This Exists uncovers and explores the musical peculiarities that exist in the dark corners of the internet, sometimes just outside the mainstream. Today, on the 19th anniversary of his death, we look at the quilt Frank Zappa commissioned to be made entirely out of unwashed pairs of women’s underwear.
Frank Zappa, who died 19 years ago today, was a masterful musician — a unique talent who blended a love of classical music, rock jazz with virtuosic guitar work and a scathing, satirical sense of humour.
He was also a total weirdo. Case in point, the infamous bra-and-panty quilt he commissioned back in 1981.
The story is a surprisingly simple one, given the circumstances. During his Tinsletown Rebellion tour in 1981, Zappa decided to make light out of an already-old rock ‘n roll cliché. Promising to “never wash them again,” Zappa asked ladies in the audience to toss their underwear on stage. Eventually it caught on, so much so that Life’s Most Important and Obscure Questions says his bassist used tongs on stage to get the dirty duds off his instrument.
When the tour was over, Zappa kept his word, delivering the unwashed underpants to artist Emily Janes, who turned it into a playing card inspired quilt that featured the “Valley Girl” singer as the King of Spades. Also, there’s a bunch of butts on it.
His legacy lives on with his children, Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva Thin Muffin and his widow, who’s currently exploiting his legacy with a crazy pyramid scheme. But his image: it lives on forever in the threads of countless unwashed underoos. As for the quilt, it’s been known to make the rounds through museums, casinos and galleries since making its debut 30 years ago.