They Seem To Think Frank’s Obscene

By Chris Charlesworth

Melody Maker, February 13, 1971

AMIDST total confusion Frank Zappa’s concert at Royal Albert Hall on Monday [1] was called off at the last minute. Zappa was to have presented a live version of his 200 Motels film, featuring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra who had been filming at Pinewood, a female choir, and the Mothers.

Reason for the ban was the Albert Hall authorities objecting to the ‘obscene’ nature of the lyrics in some of the songs from Zappa’s latest work.

Despite rumours over the weekend that the concert might be cancelled, Zappa, the Mothers, ninety members of the Royal Philharmonic and assorted members of the choir arrived at the Albert Hall on Monday afternoon for a practice.

On the hall windows were notices to the effect that the concert had been cancelled, but apparently there was no official approach to Zappa’s manager, Herb Cohen, who was also in the melee.

The crowd at the rear of the Hall was joined by numerous reporters and photographers who crowded around Zappa inquiring about obscene parts of his film.

Amid the chaos Cohen confirmed to me that the concert was off but that he had not been officially notified. “They are objecting to the chorus and the Royal Philharmonic and anyone who wants to listen to the music. Perhaps they’re obscene too” he said.

Zappa, surrounded by cameramen, told me: “It’s silly. I don’t know what they are objecting to.”

When I asked him if he could make any assumptions about what the Albert Hall authorities were objecting to, he said: “I don’t make assumptions.”

Cohen pointed out that the script had been delivered to the Albert Hall and the group had offered to make any alterations if necessary.

Mark Volman told me; “Well it hasn’t been banned in America and the sooner we get back the better”. And Howard Kaylan added: “We just want to play our music, nothing else. What’s obscene about that?”

While the other Mothers waited around having their photographs taken, Zappa produced a movie camera and filmed the entire episode.

The Albert Hall switchboard was jammed with calls throughout Monday, but eventually a spokesman there told the MM: “The concert is definitely off. We have been demanding certain assurances and copies of the content of the programme. We did not receive the assurances. We heard rumours about the programme content and this was not agreeable to us”.

The Albert Hall was also worried about possible audience participation.

Cohen was amazed at the thought of the audience not behaving well. “We’ve played at the Albert Hall before and we gave two packed performances at the London Coliseum recently. We’ve performed in over 60 theatres and audiences always behave well.

“We all have contracts and somebody will have to take the responsibility. The music ranged from classical to pop and jazz.

“This was to have been a musical preview of the film, and I must make it clear we are anti-drugs in the story and groupies are considered as a social phenomenon.

“It would have been 75 percent orchestral plus six or seven individual songs with lyrics. I gave the Albert Hall a copy and they said they were too obscene. I offered to delete anything they felt gave offence. Revised lyrics were written and sent but it seems they are against the whole concert and concept.

“The word ‘crap’ came out. It doesn’t mean the same in America. There are also few four-letter words we dropped, but I feel the Albert Hall were more anti-groups than anti-words.”

After waiting around for about an hour the gathering outside the Albert Hall dispersed, and an announcement was made that fans who had bought tickets would have their money refunded.

That same evening, Zappa turned up at the hall to explain to fans who had arrived there why the concert had been cancelled.

1. The concert was planned for February 8.

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