Frank Zappa / 200 Motels (The Suites) / two-CD set


A new two-CD release showcases the live performance of Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels (The Suites) by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and L.A. Master Chorale at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on 23 October 2013…

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted this complete orchestral recital of Zappa’s 200 Motels to launch the L.A. Philharmonic’s tenth anniversary season in the venue. The occasion echoed the first public performance of the songs by the same orchestra way back in May 1970, then conducted by Zubin Mehta at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

The music was written mostly in motel rooms while Zappa and his backing band The Mothers Invention were on tour, and a selection of the ‘suites’ were then used as the soundtrack to the surrealist 1971 musical movie 200 Motels, co-written and directed by Frank Zappa and Tony Palmer, which depicted rock musicians’ high-jinks on the road and starred Zappa himself (and Ringo Starr, among others).

The new two-CD set takes the listener back to sold-out show in October 2013 and with suites boasting such magical names as This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich, The Pleated Gazelle and Penis Dimension, what’s not to like?

The audio is complemented by photos from the evening and essays by, amongst others, the show and recording’s producers, Zappa’s widow Gail Zappa and Frank Filipetti and performers including Diva Zappa and Michael Des Barres.

Written to be played by a rock band with a full orchestra, chorale and 15 soloists, Gail Zappa said in the build-up to the show that the score had been adapted to give the orchestral elements due prominence. It seemed to go down well. ‘Esa-Pekka Salonen – who led a large L.A. Phil enhanced with rock musicians and the Los Angeles Master Chorale – was cheered like a rock star,’ reported the Los Angeles Times correspondent in attendance on the night.

The release of this set has been given added poignancy with Gail Zappa’s passing last month. “This marks the 101st Frank Zappa album release and the last record Gail creatively worked on, as well,” comments Frank and Gail’s son, Ahmet Zappa. “It was an incredibly important project for her and a real labour of love to see it through to completion. It was an amazing night of music – the performances were extraordinary and the maestro Esa-Pekka Salonen was phenomenal. This is an especially emotional release for my family and I know both Gail and Frank are smiling down with pride at this record. Enjoy!”

200 Motels (The Suites) is released on 20 November 2015.




  • 1. Overture [2:17]
  • 2. Went On The Road [1:41]
  • 3. Centerville [2:24]
  • 4. This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich [10:15]
  • 5. The Restaurant Scene [4:23]
  • 6. Touring Can Make You Crazy [2:06]
  • 7. What’s The Name Of Your Group? [11:46]
  • 8. Can I Help You With This Dummy? [2:33]
  • 9. The Pleated Gazelle [21:00]


  • 1. I’m Stealing The Room [13:44]
  • 2. Shove It Right In [7:26]
  • 3. Penis Dimension [9:58]
  • 4. Strictly Genteel [11:14]

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The interesting thing about the UCLA performance (apart from the performance itself, which is fascinating) is actually that Zappa was forbidden by the hall union from making a recording of it. That’s right: he couldn’t record his own music. Oh how Zappa loved the unions. So if Zappa DID secretly record it, it’s possible for the tape to surface from the Zappa Family vault one day, but who knows what quality it would be. It’s also possible that the circulating bootleg was recorded by Zappa or someone in his know. Zappa might have treasured this bootleg, actually, if it’s the only record of his big concert that he had. So: Beat The Boots, Frank? Not always. Sometimes it’s Bless The Boots. (And I can think of many, many cases where this is true — but then I’m a Pink Floyd fan.)

All of which is irrelevant to this release which is the “suites” not the “suite”!

[…] Frank Zappa / 200 Motels (The Suites) / two-CD set […]


The original 1970 performance called “200 Motels” featured almost none of the music that was later to appear in the 200M film or its soundtrack as released by United Artists.

I own an OK-sounding crowd recording from the show at UCLA, 15 May 1970. Musicians were: Frank Zappa, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (conducted by Zubin Mehta), Aynsley Dunbar, Billy Mundi, Ian Underwood, Don Preston, Motorhead Sherwood, Jeff Simmons, Ray Collins. The music is entirely instrumental; Flo and Eddie aren’t heard as I recall.

Though Zappa introduces this performance as “200 Motels”, it is largely a continuous suite of previously-heard FZ music. Included are snippets of:

Pound for a Brown, Oh No, Little House I Used to Live in, Tuna Sandwich, Redneck Eats, World’s Greatest Sinner, Holiday in Berlin, Strictly Genteel, Duke of Prunes, Who Needs the Peace Corps?, and The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue

Rather than playing together, the Philharmonic and The Mothers trade-off playing different sections. The result is still quite cohesive and enjoyable. In all this was a unique and historic performance, and it’s puzzling that it’s never been officially released as part of FZ’s “Beat the Boots” series.


Yes, it’s fantastic that we finally get “The Pleated Gazelle” to add into our Zappa collections. For some reason, Zappa decided only to release fragments of the piece on the 200 Motels album. A shame we don’t get Zappa’s recording with the original singers (or Flo & Eddie on the rest!), but this is still very welcome.

And (sniggers) “I’m Stealing The Towels” at Walt Disney Hall….priceless.


This is so very cool !
Excellent news, thank you so much.