A Young Frank Zappa Turns the Bicycle into a Musical Instrument on The Steve Allen Show (1963)

in Music, Television | January 3rd, 2012

Last week we gave you John Cage performing his avant-garde composition Water Walk on the CBS game show “I’ve Got a Secret” in 1960. Now, this week, we’re following up with a nice complement — Frank Zappa bringing his own brand of offbeat music to the American airwaves in 1963. Only 22 years old and not yet famous, Zappa appeared on The Steve Allen Show and made music with some drumsticks, a bass bow, and two garden-variety bicycles — and nothing more.

The video above gives you mostly the prelude to the actual music. Then, in the first video below, Zappa gives a demo of the instruments. Next comes the Concerto for Two Bicycles, which features the show’s house orchestra joining the cacophonous fun. The clips run a good 15 minutes.

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Comments (7)

  1. Melissa Heidemann says . . .
    January 4, 2012 / 9:31 am

    Frank Zappa was truely amazing.

  2. joe bang says . . .
    January 8, 2012 / 1:15 pm

    this just goes to show that even back in 1963, frank had found his voice, and knew just when to grab his junk and howl.

  3. John Dinwiddie says . . .
    March 1, 2012 / 1:51 pm

    This is a great discovery, and I am anxious to see the segment on John Cage’s performance. Frank Zappa was always around the bend. Many of the conceptual composers of the era, all influenced by Cage, were making music with outlandish “instruments,” and when I saw this, a quartet for Weber Barbeque sets by LaMonte Young came to mind. Gone are the days. But not entirely.

  4. KevinK (@earmeat) says . . .
    April 4, 2013 / 1:48 am

    Thanks for posting. Hadn’t see this in a long time. I love how Zappa (ZAW-PUH) comes off like the only adult in the room, though Steve Allen cavalierly closes the segment with a wonderful statement.

    Here’s a link to the “How’s Your Bird?” track FZ mentions at the end: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr2vfyRMAjE

  5. Christof Zürn says . . .
    May 9, 2013 / 2:16 am

    Great piece on Music Thinking! Thanks Frank.

  6. cereal says . . .
    November 14, 2013 / 12:43 pm


  7. klemen says . . .
    March 17, 2014 / 2:41 am

    Here is contract made for the Mothers appearance on the Steve Allen Show…..http://frankzapppa.blogspot.com/2014/03/contract-for-steve-allen-show-1968.html

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