Frank Zappa's 200 Motels

Premiere:
November 10, 1971
United Artists
98 min.

Release Information

Released by: United Artists (US)
Runtime: 98 minutes
Rated: R
ASIN: 630196392X

Theatrical release dates:

1971/10/27 (MGM Movie Database)
1971/11/10 (US)
1971/11/20 (Sweden)

Some TV Broadcasts:

July 25, 1993
BBC2

March 9, 1996
BBC2

Video release dates:
DVD release

March 8, 2010
Voiceprint, UK
TPDVD127
Region: 0
Ratio: 16:9

For a deep and pretty detailed look at this DVD release, go here: 200 Motels On DVD (SOTCAA, April 2010)

Zappateers, October, 2007

Zappateers: There has been some speculation amongst Zappa fans about a potential DVD release of 200 Motels. Is this anything you could shed any light on ?
Tony Palmer: Keep your fingers crossed—we are doing our best! We have now found the master tapes, so are looking into the potential contractural problems.

Zappateers: Was there much cut from the original release ?
Tony Palmer: Very little
Zappateers: Will there be any extra scenes on the DVD ?
Tony Palmer: Don't know yet—we are still examining the material, but there might well be an interview with me about the film's origins, if only to dispel some of the garbage that has been written about what actually happened, usually by people who were not there.

Gail Zappa, zappa.com, December 2, 2010

We do not own 200 MOTELS but then again, neither does Tony Palmer and that fact does not seem to have deterred from his self-appointed rounds. Ah well. We can only hope! We do have a deal in place that should MGM decide that they want the deluxe version with all the bells and whistles they can ask us to help them out. But again, they do not have to do that.

Instant video/DVD on demand

Studio: MGM
DVD Release Date: June 16, 2015
Run Time: 100 minutes

Amazon.com, June 16, 2015

Shown in 4:3 full frame presentation.

This product is manufactured on demand using DVD-R recordable media. Amazon.com's standard return policy will apply.

The Different Covers

Warner Home Video PEV 99498 VHS (UK), as seen on eBay:

UK Tape

Warner Home Video PES 99498 VHS (UK):

UK Tape Cover

MGM/UA Home Video M200423 VHS (USA):

Video Cover

MGM/Rock Classics S050423 VHS (UK) video tape cover:

Rock Classics

The MGM/UA ML100423 laserdisc:

Laserdisc

Voiceprint DVD (TPDVD127, 2010):

200 Motels (Voiceprint)

MGM Limited Edition Collection:

200 Motels

Liner Notes

A MURAKAMI WOLF/BIZARRE PRODUCTION
FRANK ZAPPA'S
"200 MOTELS"
STARRING
THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION · RINGO STARR · THEODORE BIKEL
MUSIC PERFORMED BY THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION · FRANK ZAPPA · MARK VOLMAN · HOWARD KAYLAN · IAN UNDERWOOD · AYNSLEY DUNBAR · GEORGE DUKE AND THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
MUSIC COMPOSED AND ARRANGED BY FRANK ZAPPA · STORY AND SCREENPLAY BY FRANK ZAPPA · CHARACTERIZATIONS DIRECTED BY FRANK ZAPPA · VISUALS DIRECTED BY TONY PALMER
PRODUCED BY JERRY GOOD AND HERB COHEN

PES 99498 VHS (UK)

MIND-BOGGLING EAR-BLOWING POP FANTASY AT ITS BEST!

"Touring can make you crazy", announces ex-Beatle Ringo Starr at the start of the movie, "And that's what 200 Motels is all about". So prepare youself for an explosion of outrageous, fast and furious humor, zany satire and extraordinary visual invention in a riveting musical fantasy of the Seventies which makes most of today's pop videos look tame by comparison.

The movie is a surrealistic 'documentary' about what happens when the performers on a rock tour begin to feel that every motel, every auditorium and all the groupies start to look alike. Set in the mythical town of Centerville, USA, 200 Motels stars Frank Zappa, the leader of one of the Seventies' greatest rock bands, The Mothers of Invention, along with Ringo Starr, Theodore Bikel and the legendary Keith Moon, coming together in a consistently fascinating and free-wheeling movie that is a treat for all fans of Frank Zappa and his group and a not-to-be-missed eye and ear-opener for every addict of great pop music.

Said Time: "The craziness climaxes, fittingly enough, with a full cast and chorus raising their voices in an irreverent anthem: "Lord, have mercy on the fate of this movie/and God bless the mind of the man in the street". Mothers fans will be ecstatic. Don't miss it.

M200423 VHS (USA)

"Just the right touch of insanity . . . a stunning achievement."
—Robert Hilburn, Los Angeles Times

200 Motels is Frank Zappa's outrageous, psychedelic precursor to today's rock videos—his hilarious response to the burning question of what to do with road-wrecked musicians. Should they rip off the motel's towels and ashtrays or merely quit the group? Dare they rebel against the tyranny of the merciless Zappa?

"The Mothers of Invention," as irrepressible as Zappa himself, wreck havoc in Centerville, a "typical" American town with its Rancid Boutique, Cheesy Motel, Fake Nightclub, Redneck Eats Cafe, groupies and an honest-to-goodness Main Street. Ringo Starr, in Zappa disquise and carrying an oil lamp, narrates. Theodore Bikel is government agent Rance Muhammitz.

The hysterically funny man behind such hits as "Valley Girl," "Dancin' Fool" and "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow," Zappa reasserts his genius in this "zaniest piece of filmusical fantasy-comedy since The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night."—Daily Variety

 

Cast & Crew

THEODORE BIKEL
RINGO STARR

MARK VOLMAN
HOWARD KAYLAN
IAN UNDERWOOD
AYNSLEY DUNBAR
GEORGE DUKE

KEITH MOON
JANET FERGUSON
LUCY OFFERALL
JIMMY CARL BLACK
MARTIN LICKERT
DICK BARBER
DON PRESTON
PAMELA MILLER
RUTH UNDERWOOD
JUDY GRIDLEY

music composed and arranged by FRANK ZAPPA
music performed by THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
choreographed by GILLIAN LYNNE
story and screenplay by FRANK ZAPPA
shooting script by TONY PALMER
associate producers RAOUL RAGEL · BRIAN HARRIS
produced by JERRY GOOD · HERB COHEN
characterizations directed by FRANK ZAPPA
visuals directed by TONY PALMER

Special Material MARK VOLMAN · HOWARD KAYLAN
Orchestra Leader COLIN STAVELEY
Orchestra Chairman JOHN LOWDELL
Acting Orchestra General Manager TOM PETZAL
Orchestra Conductor ELGAR HOWARTH
Chorus TOP SCORE SINGERS
Choral Director DAVID VAN ASCH

Animation MURAKAMI WOLF PROD.
Animation Director CHARLES SWENSON
Graphic Production CAL SCHENKEL · KUNIMI TERADA · FUMIKO ROCHE · ELIZABETH WRIGHT · WILMA GUENOT · ANN OLIPHANT
Production Design CAL SCHENKEL
Art Director LEO AUSTIN

Unit Production Manager DAVID ANDERSON
Lion Television Services Production Manager ROY GARNER
Lion Television Services Controller TOM KEYLOCK
Assistant Director DAVID ALEXANDER
2nd Assistant Director JIM MC CUTCHEON
Dancers Music Associate RAY COOK
Lighting Director PETER DYSON
Technical Director ALAN MASHFORD
Sound Supervisor PETER HUBBARD
16 Track Recordist ROBERT AUGER
Continuity Clerk LYN GOMEZ
Production Secretary JAQI WILLIAMSON
Vision Mixer ANNE ROWE
Vision Supervisor ROLAND BROWN

Construction Supervisor HARRY PHIPPS
Costume Design SUE YELLAND
Hairdresser MERVYN MEDALIE
Makeup PAUL RABIGER
Unit Publicist IAN STOCK
Special Effects BERT LUXFORD
Still Photographer BARRY PEAKE
Wire Specialist INKY INGRAM
Props PADDY BENNETT

Vision Engineers RICHARD THOMPSON · SELWYN MINDEL · NEVILLE HOKSFIELD
Cameramen DAVE SWAN · BARRIE DODD · MIKE FITCH · JOHN HOWARD
Video Tape Editors BARRY STEPHENS · RAY NUNNEY
Dubbed at TODD A-O
Film Editing RICH HARRISON
Video Tape Transfer to Film TECHNICOLOR-ENGLAND
Video Tape Equipment LION TELEVISION SERVICES

Produced at PINEWOOD STUDIOS, IVERHEATH, ENGLAND

Uncredited:

JIM 'MOTORHEAD' SHERWOOD
JIM PONS
PHYLLIS BRYN-JULSON
CLASSICAL GUITAR ENSEMBLE
JOHN WILLIAMS

Richard Green, "Establishment Versus The Underground," New Musical Express, January 16, 1971

Zappa clarified a couple of inaccuracies in the nadout we'd been given. Donovan and Ginger Baker would not be appearing in the film, he said for starters.

"In one sequence, Jeff [Simmons] is supposed to be under the influence of a mystic substance and is visited by his good conscience and his bad conscience. I supposed them to be Donovan and Ginger, but they were never called to appear." he said.

He also pointed out that there were two directors, not just Tony Palmer. "I have the fascinating job of telling the people how to say the funny lines," he laughed with a touch of cynicism.

[...] Zappa revealed that the film would include some of the footage he had in his basement at home, that he had been working on the plan for four years and that the idea had been offered to several companies before U-A accepted it.

[...] "We're working to a basic 180-page script. Improvisation will be limited basically because all the musical material and dialogue is going to be rehearsed in advance so that when the cameras are pointed at the artists, they are going to perform it just like it was a concert."

[...] A budget of 630,000 dollars has been allocated for the film which will be shot on videotape and then transferred to 35 mm film. The completed work will be ready by November at the latest, though only a week has been set aside for shooting.

"My first interest in making a movie was 'Captain Beefheart and the Grunt People' in 1964," Zappa commented. "But that was never done and there are only forty minutes of 'Uncle Meat' shot.

"We're shooting here because the technology to produce on videotape exists here. I saw Tony Palmer's Juicy Lucy and Colloseum films and was very impressed. Also, production costs are less here than in the United States."

Later, Zappa volunteered: "There is approximately one a half hours of orchestra music that has never been unleashed on human ears before. We have three grand pianos, three classical guitars with John Williams playing lead classical guitar, an orchestra, bass guitar, seven percussionists, an accordion, eight French horns, four trumpets, four trombones, four clarinets, four flutes, four oboes, a piccolo and three saxes. There are 90 pieces in all." No partridge in a pear tree?

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is to be used and this prompted another national man to ask: "Why didn't you choose another orchestra, why did you choose them?" To which Zappa retorted: "We didn't ask them, we just rung around and asked who was available."

Charles Ulrich, October 12, 2004

Several characters were recast between the shooting script and the finished film.

Obviously, Jeff Simmons was supposed to play himself. After Jeff quit the group, the role was given first to Wilfrid Brambell, and then to Martin Lickert. But note that Howard Kaylan provided the voice of the cartoon Jeff in Dental Hygiene Dilemma.

Pete Townshend (dressed up like Donovan) was supposed to play Jeff's Good Conscience. In the film, it was Mark Volman voicing the animated Billy The Mountain (dressed up like Donovan).

Keith Moon (dressed up like Ginger Baker) was supposed to play Jeff's Bad Conscience. In the film, it was Jim Pons voicing the animated Studebacher Hoch (dressed up like Jim Pons).

Mick Jagger was supposed to play the nun (while being pursued by Larry the Dwarf). Miss Pamela was supposed to play the nun (as the third groupie ODing). In the film, Keith Moon played the nun throughout.

The soprano soloist of the chorus (Phyllis Bryn-Julson) was supposed to play the rock & roll interviewer, speaking as well as singing. In the film, Miss Pamela took over the speaking role.

Jeff Beck was supposed to play the fake Lucy. In the film, Motorhead played the fake Lucy.

The shooting script contains a non-speaking role for Meredith [Monk, presumably] as the newt-rancher's girlfriend in The Pleated Gazelle.

Herbie [Cohen] was supposed to appear in two scenes, speaking his name in one of them.

Keith Moon, The Nun

Chris Charlesworth, "Blue Moon!," Melody Maker, February 13, 1971

The part of the nun was to have been played by Mick Jagger, but Moon took over principally to get some experience of appearing before film cameras before work started on the Who's own film on Sunday. [...]

"We've been filming all week and last week and it's just like being on the road again," he told me as I drove hastily towards Pinewood. "I was only supposed to be doing two days filming but it has turned out to be much longer because I keep cropping up in crowd scenes as well."

[...] Back at the hotel over dinner Keith talks about his role in the film and in the Who film. "I am really only doing this film to get the hang of working before cameras. I've never been on a film set before so the experience will come in useful for our own film. I'm not doing this for the money, and I suppose anyone could dress up like a nun and do what I do. But it's great fun to do and nice to get out of London for a while. I am thinking of buying a house near Windsor too.

"With our own film each of us in the group is being given a section to write for themselves so I'm thinking of having my bit shot in Bermuda so we can all go over there. I don't know what the film company will think about it though," he adds with some doubt.

David Alexander, Assistant Director

Michael Watts, "Zappa's Got A Brand New Bag," Melody Maker, February 13, 1971

David is a very impressive-looking cat, who appears to be an assistant co-director. He is very tall and rangy, with a black sweater and trousers, white shoes and a red cloth cap, that perches on his head above big shades. A pair of cans look permanently glued to his ears, and every now and then he says "yes, Tony" or "right, Tony," the Tony in question being Mr. Tony Palmer, who is directing the movie from a control room outside the studio.

This guy David paces in brooding fashion around the set, slinging out sardonic asides every once in a while from a mouth that is incessantly grinding chewing gum. When he is not doing that or talking to Tony, he is shouting "cut," though maybe he should have said: "Once more from the top?"

George Duke

George Duke, interviewed by Robert L. Doeschuk, Keyboardist, April, 1994

The only thing that made me want to retreat back to the jazz world was 200 Motels. I was still really straight then. I didn't have a big sense of humor. Even now, 200 Motels is the weirdest thing I've ever done in my life. It was so strange, I almost can't explain it. It was just very weird to be a straight-laced, thin-black-tie-wearing cat, with all these grungy hippies, for lack of a better word. But I loved it, because I knew I had something to learn, and these guys were incredible musicians. And Frank did bring out my sense of humor.

Jimmy Carl Black

Jimmy Carl Black, interviewed by Andrew Greenaway, The Idiot Bastard, June 23, 2000

I had a birthday while we were filming 200 Motels and Ringo gave me a huge birthday cake and a couple of bottles and the whole crew enjoyed that party. Me, being as big of a Beatle fan as I was and still am, that was the best thing that ever happened to me. Ringo is a very nice man. Moony was crazy, but a great fellow to party with and I did MUCHO.

Jimmy Carl Black, interviewed by Gregarious, Mother People, 1985

It's a funny flick. I've got to give credit to Frank for that—he was an innovator. That whole thing was made with television cameras, and then edited and transferred to film. The movie was made in three weeks—two weeks of rehearsals and one week of filming. Frank hired some of the original Mothers as actors, and paid us $500 apiece. The Mothers in his band, then, got $3000. Now that was a fair deal, wasn't it?

Ringo Starr

Ringo Starr, answering Pablo S. Alonso's question, Uncut, July, 2015 (quoted by NikZah, Zappateers, May 31, 2015)

It was great, from day one. I got a message from our office. “Frank Zappa wants to talk to you about something.” So I said, “Tell Frank to come over to the house.” He came over and he laid out this whole score, at least 25 pages of the score. I said, “Well, what are you showing me that for, Frank? I can’t read music.” He said, “I just wanted to show you.” He said, “Will you play me in the movie?” It was really easy, he was a nice guy, so I said, “Sure.” I did like Frank. I’d met him several times. He was a beautiful human being. As far as I was concerned, his music was crazy—but that’s one man’s opinion. But the memory of the movie was, he’d followed the band around and secretly taped their conversations and then turned it into a song and forced them to sing it. He was a lot of fun!

Bill

In an interview I read, Ringo stated that FZ was the nicest man he had met in the music business. This interview was done in the 1980's I think.

Cal Schenkel

Ringo was very much the nice fellow himself during the filming of "200 Motels." Hanging out in the pub at Pinewood with the lot of us, like one of the guys.

Robert Williams

Willlbr

Re: 200 Motels-You need a good slomo and freeze frame to spot it. It's toward the beginning, I'm shirtless and wrapping toilet paper that Frank gave me around the other people's necks. I remember Frank saying, "Great! We have a non conformist in our group!"

Martin Lickert

Martin Lickert, interviewed by Danny Baker, Danny Baker After All, BBC1, 1993

The day before filming started Frank's bass player walked out. And they were originally gonna have Wilfrid Brambell in a wig and Noel Redding dubbing the bass. But it didn't work out. So they said, "Right, so, you'll do." [...] I did a bit of bass but my bass was overdubbed. [...]

The film was about a week, and we were gonna do the Albert Hall but we were banned 'cause of the lyrics.

Martin Lickert, interviewed by Andrew Greenaway, The Idiot Bastard, November 5, 1993

I said I went out for some cigarettes, but I seem to remember it was tissues from Uxbridge because Ringo had a terrible cold. [...] I had to take Ringo to the rehearsals at Pinewood, which is where it went on. Bloody good. Ringo very kindly said, "Alright, I'll get Mal Evans to drive." He's dead now, too. So Mal drove for Ringo and I stayed with the Mothers at some . . . . poor hotel!

[Zappa] was staying at a house in Holland Park with Janet and Lucy. And Gail.

[...] We played and recorded it live, but whoever was doing the mixing and whoever was doing the sound job clearly wasn't listening very closely to the bass parts. So I think Frank in fact overdubbed most of it. For someone of my limited ability, some of the stuff on that album is pretty difficult.

[...] I was gonna go back with the Mothers, but I really wasn't good enough—no, I shouldn't say that—they discovered that I wasn't really good enough. And I'd already said to Ringo I'm gonna go back because they'd said, "Do you want to play?" And then I had to ask Ringo if I could go back to work with him. But it wasn't the same—I would have left at the drop of a Fender, as it were. I went back to work with Ringo for about 3 months and it didn't work out so that was that.

[...] We were all gonna play [at the Royal Albert Hall]. But that bunch of buggers at the Royal Philharmonic, after they'd grabbed the money for '200 Motels'—I perhaps shouldn't say this . . . let's say that after they'd done the film, they didn't want to demean themselves in public. It was the lyrics that caused the trouble.

Mark Volman, zappa.forum, June 5, 2005

I think Martin did a good job under the circumstances and we were fortunate that he played Bass as well. Frank eventually replaced the bass with him playing it on the soundtrack record. I have never seen or heard from Martin Lickert since the movie premiere on London.

Martin Lickert, in correspondence with Patrick Neve

My getting the part in 200 Motels is pretty much as described, though I had gone to buy tissues for Ringo (he had a permanent cold) as opposed to cigarettes. I used to jam with Ringo in his studio at the top of his house when I was driving for him, and that is how he knew that I played bass. He mentioned this to Frank at Pinewood, though I have to say, my ability as any sort of guitarist has to be questioned.

[...] My memory is clouded by my habits at the time, and I cannot now remember any specifics, save one evening at a hotel in Windsor where we all stayed. Lucy Offerall had the hots for me, and I had gone to bed. My room in the hotel was on the second floor, and Keith Moon was in the room next to me. Lucy persuaded Keith to shin across the window-ledge, in the pouring rain, and break my window to allow Keith into my room and to let her in. I woke next morning, covered in broken glass and Lucy.

[...] I never played any live gigs with the Mothers, and I suppose that is one reason that they are still held in such high regard. We were supposed to play the Albert Hall directly after the filming of 200 Motels, but the gig was cancelled after the orchestra complained to the Albert Hall about the bad language. We got as far as the steps.

[...] I was supposed to go to the States with the Mothers after the film, but I was ill, and that was the end.

Jim Pons

Jim Pons, interviewed by Steve Moore, April 24, 2000

I did the voice of the bad conscience during post production. The movie was made in England, and Frank's bass player quit before filming, but he didn't replace him with me until he got back to the States. (That's why Wilfred Bramble—Paul's Grandfather in "A Hard Day's Night"—was first cast to play the part—later replaced by Martin Lickert).

Tony Palmer

Tony Palmer, "Groupies, Drugs And Boredom: On The Insanity Of Directing 200 Motels With Frank Zappa," The Talkhouse, January 23, 2017

Two years [after All My Loving], Zappa called me to say he had been "impressed by the courage of my film" and asked if I would be interested in helping with a project of his own. [...]

When we met, he gave me "the script" of his project—300 pages, some handwritten, some paste-ups, some incomprehensible, a few lyrics, and a frequent use of the word "penis." Ah, I said. He wanted me to "visualize" it, he said. Ah, I said. To create the atmosphere of life on the road of a touring rock & roll band. Ah, I said. When do we shoot, I asked? In a month's time, he said. Do we have a cast, I asked? No, he said, apart from various musicians from his band including Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, also known as the Turtles. The cast, he said, that's your job. Ah, I said. The opening line on page 1 of "the script" read: "If you were forced by a crazy person to insert a mysterious imported lamp into the reproductive orifice of a lady harpist, would you do it?" Ah.

I later discovered something of what had happened up to that point. Zappa had approached his record company, United Artists Records, to persuade their parent company, United Artists Films, to finance a feature film to be called 200 Motels, about the trials and tribulations and misery (and sex) of life on the road—groupies, boredom, drugs, boredom, crappy motels, boredom, and . . . boredom. Songs would include "Half a Dozen Provocative Squats," "Shove It Right In," "Dental Hygiene Dilemma," "A Nun Suit Painted on Some Old Boxes" and . . . "Penis Dimension." Not surprisingly, United Artists had . . . hesitated. Zappa then said he would use his next record advance to finance the film if UA would agree to distribute. OK, they said, but we need a "safe pair of hands" whom they knew to direct. Enter Muggins, and a production company was formed called, what else? Bizarre Productions.

On the positive side, I knew that Pinewood Studios had been booked (for 10 days, a little short for a feature film) and that Zappa was no mug as a musician. His lyrics might be full of absurd provocations, not to say squats, but having studied with Varèse, he was eminently capable of writing in full score, or at least filling the pages with a great number of dots and squiggles which, whether they added up to anything more than the sums of their parts, remained a matter of debate. Anyhow, they needed an orchestra. Your job, he said.

So the Royal Philharmonic, with whom I had worked before, was volunteered, although somehow I failed to mention to them that they would be seen throughout the film in a prison camp called "The Centerville Recreational Facility," with the percussionists dressed as Nazi guards. But it was Pinewood Studios, I kept repeating. They were mightily impressed by that. As was a brilliant trumpet player and brass band conductor I had come across called Gary Howarth, today a most distinguished orchestral conductor called Elgar Howarth. Zappa wanted "serious" musicians involved, he said; enter John Williams, the great classical guitarist. There was to be "dancing"; enter Gillian Lynne, another old friend, later to become rich as the choreographer of the original production of Cats. I called up every crazy rock & roller I could think of who owed me a favor; enter Ringo Starr (disguised in the film as Frank Zappa) and Keith Moon, the drummer with the Who. Zappa's score required a choir; enter the Monteverdi Choir, although they have always denied they had anything whatsoever to do with it, partly through fear of what Sir John Eliot Gardiner might do to them if he ever found out. We need class actors, Zappa told me; enter Wilfred Brambell (best known as Harold Steptoe in Steptoe and Son) and Theodore Bikel, sometime folk singer and Captain von Trapp in the original stage production of The Sound of Music. Wow! He was to play Rance Muhammitz disguised as a TV announcer named Dave. You work it out. The problem was there was no real script I could give them.

Now comes the interesting part. Zappa's idea—to portray what life was really like on the road—was a good one. [...] Zappa's ambition was to write this large upon the silver screen.

But how to do that, and at very short notice, and with a budget that today wouldn't even pay for the wigs? 35mm film was out, economically, and there simply wouldn't be time. I told Zappa the only hope was to try and shoot it on color video. He was skeptical; United Artists were not to be told. I was sure they would cancel the whole thing at the very mention of the word "video" and blame . . . me. My view, however, was that video was relatively quick, cheap and, most important of all, it might give us the chance to experiment with the technology which, although in its infancy—some would have said pre-infancy—seemed to me to have possibilities. If it failed, well, Zappa could always blame . . . me.

But, I argued, Zappa wanted to show, visually, the effect for instance of hallucinatory drugs. To achieve this optically, by film, was of course possible, but it would be exceedingly slow, and expensive, and then might not result in something sufficiently bizarre.

[...] There was a second problem, or rather set of problems. Once we had our color video tape, could we edit it? [...] In any case, there were only a tiny number of cinemas equipped to show videotape on a large screen.

Therefore, somehow the unedited tape had to be transferred to film. Obvious, but it had never been done before. [...] By an incredible chance, I was grumbling about this latest problem with a friend who worked at Technicolor. Simple, he said. Remember that the television picture has three color signals, red, blue and green. Well, so does the old 3-strip Technicolor method of negative and print. Incredibly again, he found an old disused Technicolor printer, and if we could find a way to isolate the three television signals he said, bingo, we could transfer everything to 3-strip 35mm film and thus solve the editing and distribution problems.

 

Locations & Characters

Time (*) Scenes Location Cast Score Music
0:00:02-0:00:10   (Zappa house) [16 mm] Motorhead   Semi-Fraudulent/Direct-From-Hollywood Overture (Holiday In Berlin)
0:00:08-0:01:06 2 orchestra brass, violins, harp
0:01:06-0:01:14   (on the road) [16 mm]     Semi-Fraudulent/Direct-From-Hollywood Overture
0:01:14-0:01:32   (real motel room) [16 mm] (M.O.I., Robert Williams)
0:01:32-0:02:05 2 TV studio Ringo Starr—Larry The Dwarf
Theodore Bikel—Narrator
Chorus
Keith Moon—Nun
0:02:05-0:04:00 3   (lounge piano)
0:03:58-0:06:15   rock stage Aynsley Dunbar—drums
FZ—(no guitar)
Mark Volman—vocals
George Duke—trombone
Howard Kaylan—vocals
Ian Underwood—tenor sax
Martin Lickert—bass
  Mystery Roach
0:06:10-0:06:40 32 fake motel room Howard
Ian
Mark
George
Martin
0:06:40-0:07:29 19, 20 rock stage Theodore Bikel—Rance Muhammitz
Mark
Howard
   
0:07:29-0:07:59 17 fake club Jimmy Carl Black
Theodore Bikel—Rance Muhammitz
Zappa dummy
Don Preston
Motorhead
  (unidentified)
0:07:59-0:08:09 20 rock stage Theodore Bikel—Rance Muhammitz
Mark
Howard
Martin Lickert—Jeff
 
0:08:09-0:08:18 17 fake club Don Preston
Motorhead
 
0:08:18-0:08:39 20 rock stage Mark
Howard
Martin
Theodore Bikel—Rance Muhammitz
 
0:08:39-0:09:41 17 fake club JCB
Theodore Bikel—Rance Muhammitz
Don Preston
Motorhead
Pamela Miller
Dick Barber—vacuum cleaner
   
0:09:41-0:11:24 32 fake motel room Mark
Ian
Martin
Aynsley
Ringo Starr—Larry The Dwarf
Howard
George
  (unidentified)
0:11:22-0:11:28 32 camera crew FZ
Zappa dummy
   
0:11:27-0:11:36 32 fake motel room Mark
Ian
Martin
Aynsley
Ringo Starr—Larry The Dwarf
Howard
George
   
0:11:36-0:11:56 17 fake club JCB
Theodore Bikel
Zappa dummy
Don Preston—Uncle Meat
Motorhead
Dick Barber—vacuum cleaner
Pamela
   
0:11:56-0:12:42 14   orchestra
dancers—rock & roll interviewers
Zappa dummy
Miss Janet
Miss Lucy
  Dance Of The Rock & Roll Interviewers
0:12:38-0:14:23 32 fake motel room Ringo Starr
Martin
Mark
Howard
   
0:14:06-0:14:08 15?   Zappa dummy   (unidentified)
0:14:15-0:15:59 15   dancers—rock & roll interviewers
orchestra
Pamela
Zappa dummy
Miss Janet
Miss Lucy
  What's The Name Of Your Group?
0:15:59-0:16:07 17 fake club Motorhead
Don Preston
Dick Barber—vacuum cleaner
JCB
Theodore Bikel
Pamela
   
0:16:07-0:16:54 20 stage Theodore Bikel
Martin
Mark
Howard
   
0:16:45-0:18:56 21 Centerville Howard
Mark
dancers—Centerville folks
  Centerville
0:18:56-0:20:14 21 rancid boutique Miss Lucy
Miss Janet
  (background rock music)
0:20:14-0:22:04 26 stage Aynsley—drums
FZ—guitar
Howard—vocals
Mark—vocals
  The Sealed Tuna Bolero
0:20:42-0:21:08 25   dancers
Theodore Bikel
0:21:12-0:21:21 28   dancers
Theodore Bikel
Mark
Howard
0:20:48-0:21:05 35? newt ranch Dick Barber
Motorhead
0:22:01-0:26:00   stage Aynsley—drums
JCB—vocals
Mark—vocals
Howard—vocals
George—trombone
FZ—guitar?
  Lonesome Cowboy Burt
0:22:11-0:25:17 29 fake club JCB—machine gun, vocals
dancers—club customers
FZ—drums
Don Preston—piano
Motorhead—fake Lucy
Ruth Underwood—drums
 
0:25:59-0:27:24 29, 30 fake club Theodore Bikel
JCB
  (unidentified)
0:27:24-0:28:34 30   Naval Aviation In Art?
0:28:33-0:30:51 21 Centerville Ringo
orchestra
  (unidentified; including parts of "Lucy's Seduction Of A Bored Violinist & Postlude")
0:29:32-0:30:04 21?   orchestra (including bored violinist)
0:29:39-0:29:51 21 concentration camp Herb Cohen—armed guard
0:30:49-0:34:59 81-82 stage FZ—guitar
Aynsley—drums
Mark—vocals, tambourines
Howard—vocals
Martin—bass
  Magic Fingers
0:34:57-0:35:57 47 office Ringo    
0:35:56-0:36:13 31 fake club Aynsley
Ian
George
Howard
Martin
Mark—fake Janet
dancers—club customers
JCB
Motorhead—fake Lucy
Ruth—drums
   
0:36:13-0:36:16 30 fake club Theodore Bikel—Rance Muhammitz    
0:36:16-0:36:47 47 office Ringo    
0:36:45-0:37:01 31 fake club JCB
George
Howard
Aynsley
Ian
Martin
Mark—fake Janet
dancers—club customers
Motorhead—fake Lucy
Don Preston—Uncle Meat
   
0:37:01-0:37:17 47 office Ringo   (Dental Hygiene Dilemma [instrumental])
0:37:17-0:37:36 52   orchestra
Ringo
Keith Moon
   
0:37:35-0:37:39     percussion player   The Pleated Gazelle
0:37:39-0:38:09 38   dancers—newts
orchestra
Motorhead
 
0:38:08-0:39:23 40   singer—narrator
Phyllis Bryn-Julson—the girl
orchestra
Keith Moon—nun (piano)
 
0:39:24-0:39:45 [51?]   Motorhead
Dick Barber—vacuum cleaner
 
0:39:37-0:40:14 [41]   classic guitar
Keith Moon—nun
 
0:40:12-0:40:26 [51?]   Motorhead
Dick Barber—vacuum cleaner
Judy Gridley—the girl
 
0:40:24-0:41:19 [42]   Keith Moon—nun
Phyllis Bryn-Julson—the girl
 
0:41:19-0:42:10 55   Motorhead
Judy Gridley—the girl
 
0:42:07-0:42:31 45   Phyllis Bryn-Julson—the girl  
0:42:31-0:47:06 [96] (cartoon)     Dental Hygiene Dilemma (**)
0:47:06-0:48:50 [97-98]     Does This Kind Of Life Look Interesting To You? (**)
0:48:50-0:52:30 57 girls apartment Keith Moon
Miss Janet
Miss Lucy
   
0:50:03-0:50:09 57 stage Aynsley    
0:52:28-0:55:25 87   Miss Janet
Miss Lucy
Mark
Howard
orchestra
chorus
  Penis Dimension
0:55:25-0:56:08 [99?]   The Monolith
Dick Barber
0:56:04-1:00:22 84-85   Howard
Mark—fake Janet
Aynsley
Ringo
Keith Moon
Miss Lucy
Miss Janet
dancers—KKK
Don Preston
0:57:57-1:00:22 85 stage Howard—vocals
Mark—vocals
1:00:22-1:00:27 67   Ringo    
1:00:27-1:01:00 58 stage Mark—tambourines, vocals
Aynsley—drums
Mark—vocals
Martin—bass
Ian—keyboards
FZ—guitar
  She Painted Up Her Face
1:00:53-1:01:07 66 girls apartment Janet dummy
Miss Janet
1:01:05-1:02:16 58 stage Mark—tambourines, vocals
Aynsley—drums
Mark—vocals
Martin—bass
Ian—keyboards
FZ—guitar
1:02:14-1:02:36     George—piano   Janet's Big Dance Number
1:02:36-1:03:15 60   Miss Janet
dancers
 
1:03:15-1:03:30     George—piano  
1:03:30-1:04:25 61 stage Mark—tambourines, vocals
Aynsley—drums
Martin—bass
Howard—vocals
Ian—keyboards
  Half A Dozen Provocative Squats
1:04:25-1:04:59 63? girls bathroom Miss Lucy
1:04:59-1:05:29 61 stage Howard—vocals
George—trombone
FZ—guitar
Aynsley—drums
1:05:26-1:07:06 62   Miss Lucy
dancers
orchestra (including bored violinist)
  Lucy's Seduction Of A Bored Violinist
1:07:02-1:07:34 [63] stage Mark—vocals
Aynsley—drums
Howard—vocals
Ian—keyboards
Martin—bass
  Shove It Right In
1:07:33-1:08:01 66 girls apartment Miss Lucy
Lucy dummy
1:07:58-1:08:44 [63] stage Howard—vocals
Mark—vocals
Aynsley—drums
1:08:40-1:08:53 66 girls apartment Keith Moon—nun
1:08:50-1:09:30 [63] stage Aynsley—drums
Martin—bass
Mark—vocals
Howard—vocals
George—trombone
FZ—guitar
1:09:29-1:10:30 67 stage Ringo    
1:09:40-1:11:24 67 dressing rooms Mark
Howard
Aynsley
Ian
George
   
1:11:22-1:12:16 68 stage Howard—vocals
FZ—guitar
  What Will This Morning Bring Me This Evening?
1:12:16-1:12:22   (on the road) [16 mm]  
1:12:22-1:12:28 68   Howard—vocals
Aynsley—drums
George—trombone
1:12:28-1:13:10   (on the road) [16 mm]  
1:13:09-1:13:27 70 fake club Motorhead—fake Lucy
Mark—fake Janet
Lucy dummy
Janet dummy
Miss Lucy
Miss Janet
dancers
1:13:27-1:14:02 69 dressing rooms Aynsley
Howard
Mark
Martin
Ian
George
   
1:14:01-1:17:29 71-72 fake club Mark—fake Janet
Ian
Martin
Aynsley
Howard
George
JCB
Keith Moon
Lucy dummy
Motorhead—fake Lucy
Miss Lucy
Theodore Bikel
Janet dummy
Miss Janet
Dick Barber—vacuum cleaner
Pamela
Ringo
dancers—local folks, workers, newts
FZ
  Daddy, Daddy, Daddy
1:17:27-1:22:17 90 fake club/ laboratory Don Preston
Martin
   
1:21:42-1:21:50 [99?]   Monolith    
1:22:17-1:22:20 75 fake club/laboratory exploding coffee machine   What Will This Evening Bring Me This Morning? (**)
1:22:20-1:23:06 35?   Dick Barber
Motorhead
1:22:20-1:23:43 [21?]   Dick Barber
George
Ian
Mark
Howard
1:23:10-1:23:48 93   FZ's eye
1:23:43-1:23:45   fake club JCB
Pamela
1:23:46-1:23:47     Dick Barber
1:23:47-1:23:59 92 fake motel room Martin
1:23:59-1:24:27    
1:24:27-1:25:21   Mysterioso
1:25:21-1:26:01   Dental Hygiene Dilemma (**)
1:26:01-1:27:00   Does This Kind Of Life Look Interesting To You? (**)
1:27:00-1:27:11 93   FZ's eye    
1:27:07-1:37:34 100-101   Theodore Bikel
Ringo
Motorhead—Larry Fanoga
Ringo
Miss Lucy
Miss Janet
Pamela
dancers
orchestra
chorus
Phyllis Bryn-Julson
  Strictly Genteel (The Finale)
1:30:30-1:37:34 stage Mark—vocals
Howard—vocals
Martin—bass
Aynsley—drums
JCB—vocals
FZ—conductor
1:32:21-1:32:36   Centerville  
1:34:30-1:34:31   stage JCB—Lonesome Cowboy Burt
1:34:30-1:34:31     Theodore Bikel—Rance Muhammitz
1:37:14-1:37:31   stage JCB—Lonesome Cowboy Burt
FZ—guitar
1:37:36-1:38:49   (credits)     Postlude

(*) Timing approximate.
(**) These tracks are at the same speed as the album versions. The rest of the soundtrack is slowed down approximately one semitone.

The Premiere

Doheny Plaza Theater, Los Angeles

Tom Brown, November 11, 2013

It was announced that 200 Motels the movie was going to have its world premier at the Doheny Plaza Theatre (Beverly Hills no less), and my beautiful live-in girlfriend being a hardcore fan of Frank's music herself managed to get us tickets. Upon our arrival we parked just across the street from the theatre to see Frank standing casually in front of the venue talking to several fans. We were both consumed with excitement of seeing our musical hero in person and proceeded to vacate the car as fast as we could so we might introduce ourselves to the maestro. Unfortunately by the time we crossed the street he was gone, but every freak in Los Angeles was there and decked out in their finest and freakiest costumes. Among them were 2 women with outrageous orange make-up denoting a pig's face, which qualified as the most impressive costume of the evening. However there were many others who were waving their freak flag high as well. At least for this one night the Doheny Plaza Theatre had been turned into the proverbial Freak City. It was the finest display of pure, unmitigated freakiness I've seen before or since. If one was living in or around Los Angeles in the early 70's you'll know what I'm talking about. Upon entering the theatre we immediately spotted Don Preston walking across the lobby by himself and heading toward the exit. But time she was a-wastin' and we quickly located our seats to insure that we weren't going to miss anything. The strong smell of cannabis wafted throughout the theatre like a summer breeze. We had just taken our seats when the first joint of the evening was being passed down the aisle and into our grasps, which continued and didn't stop until the movie came to its end. There were no ushers prowling the aisles telling people to extinguish them. Hard to imagine now, although when we returned the following evening to see it again it was a different day in more ways than one. Gone were the freaks and no one was smoking anything, legal or otherwise. Freak City had moved on.

Baltimore?

TTuerff

Okay, bring the band on down behind me, boys, I have another question for the FZ experts in the room: Is this true, or just something to sit on top of the bogus rumor pile? True or False: "200 Motels" was premiered at an old folks home, possibly in Baltimore, with Frank in attendance. I've heard this one literally since the movie came out but other than maybe reading it ONCE I've never seen it in print again. Can anyone help?

 

The Music

According to the Shooting Script, Patrick Pending's article on the 200 Motels CD booklet, and Tom Troccoli's article from Society Pages, this could have been the original running order for 200 Motels:

  1. Semi-Fraudulent/Direct From Hollywood Overture
  2. Touring Can Make You Crazy
  3. What's The Name Of Your Group?
    1. Dance Of The Rock & Roll Interviewers
    2. What's The Name of Your Group?
  4. Would You Like A Snack?
  5. Centerville
  6. This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich
    1. This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich (Prologue)
    2. Tuna Fish Promenade
    3. Dance Of The Just Plain Folks
    4. This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich (Reprise)
    5. The Sealed Tuna Bolero
  7. Lonesome Cowboy Burt
  8. Redneck Eats
  9. Mystery Roach
  10. I Have Seen The Pleated Gazelle
    1. Motorhead's Midnight Ranch
    2. Dew On The Newts We Got
    3. The Lad Searches The Night For His Newts
    4. The Girl Wants To Fix Him Some Broth
    5. The Girl's Dream
    6. Little Green Scratchy Sweaters & Corduroy Ponce
    7. A Nun Suit Painted On Some Old Boxes
  11. Shove It Right In
    1. She Painted Up Her Face
    2. Janet's Big Dance Number
    3. Half A Dozen Provocative Squats
    4. Mysterioso
    5. Shove It Right In
    6. Lucy's Seduction Of A Bored Violinist
  12. The "Groupie Opera"
    1. What Will This Morning Bring Me This Evening?
    2. What Will This Evening Bring Me This Morning?
    3. What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are?
    4. Bwana Dik
    5. Latex Solar Beef
    6. Daddy, Daddy, Daddy
    7. Do You Like My New Car?
    8. Magic Fingers
  13. Penis Dimension
  14. I'm Stealing The Towels
  15. Dental Hygiene Dilemma
  16. Does This Kind Of Life Look Interesting To You?
  17. Strictly Genteel
  18. The Finale
  19. Postlude

Songs that didn't make it in the final script:

 

The Plot

FZ, interviewed by Mike Gold, The Seed, December, 1970

The villain is played by Theodore Bikel. He plays a guy called Rance Muhammitz who owns a town called Centerville. He's got an orchestra called the Centerville Philharmonic, which bit the bag last season financially. He owns everything in town—the [colonics parlor], the Redneck Restaurant, the psychedelic nightclub, he's got it all covered. It's the orchestra that he used to keep around so he could listen to Wagner every once in a while because he's got this Nazi-type syndrome. They didn't do too well, so he's looking for a way for the orchestra to break even.

That's one sub-plot that's happening. The main thing that's happening in the film is it's the diary of how you go on the road, it makes you crazy.

 

Original Project

Piknik, VPRO TV, Uddel, Netherlands, June 18, 1970

Jan Donkers: A few years ago you told me that you were planning to live in Amsterdam for a while. Have you any plans in this direction now?

FZ: Well, there's talk about doing 200 Motels on VPRO television and at that time I was thinking about living here for a month prior to the production of the show.

Jan Donkers: When will it be?

FZ: December, I think.

Chris Hodenfield, Strange Days, September 11-25, 1970

His next big Cinemascope Rajah project is an orchestra symphony, 200 Motels. He scored the entire thing for a 40-piece orchestra, and Holland television will premier it this autumn. The whole scene is amazing. The government station is handing over the entire studios, narrators, dancers, editing equipment, sets, and chorus girls, to Zappa to present this, which, in essence, is a diary of a band. (Get it? 200 Motels?)

Craig McGregor, "Zapparap On The Zappaplan," The New York Times, November 8, 1970

In fact, the whole thing won't really come together until Dec. 27, when Zappa and the Mothers fly to Amsterdam to videotape the entire opera for Dutch television. Then all he has to do is raise half a million dollars to turn it into a movie . . . .

When Zappa calls the opera grandiose, he means it. The cast: "One seven-piece electric band called the Mothers of Invention; one official buffoon called Motorhead; one electronic music composer who turns into a monster named Don Preston; one Jewish film editor from New York named Phyllis Altenhaus, who's the victim of the monster; 12 ballet dancers, 4 mimes, one dwarf, one narrator, one soprano soloist, one 40-voice choir, one 91-piece orchestra, 3 grand pianos, and that's it—that's what we have to work with."

Hell, he's even worked out a way to include those 40 minutes of 'Uncle Meat.' "It seems like it's impossible, doesn't it? Well, it's not; I work 'Uncle Meat' in at the start and we end up with this one enormous outrageous thing!" [...] In "200 Motels" he will be doing everything from leading the Mothers on stage to cueing the video director as to what the audience sees. Unfortunately, it's unlikely ever to be seen on American TV.

"You have to remember that there's no censorship problem on Dutch television: there isn't any kind of nudity, any kind of language you can't use," says Zappa. "So long as you've got a symphony orchestra in the back of it, it's Art. Get the picture? Okay. Now, the first movement in '200 Motels' is the real world, in quotes, which shows the environment the rock and roll creep functions in. Like one of the songs is 'This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich,' and after the song there's a 'Sealed Tuna Sandwich' ballet. We're in this town, see, and it's really dull, and there's nothing to do but go to the local redneck bar and grill and we meet this guy named Lonesome Cowboy Bert who's operating this enormous surrealistic pinball-game type machine which has a rifle on it, and cardboard cutouts of replica Communists, long-haired creeps and faggots, Supreme Court judges and so on are wheeling by, and he's blowing their heads off with this rifle and lip-synching this song, called 'Lonesome Cowboy Bert,' which is supposedly coming over a jukebox. At the end of this confrontation we feel obliged to remind him in a cheerful sort of way that his problem is between his legs, and we sing a song called 'Penis Dimension.' The whole first movement is made up of those kind of scenes . . .

"Then the second movement is the girls on the road, you know, the groupies you run into. Now I have a tape of most of the movement already sequenced out, but what goes in between is a fantasy that's going on in my mind while I'm on the road. The third movement is called 'The Red Throbber'; it views the groupie phenomena from another angle, through the eyes of a Custom Inspector. Who has a girlfriend called Sharleena. Who is a groupie. And then the Grand Finale comes when the Mothers are sitting in in airplane on the way back from Europe, and we are about to go through customs with this inspector who has fallen in love with his dog, it's a cardboard dog and we can hear it snarling, and on the plane, man, we have just learnt that this chick . . . "

The rest of the opera isn't really the sort of thing Spiro Agnew would approve, but that doesn't worry Zappa. "I like it. I think it's really entertaining, It's the kind of TV show I always wanted to watch. It's dealing with something people can understand. The cardboard dog may be a little peripheral, but most of the stuff is right down there, you know, in the real world where you can get into it."

FZ, interviewed by Barry Miles, NYC, November 14, 1970 (International Times, January-February, 1971)

M: What kind of dramatic things are going to happen?

F: Well, we haven't signed him yet, but we're negotiating for Theodore Bikel to be the heavy in the film . . . he's really good and he's going to be good for this part if he does it. That's the narrator in the Fleeting Gazelle and also the part of interrogator in this other sequence . . .

Certain things have been added to the script. For instance, the original concept for the orchestral environment was going to be a mountain made out of urethane foam. We got a cost estimate on making that—it was just too much. You can make the foam cheap but you can't reinforce it strong enough to hold 100 people cheap—the scaffolding and the man hours is what runs up the cost. So we canned that and now the orchestra lives in a concentration camp. It's Camp Untermunchen and it's a music camp sponsored by the United States government—we're going to build a stylized one inside the sound stage.

The concentration camp is at the end of the main street of Centreville . . . there's a main stage in the camp, a Busby-Berkeley type stage which laps into the concentration camp, and there's a barbed wire fence which is continued across our stage by a set of iron bars. There is a sliding door and we can go in and out of the camp at will because we can buy-off the guards. Then on Main Street, there is a newt ranch; for Motorhead and his girlfriend, and a bank, and the Rantz Mahamet's Colonic Parlour, and the meat market and a motel: an endless motel which just goes streaming down to infinity with fraudulent perspective. And at the end of the street is this airport with huge, out of proportion 747's lurking . . . just painted on the wall in back. And then there's a psychedelic night-club called the Electric Circus Factory and there's a bar called RED NECK EATS and there's a neon sign in the windows that blinks on and off that says: "Eat Beer!" . . .

The narration is stylized. At one point, when I'm doing some narration and some action, I'm sitting in a motel room with an open window and I'm writing and I'm talking about how I'm doing this thing called Fleeting Gazelle and then the camera pans over my shoulder and you can see through the window the action that I'm describing: which is this girl coming out of the Colonic Parlour wearing the overcoat with the weanies on the shoulder and all that stuff . . .

Cal (Schenkel) has designed this great environment, most of it stylized stuff, like the front wall of a house would be scrim on a framework, painted so that if you front-light it you can see what's painted on it and if you back-light it, it transparentizes and you can see the characters behind in sort of a dreamland type tiling. And just a vague outline of what was on the front. There's a lot of things done that way . . . the special effects we'll be using consist mostly of wire-work: flying people in and out of situations . . .

[...]

M: How many of the original Mothers will you be taking with you ?

F: Don Preston, Motorhead and we may take Roy and Lowell—I'm not sure as I haven't spoken with them yet. I have parts for them to play but then it's a question of the budget because each person that we bring over is like $ 1,500 worth of airfare and lodging for the duration of the stay, plus you have it to pay 'em. We have a certain amount of money in the budget for contingencies, but I'm afraid that extra mixing on the soundtrack is probably going to eat that up. And there's half an hour of the film's going to be animated: The Red Throbber, that whole sequence.

The Red Throbber is the thing about this guy who's a custom's inspector and has a cardboard dog named Babette that's been trained by the government to sniff out hash and marijuana at the airport. He just recently managed to shack up with his high school friend, Charlene, that he's been secretly beating-off over for ten years, and they've been going steady for three weeks, and he gets home from work one night with a lot of beer and he's ready to get it on, and Charlene has gone! So he goes into this frenzy, gets drunk, whips out his ouija board & asks it what's going on: the ouija board spells out: R.E.D.T.H.R.O.B.B.E.R. And he passes out in a coma and in this dream he imagines that this girl is at the Chateau Marmont, Bungalow B (Hollywood's hip hotel) being thrashed and eroticised by the Led Zeppelin. Then there is this elaborate dream sequence in which you see the guy that's doing it to her standing over the bed, (this is really not the Led Zeppelin you know—it's a figure of speech). The guy, all he's got on are these python boots and a black mask and this battery belt over his shoulder and this huge vibrator with wires hanging out. And he's holding it like a Krupp armament, standing over this chick on the bed. The thing goes off like a pneumatic drill on the street. And that's the kind of stuff that's going to be animated. Cal is doing all the designs all the characters, all the backgrounds, and then the stuff is executed, by this company.

[...]

M: What other work have you been doing?

F: I finished two new books of scores just before the tour. One is called What's the name of your group? and the other one is called Shove it right in.

What's the name of your group? is really funny because it is the melody line of the finale from the Festival Hall show which is going to be intercut with the bridge and the ostenato of Pound for A Brown all with lyrics. You know that bass line" Well, the bass singers are going to be singing: "Far out, far fuckin' out, far fuckin' out and, groovie!" because it is a scene with this chick who is doing her first rock and roll interview. I'm sitting on stage, handcuffed to a chair, and I don't answer any of her questions and she's really obnoxious. She has a polaroid camera with flashbulbs, all the dancers and the chorus have cameras with flashbulbs and they all shoot 'em on cue in their score. So that from time to time there's these constellation barrages of bulbs going off, and all of a sudden they'll all go "Yyyeeenntzzz!" and pull the tab on the camera, and it's all scored.

So one of her lines is "I bet your group name is real weird because you look weird yourself" and "I've got this lense here for my camera that'll make you look like some kind of depraved troll or something, because the kids who read our rock and roll magazine like to see famous musicians who look real far out and groovy". Then the chorus sings: "Far out, far fuckin' out . . . " and she's got a few "Far fuckin' out"-s in there, and then the bridge to Pound for a Brown when it gets to the bit where it's like the Lone Ranger music, the chorus is singing: "How do they like your music over there?" because she just said, "How long have you been growing your hair and have you been to England and how do they like your music over there?" The chorus goes: "Over there, over there, how do they like your music over there . . . " It builds up and then they shoot flash bulbs and then the soprano stops and says: "I just want to verify a rumour. Is it true that you did this show at the Festival Hall?" and then it cuts to the rehearsal at the Festival Hall which is pixilated footage that was shot out at this pub on Seven Sisters Road when we were rehearsing. It was great. We had 15 members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Mothers in the back room of this pub—it was the only place we could find to rehearse. We wheeled in a baby grand piano. Really great.

So there's that footage, then the orchestra starts up again and she stops them again and says:"Is it also true that you were in Vienna and you made this movie of your wife and an unidentified foot?" And then there is this sequence of my writing some of the music for the film dissolving into shots of my wife with my foot on her tit, like this . . . strangling her tit, and she starts laughing. And that cuts in 'n out of a couple of scratches, my nose over the page, a bunch of people walking round the room. Then this percussion music comes back for a while and then she stops them again and says: "And you insisted on mounting your silly little production against the best judgement of Herbie Cohen! You had the audacity to perform it twice at the very Royal Festival Hall itself on one night whereupon it swiftly received a Chris Welch Melody Maker review pronouncing it totally rancid and devoid of minimum entertainment value and social blah blah . . . " And then we go into the Festival Hall footage where Jimmy Carl Black comes out drunken on stage and he starts saying: "I'm quitting the Mothers . . . " and shit like that.

Gunther Schuller

FZ, interviewed by David Reitman, Rock Magazine, January 25, 1971

We have the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and we are in the process of negotiating with Gunther Schuller to conduct it. He wants to do it. It's just a matter of figuring out whether we can afford him. There's a 40 voice choir, 12 dancers, Mothers of Invention, new and old.

Gunther Schuller, interviewed by Bruce Duffie, October 15, 1988

There are marvelously creative people in the so-called rock and popular fields. Frank Zappa is a genius! [...] They have a following a little larger than mine, but not much larger. Frank Zappa hasn't been on the charts—even in the top 20, let alone at the top—in something like eight or nine years! Why? Because he's a very creative person! He wants to use some interesting new materials; some new harmonies, some new forms. He wants to use more elaborate melodic material, and to the extent that he does that even by one little iota, he eliminates himself a priori from any consideration in that vast field!

 

200 Motels Shooting Script

List Of Musical Numbers

The original 200 Motels shooting script contained a list of musical numbers, including orchestration. The corresponding scene numbers have been added in parentheses. The comments between square brackets are from Charles Ulrich, who provided this list.

  1. THE OVERTURE Orchestra. Chorus. (Scenes 1-2)
  2. TOURING CAN MAKE YOU CRAZY Orchestra. (Scene 4)
  3. WHAT'S THE NAME OF YOUR GROUP Orchestra. Chorus. (Scenes 5-9, 11-16) including:
    • CAN I HELP YOU WITH THIS DUMMY Orchestra. Soprano. Rance. (Scene 16)
  4. INSTRUMENTAL TO ACCOMPANY VIENNA SEQUENCE Group. Orchestra. (Scene 10) [I don't know what music this is.]
  5. WENT ON THE ROAD Group. Chorus. Orchestra. (Scene 18) [a.k.a. Would You Like A Snack?]
  6. CENTERVILLE Group. Orchestra. Chorus. (Scene 21)
  7. THIS TOWN IS A SEALED TUNA SANDWICH Orchestra. Group. Chorus. (Scenes 22-28)
  8. LONESOME COWBOY BURT Group. (Scene 29)
  9. THE RESTAURANT SCENE Small Orchestra. Baritones and Basses. (Scene 31) [a.k.a. Redneck Eats]
  10. MYSTERY ROACH 1 Group. (Scene 32)
  11. THE PLEATED GAZELLE Orchestra. Chorus. (Scenes 33-56) [including: Motorhead's Midnight Ranch, Dew On The Newts We Got, The Lad Searches The Night For His Newts, The Girl Wants To Fix Him Some Broth, The Girl's Dream, Little Green Scratchy Sweaters & Courduroy Ponce, A Nun Suit Painted On Some Old Boxes]
  12. SHOVE IT RIGHT IN Orchestra. Group. Chorus. (Scenes 57-66)
  13. WHAT WILL THIS MORNING BRING [ME THIS EVENING?] Group. (Scenes 68-70)
  14. CANNED MUSIC—WHAT WILL THIS EVENING [BRING ME THIS MORNING?] Group. (Scenes 71-72)
  15. THE GROUPIE SONG Group. (Scene 73) [a.k.a. What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are?]
  16. BWANA DIK/CLEARASIL SPATTERED FANTASY Group. (Scenes 74-75)
  17. DADDY DADDY DADDY Group. (Scenes 76-77)
  18. MAGIC FINGERS Group. (Scene 81)
  19. SOUNDLY ABOUT THE TITS AND BUTTOCKS Group. (Scene 82) [the last minute of the album version of Magic Fingers, i.e. the part that's not in the single edit.]
  20. PENIS DIMENSION Orchestra. Group. Chorus. (Scenes 84-87)
  21. MYSTERY ROACH 2 Jeff. (Scene 91)
  22. I'M STEALING THE ROOM Orchestra. Group. Chorus. (Scenes 92-99) [including: I'm Stealing The Towels, Dental Hygiene Dilemma, Does This Kind Of Life Look Interesting To You?]
  23. STRICTLY GENTEEL Orchestra. Group. Chorus. (Scenes 100-101)
Frank Zappa's 200 Motels end credits

SHOOTING SCHEDULE NO. 3

Please note that the following Scenes have been completed:
8. 17. 20. 24. 30. 32. 36. 40. 43. 46. 47. 50.
51. 53. 54. 55. 57. 59. 61. 63. 71. 81. 82.

Please note that the following Scenes have been deleted:
10. 12. 13. 16. 56.

The Shooting Script vs. The Suites vs. The Movie vs. The Album

Special thanks to Charles Ulrich.

Scene Shot Music in the script The Suites The Movie (*) The Album(s) FZf200M
1   TK SEQUENCE 1
Overture (Book 1 Bars 1-26)
  0:00:00-0:01:55 1.01. Semi-Fraudulent/Direct-From-Hollywood Overture  
2 1-13 Overture Bars 1-26    
14-30 Overture 22-36  
3 1-2   Overture 37 0:01:55-0:04:00  
3-18        
4 1-10 "Touring Can Make You Crazy" 37-76 Touring Can Make You Crazy 1-40   1.10. Touring Can Make You Crazy  
5 1-40 "What's The Name Of Your Group" What's The Name Of Your Group 1-87a      
6 1-5 87b      
7   TK SEQUENCE 3 [Pub rehearsal]        
8 1-5 88-95a 88-95a      
9 1-3   95b      
[10]   TK SEQUENCE 4 [Vienna]
ORCHESTRA/MOTHERS INSTRUMENTAL TO BE PRE-RECORDED
       
11 1-12 96-116a 96-116a      
[12] 1-5   116b      
[13]   TK SEQUENCE 5 [Festival Hall]        
14 1-21 117- 117- 0:11:56-0:12:42 1.03. Dance Of The Rock & Roll Interviewers  
15 1-20   -158-182 0:14:15-0:15:59  
[16] 1-22a "Can I Help You With This Dummy" Can I Help You With This Dummy 1-41      
22b-24          
17 1-17 The Orchestra is playing an instrumental ensemble in the background        
18-20a   0:07:29-0:07:59    
20b-21   0:08:09-0:08:18    
22   0:08:39-0:08:46    
23-25        
26-31   0:08:46-0:09:27    
32-38        
39-41   0:09:27-0:09:41    
42-44   0:11:36-0:11:56    
45-47        
48-49   0:15:59-0:16:07    
50-52        
18   "Went On The Road" Went On The Road 1-35   1.11. Would You Like A Snack?  
       
19       0:06:40-0:07:01    
20 1-4     0:07:01-0:07:29    
5-6         18:33-19:07
7-11a          
11b     0:07:59-0:08:09    
11c-12          
13-14a     0:08:18-0:08:39    
14b-15a          
15b-18     0:16:07-0:16:54    
19-20          
21 1-11 "Centerville" (bar 114) Centerville 1-53 0:16:45-0:18:56 1.13. Centerville  
12-15          
16-31     0:18:56-0:20:14    
32a          
32b-33     0:28:33-0:30:51    
34-45          
22   "This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich" (bar 182) This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich 1-74   1.04. This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich (Prologue) / 1.05. Tuna Fish Promenade  
23     1-47   1.04. This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich (Prologue) / 1.05. Tuna Fish Promenade  
24 1-8   48-74    
25   The Tuna Sandwich Ballet (bar 256) 75-185 (Dance Of The Just Plain Folks) 0:20:42-0:21:08 1.06. Dance Of The Just Plain Folks  
26   (bar 368) 186-197 (This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich [Reprise])   1.07. This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich (Reprise)  
1-11 Bolero 198-219 (The Sealed Tuna Bolero) 0:20:14-0:22:04 1.08. The Sealed Tuna Bolero  
27     188-192 (This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich [Reprise])   1.07. This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich (Reprise)  
28     198-219 (The Sealed Tuna Bolero) 0:21:12-0:21:21 1.08. The Sealed Tuna Bolero  
29 1-13 Lonesome Cowboy Burt song   0:22:11-0:25:17 1.09. Lonesome Cowboy Burt  
14-15     0:25:59-0:26:14    
30 1-25     0:26:14-0:28:34    
26          
31 1-10 The Restaurant Scene The Restaurant Scene 1-91 0:35:56-0:37:01 1.12. Redneck Eats  
11-19      
20-21 "Mystery Roach" (small group)        
32 1 ["Mystery Roach" (acoustic)]        
2-3       11:14-12:38
4     0:06:10-0:06:40   13:10-13:32
5          
6-8         13:32-14:06
9-19          
20-21     0:09:41-0:10:27    
22-23          
24-31     0:10:27-0:11:36    
32-48          
49-55     0:12:38-0:12:59    
56-60a          
60b-65     0:12:59-0:14:23    
33 1-30 The Pleated Gazelle Sequence. Master take—up to Dental Hygiene Music (p. 60 of the score) The Pleated Gazelle 1-57a      
34 31-51   57b-115a      
35 52 (bar 115b) 115b [0:20:48-0:21:05]    
36 53-66 (bar 116) 116-145a   2.10. Dew On The Newts We Got  
37 67-84   145b-[165]   2.11. The Lad Searches The Night For His Newts  
38 85-86 P. 31 Letter "K" "The Pleated Gazelle" [166]-212a 0:37:39-0:38:09 2.09. Motorhead's Midnight Ranch  
39 87-91   212b-220      
40 92-112   221-252 0:38:08-0:39:23 2.12. The Girl Wants To Fix Him Some Broth  
41 113-117   253-265 [0:39:37-0:40:14] 2.13. The Girl's Dream  
42 118-123   266-294 [0:40:24-0:41:19] 2.14. Little Green Scratchy Sweaters & Courduroy Ponce  
124-127   295-299      
43 128-131   300-305      
44 132-148   306-321a      
45 149   321b      
150-154a   322-337   2.07. A Nun Suit Painted On Some Old Boxes  
154b-156   338-345 0:42:07-0:42:31  
46 157-174   346-377      
  175-180          
47 1-5 Scene 33 in sync-sound playback from the beginning. 1-57a 0:34:57-0:35:57; 0:36:16-0:36:47; 0:37:01-0:37:17    
48 1-4 Scene 39 in sync-sound playback from letter F. (bar 71) 71-115a      
49            
50   Scene 35 sync-sound playback 115b      
51   Scene 36 sync-sound playback (bar 116) 116-145a [0:39:24-0:39:45; 0:40:12-0:40:26; 1:22:20-1:23:06] 2.10. Dew On The Newts We Got  
52   Scene 36 in sync-sound playback. 126-145a 0:37:17-0:37:36 2.10. Dew On The Newts We Got  
53   Scene 37 sync-sound playback. (bar 144B) 145b      
54   Scene 39 sync-sound playback. 212b      
55   Sync-sound playback of Scene 43. 299-305 0:41:19-0:42:10    
[56]   (sync-sound playback of Scene 45) 322-334   2.07. A Nun Suit Painted On Some Old Boxes  
57 1-28 Orchestra Prelude to "Shove It Right In" [Shove It Right In 1-20] 0:48:50-0:52:30 [1.15. Janet's Big Dance Number]  
58   [She Painted Up Her Face]   1:00:27-1:01:00; 1:01:05-1:02:16 1.14. She Painted Up Her Face  
59 1-22 Orchestra Section II. The Secret Stare. [Shove It Right In 21-72]   [1.17. Mysterioso]  
60   Sound only (sync) playback of Scene 59 [Shove It Right In 21-72] 1:02:36-1:03:15 [1.17. Mysterioso]  
61   [Half A Dozen Provocative Squats]   1:03:30-1:04:25; 1:04:59-1:05:29 1.16. Half A Dozen Provocative Squats  
62   Orchestral Interlude III "She laughed in his face" [Shove It Right In 73-104] [1:05:26-1:07:06] [1.19. Lucy's Seduction Of A Bored Violinist & Postlude]  
63   [Shove It Right In]   1:04:25-1:04:59; [1:07:02-1:07:34; 1:07:58-1:08:44; 1:08:50-1:09:30] 1.18. Shove It Right In  
64   Orchestral Section IV—Postlude: 1 [Shove It Right In 105]   [1.19. Lucy's Seduction Of A Bored Violinist & Postlude]  
65 1-13 Orchestral Section IV
Postlude; 1—the End.
[Shove It Right In 105-150]    
66 1-3 Playback of scene 65
Orchestral Section IV
Postlude; 1—the End.
[Shove It Right In 105-150] 1:00:53-1:01:07; 1:07:33-1:08:01; 1:08:40-1:08:53 [1.19. Lucy's Seduction Of A Bored Violinist & Postlude]  
67 1-5     1:09:29-1:10:24    
6-7          
8-9     1:10:24-1:10:37    
10          
11-12     1:10:37-1:10:42    
13     1:10:47-1:10:50    
14     1:00:22-1:00:27    
15     1:10:42-1:10:47    
16     1:10:50-1:11:24    
68   [What Will This Morning Bring Me This Evening]   1:11:22-1:12:16; 1:12:22-1:12:28    
69   Sync-sound playback of Scene 68   1:13:27-1:14:02    
70       1:13:09-1:13:27    
71   "What Will This Evening"   1:14:01-1:17:29 2.06. What Will This Evening Bring Me This Morning  
72 1-5 Sound—the long fade of "What Will This Evening" pre-recorded track.    
73 1-23 [What Kind Of Girl?]     [3. What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are? (FEJ1971)]  
74   [Bwana Dik]     [4. Bwana Dik / 5. Latex Solar Beef (FEJ1971)]  
75        
    1:22:17-1:22:20    
76   "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy"     2.04. Daddy, Daddy, Daddy  
77 1-15 Sync-sound playback of Scene 76     2.04. Daddy, Daddy, Daddy  
78 1-12 [Do You Like My New Car?]     [8. Do You Like My New Car? (FEJ1971)] 03:17-05:03
13-30      
79 1-8      
80        
81   "Magic Fingers"   0:30:49-0:34:00 2.08. Magic Fingers  
82   [Soundly about the tits and buttocks]   0:34:00-0:34:59  
     
83 1-25          
84 1-15 Penis Dimension Penis Dimension 1-63 0:56:04-0:58:00 2.05. Penis Dimension  
85 1-16   64-71 0:58:00-1:00:22  
86 1   72-75      
2-6   76-99     16:23-17:19
7-9   100-106      
87 1-46   107-138 0:52:28-0:55:25    
88 1-18          
89            
90 1-36     1:17:27-1:22:17    
91 1 [Mystery Roach, Jeff solo]        
2-5          
6 TK SEQUENCE 6 [Garrick]        
7-9 "I'm Stealing The Room" I'm Stealing The Room 1-   2.01. I'm Stealing The Towels  
92 1-6 "I'm Stealing The Room" -28 1:23:47-1:27:00  
7-19 29-56  
93       1:23:10-1:23:48; 1:27:00-1:27:11    
94   Sync. playback of scene 92        
95 1-28   57-113 [0:42:31-0:45:32] 2.02. Dental Hygiene Dilemma  
96 1-4 I'm Stealing The Room (Contd) 114-124    
  5-10   125-131a [0:45:32-0:46:19]  
  11   131b    
  12-23   132-137 [1:25:21-1:26:01]  
  24-26   138-151 [0:46:19-0:47:06]  
97 1-4 I'm Stealing The Room (Cont) 152-157 [0:47:06-0:47:49] 2.03. Does This Kind Of Life Look Interesting To You?  
98 1-20a I'm Stealing The Room (conclusion) 158-175a [0:47:49-0:48:50]  
20b-45 175b-196 [1:26:01-1:27:01]  
99 1-3 Sync-sound playback of last part Scene 98.        
100 1-63 Strictly Genteel 1-193 1:27:07-1:32:10 2.15. Strictly Genteel (The Finale)  
64-88     1:32:10-1:35:56  
101       1:35:56-1:37:36  

(*) Timing approximate.

Notes and Comments

FZ, interviewed by Richard Williams, Melody Maker, August 25, 1973

On 200 Motels, the orchestra beat the shit out of the music—they just didn't play it properly. I couldn't even recognise it when they'd finished. Most of the actors were non-professionals, and the whole thing was shot in 56 hours. We all needed more time, and if I'd had it, I've have gotten better performances out of everybody, because they were the right people for those roles.

In spite of that, I think it was a good film, and I believe that over a period of years you're going to find out how many strange predictions in the script actually come true.

FZ, quoted by Neil Slaven, Record Hunter, July, 1992

[Tony Palmer] had a lot of problems during the making of the film. He was on the verge of a divorce, he had the 'flu and he seemed to be a fairly ill-tempered individual even on a good day.

I don't want to be unkind to him, but on the production of the film he did two things which I will always remember. One: at the completion of principal photography, he demanded of the producer that his name be left off the credits for fear it would harm his career. The other thing was that my wife Gail happened to be walking by and overheard him threatening to erase all the master tapes if something wasn't done to his satisfaction. So it was not easy working with him. I had a certain amount of control over what got done, and it would have been quite a different movie if he hadn't refused to even go into the editing suite—I'd never edited video. It was like guerrilla warfare to put that film together.

[The score was quite demanding.] That's adding insult to injury. It's one thing to say: "Oh, look at this weird guy and what does he want now?" Then suddenly they get a piece of paper that they can't really play and then you compound that with the fact that there was never enough rehearsal time to teach them how to play it.

We shot the film in seven eight-hour days. That's 56 hours at a total cost of $679,000, which was cheap even in 1970. At the end of 56 hours only one third of the shooting script had been shot. In order to make any kind of story out of it at all. I had to invent the thing in the editing room. Then our bassist Jeff Simmons disappeared just before filming started. His girlfriend convinced him he should be a blues musician, that he was too heavy to be in the group. So, in order to replace him, we went through all kinds of weird shit and ended up with Martin Lickert, who was Ringo Starr's driver.

Tony Palmer, frankzapp200motelsdvd.com, 2010

Contrary to what Frank Zappa and his biographers have asserted, when I first became involved there was no script, just a trunk-load of papers containing scenes 'from the life of'. My 'job', Frank said, was to make some sense of this jumble and try to construct a coherent script from which a film, any film, would emerge. True, Frank had written a pile of music, some good, some not so good, but no orchestra had been booked, no soloists, no choir, no choreographer. My second 'job' therefore was to organise all this at very short notice. Normally, you need to book a London orchestra—especially if you required them for a week—at least a year in advance. I had three weeks in which to find a top class, professional orchestra.

Next, although the film was entirely Frank's idea, MGM/UA were unwilling to trust him with a feature film, even if it was estimated to cost only around half a million dollars. (It fi nally cost $679,000). In fact, they had turned him down as the director of the film, and insisted on a safe pair of hands to make sure something emerged for their money. It so happened that I had been offered a picture deal by MGM a little earlier (which I had also turned down), and it was Herb Cohen, Frank Zappa's longsuffering manager, who, knowing this and knowing that Frank had worked with me before, put the jigsaw together.

Next, it was clear that many of the scenes could not be shot the way Frank envisaged them on conventional celluloid, or rather they could be shot, but would take an age and a lot of money (neither of which we had) because of the special effects involved. It was me who suggested using videotape, not Frank Zappa, because I was already experimenting with video effects using the earliest colour video cameras that had arrived at the BBC only three years before. Initially, MGM/UA vetoed this idea because, as they quite reasonably pointed out, videotape ("what is that?" one executive asked me) could not be projected in their cinemas.

It was a colleague in Technicolor London who came up with the solution, namely that since the old pre-war Technicolor process involved shooting with three different negatives (red, green & blue) run in parallel, and since the television image in those days also comprised three different elements—red, green & blue, it might be possible to transfer each element separately to the different negatives and, when printed together, a true film 'transfer' might result. Which is precisely what happened, and the fi rst ever 'film transfer' from videotape resulted. MGM/UA was satisfied, because they now had 'a film', not a videotape. Frank Zappa was satisfied because he could now have all the effects he desired, quickly and relatively inexpensively. [...]

In [the 'making of' made by the Dutch television station, VPRO], Zappa asserts that only a third of his script was filmed. Nonsense. The director (me) "quit mid-production", which is news to me, as well as several actors and a band member. More fiction. Wilfred Brambell, a famous British character actor (famous especially as 'Steptoe') refused the part he was offered, and Jeff Simmons was replaced by Martin Lickert in the role of Jeff because he had the temerity to call Frank Zappa an ego-maniac. All true, but Zappa's later claim that these events "accounted for several radical, last-minute changes" is yet more nonsense. Apparently—according to the Dutch documentary—when I had quit, I had threatened to wipe the tapes—which is odd, considering I edited all the videotapes myself after completion of filming before handing them over to MGM/UA. I've also read that the out-takes and the videotapes on which they were stored were wiped and sold back to MGM/UA to reduce the overspend. No company such as MGM/UA would ever accept second-hand tapes, even if wiped, not least because the tapes would be more-or-less worthless. Another Zappa wopper.

Pauline Butcher, Freak Out!—My Life With Frank Zappa, 2011, p. 292

I had been typing various versions of the script for 200 Motels for over a year, and in November 1970 Frank submitted a ten-page treatment to United Artists. He convinced them that by using video tape instead of film, several cameras at once instead of one, he could shoot the film in a week. There was no disguising his pleasure when they agreed and put up $360,000.

Unusually, Frank became quite canny about cutting costs, and when he found he could hire the Royal Philharmonic for £1,000 a session, he arranged to move the entire shoot to England. It also meant that he and Gail could go over early and spend the holiday season there.

FZ, Gifford Auditorium, University of Syracuse, Syracuse, NY (transcription by Javier Marcote)

This is the story of producing 200 Motels. I'd been working on the music for this film for about 5 years, I've been writing it while we were travelling around, and I used to take bundles of music paper in my suitcase and when we get into a hotel after a concert I would go back and I would write music 'cause there was nothing to do. and those were the days. Well I collected about 2 or 300 pages of orchestra manuscript from that 5 year period. And I was looking for some sort of an event that would give me a chance to hear the music played and to visualise the story line that I thought was going along with the music, and so after some intense negotiations we convinced United Artists to put up the money to do the first feature length video tape motion picture. Total budget of the film was $679,000, nobody had ever made a feature length video production before. The process was unusual in that we were doing it in England and their video system is different than what we have in the United States. They use a 625 line system, I don't know whether that means anything to you. But it's a higher resolition system and the way in which the colour is printed onto the tape differs from the way that the colour is printed on the tape here. And this difference makes it possible to extract the three primary colours one at a time. And by coupling that with the old technicolor triple negative process to make a print from a video tape that has better colour than what you would get making a transfer off an American video tape. Get the picture? OK So after having them agree that they were going to invest this amount of money to put something on the screen that nobody had thought of trying before the next problem was keeping them out of the way while we worked on it. Because every time somebody has money invested in a film there's always the temptation that they want to come down there and watch you spend it. and we were very fortunate in having some people at United Artists who were smart enough to stay home while we were working on the movie so we didn't have too much interference. The only problems we had working on the film were these factors. There was an exact shooting schedule above which we could not proceed more than one minute. Because the costs of shooting with about 150 people on the stage is exorbitant, so the film we shot in exactly 7 8-hour days. that's to the minute including two tea-breaks per day. Because when you work in England, it is not funny. They do take tea-breaks. The world stops, and a lady with a green smock comes around with a wagon and there's... we were on stage A, which was the same stage where they shot the special effects for 2001, and we had 120 people in the orchestra, and about 30 other actors, and dancers, and assorted what-nots, and the minute tea-break came, all 150 people had to get tea, and you had 15 minutes to do it. So that meant that although the tea-break would commence at time, it was very difficult to get everybody back in their place at the end of 15 minutes. So that our little tea-breaks tended to drag over, and the accumulative effect of tea-breaks throughout the week probably cost us 4 to 5 hours of production time. So watch out for that if you ever work in England.

And the other thing is, because I was crazy, and continue to be crazy about certain things in production, I insisted that the orchestra actually be performing on screen instead of pretending to play on a pre-recorded track. This gave me the chance to get absolute synchronisation on film. I hate to see a film where the sync is funny. Where the mouth doesn't move exactly right, or where somebody's supposed to be playing an instrument and their fingers aren't doing what they're supposed to do. That bothers me, and so we had the orchestra actually playing. Now this is something that hasn't been done in a film since about 1930, in a musical, and I sure did find out why the hard way, so if you have a chance to do a musical, pre-record the tracks. See... what else can I tell you about film productions... OK then after we shut the thing, it was 110 hours, that's 11 ten-hour days, of video-tape edit, after which it was transferred to film, and then a total of 3 months in post-production, that includes dubbing in sound effects, shortening the total thing from 2 hours and 20 minutes to its eventual running time of about 108 and the final post-dubbing process where you combine all the music tracks the dialog tracks and the sound effect tracks, put it all together. Then your only problem if you're the person who's responsible for putting the film together, is going through all the judgery of trying to deal with the people at the film company who are going to promote it and how they're going to advertise it. We did have a lot of trouble in this regard with 200 Motels. You see right next-door to us, at the sound stage where we were working on 200 motels, they were filming Fiddler On The Roof. Now Fiddler On The Roof cost about 22 million dollars, so they wanted to get their money back in a hurry, and when our little cheap movie came out the same time as that, we were having a lot of difficulty getting them to pay attention to it, so they tried to rely on certain procedures that had been standard in the industry for about 30 years, they would send out mimeo..graph notices to newspapers saying that "Rock Star Frank Zappa will be arriving at the airport at such and such a time, we're sure you're going to want to go down there and meet him" and all this kind of stuff, really old-time Hollywood swill you know, and we had a lot of trouble convincing them to make the right kind of commercials and put up the right kind of print advertising for the thing.

But the biggest problem that you're ever going to encounter if you work on a film is getting paid for it later. The danger there is that major film companies who are frequently willing to put up investment money for new film projects are never willing to give you an accurate accounting of what the film did when it's gone into distribution. They have so many ways of charging things against that film's account that it's absolutely amazing, you'll wind up spending the latter part of your life with accountants and lawyers trying to decipher what really happened when the thing went into the theatre. As far as 200 Motels goes, we still have not received an accounting and the thing was done in 1971 I believe, still not received an accounting of whether it went into a profit situation or... anything, they just lose contact with you after the first 3 months that the film is in running, and anything you want to find out after that has all got to go through legal channels.

Q: And secondly, when you made 200 Motels, when you cut that, did you transfer it to film and then cut it down on film?

FZ: The first editing was done on the video tape stage, a lot of the opticals that you see in there were done in post-production. And then after it was the complete video tape, one real video tape was done, they transferred that to 35mm, and we got a black-and-wite work print, and then cut the work print down, and later put the sound effects against the work print.

Q: May I ask you another question?

FZ: What's that?

Q: Could you explain 200 Motels to me?

FZ: Can I what?

Q: Explain 200 Motels, yeah...

FZ: What part of it?

Q: I saw it and I was pretty high, I expected to get a lot out of it, I was pretty much...

FZ: Well that's the problem...

Q: I was lost so at Yellow Submarine I ducked out

FZ: Well you know, that was a Beatles movie

Q: Oh, yeah... No really

FZ: Well really that's about what it comes down to, but as far as coming in being high and trying to get a lot out of 200 Motels, go and see it without being high, and try and figure out what's going on, and I think that you'll have a better experience with it.

Q: You can not go in try and explain that then...

FZ: Well Ask me something specific, a detail about it...

Q: something specific... Well what was the point of putting out 200 Motels?

FZ: Well you see I had the story and a concept of doing a surreal documentary on a group, a surrealistic documentary is something that takes actual events, paraphrases those events, and codifies those events to shrink them down to a size and a shape that people are going to be able to comprehend. However, I failed miserably in your case, but the basic idea was to give a glimpse of what goes on inside of a band on the road in an abstract concept kind of term, so the events that are referred to in that film literally did happen, there's a lot of stuff in there that's so true that it would be too disgusting to even talk about it.

General Info

Ben Watson, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics Of Poodle Play, 1996, p. 183-184

Financed by United Artists to the tune of half a million dollars, 200 Motels was shot using innovative video technology at Pinewood Studios in England with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra [...]. Jeff Simmons quit half-way through and was replaced by Martin Lickert, Ringo Starr's chauffeur. [...] Theodore Bikel, the Austrian folk singer managed by Herbie Cohen, was the uniformed MC.

200 Motels was shot in seven days and after only five days of rehearsal: Pamela Miller commented 'the movie seemed to be over in seconds because Frank was using videotape.' It was filmed on four silmutaneously running video cameras. One third of the 320-page script was never shot. [...]

Richard Fox

Movie from 1970 starring Ringo Starr (as Zappa), Theodore Bikel, the Mothers of Invention (this is the Flo and Eddie band with George Duke, Aynsley Dunbar, Ian Underwood and Ringo Starr's chauffeur playing bass), and Keith Moon as a nun!! Its a surrealistic look at how touring makes you crazy and the efforts that band members have to go through to get some action (women). The entire movie is a musical with some lines of dialogue but mainly songs. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and some choir play through most of the movie. The Mothers do several songs as well. The movie is wierd (of course) and would have been much better had they been given more than 7 days to film it. It is very difficult to watch if you do not understand the context behind much of it. The movie also features a 10 minute animated sequence. I would recommend watching the True Story of 200 Motels either right before or right after you watch the movie.

 

The 2001: A Space Odyssey Monolith

Patrick Neve

I just snagged this neat-o little piece of trivia from the internet movie database. Anyone know if it's true? Where exactly does it appear?

200 Motels Trivia: Filmed in the same studio as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The black monolith from that film is visible.

Clyde200

Yep... I've wondered about it too. Although it's been quite awhile since I last viewed the movie ... I can see Ringo (with the lamp) and Theo. B. in front of the object which is on the right of the screen.

OnlytheSky

Not to mention during Penis Dimension sequence Dick Barber-as-the-vacuum- cleaner shoots a wad at it.

Patrick Neve

Oh, that's it. I also just spotted it in Don Preston's laboratory as he pushes the vile foamy liquids onto the unsuspecting Martin Lickert.

TTrocc7007

In the complete (unfilmed: see True Story Of 200 Motels for details) version of the original shooting script for 200 Motels, we actually see the monolith quite a bit more. It looms throughout. At the very end of the film (as written), the extreme close-up of FZ's eye is supposed pull back so that we see the monolith behind him. As the monolith comes into focus we see for the first time that it is in fact FZ's Marshall amp and speaker cabinet stack! He reaches over, flicks the stand-by switch, and the credits roll.

Patrick Neve

Very interesting.. Does that in any way discredit the "trivia" that the monolith in the movie is the one from 2001? Sounds like it may have been kicking around the studio so he wrote it into the script. Yes?

TTrocc7007

It sorta sounds logical that way until you realize that the script had to completed well in advance of shooting. It is possible an early trip to Pinewood studios WELL in advance of the shoot date may have turned up the slab, but I expect it was written and concieved BEFORE the excursion to the UK for actual shooting.

Jason M Arvey

A long time ago, someone asked a trivia question about the cover of 200 Motels, essentially looking for the three elements on the cover that are references to other films. I effectively found The Shadow above the newt on the building on the left hand side of the cover/poster. At the time, I had noticed a fetus sucking its thumb just to the right of The Shadow, but didn't know what to make of it; I knew it wasn't from 200 Motels, but couldn't place it. Well, I looked back on the poster today, and, shucky- darn, if that ain't the Monolith from 2001 sitting right there behing the penis dimension march.

 

Post-Production

Pauline Butcher, Freak Out!—My Life With Frank Zappa, 2011, p. 295

In March 1971, Frank, Gail and Calvin returned [from England]. Calvin immediately got down to animated work for 200 Motels with Fred Wolf.

[...] Frank was working alone [at Whitney Studios in Glendale], deep into editing the soundtrack of 200 Motels. [...] Frank complained, "They gave us eleven days to edit which was bad enough, but then they took the used video tapes, erased them all and now they plan to sell them as 'used stock.' Hours of material I could have used elsewhere, they chewed up."

 

Dental Hygiene Dilemma

stucohomes

By the way, did you do the animation in "200 Motels"?

RRAALLFF

Yup, Me & Chas Swenson (and the Ink & Paint Dept. at Murikami/Wolf). I designed it, Chuck animated. (except where Chuck designed & I animated). We did it in 8 weeks on a budget of $200.00 ...or was it 2 weeks on $800.00?? —No wait that can't be right... ...8 weeks, I made $200.00 a week. Or maybe it was that we spent $200.00 a week at VJ's.

Collages

200 Motels

Kjell Knudde, December 31, 2015

Note that the [image of] the three men seated at a table seems to be Pope Paul III again, the same pope who also can be seen on the cover of "We're Only In It For The Money"

Pope Paul III and his Grandsons Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (left), and Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma (right), II Duke of Parma since 1547. A triple portrait by Titian, 1546

Pope Paul III and his Grandsons

200 Motels

Kjell Knudde, December 31, 2015

Robert Stephenson

I identified one of the photographs [Calvin] used: It's Robert Stephenson (1803-1859), inventor of the steam engine!

Murakami/Wolf

AJ Wilkes

Did Murakami/Wolf do a popular cartoon/film? I remember seeing their name after a TV program, but can't remember which. Twasn't Charlie Brown, 'twas it?

RRAALLFF

Nope—Strawberry Shortcake, with Mark & Howie. They did others, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Mostly they did commercials, when I was working for them—Green Giant, stuff like that.

Missing The Cartoon

John Savard

I have the most recent laserdisc, which deletes the quasi-Donald Duck-on-acid animated sequence ("They're stealing the towels!!"). Does anyone know why?

Patrick Neve

Are you sure about that? I was under the impression that there only one laserdisc release of this movie... 1997 Laserdisc MGM/UA ML100423. I've got it, and it does include the quasi-duck sequence you describe.

"Bossk (R)"

Subject: "200 MOTELS—Missing the Cartoon"!?

I clearly remember a thread from way back when called "200 MOTELS— Missing the Cartoon"—ostensibly about some version of the 200 MOTELS movie WITHOUT the illegal Donald Duck cartoon, presumably for Disney reasons. Was there ever such a cut version? I've only seen it on VHS, two different copies (I have the LD, but haven't watched it), and they both had the cartoon. Has anyone seen it without the cartoon? The cartoon seems like the funniest thing in the whole world right now, and I can't remember what was decided in the original thread; it was years ago and the deja.com archives don't go back that far!

 

Screen Ratio

Paul Hinrichs

Subject: Letterboxing not relevant to 200 Motels

If the original photography WAS composed for TV aspect (4x3), and was later transferred to film for theatrical release, the frame would have had to have been expanded to fit the wider aspect ratio (5x3 or wider) and hence the tops and/or bottoms of the frame would have been CROPPED! It's hard to believe that FZ and Co. would have made this kind of planning error.

BCDrums

I watched 200 Motels shortly after release and, if memory serves, it was 4:3. The quality was poor for a large screen as well, though I have no complaints about the tape.

John Henley

As has been mentioned a couple of times, 200 Motels was shot on video and transferred to film. Therefore, it's a safe bet to say that its original aspect ratio was the standard television near-square.

If that holds true, then the version you see on your personal home video is a truer image than what we saw in theaters, which probably had to be cropped a bit at top and bottom.

Since FZ did not direct the visual aspect, I would bet that Tony Palmer (who did) had his cameramen keep that in mind, and we're not really missing much in the theatrical version.

So, though I fall squarely with the defenders of letterboxing, 200 Motels is not the best example of what Mr. Censorship is talking about.

It _is_, however, a stunning example of how far ahead FZ was thinking in 1971. There were only a handful of shot-on-video transfers in that era, and the others were all pretty much photographed stage plays. I contend that 200 Motels took better advantage of available video technology than anything else you'll see from the circa-1970 era.

TTrocc7007

As 200 Motels was shot direct to video, using the same ratio as standard TV, there's no need for letter-boxing. There is NO 'wide-screen' version. I've seen 200 Motels in theaters many times. I was there opening day at The Beverly Music Box Theater (it's not there anymore, and I think this was the name) in Beverly Hills, and until home video came around, every possible revival. It is direct to video. The ratio was that of a typical TV screen (Isn't that 1x1.3 or something?). In truth, I think it looks a little better on the small screen. The lines of resolution are far less apparant than they were on the big screen.

And if you DO dig 200 Motels, be sure to search out Tony Palmer's mind blowing documentary on Igor Stravinsky, called Once At A Border. Tony actually uses some of the same visual effects from 200 motels during the musical portions of the documentary. In the US it was released some 5, or 6 years ago on the KULTURE label.

Tony Palmer's Film Of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels (DVD, Voiceprint, 2010)

200 Motels (DVD, Voiceprint, 2010)

Frank Zappa 200 Motels (VHS, Warner Home Video, 1988)

200 Motels (VHS, 1988)

Frank Zappa's 200 Motels (Laser Disc, MGM/UA, 1997)

200 Motels (Laser Disc)

(Thanks to Patrick Neve for the Laser Disc screen shot.)

Two Mikes

splat

This is just a guess, but notice how in the Flo & Eddie material there are two microphones per singer? Maybe one mic went to a video soundtrack and the other went to Rolling Stones Mobile for further ammonia treatment. A primitve but effective means of countering noisy splitter problems. Why else would they each get two mics? Certainly not for stereo separation of a mono source. There had to be two recording mediums.

But to be honest, I really don't see any reason to use multiple microphones. All it does is add up noise. Ambients and transients are all compounded when you increase the recording fields. You would also get phase cancellation problems from the mics, if they were recording to the same machine. The only reason I could possibly think of to use multiple mics on the same source would be if the mics were a different pattern and you were to use them for different colorations, which would be mixed. But I highly doubt Frank was thinking in those terms with the 3 ring circus that was going on in the studio. Or anyone in 1971, for that matter. There's no benefit to redundant micing, other than to send it to separate destinations. Call it the "presidents podium" effect.

Spencer Chrislu

FZ liked to record vocals in stereo. While I agree with Patrick that it creates problems, FZ insisted that he liked it better in stereo. Now I'm not saying that this is what happened on the 200 Motels tracks because I've never heard the multi-track masters, I thought I'd let you know that FZ often did things that were contrary to conventional wisdom (as if I'd have to remind any of you).

splat

Interesting. So, were the mics clustered like we see in 200M, or did he play with placement? I totally agree with multiple mics for getting room reflections, presence differences, and attack delays, but I fail to see the logic in taping a couple of identical mics together. "What would he say if we taped our dicks together?" -JCB

Spencer Chrislu

When he recorded in stereo, we usually used a coincident stereo mic (2 capsules in one mic, i.e. an AKG C-24) or 2 separate mics in an ORTF configuration (17 cm apart, 110 degree angle). But, as I said, FZ was not know for doing things conventionally. He once used a mic made from a hearing aid to record vocals. In fact, you can see this mic on one of the videos. There is a shot of Tommy Mars (I think. I haven't seen it in years) singing into this very tiny mic at the end of a long wand. FZ claimed this was one of the best sounding microphones he had ever used. Go figure.

As far as the logic in taping two mics together, it was probably done for either of two reasons:

1.) The mics were sent to different feeds (This has already been suggested and is probably right) to avoid the splitter or for a feed to the film guys.

OR

2.) It's used as a backup. In fact, you see this all the time on your local news. The anchor will have two mics on one clip on his tie. Then, if one fails, they just patch the other in without having to undress him on the set.

 

Understanding 200 Motels

Patrick Neve

Here is a link to Understanding 200 Motels, a nice little guide by Marcello.

 

1997 Re-release

Patrick Neve

It looks as if this movie was almost re-released in 1997. That fall, Ryko was releasing soundtrack discs to many of the movies that MGM/UA was re-releasing. According to a Rolling Stone press release from 9/20/1997, 200 Motels The Movie was slated for release:

http://www.rollingstone.com/news/newsarticle.asp?nid=1665&cf=338

Zappa Movie Re-Released

(NEW YORK)—Relating to recent Daily Entertainment Report briefs, Frank Zappa fans will have reason to freak out Oct. 14 when Rykodisc releases 200 Motels, the 1971 film directed by the late, great mother of musical invention. |A story about life on the road, the movie features former Beatle Ringo Starr and the late Who drummer Keith Moon, who playsa nun. Rykodisc will also release the film's soundtrack; to list for $34.98, it includes the London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's original contributions to the project, as well as bonus tracks, dialogue from the movie, and interactive CD-Rom content.

 

Tom Troccoli, "200 Motels. The 'Complete' Epic," Society Pages #5, 1991

Most SOCIETY PAGES subscribers have already purchased, fetished and cherished the Honker video THE TRUE STORY OF 200 MOTELS, and probably already know that barely one third of what Frank had written was included in the "finished" theatrical release. We can't show you the long version, 'cause this is a magazine, not a movie. But how would you like to hear it? Most of the music is available on various FZ releases and as such, can be assembled at home on tape in your spare time!

As my sources for this project, I used an original 254 page shooting script (affectionately known in some circles as the "12 incher"), an unpublished continuity interview with Frank, as well as portions of earlier scripts featuring even more cuts!

First off, here's a list of ingredients that you're gonna need:

OK! Now then, in the correct order:

  1. Semi-Fraudulent/Direct From Hollywood Overture (LP)
  2. Touring Can Make You Crazy (LP)
  3. Dance Of The Rock & Roll Interviewers (LP)
  4. What's The Name Of Your Group? (video, #1)
  5. Would You Like A Snack? (LP, #2)
  6. Centerville (LP)
  7. This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich
    1. Prologue (LP)
    2. Dance Of The Just Plain Folks (LP)
    3. Reprise (LP)
    4. Bolero (LP)
  8. Lonesome Cowboy Burt (LP)
  9. Redneck Eats (LP)
  10. Mystery Roach (LP, #3)
  11. The Pleated Gazelle (#4)
    1. Motorhead's Midnight Ranch (LP)
    2. Dew On The Newts We Got (LP)
    3. The Lad Searches The Night For His Newts (LP)
    4. The Girl Wants To Fix Him Some Broth (LP)
    5. The Girl's Dream (LP)
    6. Little Green Scratchy Sweaters & Corduroy Ponce (LP)
    7. A Nun Suit Painted On Some Old Boxes (LP)
  12. She Painted Up Her Face (LP)
  13. Janet's Big Dance Number (LP)
  14. Half A Dozen Provocative Squats (LP)
  15. Mysterioso (LP)
  16. Shove It Right In (LP)
  17. Lucy's Seduction Of A Bored Violinist & Postlude (LP)
  18. What Will This Morning Bring Me This Evening? (video)
  19. What Will This Evening Bring Me This Morning? (LP)
  20. What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are? (Fillmore)
  21. Bwana Dik (Fillmore)
  22. Latex Solar Beef (Fillmore)
  23. Daddy, Daddy, Daddy (LP)
  24. Do You Like My New Car? (Fillmore)
  25. Magic Fingers (LP)
  26. Penis Dimension (LP, #5)
  27. I'm Stealing The Towels (LP)
  28. Dental Hygiene Dilemma (LP)
  29. Does This Kind Of Life Look Interesting To You? (LP)
  30. Strictly Genteel (LP, #6)
  31. Lucy's Seduction (Reprise) (video, #7)

The Apocrypha

These Songs were originally intended for use, but didn't make it to the final shoot:

Notes (#):

#1. Dance Of The Rock & Roll Interviewers and What's The Name Of Your Group? are actually only segments of a much longer piece, also entitled What's The Name Of Your Group?. While we know no further video exists, perhaps there is an existing 16 track recording. How 'bout it, Frank?

#2. The original title of this is Went On The Road.

#3. In fact, there were two versions of Mystery Roach intended for 200 MOTELS, and this version is neither of them. Mystery Roach #1 (band version) is very much of an acoustic "folk-rock" song. You can see and just barely hear this version for all of fifteen to twenty seconds in THE TRUE STORY OF 200 MOTELS. Mystery Roach #2 (solo version), indeed was to have been sung solo by "Jeff" (Martin Lickert), just before smoking the vile-foamy-liquid cigarette he'd just procured from Dom Dewild, after which he proceeds to "steal the room". What can I say about this elixir?!

#4. My personal fave, this section is rife with deletions, my heart bleeds a little every day for the loss of this one. By the way, when the soprano soloist sings, "Would you like to watch a dental hygiene movie?", this is not the cue for Dental Hygiene Dilemma. Don't be fooled! Dental hygiene movies simply get her hot!

#5. The shooting script shows that the song and the spoken parts were flip-flopped in order for the theatrical release.

#6. The film version features a different mix.

#7. This music is used during the credit sequence.

Well gang, there you have it!

 

200 Motels, The Suites

David Ocker, interviewed by Eyeinhand Entertainment, c. 2000

When I quit my job with Frank we moved a large, fireproof filing cabinet that held all the score and part masters into the vault. Maybe that cabinet is still down there. There was one large orchestra piece that I worked on that has never been performed. It's a concert version of "Penis Dimension" and "I'm Stealing the Room". Under Frank's supervision I orchestrated this for a large symphonic orchestra in the same fashion I did "Bogus Pomp" or "Strictly Genteel". Those versions are on the LSO albums. Along with the full orchestra there are narrators in "Penis Dimension" doing dialogue from the movie, plus a chorus. Having it performed would be a big deal. Frank gave me tapes of the previous recording and had me notate the rhythms of the spoken parts exactly. He would not allow any flexibility for the performers in terms of rhythmic performance—not even a fermata to allow the conductor the luxury of deciding how long to wait before going on. If there was a pause in the narration then Frank wanted enough in-tempo beats to allow that same amount of time to go by. The conductor was given no discretion. The moral of this is, I guess, that Frank wanted to remain absolutely in control of the pacing of the music.

Amsterdam, June 23-24, 2000

Holland Festival
Koninklijk Theater Carré
Amstel 115-125
1018 EM Amsterdam
June 23-24, 2000; 20:30 h.

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

Morgan Ågren, interviewed by Magnus Höglund and Peder Andersson, PlanetZappa, October, 2000

It was pretty amazing! The orchestra, the percussion section, the choir, the whole organization of the festival including the actual venue "Carre" itself . . . all of it was just great. And the performance too! The stage was really impressive. An extra 2nd floor was built for the percussion with the choir underneath. 174 microphones on stage! 10 meter long mixer console etc., and a lot of nice people; Ali Askin, Todd Yvega, Harry Adronis, Gail and Diva Zappa—even Rutger Hauer was there! Some of the repertoire that we played wasn't in the original movie or album. Ali Askin found stuff in Franks vault that was written for 200 Motels but never ended up in the movie/recording. The Amsterdam concerts were recorded for the radio and should sound pretty good. It is planned to go on air in December 2000.

Los Angeles, October 23, 2013

Esa-Pekka Salonen Conducts Los Angeles Philharmonic & Los Angeles Master Chorale, Frank Zappa 200 Motels The Suites, November 20, 2015, liner notes

Walt Disney Concert Hall
23 October 2013

Esa-Pekka Salonen—conductor
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Master Chorale

The Cast
Jeff Taylor—Larry The Dwarf
Michael Des Barres—Rance
Matt Marks—Mark
Zach Villa—Howard
Rich Fulcher—Lonesome 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

James Darrah—Director

200 MOTELS Scores & Parts by Frank Zappa
Scrutinization & Remedial by Kurt Morgan, Scoremeister

London, October 29, 2013

The Rest Is Noise
Royal Albert Hall, London, UK
October 29, 2013, 19:30 h.

CAST:
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

BBC Concert Orchestra
Southbank Sinfonia
London Voices
Jurjen Hempel—conductor
Terry Edwards—chorus master

Natasha Betteridge—Stage Direction
David Coulter—Casting Consultant

The Program

  1. Overture
  2. Went On The Road
  3. Centerville
  4. Tuna Sandwich Suite
  5. The Restaurant Scene
  6. Touring Can Make You Crazy
  7. What's The Name Of Your Group?
  8. Can I Help You With This Dummy?
  9. The Pleated Gazelle
  10. I'm Stealing The Room
  11. Shove It Right In
  12. Penis Dimension
  13. Strictly Genteel

 

 


Additional informants: Kristian Kier, Charles Ulrich, Joachim Ott, computeruser, Peter Van Laarhoven, NikZah

Maintained by Román García Albertos
http://globalia.net/donlope/fz/
This section formerly maintained by Reverend Neve
This dog last modified: 2017-02-15