Frank Zappa Burns Out

By ?

Chinook, January 14, 1972

(UPS) – It all happened at the Casino Montreux, the "Swiss Fillmore", right on Igor Stravinsky Street in Montreux, on the afternoon of December 4, 1971. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention did their first concert in Switzerland. Half of the Mothers European tour already behind them, they enjoyed themselves in the snowy mountains with cheese and all that Swiss stuff – then they came down to do the concert in that unbelievably over-decorated old-fashioned big crazy building that was packed with a nice audience from all over Switzerland, Italy and other places.

As usual it was a great & funny performance with some interesting European variations. By the end of the show alchemist Don Preston went into a minimoog solo. Suddenly part of the audience started to turn their heads in a direction not visible to all the people there (since the room had sort of an S-form). The Mothers looked into that corner too. Almost immediately the music died and Frank pointed and said with a very clear cool voice "Fire!" . . . the place was burning, due to an arcing contact. Calmly the audience stood up and started looking and walking around. The Mothers stayed on stage with Frank, like the captain of a sinking ship, saying "Don't panic . . . don't panic . . . walk out slowly." And so it went: absolutely no panic, people cooly walking out, some looking around to see if any help was needed, others smashing yvmdows to let the smoke and more people out. Some even had the coolness to ask, "Is this some kinda kinky Arthur Brown Fire Show?" and on the way out ordered the beer or coke that was included in the price. Outside Reprise promocrats were giving out free Zappa posters.

After a few minutes the whole place was empty & in flames from one end to the other. The entire building burned down to the ground . . . including all of the Mothers' special monster equipment and instruments.

Now the show was going on in the streets . . . audience and Mothers watching that really amazing fire ... 50 yards of flames up to the sky & smokeclouds like out of a volcano. Frank pointing up to the mountains where the sun was coloring all the snowtops with red . . . what a great movie . . . then, slightly amused, he announced, "And here comes the Swiss fire-brigade!" But it was already to late to save anything of the stuff inside or even the building itself. New surprise: now the fire-alarm clock started to ring in the middle of the hellfire. The entire crowd burst out laughing. It was worth the expensive tickets they'd all bought and it was certainly a dignified finale to the Mothers concert.

Some people then went to see the other great movie, "200 Motels". Some insisted that they had seen Frank returning into the burning building . . . he took his cap off and two little horns appeared . . . then he opened a trapdoor on the burning stage & disappeared with a sneer. Remember: the Mothers also the closing concert for another Pop-Mecca, the Fillmore.

The only sad thing about the Historical Event is that the Mother's personal instruments and not-so-easy-to-refund equipment was gone, and that the rest of the Continental concerts had to be cancelled. In terms of symbolism it clearly showed that it is time for a new music, a new consciousness, and a new concept of awareness, of art – that of the Mothers.