Frank Zappa For President

Cover Art

c. February 16, 1967—Sacramento, CA

Greg Russo, Cosmik Debris: The Collected History And Improvisations Of Frank Zappa (The Son Of Revised), 2003, p. 58

[Above: (standing) Jim Fielder, Billy Mundi, Ray Collins, Frank Zappa, Roy Estrada; (kneeling) Don Preston, Jimmy Carl Black; (sitting) Bunk Gardner]

Rockaway Records Herb Cohen auction


Al Fresco, Zappateers, March 10, 2011

Recently Rockaway Records sold some pics at ebay that belonged to Herb Cohen

The [statue in the second photo from the left is] at the California State Capitol in Sacramento.

The LP that Zappa is holding & laughing at...

Up With People!

Charles Ulrich, June 30, 2020

The statue of Queen Isabella and Christopher Columbus in the second photo from the left and the statue of Father Junípero Serra in the two photos on the far right were located at the California State Capitol in Sacramento.

drdork, Zappateers, March 10, 2011

I don't list any concerts in Sacramento until 1968, but February 1967 is certainly plausible—between 2/4/67 Los Angeles and 2/17/67 San Francisco.

16 Magazine, September 1967

5 Errors Contest

Informants: Javier Marcote, Charles Ulrich

"Frank Zappa For President"


Susin Shapiro, "Zoot Allures!," Gig, February 1977

Have you ever considered going into politics?

FZ: Sure, but I'm not ready yet. I'd be a perfect President. I'd not only win but I'd be good at the job. One of these days I am going to run for President, but not until I think it would be fun.


Bob Guccione, Jr., "Signs Of The Times," Spin Magazine, July 1991

SPIN: What would it take to puncture the apathy of the average American, especially with elections coming up? Campaigns for that election will start in less than a year.

Zappa: I don't think you're going to puncture it in one swell swoop. It doesn't puncture that easily. I'll tell you, I'm thinking of running for President in the next election.

SPIN: Really?

Zappa: Yeah. I've called two political consultants in Washington and we're just gonna do a little feasibility study to see what it would take. The idea is to run as a nonpartisan candidate and urge other people around the country to not only run but resign from the Democratic and the Republican parties because the Democrats stand for nothing except "I wish I was a Republican" and the Republicans stand for raw, unbridled evil and greed and ignorance smothered in balloons and ribbons. So that's really not much of a choice and it's nauseating to watch Democrats make speeches because they all wish they were Republicans.

SPIN: What do you think your chances will be?

Zappa: Not good, but a chance is a chance.

SPIN: You're very serious about this? You're not just making a statement?

Zappa: If I did run I would do a real run. The problems about doing it are that in order to do a credible run you have to be on the ballot in every state. That's about a million dollars in legal fees and organization and bullshit just to get on the ballot. That's before you even buy an ad.

The theory that I have is this: Instead of going out and running the same way the other guys do for one thing I got no primary that I have to compete in, I don't have to go to Iowa, I don't have to go to New Hampshire, I don't have to join the greased pig race, I don't have to do any of that stuff. All I have to do is say, I'm gonna volunteer to run, I'm willing to do this. I'm willing to give up music for four years. I like this country enough that I'll give up something that I love for four years to do this job that nobody is doing right here.

George Bush, what has he really done here? He brought the troops home. He never should have sent the fucking troops there! And we read his lips, and now this education President thing. That's going to turn into a fiasco.

One of the interesting things about my platform is I want to do away with income tax.

SPIN: How would you do that?

Zappa: Income tax should be done away with anyway because when it was established it was an emergency tax and was supposed to have an end to it. Just like the toll booths on the highway. Income tax is a racket. The one thing the income tax does to everybody who pays it is it pisses you off because you earned that money and now the government is taking it away from you. If you gotta pay a tax, pay a tax when you buy something, not because you worked.

What this really gives you access to, in terms of tax recoupment, is the underground economy because when a guy is making a covert buck the goal is to spend the covert buck and at the point where you spent the covert buck you are now being able to tax every one of those guys who has laundered the cash. They gotta buy a yacht someday, a house, they're gonna buy something.

SPIN: You're going to drive all of that Colombian drug money into foreign countries, like Canada.

Zappa: Let them do away with the income tax. The other thing is you would save a great deal of money on the personnel of the IRS itself. You still have to have somebody do administrative sales tax. I think you could do it with five percent of the labor force you have in the IRS. Naturally it would take an act of God to do away with state income taxes.

SPIN: Fantastic idea. Not easy. Lots of problems.

Zappa: Well here's the other thing, think about this. Suppose I told you, from tomorrow on, you pay no income tax, no federal income tax. You'd be happy. You'd suddenly realize that you had another couple thousand bucks in your pocket. And it doesn't go in the bank. You'd go out and spend it. And there'd be a spike in the economy that would just go boom! The Dow went to 3,004.42—what do you think happens the day after they know that there's going to be no more income tax?

What I would propose to do, is have a five-year plan where the sales tax would be at twelve to fourteen percent on certain products. I'd try to exempt necessary foodstuffs, because that's where the poor get hurt. And I don't think that many Colombian drug dealers are buying that many cartons of milk and eggs and stuff. And so you're not really going to cripple the nation's economy by exempting that sort of thing. So for five years you keep that sales tax a little higher just to deal with the deficit. And at the point where the deficit is done away with, then you bring the sales tax down to a maintenance level. I think you can run a pretty good economy that way.

SPIN: Have you discussed this with economists?

Zappa: I discussed it with my accountant who used to work for the IRS in Washington, D.C. He was head of collections for the Baltimore- Washington, D.C., area. He loves it.

The idea is that this is a zero balloon campaign. You want balloons then blow your own balloons. And the goal is to run the cheapest campaign in political history. I can sit at home and do talk shows all over the country on radio and answer questions directly to people who might want to vote. And it would cost what? Nothing. I don't believe that you really have to spend fifty millions dollars or apply for matching funds from the federal government and then be forced to abide by all those rules in order to do it. Because if you're a nonpartisan candidate then what the fuck?

SPIN: Do you think you'd be appealing to mass America even with that platform?

Zappa: There's only one way to find out. I mean, if I lose, then so what?

SPIN: Do you think you'd make a difference if you won?

Zappa: Oh yeah. How could I make things any worse than they already are?

SPIN: The least that could happen is that a lot of consciousness could be raised.

Zappa: Well, here's the least that could happen. You know what the other guys are going to say before they say it. And television is an entertainment medium. Now, you don't know what I'm going to say. Now you're in the middle of an election year and it's real dull. Do you think they would send someone over to talk to me every once in a while just to liven things up a bit?

I'm not going to debate these guys. As far as I'm concerned, they don't exist. Why should I sit there and talk over their bullshit. These guys want to sit there and riddle you with statistics. And what do you know? You're watching a debate at home and you're like, "Oh yeah. He knew a lot of numbers." Total horseshit.

Gail Zappa, interviewed by Don Menn, Zappa!, 1992

It's funny—I have stacks of mail from people who want to support Frank for president, but we don't have anything to do with those bumper stickers of 'Zappa For President.' What we've really focused on, basically, is being an alternative source for recorded material with just a few T-shirts.

FZ, interviewed by Humo, December 1993

HUMO: In 1988, there was talk of you running for president a while. Why didn't this happen?

FZ: I fell ill. So I had other things on my mind. Pity though, because thousands of volunteers had offered to help out. But it was more of a statement than it was a real plan. The American Libertarian Party had asked me to be on their list earlier, but I refused because they are pro free bearing of arms, which is madness.

FZ, interviewed by David Sheff, Playboy, April 1993

Sometimes you sound like a political candidate. How serious was your plan to run for president?

I wanted to do it. It's a bit hard to mount a campaign if you have cancer and don't feel well.

If you hadn't been ill, would you have run?

Yeah. And it's a shame. We got calls and mail throughout the election. Squadrons of volunteers called.

If you had run and won, what would President Zappa have done?

I would have started by dismantling the government. At least I would have presented the idea to the voters.


If you dismantled the government, you'd put yourself out of a job.

No, because most reasonable people would agree that we need roads, for instance, and water you can drink and breathable air. Most people realize that there has to be some coordinated infrastructure and a national offense that is commensurate with whatever threat you feel from other countries.

National offense?

I mean—well, what we have now is national offense. We should have national defense.


1. Overture To "Uncle Sam"

Premiered by the Ascolta ensemble at Radialsystem, Berlin, July 14, 2007.

Frank Zappa For President (2016) Ascolta Ensemble, July 14, 2007
00:00-04:53 0:00-5:16
Todd Yvega, Dance Me This (liner notes), June 2015

Over the years I had seen Frank jump from project to project often shelving one indefinitely to focus on another. There was an elaborate stage piece titled Dio Fa; An opera titled Uncle Sam (about a dystopian future America with a ludicrously polluted New York Harbor); A music notation book with accompanying audio disc titled The Rhythmic Sadist's Guide To Drum Patterns For The 21st Century.

Joe Travers, interviewed by Howie Kittelson, Conceptual Continuity With HowieZowie, July 28, 2016

It was for um, in an Opera, and definitely was one of the later Synclavier pieces of Frank's—very very late in fact. We found some footage of Todd Yvega and Spencer Chrislu being interviewed for the American Composer radio documentary that happened in 1995 and they used that piece as a demonstration for the Synclavier at the time, and uh, so it was definitely one of the later pieces. And we found it on a reel of Ensemble Modern rehearsals and performances that ended up becoming Everything is Healing Nicely.

But Frank had put together a 40 minutes collage of uh, that audio, lot of stuff from the rehearsals and I think Spence based most of what he, what Frank put together for Everything is Healing Nicely, but also on that tape it was the "Overture to Uncle Sam," and I've always kept that thing in my back pocket for some kind of release, you know. I've talked about various different releases including that piece and when Frank Zappa For President was offered to me as a project, I really saw like that would be a good thing to put on there, so that's how it all end up happening.


2. Brown Shoes Don't Make It (Remix)

Joe Travers, interviewed by Howie Kittelson, Conceptual Continuity With HowieZowie, July 28, 2016

HK: Now, what was the purpose of that remix, what is that associated with?

JT: We'll never know. It is not listed as such, although my opinion is that it was probably remixed for some kind of film project. [...] But we don't know what it is. I mean, I don't know if it was Uncle Meat—I don't know what that film project would be. But there's a couple of other classic songs on that reel that were remixed as well, so "Brown Shoes" is not the only one.


3. Amnerika (Vocal Version)

Joe Travers, interviewed by Howie Kittelson, Conceptual Continuity With HowieZowie, July 28, 2016

It was recorded during the Thing-Fish sessions—and all I can say is that that piece, the vocal version of that song was intended for one of the volumes of The Lost Episodes project, because The Lost Episodes at one time was, you know, kind of worked into a three volume project. And since Frank brought The Lost Episodes down to one disc, then there was a bunch of leftovers, and that happened to be one of the leftovers. And uh, we do have the ability to do another Lost Episodes volume from those leftovers, but Gail was, you know, basically using a lot of stuff from that for other projects, or at least wanted me to. So I figured, well, this is the perfect time for this song, you know, for this project.


4. "If I Was President"

Joe Travers, interviewed by Howie Kittelson, Conceptual Continuity With HowieZowie, July 28, 2016

Howie Kittelson: I see that the musical track and the spoken words were done in different times, were they meant to go together from the beginning or is that something that you combined?

JT: No, that's something I combined.


7. America The Beautiful

America! America!
The only place to be

FZ, interviewed by Den Simms, Society Pages, April 1990

DS: In 1988, you guys played "America The Beautiful", and I noticed that there was a short lyric change, which was "The only place to be" instead of "God shed his grace on thee". What was the reason for that?

FZ: I'm not sure God did shed his grace on this country. (laughter)

Mike Keneally, "March 12 1988," 1988 Was A Million Years Ago, 1998

[Buffalo, NY, March 9, 1988] We only did one encore due to time constraints, and that was "Easter Hay," "Untouchables" and the tour premiere of "America The Beautiful." Which was very, very nice, and which may become the regular ending of the show. A very non-ironic rendition of "America The Beautiful," for which Bobby requested that the line "God shed his grace on thee" be changed to "The only place to be," a change which Frank granted.



Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos
This page updated: 2023-06-21