John and Yoko and Frank and Flo and Eddie
John Lennon and Yoko One perform with Frank Zappa and The Mothers

Dateline June 6, 1971 – Frank Zappa and his newly formed Mothers play a notorious gig at the Fillmore East. This was the second night of a two night stand. As he had done previously, Zappa had a surprise for the audience: an encore set backing up John Lennon and Yoko Ono, just beginning their sojourn in NYC that ended so tragically.

The inner-sleeve from Lennon’s release
The minimalist cover as released by Zappa

Zappa had arranged for the night to be recorded, as he increasingly did for all live performances. He came to release the night’s performance by The Mothers as “Fillmore East – June 1971.” It was the latest chapter in the band’s “Touring can make you crazy” phase, which culminated in the movie 200 Motels. During the evening’s entertainment Flo and Eddie, alternatively playing both groupies and Pop Stars, document Vanilla Fudge having sex with a mudshark at the Edgewater Motel, meet Bwana Dik, reprise a few classic Zappa tunes, and eventually agree to sing their big hit song — WITH A  BULLET!!! — “Happy Together.”

Then Zappa sprung John and Yoko on the audience instead of the encore:

~~ Rare footage of Frank Zappa, Flo and Eddie and John and Yoko ~~

Frank Zappa turned the portion of John and Yoko’s performance over to him after the show. As was his wont, Lennon turned the tapes over to Phil Spector, who remixed the tapes and released it in 1972 as Side 4 of the “Some Time In New York City” double-record set. Frank Zappa was extremely unhappy with the results and lawsuits were threatened before it all got settled to everyone’s satisfaction. Frank Zappa tells that story:

Howard Kaylan tells the story from his point of view in his recently released autobiography Shell Shocked [reviewed here]:

If our first Fillmore show […] was wonderful, our second was transcendent. When the concert ended and the audience stood, waiting for their encore, it felt as if a herd of elephants had entered the auditorium as the world’s most famous couple walked onstage. The resulting jam was recorded by both Frank and the Fillmore and was released on two different albums. John released it as the 4th LP [sic] in his Some Times In New Your City compilation on Apple, although he took writing credit on every song, including Frank’s iconic “King Kong,” which h renamed and tried to publish. Frank’s lawyers had to sue John’s lawyers to straighten the entire thing out, and it really wasn’t all that great anyway, but at least I can say that I am among a handful of people, right alongside Paul McCartney, to ever share a writing credit with the immortal John Lennon. So there.

Zappa got the last laugh. He eventually released his own, remixed, versions of those recordings on the Playground Psychotics CD. He gave the songwriters the proper credits, but renamed one of the tunes “A Small Eternity with Yoko Ono.”



About Headly Westerfield

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