The book is not about Frank Zappa’s music, nor about other rock stars but follows my own journey from that lucky day I met Frank in London in 1967 and ended up living and working in his house for the next four years when he was first famous. It’s the only book that documents his home life and that of his wife, Gail, as well as the eight other members of the clan that shared the enormous log cabin with us in Laurel Canyon, Hollywood.
In August 1967, Pauline Butcher was a London-based typist. Armed with a portable, golf-ball typewriter and shorthand pad, she often got sent out on missions to type up businessmen’s letters, scripts and the like. On this particular day, she answered the phone, and as a random result, she went off to Room 412 at the Royal Garden Hotel to meet a Mr. Zappa. From that first meeting, she began several years of a close, yet often-distant relationship with the American musician Frank Zappa.
I have been an all-encompassing fan of Frank Zappa since the late sixties and have followed his progress avidly, so this book published in 2011 comes as a breath of fresh air in the historical sense. Freak Out: My life with Frank Zappa by Pauline Butcher is a personal account of her time of sharing houses, facilities, highs and lows, bands, naivety, strange encounters with a varied panoply of people, insecurities, ailments, the list of experience is seemingly endless. Her innocence and naivety manifested itself when she was introduced to Eric Clapton, and she asked him what instrument he played.
Pauline Butcher has had the ambition to be a writer throughout her life; this particular book proves that she could have been an author much earlier. The detailed descriptions of the myriad chances she had to write her book keep the reader spellbound. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, the memories it engenders of those magical years of my own youth, make this book that much more invigorating. There is a passage that explains the delay’s before the Frank Zappa Grand Wazoo Orchestra took the stage at the Oval Cricket Ground on 14th September 1972. I was one of the many camping outside all night waiting to see them. I remember it all so well.
This is a warts and all look at how a wise yet impressionable young girl rose quite magnificently to the challenge, did not suffer fools gladly, and earned great respect from virtually everybody she met, from the rich and famous to the destitute down and outs. A superbly written memorandum of those halcyon days of the sixties. If a look at the historical track record of an English rose living in America during those days interests you, then look no further than this book, it is superb.
Reg Seward 5*
Freak Out by Pauline Butcher
Plexus 9780859654791 pbk Sep 2011