Finally released on a pair of CDs in 1997 (26 years after it's initial release on vinyl), 200 MOTELS is the soundtrack to Frank Zappa's wacky 1971 motion picture of the same name, which starred Ringo Starr and Keith Moon, among others. Although it enjoyed success as a "midnight movie" in the '70s/early '80s, 200 MOTELS is a difficult movie to comprehend, since the storyline is very abstract (some have hinted that it was made up on the spot!). But even when his music is difficult to understand, Zappa includes many interesting twists and turns, and the soundtrack for 200 MOTELS is no different.
Yes!! Finally, here it is: "200 Motels" in all its glory. We've all seen this movie as it got released on VHS video years and years ago. And now, here's the high quality DVD version. "200 Motels" got shot in 1971 and featured Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention plus Ringo Starr and Keith Moon, to drop just two names. Now that I think of it, Zappa always had this thing for drummers… Anyway, "200 Motels" is a milestone in Zappa's career. I'm not too big a fan of the vaudeville aspect and the on-the-road stories, as you cannot keep on laughing with it, but the music is fabulous. It's Zappa at his best.
"Touring makes you crazy," Frank Zappa says, explaining that the idea for this film came to him while the Mothers of Invention were touring. The story, interspersed with performances by the Mothers and the Royal Symphony Orchestra, is a tale of life on the road. The band members' main concerns are the search for groupies and the desire to get paid.
The soundtrack to Frank Zappa's strange early-'70s film 200 Motels was always doomed to be a peripheral entry in his discography. The movie's story was not easy to follow, and neither is the record (not that plot was ever a big focus of the production). It's typically wacky Zappa of the era, with unpredictable sharp turns between crunchy rock bombast, orchestration, and jazz/classical influences, as well as interjections of wacky spoken dialogue. Those who like his late-'60s/early-'70s work – not as song-oriented as his first albums, in other words, but not as "serious" or as silly as his later records – will probably like this fine, although it's not up to the level of Uncle Meat.
Official Release #101. On the evening of October 23, 2013, Walt Disney Concert Hall was the place to be in Los Angeles, as Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale in a spectacular, sold-out orchestral performance of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels (The Suites). Recorded for posterity, the acclaimed, one-night-only 13-suite performance of Zappa's 1971 masterwork will be released worldwide on November 20 by Zappa Records/UMe. This 2CD release's expertly recorded audio brings the listener back to Walt Disney Concert Hall to experience the exciting 200 Motels (The Suites) spectacle, complemented by photos from the evening and essays by the show and recording's producers, Gail Zappa and Frank Filipetti, the evening's director James Darrah, 'Scoremeister' Kurt Morgan, and performers including Diva Zappa, Michael Des Barres, special guest 'Rock' rhythm section drummer Joe Travers, and former Zappa band member Scott Thunes. Essays by some notable members of the audience, including Steve Vai and Peter Asher, are also included.
Official Release #91. In October 1971, Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention played two shows in one night at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. The album, Carnegie Hall, celebrates that night's marathon – two shows (7:30 and 11:30 p.m.) with ticket prices ranging from $3.50 to $6 – featuring Zappa (lead guitar, vocals) with Mark Volman (vocals, percussion), Howard Kaylan (vocals), Ian Underwood (keyboards, alto sax), Don Preston (keyboards, gong), Jim Pons (bass, vocals) and Aynsley Dunbar (drums).
Official Release #67. As the title suggests, Have I Offended Someone? contains all of Zappa's notoriously tasteless parodies and satires, from "Bobby Brown Goes Down," "Catholic Girls," and "Jewish Princess" to "He's So Gay," "Titties 'n Beer," and "Dinah-Moe Humm." Nearly all of the tracks are presented in new remixed versions, and two songs, "Dumb All Over" and "Tinsel Town Rebellion," have never been released before.
Official Release #65. The full saga of Läther (pronounced leather) is tangled enough to give a migraine to all but committed Zappaphiles. Basically, what you need to know is that this project was originally conceived of as a four-record box set. When record company politics prevented its release in that format, much of the material was spread over the albums Live in New York, Sleep Dirt, Studio Tan, and Orchestral Favorites. This three-CD set presents the album as it was originally conceived, with the addition of four bonus tracks at the end. It mixes previously available material, alternate mixes, and edits, and previously unissued stuff, though only the most serious Zappa fans will have a good grip on exactly what has appeared where (the liner notes are surprisingly unexact in this regard).
For all of his many attributes, one thing Frank Zappa most certainly was not is commercial. Presumably, the title of this collection is ironic. Strictly Commercial: The Best of Frank Zappa is a compilation not of the composer's hits – he only broke the Top 40 on one occasion, with "Valley Girl" – but rather, a collection of his best-known material, from "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" to "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace." Zappa's albums often function as individual works, but this disc offers an intelligent selection of songs, serving as an introduction to the maverick musician.