Frank Zappa's rainbow incident - recollections

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Galeans, Jun 29, 2014.

  1. Galeans

    Galeans Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Italy
    As many of you surely know, Zappa had a pretty bad accident that night when he was thrown off the stage into the orchestra pit. He had a broken leg, a broken rib, a hole in the back of his head, a paralyzed arm and as a result of a damaged larynx, he had his voice permanently lowered.

    That night, the Mothers of Invention were:

    FZ: guitar, vocals
    Flo & Eddie (Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan): lead vocals
    Don Preston: keyboards, synth
    Ian Underwood: winds, keyboards
    Jim Pons: bass
    Aynsley Dunbar: drums

    The most recently released album was the soundtrack to "200 Motels", two months earlier. The show previous to this (Casino, Montreux, 4 December) is also famous because, to quote Deep Purple, "some stupid with a flaregun" shot the roof and caused a fire which burnt down the casino and all of the equipment. Frank wanted to go back to the US, but he let the band decide wether to continue or not. It was chosen to continue, so they bought a new equipment and decided to re-start the tour in London, 10th December, with two shows at the Rainbow Theatre. Shows in France, Belgium and UK were cancelled in the process.

    The show was also professionally recorded and an audience member managed to save the night into a not hi-fi sounding cassette tape (though intellegible). The setlist for that night was this:
    1. Zanti Serenade [partially released on "Playground Psychotics"]
    2. Peaches En Regalia
    3. Tears Began To Fall
    4. Shove it Right In
    5. The Sofa Suite [not performed in its enterely, released on "You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 1"]
    6. A Pound for a Brown [extracts released on "Playground Psychotics" as "Don't Eat There" and "Brixton Still Life"]
    7. Sleeping in a Jar [edited version released on "Playground Psychotics"]
    8. Wonderful Wino [released on "Playground Psychotics"]
    9. Sharleena [released on "Playground Psychotics"]
    10. Cruising for Burgers [released on "Playground Psychotics"]
    11. King Kong [parts released on "You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 3"]
    Musically, the show was a mixed bag. The first half was plagued by technical problems, which resulted in a lot of undesired feedback, but after a while, they figured out how to use the new equipment, so things went better. There were a lot of inspired moments, expecially on "A Pound for a Brown" and "King Kong". Frank spent some of his banter time telling the audience what happened during the last show. Before "King Kong", Zappa actually said that he was considering omitting this song from the setlist and ultimately decided against it (Kaylan, before the main theme: "Remember what happened the last time we played this? *manic laughter*"). The song went actually fairly well, with beautiful solos by Underwood, Dunbar and Zappa. Underwood and Zappa's solos (a very laid back one, with even what sounds like a "Big Swifty" prototype) can be found on "You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol.3". After playing the song, the show was over. Both the professional and the audience recording cut out during "King Kong", so what happened next has never been captured on tape. The band was returning on stage to do an encore, probably The Beatles' "I Want To Hold Your Hand", which was occasionally played in that tour, when, suddenly, unnoticed by anyone, a young person named Trevor Howell, who thought Frank was making "eyes" at his girlfriend, managed to climb on stage and to push Zappa into the orchestra pit. Everybody was stunned and they thought Frank was dead, because his body was in a strange position, his neck was on his shoulder and he had his eyed opened, even though he was unconscious. Kaylan remembers that manager Herbie Cohen managed to catch the Howell guy and to beat the crap out of him. Frank gained coscience while he was still on the pit (even though he didn't remember at all what happened) but he was given no anesthetic as the doctors thought he could have had a concussion, so he passed out again on his way to the hospital. Frank spent one year in a wheelchair and during this time he managed to release three albums: "Just Another Band From LA" (culled from the 7 August 1971 UCLA show), "Waka/Jawaka" and "The Grand Wazoo", two mostly instrumental albums featuring Dunbar, Underwood and Preston among others. The 1971 band's carreer was abrputly stopped, the rest of the shows cancelled and Pons and Flo & Eddie would never play with Frank again (even though, F&E rehearsed with him in 1987). Frank's tapes of the show were understandably left collecting dust for a long time, then, when he started to compile his archive releases, he released a large bunch of it. He even went as far as saying that, had the orchestra pit incident been recorded, it would have been included in the YCDTOSA serie. I am personally not sure whether I would like to hear it, as it would be quite disturbing.

    This was for those who weren't there and who didn't know what happened. Now a question for those who were there during the show: what is your recollection of the events?

    People who were planning to go to the late show or one of the subsequent cancelled show can post their memories as well.
     
  2. SM7609

    SM7609 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Waterbury, CT, USA
    I'd love to see this thread go somewhere. One of the more fascinating events in Zappa history. I once asked FZ about the tape he made of this show, and he confirmed that it ran out after "King Kong" (I'm pretty sure he actually said "during" but this is about 22 years ago, so my memory could be faulty). Great idea for a thread, Sir Galeans ( a fellow Zappateer!):D
     
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  3. pbuzby

    pbuzby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    One other note is that they do an abbreviated version of "Sofa Suite," where as I recall Zappa comments beforehand that it "wouldn't be wise" to do the entire piece. Probably referring to the faulty equipment, but it may have prompted a comment Kaylan or Volman made later, that Zappa was superstitious and believed the satirical talk about God led to Zappa's misfortunes during this tour.
     
  4. A matter of detail here about spending "a year in a wheelchair". I know it is well documented that Zappa was bound to a wheelchair up to and including some recording sessions of 1972. But did he actually toured in one in the fall of '72 ("Grand-" and "Small Wazoo" tours)?
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2014
  5. AZRunner

    AZRunner Forum Resident

    Location:
    SW FL
    Did Howell ever do jail time for his assault? At least he got the crap beaten out of him, but that doesn't seem like enough.
     
  6. pbuzby

    pbuzby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    Here are photos from some of the Petit Wazoo shows showing Zappa standing up. There are also some similar photos from September 72.

    http://members.shaw.ca/fz-pomd2/pics/pwpics.html
     
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  7. pbuzby

    pbuzby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    I seem to remember there was a recent interview with Howell linked on one of the Zappa internet discussion groups, but I'm not eager to find it.

    (Edit: found it, a post on alt-fan-frank-zappa claiming Howell later became a Buddhist and regretted his actions towards Zappa, but without mention of how the poster found the information.)
     
  8. Galeans

    Galeans Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Italy
    "Trevor Howell laid tarmack on roads around London for thirty years,1975-2005. On the night of the incident Trevor had smoked cannibus and taken LSD. He was with his girlfriend and he felt that Frank had made 'sexual gestures' towards his girlfriend. Trevor was over 6'2 and 16 stone and he managed to bypass the security and onto the stage. He attacked Frank and pushed him into the pit. The security held Trevor behind the stage and he was kicked and beaten until the police arrived. He spent a year in prison. Trevor overcame his drug use and turned to Buddism, spending the later years of his life in Thailand and Asia, practising Buddism and forms of meditation. Trevor had a good heart and was a kind and giving person. He always regreted his actions that night and would have changed the outcome in hindsight. He learned from the negativity he created and became a positive person because of it"

    I can't say if this is true information or a tongue in cheek post. To think about it, I don't think his photo was ever shown anywhere, not even at the time.
     
  9. edenofflowers

    edenofflowers Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    I am, in fact, Trevor Howell and I still travel the world attempting to throw musicians off stage.
    Some refer to it as a hobby but I prefer to see it as a calling.
    The reason I threw Frankie off stage is simple - I was high and tripping, as I still am every time I go to a gig in the hopes of crippling a musician.
     
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  10. pbuzby

    pbuzby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    FWIW, in 20 years I don't think I've ever seen an internet post from someone who was at this show.

    There is a near miss in the book about Robert Wyatt Wrong Movements, where a fan reports not being able to get into the Zappa Rainbow Theatre show and instead seeing a gig the same night with Wyatt and Elton Dean.

    The guitar solo in "King Kong" is a very nice one, and eerily the audience recording and the official release on YCDTOSA 3 cut off at almost exactly the same place.
     
  11. Galeans

    Galeans Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Italy
    I've only found one on Zappateers by user Wingedeelfingerling:

    "THIS it was my first ZAPPA concert and I can confirm that he did play I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND and was pushed off the stage during it I was sitting in row 9..."

    Yes, that's a huge bummer. I remember checking the audience tape out also because I was really looking forward to hear the complete "King Kong", only to be disappointed that, in fact, Frank's solo is only 4-5 seconds longer there before cutting out as well. I wonder how much "King Kong" was left on FZ's master reel after the edit point. I forgot to mention that Don Preston does a quite good solo on this version of the song, btw.

    By the way, one slight correction on my initial post: Frank did in fact perform with Flo&Eddie as a guest on one of their shows in 1976. F&E appeared with him on stage as guests both on 19 November 1976 (Cobo Hall, Detroit) and 29 September 1977 (Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto). It was only Jim Pons who, sadly, never played with Frank again. Pity, he was a quite good bass player, with a great singing voice and lots of sense of humour.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2014
  12. vince

    vince Stan Ricker's son-in-law

    In the Zappa book, "Mother", there a funny tale of how, after the incident, while in his wheelchair, Frank ran into 'old Suzy Creamcheese", Pamela Zarubica. They had not talked to each other for years, but, strangely, she was in a wheelchair too! The 'meeting' must've been something like a bad 'sit-com'.
     
  13. pbuzby

    pbuzby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    Pons was good although I'm not sure he could have cut it on bass in the 1972 or 73 Zappa bands.
     
  14. Galeans

    Galeans Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Italy
    Here's some recollections by the boys in the band:

    Howard Kaylan, excerpts from his book "Shell Shocked":

    "Again, it was the encore — something about that damned encore. We had finished our first set, which went amazingly well, considering the alien guitars and drums we were forced to use. The audience loved it and I did too. We had already taken our group bow and I was happily leaving the stage, feeling fulfilled and exonerated. As I reached the wings, I heard the audience suddenly stop applauding and gasp as one. There was a shocked silence in the Rainbow. I ran back to the stage, but I couldn’t see anybody. Band and roadies were standing on the apron at the edge of the platform and gazing down into the darkness of the orchestra pit below. I ran over to see what the lack of commotion was all about. It sure didn’t sound good.

    There, at the bottom of the pit, lay Frank Zappa. He was unconscious and silent, his twisted body fallen below in the shape of some anatomical swastika. His arms and legs were bent at bizarre angles and I couldn’t tell if he was breathing or not. Humans aren’t supposed to bend like that. There was no reason to believe that Frank Zappa was still alive.

    This had been a very deliberate act. It seems that an audience member named Trevor Howell, who was very, very high indeed either a) didn’t feel as if he had gotten his money’s worth or b), more likely, was responding to his girlfriend articulating her crush on Frank at the end of the concert. For whatever reason, this maniac jumped onto the stage just as Frank, his back to the audience, was placing his guitar in its stand. He pushed Frank in such a way that he first hit his head on the wall of the orchestra pit before falling to its bottom. We all thought Frank was dead. Howell tried to get away, but the audience restrained him and brought him to the front of the theater.

    Here, official accounts vary. But I was there, and I know. Before Howell was delivered to the local authorities, Herb Cohen personally beat the **** out of him. Newspaper stories through out the years have attributed this beating to angry roadies, but in fact, it was Cousin Herb who took control of an out-of-control situation. We were ushered out of the theater and back to the hotel before anyone with authority could tell us anything. Sure, why tell the band anyway?” "


    Jim Pons, interviewed by Steve Moore:

    "The next scheduled performance was even more devasting, and it turned our to be our last with the Mothers. Frank got pushed into the orchestra pit of the theatre we were playing in London. My recollection of that event is hazy probably because I still hadn't gotten over what had happened in Switzerland. It was so unreal. Like in a dream. I remember images of Frank lying there, our road managers holding onto, and screaming at the assailant, the feeling of stunned disbelief that everybody felt. I think I myself must have blacked out by then. I don't recall much of anything after that except visiting Frank in the hospital before we left to come home. Everyone was sad and quiet. Frank was hospitalized with severe injuries and we were told at the time that he may never be able to play again."

    I'll see if I can find more.
     
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  15. Skip Reynolds

    Skip Reynolds Legend In His Own Mind

    Location:
    Moscow, Idaho
    I could Google this but I'd rather ask human people. Weren't both of Frank's legs broken?
     
  16. davmar77

    davmar77 I'd rather be drummin'...

    Location:
    clifton park,ny
    the 1976 flo and eddie show with frank guesting was at the bottom line in nyc in early december of 1976 during the late show. at that time i was hanging out with flo and eddie when they came to the ny area and saw many shows as their guest. on other occasions at the bottom line i'd seen kiss and lou reed join them on stage and met both in the dressing room between shows. the night that zappa showed up it seems that flo and eddie didn't know he would be there. we were watching from the bar. most of the way through the late show, looking at into the audience, howard shaded his eyes from the spot light and said into his mike something to the effect of 'hey frank, what are you doing here?' he was sitting at one of the tables enjoying the show unnoticed until then. with that, he got up and walked across the long front tables onto the stage and grabbed a guitar. they did maybe 15 minutes or so and ended the set. i could not get back into the dressing rooms until frank and his party left. when i got back in, i caught up with howard. he'd been taking it easy since his voice was strained and they had an engagement in washington dc following this. after frank joined them, all bets were off and he blew out what was left of his voice. he told me they were cancelling those upcoming gigs.
     
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  17. geoffr

    geoffr Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I saw that band in the US a few times prior to the Europe trip (obviously) - they were fantastic.
     
  18. davmar77

    davmar77 I'd rather be drummin'...

    Location:
    clifton park,ny
    me too. fillmore east in june and carnegie hall in october.
     
  19. "one fractured leg" is what Zappa says himself, in his autobio.
     
  20. Skip Reynolds

    Skip Reynolds Legend In His Own Mind

    Location:
    Moscow, Idaho
    I guess he would know. Thanks.
     
  21. gd0

    gd0 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies

    Location:
    Golden Gate
    I find that hard to believe. I don't think god or any metaphysics were ever on Zappa's radar. This is one of those little nuggets that makes me take Kaylan – as much as I enjoy his music and writing – with a grain (OK, 10-lb block) of salt.

    One thing I didn't know before was that the bad guy absorbed a thorough beating. I was seriously pleased to read that. Sometimes blatant obvious violence calls for a swift response. Zappa died too young as it is.
     
  22. Chip TRG

    Chip TRG Forum Resident

    So did Frank fully recover or was he living with pain for the rest of his life?
     
  23. T'mershi Duween

    T'mershi Duween Forum Resident

    Location:
    Y'allywood
    He recovered, but his voice dropped an octave or two giving Frank that unmistakable, deep "commercial announcer" vocal sound.

    It also caused him to compose some of his greatest music during his recovery period.
     
  24. Galeans

    Galeans Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Italy
    Lucky guy: as I'm sure you know, the shows you have seen have all been represented in the official discography, the Carnegie shows in their enterely!

    He did recover, meaning that he could walk again, but didn't recover completely. Directly from his autobiography:

    "Eventually the cast came off and I was fitted with a prosthetic device, one of those things with metal joints and straps and a special shoe. Eventually my leg healed, but it came out a little crooked. One leg is slightly shorter than the other, the cause of many years of chronic back pain."

    This has been referenced in songs "Zomby Woof" ("My right foot's bigger than my other one is") and "Dancin' Fool" ("One of my legs is shorter than the other").
     

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