Frank Zappa is known, commercially anyway, as the guy with the weirdly named children and raunchy songs about sex and freaking out. That popular notion holds true — for about 8 percent of his catalog, which these days runs nearly 100 titles deep. Most of Zappa’s stuff comprises complex instrumentals, symphonic pieces and politically charged rock-and-roll salvos against the establishment.
And a few really fun songs that the kids can enjoy, too.
Here are five safe-for-children Zappa tunes. There are more, but the land of Zappa is a place not for the faint of heart. This should get you started.
1. Let Me Take You to the Beach
This goofball tune is a tribute to the big blue, and a satirical take on beachgoers everywhere. “Bring the weenies,” says Frank. “Everybody’s in love.” Though the satire is sure to be lost on the little ones — Zappa was no fan of the whole universal love and consciousness thing — the tykes will have a blast bouncing around to this or, better yet, singing along on the way to the nearest large body of water. Comes complete with a bongo solo. (Try to ignore this ridiculous fan-made video.)
2. Baby Snakes
You can inject as much sexual innuendo into this one as you like, but I prefer to think this funny little number is simply about … baby snakes. My 6-year-old loves it, singing right along with Tommy Mars and the band. Your kids will too. Unless they’re weird or something.
3. Spider of Destiny
I don’t know. For my money, Spider of Destiny, a brief but stirring love story about the destruction of the human race by a giant spider, is the perfect anecdotal piece of music for a kid to get off on. It’s a sci-fi adventure wrapped in a challenging bit of rock-and-or-roll. Kids like stomping on things, too, so the outchorus is especially fitting.
4. Frogs with Dirty Little Lips
This one was co-written by Frank and his son Ahmet when Ahmet was just a wee one, so it’s apt for a child of any age. Frogs … with dirty lips … flopping around by the edge of the stream. (Ahmet, coincidentally enough, went on to write a children’s book.) Of course, by the end of the song you will have eaten said frogs, which in a kid’s world is absolutely hilarious. Right?
5. Goblin Girl
Perfect for Halloween (Zappa’s favorite holiday), Goblin Girl is about dressing up and having a good time. OK, this one might be questionable, but really, the innuendo goes right over kid’s heads. Mostly, they just dance around and giggle at the weird monster chuckles and whatnot. You sensitive types will probably be a little uncomfortable with Goblin Girl, but the rest of us normal people know our kids will survive.
Dweezil Zappa’s version of You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. Enjoy …