C O M M E N T S
From: David G. Walley <DGWALLEY@aol.com>
And I have something for you, a little taste of No Commercial Potential:
The following in from the Foreword:
This is a story of a man, America in the Twentieth Century, music,
lifestyles, Los Angeles in the Sixties, the youth culture and its
subsequent exploitation. The story has many characters, plots and
subplots. Some of it is funny, some of it is not so funny. All of it
is the truth, not the absolute truth, only truth as reflected by the way
people view themselves in relation to one man, Francis Vincent Zappa:
prime iconoclast, musician, social thinker, philosopher, and chief
ugly creative head of a musical assemblage known as the Mothers of
Invention, a contemporary music ensemble."
From: David.Vinson@launchpad.unc.edu (david eugene vinson)
It talks quite a bit about his formative years, and covers his musical career
through about the end of 1970. The discography listed in the appendix ends at
200 Motels, if that helps you pinpoint the date a little better. It's not a
great book, but it contains some interesting stuff, including lots of quotes.
From: email@example.com (Mark A. Natola)
I also have a copy of this book (with a purple cover). I saw an updated
version about 10 years ago, that updated Franks career to that point. So,
there are a couple of versions of that book floating around.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Seth Adelson)
Yes, I know that Frank did not like the book very much. David tells me that
Frank was pissed off because Frank was (and I don't mean to be disrespectful
here) a perfectionist who was difficult to work with and as much of a
publicity-monger as the many victims of his satire. And apparently,
Frank did not like hearing this. David told me, "Frank didn't like my book
because I held a mirror up to his face."
Regarding hearsay, I don't think that's true. I know that David did spend
some time in direct interviews with Frank and the Mothers. I also know that
David's approach is always to consider EVERYTHING that has been written
about his subject. So he probably relied on some secondary material as
well. David did NOT write the Zappa biography in Frank Zappa's words; he
wrote in his own, and that's probably why Frank didn't like it.
From: Valdimir Sovetov <email@example.com>
But what the fuck? I like David and his book too.
The only real problem with it from my ponit of view is that David who
greatly appreciate Frank genius and understand many things about him doesn't
quite happy with a mode d'emploi of all FZ brilliances. David has his own
view of a cultural role of a giant such as FZ. The real FZ doesn't fit very
well in David plan, so he is a little bit grudgin' here and there.
So you disagree, you want to discuss, you what to think it over. And it's
much better I believe than mindlessly swallowing bad-to-your-health lolly-pops
of all those Viva! and Bravo!
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (OnTheCornr)
Two significant FZ bios, David Walley's NO COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL (very
good, but dated) and Julian Colbeck's ZAPPA: A BIOGRAPHY (useless) are no
longer available AFAIK.
From: email@example.com (Jeff Makos)
Anyhow, "No Commercial Potential" was written by David Walley. It covers FZ
up to about 1970, the "Flo & Eddie" band. Walley had extensive access to FZ
but when it was publication time, FZ tried to stop it from being
published--unsuccessfully. It's not bad, and mostly good for FZ'c comments
and for checking out some of the more negative things said about him by Art
Tripp, among others. I think it's pretty fair, compared to the slavish
grovelling of "Viva Zappa" (which borrows heavily from Walley), it has some
more history in it than in "The Real Frank Zappa book" (still a must read)
and avoids the theoretical mumbo-jumbo of Watson's "Negative Dialectics."
But not everyone agrees with this opinion, so read 'em all and let me know
what you think. BTW (that's by the way--it took me a while to figure that
one out when I was a newbie. Power to all newbies!), the book had two
editions. The first had a purple cover and the second had a red cover with
a more 80s style photo. The second edition had a cursory review of FZ's
work from "Fillmore East" through "Baby Snakes" (I think). But basically,
it was still the old version. Enjoy!
From David Walley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Our Bizarre Relationship or
The Real Story of Frank Zappa, David Walley and No Commercial Potential
(excerpt of letter from DGW to Ben Watson, June 4, 1994)
The reasons FZ tried to stop my book from being published in 1972
is a case in point. Here's the story: everything had been going
along swimmingly with my own project/object. I'd written it, sent
it out to FZ, having previously received written permission to
use relevant quotes and been given a price and was in the process
of hocking the publisher to cut Herbie a check. Unfortunately my
publisher's accountant died and the slip was lost for six months.
In the mean time, FZ decided that he didn't like my book, or more
precisely, he didn't like what people had said about him and
there were some facts that were wrong (the date of the Montreux
fire was one of them which you caught). When we spoke about it, I
asked him what particular "facts" were wrong and offered to make
the necessary corrections. As for the other criticism, I
respectfully told him that as an independent writer and
biographer, and not his paid publicist, I did not feel inclined
to censor what other people said about him because obviously, he
had the last word at all times.
"But this book is going to be around for a long time," he
said. " I didn't write it to be thrown in the garbage, I don't
write publicity unless I get paid for it," I countered, and
that's the way it was left. Eventually the permission slip was
found and the money paid. NCP was published and was
well-received. But he was still ticked off at me, and for some
years thereafter continued to fulminate publicly against my
In reality, I was as much obsessed by a true creative vision
as he was only he didn't see it like that. He was under the
impression that I was going to write a straight publicity bio and
not a serious work on a serious contemporary American original
composer who although he was working within the confines of the
rock and roll world was actually way beyond them.
Subsequently when I encountered people from Frank's inner
circle they assured me (while cautioning me not to tell Frank) that
I'd done any excellent job and of course FZ wasn't going to like it
because it was an accurate picture, one over which he had no
control. Sound familiar? But I was hurt deeply since I spent a lot
of time and effort (four years of research and interviews) in
attempting to use FZ's analytical tools to mirror his creative
environment, to define the context in which he created what he
created. You of all people know what I'm talking about because
you've attempted to do that yourself. In some ways I was a little
surprised that I even appeared in your work considering FZ's
involvement, but then again, we get older and our perspectives
change, his especially considering the trash for cash bios that
came after mine.
"TAYLOR H. MARTIN" <email@example.com> wrote:
Date: Sun, 18 Feb 96 00:47:01 -0700
Don't forget "No Commercial Potential" by David Walley, which has a new
edition about to be released.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (John V. Scialli)
NCP [1996 edition] will have a final chapter "I'm Not Satisfied" which will
mention this newsgroup and its FAQ's (and its asteroid).
Interestingly, Walley sez that Miles and FZ were very good friends.
(So the groups *and* the rock critics all lived together, huh?)
From: Vladimir Sovetov <email@example.com>
Here is my original posting to aff-z upon receiving the test pressing
of new 1996 edition (that with last chapter named _I'm Not Satisfied":-)))
"Just want to tell you that my friend and brother in arms David Walley
bestowed upon me the latest (soon to come) edition of his "No Commercial
Potential" book yesterday.
It has now very cheerfully looking yellow-black cover, additional (well
thought and written) chapter, that summarized David views (as eyewitness and
contemporary) of Frank's life and works which is very interesting and much
more optimistic than his unpublished New Yorker obituary also included.
But that's not all! Also included special Internet apppendix! Wow! That's
right, you heard it right. The first ever written in english book that
glorified Frank now come to be first (in this latest edition) that enshrined
alt.fan.frank-zappa newsgroup, our FAQs, Homepages and all of us as an
undisputed part of Frank Universe!
Reviews from The Wire(UK) December 1996 #154, p.68 by BEN WATSON!!
No Commercial Potential: The Saga of Frank Zappa
"David Walley was his first biographer. No Commercial
Potential first appeared in 1972; 25 pages were added in the
1980 edition; 30 more to this. Pamela Zarubica (Zappa's
flatmate and "The Voice of Cheese" on Uncle Meat provides
Walley with insights denied to biographers working from
cuttings. Walley comes from the same generation as Zappa, a
vintage cheese himself, his views have maturity and punch.
Prose and layout breathe the Mothers of Invention freak
surrealism. For a variety of complex reasons, Walley fell out
with Zappa, but that merely adds a bracing structural tension.
Though Walley isn't quite gonzo enough to appreciate Zappa's
antics in the 80s and 90s, at least he has a personal
gravitas, something to say.