Zappa Kills 'Em And Is Almost ..... Killed Too

By Glenn Wheatley

Planet, January 19, 1972

BEFORE an ecstatic cheering crowd of three thousand people that packed the Rainbow to capacity last Friday night, a man lept on to the stage and knocked Frank Zappa unconscious.

(Ed: 'last Friday' was nearly 3 weeks ago).

Zappa, with the Mothers of Invention, had just finished an encore, as the attacker, in full view of the audience, punched Zappa on the nose and knocked him ten feet into the orchestra pit.

A gasp came over the crowd that was at one moment cheering for more, and the next, deathly quiet. Herb Cohen, Zappa's manager, was one of the first to get to Zappa. Afterwards Cohen commented, "When I jumped into the orchestra pit, I thought Frank was dead. He looked terrible crumpled on the floor. He's lucky to be alive – he could have broken his neck." Zappa spent the night in hospital with a suspected fractured skull and a broken leg.

Theatre manager Michael Jaffe, said, "The man ran quickly across the stage but was caught by theatre staff. The man said he was upset because his girl friend had a crush on Zappa." The man spent the night at nearby Holloway Police station and the following day appeared at North London Court. He was remanded on 200 Pounds bail.

The second show scheduled for that evening was cancelled as were both shows the following night. At the start of the concert there were no announcements as Ian Underwood and Bob Harris first took the stage, only a slide projected on the back wall saying 'the Mothers'. Together on keyboards they jammed together (in a fashion) at times sounding like something out of Star Trek. Then Aynsley Dunbar joined them on drums, a few minutes later Jim Ponds on bass. Then ex-Turtles members Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman and the man himself Frank Zappa.

Zappa at this stage didn't play much, but was more intent on conducting the band. Telling them when to stop, who to solo, where to play quietly etc. Occasionally he stopped the band half way through a passage, walked slowly up to the mike and gave the sound engineer a few instructions regarding the balance, then by jumping in the air, gave the band the cue to start again where they left off. It was amazing the control he had over the band. Like a farmer with a sheep dog rounding up some sheep, the dog at the slightest signal jumping to obey his master's command. Zappa still wasn't happy with the balance, he stopped the band. Each member tested his mike, instead of the customary 'Testing one two' etc. each just groaned. A few words from Zappa about Marc Bolan having an ugly guitar "so ugly in fact, they had to take it from the stage," and the audience were breaking up.

Zappa counted in again and the band went into, 'Peaches En Regalia' and 'Shove it right in'. Vocally, Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan together were brilliant. Mark Volman in particular stood out, his fifteen stone (at least) helped immensely. Dressed in a short sleeved boiler suit and dancing round the stage he was funny to watch and a delight to listen to. Next up came a monologue again about Marc Bolan. While the bass kept up a 3/4 riff with a sound like a didgereedoo, Zappa started.

'Once upon a time, a long time ago when the Universe consisted of nothing more elaborate than ... Marc Bolan.' Mark Volman took over as Bolan – all smiles and looking very coy. "Thank you, Thank you friends. I just want to tell you all that I feel great. You know, a lot of people always ask me, Marc, they say Marc, are you kidding. Well let me just tell you friends... I am not kidding."

From here they all went into a German beer drinking song. "Everybody sing along," Zappa shouted, in all seriousness knowing that no-one could. During all this, one is aware of two things, the brilliance of Mark Volman and the unbelievable arrangements of the numbers. It went non stop, with Zappa; at all times, directing the whole thing. During a long sax solo by Ian Underwood, the rest of the band just gathered round their microphones and groaned or screamed. Nothing was serious, or was it?

When they finished it was 'request time', and 'King Kong' it was. During this number Zappa featured on guitar for (really) the first time. His solo wasn't what you could call brilliant, but after listening to his superb arrangements all night it really was quite excusable.

They finished to a standing ovation, they weren't going to be allowed to go without at least one encore. They came back on and after Zappa apologized for the rest of the band for not being very professional, encored with the Beatles, 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand'. It was after this that the unfortunate incident occurred. The audience had climbed to their feet in acclamation, and Zappa had just taken his guitar from around his neck and was placing it against his amp, when he was knocked backwards into the orchestra pit. A hush came over the crowd who were then quickly moved out of the theatre. The change in the atmosphere was terrible. It was a shame for such a good concert to end this way. Many girls were crying.

It's been an unlucky week for the Mothers. Their European tour met with disaster when fire gutted the Casino in Montreux, destroying their equipment valued at 20,000 Pounds. The tail end of the tour including dates in Lyons, Paris and Brussels had to be cancelled.

This was Zappa's second unsuccessful visit to London. The first was when his proposed Albert Hall show was cancelled because of his insistence that the Philharmonic Orchestra (who were scheduled to back him) sing the word 'brassier' as part of the backing.

The Mothers Of Invention, I can't boast of being into since they started, indeed its been comparatively a short time considering how long they've been going.

At a time when the West Coast groups of the Grateful Dead, Love, Iron Butterfly and Mothers were at their peak, my direction in music was more toward the English bands of Spooky Tooth, Procol Harum and Traffic. Firstly, there were 'those' Mothers, the original ones which Zappa put together six years ago. Zappa had to disband them towards the end of '69, for economic reasons. It was costing him money to keep them, seemingly not enough people were ready enough for the Mothers to support their albums and concerts. So they all went their separate ways except Ian Underwood whose reeds and keyboards stayed by Zappa's side through his solo, successful album of 'Hot Rats'.

Then there's 'these' Mothers of Invention, whose existence became necessary to participate in the rock part of Zappa's symphonic operatic ballet called 200 Motels. After the first performance at U.C.L.A. with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, a demand sprang up for a touring Mothers. And since 'these' Mothers were into other independent things and wouldn't have to rely on Mothers money to exist, they stayed together.

Ever since the famous poster of Zappa sitting on the loo came out, he has been saddled with the unsought for title of Revolution Leader, which embarrasses him no end.

An underground political prophet he ain't.

A musical revolutionary, however, he most certainly is.

When he first attacked our eyes and ears with his original Mothers, that whole concept based on outrage. Those Mothers were really brilliant musicians, yet he would subject his audiences to what seemed to be utter garbage at Mothers concerts. People stood up and shouted abuse at them - which is exactly what he wanted from them.  

Zappa's been through a lot of changes since the lavatory poster. You'd think that his recent success would make him relax perhaps a shade now. Not him, Francis Vincent Zappa seems pretty dedicated to rock, as he ploughs on with such projects as '200 Motels' taking care of his two record labels 'Straight' and 'Bizarre', working on his first movie 'Uncle Meat', (which only needs another $150,000 to complete), and writing new material all the time.

Also, there is Zappa the husband of Gail and the father of daughter Moon Unit Zappa and to son Dweezil Zappa, a Zappa who somehow docs find a lot of time to spend with his family.

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