It was January of 1968. I had been on the boat only three days or so when this boot from Louisiana comes on board. I’m mostly listening to The Doors and The Byrds. He turns me on to Cream, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. The music is too weirdly sarcastic to really wrap my head around, but I like the irreverent snarkasm, and keep listening. (Though “snarkiness” was of course not a term in use in those days.)
We’re Only In It For The Money and Lumpy Gravy had been released a few months by the time we sailed out of the war zone and found them at the Guam PX.
But it wasn’t until I had survived the entire Vietnam ordeal and was safely enrolled in a state college back in the CONUS* that Zappa’s film, 200 Motels came out, and fucked with everyone’s head. It was shot with something called video tape instead of film, and there were wild acid-like trails all through the movie, which literally blurred the experience of acid with movie art. The music was, as usual, avant garde in the extreme, and it took many months for it to seep into my synapses in any facile way.
But. it. did. It found its way into a painting, with Frank’s Fu Manchu peering through the outstretched arms of the white-gloved dancers from Janet’s Big Dance Number. Four by five feet of music hipa-tude in graphic airbrushed oil. Unfortunately, those were the starving artist days of ’72, when the fabulous $175.00 a month from the G.I. Bill didn’t quite pay for nothin’. The painting went on the block before I thought to photograph it, and it became rent money.
Now there’s the Google, of course. So when I finally got around to looking for the reference pictures of that painting, it was a stroke of luck to find the very picture out there in cyberspace. This is a work in progress that uses a semblance of those dancers:
200 MOTELS was a visual orgy of musical mayhem, as the original poster up top conveys. From the hard driving energy of Mystery Roach to the sardonic Lonesome Cowboy Burt, to the provocative squats of Shove It Right In and the maudlin snark of Strictly Genteel; 200 MOTELS became a personal turning point of creative ejaculation right in the face of, well. . . something.
Next: Suzy Creamcheese, Oh baby now what’s got into ya?
*CONUS: Continental United States