Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels Gets The Full Treatment

Circle the date. On October 23rd Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels will get the full orchestral treatment for the first time since 1970, when the London Philharmonic Orchestra performed it live in the movie of the same name.

In fact, the entire score has never really been performed by just an orchestra, the movie soundtrack having been augmented by The Mothers of Invention, newly-reformed by Frank Zappa in 1970 to make the movie. This group of Mothers featured members of the hit-making Pop-Rock act The Turtles on vocals. However, due to a shitty contract that Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan signed with White Whale Records, as teenagers, they were not allowed to use their real names for recording, so they took the names Phlorescent Leech and Eddie, respectively.

But, I digress . . .

According to Billboard Magazine, Gail Zappa has been in negotiations with the L.A. Philharmonic on and off over the years to bring Frank’s music to the ‘Merkin concert stage. While Europeans have had the experience of hearing Zappa’s music played by full orchestras, that pleasure has been denied people on this side of the pond . . . until now.

“I believe in my heart of hearts that someone on the board (of the Philharmonic) said it’s about time,” Zappa’s widow Gail Zappa told Billboard. “This music was written before our children were even conceived and they have never had a chance to hear his music in a proper concert hall.”

L.A. Philharmonic president and CEO Deborah Borda said “a lack of resources and imagination have kept it from getting to the concert hall. [Conductor laureate] Esa-Pekka [Salonen] said the first person to call and welcome him (in 1992) was Frank Zappa. Beyond any Esa-Pekka connection, it’s our connection to L.A.” Zappa died in 1993.

Frank Zappa explaining the scene from 200 Motels in which “The Girl Wants to Fix Him Some Broth.”

200 Motels was a movie way ahead of its time. It’s nice to see the L.A. Philharmonic catching up. However, I can just imagine Walt Disney turning over in his grave when the orchestra begins playing “Half A Dozen Provocative Squats” in the concert hall which bears his name.

Coming soon: A review of Howard Kaylan’s autobiography “Shell Shocked; My Life With The Turtles, Flo & Eddie, and Frank Zappa, etc. . . .” which will feature an exclusive interview with Mr. Kaylan. You can read an excerpt of the book at Rolling Stone Magazine.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.