Saturday, December 13, 2014

"Valley Girl" by Frank & Moon Zappa

Song#:  1108
Date:  07/17/1982
Debut:  75
Peak:  32
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  A hit single can be both a blessing and a curse. Zappa found that out with this single from his album "Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch." The song, which was a satirical take on the way young girls from the San Fernando Valley of California would talk ("valspeak"), became Zappa's biggest single and even received a Grammy nod for Best Rock Group Vocal. However, the song got treated as more of a novelty tune and phrases from it like "gag me with a spoon" became part of popular culture. Zappa then felt that his vast catalog of serious compositions was starting to be viewed as novelties for folks not familiar with his previous works. It affected him to the point that he never played the song in concert. What he intended as an attack/commentary on the SF Valley and its inhabitants turned into a Dr. Demento-style hit that spread "valspeak" to the masses and helped to spawn phrase books and even the 1983 Nicholas Cage film "Valley Girl."

ReduxReview:  I have to admit, I didn't know much about Zappa prior to this single so I took the song as more of a parody than anything. Of course we imitated the valspeak as a lot of people did, but when we did we felt we were making fun of the vapid, suburban mall girls that we knew we would hate along with that culture. I don't know if that would quell Zappa's feeling on the song in anyway, but at least we didn't treat it like a comedy sketch. Actually, I think it is a pretty rockin' tune. It's not something you would want to hear a lot on repeat because the valspeak can get annoying, but its crunchy sound is tasty.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The female voice is that of Zappa's daughter Moon Unit. For her part, she was just basically improvising and imitating things that she heard around at parties or the mall (aka "the Galleria). Many folks took it that she was actually a Valley girl and was part of that whole scene when in reality she was not. Thanks to the song, she became a sort of an unwitting poster child for valspeak when in reality, she just wanted to work with her dad.


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