zappa: 200 motels
(1971, 2lp, usa, united artists)
|tony palmer's film of frank zappa's 200 motels
(2010, dvd, uk, tony palmer)
notes and comments
movie trivia: in-jokes, cameos, signatures
the role of jeff was originally intended for mothers bassist jeff simmons who quit the group just prior to filming. needing a replacement, frank zappa hired wilfred brambell. within a few days, brambell walked off the set in a rage and zappa had to replace him. during a crew meeting, zappa announced that he would give the part to the next person who walked into the room. martin lickert, who was ringo starr's chauffuer, was thus cast in the role upon returning from the limo with a pack of cigarettes for starr.
patrick neve (firstname.lastname@example.org)
frank and martin explain this event in the honker video, the true story of 200 motels. the dialogue from that movie was later used on the album playground psychotics, and is as follows:
25. a bunch of adventures
fz: from the point that jeff simmons quit the group we had a bunch of adventures trying to find somebody to replace him. not only for the bass parts in the music, but to play the role that he was supposed to play in the film... which is a pretty large part. and, uh... our first candidate for the role was wilfrid brambell, who played the grandfather in a hard day's night. so wilfrid came over, tried out for the part, everything was set, he rehearsed with us for about a week and then one day came to the studio here and completely freaked out... and said that he couldn't handle it anymore. so we went into the dressing room and sat around with the guys in the band and tried to figure out what we're gonna do 'bout replacing the replacement... and the first person that walked through the door was martin lickert.. who happened to be ringo's driver, and uh... everybody just turned and looked at him and we went ... "you!"
26. martin lickert's story
ml: i just went out to get some cigarettes for him one day and came back and
walked into the dressing room and there's frank and the rest of the mothers and,
uh... ringo, the other people... and i walked in the room and they all went,
"yeah!" and, "yeah
what?" you know, "would, would you like to try jeff's part?" you
know, so i just tried that, and it seemed to work okay.
ml: so frank said would... you can play... play bass... you can try play into the group as well.
fz: so he took the script and he read it and it sounded good and then just quite by accident we found out that he was a bass player and that he's good for the part, is, uh... quite professional on screen and as a bass player he's not astonishing but, uh... he can make the parts.
correspondence with martin!
i received e-mail from mr. lickert! what a most pleasant surprise. very little is known about this mysterious mother, so it was an honor to have him field a few questions about his 200 motels experience. (thank you, martin!!)
q: = patrick neve (email@example.com)
a: = anne spratling (firstname.lastname@example.org)
q: what was your experience prior to working with frank? apparantly chauffuerring, what about music? acting?
a: prior to working with frank, it really is a small novel, and as to after, we are talking a small library. however, in a few lines, i was taken by music in the early sixties, when i was 14/15, and decided to start a band. robert plant was the singer, chris wood from traffic played sax and flute, and from time to time, stan webb from a group called chicken shack played lead. as you will know, robert has gone on to much higher things, chris is dead, and i think that stan is still playing around the pub gigs in london. we played in a pub called the seven stars in stourbridge, in the west midlands, and used to get about £8 per night between us.
q: most of us know generally how you got the part. are those stories accurate? is there anything you'd like to add as to how you got the job?
a: my getting the part in 200 motels is pretty much as described, though i had gone to buy tissues for ringo (he had a permanent cold) as opposed to cigarettes. i used to jam with ringo in his studio at the top of his house when i was driving for him, and that is how he knew that i played bass. he mentioned this to frank at pinewood, though i have to say, my ability as any sort of guitarist has to be questioned.
q: what were the sessions like? (a very general question, please elaborate at will.)
a: what was the filming like? ask the bourbon bottle. my memory is clouded by my habits at the time, and i cannot now remember any specifics, save one evening at a hotel in windsor where we all stayed. lucy offerall had the hots for me, and i had gone to bed. my room in the hotel was on the second floor, and keith moon was in the room next to me. lucy persuaded keith to shin across the window-ledge, in the pouring rain, and break my window to allow keith into my room and to let her in. i woke next morning, covered in broken glass and lucy.
q: did you play any live gigs with the mothers?
a: i never played any live gigs with the mothers, and i suppose that is one reason that they are still held in such high regard. we were supposed to play the albert hall directly after the filming of 200 motels, but the gig was cancelled after the orchestra complained to the albert hall about the bad language. we got as far as the steps.
q: what were your overall impressions of frank as an employer? does anything stand out in your mind about his methodology, work ethic, etc.?
a: frank was wonderful. i don't think that i can add to that.
q: does anybody else in the cast or crew stand out as being interesting or remarkable to work with?
a: ian underwood helped me so much as far as learning what bits of music that i got right.
q: how was it when the movie was over? was there any intention of continuing with the mothers, or was it understood from the beginning as a temporary position?
a: i was supposed to go to the states with the mothers after the film, but i was ill, and that was the end.
q: is there anything you can add about your personal or professional life since then? you say you're a barrister in london, what other career or life moves have you made since then?
a: i went back to work for ringo, but it is never the same when one has handed in notice, and then i went to work for cbs as a promotion man. life since has included being a bookmaker, (do you have bookmakers who make the odds for horseracing?), and working in various boring jobs, till finally in 1986 i qualified as a barrister. i now spend my time prosecuting for h.m. customs and excise.
patrick neve (email@example.com)
thanks again, martin, for your insights and anecdotes. write back anytime!
Martin Lickert, a
barrister, died suddenly, only in his 50s. Once a bookie, then horse owner, and
a lover of Cheltenham, he came to the bar late, after being touched with his 15
minutes of fame. He was Ringo Starr's chauffeur, and played a prominent role in
the film 200 Motels, about Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Jeff
Simmons, the Mothers' bass player, had left the group and Zappa was unable to
find anyone to play him. In exasperation, he told his entourage the next person
to walk into the room would have the part. In walked Lickert, who had gone to
buy cigarettes for his boss, Ringo. He was hired, and performed adequately, but
became a better barrister than he was a bass player's stand-in.