Archive for January, 2016

Motels keys, 200 Motels vinyl (1971), 200 Motels scores

Motels keys, 200 Motels vinyl (1971), 200 Motels scores

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Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts Los Angeles Philharmonic & Los Angeles Master Chorale, Frank Zappa: 200 Motels—The Suites (Universal/Zappa Records, 2CD, November 2015)

Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts Los Angeles Philharmonic & Los Angeles Master Chorale, Frank Zappa: 200 Motels—The Suites (Universal/Zappa Records, 2CD, November 2015)

 

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The orchestral music used in 200 MOTELS was composed over a five-year period. Some of it originated with this performance in 1968.

The piece heard here in its premiere performance by members of the BBC Orchestra eventually became “THIS TOWN IS A SEALED TUNA SANDWICH”.

Most of the orchestral sketches were done in motel and hotel rooms around the world during early MOTHERS Tours, hence the movie title “200 MOTELS” (based on an estimate of the actual number).

The True Story of 200 Motels (honker home video, 1988)
overlay text for Like it or Not
(London, October 25, 1968, audio released in 1993 in Ahead Of Their Time)

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The True Story of 200 Motels, Barfko-Swill/MPI, 1989 (VHS PAL and NTSC)

The True Story of 200 Motels, Barfko-Swill/MPI, 1989 (VHS PAL and NTSC)

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Like it or Not later become part of Bogus Pomp, included both in the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra performance (available through Orchestral Favorites) and in the extended London Symphony Orchestra version (from LSO Vol.2).

Zappa: The fact of the matter is, 200 Motels is a stack of music about like this, (opposing palms 2 ft. apart). In order for it ever to be played again, anyplace other than on a record, it had to be boiled down to a concert piece that could be used for live performance. “Bogus Pomp” is a compilation of main themes from 200 Motels which was a concert piece, for a forty-piece orchestra. It was just played again in the 120-piece version at the University of Wisconsin, along with “Strictly Genteel”. It’s nice that some of the things are actually getting played. But unless somebody takes the time, mainly me, to sit down and put it together to one book that thick instead of a pile of scores for movie background music, nobody’ll ever hear it.
Robert Cassella, Z=AP2, Gold Coast Free Press, January 5, 1984
[This interview is from the end of December, 1983 and was first published in the Gold Coast Free Press, later in the same year in Mother People #22.]

The music named under the large 200 Motels “trademark”, slowly took shape in the late sixties, a little part was performed live by the original Mothers of Invention and in 1970 by the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta, most part was then played by the movie cast, later some portions were performed live by the Flo & Eddie band, and finally concentrated as Bogus Pomp, a “symphony in one movement”, a fitting definition by David Ocker who worked for Frank Zappa from 1977 to 1984 as clarinet player.

The composer told the whole story in 1988 in The True Story of 200 Motels: he cared for such “orchestral sketches” for more than 20 years!

Early in the nineties also there were signs of how much he cared for 200 Motels and particularly for Strictly Genteel: Make A Jazz Noise Here (1991) the last live recording of his last rock band closes with this piece as well as the You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore series (last track of Vol. 6, 1992).

Moreover, Steve Vai recalls:

I once asked him what was his favorite thing he ever wrote. I never expected such a choice could be made but he said, and I need to paraphrase a little bit here, “The majestic section towards the end of “Strictly Genteel””.
From the Frank Zappa: 200 Motels-The Suites booklet (more about this 2015 release later)

Mid eighties/early nineties were the years he was working with the Synclavier. Then he met The Ensemble Modern, two new crossed paths were developing, such circumstances eventually brought him far from those old seminal works.

The 200 Motels timeline then jumps to the year 2000 when Ali N. Askin adapted the old stack of scores in the form of The Suites for the Holland Festival.

Holland Festival Program, Amsterdam, June 23-24, 2000

Holland Festival Program, Amsterdam, June 23-24, 2000

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Here are the main credits:

Holland Festival
Amsterdam, June 23-24, 2000
Adaptation: Ali N. Askin
Company: Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest and Cappella Amsterdam
Conductor: Jurjen Hempel
Soloists:
Claron McFadden: vocals (Rock & Roll Interviewer, Girl, Jeff’s Good Conscience)
Lieuwe Visser: vocals (Rance Muhammitz, Jeff’s Bad Conscience)
Tommy Dunbar & Jon Rubin: vocals (Flo & Eddie)
Mats Öberg: keyboards, vocals (Jeff)
Morgan Ågren: drums
Stage-Manager: Johan Simons

An audience recording is available through zappateers.

Kasper Sloots gives and effective summary of this 2000 project in his FRANK ZAPPA’S MUSICAL LANGUAGE study/web site.

200 Motels, The Suites, was reassembled by Zappa’s earlier assistant Ali N. Askin at the request of Gail Zappa. It could be made up from the archives with the pieces meant for a live performance by The London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1971. About 80% coincides with the 1971 album version of 200 Motels. The other 20% is unreleased. The set up of 200 Motels, the suites, is:

Overture
Went On The Road
Centerville
Tuna Sandwich Suite
The Restaurant Scene
Touring Can Make You Crazy
What’s The Name Of Your Group?
Can I Help You With This Dummy?
The Pleated Gazelle
I’m Stealing The Room
Shove It Right In
Penis Dimension
Strictly Genteel

The unreleased material deals with a groupie, addressing herself to the audience. She’s asking if she can take a polaroid picture and then continues confessing that she likes masturbating with the aid of a dummy. “Can I help you with this dummy?” is about the girl being sexually excited by the dummy, while a certain Rance first asks if he can help. Later on Rance gets disgraced as he understands what the girl was doing, while she’s trying to apologize. The score was first published in the The Frank Zappa Songbook from 1973. Zappa comments: “Can I help you…” was originally scheduled for use in 200 Motels but was excluded due to technical difficulties beyond…”. 200 Motels, the suites, was premiered on June 23 in the Carré theatre, with a second concert on June 24 (flyer above, there’s no information about the image designer on it). It was performed by the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra and the Amsterdam Capella choir with Jurjen Hempel conducting.

If you need to go in detail about the differences between the movie soundtrack and The Suites you should go for “Information Is Not Knowledge” web site as usual: at the end of the “Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels” page you’ll find the proper comparison table.

In 2000 a small part of the Holland Festival performance, an extract from I’m Stealing the Room named Dental Hygiene Dilemma, was already in the last Ensemble Modern Zappa program: Greggery Peccary and Other Persuasions, also presented at the 2000 Holland Festival.

This powerful vocal number, featuring David Moss and Homar Ebrahim, has been partially released as an hidden track in the third (the fourth, if you count CPIII in also) Ensemble Modern Zappa album that includes further arrangements by Ali N. Askin. (Greggery Peccary and Other Persuasions, RCA Red Seal, 2003). Here is the Dental Hygiene Dilemma animated (by Calvin Schenkel) sequence from Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels.

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After a 13 years hiatus, The Suites were back again for two big events:

Green Umbrella: Zappa’s 200 Motels
Los Angeles, October 23, 2013
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic & Los Angeles Master Chorale

Main performers:
Jeff Taylor: Larry the Dwarf
Michael Des Barres: Rance
Matt Marks: Mark
Zach Villa: Howard
Rich Fulcher: Cowboy Burt
Hila Plitmann: Soprano Solo
Morris Robinson: Bass Solo
Joel David Moore: Frank
Joe Fria: Jeff
Ann Cusack: Donovan/Good Conscience
Alan Ruck: Ginger/Bad Conscience
Diva Zappa: Janet
Sheila Vand: Lucy
Ian Underwood: keyboard 1/electric alto sax
Randy Kerber: keyboard 2/Hammond organ
Joe Travers: drum set
Scott Carter Thunes: electric bass
Jamie Kime: electric guitar

Jeff Taylor as Larry the Dwarf (Photograph: Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging), Green Umbrella: Zappa's 200 Motels, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, October 23, 2013

Jeff Taylor as Larry the Dwarf (Photograph: Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging), Green Umbrella: Zappa’s 200 Motels, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, October 23, 2013

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The Rest Is Noise
London, October 29, 2013
Royal Albert Hall
Jurjen Hempel conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia & London Voices (Terry Edwards: chorus master)

Main performers:
Claron McFadden: soprano
Tony Guilfoyle: Frank
Richard Strange: narrator, Rance
Ian Shaw: Mark
Brendan Reilly: Howard, Cowboy Burt
Sophia Brous: Groupie 1 (Janet), Larry the Dwarf
Diva Zappa: Groupie 2 (Lucy)
Jessica Hynes: Good Conscience, Donovan
Jay Rayner: Bad Conscience, Ginger
Scott Thunes: Jeff

Tony Guilfoyle as Frank Zappa (Photograph: Chris Christodoulou), 200 Motels-The Suites, The Rest Is Noise, Royal Albert Hall, London, October 29, 2013

Tony Guilfoyle as Frank Zappa (Photograph: Chris Christodoulou), 200 Motels-The Suites, The Rest Is Noise, Royal Albert Hall, London, October 29, 2013

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The London concert is available from the bigO audio archive as a BBC Radio 3 broadcast.

(BTW, also available through the bigO audio archive is Frank Zappa Live at the Civic Center, Santa Monica, August 21, 1970 that features some 200 Motels related material)

The Los Angeles concert has been released on November 2015 as a double Zappa Records CD: Frank Zappa: 200 Motels-The Suites. Here is the trailer:

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As reported in the press release linked above:

“I would say that the outrageous aspects of Zappa are perhaps less important for today’s audience,” Salonen told Variety in an interview before the 2013 performance. “We’re witnessing an historical moment where we can actually hear the other aspects of his music better because we are no longer stunned by the outrageousness. Reading this score now, there is a sheer richness of fantasy. He had such a vivid imagination in every way.”

And in fact the music sounds overwhelming, however the script does not give back that deviant climate the way it did in 1971. Salonen should be right, 43 years later the audience is different: maybe also thanks to Frank Zappa “the fringe of audience comprehension” has gone a little bit ahead. Furthermore these Orchestras seems happy to execute such a composer, while in 1971:

The jolly lads of the R.P.O. cavort with depraved abandon, shredding their rented tuxedos in an act of revenge.

Gary pretends to be dismayed.

The movie is over. Now they can go home.

R.P.O. stands for The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the text above is the overlay text around 50:00 into The True Story of 200 Motels, Zappa recalls how the musicians seemed to be offended to be part of the production of the movie.

Later, Zappa wrote this note for Strictly Genteel into the London Symphony Orchestra Vol. II booklet (the story dates 1983).

This was written for the finale of ‘200 MOTELS.’ It has lyrics and was sung by Theodore Bikel, Mark Volman, and Howard Kaylan on the original United Artists soundtrack album released in 1971.

The performance included here was recorded in the last hour of the last session of the last night . . . with no possibility of overtime (at any price) to correct mistakes. During the final ‘rest period’ just before the big push to get a good take, the entire trumpet section decided to visit a pub across the street. They returned 15 minutes late. No recording could be done without them. The orchestra refused to spend another 15 minutes at the end of the session to make up for their glowing brass section neighbors. I have done as much as possible to enhance this fine British ‘craftmanship’ (at least 50 edits in 6:53), but, to no avail . . . the ‘human element’ remains intact.

The Real Frank Zappa Book includes some more accounts of the his life-long difficulties with Orchestras and musical Institutions. One of the most infamous is the long lawsuit he had in London where he claimed over the cancellation of the 200 Motels Albert Hall concert. It was 1971 and the program could have had something in common with The Suites, as above speculated by Kasper Sloots.

Here are some old and recent articles about the controversy:
From the Guardian archives:
Frank Zappa’s lyrics outrage Royal Albert Hall management
Originally published on 9 February 1971

A Mother goes a-courting
NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, April 26, 1975

Sanchez Manning
Frank Zappa settles an old score after 42 years: Banned in 1971, ‘200 Motels’ will finally be played in the UK
The Independent, August 11, 2013

The composer gave a detailed account of such lawsuit in The Real Frank Zappa Book, Chapter 7 Drool, Britannia.

Drool, Britannia has been dramatized during the pre-concert talk (right before the 2013 Los Angeles, October 23 performance) hosted by Chad Smith. He introduces performers RICH FULCHER (Frank Zappa), MICHAEL DES BARRES (Mr. Ogden), JOE FRIA (Mr. Campbell), and SCOTT THUNES (Justice Mocatta) reading Drool, Britannia. The pre-talk closes with Chad Smith chatting with GAIL ZAPPA. The audio is available at the end of the show credits page at laphil.com.

Here it is too:

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The Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall show visuals and comedy has been produced by James Darrah, who has a 200 Motels page on his web site.

Darrah contributes to the Frank Zappa: 200 Motels-The Suites liner notes as well as Frank Filippetti, Gail Zappa, Scott Thunes, Steve Vai, Joe Travers, Michael Des Barres, Diva Zappa, Peter Asher, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Kurt Morgan.

The latter being credited on the album as “Scrutinization & Remediation by Kurt Morgan, Scoremeister”. From his contribution to the album liner notes:

“Every idiosyncrasy of FZ’s way of notating music would be reproduced, right down to the beaming of notes and the layouts of the pages themselves. The job took almost two years for me to complete”

One might wonder what is the difference between the Askin Holland Festival version and the 2013 L.A./London Morgan scores.

It could be a matter of orchestration, the program should be almost the same, also according to the above mentioned comparison table.

As a final remark concerning the 2015 album, I would recommend the in-depth review of the Los Angeles concert by David Ocker, available through his Mixed Meters.

But let’s go back again to the late sixties to start a 200 Motels timeline (mainly a London/Los Angeles affair). There a few more facts that is worth to point out to fully appreciate and frame these new brilliant recordings.

1966-1970 The Orchestral Sketchbook
1968 October 25
London, Royal Festival Hall
The Mothers of Invention
assisted by members of The BBC Symphony Orchestra
Prologue, Like It Or Not (Redneck Eats), The Rejected Mexican Pope Leaves The Stage / Undaunted, The Band Plays On (Dance Of The Just Plain Folks); included in Ahead of Their Time (1993); parts on The True Story of 200 Motels (1988)
c. 1968-69 The Mothers of Invention
opening for Holiday In Berlin, Full-Blown (Ouverture)
included in Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1970)
1969 date unknown
KPFK Radio Panel
: current state of popular and classical music in the U.S.
with Frank Zappa, Zubin Mehta (L.A. Philharmonic Music director), Ernest Fleischmann (L.A. Music Center and L.A. Phil. Manager), David Raksin (film-music composer); hosted by station Classical Music Director William Strother
1970 May 15
Los Angeles, UCLA, Pauley Pavilion
CONTEMPO 70
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Zubin Mehta (conductor)
Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention
Excerpts from 200 Motels for Mothers & Orchestra
Bootleg recording available through the bigO audio archive
Chunga’s Revenge (October 1970)
Zappa liner notes: “All the vocals in this album are a preview of the story from 200 Motels. Coming. Soon. Near you.” However these songs didn’t make it to the final shoot.
1971 January 28-February 5
Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels shooting/recording
Produced at Pinewood Studios, Iverheath, England
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Elgar Howarth (Conductor)
February 8
London, Royal Albert Hall cancelled
Frank Zappa’s lyrics outrage Royal Albert Hall management
Originally published on The Guardian on February 9, 1971
October 4
Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels (2LP, Bizarre/United Artists UAS 9956)
October 10
Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels movie premiere
1975 April 14
At 10.30 in the morning Bizarre Productions began to sue the Royal Albert Hall in front of Mr. Justice Mocatta. Bizzare lost.
A Mother goes a-courting
NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, April 26, 1975
September 17-19
Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA
Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra
Michael Zearott (conductor)
Strictly Genteel
Bogus Pomp
included in Orchestral Favorites (1979)
September 17 zappateers audience recording available
September 18 zappateers audience recording available
1983 January 12-14
London, Twickenham Film Studio
London Symphony Orchestra
Kent Nagano (Conductor)
Strictly Genteel
Bogus Pomp
included in London Symphony Orchestra Vol. II (1987)
1988 The True Story of 200 Motels (Honker Home Video, May 15, 1988)
2000 June 6 – November 29
The Ensemble Modern Greggery Peccary & Other Persuasions concerts
Peter Eötvös (conductor), Ali N. Askin (arrangements and transcriptions), Todd Yvega ( synclavier transcriptions)
The album released in 2003 includes en excerpt of
Dental Hygiene Dilemma (partially unreleased, from I’m Stealing The Room)
June 23-24
Holland Festival
Amsterdam, Koninklijk Theater Carré
200 Motels, The Suites
Adaptation: Ali N. Askin
Company: Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest and Cappella Amsterdam
Conductor: Jurjen Hempel
zappateers audience recording available
2013 October 23
Green Umbrella: Zappa’s 200 Motels
Los Angeles, Walt Disney Concert Hall
200 Motels, The Suites
Scruitinization & Remedials by Kurt Morgan: scoremeister
Company: Los Angeles Philharmonic & Los Angeles Master Chorale
Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen
Chorus Master: Grant Gershon
October 29
The Rest Is Noise
London, Royal Albert Hall
200 Motels, The Suites
Scruitinization & Remedials by Kurt Morgan: scoremeister
Company: BBC Concert Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia, London Voices
Conductor: Jurjen Hempel
Chorus Master: Terry Edwards
BBC Radio 3 broadcast available through the bigO audio archive
2015 November 20
Frank Zappa: 200 Motels – The Suites (Universal/Zappa Records, 2CD)
spotify link

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The CONTEMPO 70 concert was the first orchestral performance of 200 Motels scores. Unfortunately, due to the usual difficulties with unions regulations, he could not record the concert performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta. Frank Zappa recalls the story in The Real Frank Zappa Book.

Sometime in 1970, I had an offer for a major concert performance of the orchestral music accumulating in my closet. During the M.O.I.’s first five years, I had carried with me, on the road, masses of manuscript paper, and, whenever there was an opportunity, scribbled stuff on it. This material eventually became the score for 200 Motels (based on an estimate of the number of gigs we played in the first five years—forty jobs per year?).

The performance was to be held at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion (a basketball arena seating about fourteen thousand people), with Zubin Mehta conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. A pretty big deal.

There was a ‘catch,’ though—the orchestra didn’t really want to play the stuff—they wanted AN EVENT; something ‘unique’—like—uhh, maybe a ROCK GROUP and—uhhhhh—a REAL ORCHESTRA sort of—uhhh—well you know—‘rocking out together.’ It didn’t matter what the music was.

This eventually led to a few problems. First of all, I didn’t have a ‘ROCK GROUP’—the M.O.I had been disbanded for about a year. Second, there were no parts copied for the scores, and I was being asked to pay for this enormous job (seven thousand 1970 dollars). The third problem was that I wanted some kind of tape of the show, and the Musicians’ Union wouldn’t allow it. (They didn’t do anything when some asshole in the audience ran a cassette and made a bootleg album out of it, but they were promising stern action if I made one for my own use—just to find out what my pieces sounded like . . . but let me slow down here.)

We solved problem number one by putting together an interim one-shot ‘Mothers-Of-Invention-Sort-Of-Group.’ It did a short tour to warm up, maybe half a dozen dates, and returned to L.A. for the show.

The second problem was solved by me spending the seven thousand bucks on a team of copyists.

The third problem never got solved, and I never got a tape of the show.

It was the most successful indoor concert of the L.A. Phil’s season that year—sold out. Somewhere in the mass of spectators were Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, a.k.a. Flo & Eddie.

They came backstage after the show, said they liked it, and told me that the Turtles had split up and they were looking for something to do. The rest is history.

In spite of all those issues, the show was a success and gave a chance for the first encounter with Volman and Kaylan (Flo & Eddie), a crucial duo for the future of 200 Motels. Luckily enough bootleg recordings exist, one of them is available through the bigO audio archive.

Right before the “hit it Zubin!” (FZ during the intro) Pauley Pavilion concert, KPFK Radio organized a panel called “current state of popular and classical music in the U.S.” with Frank Zappa, Zubin Mehta (L.A. Philharmonic Music director), Ernest Fleischmann (L.A. Music Center and L.A. Phil. Manager), David Raksin (film-music composer) and hosted by station Classical Music Director William Strother. Here is a recording:

From left: Frank Zappa, Zubin Mehta and Ernest Fleischmann at a 1970 news conference (John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)

From left: Frank Zappa, Zubin Mehta and Ernest Fleischmann at a 1970 news conference (John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)

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Considering how emerging was rock culture in 1969 and what FZ wrote about CONTEMPO 70 in The Real Frank Zappa Book (“the orchestra didn’t really want to play the stuff—they wanted AN EVENT”), the background of the discussion appears clear. Metha asks “Once and for all: what is rock music?” or “rock is an instinctive idiom, how an Orchestra can play rock?”. Zappa answers (a paraphrase here): “Whatever merchandized in a rock packaging” and “I don’t want the Orchestra to play rock but I do think the Orchestra should sound instinctive”. Metha was looking for the secret recipe of the rock popularity, Zappa answered his way trying to put the issue differently: it is not a matter of Rock/Classical (low culture/high culture) it is a matter of proper content in the right frame.

Zappa:
I wanted to have a performance of the Rite of Spring in a dance environment where you could actually get kids to dance to it. I wanted to get the LA Philharmonic down there and have them taking up the whole back of the place, amplified, so it can really ride across your chest by the Rite of Spring, put on a light show and let everybody dance to it!
[…]
I would be more than happy, if I had a group, to carry on from The Rite of Spring and keep on pumping after the tune was over, because I never did like the end of The Rite of Spring.
[…]
As soon as the Orchestra quit, like a tape edit downbeat, then the other band starts up with a fuzz-tone!
[…]
You want people to appreciate beauty, give it to them!

I would run for such a thing!

Anyway, in 1969 in the U.S. the so called classical world was hardly trying to understand how to design musical events as successful as rock ‘n’ roll shows, and this circumstance brought an interest on Frank Zappa, probably more as a rock-star than as a composer. FZ was smart enough to understand and catch it.

If you bear in mind such a background the panel flows with a sort of underlying text behind.

The last jump across the timeline is to 1975 for the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra concert (Michael Zearott: conductor). There is not much information available on the web about these performances, later partially released on Orchestral Favorites (1979), with some other remnants on posthumous releases (QuAUDIOPHILIAc (2004) and One Shot Deal (2008)). On a 1976 article Frank Zappa gave a particularly zany comment: “I had a few laughs.” (Rip Rense, A Unique Musical Force or Blasphemous Freak: Which Is Frank Zappa?, The Valley News, Van Nuys, CA, June 27, 1976).

Zappa/Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra/Micheal Zearott, Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA, September 1975 - Ad

Zappa/Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra/Micheal Zearott, Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA, September 1975 – Ad

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The overall feeling is that the composer was happy enough with the project also because he was able to insert some kind of “instinctive” elements, the “eyebrows” he probably was trying to explain to Zubin Metha during that 1969 panel. One of them concerns Bogus Pomp.

Micheal Zearott conducting the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA, September 1975

Micheal Zearott conducting the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles, Royce Hall, UCLA, September 1975

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Early in Bogus Pomp there is an electric, wah-wah viola solo. Zappa explained before the piece that the rest of the orchestra would musically attack the viola player later in the piece because the viola got the first solo and because the soloist was a woman.
L. Roy Goldberg, Zappa Gives UCLA Audience The Bird, Daily Trojan, September 25, 1975

The episode is at 6:15 into Bogus Pomp (and there’s another at 9:21), Orchestral Favorites version, and the viola player is Pamela Goldsmith:

It was Jerry Kessler who asked me to join him in a string quartet (electrified) to play with Frank in a giant Royce Hall Concert. It was the first time I had dealt with a pickup (Barcus Berry in those days) and amp (giant Benson amp), so in combination with dealing with Frank I remember being extremely pressurized. I had feedback all the time, as I remember. I used a combination volume control and wah-wah pedal, and once I was fooling around with it during rehearsal and tried using it to produce ‘vibrato’. Frank came running out wild-eyed saying ‘that’s it-you have to use that’. So I did. I played barefoot because that was the only way I could feel the pedal underneath my foot (you must realize violists don’t use their feet to play and this was all new to me. I was fresh from Stanford University, having received my doctorate in eighteenth century performance practice). In the performance, Frank had the string quartet right in front at the edge of the stage, dressed in formal orchestral attire. Except for my bare feet. He definitely wrote for individual players, writing more and more difficult passages until you would hit your ‘wall’. I remember finally saying to him, “Frank, I can’t play that any faster”. Then he said, ‘okay’, and that was that. Everyone was apparently relieved that I was not intimidated by him (only by the electronics). I think I was the only woman around in that group (does anyone remember? this was a long time ago). Yes the music was highly complex and difficult, but challenging and fun to play. Michael Zearott conducted (the meter changes were so difficult and frequent)quite wonderfully as I recall. In fact, everyone was in top form, rising to the occasion of this incredible collection of players. more to follow later. pg

Here’s more: Frank definitely wrote personal music for his musicians. Someone must have told him I was involved with a trombone player at the time, so he wrote duets (in unison) for viola and trombone. I remember the marking was ‘grotesque’. The great trombone player, Bruce was a pleasure to try to imitate–he really had the satirical style down. The only two titles I remember were Bogus Pomp and Gregory Peccary. Somewhere in the Concert Frank came to the mike and announced to the audience, “you think I am a wonderful composer, but the truth is these musicians could improvise their own piece and it would be just as interesting, so let’s have them do it now. Let’s start with Pam”. Then he turned around and gestured to me. Can you imagine the terror that sprung into me at that moment. I picked up my viola and began to improvise, in a very avant-garde, all over the place style. (they tell me it sounded a little like Ornette Coleman) Then he gestured to others to join in, waved people in and out, indicated dynamic changes and so forth. When he cut off the music (noise, whatever), the audience cheered wildly. I could only think: “thank god that’s over–I hope no one ever asks me to improvise in public ever again”!
From the “Frank Zappa and The Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Orchestra” Bill Lantz web pages

To close this erratic trip back and forth the 200 Motels timeline, a final question arises (paraphrasing Zubin Metha): Once and for all: what’s the 200 Motels message?

We have an answer, it was given by Howard Kaylan at the end of The True Story of 200 Motels (0:51:13):

His intention is to create a, a piece of film so bizarre and, parts of it so full of bullshit and other parts of it so technically perfect, that the people are gonna leave the theater going, “I didn’t understand it at all! What’s he doing? What’s, what’s the message? What’s he trying to say?” Well, that’s the message, that he’s not trying to say it.

Or: “I had a few laughs.”

200 Motels collage by Dave McMacken

200 Motels collage by Dave McMacken

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