The Steve Allen Show

March 14, 1963 (aired March 27)


Johnny Jacobs: From Hollywood, it's The Steve Allen Show! From the Steve Allen Playhouse on Vine Street in the heart of Hollywood we bring you 90 minutes of madness and comedy! With guest stars: Mel Tormé, Jannie Smith, songwriter Sammy Fain, log roller Diana Wilson, musical bicyclist Frank Zappa, Donn Trenner & His Orchestra, and yours truly, Johnny Jacobs.

(Steve Allen Show Theme)

Johnny Jacobs: Steve, we not only have the prettiest girls in the audience here at the Steve Allen Show, but also you'll have to admit some of the strangest musical instruments. And this gentleman plays perhaps the strangest of them all, he plays the BICYCLE! And his name is Frank Zappa.


Steve Allen: Thank you! You actually play a bicycle?

FZ: Uh, yeah!

Steve Allen: Are you in the Musicians' Union?

FZ: Uh . . . no.

Steve Allen: Do you play any other musical instrument, anything more conventional, perhaps . . .

FZ: Guitar, vibes, bass and drums.

Steve Allen: Guitar, vibes, bass, drums and bicycle! (laughter) Has bicycle will travel, from his bass to his drums to his guitar. Uh, how did you happen to ah, pick up your first bicycle?

FZ: I was discussing this before with the, some of the people backstage. I believe that a lot of the people have actually played bicycles from time to time. When they're young they take a piece of cardboard and a clothes pin, attach it to the rear wheel and when it goes around it makes that noise and you're playing a bicycle.

Steve Allen: Oh, I see, you mean when they pretend they have a little motor, and make it sound like a motorbike. Yes we've all done that. Is that what you do, you make a motorbike noise? I see a couple of bikes over here, perhaps you better go and demonstrate. Show them what you do. Frank Zappa, Z-A-P-P-A, eh? Well, here we are friends, stereo bikes. (laughter) And you have . . . what are these tools in your hands?

FZ: Ah, these, ah, pair of Louie Bellson style drumsticks, and a bass bow that I borrowed from your bassman in the back.

Steve Allen: Louie Bellson style drumsticks, does Louie know what you're doing with them?

FZ: I don't think he'd approve it very much.

Steve Allen: How long have you been playing bike, Frank? (laughter)

FZ: 'Bout two weeks. (laughter)

Steve Allen: He probably was selling insurance or something and he thought, "What's something real jerky that'll get me on The Steve Allen Show? Playing bicycle, what could be sillier than that?" He did it, and here we are. That's probably how it happened. You've really only been playing two weeks?

FZ: Yes.

Steve Allen: What do you do ordinarily besides that?

FZ: I'm a composer.

Steve Allen: Ah! Might we be familiar with any of your songs as yet?

FZ: Ah, well, you will, you will be familiar with some of my songs as of next week. But I did the score for The World's Greatest Sinner, the . . . (laughter)

Steve Allen: And who might that be? (laughter) Tommy Manville or who . . . (laughter) tell us about that.

FZ: That's the name of the film. It's the world's worst movie, and I did the music for it.

Steve Allen: The World's Greatest Sinner?

FZ: Yes. It's a Tim Carey production, Frenzy Productions.

Steve Allen: FRENZY Productions . . . (laughter)

FZ: It's an, it's an independent company. (laughter)

Steve Allen: Well they all are these days, the way things are going. But, uh . . .

FZ: They shot it in El Monte.

Steve Allen: So they shot my agent in El Monte, ya know . . . that can happen to anybody. Ah, who is in it?

FZ: Uh, Tim Carey and a cast of a thousand people that he found down on Main St. someplace (laughter).

Steve Allen: The World's Greatest Sinner. Does Tim play the title role?

FZ: Uh, yes.

Steve Allen: And you, you wrote the score for that. What instrumentation did you use, three harmonicas and a bicycle or what? (laughter)

FZ: Well uh, we have a 55-piece orchestra and we had a very unusual reed section, we had . . .

Steve Allen: They couldn't read. (laughter)

FZ: We had a contrabass clarinet, uh, two bassoons . . . no, four bassoons, uh, two oboes, English horn, four flutes and piccolo, uh . . . four trumpets, four horns, and four trombones and a tuba, and uh, I forget, there's a bunch of . . .

Steve Allen: And a partridge in a pear tree. Well that's a very interesting uh, inventory.

FZ: We recorded it, we recorded it in the Chaffey High School, no, the Chaffey College Little Theater in uh, Alta Loma, California . . .

Steve Allen: It was a runaway production then, wasn't it?

FZ: For twelve hours we recorded it.

Steve Allen: Well, we'll look forward to that. Now as for the uh, job of the moment. (laughter) Uh, you wanna play the "New Departure Blues" or exactly what are you going to uh, play on this here? I'll just let you show us what happens.

FZ: The first thing that I should do is demonstrate to you the different types of sounds that you can get from a bicycle, because it actually does make some very interesting uh, sounds, and of course, that's what we're all interested in.

Steve Allen: Is new sounds. Yes, like "bock bock bock bock." (laughter)

(FZ plays the spokes with the bow)

FZ: That, that's one of the sounds that you can . . . (laughter, applause)

Steve Allen: Yes! (applause) Oh, you have a microphone down there, I see.

FZ: Well I'll, I'll need this microphone to pick up the next sound, it's a . . . you have to hold it right there.

Steve Allen: Alright. (laughter)

(FZ blows the handlebars)

Steve Allen: Hello? I'm sorry, you'll have to leave a message, he's not here right now. (laughter) That's pretty good, oh, there's a hole in these things, isn't it there?

FZ: Yes.

Steve Allen: Did, did you uh, were you just whistling through there? Now what happen if you try . . .

FZ: No, I just blow air.

Steve Allen: You just blow air and did it whistle? Can I blow air and it'll whistle?

FZ: Help yourself.

(Steve Allen blows the handlebars)

FZ: No, blow easy, blow real easy.

Steve Allen: Oh, you blow easy? Yeah, man.

(auto horn sounds, laughter)

Steve Allen: Alright, cool it.

(more noises from the band)

Steve Allen: One more time!

(gong sound, applause)

Steve Allen: And that concludes my arrangement of "On A Bicycle Built For Two." When you get home tonight, friends, try this on your own bicycle. When you don't have a lot of wiseacres around. What else?

FZ: Well the next thing that I like to demonstrate is some of the other noises possible, and I'd like to have uh, you participate with me uh, in a small improvisation for two bicycles, pre-recorded tape and uh, instrumental ensemble.

Steve Allen: Crazy.

FZ: Ok, now, here's what else you can do, you can pluck the spokes like a harp . . .

Steve Allen: Sounds like the kyoto of Japan. I can play uh, my nose. (laughter) Hey, do that again! I mean that other thing . . . (sings Japanese style, applause)

FZ: And then as I was demonstrating before you can run the sticks over the spokes in rapid motion, this produces the . . .

Steve Allen: Spoke schtick. (laughter)

FZ: It's similar to the effect of the uh, cardboard and the clothespin. (spokes sounds)

Steve Allen: Like the uh, steel drums of Jamaica and uh, Trinidad . . .

FZ: And you can also bang on the frame, and if you're lucky enough to have a bicycle that has a squeaking seat, you can squeak the seat. (laughter)

Steve Allen: . . . an exploding handle-bar, you can explode the handle-bar! (laughter) Premises granted, there's no limit to what you can do.

FZ: Well, would you uh, help me with this, please?

Steve Allen: I'll be glad to accompany you. (laughter) Looks rather uncomfortable to sit on I must say. (laughter)

FZ: There's a different technique for the upside down bicycle. First thing you do is put the kickstand down . . .

Steve Allen: I'm glad to hear that.

FZ: . . . you can turn the wheels around, you know, and then . . .

Steve Allen: Yeah!

FZ: And then you put the brakes on . . .

Steve Allen: Yeah.

FZ: And uh . . .

Steve Allen: Where it says four bar rest you just give it a little of that. (laughter)

FZ: And I'll uh, have you put the bow on here . . . see, you go like that. You take this, please. And . . .

Steve Allen: It's like fingernails in a blackboard!

FZ: Uh, this, this may be a little bit new to you, but I think it . . . (laughter)

Steve Allen: It doesn't come up in the ordinary conversation, I'll tell you that! (laughter)

FZ: Well, uh . . . I should suggest that you alternate between bowing and plucking . . .

Steve Allen: And Aerojet. (laughter) Those are two air plants here in the . . .

FZ: You should bow it and pluck it and uh, if you can scratch across the uh . . .

Steve Allen: Bow it and pluck it.

FZ: The bass . . . Now, the whole idea that we're going to uh, do here in this improvised concerto for two bicycles uh, a pre-recorded tape and the musicians in back is that, you're supposed to express yourself freely without any kind of . . . you have to let your front down and . . . (laughter) you have to, you have to uh, just feel your way through, because it's . . . you're completely released, you, you're a composer yourself and you know that the, the standard method notation is very difficult, you know . . .

Steve Allen: I ignore it. (laughter)

FZ: Yeah . . . well this would will help. Now, uh . . . (laughter)

Steve Allen: You write the music on a road map for these things. (laughter)

FZ: Now . . .

Steve Allen: That's how Route 66 was written, you think I'm kidding? I am kidding, but not too successfully, hang, go on . . .

FZ: I got to, to tell the man in the control booth who is ready to run the tape, if you just give me a quick blast of the tape so we can get started . . . Alright. Now, the tape is pre-recorded electric noises that uh, I stuck together. I gave my wife a clarinet and told her to play it, and uh, she doesn't play a clarinet. (laughter)

Steve Allen: He doesn't even have a wife, how do you like that?

FZ: But then I did some electric things to it, and it's very interesting. You hear a woman singing in there someplace, I, I recorded it off the radio, and stuck it in. But now, the way we work this is, when the man in the control booth feels moved to add his electronic part to our work here, he will throw a little switch, just to add some of these noises to, and then I request the uh, musicians that if they feel so moved, make ANY NOISE possible on your instrument. No . . . uh, try to refrain from musical tones, in fact uh . . . (laughter)

Steve Allen: They won't have any trouble with that order! (laughter)

FZ: Well, it would be possible for you . . .

Steve Allen: Their regular way fellas! Now it's . . . I'm sorry.

FZ: It would be possible for you to put some sort of objects on the strings of the piano, you'll get . . . no . . . uh . . . That's good! I prefer you to play it that way. (laughter)

Steve Allen: All season long, Dan. (laughter)

FZ: Alright? Now, w-we'll start . . .

(bicycle music)

Steve Allen: Are we on?

(more bicycle music)

Johnny Jacobs:
Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece—no this is part of it!—was white as snow
(music stops)
And everywhere that Mar . . .
No, this is part of it, he told me to, to recite a poem . . .
(laughters, music continues)
The boy stood on the burning deck . . .
Everywhere that Mary went . . .
(music stops again)

Steve Allen:
Ruth rode on my cycle car
On the seat in back of me
I took a bump at 95
And rode on Ruthlessly

(laughter, applause, music continues)

Steve Allen: That's the . . . (laughter) that's 32-bars (laughter), we're playing like we went to 32 bars tonight. (laughter) Well, Mr. Zappa . . . (applause) I must say that I'm always in favor of enlarging the horizons at least in peering anxiously beyond the horizons of any field of human endeavor or interest, and therefore I uh, congratulate you on your uh, far-sightedness (laughter) and as for your music, don't ever do it around here again! (laughter) No, seriously, it was a very amusing and entertaining and stimulating experiment. Is there anything you like to say in closing?

FZ: Yes I would. Next week our record is being released called "How's Your Bird?" (laughter)

Steve Allen: Really?

FZ: Yes. I brought a dub of it over here, I don't think you heard it yet, and it's uh . . . go and buy it, it's wonderful. (laughter)

Steve Allen: Crazy.

FZ: It's got everything but a bicycle in it.

Steve Allen: Alright, thank you very much, Mr. Zappa, thank you! (applause) You know, that music sounds a little bit like the music that a very gifted . . . (thought I sat on the pie there for a minute . . . woo, that was a close one, folks! You could have had me that time, I wasn't looking for ya. You did.) No uh, the uh, Alvin Nicholi is his name, a very gifted choreographer. (I'm gonna go to that mike). Very gifted choreographer, we used to use him on the show when we were on Sunday evenings, and uh, he does his own music—I guess music is the best word they can find for it—and it sounds very much like that, he plays tin cans backwards and records them at strange tape speeds, and then to this strange conglomeration of sounds he uh, creates dances, choreography and uh, he is really a genius in this particular field. I guess we must have let somebody around the country talk right now, another Sammy Fay song will be performed for you in just a moment, great song, "Secret Love," will be sung by Jennie Smith, and then after that we'd be getting Sammy up, we have a few other surprises, I guess even to me. We're right back.

(applause, more bicycle music)


Site maintained by Román García Albertos
Original transcription by Román; corrections by Kevin Closs, Jim Denikos and Charles Ulrich
This page updated: 2014-04-10