Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More on Cal

The link to my interview with Cal Schenkel, the artist who designed many of Frank Zappa's best-known album covers, appears at left. As always, I had more material than I could put in the article.

Schenkel included R. Crumb in his list of influences, which brought up the subject of drugs as a source of inspiration. Zappa famously did not use drugs himself, through Schenkel said that, as a believer in personal freedom, he did not object to anyone else ingesting recreational chemicals. Still, Schenkel told me he never dropped acid, as Crumb did, and he doesn't regard his own art as psychedelic, surreal though it might be. His work is hard-edged and rough-textures, he said, where true psychedelia is "smooth and swirly."

One other thing he told me that I didn't mention was that he became acquainted with Zappa while was bumming around out in California the year after he graduated from high school. He got to sit in on the recording sessions for "Freak Out," which is sort of like being present at the signing of the Constitution.

Schenkel lives in Willow Grove, Pa., which Forbes magazine has named one of the 10 most unhip places in the country. He has occupied the house in which he grew up since around 2000, when his dad died. Now he wants to sell the house and move to Florida.

Asked which of his album covers are his favorites, he named Cruising with Reuben and the Jets and One Size Fits All, although, he said, they are all his children.

By the way, there is a Philadelphia reference in the one Size Fits All star chart. Three of the stars are names Wyoming, Olney and Hunting Park, which are stops on the Broad Street subway. (Ben Watson, in his analysis of the album cover, mentions New York, London and Los Angeles, but like everyone else on the planet, he overlooks Philly.)

Hoping to meet Schenkel Sunday at the art show in Chestnut Hill. He promises there will be affordable art for sale.

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