Wherever the late Frank Zappa's meticulous spirit is now, it's surely smiling.
Rykodisc, the label that since 1995 has reissued the onetime leader of the Mother's of Invention's mammoth
catalog of more than five dozen rock 'n' roll, jazz and classical
collections, has finally grabbed the Zappa holy grail: the soundtrack to
Until now, Ryko had not had the rights to release the soundtrack, which was originally released by United Artists. "We actually reserved a catalog number in the middle of the Zappa series
with the hopes of someday getting this," said Ryko publicist Chris
MacDonald. "It's the only one that's never been released."
Slated to hit stores on Oct. 14, Rykodisc #10513/14 will not only
feature the long out of print audio soundtrack to 200 Motels, but
also film dialogue and CD-ROM enhancements, including the movie's trailer.
Released in 1971, the 200 Motels film was a typically complex Zappa
work. It featured former Beatle Ringo Starr, dressed as Frank Zappa,
playing Larry the Dwarf. Keith Moon, the late Who drummer, played the part
of Pamela the Groupie, while the rock world's real life, best known
groupie, Pamela Des Barres was cast as a rock magazine writer. The film was
shot in England, in just five days.
The soundtrack, said MacDonald, pays tribute to the breadth of Zappa's
skills. "It's a mix between his comedic stuff and his real technical
stuff. Everything's on there, from real rocking things to real structured
compositions." The album features performances by the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra, including the first recording of "Strictly Genteel." Except
for the track "Penis Dimension," Zappa and his musician associates cut the entire album live.
During his 27-year career, Frank Zappa was known not only for his satiric
wit and social conscience, but also for his intricate musical genius, which
led him to compose works that ranged from doo-wop and '60s pop, to jazz
rock, to classical and chamber music. He was an amazingly prolific artist,
often releasing multiple albums within a single year, and his fans, who
tend to run as obsessive as the artist himself, have long hoped for a new
release of 200 Motels to complete the Zappa catalog.
The soundtrack originally saw a limited vinyl release when the movie was
issued, then was put out once more in a limited run by MCA Records in 1981
(MacDonald termed that version "sonically challenged"). Ryko's double-CD issue
marks the first time the music has been available on compact disc.
Before Zappa died from prostate cancer in 1993, he had begun releasing his
massive back catalog on his own Barking Pumpkin label. Though Ryko began
its Zappa series in conjunction with Barking Pumpkin, neither label has
until now been able to release 200 Motels because the rights to the
soundtrack were held by United Artists Pictures.
MacDonald said Ryko feels like that jigsaw puzzle that is Frank Zappa's
catalog is finally complete. "It's really exciting for us," he said. "It's
something we've been working on and hoping for for quite a long time."
[Fri., Sept. 12, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]