Archive for the ‘zappology’ Category

Meat Light

Posted: January 23, 2017 in album review, zappa, zappology
Meat Light - The Uncle Meat Project/Object Audio Documentary (3CD, Zappa Records/UMe ZR20024, November 4, 2016)

Meat Light – The Uncle Meat Project/Object Audio Documentary (3CD, Zappa Records/UMe ZR20024, November 4, 2016)


Uncle Meat is a milestone, the landmark where The Mothers of Invention reached the highest point, but also the time when the project termination phase began. This double LP set was recorded between October 1967 and February 1968, it was released on April 1969, the following summer Zappa would have disbanded the MOI.

After such recording sessions the MOI become almost only a live band. Of course Zappa used a lot of 68/69 live material to mold two further “posthumous” MOI album, namely Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh (and much later, YCDTOSA Vol.5 disc 2 and Ahead of Their Time), however the studio MOI era closed with Uncle Meat, as often with FZ, an unfinished project, since it should have been a movie also (somehow completed almost 20 years later in 1987).

The “audio vérité” tracks included in the album testify of the economic difficulties of the band that eventually brought his leader to close the project the next year (probably economics was not the only issue, but it was a crucial one). Nevertheless until February 1968 Zappa conceived the MOI as a studio band also.

In the original liner notes FZ emphasizes on technology and studio procedures he was particularly fond of: Uncle Meat is a peak also as a sonic 60’s object, being a balanced mix of electric and acoustic music, often manipulated in speed and through other electronic filters.

[An extract of the original liner notes as it has been included into the Meat Light booklet, a complete set of images of this new edition of Uncle Meat is available through]

Uncle Meat was in fact one of the projects entirely produced at Apostolic Studios (together with Ruben & The Jets), a sonic engine that gave Zappa new opportunities:

By late 1967, Apostolic Studios had installed a prototype Scully 12-track recorder, and the overdubbing opportunities it afforded, together with a variable-speed oscillator used to modify the machine’s 30 ips tape speed, allowed for the creation of a completely new sound palette.
Chris Michie, “We Are The Mothers . . . And This Is What We Sound Like!“, Mix, January 1, 2003

For a detailed account of those Apostolic times, please refer also to: The story of the recording studio that became Frank Zappa’s New York downtown playground!

Apostolic Studios brochure cover

Apostolic Studios brochure cover

Previous Michie quote and Apostolic link via Uncle Meat notes at IINK, a must to go in deep into the album, which was a seminal one.

If you look at the track lists of previous MOI albums to pick songs and compositions that would have traveled time and space, you’ll find for sure some (e.g. Trouble Every Day, Brown Shoes Don’t Make It or The Idiot Bastard Son’s), but if you skim the Uncle Meat list you’ll be amazed to find music that participated to essential future FZ projects, such as Hot Rats (Mr. Green Genes) or Yellow Shark (Dog/Meat, Exercise #4, Pound for a Brown). You will also find King Kong, the perfect embodiment of the matter that kept the Project/Object alive for 25 years. Moreover Uncle Meat features Nine Types of Industrial Pollution, one of the first examples of a completely xenochronized piece, and Project X, a composition that would have fit Jazz From Hell too (at least from 1:35 on).

Forward to 2016, ZFT released Meat Light, the fifth Project/Object in the series of 40ieth Anniversary Audio Documentaries, the second in 2016, after The Crux Of The Biscuit.
It’s a 3 cd set, and its main features are:

  1. the original album restored for the first time on cd to the sonic palette of the ’60s (Original 1969 Vinyl Mix, cd 1)
  2. an early album sequence (Original Sequence, cd 2 and part of cd 3)
  3. 20 sessions outtakes (From the Vault, part of cd 3)


Here are the main credits from the Meat Light page (track list is below the post):

Recording Engineers: Dick Kunc, Jerry Hansen
Studios: Apostolic Studios, NYC; Sunset Sound, Los Angeles
Original package designed by Cal Schenkel, NT&B

THE MOTHERS at the time of this recording were:

FRANK ZAPPA: guitar, low grade vocals, percussion
RAY COLLINS: swell vocals
JIMMY CARL BLACK: drums, droll humor, poverty
ROY ESTRADA: electric bass, cheeseburgers, Pachuco falsetto
DON (Dom De Wild) PRESTON: electric piano, tarot cards, brown rice
BILLY (The Oozer) MUNDI: drums on some pieces before he quit to join RHINOCEROS
BUNK (Sweatpants) GARDNER: piccolo, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, bassoon (all of these electric and/or nonelectric depending)
IAN UNDERWOOD: electric organ, piano, harpsichord, celeste, flute, clarinet, alto sax, baritone sax, special assistance, copyist, industrial relations & teen appeal
ARTIE (With the Green Mustache) TRIPP: drums, timpani, vibes, marimba, xylophone, wood blocks, bells, small chimes, cheerful outlook & specific enquires
EUCLID JAMES (Motorhead/Motorishi) SHERWOOD: pop star, frenetic tenor sax stylings, tambourine, choreography, obstinance & equipment setter-upper when he’s not hustling local groupies

Special Thanks to:
RUTH KOMANOFF who plays marimba and vibes with Artie on many of the tracks,
NELCY WALKER the soprano voice with Ray & Roy on Dog Breath & The Uncle Meat Variations.

The Uncle Meat Project/Object Audio Documentary
Compiled & Produced by Gail Zappa & Joe Travers

Disc One – Chris Bellman, Bernie Grundman Mastering 2013
Disc Two & Three – John Polito, Audio Mechanics 2013

Cover and Interior Paintings: Theo Holdt
Photography: Michael Ochs Archive; Additional Photos Courtesy of: The Vault
Package Design: Michael Mesker
Production Manager: Melanie Starks
Special Thanks: Ahmet & Diva, Holland Greco, Kurt Morgan

Vaultmeister Notes:
All material for this release was taken entirely from 1/4” mono & stereo analog tapes except Disc Three, Track 24, taken from the original 12 track analog master (Mixed by Joe Travers, UMRK 2013). All transfers by Joe Travers at UMRK 2012-2013, 96K 24B .WAV (except Disc One- transferred 2005). The original analog tape edit master for Uncle Meat unfortunately suffers in sections from oxide loss due to tape age and bad storage conditions. A new hi-res digital patchwork edit master was created in 2013 with all damaged sections restored from safety tapes found in the vault for best sonics!


Uncle Meat now sounds near to the original vinyl for the first time on cd. All the digital reverb of the UMRK 1987 version is not there anymore (as it is in all the other cd releases, including the 2012 UMe), and this version does not include the “bonus tracks” featured in the other cd editions (two excerpts from the Uncle Meat movie, and Tengo ‘na Minchia Tanta, a song recorded in the 80’s with Massimo Bassoli). From a sonic point of view, there is the same difference between the Hot Rats 2012 UMe edition and all the other cd versions released before: no digital reverb, maybe a little less brilliant but with a way better response at low frequencies. For instance the bassoon prolonged low note at the beginning of Uncle Meat: Main Title Theme sounds different here! Also, the 2016 soundscape is that of a small hall, which is more appropriate for the sort of chamber music featured in the album.

The early album sequence has a lot in common with cd 1 (many tracks are exactly alike), but includes also two unreleased underground, freak-out instrumentals (Whiskey Wah, The Whip) and a few reworked items (eg. King Kong as a single 10:46 episode at the end of an imaginary LP 1). In spite of the repetitions, this sequence (divided in four parts – four LP sides? – in the liner notes) has a lot to speak as far as FZ “compulsive editing”, to adhere to a Don Preston remark:

I always liked to say that he was a compulsive editor. I saw him three months after an album was released, put that same album together in different ways, and re-editing the album when it’s not even going to come out. He used to love to sit there and edit anything.
Don Preston, quoted by Billy James, Necessity Is . . . , 2001, p. 79
(quoted in the IINK Uncle Meat notes page)

The Uncle Meat listening experience is slightly different with this sequence, particularly interesting is the position of the shortened King Kong, here is in part 2 (side 2?), which is the only full instrumental one. The King loses his status (his full side majesty), but here he is in the flow of the discourse, right in the center. As reported by Vaultmeister Joe Travers at ZappaCast, Episode 30 (October 31, 2016, the Meat Light chat starts approximately at 1:16), this sequence could represent the transition between No Commercial Potential (an earlier project, supposedly 6 sides log) and Uncle Meat.

The Vault section of disc 3 deserves a detailed account such as that given by zappateer Galeans (dig it here!). It features about 50 minutes of music (+4 minutes of spoken words and a beer scream!), a trip into alternate mixes, extended versions, further variations and used and unused building blocks.

Tango, 1/4 Tone Unit, Sakuji’s March, No. 4 are short unreleased nuggets that sounds like sketches of something that never happened, archetypal Zappa, not to be missed.

Tapes on the Scully, Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Tapes on the Scully, Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Blood Unit has an interesting background:

There is some music in [The World’s Greatest Sinner] which actually resides in the Uncle Meat album. I remember the cue is something with a lot of sixteenth notes in it, sextuplets that had something to do with, uh, it’s been so long since I saw the movie, it was for a plane taking off, and that part was used, and also, the trail of blood sequence in World’s Greatest Sinner, where the guy stabs the host and there’s supposed to be a trail of blood on the lawn. That was called “Blood Unit”, in the scoring list, and that whole unit was done with electric instruments for Uncle Meat, but I can’t remember what I called it. I know it’s in the album. I can’t remember what I called it.
FZ on Society Pages (USA), April, 1990
(Quoted in the IINK Uncle Meat notes page)

Blood Unit of course found his way (in a different mix) in Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague (incidentally, the opening number of The Original Sequence).

Both Electric Aunt Jemima and Mr. Green Genes mix outtakes include new guitar parts, those at the beginning of the latter are really short but delightful.

Prelude To King Kong is extended by an unreleased FZ solo, about 2:00 long, a super add-on!

Exercise 4 Variant is self-explanatory: a sequence of variations of the Exercise 4 / Uncle Meat themes with various orchestrations, a great 4 minutes sort of trailer!

My Guitar (Proto I—Excerpt) is another underground, freak-out episode (as noted by Galeans “Frank’s solo sounds a bit treated: a sped up overdub?”), the more you have, the more you want!

For Uncle Meat (Live at Columbia University 1969), again I would like to quote eminent zappateer Galeans notes, truly appropriate:

Someone has suggested that FZ plays drums on this and I think he is definitely right: there are two drums and someone is playing marimba, likely Art Tripp, “FZ/JCB Drum Duet” on YCDTOSA5 comes from an “Uncle Meat” performance and, as shown on the Roxy video, Zappa did play percussion on this song in 1973/4.

The Vault section includes the normal speed guitar track of Nine Types Of Industrial Pollution, a lot of fun and, as already noted at, Stucco Homes comes into mind.

Finally, Echo Pie needs a mention because it is FZ proposing the band to tour without him keeping the MOI moniker, he says there’s a lot of studio work to be done, in general another account of the difficulties suffered by the band.

For a complete report of all the differences between the original album and the music included in cd 2 and 3, do not miss the Meat Light notes page at IINK, it is also the evidence of that compulsive editing!

Meat Light is of course a hard-core item, it is neatly constructed like this. If you are one of those cool people, go grab it. However if you are a newcomer you will probably refer to the main UMe catalog, as released in 2012, but if you do you will get the “digital reverb affected” edition. It would have been the opposite, like it happens with We’re Only in it for the Money: the main catalog single cd edition is the one that sounds like the original vinyl, while the “digital reverb affected” + new bass and drums is available through The Lumpy Money Project/Object.

There is a similar issue with Cruising With Ruben & The Jets: the “regular edition” is “digital reverb affected” and has 80’s bass and drums, while Greasy Love Songs includes the one that should be considered the reference. Luckily enough, they are both single cd editions. Hey newcomer, it won’t be easy, ask for help!

A further note about the cover and the graphics project in general. The gorgeous painting by Theo Holdt on the front cover fits perfectly the theme. A matter of teeth, but also that abstract cow makes it. The other paintings (cds and inner cover art) are also interesting and they would have been probably of interest of FZ too. However the use of such a large amount of graphics external to the original project could be questionable.

In such a case you don’t have to judge the album by its cover, Meat Light gives Uncle Meat the treatment it deserved since a long time, at last!

For a closing remark, I would like to quote Ian Underwood from his concise liner notes (that includes some FZ relevant quotes too):

  1. Listen carefully and in a focused manner.
  2. Read Frank’s own words which are readily available in books or the internet. Here are a few.

~ Ian Underwood, August 2016

You can count me in!



In the following, more photos from the Getty Images Michael Oches Archives from the recording sessions at Apostolic Studios (New York, February 15, 1968).


Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images

Frank Zappa recording session at Apostolic Studios, February 15, 1968, Michael Oches Archives, Getty Images



That funny smell

Posted: November 7, 2016 in zappa, zappology
Frank Zappa, by The-OXette @DeviantArt

Frank Zappa, by The-OXette @DeviantArt


After a first listen of Little Dots, I already have the feeling that it will remain in my audioscape for a long time. And listening to the Petit Wazoo band back again after a few years, I recalled a 2011 Italian press article: Luca Conti, Frank Zappa: lo strano odore del jazz, Musica Jazz n. 5 (maggio 2011). Or FZ: the funny smell of jazz.

Luca Conti, now director of the Italian monthly magazine Musica Jazz, has been so kind the let this blog share his article that gives interesting context information related to the early seventies jazz scene, and properly focuses on the relatioship between Zappa and his musicians, and between Zappa and jazz.

Please click THIS LINK for the Italian version, an English translation follows.


Luca Conti
Frank Zappa: lo strano odore del jazz
Musica Jazz n. 5 (maggio 2011)

Zappa had a dream and he probably ended up confessing it in one of his various interviews too: he could do without musicians, a human category that he despised with all his might since 1969 – that is since the disbanding of the Mothers of Invention – making use of them just because, in a very Ellingtonian way, he needed someone to perform his compositions. Judging from the direction he had taken for some time at the time of his death (1993), and considering the huge progress that information technology applied to music was going through, such a course was widely feasible.

Zappa has always been obsessively pursuing absolute perfection, uncompromising to the point of self-destructiveness when dealing with performance mistakes (his own, but also and especially those of his musicians), relentless in demanding hundred and ten percent from those who wanted to play with him (as handed down through dozens of anecdotes about his legendary auditions), and above all convinced that music that cannot be performed does not exist: when the human element fails machines enter the stage.

All this could not obviously come out in favor of an untroubled and easygoing relationship with the musicians he hired to perform extraordinarily difficult scores, enough to convince him that in the long run he could probably do without musicians, flesh and blood. In 1982, the purchase of a Synclavier – a truly expensive system that served as a digital synthesizer and sampler – allowed him to implement his old plan: to do everything by himself replacing the human element with technology (or even better: making technology human; so to eliminate every mistake, absolutely).

Such an approach would seem, at least in theory, the exact antithesis of that commonly used in jazz, although since 1941 – in The Sheik Of Araby – Sidney Bechet certainly did not hesitate to overdub clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophone, piano, bass and drums, just as Lennie Tristano career long tape manipulations are well-known.

And it is quite remarkable that Zappa has decided to name his first full Synclavier album (apart from a song, and excluding an implausible baroque divertissement such as Francesco Zappa) precisely Jazz From Hell as to highlight such a dichotomy even more. There is not much jazz in Jazz From Hell actually, at least not much jazz as usually taken: however we find the evident intention to tame the machine, to bend its sound characteristics to an outcome as much natural as possible, with no need to deal with idiosyncrasies of real musicians, mostly source of problems if not trouble from his point of view.

The comparison with Tristano is not as out of place as it might appear: in a totally surprising way, theoretically too. We know the diatribes that occurred at that time between the pianist – who claimed the creative legitimacy of his editing interventions with pre-recorded rhythm tracks – and the critics who quite explicitly accused him to “cheat”: people do not care much to listen to music, rather to compete with it, that was the Tristano bitter conclusion. Almost identical words to those used by Zappa in 1990, after he overdubbed new rhythm sections for some of his historical album for their reissue on CD: “I’m actually flattered that people are listening that closely to the albums, but what’s disturbing me is that they’re listening to the production more than the music.” (Frank Zappa Discusses Upcoming CD Projects by Pete Howard, ICE, September & October, 1990).

One example among many: Rubber Shirt released in ’79 in Sheik Yerbouti, perhaps the most selling Zappa album. Undoubtedly a typical jazz performance: a dialogue less than three-minute long between bass (Patrick O’Hearn) and drums (Terry Bozzio) defined by Zappa himself an example of “sensitive, interesting interplay.” Remarkably, such a duet never took place, although Bozzio and O’Hearn had been in Zappa’s touring band for a long time.

According to the album liner notes, the song have been created starting from a live 1974 4/4 guitar solo, upon which O’Hearn overdubbed a new bass part (“not completely an improvised “bass solo”,” Zappa hastens to point out). After that, the new bass line has been used with the drums track of a completely different song, a piece in 11/4 that had nothing to do with the previous one. Therefore the guitar solo is disappeared, and we can listen to O’Hearn and Bozzio simultaneously improvising on different pieces (and at different times).

As a matter of fact, Tristano pursued the same procedure on his first Atlantic album, where Peter Ind and Jeff Morton rhythm section came from different performances from those later completed with the piano (Ind himself relates about it in his book Jazz Visions: Lennie Tristano and his Legacy, Equinox Books 2005). Of course, we can ask ourselves what was Zappa purpose while undertaking such an operation. Perhaps Bozzio and O’Hearn, musicians with a strong jazz background (the bass player had been a Gary Peacock student for many years and together with Bozzio had extensively played with the likes of Joe Henderson and Julian Priester), would have been able to simultaneously improvise each one at a different tempo, however Zappa was convinced of the contrary. “You can ask [your musicians] for it, but it won’t happen,” he said to Bob Marshall in 1988, “Suppose you were a composer […], there’s only one way to hear that, and that’s to do what I did.” As we can see, it is the same philosophy of Tristano.

Another significant example of the Zappa poetics concerns Inca Roads, one of the cornerstones of his entire career. The original version (different from the one included in 1975 in One Size Fits All) has been released in 1996 in The Lost Episodes and has been recorded 1973 with Jean-Luc Ponty, George Duke, Ralph Humphrey, Bruce and Tom Fowler, Ian and Ruth Underwood. After a long exposition, a truly complicated theme leaves room for trombone, flute and marimba solos; if it is not jazz pure and simple, we would like to know what it is. In fact, the first signs of this piece begin to appear since 1969, in the guitar solo of Holiday In Berlin, Full Blown; however, what is truly unique is how the solos performed on Inca Roads during the February 1979 London concerts then become, in the hands of Zappa, the starting material for at least three songs with different titles, all included in the double CD Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar (originally three different vinyl records). And we can go on and on.

Apparently the relationship between Zappa and jazz seems to have always been intermittent, concentrated in periods in which the jazz component has been really emphasized, reduced instead when rock has been the main language (for instance with the bands of the first half of the eighties). We suspect that such an understanding has been pursued and induced by Zappa himself by releasing, while alive, a deliberately confusing official discography.

Thanks to the advent of the CD, to the Rykodisc reprint of Zappa’s entire opus as “approved by the artist” versions – as already mentioned, often with new mixes and overdubs coming from historical material – and also thanks to the publication of a series of studio and live unreleased recordings, it has finally begun clear that the jazz practice has belong to the entire career of the Master from Baltimore, not really in a concealed way, making it impossible not to consider him also a jazz musician, among his various qualifications. Indeed we believe that, in some respects, Zappa has always wanted to conceal the most obvious features of his interest for jazz, not that much in terms of habits, rather for specific jazz characteristics, to avoid being locked into a cage destined to stay around him tightly. So his jazz incursions have always been seeded sparingly throughout his albums, dropped as Hop-o’-My-Thumb stones to indicate one of many possible paths within a monumental and largely to be explored opus.

For a long time it has been believed that very well-known albums such as Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo, both from 1972, represented the most clear point of contact between Zappa and jazz. In September of that year (confined to a wheelchair having being thrown in an orchestra pit by a deranged man) Zappa had left on tour with a remarkably large band: six brasses, six winds, keyboards, vibraphone and marimba, two guitars, cello, bass, drums and percussion. After the Hollywood Bowl opening concert, the band had flown to Europe for four shows (one of which was canceled) before returning to the US for other performances. The last concert, on September 24 in Boston, has been released on CD as Wazoo in 2007 only, it is an impressive document of the group sound and performance power (why it has remained unreleased for thirty-five years remains a mystery).

Also, we would say that it should be a must for any serious big band fan, since it completely belongs to those contemporary experiments conducted by Don Ellis and composers-arrangers like Hank Levy during that very period. Among other things, in those times, most of the musicians that play in Wazoo went in and out from Ellis Orchestra, but also from those of Stan Kenton and Gerald Wilson, as well as some of them would have been part of Blood Sweat & Tears, for example: Tom Malone, Glen Ferris, Mike Altschul, Jay Migliori, Earle Dumler, Ray Reed, Charles Owens, Ken Shoroyer and still others.

Having concluded this tour (economically disastrous), Zappa instantly left again for a second round of concerts, much longer – three months – and with a “portable” version of the former monstrous band: ten musicians, including him, all from the Grand Wazoo band plus trumpeter Gary Barone, yet another veteran from the California jazz scene and an old Shelly Manne pal. The new group had been re-baptised, no doubt, Petit Wazoo (however in retrospect, or so it seems) and a selection of their performances has been released on CD a few years back only (Imaginary Diseases, 2006).

Barone himself recalls that – during that tour – Zappa used to go to any jam session in the city after the concerts, right because, according to him, he was interested into diving – in his way – into the jazz environment, precisely as he had done in 1969 when, invited to Belgium to present the Actuel Festival organized by Byg, he found himself playing – as well as with Pink Floyd and the Caravan – with the Art Ensemble Of Chicago, with the Archie Shepp group (which included, among others, Philly Joe Jones and Grachan Moncur) and with the rhythm section of the Chris McGregor Group, namely Johnny Dyani and Louis Moholo.

The Grad Wazoo band will appear again in 1975, under the deranged moniker of Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Orchestra, for a series of studio recordings and, in September, for a notorious concert at the Royce Hall in Los Angeles; in December 1976 Zappa will perform live in New York with his regular band augmented with the likes of Randy and Michael Brecker, Ronnie Cuber, Lou Marine and Dave Samuels, while in 1988 he will focus on his last world tour – that would bring him close to an economic meltdown – with one of the most versatile and phantasmagorical bands of his whole career, that could face any genre and any arrangement with supreme ease. A band well represented on disc (Broadway the Hard Way, Make a Jazz Noise Here, The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life), but seriously undermined by relationship problems between some of the members.

Apparently, Zappa was so disappointed by the pugnacity and the infantilism of many of his musicians to convince himself once and for all that he could do without musicians, sure he had to. And we will always remain curious to know if two of the greatest manipulators of men in the history of modern music, that is Ellington and Zappa – who met in person in 1969 during a festival organized by George Wein – they had never discussed such an issue. Perhaps they would have agreed.


The 1988 Bob Marshall interview is available through Wiki Jawaka, while the Gary Barone interview mentioned by Luca Conti has been conducted by Charles Ulrich: An Interview with Petit Wazoo Trumpeter Gary Barone. This latter interview is part of the The Petit Wazoo Tour web pages, a nice place to raise your FZ in 1972 knowledge up!




The Listening Lounge at Kittelson Manor (from The Broadcast Adventures of HowieZowie facebook page)

The Listening Lounge at Kittelson Manor (from The Broadcast Adventures of HowieZowie facebook page)


From the facebook “About” page of “The Broadcast Adventures of HowieZowie”:

“Conceptual Continuity with HowieZowie” is a weekly two hour Zappa radio show broadcasting Thursday night at 10pm PST on Blue Mountain Radio KQBM-LP 103.7FM in West Point, California & KQBM 90.7FM in San Andreas, California – streaming live at Saturday night at Midnight EST on WERU 89.9FM in Blue Hill, Maine/99.9FM in Bangor, Maine – streaming live/archiving at Encore Saturday night at 11pm PST on Blue Mountain Radio KQBM-LP 103.7FM in West Point, California & KQBM 90.7FM in San Andreas, California – streaming live at

Here is the WERU Community Radio direct link to the Conceptual Continuity with HowieZowie archive page (only the last two episodes are available): click here.

Howie Zowie, aka Howie Kittelson, is a London (Ontario) based radio personality with a taste for audio editing. He accurately selects music for the talk over sections of his shows, and with Zappa the result is remarkable! A two hours radio show like Conceptual Continuity with HowieZowie conveniently flows and you may get some CC clue.

On July 28, 2016 such an all Zappa show got 5 years old, Howie Zowie had Joe Travers as a guest and Spastic Droopers as secret word.

Joe talked about The Crux of Biscuit / Frank Zappa for President new FZ releases and gives some cool hints for the releases to come, such as a Waka/Wazoo box set!

What follows is a transcript of some parts of the conversation Howie and Joe had (thank you Howie for the accurate editing of my raw transcript!).

29:47 (part 1)Overture to Uncle Sam

Joe Travers: It was for and in an Opera, and definitely was one of the later synclavier pieces of Frank’s – very very late in fact. We found some footage of Todd Yvega and Spencer Chrislu being interviewed for the American Composer radio documentary that happened in 1995.

And they used that piece as a demonstration for the Synclavier at the time, so it was definitely one of the later pieces. And we founded it on a reel of Ensemble Modern rehearsals and performances that ended up becoming Everything is Healing Nicely.

But Frank put together a 40 minutes collage of that that audio, lot of stuff on the rehearsals and I think Spence based most of what he, what Frank put together for Everything is Healing Nicely, but also on it it was the Overture to Uncle Sam.

I always kept that thing in my back pocket for some kind of release. Gail and I have talked about various different releases including that piece and then when Frank Zappa for President was offered to me as a project I really thought like that it would be a good thing to put it on there. And so that’s how ended up happening!

46:43 (part 1) –  If I was a President

Howie Kittelson: I see that the musical track and the spoken words were done in different times, were they meant to go together from the beginning or is that something that you combined?

JT: No, that’s something I combined.

HK: In that aspect it is very reminiscent of Drooling Midrange Accountans in Easter Hay.

JT: That was something Dweezil put together, obviously the same concept was used for the If I was a President thing.

1:56 (part 2)Brown Shoes Don’t Make It

HK: I see that was a remix done in ’69 by Dick Kunk, correct?

JT: Yes

HK: Now, what was the purpose of that remix, what is that associated with?

JT: We’ll never know. It is not listed as such, although my opinion is that it was probably remixed for some kind of film project.

HZ: Gotcha.

JT: But we don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it was Uncle Meat – I don’t know what that film project would be. But there’s a couple of other classic songs on that reel that were remix as well, so Brown Shoes is not the only one. But considering the theme of that song, I thought that it would be a good thing to put it on that album, because it’s an older Mothers song in a remixed form that nobody has ever heard before. So I figured that it would tie in with that record.

3:27 (part 2)Amnerika

JT: It was recorded during the Thing-Fish sessions – and all I can say is that piece, the vocal version of that song was intended for one of the volumes of The Lost Episodes project, because The Lost Episodes one time was kind of worked into a three volume project. Ans since Frank brought The Lost Episodes down to one disc, then there was a bunch of leftovers and that happened to be one of the leftovers. We do have the ability to do another Lost Episodes volume from those leftovers, but Gail was basically using a lot of stuff from that for other projects, or at least wanted me to. So, I figured – well this is the perfect time for this song for this project. I have to come up with content somehow, even if we kind of repeat things maybe once in a while in future releases, at least I was able to do what I was told and putting together that Frank Zappa for President record, so that’s where that song ended up!

19:23 (part 2)The Crux of the Biscuit

HK: I have always wondered to myself: was the use of apostrophe in so many blues song titles, could that have been an inspiration on Frank when he came to the apostrophe?

JT: Hmmmm, I don’t know – I’m not sure. I wish I could answer that (laughs).

HZ: Do you have your own theory about the apostrophe?

JT: I really don’t know (laughs), Dweezil kind of explains The Crux of the Biscuit on – I think, as far as like the term, what that means, what the apostrophe stands for – so you can check that out.

29:20 (part 2)Apostrophe (‘) early side one – Cosmik Debris

HK: The version of Cosmik Debris that opens that – the new 2016 intro, is that your doing?

JT: No, that was found that way and the mix of the song is the exact same mix that’s on the Apostrophe(‘) album, Frank took up that intro, and so when I found that early sequence of side one, that intro was on the version of Cosmik Debris on that tape, so I left it. Anything different applies to those kind of releases, that was Frank – that was recorded that way!

34:38 (part 2) – work mixes

HZ: So, when we’re looking at the tracks that are labeled as mix outtakes. Those are just working mixes from the process of doing the record?

JT: Yeah, exactly. Like you have a mix session and during the mix session you run off various work mixes or mixes in progress, or mixes that might be used as a master – or might not be. Anything that was mixed and was going to be on master at one point would be an alternate mix, because that was alternate to what was used. But anything that was mixed that wasn’t going to be used for any kind of a master, but it was a work mix or an outtake for the mix session, I just labelled as such.

35:26 (part 2)Uncle Remus

JT: Yeah, that’s pretty great! Because you get to hear a piano solo and an extra bit of vocals and stuff like that, it was pretty cool!

HZ: And some cool organ – I don’t know if that was a B-3, but there was some really tasty, traditional organ going on there that I am not used to hearing in that song.

JT: Yeah – well, that song was recorded during demo sessions of George Duke during the Paramount Studio time period in April of ’72. The Grand Wazoo and Waka- Jawaka have just been recorded and Frank produced about four tunes for George Duke around that time and Uncle Remus was one of those songs – and then Frank obviously used Uncle Remus in Apostrophe(‘). Then George Duke went on to re-record the other songs that were recorded for that demo session on two other albums. Psychosomatic Dung is one of them, and For Love (I Come Your Friend) – that’s another one that’s one of those songs that was recorded during that demo session.

36:41 (part 2)Waka-Jawaka / Grand Wazoo box set

JT: I’m going to be working on a Hot Rats/Grand Wazoo box set, I guess you might want to call it – or a CD release of all the alternates and all the stuff that was recorded during that time period. And I am hoping to get those George Duke tunes on there as well, so that would be something cool. Yeah, it’s Waka Jawaka and Grand Wazoo, sorry – Hot Rats was not recorded during that same time. You know, obviously that was ’69. But Waka and Grand Wazoo that was all recorded at the same time, and along with those George Duke songs it kind of captures the same musicians, the same time period and the same sound. So, all that stuff would be a good companion release.

41:50 (part 2)Energy Frontier flute

JT: I tried to track down who would have been, but nobody knows! Maybe the fans somehow can get that information – because they’re so hard core. I was unable to determine it because there were no session sheets, and so it’s hard for me to know. And I had a conversation with Dave Parlato. Dave Parlato played bass in the Petite Wazoo time period, and The Grand Wazoo – and recorded some stuff with Frank. And he is the guy who is playing stand-up bass on those songs – or at least on one version of that song. And so Dave and I had a conversation, and he is the one that identified himself on there. And he talked about the Jack Bruce session, talked about how Jack Bruce had a rented…I think it was a cello, and it sounded horrible and he couldn’t make the thing work at all, so they kind of ditched that idea of having Jack Bruce play cello. But, Dave didn’t know who played flute either. And first thing I thought of was it had to have been maybe somebody who was touring with Frank at the time. But in the Petite Wazoo the only person that maybe could have done that was Earl Dumler, and we’re not really sure he was him or not. And I didn’t get a chance to get in touch with Earl before the release of the record. So – maybe he is him, maybe he is not. Who knows!

43:31 (part 2) – bass lines

HZ: I found it pretty interesting listening to Dave Parlato’s bass line on take four of Energy Frontier because I’ve gotten quite used to a lot of brass bands using the tuba to do bass lines and they kind of emulate the phrasing of a stand-up bass – but he sounded like he was playing tuba lines on the stand-up bass! So it was a very interesting part of the spectrum and part of the mix that he was in and that stood out to me. I read somewhere that Dave Parlato is the originator of the “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” phrase – that he looked out the window of the tour bus and he saw a dog peeing in the snow and he yelled out, “Don’t eat the yellow snow!”

JT: Well I don’t know if that’s true – that could be very true. I don’t know. But, I do know that the bass line if you listen very close to the song called Trudging Across Tundra which is on One Shot Deal, that is an improvisation that happened during a concert in the Petite Wazoo time period… and if you listen to the bass line of that, and if you listen to the early version of Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow that was released on Crux, you’ll notice that it’s almost the same! So the root of the bass line to the opening of Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow come from an improvisational jam from the Petite Wazoo time period, which we released.

49:02 (part 2) – Vaultmaster since 1995

JT: I love my job, I’m very grateful for it. I spent so much time in my life just studying the music and being part of the music – so I’m happy that I can share the things that I find with people that appreciate it, you know? It’s really a special thing that I do and I realize that. I was a fan first before any of this stuff, so I come from a fan point of view and I think about the things that people would love to hear and would really want to hear.

51:28 (part 2)Uncle Meat Project/Object and vinyl reissues

JT: The Uncle Meat Project/Object is gonna be coming right around the corner pretty soon, so that’s very exciting. And also there’s going to be a lot of vinyl reissues this year, starting next month in August Hot Rats is going to be re-released on vinyl. But we’re going to be doing a lot more this year. We usually do about one to two releases – reissues on vinyl for the past few years, along with little exclusive stuff that we’ve done for the Record Store Days. But this year we’re gonna be doing a lot more – and that does include the Record Store Day stuff. So, we’ll be doing something really cool for Black Friday Record Store Day and we’re gonna be doing a number of other vinyl reissues this year before the year’s over with. So that’s something that’s gonna be exciting…for the audiophile world, you know, that loves the vinyl.

54:40 (part 2) – just one Zappa piece of choice for The Vaultmaster

JT: Rat Tomago


The 1995 Radio documentary mentioned by Joe was available at the and was described as: “a two hour Radio Documentary produced by Steve Rowland and Gail Zappa for “The Music Makers” Series on Public Radio International, originally aired on U.S. radio in the summer of 1996.”

What follows is a direct link for the first hour of the show, the first minute of Overture to Uncle Sam starts at 08:08.


The Crux Of The Biscuit Frank Zappa For President CDs

The Crux Of The Biscuit
Frank Zappa For President


Out of the blue, on June 9, while many had been pondering about trustees and beneficiaries of the Zappa integrity and of his overwhelming and strangely managed output, ZFT trustees announced the world, including beneficiaries of any sort, two new releases due to July 15.

Frank Zappa for President? You betcha! We know at various times he wanted to run for office. In the spirit of the dramatic 2016 presidential election adventures comes a release that gives us a glimpse into what could have been. This album is comprised of unreleased compositions realized on the Synclavier, along with other relevant tracks mined from the Vault, with a political thread tying it all together. Don’t forget to register and vote!

The Crux of the Biscuit was created in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of Frank Zappa’s 1974 album Apostrophe(‘). As part of Zappa Records’ ongoing Frank Zappa Project/Object Audio Documentary Series, it contains rare alternate mixes, live performances, and studio session outtakes. This release celebrates Zappa’s iconic, Gold-certified album, which landed in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart.


Unreleased synclavier compositions, never heard before mixes of ’60s and ’70s classics, nuggets that shed new light on the studio compositional process, live episodes relevant to two basic themes: the President of the USA and 42 years of trudging across the tundra.

In summary: succulent!

However from the outer FZ space perspective, I can’t help feeling still scary of the future, and I do hope the Zappas will be able to continue digging the vault, and I also hope the “cease and desist” nightmare will not happen as it does in the darkest canyons of my mind.

But forget about this mess for a couple of hours, take a deep breath and immerse in these two albums.

–       ;- {=      –

The Crux Of The Biscuit (Zappa Records/UMe ZR 20020, July 15, 2016)

The Crux Of The Biscuit
(Zappa Records/UMe ZR 20020, July 15, 2016)

The Crux Of The Biscuit

1 Cosmik Debris 4:21
2 Uncle Remus (Mix Outtake) 3:59
3 Down In De Dew (Alternate Mix) 3:16
4 Apostrophe’ (Mix Outtake) 9:07
5 The Story Of “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow/St. Alphonzo’s Pancake Breakfast” 2:25
6 Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow/St. Alphonzo’s Pancake Breakfast (Live) 19:26
7 Excentrifugal Forz (Mix Outtake) 1:34
8 Energy Frontier (Take 4) 3:04
9 Energy Frontier (Take 6 With Overdubs) 4:15
10 Energy Frontier (Bridge) 8:23
11 Cosmik Debris (Basic Tracks-Take 3) 5:11
12 Don’t Eat The Yellow (Basic Tracks-Alternate Take) 2:12
13 Nanook Rubs It (Basic Tracks-Outtake) 0:42
14 Nanook Rubs It (Session Outtake) 0:48
15 Frank’s Last Words . . . 0:16

Produced by Gail Zappa and Joe Travers
Vaultmeisterment and audio transfers by Joe Travers
Mastering: Bob Ludwig
New mixes: Craig Parker Adams, 2014

Cover photograph: Yoram Kahana (probably) [uncredited]
Other photography: Emerson/Loew, Mark Aalyson, Jeffrey Mayer, Michael Mesker
Illustration: David Calcano/Christian Garcia
Art direction: Ahmet Zappa
Package design: Michael Mesker
Liner notes: Simon Prentis
Production Manager: Melanie Starks


For most listeners, Apostrophe(‘) is mainly the place where snow is yellow and feet stink. Also, the Bromhidrosis epic is where THE question arises: “What is your Conceptual Continuity?” Since the easy to be seen answer is “The crux of the biscuit is the Apostrophe(‘)”, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of one of the best known FZ albums without Stink-foot – hence without Fido who will eternally bring those stink-fated slippers and gives THE answer – is like giving praise to Don Quixote not mentioning Sancho.

Let’s commemorate such conspicuous absence with the commercial that inspired a distinguished dog-man relationship (relevant scene at 0:17):


That said, The Crux Of The Biscuit is a must for hard-core fanatics due to plenty exquisite episodes, and may have a lot of interest for the rest of the world, for instance for the main Yellow Snow celebration, almost 20 minutes live from Hordern Pavillon, Sydney, June 1973, a tape that should become road, if you know what I mean.

The album, possibly the last produced by Gail and Joe, starts with a proto Apostrophe(‘) side A (tracks 1-4) whose main interest is the dynamic duo Down in the Dew/Apostrophe’, new to mankind as a dual system. Simon Prentis, who delivered a truly relevant piece of zappology as liner notes, gives information and his own view about Energy Frontier, the original title of such a double jam sessions. Simon quotes a well-known Zappa statement:

Q: What about playing with (bass guitarist) Jack Bruce on Apostrophe?

FZ: Well, that was just a jam thing that happened because he was a friend of (drummer) Jim Gordon. I found it very difficult to play with him; he’s too busy. He doesn’t really want to play the bass in terms of root functions; I think he has other things on his mind. But that’s the way jam sessions go.

Frank Zappa
By Steve Rosen
Guitar Player, January, 1977


Then he reports (via joe Travers) that those Dew/Apostrophe’ jams were all recorded on November 8, 1972, also with an unknown flute player on tracks 8 and 9. As effectively remarked by Prentis, the subsequent work has been an editing matter, that night after night shortened Jack Bruce contribution and brought Down in the Dew out (later to emerge for Läther without Jack Bruce in a version near to track 3). What is presented here (proto tracks 3 and 4, and jam tracks 8-10) is the evidence of a process that started with a jam session, continued with a proto dual system (with Bruce in Apostrophe’ only) and ended as we know it simply as Apostrophe’. Thanks to this album, now we know better why Zappa said that Bruce was “busy”, it seems that such a one-day encounter didn’t give what could be theoretical expected in terms of interplay, but the way the bass guitar of Jack Bruce sounds in these unreleased jams is gorgeous (a FZ post-production?) and some of his lines are truly remarkable (like those delivered into the first minute of the original Apostrophe’ – and of track 4 – that give a clear mark to that jam).

So editing as a major Zappa craft and practice, and “omission” as a keyword to guide the transition from the on-field recorded matter to the edited recorded object to be released. That is one the main subjects of the liner notes, fully available through, a must read!

And omission is at work within lyrics too, significance is often hidden or lies on a metaphoric level, or may be even almost faint in cases when information is delivered for conceptual continuity purpose only.

The Crux Of The Biscuit, and its liner notes, brought this blog to closely consider the mysterious and elliptic lyrics for Excentrifugal Forz (a Mix Outtake belongs to this album too) and hopefully get nearer to some of the omitted points. See what you think:

–       ;- {=      –

The clouds are really cheap
[Reality is not so interesting]
The way I seen ’em thru the ports
[That’s how it looks to me]
Of which there is a half-a-dozen
[A little part of it]
On the base of my resorz
[Is what I have been doing]
You wouldn’t think I’d have too many
[From everyone point of view, a very little part]
Since I never cared for sports
[Because I’m an outsider]
But I’m never really lonely
[But I don’t care to be seen/understood]
In my Excentrifugal Forz
[My nature is to escape from what is accepted by most people]

There’s always Korla Plankton
[And if I feel too much out of reality (as Korla Pandit do!)]
Him ‘n me can play the blues
[I can always play the blues]
An’ then I’ll watch him buff that
[And I will enjoy shining every single blues canon]
Tiny ruby that he use
[… canon …]
He’ll straighten up his turban
[… canon …]
An’ eject a little ooze
[… canon …]
Along a one-celled Hammond Organism
[The blues is an archetypal culture, as one-celled organisms are archaic forms of life]
Underneath my shoes
[And it is part of me, deeply]
An’ then I’ll call PUP TENTACLE
[I can also get inspiration from cheap monsters]
[The monster in Cheepnis, a “pup tent affair”, seems to be recalled here, as noted elsewhere by Simon Prentis, it may represent one of those “clouds”, or reality as constructed/perceived by most people]
I’ll ask him how’s his chin
[I can image further mutations]
I’ll find out
[And doing so]
How the future is
[Time as everyone knows it]
Because that’s where he’s been
[Loses in significance]
His little feet got long ‘n flexible
[And I found myself on a spherical time constant]
An’ suckers fell right in
[Far from what is accepted by most people]
The time he crossed the line
[That’s where my mutations live]
[Because when I deal with my favorite mutations, before and after do not make sense anymore]

–       ;- {=      –

A few more remarks are needed to close the not yellow side of this album, discussion is open at zappateers and other FZ loci. Cosmik Debris (track 1) opens with an unheard before brass intro. This version of Uncle Remus includes new and not to be missed Ikettes embroideries, but also further gorgeous George keyboard treatments. Apostrophe’ (mix outtake) shares the drum intro with Stink-foot (the only link discovered so far with the Fido song). The two Energy Frontier takes are two different Down in Dew versions with Jack Bruce, Energy Frontier (Bridge) is actually an early version of Apostrophe’. Cosmik Debris (Basic Tracks-Take 3) includes a new bluesy FZ solo and is a no vocals version to be sang to!

The Crux Of The Biscuit starts dealing with Yellow Snow with the words of FZ introducing this new piece in 1973. He tells how he was also inspired by an Imperial Margarine commercial, “Good morning, your highness!” comes from it. Unfortunately only a bad quality recording of such a promotional feature survives into the Internet, but it is worth watching anyway (the “black gentleman” commercial starts at 01:02).


Margarine inspired also the 1973 Mar-Juh-Rene routine, well-known but officially released only in 2008 in One Shot Deal as part of Australian Yellow Snow. This routine is also included here in track 6 which is an extended version of the Yellow Snow suite, also including Rollo and part of the Steno Pool section of Greggery Peccary. Both versions derive from the June 24-26, 1973 Sydney concerts, once again, road one please!

In his Zappa dissertation, Tomasz Michalak digs into significance and symbols related to the apostrophe and hyphen (“something that might be used for erotic gratification by a very desperate stenographer”) signs. He also quotes FZ who recalls a linguistic inspiration for Yellow Snow in two different interviews:

I had a conversation in approximately 1972 with a schoolteacher in Kansas. She taught English. And she was talking about the way language works. And her point was that any language develops for a culture based on the things that the culture needs to talk about. And as an example she said in Eskimo language they have, you know, a whole number of different words for snow because snow is their life. And she was the one who said maybe they even have something for yellow snow, which you wouldnít want to eat it. And thatís what gave me the idea. (FZ, interviewed by Jim Ladd, August 1, 1989)


as an example she talked about the Eskimo language, which she said had twenty words for snow because it was so important to them. And she actually made the comment that probably in the Eskimo language there was some sort of warning for children not to eat yellow snow. And thatís where the idea came from. (FZ, interviewed by Allan Handelman, East Coast Live, June 6, 1993)

Quoted (P.293) into
Tomasz Zbigniew Michalak
December 2013


The album closes with three early snippets from the Yellow Snow suite and a last brief track with Frank stopping the tape. Very hard-core maniac type stuff with no commercial potential at all, enjoyable for a limited audience such as Rne who noticed in his “rudimentary notes” that “the marimba figure and the laughs that were inserted at the very end of “Father O’Blivion” in the Apostrophe (‘) album” are included in Frank’s Last Words… .

For the full story of the Yellow Snow suite I would recommend a brief article by Charles Ulrich hosted on the ARF web site: “Some notes on the Yellow Snow suites permutations

Finally the original artwork for the back of the CD inlay deserve to be mentioned. It’s a Zappa cereal box probably illustrated by David Calcano of Fantoons Animation Studio in Los Angeles. Here it is with some details (click the images to enlarge them).

The Crux Of The Biscuit, CD inlay image Zappa cereal box

The Crux Of The Biscuit, CD inlay image
Zappa cereal box

The Crux Of The Biscuit, CD inlay image detail Nutrition Zappa Facts 1

The Crux Of The Biscuit, CD inlay image detail
Nutrition Zappa Facts 1

The Crux Of The Biscuit, CD inlay image detail Nutrition Zappa Facts 2

The Crux Of The Biscuit, CD inlay image detail
Nutrition Zappa Facts 2


For further notes on the cover of the album refer to the Information Is Not Knowledge (IINK) web site, at the beginning of the Apostrophe (‘) notes page.

–       ;- {=      –

Frank Zappa For President (Zappa Records/UMe ZR 20021, July 15, 2016)

Frank Zappa For President
(Zappa Records/UMe ZR 20021, July 15, 2016)

Frank Zappa For President

1 Overture To “Uncle Sam” 15:16
2 Brown Shoes Don’t Make It (Remix) 7:27
3 Amnerika (Vocal Version) 3:10
4 “If I Was President” 3:43
5 When The Lie’s So Big 3:38
6 Medieval Ensemble 6:31
7 America The Beautiful (Bates/Ward; Traditional) 3:36

Produced for release by Ahmet Zappa & Joe Travers
Vaultmeisterment, transfers and compilation by Joe Travers
Mastering: Gavin Lurssen & Reuben Cohen
Art direction: Ahmet Zappa
Art, layout: Keith Lawler
Production management: Melanie Starks

Cover art details available at the proper IINK web page.


If The Crux of the Biscuit objective as an Audio Documentary is very well stated and accomplished (including omissions), with the support of informative and in-depth liner notes, Frank Zappa for President appears like an unglued sequence of nuggets and lush unreleased pieces joined together by a political thread that ends up to be too weak in absentia.

Also, from a hard-core fanatic perspective the album is full of interest beside the basic theme, but such material would have deserved more informative liner notes.

Take Overture To “Uncle Sam” for instance, since this piece is in the repertoire of Ensemble Ascolta for the never released project Ascolta Plays Zappa, it would have been very interesting to hear their point of view about this composition dated 1993. And why not take them for a note to the other synclavier material included?

Part of Overture To “Uncle Sam” has been premiered by the Ascolta ensemble at Radialsystem, Berlin, July 14, 2007 (the 0:00 – 4:49 section). An excerpt (2:35 – 4:49) is available through their web site.


The version included here is ten minutes longer than the Ascolta one and features the sonic palette typical of the late FZ synclavier works that can be heard in Civilazion Phase III and Dance Me This. Also, Overture To “Uncle Sam” should have a close relationship with the Wolf Harbor suite. No link instead with Dio Fa (the abandoned FZ opera project) as elsewhere stated in this blog (the notes to the Berlin, July 14, 2007 Ascolta ensemble concert program led to this probably false conjecture: “planned as an overture to an opera for La Scala in Milan, world premiere”).

To focus on the right Uncle Sam / Wolf Harbor setting you should go back to the liner notes to Dance Me This:

Over the years I had seen Frank jump from project to project often shelving one indefinitely to focus on another. There was an elaborate stage piece titled Dio Fa; An opera titled Uncle Sam (about a dystopian future America with a ludicrously polluted New York Harbour); A music notation book with accompanying audio disc titled The Rhythmic Sadist’s Guide to Drum Patterns for the 21st Century.
Todd Yvega–

In his vision for a staged presentation for modern dance [FZ] described how he wanted to represent Wolf Harbor (do the research on this place which really does exist): Groups of dancers side by side would hold long rolled out lengths of black trash bags (think Hefty) and “wave” them at waist (waste) height to signify the dark and murky polluted waters of sludgy Wolf Harbor.
Gail Zappa–


A sort of unresolved melancholy in a suspended time environment is a feeling common to both compositions. The difference resides in how the tension ends up to be unresolved. In Wolf Harbor tension is low and everywhere, time is suspended, no resolution allowed.

Overture To “Uncle Sam” features a main melodic (and melancholic) material used as opening and with some variations at 02:02, 05:58 and 11:08. Right after every variation tension grows and its resolution seems to happen when the listener recognizes the melodic material, but relief is denied when he realizes that melancholy is still there. The finale is true Zappa: tension grows again and closes with a sort of brief broadway hoopla!

The illusion of a resolution results to be more effective than no resolution at all!

Hoopla! back to 1966/1969, Frank Zappa for President brings the listener to a never heard before remixed version of Brown Shoes Don’t Make It, a pleasure for everyone, especially for those who spent countless time with this 1966 sonic movie and will recognize all details changed in this remix. Acoustic ensemble is often clearer and the overall sound image results spatially enriched. In this case also it would have been much interesting to know what was the purpose of such a 1969 remix. Rejected for the 1969 Mothermania (which included the 1966 mix)?

No particular questions to ask for Amnerika (Vocal Version), a well-known (for FZ tape traders) and beautiful unreleased Thing-Fish outtake that needed to be released. Maybe one: why it has been rejected?

“If I Was President” is Zappa explaining in 1990 why he “wouldn’t campaign” but “file as a candidate of no party” with a 1985 synclavier background (for the full text transcript please refer to the relevant IINK web page). Was it a Zappa produced audio object?

An unreleased 1988 When The Lie’s So Big take follows, politics is of course the rationale for the inclusion, however the hard-core fanatic (the main audience for this album) attention declines, this version does not add zappology elements (except for some slight changes in the lyrics) and it does not give particular help to the flow of the program.

For the next Medieval Ensemble, an unreleased 1985 synclavier composition, attention is back. It sounds like a Jazz From Hell outtake, a long march with no resolution with a medieval flavor, could be used for the eternally postponed Terry Gilliam Don Quixote!

The album closes with another 1988 episode. The America The Beautiful version digitally (mp3 only) released in The Frank Zappa AAA·FNR·AAA Birthday Bundle 21.Dec.2008 Nice to have it in a good audio quality (but strangely different from the official 1988 releases), relevant to the main theme, but in an album of unreleased material and with a surprising 1969 mix of a classic, the role of this song is simply to close the curtain.

Now I’m wondering, in an album like this, where politics in America is a theme sometimes loose (Medieval Ensemble?!?), why do not take advantage of the lines:

Could result in the end
To a worrisome trend
In which every American
Not “born again”
Could be punished in cruel and unusual ways
By this treacherous cretin
Who tells everyone
That he’s Jesus’ best friend

to include another bundle nugget that unethically still remains unreleased in a lossless audio standard? I’m thinking to Treacherous Cretins from The Frank Zappa AAA·FNRAA·AA Birthday Bundle 21.Dec.2010, a killer version that needs to expand its audience.

Moreover, can you spot any treacherous cretins somewhere in this 2016 USA campaign?


Who the F*@% is Frank Zappa? by Alex Winter

Who the F*@% is Frank Zappa? by Alex Winter

On March 8, 2016 Alex Winter has launched a 30 days kickstarter campaign for his hopefully soon to come documentary Who the F*@% is Frank Zappa? (all details available here, I for one pledged for 200$).

On March 9, 2016 Ahmet Zappa has posted the following on facebook:

People have been asking so I just wanted to clarify that the family is proud to give Alex Winter and his project our complete support, as well as unrestricted access to the Vault. This is the first time we’ve ever opened the Vault to someone outside of our family, but Alex is an exceptional filmmaker and storyteller, and we are excited to see him tell Frank’s story.

While we appreciate that the Kickstarter will help us with the larger project of preserving the Vault, I want to make sure everyone knows that this is NOT our project but we absolutely SUPPORT the project and Alex, and that the Zappa Family Trust will not receive any of the funds Alex raises during the Kickstarter (though if someone makes the $9 million pledge, which would obviously be awesome, a portion of that pledge will be used to purchase the house from the family at its market value).

Alongside the rest of you, we’re excited to see what Alex & his team will find.

These are some photographs of Zappa family house available through the Alex Winter kickstarter page as well as through the eBay Zf house page.

Zappa family house: Alex Winter at the courtyard

Zappa family house: Alex Winter at the courtyard

Zappa family house: Tape Library and desk

Zappa family house: Tape Library and desk

Zappa family house: living room

Zappa family house: living room

Zappa family house: library

Zappa family house: library

Zappa family house: library view from the corridor

Zappa family house: library view from the corridor

Zappa family house: Tape Library and living room

Zappa family house: Tape Library and living room


Back to the kickstarter documentary page, it is for sure worth watching the campaign launch video. Here it is too:


As far as visual art is considered the following frames are particularly intriguing.

Frank Zappa actual artwork (circa 2:16 frame)

Frank Zappa actual artwork (circa 2:16 frame)

Frank Zappa actual artwork (circa 2:16 frame)

Frank Zappa actual artwork (circa 2:16 frame)

Frank Zappa actual artwork (circa 2:17 frame)

Frank Zappa actual artwork (circa 2:17 frame)


Finally, pay attention to the Drowning Witch on the background (spot the Z roof)!

Zappa family house: Alex Winter at the pool (circa 3:07 frame)

Zappa family house: Alex Winter at the pool (circa 3:07 frame)


Go Ahead Alex!


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

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


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)



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)


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)


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


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
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:

Went On The Road
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.


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


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


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:


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

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

Here it is too:


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
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
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


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)


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.

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


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


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


Panty Quilt, Emily Alana James, circa 1982, commissioned by Zappa and constructed of ladies' undergarments thrown on stage during the Tinseltown Rebellion tour

Panty Quilt, Emily Alana James, circa 1982, commissioned by Zappa and constructed of ladies’ undergarments thrown on stage during the Tinseltown Rebellion tour


Mark Pinske was a recording engineer for Frank Zappa from 1980 until 1987. Mark is also one of the featured voices on Drafted Again from from You Are What You Is.

On January 2003 Chris Michie interviewed Mark Pinske for Mix magazine: an extensive account on Mark career with a lot of Zappa insights. It is divided in 4 sections and available on line:
The Complete Mark Pinske Interview – Day One
The Complete Mark Pinske Interview – Day Two
The Complete Mark Pinske Interview – Day Three – part 1
The Complete Mark Pinske Interview – Day Three – part 2

In these very days Mike has been really kind to share through his web site two Zappa songs and a Panty Rap from the November 18, 1980 St Paul Civic Arena Bowl concert. A nice treat for Zappadan 2015!

City of Tiny Lights – 10:38

Love of my Life – 2:16

Panty Rap/Band intro – 4:33


He have informed Zappateers of such good news, giving some comments on the two songs.

City of Tiny Lights
A song taken from an FZ show off of my board that has some very interesting live effects like the Ursa Major Space Station and octave divider on Franks Guitar.

Later around 6 minutes Steve Vai and Frank play together and some other thrills like Frank changing to a reggae tempo at around 9 minutes.

The line up was. FZ, Steve Vai, Tommy Mars, Arthur Barrow, Vinnie Colaiuta, Bob Harris, Ray White, Ike Willis. Isn’t that enough?

Love of my Life
Here is the live version of Love of my Life (short song) from the same show that features my dear friend Bob Harris using his wonderful falsetto that he used on the audition for the Tinsel Town Rebellion album and got him a place in Franks music.

I have a whole story that goes with that. (one little feedback screech near the end from the onstage monitor, my apology).



December 30, 2015 update
On December 26 Mark uploaded yet another number from the fall ’80 Colaiuta-drummed tour. Judging fron the file name, it should be from the December 11, 1980 show in Santa Monica, the last date of the fall ’80 tour, actually a two shows deal.

Outside Now!

During the intro rap FZ mentions Sand Diego as a two days ago panty bonanza experience, then at 1:15, after a quite abrupt cut towards the song, Joe starts to sing and lay the foundation for a great Zappa solo!

Again, thank you Mark, I do hope it will be a monthly thing!


February 5, 2016 update
On February 4 Mark uploaded another 1980 file, this time from the Logeman-drummed tour:

Here is a little mix off my board from London Wembley Arena on 06-17-1980 just for fun.

It’s Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?, and features “Ray – Night of the Living Dead – White”!

Thank you Mark, it’s really monthly!


September 17, 2016 update
Yet another Markman upload from the ’80s post-prodution laboratory, a Dub Rum Special mix outtake, just magnificent!

Something funny for today. I found a Beta Hi-Fi work tape from many years ago when I was working on the Dub Room Special with FZ. I did this ridiculous mix for the song StinkFoot and Frank said that he thought it might be a bit over the top. So I said to Frank that we need to make some of these things so they can hold up for the future because 20 years from now everything will be more outrageous. So Frank just started laughing hard and said “I tell you what Markman, you hang on to this work tape and then 20 years from now you can pull it out and see how well it does.” Well it has been more than 20 years so, see what you think. (This was my first headphone stereo Low frequency experiment) Oh yes on Franks guitar solo I used a 5 tap Ursa Major Space station, a Dynamix Flanger and a few Lexicon 240 reverbs.




July 9, 2017 update – Beauty Knows No Pain

I found an early mix that I did for the You Are What Your Is album of Beauty Knows No Pain. I hope you like it.
For the Real Zappa fans, this has Steve Vai, Ike Willis, Ray White, Tommy Mars, Ed Mann, Arthur Barrow, David Logaman, and Jimmy Carl Black doing the snorts along with a young Moon Zappa on the end saying “it doesn’t have that stale after taste” Segway to Charlie’s enormous mouth. Oh and Yes Bob Harris singing up into the ways with that gorgeous high falsetto.


July 10, 2017 update – Teen-Age Wind

Ok, so now here is the deal. The YAWYI (You Are What You Is album was the only 100% studio album that we did at Frank Zappa’s studio, UMRK (Utility Muffin Research Kitchen). I recorded every track from scratch and I also did most of the mixing (with tag team help from a few others like Bob Stone God rest his soul). Special Thanks to John Good of DW drums for his help as always. This was one of the most creative times of Frank’s life and the recording sessions were some of the most unbelievable magic ever caught on tape. So here is a mix I did of Teen-Age Wind featuring Bob Harris as the Kid on vocals and complimented by the whole ensemble of other ZAPPA star vocalist like Ike Willis, Ray White, Frank Zappa, Jimmy Carl Black and others. This mix features the famous Pinske vocal layering and gets interesting with the panorama and the Jimmy Carl Black blow back overdubs that we did for the “Life long Fans”. I apologize for the abrupt cut off on the end, but that is only because FZ whole albums are segue oriented. I hope you enjoy it.


Frank did give me a lot of leeway and sometimes he would go up to bed and tell me to leave the final mix on the two track. The next day we would usually talk and laugh about each approach. He once told me that when he was on stage I had to be the producer because an artist cannot play and produce at the same time. I was very honored to try to do the best I can and I once asked him “Frank, why me” and he said because you are the only one I can trust. I felt truly blessed, another time he just finished over playing on a Guitar solo and came in to the control room and asked me what I thought and I said “Frank, it really sucked”! He just burst out laughing because nobody ever told him that before and then he said, “Yea, it really did suck didn’t it” then he got up and walked back to the multitrack machine and put all his guitar channels into record and erased the whole solo. Then he walked over to the basement and yelled up the stairwell saying “Dweezil come on down I got a solo I want you to play on this song”. If I remember right it was on Stevie’s Spanking. You never knew what Frank would do next, he was totally an original.


July 11, 2017 update – Doreen

So then, I didn’t know if I should do this or not, but in our frenzy during the making of YAWYI, Frank wanted to do a one minute and 30 second version of the song Doreen with a 2 minute totally ridiculous vamp that rocked out with a massive kludge of overlays. So, well ok, that is what I mixed. This features Ray White on the lead vocal. The funny thing is that in the middle of laughing during the vamp, you are actually able to make out some of the intended lyrics that made the whole song a lot of fun to do. We did use a different mix on the album I think that was more sparse, but when I went back to listen to this one I think it somehow fit the more teen age frenzy that Frank had in mind for just a fun wild feel. Oh I almost forgot that about 3 minutes into it Frank said Markman it’s not quite thick enough I think you should put the kitchen sink into it too!


What’s next?