All the Toys Are Broken

This is an English translation of an article from the German newspaper Der Abend, Thursday October 17, 1968. It was used (in German) on the back cover of the Mothermania compilation LP. This translation is by Konrad Steiner, and was posted to on Novemeber 22 1996 [nostalgic internet message header :)]. Footnotes and HTML formatting added.

Spectacle and Ruckus: "Mothers of Invention" at the Sportpalast

It was a complete misunderstanding, last night at the Sportpalast: America's most radical and engaged underground group, The Mothers of Invention, saw themselves pressed into the role of "Mothers of Reaction", which they actually had intended for the audience.

A radical force of superior strength, colorfully thrown together from leftists, rockers and hooligans drove them from the stage like reactionary boogie men. Frank Zappa's total music theater was brought down by the demands of those who wouldn't buy his message.

It began harmoniously enough. They laughed at Roy Estrada's MGM-Lion roar ("The voice of the President of the United States"). They cheered the song about the "Plastic People," watched with pleasure while a teddy bear was "sexually aroused" with the arm of a little plastic doll. Frank Zappa's blue overalls made you expect some action.

But the underground leader just shook his black lion's mane, plucked the strings circumspectly - now playing little Hänsel and now the wicked witch. And the wicked rhymes came nice and cute out of the speakers - poetry on such unpoetic topics as war and racism.

The horns still resounded in the hall like Hertha [1]: rousing. But secretly Zappa's enemies had already sounded their attack.

The first shot, something pale green, whizzed by at around 8:40 PM. Unperturbed the Mothers pulled their props out of the magic chest, a hatbox, and symbolically play acted a little game of toy breaking.

Then the first rotten? egg burst onto Zappa's yellow guitar. The Head Mother said, "You people are acting like pigs!" The battle lines were drawn: "Evolution vs. Revolution."

12 minutes before 9 the stage fences were in tatters. The "evolution" submitted and left the stage. Helpless from all quarters. The Mothers manager Barber [sic] only outwardly the picture of calm, moaned, "No, no - this has never happened to us before."

The "revolution" took the stage in a surprise attack, set off cherry bombs, plundered Zappa's hatbox, and generally messed up the equipment. A little success for the opposition: a Greenager [2] could be "disarmed" with 50 brown eggs.

Zappa scolded: "We came here as musicians and not to hear your drunken slogans." And: "The situation in Berlin must be pretty desparate for you to act this way." And: "You're acting like Americans!" [3]

Promoter Rau tried unsuccessfully to throw himself between the factions. "Let's talk about it, friends," he beseeched, hoarse from all these kind words.

But there was nothing more to be done. The police, who had been holding back discretely up til then, gave friend and foe 10 minutes to clear the battle zone. The exodus proceeded without incident.

Frank Zappa meditated: "It was a very enlightening experience."

Helmut Kopetzky [translated by Konrad Steiner]


[1] Some discussion:

KONRAD: "Hertha" - Some kind of literary reference by a Goethe-wannabe rock writer?

KRISTIAN KIER: "Hertha" is a female name, but not in common use anymore ... Who really wants to name his daughter "Hertha" nowadays? But then: "Hertha" was (or still is, I don't know) a brand name of a sausage producer. Maybe they had a commercial on TV or radio with horn music included? I can't say, I was 4 years old in 1968 ...

FRANK BENSEN: If i recall correctly, "Hertha BSC" ("Hertha" for short), is/was also the name of a then-popular German soccer team ...  makes sense to me in reference to those (presumably compressed-air-powered) horns sounded by members of the audience (you can't do that in concert halls anymore).

KRISTIAN KIER: Hey, that's it! Herta BSC Berlin! Must be the reference.]

[2] "Green-teenager", referring to Frank Zappa as a radical young person - Konrad.

[3] From Kristian Kier:

I recently went to our library and found a book about the Sportpalast in Berlin. The book is a chronicle about the Sportpalast, and includes a list of all events ever held there. The Mothers' concert is included, too, along with the article. The article as it appears on the back of Mothermania seems to be shortened a little bit - there's an additional sentence after "You're acting like Americans":

Und die Band hämmerte als Antwort auf lädierten Instrumenten das Ho-ho-Ho-chi-Minh der Bühnenbesatzer, daß es wie der Marschrhythmus einer Nazikolonne klang.

Which one can translate to:

And in reply the band hammered on damaged instruments the Ho-Ho-Ho-Chi-Minh of the members of stage-occupation forces, which sounded like the marching rhythm of a Nazi convoy.

The article reprinted in the chronicle book is edited, too. Some parts of the article on the back of Mothermania weren't included here, so maybe the original article is much longer than expected.


home - vinyl vs CDs - weirdo discography - bootlegs - misc - hot lynx - e-mail us at zappa dot patio at gmail dot com 2006-04-22 20:02

Search WWW Search all of

DISCLAIMER: people quoted may not share webmaster's opinions (on James Brown); information culled from many sources with no guarantees; site may look bad in other than latest Internet Explorer for Windows (I wish I were skilled enough to change this last one).