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Frank Zappa 200 Motels album cover
3.06 | 217 ratings | 14 reviews | 13% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Semi-Fraudulent/Direct-From-Hollywood Overture (1:59)
2. Mystery Roach (2:32)
3. Dance Of The Rock & Roll Interviewers (0:48)
4. This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich (prologue) (0:55)
5. Tuna Fish Promenade (2:29)
6. Dance Of The Just Plain Folks (4:40)
7. This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Sandwich (reprise) (0:58)
8. The Sealed Tuna Bolero (1:40)
9. Lonesome Cowboy Burt (3:59)
10. Touring Can Make You Crazy (2:52)
11. Would You Like A Snack? (1:23)
12. Redneck Eats (3:02)
13. Centerville (2:31)
14. She Painted Up Her Face (1:41)
15. Janet's Big Dance Number (1:18)
16. Half A Dozen Provocative Squats (1:57)
17. Mysterioso (0:48)
18. Shove It Right In (2:32)
19. Lucy's Seduction of A Bored Violinist & Postlude (4:01)

Total time 42:05

1. I'm Stealing The Towels (2:14)
2. Dental Hygiene Dilemma (5:11)
3. Does This Kind of Life Look Interesting To You? (2:59)
4. Daddy, Daddy, Daddy (3:11)
5. Penis Dimension (4:37)
6. What Will This Evening Bring Me This Morning (3:32)
7. A Nun Suit Painted On Some Old Boxes (1:08)
8. Magic Fingers (3:53)
9. Motorhead's Midnight Ranch (1:28)
10. Dew On The Newts We Got (1:09)
11. The Lad Searches The Night For His Newts (0:41)
12. The Girl Wants To Fix Him Some Broth (1:10)
13. The Girl's Dream (0:54)
14. Little Green Scratchy Sweaters & Courduroy Ponce (1:00)
15. Strictly Genteel (the finale) (11:10)

Total time 44:17

Bonus Tracks on 1997 Rykodisc remaster:
1. "Coming Soon!..." (0:55) *
2. "The Wide Screen Erupts..." (0:57) *
3. "Coming Soon!..." (0:31) *
4. "Frank Zappa's 200 Motels..." (0:13) *
5. Magic Fingers (Single Edit) (2:58)
6. Original Theatrical Trailer (Video)

* Radio promo spots for the Film

Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa / guitar, bass, arrangements & orchestrations, producer

Mothers of Invention:
- Mark Volman / vocals
- Howard Kaylan / vocals
- Jimmy Carl Black / vocals (9)
- Jim Pons / voice ("Bad Conscience" )
- Ian Underwood / keyboards & winds
- George Duke / keyboards & trombone
- Martin Lickert / bass
- Aynsley Dunbar / drums

- Ruth Underwood / orchestral percussion
- The Top Score Singers / chorus
- David Van Asch / choir conductor
- Phyllis Bryn-Julson / soprano vocals (2.15)
- The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
- Elgar Howarth / orchestra conductor
- Classical Guitar Ensemble
- John Williams / guitar ensemble supervising
- Theodore Bikel / narration

Releases information

Soundtrack from the musical film, written and directed by Frank Zappa & Tony Palmer

Artwork: David McMacken with Cal Schenkel (design)

2xLP United Artists Records ‎- UAS 9956 (1971, US)

2xCD Rykodisc ‎- RCD 10513/14 (1997, US) Remastered w/ 5 bonus tracks + 1 video

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy FRANK ZAPPA 200 Motels Music

200 Motels/Original Sound Track200 Motels/Original Sound Track
United Artists
$17.98 (used)
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Limited Collector's Edition
Zappa Records
The True Story of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels (Making Of) [VHS]The True Story of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels (Making Of) [VHS]
Mpi Media Group 1989
$39.95 (used)

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FRANK ZAPPA 200 Motels ratings distribution

(217 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(13%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(20%)
Good, but non-essential (39%)
Collectors/fans only (21%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

FRANK ZAPPA 200 Motels reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Very special! This is a double album of the classical rock opera style. The sound is not very good, but there is lot of brief songs. Sometimes very dissonant (orchestral arrangements and free jazz). There are also lot of interesting vocals and some catchy rhythmic bits. It often sounds like TV cartoons music! For the year, this record is absolutely outstanding! If they had the technology, it would be among the best ZAPPA's albums. If you like "Orchestral favorites", then maybe this album is for you!
Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Top notch soundtrack from Zappa and the Mothers. This time, he got an orchestra to help him out with the compositions. This double CD set features a lot of songs (most don't even reach the 2 minute mark), and it features the masterpiece Strictly Genteel. Many of the compositions feature recurring themes that are performed differently each time, such as This Town is a Sealed Tuna Sandwich (which then gets 3 more songs in the Tuna vein). The musicianship is spectacular and it molds perfectly with the orchestra. Flo and Eddie are delightful and offer a lot of comedy to this nonsensical soundtrack to a movie about life on the road. Overall, fans of Zappa should definitely check this out, but if you are just getting into Zappa, I'd try something else. However, if you can actually find this album in a store or on the internet for a reasonable price (I've seen it for as much as $50), you should definitely pick up this spectacle of sound. 3.5/5.
Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 200 Motels is one of Zappaīs least loved albums. Even many of his diehard fans consider 200 Motels to be a disaster. Allthough this is not my favorite Zappa album either, I find some of the material really enjoyable and let us not forget that there are many songs on 200 Motels that later became "hits" in Zappa live shows.

The album is mared by bad sound production and some of Zappaīs more generic orchestral arrangements, but on the positive side some of his best hard rock songs are also on this album.

This is recorded in the Flo & Eddie period of the band, and of course their special humour and vocal styles are omnipresent throughout the album. The lyrics are about life on the road as they were in this period of the band. Really silly lyrics, but with a great humour if you ask me. Iīll recite some of the lines:

"...and may God have mercy on the people of England, and the terrible food these people must eat" ( This is the start of the big finale: Strictly Genteel (the finale). The line is sung by the narrator Theodore Bikel). Strictly Genteel is a great symphonic song and a later live favorite for Zappa.

"This town, This tooown is a sealed Tuna Sandwich"

"Sheīs just 24 and she canīt get of, a sad but typical case. Last guy to do her got in and got soft, she blew it and laughed in his face yeaahh" ( this is just hilarious in my opinion)

I will also recommend listening to the lyrics in Lonesome Cowboy Burt as they are really funny too ( unless you are a redneck)

"Half A Dozen Provocative Squats, out of the shower she squizes her spots, brushes her teeth, shoots the deoderant spray up her twat"

The songs that I would recommend that you listen to from this album are:

Semi-Fraudulent/Direct-From-Hollywood Overture

Mystery Roach ( together with Magic Fingers the best hard rock song on this album. I just love it when they sing: "mr. mr. mr. mr. mr. mr. mr. Roach")

Tuna Fish Promenade

Lonesome Cowboy Burt ( a great country/ western comedy song)

She Painted Up Her Face

Half A Dozen Provocative Squats

Shove It Right In ( oooohhh yeaaahhh)

Dental Hygiene Dilemma ( works best when you see the cartoon in the movie)

Daddy, Daddy, Daddy ( great choir arrangement, especially note Jim Pondīs bas voice)

What Will This Evening Bring Me This Morning ( with the hilarious lyric line: "What will I say the next day to whatever I drag to my hotel tonite"). Not who but whatever, that is great humour if you ask me.

Magic Fingers ( a F...... great hard rock song, I just love it)

Strictly Genteel (the finale). This song is so beautiful, and in true Zappa style it is delievered in comedy style, with really funny lyrics. Just a great classic Zappa song.

The rest of the songs are more or less a waste of time, but with the above mentioned songs you still get about 50 minutes worth of music and with that said, this album is worth purchasing.

I will give the album 3 stars, as it is one of the weaker Zappa albums, and it contains lots of weak orchestral songs, that I skip every time ( which is really quite an achievement as I only own this album on LP), but on the other hand there are all of the above mentioned great songs on the album too, and they deserve praise.

Review by tarkus1980
1 stars The danger of living your artistic life in the realm of the avant-garde and the "shocking" is that, every so often, you put out something like this. This is an hour-and-a-half soundtrack to a film of the same name that Zappa masterminded, and it largely ends up as a prominent display of everything that could possibly go wrong with such a venture from that time period. In theory, it could actually be somewhat interesting to have an album where modern classical is intercut with tweaked rock songs and some skits, but it all ends up being done in the most offensive way possible, and I end up lamenting the hours upon hours I spent trying to convince myself that this could be anything close to good.

I'm not completely sure what this album says about Zappa's abilities in the realm of modern classical, whether he really had a legitimate talent in it or not (of course, BWS suggests he did in fact have talent in it, but I'm only considering this album for now in regards to this question). The reason for this is that the snippets of modern classical strewn all over this album (and not especially grouped together at any point) are for the most part so short and undeveloped that they're almost never given a chance to rise above the level of background noise. The main theme of the closing "Strictly Genteel" is kinda pretty and even majestic in its own way, but it's difficult for me to think of many other passages that could be described the same way on here. And guess what, when the avant- garde classical aspect is as dominant as it is here, it's hard for such non-descriptiveness to not have a negative effect on my perception of the album, even if the individual passages don't tend to be actively offensive or anything.

The songs and skits, however, do tend to be actively offensive. They're so awkwardly and pointlessly offensive and sexist (I mean, at least the later Joe's Garage showed some real creative spunk in its offensive sexism) that I really have trouble imagining the kind of person who would actually find the majority of this enjoyable. There are some neat bits, I'll admit; for instance, it's amusing when Jimmy Carl Black sings in the guise of a really crude, really redneckish cowboy. I also think the endlessly repeated chorus to "What Will This Evening Bring Me This Morning," with some well-placed falsetto vocals, is a terrific little piece of bubblegum parody, and the skit ("Dental Hygiene Dillemma") where a band member is being coaxed by the voices in his head to run away from Zappa's stupid comedy skit ensemble to do serious music is kind of a riot (especially since I too would be in favor of somebody running far away from the band that did this album). But the rest of the tracks are just so stupid and unenjoyable that I can't even be bothered to namecheck them.

Frankly, it's no wonder to me that this was out of print for so long. It's hilarious that this is one of the most expensive items in the Zappa catalogue, and were it not for the fact that I was able to get it for about $2 courtesy of a certain online Russian site, I would be pretty furious right now.

Review by Dobermensch
2 stars 200 Motels is a gargantuan waste of time and effort. What was Zappa's problem in the 70's? I loved 'We're Only in it for the Money' but he just seemed to have no quality control on his output after this. Far too many albums without consideration to posterity.

This is an unlistenable dirge that is supposed to sound all artistic and swanky with lots of orchestral sounds utilised in an artistic manner. There's nothing catchy or memorable in this sprawling 2 disc set which is an ordeal to listen to at just over an hour and a half.

It's definitely not the avant garde masterpiece it was intended to be. It's just plain dull with lots of annoying vocals, including Jimmy Carl Black 'The Indian of the Band'. The orchestral strings which so often enhance music, here just sound tuneless and pointless. Abomination is the word that springs to mind I'm afraid.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars Back in the mid-seventies, Verve Records inexplicably pulled all of the early Frank Zappa albums out of print. United Artists quickly followed suit with this, the soundtrack album for Zappa's controversial movie. For, this made things difficult. This was the same time I was trying to buy all the Zappa records I could find. "200 Motels" was the most elusive.

When I finally did locate a copy of the album, I didn't like it. The orchestral pieces were badly recorded, and this, the Flo & Eddie version of the band was just not as tight as any other Mothers lineup. But in the years since, I have come to love much of this album.

The orchestral tracks have some great moments. The Sealed Tuna Sandwich theme is wonderful. As is the often played Strictly Genteel that ends the album. And many of the other incidental pieces throughout the album show Zappa's fondness for quoting Stravinsky and Varese, among other composers. Dispite the recording flaws, even on the CD version, these tracks are great.

The other songs, if you can get past all of the penis jokes, have some fine moments, too. Jimmy Carl Black just about steals the album on Lonesome Cowboy Burt, a sendup of country music, that still accurately portrays the denizens of bars in the south. Another great song is Magic Fingers (but I still prefer some of the later live versions of this).

The radio ads tacked on to the end of the CD don't add much to the album, but the bulk of this is worth owning.

Review by Warthur
1 stars An enormous muddle, just like the film it's a soundtrack for, the 200 Motels soundtrack combines some very challenging orchestral work with spoken word parts from the film and more conventional songs - many of which are pretty inferior stuff, as far as Zappa's back catalogue is concerned.

The orchestral experiments are interesting but difficult to get into, not least because Zappa's intent of parodying overblown Hollywood orchestral scores of the 1950s and 1960s lead him to produce music which... sounds an awful lot like overblown Hollywood orchestral scores of that era, except with some avant-garde bits added. Those interested in Zappa's orchestral compositions have a wealth of releases to choose from - The Yellow Shark and the related Everything Is Healing Nicely, Orchestral Favorites, Boulez Conducts Zappa, or even Lumpy Gravy - all of which are not only more interesting than the material presented here and showcase a better standard of performance, but are also more focused on the orchestral material so you don't get the Mystery Roach or Lonesome Cowboy Burt bursting in just as you're getting used to it.

As for the non-orchestral songs, well, they're decidedly a mixed bag. Lonesome Cowboy Burt is a straight up country parody with few of the experimental stylings which most users of this site probably look to Zappa to provide, Mystery Roach is OK but not much more than OK, and the other material just isn't especially memorable. And the package as a whole sprawls so much that listening to the whole thing becomes a chore. (It takes a lot to make Flo and Eddie's voices gratingly, eye-wateringly annoying, but their overuse in this album accomplishes it with gusto.)

In fact, this must be the most disappointing album Zappa released at this point in his career - at least Cruising With Ruben and the Jets was a competent and sincere tribute to doo-wop. Not so much "Strictly Genteel" as strictly for the Zappa collector who absolutely has to own everything the man produced, and there are many hardcore Zappa fans who will freely admit that this one is a clunker. There might be 200 Motels here but they're all one-star dives.

Review by HolyMoly
4 stars Soundtrack album for the Mothers of Invention movie of the same name. One of the strangest low-budget weirdo films I've ever seen. Objectively speaking, the film is a piece of crap. It jumps around various subplots which are never explained and never developed. Ringo Starr and Keith Moon have prominent roles in it, and they provide some of the film's funniest moments. Personally, I love the movie a lot. But I certainly can't expect many other people to like it. You'd need to be very sympathetic to the cause to get through it. In any case, this review isn't about the movie.

The music, however, is indubitably excellent. Zappa had been composing orchestral music for several years in preparation for this project, and it's fantastic. There are a few rock band numbers which are extremely simplistic by Zappa standards; in part to offset the seriousness of the orchestral music, and in part to be playable by Martin Lickert, Ringo's chauffeur, who had to step in at the 11th hour as the band's bass player because Jeff Simmons quit the group mid-production, and he wasn't much of a bassist. He turned out to be a fine actor, though, playing the (big) part of Jeff in the movie.

So what does it sound like? The majority of the tracks are played by a symphony orchestra, sometimes with sung and spoken interjections by characters in the movie. All of it strongly reflects Zappa's affinity for composers such as Varese, Messaien, and Stravinsky - melodic, but refusing to adhere to any "classical" notions of orchestral music. A handful of the songs are performed as rock numbers by the Mothers of Invention, Zappa's band. Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (ex-Turtles) perform dual lead vocals that are kind of an acquired taste, encouraged as they were to let their freaky sides show. They are the dominant sounds in the mix, leaving the accompaniment sometimes lost in the murkiness of the recording (the music was performed live in the film studio, along with the orchestral parts, making this one of the least-labored Zappa productions in terms of sound quality).

But regardless of the technical shortcomings, the songs are crazy, well-designed, funny, and sometimes even quite touching. "Mystery Roach" acts as a boogie-rock show opener, total nonsense that nonetheless encapsulates the film's theme of "going crazy" perfectly. The suite of songs beginning with "She Painted Up Her Face" is a complex series of vignettes, a disarmingly sensitive portrait of a groupie preparing herself to go out and have a good time. "Daddy Daddy Daddy" is a simply adorable little piece of 50s R&B. And "Magic Fingers" is the big guitar feature you've been waiting for - too bad it only shows up on side four!

The soundtrack's fantastic, as I said, but it's also one of the worst-sounding Zappa albums, as it was pretty much recorded live in the film studio, in what sounds like a large, echoey room (I always thought it sounded like an airplane hangar). If you can get past that, and get past the sometimes sophomoric humor of the rock band pieces (topics du jour: getting high, getting laid, getting VD, and male insecurity in general), then there's plenty to enjoy. After many years and dozens of Zappa albums in my collection, this is still one of the albums I return to most often. I proudly award this album a 4/5.

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5 stars After many long hours of listening to various Zappa album in my musical collection, as well as taking a gander at a few of the "deeper" avant-garde albums, this was a masterpiece the first time I listened to it. No doubt this is not for those who don't appreciate the wackier sounds of Frank Za ... (read more)

Report this review (#306447) | Posted by MasterShake | Sunday, October 24, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Like most Zappa albums, you must listen to it many times before fully assimilating the content. But when you do, a real gem is revealed. This albums contains a lot of material including many wonderful melodies and very satirical/comic songs. I would recommend it to every Zappa fan or any Rio/Avan ... (read more)

Report this review (#162145) | Posted by Astrodomine | Monday, February 18, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 200 Motels is probably the hardest Zappa album to find. It was never released on CD before 1997, and even that single CD release is out of print since 2002, so you have to be very lucky to find this. But if you do, trust me, it's a very good album. I like it because it features all side of Zappa's ... (read more)

Report this review (#158574) | Posted by JethroZappa | Monday, January 14, 2008 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Ahhh yes one of oh so many bad Zappa albums. Frank clearly didn't care if his albums were good or not, he just loved releasing albums and he released them as fast as he could record them. This of course means that he has a huge catalogue of rubbish albums just like this one. This time he only ... (read more)

Report this review (#62288) | Posted by | Thursday, December 29, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The soundtrack for Frank Zappa's film 200 Motels features Zappa's work with an orchestra, and the Chunga's Revenge. As far as composition, Zappa getting an orchestra is great, and there are plenty of songs here. Some songs are repeated differently however. Anyways, the concept of life on the road ... (read more)

Report this review (#38716) | Posted by | Wednesday, July 6, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This one takes some time to get into because of the classical/rock mix, but in the end it's all well done. Some of the classical bits are among his best music (listen to Mysterioso for some simple but effective use of dissonance, it's effect is extremely dramatic inbetween the Flo & Eddie song ... (read more)

Report this review (#30132) | Posted by Kaztor | Sunday, April 3, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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