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Frank Zappa’s ’200 Motels’ to Make Full-Length Live Orchestral Debut

Frank Zappa
Evening Standard / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

More than 40 years after its initial release, Frank Zappa‘s ’200 Motels’ is scheduled to make its orchestral world premiere thanks to the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The L.A. Philharmonic will perform Zappa’s song suite on Oct. 23 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, coming full circle with a musical saga that started in 1970, when the Philharmonic bowed songs from the album at UCLA’s Royce Hall. The LP, which accompanied a film with the same name, incorporated a bewildering array of styles to tell the partially autobiographical tale of a band losing its mind on the road. While a fair number of critics (and Zappa fans) weren’t really sure what to make of it at the time, both the music and the film have acquired a cult audience over the years.

“I believe in my heart of hearts that someone on the board (of the Philharmonic) said it’s about time,” Frank’s widow Gail Zappa told Billboard. “This music was written before our children were even conceived and they have never had a chance to hear his music in a proper concert hall.”

Saying the songs’ arrangements have been refined for the orchestra, she pointed out that the upcoming ‘Motels’ revival underscores how far ahead of his time Zappa often was. “Musicians now are very familiar with the composers of their time, which I am glad about,” she said. “Frank wrote music that challenges your playing ability, and I think musicians embrace that.”

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