Marriage (As A Dada Concept)

I wondered what Frank Zappa had to say about marriage. After all, he and Gail were notoriously devoted to each other, and they were married from 1966 though Frank’s death in 1993. They raised four interesting children with unique names (Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Rodan, and Diva), and they ran a business together, with Frank writing, recording, editing, and mastering music, and Gail manufacturing, promoting, and distributing it. They seemed to have it all worked out.
So I pulled down his autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book, and there’s a whole chapter on the subject! Here are a few choice nuggets:

This division of labor works best when we see each other the least. Don’t get the wrong idea from that – Gail is also my best friend. If you can’t be friendly with your spouse, it’s not going to be much fun to live together. Friendship (let’s get maudlin now) is a very important dimension. I think that a marriage without friendship has to be pretty dreadful.

Gail has said in interviews before that one of the things that makes our relationship work is the fact that we hardly ever get to talk to each other.

We talk about business when we have to, but the rest of the time we don’t talk at all. The other factor that has kept things interesting is that when I’m touring – which has been almost every year since we got married except 1984-1987 – I am gone from the house six months out of the year.

Even when I’m not touring, our work keeps us on different schedules. The Cottage Industry – getting out records, tapes, CDs, and videos, the mail order business and everything that entails – is sufficiently complicated that, in order to handle all the chores, I have to work the night shift and she has to work the day shift. We see each other on the edges when the shifts change.

If I worked the same hours she does, nothing could get done. Gail has to be awake during the day because the kids have to go to school and she has to handle the telephone. My schedule sort of twirls around the clock. I can’t stay on nights all the time because every night I work an extra hour or so, editing, or recording, or on the Synclavier, or, presently, on this fucking book – pushing it a little later each night – but then, once I go to sleep, I want to grab eight or ten hours, and so my “day” keeps changing around. Every three of four weeks I’m back on daylight – and I dread it, because I can’t get anything done. The phone rings all the time. All those questions Gail was dealing with when I was sleeping on the day shift, now I have to answer – live, in person. I can’t edit – I can’t write – I can’t do anything because of the constant interruptions.

So there you have it. One perspective on a successful marriage. I wondered what Gail had to say about it, and found this interview from 1997:

SECONDS: When you saw him, you knew he was the one.

GZ: I heard a chorus of voices and they said, “This is it.”

SECONDS: He was a sex symbol in those days, if I’m not mistaken.

GZ: I think you’re into some fantasy. I never thought of him as a sex symbol. Frank promoted himself and the band as a bunch of ugly guys who played fantastic music. […]

SECONDS: When Moon was born, did Frank become more of a homebody?

GZ: He was extremely prolific and he always enjoyed working on his craft. He became more financially able to explore different ways of recording and different musical ideas. It’s expensive to be a composer and Rock & Roll is what paid for his habit. It was a by-product of his real interest — writing music. Both Frank and I are straight-ahead and conservative in terms of what we consider the appropriate way to raise a family and conduct a stable environment. […]

SECONDS: Hmmm … in conclusion, what was the funniest thing that ever happened between you and Frank?

GZ: We got married and managed to stay together for twenty-eight-and-a-half years. That’s the joke.

We’ll take that as confirmation of a happy partner!