The Great Brassiere Conspiracy

By Pete Erskine

NME, 14 September 1974

F. ZIPPER and Co. have, as you may know, given the gentleman's planned British tour the golden elbow.

Zipper, manager Herb Cohen and various legal cronies blew in and out of London last Thursday to explain why.

(Pete Erskine blew in and out of a plastic bag and went along to listen good.)

"Ordinarily," quoth Frank, bale, hearty, lean, lithe and paisley-shirted, "we come to England to play concerts to promote an album. This time I have the unfortunate duty to announce that we can't play in this country.

"The reason for this," he continued, barely audible above the motor roar of massed cassette recorders re-echoing around the pseudo-tapestried Sandringham Suite of the Kensington Royal Garden Hotel, "is something that dates back to the case we have against the Albert Hall.

"Some of you might remember what the problem was.

"There's a woman at the Albert Hall called Ms. Herrod. At the time we were filming '200 Motels' here and wanted to have a live performance there. Part of the script was going to be performed as part of the musical text by the orchestra (the London Philharmonic), and somehow, some way in advance, someone complained to Ms. Herrod that the show was going to be obscene.

"So she became very concerned and asked for copies of the lyrics – which were submitted to her, for her approval. One of the words she objected to was the word 'brassiere'. I find that very strange because we had already played the Albert Hall twice and said things that were far more – uh – eventful than 'brassiere'.

"As a result of her being upset about the word 'brassiere'," claims Zipper, "we had to cancel the concert at the last minute when it was all sold out – which is why this law-suit is being commissioned. A great deal of money was lost in promoting and organising the event."

The suit was filed against the Albert Hall's managers last month and is expected to be heard in December/January.

Meanwhile, to air Frank's phrase, the promoter of the proposed UK tour, Fred Bannister, encountered "unusual discrimination" in his dealings with the controllers of the London hall's Frank had in mind to play.

"Certain halls were available," Frank explains, "but they would not rent to me because of the Albert Hall thing. Two actually said that.

"We talked about getting the Drury Lane Theatre and the Palladium with a Mr. Verner, and he told us that the halls were free but that he wouldn't be happy to let us use either of them in the light of the Albert Hall lawsuit."

Curious, then, to observe that the same Mr. Verner had agreed for the group to play three provincial halls – The Palace, Manchester, The Bristol Hippodrome and the Birmingham Hippodrome – run by the same company, Moss-Stoll.

"He did give us a number of details to back up the decision, though," Frank added, drily. "One of them was that he was afraid that the audience the group drew would be destructive to the theatre premises.

"In answer to this, Fred Bannister offered to post £1,500 as a bond against possible damage, so then he said 'Oh, no, that's okay. I'm not really worried about that, it's just that the staff here is so overworked.' Mr. Bannister then offered to pay the staff double ...

"We then spoke to a Mr. Fishman, on behalf of the New Victoria Theatre, The Odeon Hammersmith and the Kilburn State Theatre (i.e. the Rack Organisation), who said much the same thing but in a more roundabout way."


THE COLOSSEUM and the Empire Pool Wembley are already booked for the period allocated for the UK dates – September 21-26 – as is the Queen Elizabeth Hall which, with a capacity of around 1,200 is too small anyway. Likewise the Roundhouse, which is, in fact, free during that period. Frank doesn't like the acoustics, though.

The Rainbow is free, but well, Frank has an insurance suit pending dating back to the time of his accident.

"... And for another thing it brings back memories of unpleasantness that I don't like to contrive."

So how about Alexandra Palace, Frank?

"Well. It's a mausoleum. The sound's no good for us ..."

"More than that, Frank" interrupts a raincoated hombre who might just be a lawyer, "... the GLC, in their great wisdom, thought that there was a little too much rock and roll being offered to the youngsters of London. Because the Grateful Dead are playing three dates there in a ten-day period they wouldn't let us play there."

THRILLS spoke to Tony Hosier in the GLC press office.

"Alexandra Palace is free during that period," he confirmed, "and Zappa's application has been refused. The reason for this is that there is a guideline on pop performances laid down in the regulations – it's not that we're anti-pop or anything."

"The guideline states that there can be no more than four pop concerts within a four-week period. As you know, the Grateful Dead have already booked the 9th, 10th and 11th within a ten-day period."

THRILLS enquired as to the purpose of "the guideline".

"The guideline was laid down by the Arts and Recreation Committee in 1973. In a way it is requiring us to wear two hats at the same time. On the one hand we're keen to promote pop concerts, while on the other we have to take note of residents living in the area.

"Pop concerts tend to attract a large crowd and there have been complaints in the past about noise and nuisance. We have to realise some form of compromise."

The guideline has, however, on one occasion, been bypassed.

"Last year a pop festival ran there for a week – thus overstepping the limitations – but special permission was obtained from the Director of Arts and Recreation Committee. It is up to him."

Isn't the Zappa case a special one?

"Perhaps. But then any appeal should come from the promoters of the Frank Zappa outfit and, certainly, there seems to have been no such appeal."

Hosier, a helpful gentleman, said he would call back after he'd ascertained whether there was any kind of formal appeal procedure. He rang back within the hour.

"There is no formal appeal procedure," he said. "The only way I can see is to write direct to the Director. Apparently, though, Zappa accepted the decision and hasn't pressed further."

Why not, we ask? Zappa claims that to attempt the tour without a London gig is unsound. Herb Cohen claims that the cost of keeping the 21-piece entourage – including seven and half tons of hired ELP pa (costing them around £18,000 for the European tour) on the road for a day is more than the estimated gross from, say, the Birmingham concert.

So they decided to blow it all out.


WELL, ALRIGHT, someone has to make a stand on such despotism on the part of the hall operators could become the norm; witness, too, the events at Windsor. Perhaps they're both indications of a hardening climate – and Zappa is, it is estimated, about to lose a net figure of 35,000 dollars.

Cohen denies that Frank's motive may be the result of sour grapes – or propaganda at the expense of those looking forward to the gigs in the provinces.

"No, I'm ready to play," he says, "and I didn't cancel the date. We're the ones ... where do we benefit? All that happens now is that I have six empty dates in the middle of the tour. If I was looking for propaganda out of this thing it would been very easy for me to pull the English dates at the end – cancel it and get the publicity. You gotta be out of your mind to cancel six dates in the middle of a tour ..."

Apparently it wasn't only Bannister trying on Zappa's behalf. Also involved were Danny O'Donovan's office, Barry Dickens and Arthur Howes.

So why not play extra dates in the provinces [...]?

"Because you can't add that many more days. You might be able to play one more date in the provinces but that won't cover it. It would mean bringing them over from Scandinavia ... and when you can play for 10,000 at Wembley and maybe 3,000 in the province – at lower pegged ticket prices, too – then you won't be making money. You won't even be making expenses,"

Yeah. But wouldn't you lose more money by cancelling the whole UK tour than by coming here and playing those remaining days?

"Hopefully we'll be able to fill in those dates somewhere else. If we can't I'd say that it'll be hard to tell.

"Ya know, in the US you have a permit from the State to run a public premise and if you have that permit it means you can't discriminate against anybody coming into that hall either as an audience or as a performer, which is a thing called – uh – 'Free Speech' – which we got from England ..."

Re-enter Frank.

"There's only one more chance. Since the original Albert Hall ban we have invited Ms. Herrod to concerts so that she could see the sort of things we actually do perform onstage, because I don't think she's ever seen or heard us. So I sent her an invitation and she didn't show.

"I would like to announce at this time that I will pay for Ms. Herrod to fly anywhere in Europe for any length of time to attend any of the concerts. I will even take her on the whole tour, myself, personally, just to show what a nice clean wholesome group we are – and I guarantee she'd have the best time of her life ..."


MS. HERROD was "out for the afternoon" when THRILLS called. A spokesman in lieu, the Albert Hall's General Manager, said, "Ms. Herrod did receive an invitation, yes – but if we're talking about freedom then we have the freedom to decide who we want to use the hall, and who not."

Did he not consider, perhaps, that in the three years since the original ban Zappa's stage act had changed radically? Did he not feel that he owed it to Zappa to take a look at what he was doing now?

"Perhaps ... but then letting him appear is out of the question until the legal proceedings are decided upon."

In passing, it might be worth ruminating upon the fact that Alice Cooper once considered it worthwhile to fly in just to play Glasgow.