By Peter Lindblad
By itself, a movie script for the ill-fated Frank Zappa film “Billy The Mountain” qualifies as a rare and unusual find. But one with pages and pages of Zappa’s handwritten notes, including the musical score — that’s something else entirely.
Seeing it among the items former Zappa bassist Jim Pons was consigning to Backstage Auctions’ upcoming Rockin’ Holiday Auction took “… the last bit of breath that I had left,” says Jacques van Gool.
Two years ago, according to van Gool, his Backstage Auctions company sold a similar script — sans the notes and alternate lyrics — that Howard Kaylan of The Turtles had put up for auction. That one, van Gool recalls, sold for about $5,500, “… which blew us away.”
As for Pons’ script, van Gool says, “For a Zappa collector, I would have to say it is one of the greatest Zappa collectibles you can own.”
Comprised of more than 800 lots, heavily weighted toward Zappa and The Beatles, The Rockin’ Holiday Auction will take place Dec. 6-13. A special preview runs over Thanksgiving weekend. For more details, visit www.backstageauctions.com.
The “Billy The Mountain” script is, undoubtedly, one of featured attractions in the sale. Shrouded in mystery, it’s been said that Zappa wrote the “Billy The Mountain” script after he had wrapped up another film, the bizarre musical “200 Motels.”
“Billy The Mountain” never made it to the screen, scuttled by the disasterous 1971 Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention European tour where the band lost all its equipment in the Montreux Jazz Festival casino fire immortalized in Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water.” Describing Pons’ script, now the second known to exist, van Gool says there are two sets of documents. Among them are alternate lyrics to the song “Billy The Mountain,” a nearly half-hour epic that first appeared on the LP Just Another Band From L.A. In addition, the pages include Zappa’s handwritten notes and comments, plus the musical score.
“And I know that he worked with Jim mostly on the music for ‘Billy The Mountain,’ and he must have given those to Jim at some time,” says van Gool. “It took me by surprise to find this.”
Overall, there are 300 lots of Zappa items — including vinyl, posters, books, magazines and photos from Zappa expert Frank Woods — in the sale. Pons submitted “tons of Zappa posters,” according to van Gool.
Other items of interest in the auction include a leather jacket worn by Richard Butler on the cover of The Psychedelic Furs’ LP Midnight To Midnight, psychedelic ’60s posters — highlighted by a Jimi Hendrix piece — and more than 50 unpublished images of acts such as Led Zeppelin, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Marc Bolan, The Who and The Rolling Stones by noted rock photographer James Fortune.
Items from a big Beatles collection — 200 lots worth — are also up for sale. “It’s just a very good, solid collection,” says van Gool. “It has really great vinyl. It has some very nice ’60s memorabilia, a lot of the usual ’60s toys — from the dolls to the towels to the pinups … it’s all there.”
One of the most interesting aspects to this sale is a collection of around 600 vintage and rare concert T-shirts, mainly from the ’70s and ’80s. Most of them are unique to Madison Square Garden, where the consignor worked from 1974 into the ’90s.
“Some shirts were handed out by companies like Showco, and Showco shirts are very collectable,” says van Gool. “What I like so much is that it’s probably the single largest, most comprehensive ‘Madison Square Garden’ collection you’ve ever seen.”
A recent addition to the auction is a collection of concert photos taken by an amateur photographer, featuring such acts as The Moody Blues, Big Brother And The Holding Company and others. Most were taken at shows on East Coast college campuses. There are also 10 lots of rare Alice Cooper photos — slides and negatives, which will be sold with the rights — from 1974. “I would bet that 99.9 percent of those have never been used,” says van Gool.
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