Frank Zappa's 200 Motels

Frank Zappa's 200 Motels



Don’t let anything you may have heard put you off this UK premiere of Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels, a stupendous work for large orchestra, rock musicians, singers and actors. Yes, some of the language is smutty, but Zappa’s orchestral and choral writing is slick, surprising and exciting, and there are fleeting moments of beauty.

Stravinsky is the main influence, with hints of Varèse and Ligeti and a satirical swipe at Schoenberg. Some parts I wished were longer, some shorter, and the anthemic tune of the finale followed me all the way to the bus stop.

Radio listeners will simply have to imagine the illuminated dildoes waved by the chorus at this point. You had to be there.


Tom Service presents the UK première of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels, a suite from the orchestral soundtrack to the American composer's surrealist documentary film about life on the road as a rock musician. Banned from live performance in the UK in 1971 on grounds of obscenity, it was finally staged in London last month as part of the Rest Is Noise festival, the Southbank Centre's ongoing survey of music from the 20th century. Tom is joined by author Ben Watson, who makes the case for this work as Zappa's misunderstood masterpiece. Frank Zappa: 200 Motels. Claron McFadden (soprano), Tony Guilfoyle (Frank), Richard Strange (Narrator, Rance), Ian Shaw (Mark), Brendan Reilly (Howard, Cowboy Burt), Sophia Brous (Groupie 1, Larry the Dwarf), Diva Zappa (Groupie 2, Lucy), Jessica Hynes (Bad Conscience, Ginger), Scott Thunes (Jeff), BBC Concert Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia, London Voices, conductor Jurjen Hempel.