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Our Kickstarter has ended, but you'll still be able to join us to help save the Vault & tell Frank's story. Check back soon for more details!
Our Kickstarter has ended, but you'll still be able to join us to help save the Vault & tell Frank's story. Check back soon for more details!
8,688 backers pledged $1,126,036 to help bring this project to life.

WHY JOHNNY CAN'T READ: new ZAPPA COMPANION BOOK!!! Plus: Zappa's early musical experiments

Posted by Alex Winter (Creator)

We're closing in, Freaks!

Looks like a lot of you are still reading these updates: Since yesterday we've jumped up another $50,000, which means…

We've just passed $800,000 on Kickstarter alone!

And shit, when you count the extra pledges raised for Add-On Rewards over at, things look even better:

That's right: we're at 83% of our final goal!

Plus, in the last 24 hours, we've gotten so many amazing messages from you guys, sharing more and more stories about why this project matters to you, and how Frank has influenced your life. It's been incredibly cool to read this stuff, and to see how our community keeps growing.

To be honest, you've all been so enthusiastic that I'm convinced we can still go even farther… but with less than 4 days left, and another $180,000 to go, we can't afford to slow down. Like FZ said:

First thing you do is, you don't stop.
Second thing you do is, you keep going.

Now, even though yesterday's update laid out 5 BIG WAYS TO HELP US REACH OUR GOAL, I've got one more big announcement to share today -- and this is something a lot of you have been asking for, so we've been busting our asses to figure it out.

The OFFICIAL COMPANION BOOK is still happening.

After spending a lot of time in the Vault with Joe, I already know we're going to find more incredible stuff down there than we could ever share in a single documentary… but I want you to be able to see this stuff. And when you do, I think the best way to see a lot of it – especially with some of Frank's artwork, photos, handwritten music, and personal letters – is to put it in an oversized book.

So, as we work on the movie, I'm also going to put together some of the best visual material we find, and we're going to publish it in a fucking gorgeous hardcover collector's book, so that even more people will be able to see, share and discover Frank's genius.

And to help us get our Kickstarter to the finish line, three things you should know:

1. You can reserve yours right now as an Add-On Reward, at a special discount.

2. If we pass $900,000, all backers at TRACK 250+ will receive the book as a free bonus reward.

3. If we pass $950,000, all backers at TRACK 150+ will be listed in the SPECIAL THANKS of the book.

So, if you're looking for one last excuse to increase your pledge and help us cross the finish line, I hope this is a good one, because it'll be the perfect companion to the doc, and it'll look fucking awesome sitting on your coffee table or nightstand.

Now that we've got that out of the way, I want to take a couple minutes to get back to the best part of these updates: sharing more cool shit about Frank that you might not know.

By now, you know that I'll have another exclusive COUNTDOWN CLIP for backers this afternoon, with more unreleased footage from the Vault. I'll get back to that in a minute.

Right now, though, I want to point you toward two clips that I think all Zappa freaks should see, because they capture something really essential about Frank's outlook and genius: that he was able to create music out of anything. 

Seriously: anything.

LOW-BUDGET ORCHESTRA: Unlikely Instruments

All month long, I've been using these updates to tell you more about the 10 FACTS ABOUT FRANK ZAPPA that we included in our Kickstarter video… but now that we're running out of time, it's time to talk about one of my personal favorites.

Back in March 1963, a short-haired, mustache-free, 22-year-old Frank Zappa appeared on The Steve Allen Show – basically, think Jimmy Kimmel today – to perform some music. But, in true FZ style, he made an unexpected decision, and played… a bicycle.

Sounds like a joke, right? It wasn't. The joke was that he blew everyone away with the bizarre but undeniable musicality of his performance. See for yourself:


Even at the age of 22, Zappa was already blending compositional sophistication with brazen showmanship, and planting his flag in the sand: he was not going to be your average musician.

But I promised you two great Zappa clips, so let's jump forward four years to December 1967, when Zappa appeared on another hit television show – The Monkees.

Now, this was an even more unusual appearance, because Zappa wasn't appearing as himself, but as "the Monkees' Mike Nesmith"… while Nesmith, in turn, appeared as "Frank Zappa." The conversation between the two is really fantastic, and you can totally see Zappa's sense of humor in full effect. 

But the most memorable scene, to me, is when Frank goes back to being himself, and Nesmith conducts him playing a performance of the Mothers' "Mother People"... by smashing an old car with a sledgehammer:


Even though these kinds of antics quickly earned Zappa a reputation as a musical comedian, die-hard fans weren't fooled: Zappa's performances might be funny, but his musical talent was serious, and had more in common with his favorites (like Edgard Varèse) than the Marx Brothers.

If you want to go deeper on this, the crew at Dangerous Minds had an excellent post about Zappa's appearance on Steve Allen just last week, pointing out that the whole bicycle stunt was:

“a big nod to John Cage’s appearance on I’ve Got A Secret in 1960, when the famous composer played various household objects including a soda syphon, a watering can and a bath though was unable to turn on and off five different radios due to a union dispute—he banged on them instead.”

Bottom line: Despite playing a bicycle and a car on national television, Frank took music very seriously. He was a visionary instrumentalist, and I think you could safely say that humor ended up being one of his best instruments.

(Have I mentioned yet how much I love this guy?)

Anyway, if you're a hardcore Zappa fan, both of those clips might have been old news to you. Don't worry, though: we've got another COUNTDOWN CLIP coming up this afternoon, exclusively for backers. 

Check out the preview, and if you're not a backer… what are you waiting for?

Make any pledge right now, and you'll get access to all 10 days of our Final Countdown, with exclusive footage and recordings pulled straight from the Vault!

Keep spreading the word, you guys. Just three days to go.



AND DO MORE TO #SaveTheVault!

Check out some ideas for how to get the word out, or simply copy and paste the message below into Facebook or Twitter. Ready, set, go!

3 DAYS LEFT to save Zappa’s legacy. Join @zappamovie to #SaveTheVault + discover his amazing story. DO IT NOW at!

Chris Sharrock, uncle z, and 27 more people like this update.


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    1. Missing avatar

      Amy Parsons on

      Frank Zappa has a special place in my heart and I can't wait to see the movie. My dad shared Apostrophe with me as a kid and it inspired me to let my freak flag fly.

    2. Daniel Blaustein on

      Two comments:

      First: @Alex. Thanks, dude. This effort is most excellent, and it would be heinous if we did not get to the $1M goal. Seriously, though, and I am sure you've already heard this a million times - thank you! because this means alot to us long-time Zappa fans.

      Second: Thanks for posting the Steve Allen bicycle clip. I have seen it, but I love it every time I watch it. It's cool because he carried on that interactive style of teaching about music throughout his career as well as in concerts.

      Anyway, be excellent to each other you guys.

    3. Don White - Nada Brahma Media on

      cool! looks like i'll be adding-on tomorrow! :-) $900K, here we come!

    4. Alex Winter 2-time creator on

      Don -- yes! Even if you get one as an Add-On, a promise is a promise: you'll still get another copy if that bonus reward gets unlocked!

    5. Don White - Nada Brahma Media on

      so, the first question (which you should not eat, btw)... if we reserve the book now, and then we cross $900K... do we get two (i.e. the reserved one and the one all track 250+ backers get?)

      'twould make a swell gift, y'know...

    6. Chris Sharrock on

      So many books , but this is the one I want the most.