'200 Albert Halls' or 'Penis Dimension Meets The Fathers of Convention'

By Ernie Eban & John Ralph

Time Out, February 21 - March 7, 1971

Monday 8th February outside the Albert Hall. A fairly continuous stream of people are arriving at the Box Office to claim their money back for the cancelled concert of Frank Zappa, The Mothers of Invention and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. About two hundred people are milling around: press, fans, photographers. Two nicely laid out signs one of them saying 'Zappa claims the Albert Hall is obscene' are offset by the smaller, more mysterious 'More Sugar' placard. Head, shoulders or at least a phallic microphone boom above the throng are Ernie Eban and John Ralph of Farout Non-productions. They supplied us with the tape for this edited transcript. Remember that everything in it took place outside the Albert Hall. There is no way of telling whether what we have here bears any relation or relevance to what could have happened inside the Albert Hall had the concert not been cancelled.

Text Box: TelegraphZappa: Armed and ready.

Ernie: Are you surprised?

Zappa: Yes because we've played here before.

Ernie: Are you especially surprised because you were going to do it with a so called respectable orchestra.

Zappa: Yeah I was surprised about that and I was also surprised at the conduct of the two trumpet players who quit. Did you know about that?

Ernie: No I didn't

Zappa: The two lead trumpet players quit the first day of rehearsals because in one section the brass is supposed to answer the Chorus, and they're supposed to speak after the chorus sings some lines 'Your dick, your dork, your prick, your pork', and the brass was supposed to answer with those words and this man suddenly decided that that was too much for him to say. That and the word penis which was beyond his comprehension.

Ernie: Did you try to persuade him out of it?

Zappa: I didn't know he'd quit until he had quit. Like I found out a few days later. The second day of rehearsals there was a different trumpet player and I thought that the guy was sick and didn't show up, so when we finally moved into the studio to start shooting the conductor said 'by the way do you know that so and so has quit the thing.'

Ernie: Could you tell us what the concert would have been had it taken place?

Zappa: Well we were going to play all the orchestra music and all the new group songs from the film '200 Motels'

Reporter: The Albert Hall Management says that they asked you for a revised script and you refused to provide one, is that true?

Zappa: No that's not true. First of all they received copies of not only the original text of the songs ... but let's go right to the beginning of it. I don't see why The Albert Hall would need a script in the first place, because we weren't doing a play we were doing an orchestra and group concert. We gave them a copy of the lyrics in their original form along with a copy of the lyrics as we would amend them to remove any objectionable words and then we found out that one of the things they were complaining about was a line in one of the orchestra pieces where somebody says—'Do you know what kind of girl works in a boutique? The kind of girl with a sister who wears a brassiere to a pop festival.' Now that was one of the things that they objected to in the text so we said we'd take brassiere out if it offended them but we gave them two sets of lyrics so they got a choice.

Reporter: Do you think there was anything in your piece that the average person in Britain today would consider obscene?

Zappa: No.

Reporter: Why do you think they cancelled it?

Zappa: That's a very good question why don't you ask them (Background voice: Because they're shits, they've done it before and they'll do it again.)

Ernie: Do you find it extraordinary that something like the Albert Hall could actually attempt to not only interfere with what you're trying to do, but also to stop the whole thing going on at the last minute as they have done?

Zappa: Well to me the whole proceeding is absurd because since when does somebody who rents you a hall for a certain fixed amount of money, and gives you a bad deal at that, have the right to change the lyrics to the music you write.

Reporter: What are you here for now?

Zappa: To talk to you

Reporter: Have you tried to get in?

Zappa: We came this afternoon to get in. I was here at 1.30 for rehearsal.

Reporter: Have you tried to get in recently?

Zappa: No, do you want me to go up and knock on the door now?

Reporter: Well, try ... you might ...

Mothers: Let's all go up and knock on the door Frank, ahh ... hey where's the door? Show us the door and we'll go and knock.

Zappa: Does anybody know where the door is? Where is the mystery door?

 (Owing to large amounts of scaffolding around the Albert Hall at the moment it is hard to find an entrance, but in any case this gesture by fearless Frank was intercepted by yet another ... reporter)

Reporter: Will you try to put the concert on again?

Zappa: Eventually

Reporter: Where in here (Albert Hall) ... in London?

Zappa: Probably in some place where they'll allow it to happen.

Reporter: Hyde Park or free for instance?

Zappa: It's pretty difficult to make an orchestra sound good out there on the lawn, I would prefer to do it in an enclosed space.

Reporter: If they're shouting it won't matter.

Zappa: What do you mean if they're shouting.

Reporter: Like four letter. words.

Zappa: No no you have the plot confused there are no four letter words involved.

Zappa: (To girl) What do you think of these things?

Girl: Look at this thing ... zowee! Pretty far out.

Zappa: Ladies and gentlemen the star of our show (pointing to gun mike complete with windgag)

Girl: Yeah you're not kidding.

Zappa: This is what the Albert Hall was really objecting to.

BBC: BBC Television News, could you just give us a short interview.

Zappa: Sure. O.K.

(The following is performed in true Groucho Marx Zappa fashion.)

BBC: What's your reaction to the cancellation.

Zappa: I think it's silly.

BBC: Why?

Zappa: Well don't you think it's silly?

BBC: Well I'm asking you.

Zappa: Well. I mean I just asked you do you think it's silly.

BBC: Why do you think they cancelled it?

Zappa: I think that there were some words in there that they objected to.

BBC: Like?

Zappa: Brassiere, penis, dork, prick, stuff like that (laughs).

Photographers: What about your banner, we've come to see a banner. Bring your ... and spread it right out ... back a bit O.K. Zipper Zipper will you turn this way ... thank you. OK. Come on look at this come on. Where is he. Look at us now Zipper, Zipper. Jesus! Gentleman with the helmet (Howard Kaylan of the Mothers) would you mind moving to the left please so we can see the rabbit ... Zappa, Zappa in the white coat and the beard now hold on a minute ... Yeah the one in the back is the one ... I trust he's going to play in a minute.

Mark Volman: Will you conduct us Frank? 'Brown shoes don't make it, quit school why fake it'.

Zappa: Yeah sure.

Ernie: Do you want this microphone? Zappa: Yeah Mark will use it.

Mark: Start with whistling (Background whistling)

(This has already been performed at The London Coliseum.—Ed.)

(Mark Volman and Howard KayIan, with helmet, perform, conducted and inspired by Zappa from time to time)

Hi friends! How are you neighbours? Did you ever consider the possibility that your penis and in the case of many dignified ladies that the size of the titties themselves might provide elements of sub conscious tension.

Weird, twisted anxieties that could force a human being to have to become a politician ... Hooray ... a policeman um urn urn UM ...


The general manager of the Albert Hall. Boo!

A Jesuit monk?

Dominus vobiscum et cum spiritu tuo.

A rock and roll guitar player, a wino, a vampire, you name it and in the case of the ladies, the ones that can't afford a silicone beefup, they become writers of hot books—'Manuel the Gardiner' placed his burning phallus in her quivering quim ha ha ... or they become Carmelite nuns Gonzo ... the lead guitar player placed his mutated member in her slithering slit. Yes , or a race horse jockey now there's no reason why you or your loved ones should suffer. Things are bad enough without the size of your organ adding even more trouble to the world today. Now if you're a lady and you are troubled with munchkin tits you can console yourself with this age old line from grammar school—(Help me out brothers) (All together) Anything over a mouthful is wasted yeh yeh and isn't it the truth?

And if you're a guy and you're troubled about the size of your penis well let me tell you somebody walks up to you one night while you're at a party and he looks you up and down and says these magical words eight inches or less ... Whistling ... Well let me tell you this is when you turn round and look that guy right between the eyes and you got to tell him these words—Penis, penis, penis. That's why we couldn't play here.

BBC Radio: OK Frank can we talk a bit about that for the radio? I don't know how much of that we will be able to play at the BBC but we just heard at least a rendering of ...

Zappa: Let me ask you why you couldn't play all of it over the BBC?

BBC: I don't know I'll have to find out yet (laughs.) ... Will you try and do the concert somewhere else?

Zappa: Well the Albert Hall would have been good because we were going to take all the seats out of the ground floor and have the orchestra and the group and the chorus all on the ground floor then everybody could sit around it and watch the whole spectacle and there is no other place in this town I don't think that would have good acoustics and still be able to do that.

BBC: What was you reaction to some of the remarks made by some people in the orchestra, somebody in the Salvation Army I believe said that he was unable to play.

Zappa: I think that those people are very hypocritical, and I think they are old enough to know better and I think they're fraudulent and I think they're ninnies.

BBC: Do you think it's quite fair to call them hypocritical if they're saying what they believe?

Zappa: I think they say that just because they wear tuxedos, and when they walk off the bandstand they use those same words in their everyday life.

BBC: So you weren't willing to cut out this song or make any adjustments to your...

Zappa: Not as far as The Albert Hall was concerned we told them we would change the lyrics but, as far as the film was concerned that's a different story. What I was going to do was play the same music and when it came to a word like penis we'd have everybody go hum, hum ... (laughing) like that. But the music still gets played you see because the notes aren't obscene. If they object to the lyrics and somebody wants to mumble the lyrics and obscure them so that nobody in the audience actually hears anything about body functions during music then they'll be safe.

BBC: Do you think that the kind of people who would have been coming to this concert might have been shocked by some of the words?

Zappa: I severely doubt it.

BBC: What sort of people do you think were coming?

Zappa: I don't know, take a look. Anybody here get upset at the word penis?

 Voices: Noo. No, man, you did it at The Coliseum.

Zappa: We did it at the last concert here.

BBC: So in your opinion you should have been going on tonight?

Zappa: In a way we are going on tonight ... doing it right here in the street.

Ernie: (to BBC interviewer) Why do you think the BBC wouldn't allow you to use a section of what you heard?

BBC: I haven't asked them yet, but I imagine they wouldn't because they haven't allowed me to use the word buggar before.

Ernie: Do they give any reason?

BBC: Depends what time you put it on, I think if it's before about 9 pm they get upset about it.

Ernie: You can say bugger after 9 pm?

BBC: I don't know actually I've never tried.

Ernie: Can you say penis after 9pm on the air?

BBC: Don't know I've never tried.

Zappa: It was on TV last night.

BBC: Then you can.

(The people bearing the cleanly laid out signs that captured the pictorial headlines of the national press, were willing 'mercenaries' hired by Zappa's recording company Warner Bros through BIT, They were contrasted by a smaller group bearing the 'More Sugar' placard, figures usually found in magazine offices in the upper reaches of the Portobello Road).

Sugar: I think what's most disgusting is that Warner Brothers pay these people to stand here with tomorrow's headlines in front of the cameras. By doing that they have drained the energy of the people coming down here from any sort of more spectacular, more spontaneous, more objective demonstration. Nobody's got anything together. You know it's outrageous, man, it's outrageous.

Ernie: What do you mean by 'More Sugar'.

Sugar: Maybe the guy who runs the joint and who decided the concert shouldn't be held here without, one assumes, any good reason, should be given more Sugar. He probably needs it to sweeten him up a lot you know.

Ernie: Tell me who dictated the text of the posters. Was it Warners Brothers or was it Zappa? How do you feel about that? Mere: Wait till I get my pound and I'll come and tell you! I don't know whose idea it was, I wasn't there at the time.

Sugar: We didn't get paid for making it. We didn't get paid for holding it up. No, we just got stoned.

Person: They're now going to cut the film just 'cos you said that. (Laughing). You shouldn't have said that.

Sugar: I didn't say 'stoned'. I said I am hungry.

Ernie: Right that's better.

(Herbie Cohen is Frank Zappa's manager)

Cohen: They refused to adopt any kind of intelligent conversation. They were so upset at the word 'brassiere' that they couldn't even bring themselves to mention it.

Reporter: Were there any four letter words due to be uttered?

Cohen: Absolutely not ... There are some in the film. There's the word fuck. Let's see. There's shit, that's a four letter word and penis is five letters! I don't know if that's obscene. Brassiere—I don't remember off-hand how many letters that has.

Reporter: I gather the Los Angeles Philharmonic uttered the same penis word.

Cohen: Yes. We had no problem there.

Ernie: Are you going to sue?

Cohen: I'll sue everybody or anybody over this. As of this minute I've still not been officially notified that this concert has been cancelled—except by a notice on the door of the Albert Hall. Now that doesn't constitute legal notification as far as I'm concerned. I'll do a concert anywhere. I mean I have nothing against the Albert Hall. The bricks themselves have no objections to the music or the words they hear.

Why only 200 or so people? Were the others at home still wearing out the grooves on their 'Out Demons Out' record, or were they merely discussing the way they had insulted David Allan (ex-Soft Machine and poet musician) at the Roundhouse the day before? Maybe no-one actually told them to come, that they had a mind of their own, or a culture to protect. Even many of those who came just took their money and left, grateful I suppose that the gods had condescended the refund. Coolness is one thing, complete apathy for our own rights to decide what we're being banned from is depressingly negative. Wear our 'Penis Dimension' to the next Albert Hall concert you attend, or why not just wear it? If you don't watch what's being taken from you, you'll soon have nothing left.

Read by OCR software. If you spot errors, let me know afka (at) afka.net