San Fernando Valley, California

Valley Girl by Frank Zappa

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Encino is, like, so bitchin'
There's, like, the Galleria
And, all these, like, really great shoe stores Read full Lyrics
Some songs are about a place. Some songs are also about a certain time within that place. And then there are songs that are about a distinct subculture within that time and within that place. So it isn't enough to peg "Valley Girl" as being about the San Fernando Valley; we have to also consider that it was 1992 and the upper-class suburban bedroom communities of said San Fernando Valley which produced an army of bubbly, cheerful bimbos known as "valley girls." And while we're at it, we have to do our homework.

Promotional poster for the movie <i>Valley Girl</i>. Yes, that's Nicolas CagePromotional poster for the movie Valley Girl. Yes, that's Nicolas Cage
Besides being released as a single, "Valley Girl" was also on the album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch. Cover art: The titled image, a Droodle of - well, Google it. It could also be described as "Mother pyramid feeding her baby." Droodles were humorous minimalist drawings which could have many funny captions - first introduced in the 1950s, but re-popularized in the '80s by publishing house Price-Stern-Sloan. Back cover: Zappa and his daughter, Moon Unit Zappa, embracing together. If you want a squick factor, consider that this album also had the song "Teenage Prostitute" - would you want that on an album next to your 14-year-old daughter's smiling face? Barf out! Gag me with a spoon!

Moon Unit supplied the speaking part to Zappa's band accompaniment. While the song was originally supposed to be a satire of valley girls, it backfired and made them more popular than ever. Zappa did this before for hippie culture (which he loathed with a passion) with the album We're Only in It for the Money, which became one of the central albums of hippie culture. This also happened with Dancin' Fool and disco culture. You might call it the "Zappa Effect," in which making a satirical song about a subject made the subject more popular than ever.

A year after the song came out, there was the 1993 movie Valley Girl, a rather forgettable comedy vehicle starring Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman. Ironically, Zappa's song was not included on the soundtrack.

One district within the San Fernando Valley specifically mentioned is Encino. Encino, California, is indeed the stereotypical valley girl crib, being a white-collar community which is overwhelmingly Caucasian, having a maze of suburban McMansions, and having MDs and JDs as the median education level.

If you want a good picture of the level of entitlement in this area, consider that San Fernando Valley voters in 2002 tried to secede from L.A. and become their own city, simply because San Fernando communities just didn't feel they were being appreciated enough. Even without political approval, many districts in San Fernando have "seceded" in spirit by renaming neighborhoods and building fences and boundaries in an attempt to disassociate themselves from undesirables and to increase property values. In other words, they're snobs.

"Valley Girl" charted at #32 on the US charts, making this Frank Zappa's only Top 40 song. This makes Zappa, who died in 1993, the only "one-hit wonder" in music history to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1995), win a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1997), and be archived in the National Recording Registry (2005), as well as being ranked #71 on Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

There's something wrong with our system.

Pete Trbovich
June 2, 2012
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