FZ vs. Warner Brs. Story or Lather/Laether/Leather

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FZ vs. Warner Brs. Story



Special Appendix
  Voice of Frank
From: Frank Zappa - A Visual Documentary By Miles. p.74.
  "There was one track that got removed, 'Punky's Whips'. They [Warner Brothers took it out. First of all they had no right to temper with the tapes. Secondly they didn't pay me for any off the stuff I delivered to them. I mean, they so far in breach of the contract and they're just so grossly unfair. For instance, that track 'Punky Whips' is 12 minutes and 37 seconds long. It's most of the side. They took it out because they didn't have the permissions from Punky Meadows to use it. Then they have the audacity to go ahead and release the album with 12 minutes missing. There was something in one of the papers over here complaining about how short the album was. It wasn't my fault. I didn't have any control over it. I think Herb Cohen was the one who took it out. [Zappa:1974]"
*** And here starts the real aff-z FZ vs. WB story
From: (Biffyshrew)
  (representing Michael P. Dawson - Compositeur Americain) Uhhh...errr....uhhh.....well, you know....ummmm...
  I wouldn't go so far as to say that "initial releases" of ZINY were complete. I've always understood this to be sort of a "butcher cover" deal (reference to the suppressed 1966 Beatles LP cover). The company pressed some copies with "Punky's Whips," thought better of it almost immediately, and substituted the "Re-1" version. Some copies apparently did slip through the cracks, although I've never seen one myself. Certainly they did not constitute more than a tiny fraction of the "initial release"--it's not like you could walk into any record store on March 3, 1978 and find an uncensored copy. (It's also worth mentioning that copies with "Punky's Whips" listed on the cover are reportedly much more common than copies with "PW" in the grooves, and even those are pretty damn rare.) One story I've heard is that the biggest source of ZINY with "Punky's Whips" was a cassette version available in quantity in NYC cutout bins. Does anybody know for sure if ANY copies of the DiscReet ZINY with "Punky's" EVER appeared as regular store stock, as opposed to cutouts? I doubt it, but don't know for sure.
  So the following is my GUESS at the sequence of "Punky" events:
  Spring 1977: Warners refuses to issue ZINY, claiming "Punky's Whips" may be libelous. Impasse. Lawsuits.
  Summer-Fall 1977: Zappa assembles Lather, consisting mainly of material previously delivered to Warners, and offers it to Mercury/Phonogram. Warners puts legal pressure on Mercury to prevent the release.
  Early 1978 (?): Zappa, momentarily unable to release any new product, plays Lather in its entirety on KROQ-FM, Los Angeles. Let a thousand bootlegs blossom.
  Winter 1978 (now here comes the guessing part):
  Warners/DiscReet/Herbiecohen, having prevailed in the Lather fight, decide they'd better consolidate their investment by releasing the Zappa material they have on hand. Someone belatedly realizes that "Punky's Whips" still might be a problem, production is halted and the album is resequenced (note "Re-1" on labels of first disc). "Original" copies are dumped on cutout distributors.
  March 1978: ZINY is finally released. Dr. Demento latches onto "Titties And Beer" (later rechristened by him "Beepies And Beer" ["Really? You have to say that?"--FZ]), giving FZ some uncharacteristically regular airplay. The world rolls on...
  But Biffy, you cry! That can't be right! The way you've reconstructed events, Warners' actions are inconsistent and illogical! You make it sound like their left hand didn't know what their right hand was doing! Well, yeah.
*** And now ZINY (initial release) part of a mystery
From: (Bill Lantz)
  The vinyl copy I have with Punky's is K 96204 Made in the UK. It's on Discreet. I heard only a handful made it to US counters while slightly more than that made it to UK stores. My copy and the one I mentioned that's at PDQ in Tuscon are not cutouts.
From: (Biffyshrew)
  Thanks for pointing that out! I had totally forgotten about the U.K. vs. U.S. issue. This begs the question: do any *U.S.* vinyl copies with "Punky's Whips" even exist? I now think they do not. Mother People's discographical scholar Zomby Woof wrote this in 1984: "Fortunately for record collectors, a first pressing of unedited copies were salvaged in England before being recalled prior to official release. In the U.S., cassettes of the unedited album also reached some stores, (many were found years later in the cutout bins) before being recalled."
  BTW, British/European cutouts are not necessarily marked. I have, for example, some U.K. Island cassettes (King Crimson, Eno) salvaged from Wherehouse cutout bins in the late '70s; these have no drill holes or other markings. The same is true of vinyl, or was at the time.
*** And here goes Lather/Laether/Leather side of a plot :-))
From: (Keith Shiner)
  >1. Were there both a BOOT and Test Pressing of this?
  >2. If so, can the difference be easily seen?
  Yes. The bootleg has a B&W cover with an Edison records design. AFAIK the test pressings have no packaging, although I understand boxes WERE manufactured, the cover reportedly being similar to Joe's Garage.
  >3. What is a fair market value of each (if both exist)?
  The test pressing was selling for about $500 minimum in the '80s. God knows what it's worth now. I'll refrain from speculating what would be a "fair" price for the bootleg, and only pose a question: would you feel that much better off paying $XX.00 for a bootleg LP set, as opposed to getting a tape version (no less "official" than the boot) virtually free via tape trading networks?
From: Jeffo
  When Frank was having trouble with WB in the late 70s, he went on a radio show and played the tapes of his proposed, but held up release, a 4LP set called "Leather." He did it specifically to annoy WB, telling the listeners something like "Here it is, folks-free. You can't beat this price." Warners sued him again.
  Chunks (and small pieces) of "Lather" are scattered on albums into the '80s. "Zappa in New York," "Studio Tan," "Sleep Dirt," and "Orchestral Favorites" provide most of "Lather," but there have been a number of alterations and additions to the tracks intended to be on "Lather":
  --"Lather" has a handful of tracks that have never seen official release: the original studio version of "For the Young Sophisticate," and the '76 band's renderings of "Tryin' To Grow A Chin" and "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes," as well as a collage called "Duck Duck Goose" and an instrumental called "Down in de Dew."
  --About two minutes are cut out of "Lather"'s version of "Titties & Beer."
  --A different performance of "Punky's Whips" appears on "Lather"; it seems to have almost no guitar until the scorching solo at the end.
  --"I Promise Not To Come In Your Mouth" is titled "Lather" and is a slightly different performance, with a few extra bars of Eddie Jobson Moog.
  --"Flambay" is cut short and, like "Spider of Destiny," has no Thana Harris vocals (does anyone know when they were recorded?).
  Along with Warner Brothers' release of most of "Lather" in a different format, small portions of it (and allusions to it) have surfaced on "Sheik Yerbouti" (e.g. the two dialogue tracks), "Joe's Garage" (e.g. "Crew Slut"), "Tinsel Town Rebellion" (e.g. "Easy Meat"), "SUAPYG," and even "Thing-Fish," which contains Terry Bozzio's trademark "ulp, ulp, ulp" noises.
~Date: 1976, 1977
Loc: Various Studio and Live Recordings
Length: ~100 min
Catalog: Zappa srz-4-1500; unreleased
Musicians: Various
Regyptian Strut
Naval Aviation In Art
A Little Green Rosetta
Duck Duck Goose (aka Ship Ahoy)
Down In De Dew
For The Young Sophisticate
Tryin' To Grow A Chin
Broken Hearts Are For Assholes
The Illinois Enema Bandit
Lemme Take You To The Beach
Revised Music for Guitar and Low Budget Orchestra
Honey Don't You Want A Man Like Me
The Black Page #1
Big Leg Emma
Punky's Whips
The Purple Lagoon
Pedro's Dowry
Lather (aka I Promise Note To Come In Your Mouth)
Spider of Destiny
Duke of Prunes
Filthy Habits
Titties and Beer
One More Time For The World
The Adventures Greggary Peckary
  Frank's own studio release stuff. A real gem, I'm not sure I'd sell it for any price, at least any price that would ever be likely offered.
From: (Biffyshrew)
  I keep trying to tell everyone (probably in vain) that the popular story that Warners hacked Lather into the above mentioned albums is backwards. Frank cobbled Lather together from ZINY, ST, SD and OF AFTER Warners initially refused to release them. Here's that story again:
  Warners refused to put out Zappa In New York the way FZ wanted (i.e., with "Punky's Whips"). Zappa claimed breach of contract and sued. He delivered masters for three further albums--Studio Tan, Hot Rats III (later retitled Sleep Dirt) and Orchestral Favorites--to fulfill his contract, but Warners also refused to issue these at the time (still 1977). Since FZ's contract with Warners stipulated that albums were to be released in the US within six weeks of delivery of masters (six months in Europe), and Warners was just sitting on these four albums, FZ considered himself free to shop the tapes to another label. ONLY THEN did he reconfigure most of the material from these albums (plus a few other items) into the four-LP Lather set (or "Laether," if you want to try to preserve that umlaut), which he tried to release on Halloween 1977 via Mercury/Phonogram. Warners' lawyers put a stop to that, but as David said, Mercury did get as far as making test pressings. Warners eventually put out the original albums, starting in March 1978 with the butchered version of Zappa In New York.
  This is how the Warners albums came to include stuff that wasn't even on Lather, such as "Time Is Money," "Bogus Pomp" and "Strictly Genteel." (Lather also contains some material that wasn't on the Warners albums, and one or two tracks that are on both appear in different versions.) This is also why Zappa In New York has a "real," Zappa-approved cover and liner notes, but ST, SD & OF do not--Zappa delivered only tapes of those three albums, no covers or liner notes, so Warners hired Gary Panter to slap together the packaging.
From: (Keith Shiner)
  ...and if my mind hasn't faded completely, this is also about the time that about ALL of Frank's LPs disappeared from the racks. About the only thing you could buy was ST, SD & OF. I also remember Frank saying in an interview I read, "Don't buy these LPs! Record copies and pass them around" or some such thing.
  I lived in Buffalo, NY, in the seventies, and had the opportunity to meet Frank at radio station WBUF the afternoon before his performance at the Buffalo Auditorium, or whatever it was called. Anyway, he walked into the station carrying a test pressing of Lather and played selections of it for about an hour. I am sure that several test pressings were made and had circulated among radio station personnel. I tend to doubt that there is one lone source for the bootleg. More importantly, it was really interesting watching Frank listen to his own music. He was clearly and visibly completely immersed in his music; he sat listening with his eyes closed, I could see the outline of his pupils sort of swimming in time through his eyelids. Watching Frank and listening with him was an immensely memorable experience, as you can imagine. He was extremely warm and approachable, and seemed truly appreciative of his fans. When I said to Frank that I had been listening to him since Freak Out!, he paused a beat, then replied. " must have a lot of endurance!"
From: tony pfarrer <
  Early 1978 seems about right. I have a copy of of the JUNE 1978 issue of RECORD REVIEW MAGAZINE where they actually review Lather (or should I say, they review the KROQ broadcast of Lather). The initial broadcast was the complete 2 hours+ of Lather. Later, after a number of cards and letters. KROQ rebroadcast Lather one side a night. (I've got a really lo-fi version of the one-side a night broadcast, one of the aforementioned thousand blossoming bootlegs).
  One other clue: the article says that Zappa was touring Europe by the time they rebroadcast Lather; which means the rebroadcast could have occured any time after Jan 30, 1978. (My copy of the Miles book is at work, but I think that's a pretty accurate guess for the beginning of the '78 tour, someone will set me straight if I'm way off).
From: John Henley <>
  With regard to "Lather," I might just mention that as of September 1977 FZ was touring the U.S. "in support of" that album, and had even had T-shirts made with its logo/title, selling them at the shows. I regret to this day that I did not buy one of those shirts.
From: (Bill Sallee)
  Hello Zappa fans,
  I am reading "Everything You Need to Know About the Music Business" by Donald Passman, a noted music industry lawyer. In his book he give a historical overview of the reasons for current clauses in modern music contracts concerning length of contract and number of albums to be delivered.
  Paraphrasing the section:
  Three entertainers are responsible for the current wording. First was Olivia Newton-John whose contract was written for a number of years with a number of albums. She stopped recording and when her five years were up, successfully sued to be released from her five year contract that the record company had extended unilaterally pending delivery.
  The wording was changed to tie length of contract to a specific number of albums, which worked for a while until one day, after having had no contact with his record company for six years, Dean Martin, whose star had grown much dimmer, showed up with an album and asked for the rather large sum of money he was entitled to under his contract which was still valid even though the record company had hoped he had disappeared.
  So they changed the wording again to allow the record company to terminate the contract if the entertainer did not deliver an album within a two year period from the previous album. This worked fine until one day Frank Zappa walked into Warner Brothers (Dean Martin's label also) with four albums under his arm and announced that he was completing his obligation and terminating the contract.
  Current wording provides for maximum and minimum periods between delivery of albums.

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