C O M M E N T S
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Henk Dolleman)
29 Aug 1998 01:15:19 GMT
Grusso published, among other things, not so long ago an interesting
book about the Yardbirds. If his book about Zappa is of the same
quality as that one I'll buy it for certain in the near future.
Anybody read it yet?
From: email@example.com (Charles Ulrich)
Date: Sun, 13 Sep 1998 21:03:42 -0700
A couple of days ago I received my copy of Greg Russo's Cosmik Debris: The
Collected History and Improvisations of Frank Zappa. Mail order service
was very prompt (order faxed 9/3, book shipped 9/4, package ransomed from
Canada Post 9/11).
I haven't read the whole book yet, but I want to review it anyway. Who
The book contains 224 pages, of which 62 feature photographs. Many of
these are familiar from previous FZ books, but others were new to me. Of
note are what appears to be Paul Buff's high school yearbook photo (p.
16); the full front page of the "2 A-GO-GO-TO-JAIL" newspaper, which
includes a photo of FZ hugging Lorraine Belcher (p. 24); and a photo of
the fall 1980 band (p. 94), which is the only photo I've ever seen of Bob
Harris #2 with FZ.
74 pages are devoted to discographies, gig lists, an index of song
releases, and the like. The book is advertised as containing "the most
complete gig list ever". As many of you could have predicted, the first
thing I did was to turn to 1972 in the gig list (pp. 195-196). If by "most
complete" they meant "containing the greatest number of entries",
then--judging by 1972--they're probably right. However, what one really
wants is the gig list with the greatest number of *accurate* entries.
Unfortunately, Russo not only repeats the usual spurious shows (9/25/72
LA, 12/31/72 WDC) but also adds one I hadn't seen before (9/28/72 LA).
Moreover, he omits the first Felt Forum Grand Wazoo show (9/22/72), even
though he reprints a review of it (p. 75). (I will add this review to my
website very soon.) He also repeats the familiar errors of saying that
Earle Dumler (whose name he misspells) played double bass and that Malcolm
McNabb played tuba.
Russo lists five shows in early August, 1969, as featuring the Hot Rats
line-up, including Aynsley Dunbar (p. 193). Yeah, right. If Russo had
listened to tapes of some of these shows, he would have recognized the
band as the 1969 MOI. But he states (p.5), "no bootlegs or una[u]thorized
product are discussed or offered here... I do not encourage selling or
trading bootlegs or tapes--this is not a forum for these items, and in
fact, I don't have any and I don't sell or trade any!" Too bad. If he did,
he might know what he was talking about in the gig list and the
discography of "unreleased compositions, cover versions and live routines"
(pp. 187-188). The latter is a hodge-podge of accurate titles of
unreleased FZ compositions (e.g. Imaginary Diseases, Gypsy Airs), accurate
titles of songs covered by FZ (e.g. Nite Owl, Agon), alternate titles of
released songs (e.g. The String Quartet [A Pound For A Brown/Sleeping In A
Jar], Think It Over [Grand Wazoo]), lyric mutations (e.g. Lonesome Cowboy
Ron, Keep It Corny), and names made up by bootleggers (e.g. A Room Who Did
It--Acts 1-3 [Approximate]). My favorite: did you know that FZ once
performed a piece entitled The Tape Changing Fart Around?
But Russo's focus is clearly on officially-released recordings. In that
area, he does indeed know what he's talking about. The book contains
photos of many rare album covers and 45 labels, including at least two
items that have been claimed not to exist: The Big Surfer on Capitol (p.
19) and the non-dj Tears Began To Fall/Junier Mintz Boogie credited to
Junier Mintz (p. 71).
Russo takes official recordings, and the printing thereon, too seriously.
He writes, "The track listed as 'The Duke Of Prunes' [on Mothermania]
includes 'Amnesia Vivace' and 'The Duke Regains His Chops'" (p. 52) and
"The beginning of 'Shove It Right In' includes a reprise of 'She Painted
Up Her Face'" (p. 68), as if these were independent pieces rather than
merely titles for different portions of larger works (with one of the
portions bearing the same title as the work as a whole). He writes,
"Cucurullo (now spelled Cuccurullo) joined British pop group Duran Duran".
Did Warren change his name, or do Duran Duran just employ a better
proof-reader than Zappa? By the same token, Russo accords too much value
to chart positions, although I will confess to being amused by the Mexican
chart with the Persuaders' Tijuana at #1 and the Beatles' I Want To Hold
Your Hand at #4 (p. 25).
The text contains more errors than I care to list. Here are a few:
1. Ahmet, not Dweezil, wanted to change his name to Rick (p. 58).
2. The second part of Toads Of The Red [sic] Forest (p. 66) does not
contain xenochrony as FZ defined it, since all the musicians performed
together, albeit in different rhythms.
3. It's not true that Jimmy Carl Black didn't cross paths with FZ between
7/7/71 and 10/12/80 (p. 73); he sang two songs on stage with the Bongo
Fury band in El Paso on 5/23/75.
4. The violist pictured on p. 81 is Novi Novog, not (saxophonist/vocalist)
Norma Bell. I'm not sure who the guitarist in the same photo is (Bird
Legs?), but it's not Andre Lewis, who is African-American.
5. Patrick O'Hearn, not Arthur Barrow (p. 87), was the bass player on the
Nonetheless, Russo comes through with two bombshells (that I've
found--maybe there are more that I haven't read yet). First, he debunks
FZ's story of how he first learned of Varese through a Look magazine
article on Sam Goody. On page 8, Russo reprints a favorable review of the
Varese album (EMS 401) from Look magazine (11/7/50). He claims that Look
never mentioned this album in any other issue, and that they never
mentioned Sam Goody during the 1950s. (Still, I wish that Russo had
investigated another possibility: that an article about how Sam Goody
could sell anything, even Varese albums, appeared somewhere other than
Look, and that FZ conflated the two articles in his memory.)
The other revelation of the book is that Michael Erso, who replaced Tom
Fowler for four nights in 11/74, was actually Mick Rogers, lead guitarist
and vocalist with Manfred Mann's Earth Band (p. 80). Presumably Russo made
this discovery while interviewing Rogers for his earlier book on Manfred
Mann. It's too bad he didn't interview any members of Zappa's bands for
Like every book on FZ except for the one we haven't yet persuaded Biffy to
write, Russo's Cosmik Debris contains many inaccuracies. But, like all
those other books, it has something to offer, as long as you maintain a
skeptical attitude. Books about FZ should be read the way FZ himself
watched the news. Don't believe everything you read.
Cosmik Debris is published by Crossfire Publications, P.O. Box 20406,
Floral Park, NY 11002-0406, USA. List price is $22.95 (not including
postage). Ordering information can be found at
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Charles Ulrich)
I didn't read carefully enough. Russo also has the entire Grand Wazoo
trombone section (Fowler, Ferris, Shroyer) playing trumpet instead, and
Ian Underwood playing woodwinds as well as piano.
From: Vladimir Sovetov <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, 15 Sep 1998
I've got my copy too directly from Greg obviously as FZ biblio/book
reviews site maintainer yesterday.
It looks to me like a cross between Miles Visual Documentary
It's reference book to boot, kind of very elaborate discography, and
very good one, despite some errors and inaccuracies that were already pointed
out by Charles Ulrich. The absence of unoffical/bootleg stuff is pitiful
but excusable for regular copyright observing edition. And with the
long-out-of-print Zappalog/Torchum it's much better than nothing. To
simply put it I like the book and found it very useful even with Viva Zappa
style front cover (you know Cosmic debris around Zappafrank Nebula).
The back-cover picture of FZ with ma & dad is way, way better.
Interesting to note that this detailed reference stuff that now
constituted the book by itself was originally proposed by folks from
St.Martin Press to Ben Watson as appendix to his Negative Screwing Of
Ben rejected the idea, I believe for the better. Thanks to it you
don't need now to pay needless extra for Ben's Marxist Mind-Jerking
just to get the Greg Russo's real stuff appendix.
From GRusso2787@aol.com (Greg Russo)
Date: Tue, 15 Sep 1998 00:41:37 EDT
I saw your posting today, and as I say in the book, I can take
whatever criticism you can dish out! I mentioned in an e-mail to
Ulrich earlier that I treat this book, as well as my other books,
as "works in progress". They are not set in stone and all corrections/
errors that you or anyone else in the NG point out will be made in
the second edition. This is the advantage of having a small
publishing company - I can change anything in the book whenever
I reprint. You won't get this from St. Martin's Press!
As you read in the book's introduction, I felt that I put up with
enough shit from Watson and Mark Holdom (formerly with Barking
Pumpkin) that I had to put out the best book I could with the
information that I had. If I was to rely on the information in
either the Miles or Watson books as source material, my book would
have been really horrible! Please note that I do provide the
correct translation of the Spanish end section of "WPLJ" in the
"conceptual continuity" box following the discussion of the "Burnt
Weeny Sandwich" album.
Obviously, not being a tape collector/trader, I was working at a
disadvantage, but I spend all my money getting the really hard
released stuff! That's why I need input from people like Ulrich
and others that have these other tapes. I only wish that I had
this information earlier! As I said, this can be corrected.
Based on the large number of sales that I have had so far, I expect
to reprint the book within a couple of months. So, if you or anyone
else want to put together a list of things that you would like to
see changed, I'm all for it. Too bad you don't like the front
cover - a lot of work went into that! I would have used the photo
with his parents as the front cover, but believe it or not, some
people I showed the photo to didn't even know who they were!
I want to make the book as useful and accurate as possible to Zappa
fans, and any assistance in that regard would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks again for your comments, and I hope that I can make the
second edition even better.
From: Vladimir Sovetov <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tue, Nov 24 1998
Woow, at last I gave Greg's book carefull from cover to cover
reading it really deserve. And after finishing I think it's
one of the best so to say Frank Zappa fact book.
Yes, even despite a lot of misprintes and annoying errors it's very, very
good, matter of fact FZ productive life chronicle.
I mean Greg' biography sketch which at first glance looks to me
like un-necessary addition to the great reference stuff is really good
work in itself. Simple but continuos
flow of events and releases you so often
lack in much more elaborate propoganda:-))) tomes.
Hope all corrections will be made in the next edition and index
From: Charles Ulrich <email@example.com>
Subject: Russo 2nd edition review
Here's a short blurb for your bibliography:
The revised edition of Russo's Cosmik Debris incorporates hundreds
of corrections suggested by a panel of six affz regulars. He has also added
a 1300-entry index and photo captions identifying band members.
Among the corrections is the fact that Mike Urso (of Rare Earth)
and Mick Rogers (of Manfred Mann's Earth Band) are two different people,
each of whom substituted for Tom Fowler in the Mothers.
From: Vladimir Sovetov
Yes, the revised edition is really great. AFFZ rules!-)
And the latest hot news
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2001 09:41:37 EDT
I'm working on the third edition now.
From: Vladimir Sovetov
Wow! At last got my copy of The Son Of Revised. Good job, Greg.
All my wishes come true. Russian records added, Radio shows
list introduced, what more? But there are more! For real! More
than 64 new pages added to previous Revised editions. More facts,
more documents, more pictures, including proposed gatefold
sleeve for "Lumpy Gravy" LP on Capitol.
By the way, Greg, why not
"Man's Life" magasine weasels ripped my flesh front cover? Gonna
be special of the "Return of the Son Of Revised"? Not that bad as
an idea. But for the next step I would recommend the bright new
layout for the book. It's really deserve attention of a good book
art designer. Material maturity already requires smart professional
hand book presentaion.
But, anyway, coodos!