The songs of this unreleased sci-fi musical from 1972 as it appears in Them Or Us (The Book) (the names of unreleased songs are only guesses based on the articles listed below, and also some hunchentootin' by Charles Ulrich):
Recently Zappa completed a musical play for the Broadway stage. Called "Hunchentoot," it involves an evil space girl, a giant spider, a religious con man, and a narrator. Renowned author William Burroughs (The Naked Lunch) expressed interest in playing the narrator of the show should it reach Broadway, and Taj Mahal read for the giant spider. However, Zappa has no one in mind for the role of the evil space girl. "I've looked and looked and looked," he complained with a touch of mischievous irony, "And it's such a difficult part to sing—besides which it's a comedy role—that it's hard to find somebody with a voice that can actually do the notes and still do the comedy stuff too. Actually, the only person who could probably do it with ease would be Barbra Streisand, but she's busy and she's having her hair done and so forth."
We got a call from Wally Nicita at Warner Brothers. [...] She was putting this together for Frank [Zappa]. She was a friend of Frank's. I think that was part of it, was he had a script. A very, very weird script. You'd expect nothing less. He was dying. He was not even a year away. And he knew he was dying, and he just wanted to have as much fun as he could in his last few months. Then Wally called us up and said, "Frank Zappa has this script and he has watched you guys and he thinks you're out of your gourds, and he'd like you to consider developing it into a movie." And I said, "Yeah, uh-huh, that's neat, that sounds really cool. Who are you again?" She said, "Wally Nicita from Warner Brothers." And I said, "Okay, tell you what. Why don't you have Frank call us." She sounded a little put out, and she said, "Well, I'll see what I can do." She hung up, and a half an hour later, over the PA I hear, "Kevin, Frank Zappa's on the phone for you."
[...] It truly blew me away. And he said, "I've got this script, and it's political and weird and I'd like you guys to consider doing it." Then he sent the script and he sent some cassettes of some music that he had in mind to do the score for the thing. The essential idea was wonderful. He wanted to completely do the soundtrack and the score first, and then lip synch the entire movie. It was going to sort of be The Queen of Outer Space—you know, the spider lives in a cave on the moon? Except told from the spider's point of view.
[...] Well, it was a lot of songs that he'd either released or was just doing on his beautiful synthesizer machine. At the time he was pretty sophisticated into sampling and sequencing before a lot of people were, so he had stacks and stacks and volumes with music and scores already written. And they were released because he had these contractual obligations. and albums came out like Sleep Dirt and Studio Tan. Then they had some of these orchestral things that he'd done, and they were just wonderful. Sort of splendid weird pageantry. This is what he had in mind. He had already written "Spider of Destiny," which was one of the songs on there. The spider becomes a sex slave of the queen of outer space, and that's part of the story. And it just got weirder and weirder and weirder from there. It would have been wonderful. He had actually talked to Terry Gilliam about doing it, too. That would have been quite a combination.
[...] It was a weird time, and the timing couldn't have been worse, because this is when Joel [Hodgson] was sort of going through the period of determining to leave the [Mystery Science Theater 3000] show. [...] I talked to Frank and asked him to give us a little time, here. We'd like to consider it, but it's nothing that we can move on right away. And he said, "Well, think about it, because I'd love you to do it," and that's when he sent the script and the tapes. We talked to Wally again, and she said, "If you can do it, this is the time to go, because Frank is not a healthy man." We really, sadly, had to sort of walk away from it because, at that time, we didn't know where we were going, much less trying to develop a script for Frank Zappa.
I don't know if you want this known or talked about, but there was a letter from Terry Gilliam being passed around on Friday night [it referred to a film script Zappa had written and showed to Gilliam].
Talk about being flattered!
Did you ever watch Monty Python or see Brazil?
Yes—Brazil's my favourite movie. [...] He's so funny it's hard to imagine he's an American.
What kind of project is it?
Well I wrote a screenplay and I was looking for someone to direct it. I've been working on it for years.
Zappa once approached Monty Python member Terry Gilliam about directing the film, but Gilliam suggested that the screenplay, already a series of crass, disconnected, purposefully politically-incorrect vignettes, would be a better fit for a television series.
At an in-store signing to promote his film adaptation of Hunter S Thompson's 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' , I asked Terry Gilliam whether he had any plans for FZ's 'Dwell' screenplay (Ben Watson's 'final interview' in 'Poodle Play' refers). He said he hadn't as he'd found it 'tawdry—better suited to the small screen'. This is a shame, but probably not that surprising to anyone who has read 'Them or Us'. [...]
I once auditioned for a science fiction opera Frank was writing called Hutchentoot and normally I can sing anything, but this time was difficult.
NMB: I also remember taking various women through some of the songs for the Hunchentoot project. [...] He had me sing the songs for these women, then we would do them together, then they would sing them on their own—and it was like "Next!" He was such a hard taskmaster.
[IB:] After conducting this interview, Nigey Lennon told me: "I remember Napi as a very nice guy. When I auditioned for Drakma, Queen of the Universe, I didn't have a lead sheet to work from so I had to basically do it by ear: a nightmare. Napoleon knew the melody already and stood there and helped me—note by note—when I'd get stuck. He was sweet."
I mean, you're not going to believe this, but, you see, I wrote this musical—it's about an evil 7-foot tall space woman and a giant spider and uh, this really exists. It's called Hunchentoot. And twice her office has called to see the script for that particular event. And one of these days it just might work out that Barbra Streisand plays the role of Drakma, the Queen of Cosmic Greed in a thing called Hunchentoot.
Thana [Harris] came in at different times to do the Hunchentoot sessions. Lisa Popeil was on them before her. Frank liked Thana's voice better that Lisa.
Just listening to the Robert Klein Hour where FZ talks about the story of Joe's Garage, and another guest, a female singer named Genya Ravan tells a story of singing on stage with FZ and rehearsing Time Is Money, even singing the beginning of it.
Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos