Tim Hampson's Beer Blog

The quest for the perfect beer

Beer in art and literature – number 2

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 You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline.” Frank Zappa

 Of course beer matters, it really does. And it is for this reason that so many writers and artists use beer and pubs in their creations.

And I have to say, I have been taken with an oft quoted quote from the legendary, musician Frank Zappa.

“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline,” said the founder of the Mothers of Invention, who died in 1993.

The band made one of my favourite albums “Weasels ripped my flesh”, in 1970.

The Zappa beer quote has been used many times on beery websites and in books.

Indeed, when doing research for both World Beer (Dorling Kindersley) and the Haynes Beer Manual (Haynes Publishing) I considered using the quote in chapters on beer in literature.

But I was intrigued by the context, why did he say it, and when?

So I am totally indebted to a fellow beer traveller Laurent Mousson, who is co-founder of French microbreweries collective Front Hexagonal de Libièration (www.libieration.org) who provided me with the information.

According to Laurent the quote is from “The Real Frank Zappa Book” written by Zappa and Peter Occhiogrosso, published in 1989, Chapter 12, page 231.

Laurent says the problem with the oft used quote is that “it’s usually misunderstood, because it’s always quoted out of context, as Zappa utters it as a tongue-in-cheek statement in support of his theory on beer that consumption of beer leads to pseudo-military behaviour”.

Beer drinkers are nationalists, believe in conformity and revel in collective violence.

And “winos don’t march!”

So what is the quote in full?

“Every major industrialised nation has a beer (You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have some kind of football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer).”

Zappa, is clearly not such a lover of the suds as in the same book he also says “Maybe there’s a chemical in beer that stimulates the [male] brain to do violence while moving in the same direction as other guys who smell like them.”

“Funny how nobody ever quotes that last bit,” says Laurent.

I have to say I love Zappa’s music, but the way the quote is used shows how little we properly analyse rhetoric and are willing to use a familiar or commonly shared quotation to support an a point of view.

However, as Zappa would say “This Is All Wrong”.

What a brilliant satirist he was.

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Written by timhampson

December 1, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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