Few artists who found their fame in the sixties can claim to have escaped the influence of The Beatles. However, it is likely fair to say that if Frank Zappa was inspired by the band he didn’t show it all too much. The mercurial musical madman was a pivotal figure on the free-form music scene that exploded alongside counterculture and the singer largely dodged the Fab Four rubbing off on him.
By 1988, with one of Zappa’s final tours, the singer decided to pay homage to John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr when he performed a medley of the band’s songs. One such track that was covered was the brilliant, beautiful and a little bit strange song ‘I Am The Walrus’. It has been a song that Zappa has always loved and below performs with the skill and dexterity of the well-cultured fan he was.
Frank Zappa has never been afraid to share his thoughts on his contemporaries and, more often than not, those thoughts aren’t particularly flattering. Zappa used his position as the well-mannered mouth of the madmen of music and was always quick to call out artists he didn’t feel were pushing the boundaries but, it would seem that he loved The Beatles.
Not only did the singer cover their songs but he also played ‘I Am The Walrus’ as one of his favourite tracks as part of a radio show, after playing the song he said: “Now wasn’t that wonderful? Just sitting here today, so sophisticated as we all are, in this modern age that we call The Eighties, and to be able to hear something like that with thousands of people in the background on that record saying ‘everybody smoke pot’.”
Reflecting on the changing times and his wish to be back there, he concludes: “It makes you want to tighten your headband and stick a flower in the end of somebody’s gun.” It was a proposition Zappa tried to inspire wherever he went. Even in 1988, the singer was still trying to bring the summer of love back to the fore. One way he could do this was with the performance of the sixties’ finest songs.
Below, we’ve got the video of Frank Zappa performing The Beatles classic song ‘I Am The Walrus’ for a naturally jazz-inspired jam of the song. It’s the kind of shape-shifting and imperious creative evolution which made Zappa a hero.