Open main menu

''Läther'' (/lɛðɜːr/, or "Leather") is the sixty-fifth official album by Frank Zappa, released posthumously as a triple album on Rykodisc in 1996.

Frank Zappa, Läther.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 24, 1996
Recorded1969; 1972–1977
GenreRock, orchestral, progressive rock, experimental rock, avant-garde, jazz fusion
ProducerFrank Zappa
Frank Zappa chronology
The Lost Episodes
Frank Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa: A Memorial Tribute
2012 Re-issue
Frank Zappa - Läther.jpg



The recordings for the album were originally delivered to Warner Bros. in 1977. Contractual obligations stipulated that Zappa deliver four albums for release on DiscReet Records, which eventually resulted in much of the material on Läther being released on four separate albums: Zappa in New York (1977), Studio Tan (1978), Sleep Dirt (1979), and Orchestral Favorites (1979), only the first of which was produced with Zappa's oversight. Zappa had planned to include much of the material from these albums as a quadruple box set titled Läther, but Warner Bros. refused to release it in this format. However, Zappa had broadcast a test pressing over the radio in 1977, encouraging listeners to make tape recordings of it; these bootlegs circulated for years before the album's official release.[1]

Gail Zappa has confirmed that the stereo masters for the planned original album were located while producing the 1996 version.[2] While the released official CD version of Läther is reportedly identical to the test pressings for the original quadruple album, four bonus tracks were added to the 1996 release, and the title of the song "One More Time for the World" was changed to "The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution", the title under which the same song appears on the album Sleep Dirt. The album does not include "Baby Snakes", a song which was originally planned for the album. A version of the song served as the title of the film (Baby Snakes) from the same era.

Background and release historyEdit

Zappa's relationship with long-time manager Herb Cohen ended in 1976. Zappa sued Cohen for skimming more than he was allocated from DiscReet Records, as well as for signing acts of which Zappa did not approve.[3] Cohen filed a lawsuit against Zappa in return, which froze the money Zappa and Cohen had gained from an out-of-court settlement with MGM over the rights of the early Mothers of Invention recordings. It also prevented Zappa having access to any of his previously recorded material during the trials. Zappa therefore took his personal master copies of the rock-oriented Zoot Allures (1976) directly to Warner Bros., thereby bypassing DiscReet.[4]

In the mid-1970s Zappa prepared the material for Läther as an intended four-LP project.[5] Wary of a quadruple-LP, Warner Bros. Records refused to release it.[2][6][7][8]

Test pressings and separate releasesEdit

Zappa managed to get an agreement with Phonogram Inc. to release Läther in its original configuration, and test pressings were made targeted at a Halloween 1977 release, but Warner Bros. prevented the release by claiming rights over the material.[9] Zappa responded by appearing on the Pasadena, California radio station KROQ, allowing them to broadcast Läther and encouraging listeners to make their own tape recordings.[1] After Warner Bros. censored Zappa in New York to remove references to Angel guitarist Punky Meadows, and demanding four additional albums, a lawsuit between Zappa and Warner Bros. followed, during which no Zappa material was released for more than a year. Eventually, Warner Bros. issued Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favorites.[2][7][8] The original cover artwork had featured a photograph of Zappa in blackface and holding a mop; this photograph was eventually used as the cover for Joe's Garage, Act I.

CD issuesEdit

Despite officially acquiring the rights to the material in the 1980s, Frank Zappa chose to release the four previously released albums on CD in 1991 with their original artwork. The four albums were each altered or remixed in some way.

  • Zappa in New York was released on CD in November 1991 in its uncensored form, remixed entirely and supplemented with the addition of previously unheard bonus tracks. The original vinyl mix version of the album featuring the original track list was eventually made available on CD in 2019 as part of a 40th anniversary 5-disc box set featuring over 3 hours of bonus live performances.
  • Studio Tan was released on CD in October of the same year with the track "the Adventures of Greggery Peccary" entirely remixed. When the CD was reissued in 2012, the complete original vinyl mix of the entire album was used.
  • Sleep Dirt was released on CD for the first time in September 1991 and featured a new overdubbed drum track along with vocals by singer Thana Harris portraying a character named "Drakma: Queen of Cosmic Greed" that Zappa had created in 1972 for a stage musical that never materialized. In 2012, when Sleep Dirt album was reissued, the original instrumental vinyl mix was used.
  • Orchestral Favorites was digitally transferred for CD with a reversed stereo orientation, switching the left and right channels. This mix has been used for all subsequent reissues.

In 1995, Rykodisc reissued Zappa's entire catalog. None of the four albums related to Läther were altered from the original CD issues, though new digital transfers were made. One year later, Läther was released officially for the first time through the Rykodisc label as a triple album with four bonus tracks. The 2012 reissue omits the bonus tracks.

Music and lyricsEdit

Läther encapsulates various aspects of Zappa's musical styles — rock, orchestral works, complex instrumental pieces, and Zappa's distorted guitar solos, assembled in a seemingly random way.[2]

Release and receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic     [7]

The official version of Läther was released posthumously in September 1996. It remains debated whether Zappa had conceived the material as a four-LP set from the beginning, or only when approaching Phonogram;[10] In the liner notes to the 1996 release, however, Gail Zappa states that "As originally conceived by Frank, Läther was always a 4-record box set."[2] Along with most of Zappa's material, a "mini-LP" CD edition was also released by Rykodisc in Japan, with the artwork reformatted to resemble the packaging of a vinyl album.[7] In December 2012, the album was reissued with different packaging that better reflected the intended album cover.

Allmusic writer Richie Unterberger praised the album, but wrote that it would "appeal far more to the Zappa cultist than the general listener, though the Zappa cult – which has been craving Läther in its original format for years – is a pretty wide fan base in and of itself."[7]

Track listingEdit

All tracks written by Frank Zappa.

Disc one
No.TitleOriginal releaseLength
1."Re-Gyptian Strut"Appears on the album Sleep Dirt (1979).4:36
2."Naval Aviation in Art?"Appears on the album Orchestral Favorites (1979).1:32
3."A Little Green Rosetta"Previously unreleased. A reworked version appears on Joe's Garage Acts II & III (1979).2:48
4."Duck Duck Goose"Previously unreleased (includes live snippets from 1969 and 1976 shows).3:01
5."Down in De Dew"Previously unreleased (Outtake from The Grand Wazoo/Waka Jawaka sessions).2:57
6."For the Young Sophisticate"Previously unreleased (Overnite Sensation Outtake).3:14
7."Tryin' to Grow a Chin"different performance of a song that appears on the album Sheik Yerbouti (1979).3:26
8."Broken Hearts Are for Assholes"*different performance* of a song that appears on the album Sheik Yerbouti (1979).4:40
9."The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit"Appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978).12:41
10."Lemme Take You to the Beach"Appears on the album Studio Tan (1978) (Basic Track is an outtake from Hot Rats).2:46
11."Revised Music for Guitar & Low Budget Orchestra"Appears on the album Studio Tan (1978) (written in 1968).7:36
12."RDNZL"Appears on the album Studio Tan (1978) (outtake from One Size Fits All).8:14
Disc two
No.TitleOriginal releaseLength
1."Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?"Different edit of the version that appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978). The ZINY version is a single performance while the "Lather" version is a combination of two different performances.4:56
2."The Black Page Part 1"A longer take appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978) with a drum solo included.1:57
3."Big Leg Emma"Appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978).2:11
4."Punky's Whips"Appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978) with a different mix and alternate guitar solo.11:06
5."Flambé"A longer version appears on the album Sleep Dirt (1979) under the title "Flam Bay" (written circa 1972 for the unrealized opera "Hunchentoot").2:05
6."The Purple Lagoon"Appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978).16:20
7."Pedro's Dowry"Appears on the album Orchestral Favorites (1979).7:45
8."Läther"Appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978) under the title "I Promise Not to Come in Your Mouth" ("One Size Fits All" outtake).3:50
9."Spider of Destiny"A longer version appears on the album Sleep Dirt (1979) (written circa 1972 for the unrealized opera "Hunchentoot").2:40
10."The Duke of Orchestral Prunes"Appears on the album Orchestral Favorites (1979).4:21
Disc three
No.TitleOriginal releaseLength
1."Filthy Habits"A longer version appears on the album Sleep Dirt (1979). Outtake from Zoot Allures (1976).7:12
2."Titties & Beer"Appears on the album Zappa in New York (1978).5:23
3."The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution" (Originally entitled "One More Time for the World")A longer version appears on the album Sleep Dirt (1979).8:31
4."The Adventures of Greggery Peccary"Appears on the album Studio Tan (1978).21:00


Disc One, Track 1
Disc One, Track 2; Disc Two, Track 7 & 10
Disc One, Track 3 (Part One)
Disc One, Track 3 (Part Two)
Disc One, Track 4, 7 & 8; Disc Three Track 6
Disc One, Track 5
Disc One, Track 6
Disc One, Track 9; Disc Two, Track 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8; Disc Three, Track 2
Disc One, Track 10
Disc One, Track 11; Disc Three, Track 4
Disc One, Track 12; Disc Three, Track 8
Disc Two, Track 5 & 9
Disc Three, Track 1
Disc Three, Track 3
Disc Three, Track 5
Production credits
  • Digital Mastering & EQ – Spencer Chrislu
  • Transfer Engineers – David Dondorf, Spencer Chrislu
  • Vaultmeisterment – Joe Travers
  • Bonues Section Assembly, Edits & Mastering – Spencer Chrislu
  • Cover Concept – Dweezil Zappa
  • Forward Motion – Gail Zappa
  • Deep-dish Descriptions – Simon Prentis
  • Cover Execution & Layout Design – Steven Jurgensmeyer


  1. ^ a b Slaven, 2003, Electric Don Quixote, p. 248.[full citation needed]
  2. ^ a b c d e Zappa, Gail (1996). Läther (Media notes). Frank Zappa. Rykodisc.
  3. ^ Miles (2004). Frank Zappa, p. 250.[full citation needed]
  4. ^ Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 253; pp. 258–259.
  5. ^ Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 15. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  6. ^ Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 131.[full citation needed]
  7. ^ a b c d e Unterberger, R. (2011). "Läther – Frank Zappa | AllMusic". Retrieved 22 July 2011.
  8. ^ a b Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 267.
  9. ^ Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 261.
  10. ^ Watson, 2005, Frank Zappa. The Complete Guide to His Music, p. 49.[full citation needed]