Summer ’82: When Zappa Came to Sicily
directed by Salvo Cuccia
starring Dweezil Zappa, Massimo Bassoli
In the summer of 1982, Frank Zappa closed his world tour in Palermo, Sicily. It did not go well. Palermo had never hosted a major rock show, the band set up in the middle of a soccer pitch, the fans sat far away in the end zone, and a major religious festival ran the same night. Soon the police fired tear gas at rioting fans, and the show flopped. Well, it’s not the first-time a rock and roll show went out of control, but it’s an instructive one. Today people look back on the show with some fondness, and the Zappa clan comes back to their home land in 2013. This film splits between archival 8 mm film of the 1982 show and HD video of the 2013 family tour. That last trip went much smoother: Gale Zappa and her kids Dweezil, Moon Unit and Diva had a wonderful time, the mayor made them honorary citizens, and they even named a street for Frank, the very one his grandparents left in 1900 for a better life in America.
Do we care? Yes, we do. The concert footage looks cool and captures a confident group of musicians walking into a trap. The stories about the police and the kids points out the cops over-reacted when the fans tried to get close enough to see their idol; the important item was protection of the soccer fields calibrated grass. Here we delve into the culture of Sicily; while the mob is still a big problem, there’s more going on here than the Hollywood stereotype admits. The modern footage shows the Zappa clan as an extremely normal and close family with extensive skills, stability and a positive outlook. Specific features are limited; there’s a photo gallery and subtitles; you’ll need those unless you are fluent in both English and Italian. The narration large arrives from Massimo Bassoli, he became a fast friend to the family and did an off-color sound check in Italian for the 1982 show. He’s remained close the Zappa family to this day.
This film takes us deep into the family life of Frank Zappa and his clan. While there are a dozen musical tracks in the credits, none of them really play though so you need to enjoy this as Road Stories from the Good Old Days, annotated with family stories from today. Filmed in 2013, this project didn’t come out of edit until 2015 and it just crossed my mailbox in very late 2017. It’s not a “Must See” doc, but it cleared up a few questions in my mind about how Zappa operated, and nothing here did anything but increase my respect for the entire Zappa team.