The Truth – The Whole Truth – And Nothing But The Cheeseburger
Michael Gray reports from the bar
Let It Rock, June 1975
Truth is stranger than rock-opera filmscripts. You probably thought the golden days of desiccated manic magistrates gaoling Rolling Stones, and judges incongruously poking their way through OZ and IT obscenity trials were long since over. The recent Zappa case says different. He was suing the Royal Albert Hall for banning his 200 Motels promotion concert four years back – when he stood in the witness box, you'd have thought he was on trial for obscenity. Smelling strongly of deja vu, the following is an accurate transcript of part of what took place in Court No. 7, The Law Courts, The Strand, April 1975:
Act One: Tuesday Afternoon April 15th:
FZ: Do you know what a score is?
QC: I know what a score is but you must assume we know almost nothing.
FZ: It's the musical equivalent of a recipe. It lists all the ingredients.
QC: Er, thank you ... And what are social games?
FZ: Social games are a sophisticated social charade (pron. charaid) ...
Judge: ... Charade! (pron. Charard).
QC: ... Would you not say that any young woman who seeks to contact a member of a rock and roll group in order to procure sexual intercourse – that such a young woman is in a very sorry state?
FZ: Er, no. I would not.
QC: I don't think you can have heard the question. I will repeat it ...
Act Two: Wednesday Morning April 16th:
QC: Now. 'Lonesome Cowboy Bert'(sic). This cowboy, Bert, is saying that he wants to have sexual intercourse with a waitress. Is it not? (Long wrangle about original and amended versions of the lyrics. FZ finally concedes that such might possibly be a summary of Lonesome Cowboy Bert's intention. QC mutters "It's like extracting teeth" under his breath. FZ explains that the song illustrates Bert's character, which is not the same as approving of it, and that the phrase 'You can sit on my face' was taken from the actual bar-room graffiti seen in the sort of bar a Lonesome Cowboy Bert would frequent.
Judge: Did he say 'perfidy'?
QC: No, 'graffiti', m'lud.
QC: Now. 'Would You Go All The Way'. That means having sex, does it not?
FZ: It is an expression that was used in America in the 1950s to mean having sex. It is an archaic expression, intended for laughs.
QC: Well whatever its intention, that's what it means. Now, m'lud, I turn to 'She's Painting Her Face' . . . (reads through the lyric aloud, finding double-entendres everywhere, and even reading the line "to break her pants in" as "to break her parts in". Instead of apologising, retorts that "Once one starts reading this kind of script, one finds oneself making these mistakes.") ... Now this next song ...
FZ: It's about unhappiness.
QC: Hm, well be that as it may, do you not consider it objectionable for boys and girls of fourteen to hear this song?
FZ: That could be problematical ... Your attempt is to direct all my lyrics into a sexual meaning, which is neither fair nor accurate.
QC: What does 'pussy' mean? The pubic hair surrounding female private parts?
FZ: In the part of America that I come from, it means the private parts themselves ...
(QC then asks about the two newts in the nightclub in another song:)
QC: Are you sure that "newts" just means newts? That there is nothing at all suggestive about that?
FZ: Anyone who is disturbed by the idea of newts in a nightclub is potentially dangerous.
Act Three: Wednesday Afternoon April 16th
QC: What age group did the Mothers of Invention aim at in 1971?
FZ: I write my music for anyone of any age; but people in a younger age bracket are more disposed to buying albums and concert tickets.
QC: Sir Louis Gluckstein of the Royal Albert Hall, a man of considerable eminence, has said that you write "filth for filth's sake". What is your response to that?
FZ: My only response to that is that if I were in his position, I would not make an irrational statement like that.