Howard Kaylan on his new book “Shell Shocked” and his role in Frank Zappa’s ‘200 Motels’ receiving LA Orchestral World Premiere

by Karen A. Brown  Follow @IndieStardust 

I spoke with the ever brilliant, spontaneously unrestrained Howard Kaylan, to get his take as Frank Zappa’s ‘200 Motels’ Gets Orchestral World Premiere at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Also to grab a bit on his new book “Shell Shocked: My Life with the Turtles, Flo and Eddie, and Frank Zappa, etc.”

 When I asked Howard to share with me a little about his new book, “Shell Shocked”, his warmth and humor came right through as he replied,“Too many wives should be the title.” He said, “I name names. I’m not afraid. This is the whole ugly mess, but its got laughs and pathos too. Waiting for Spielberg’s call.”

An undeniable living legend of pop music culture Howard Kaylan’s journey has been one of musical history. “Shell Shocked” is a MUST READ! I am sure I’m not the only one looking forward to a possible future documentary.  (click on the photo left to order.)

Brown: As you think back to the time during the filming “200 Motels”, does any specific story stand out in your mind that you’d like to share?

Kaylan: The coolest part of the saga was Jeff Simmons quitting the band cuz he refused to say theirs in the script that Frank had recorded him saying. Between Wilfred Brimley and Noel Redding, we couldn’t find a replacement til Ringo’s chauffeur walked in and got the role.

Brown:  What was a typical day on the set like?

Kaylan: A typical day way early, wake and bake, and extremely British at Pinewood Studios. Roget Moore hit on me. Lots of tea and Moon’s drugs.

kaylanzappaBrown: If there is one thing you would like the world to remember about Frank Zappa, what would it be?

Kaylan: The world should remember F.Z. as a kind and nurturing man. He was with me–very parental and protective. The only actual genius I’ve ever known. His composing early on, but I hope his guitar virtuosity is remembered. He was the best there ever was.

Follow @HowardKaylan on Twitter

howardkaylanThe description of “Shell Shocked”, reads: “If Howard Kaylan had sung only one song, the Turtles’ 1967 No. 1 smash hit “”Happy Together,”” his place in rock-and-roll history would still be secure. But that recording, named in 1999 by BMI as one of the top 50 songs of the 20th century, with over five million radio plays, is only the tip of a rather eye-opening iceberg. For nearly five decades, Howard Kaylan has been a player in the rock-and-roll revolution. In addition to his years with the Turtles, Kaylan was a core member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention and the dynamic duo Flo & Eddie, and part of glam rock history with Marc Bolan and T. Rex. He’s also given street cred and harmonies to everyone from John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Alice Cooper to the Ramones and Duran Duran, to name just a few. Howard Kaylan’s life has been a dangerous ride that he is only too happy to report on, naming names and shedding shocking tales of sex, drugs and creative excess. Shell Shocked will stand alone as not only one of the best-told music-biz memoirs, but one with a truly candid and unmatchable story of rock-and-roll insanity and success from a man who glories in it all.”

The Turtles – Happy Together – 1967


Frank Zappa created and stars in this demented tale of what happens to his band when touring leads them to 200 Motels (1971).

200 Motels: Synopsis
As Larry the Dwarf descends onto a television soundstage carrying a steaming genie lamp, the German announcer asks him why he is dressed as Frank Zappa, the leader of the music group The Mothers of Invention. Larry responds that Frank forces him to dress up in order to have sex with a nun playing the harp. The announcer, whose is actually an American named Rance Muhammitz, states that Larry’s statements are part of the score to 200 Motels , a movie that occurred as a fantasy while The Mothers of Invention were touring. As the band, including Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan, Ian Underwood, Aynsley Dunbar and George Duke, plays in concert, Muhammitz continues that the film addresses the ways in which “touring will make you crazy.” The band stops in the town of Centerville, whose motto is “A real nice place to bring your kids up,” consisting mainly of a boutique, a bar called Redneck Eats, the concert hall and a motel just like the hundreds of others in which they have stayed. As the band recovers from their show, Muhammitz appears and explains that the film’s conceptual framework will be nonsensical. The band members realize that Frank is always listening to them, and attempt to act naturally so he cannot tell that they know he is recording them. While band member Cowboy Burtram cares only about the money they will earn for their roles in the film, another entourage member suggests that the musicians form a separate band and split from Zappa, who at thirty is too old for rock and roll. As Muhammitz, accompanied by a female reporter, talks to the band, Mark and Howard enter Centerville, watched and judged by two groupies, Lucy and Janet. In the bar, Cowboy Burtram sings to patrons wearing hardhats and pig masks. Later, Cowboy Burtram questions whether or not Muhammitz is the devil. Zappa states that the musician, as the consummate outsider, still has actual physical needs, and introduces an experimental reorientation facility designed to retrain useless old musicians. While some will enter the military and some learn shorthand, others will disappear on a special train. Back in the motel, Zappa feverishly writes a symphony. In his mind, the orchestra sings about soup and getting “hot and horny,” after which the nun attempts to overdose. Meanwhile, Jeff, a former band member, takes drugs in a motel room and subsequently decides he is wasting his life and talent on Zappa’s “comedy music.” He then rolls the rancid bathroom rug into a cigarette and smokes it, after which he hallucinates images of alcohol, the devil, motel rooms and the other band members. The nun, afraid she is dying, is helped by Janet and Lucy, who then prepare to go out to what they call the “fake nightclub.” As Janet performs a preparatory ritual involving squats, the band members also prepare for the evening, sprucing themselves up in the hope of finding a woman with whom to spend the night. Leaving their individual starting gates, much like at a race track, the men hurdle themselves into the club and quickly devolve into an orgy. After the nightclub is closed, one of the band members creates a potion and feeds it to another musician, who returns to his hotel room to hallucinate. Muhammitz returns to announce the end of the movie, as all of the characters gather on one stage to sing and sermonize.

Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention live at Fillmore East, NY 1970-11-13
Frank Zappa, Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan, Jeff Simmons, Ian Underwood, George Duke, Aynsley Dunbar

And for good measure, You have to listen to this as well. Howard Kaylan has had an incredible career!
These are the Original BANG A GONG -Backing Tracks with Marc Bolan, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman – 1971 

‎”One of the best recording sessions of my life. Yeah, we had fun. Can’t you tell? These rare tapes from the collection of producer, Tony Visconti, take me back to the foggy seventies. I loved Marc Bolan so much. Miss you, my dear friend.” Howard Kaylan

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