The current issue of visually spiffy pop culture magazine Royal Flush has a really interesting interview with Ahmet Zappa, where he reveals details of his dad Frank's surprising friendship with legendary comics maverick Jack Kirby. (Yes, the LA Times blogged about this a month ago, but bear with us.)
There are many touching anecdotes about the two pain-in-the-ass countercultural geniuses sitting around and shooting the shit. Kirby and Zappa had much in common: sharp wit, savant-level technical chops in their respective fields, a lingering desire to stick it to The Man (particularly anything smacking of corporate hivemind or "conformity"), and, of course, a severe addiction to tobacco products.
But the most surprising revelation from the Royal Flush interview, buried in Jeff Newelt's entertaining article, is what Ahmet remembers his dad telling Kirby about Star Wars (for you young ones: Star Wars was the Twilight of the 1970s, except far more sexually explicit):
[One of their meetings] was around the time [The Empire Strikes Back] came out and was HUGE [1981 -ed.], and I remember Jack confided in Frank that he felt like the stories he created helped shape the Star Wars saga, that he saw direct parallels between his characters and the movie's story arcs."
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Of all rock stars in the world, Zappa, famously an outspoken champion of free speech and artist's rights, was the ultimate sympathetic ear.
"He told my dad stuff like, 'Darth Vader was Doctor Doom and the Force is the Source' and that George Lucas ripped him off. Now this you may not know, and I was only a kid, but I remember learning at the dinner table that my dad was asked to write the music for Star Wars; he turned it down, he said he wasn't interested. That would've been really strange, the lives of us Star Wars fans woulda taken a different turn and that whole score woulda sounded like Tatooine Cantina music."
Indeed. Can you imagine a parallel dimension in which John Williams would have moved on straight to Christopher Reeves' Superman and the Star Wars score would have sounded like Hot Rats? Who knows--maybe without the neo-Fascist, populist marches that imprinted entire generations back in 1977 Reagan might have not gotten elected, GW Bush would have proven a not-thicker-than-par MLB manager, and Palin would be just an annoyingly sexy homemaker in Alaska.
Damn you, Frank Zappa! You and your "integrity"!