The Original Cover


October 31, 1977—Läther (LP & Box Set)

FZ, Press Information for the ZAPPA 1977-78 concert season


FZ, interviewed by Tony Paris, Signal, October, 1977

He is launching his own record company, Zappa Records, which is to be distributed by Phonodisc, ("They need me," he mused), with the label's first release being his own four-record boxed set entitled Lather, "simultaneously released with a single record for those who can't afford the box."

As to whether or not the single will be a success he continues, "Well, I don't know whether it's gonna be a number one single, but it's stupid enough to get played on the radio. It's called 'Big Legged Emma.' You can't get much dumber than that."


1977—Läther on the radio

ParloFax, Steve Hoffman Music Forums, June 15, 2013

To give an idea of what a shocking experience progressively oriented FM rock radio could be, as late (re. rise/decline) as in the fall of 1977... Imagine yourself pumping gas to pay for college, in the middle of a gloomy and cold Saturday, then hearing over the attendant's little radio set, Frank Zappa dropping by CHOM-FM in Montreal to play one complete side (non-stop) of his own test pressing of "Läther": the heaviest one, featuring "Music For Guitar & Low-Budget Orchestra", "Punky' s Whips", etc.


Läther vs. ZINY, Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt & Orchestral Favorites

FZ, interviewed by Michael Branton, Collage, December, 1977

This year he worked extensively on a recording package entitled Läther, a proposed four album box set complete with photographs and decorated dust jackets—the works. Läther (pronounced, he insists, Leather) is as yet unreleased, pending resolution of a legal hassle with Warner Brothers Records. But this tour was planned to push that product and that's what Zappa means to do. [...]

"Läther was originally scheduled to be released as a four-record box simultaneously with one single disc, for those who couldn't afford the box. But the single disc only has the rock and roll stuff. It doesn't have the orchestra stuff."

Although the recording is finished, down to the final mix, Läther is still only a gleam in Zappa's eye. An eight year affiliation with Warner Brothers ended this year amid an intense court battle, shoving the fate of Läther into the hands of the law.

"I have a five million dollar breach of contract suit against Warners," explains Zappa, "and they have threatened to sue Phonogram, who was going to be the distributor of my new label, Zappa Records. That's the label that Läther is supposed to come out on.

"You gotta understand how this thing came about," he says. "I had a contract with Warner Brothers Records, and it was supposed to expire on December 31st of this year. I had to deliver four units to them by December 31st. A unit is one completed album.

"So, I proceeded to deliver four completed albums to them in March of this year. And the contract specified that upon receipt of the tapes they had to pay me.

"It also specified that they had six weeks in the United States and six months outside of the United States to release these albums. They didn't pay me, they didn't release the albums, and they haven't paid me the royalties on other albums that have already been released. Therefore, I claim breach of contract."

According to Zappa, since Warners wouldn't release his four album set, he formed his own namesake label and hunted for another distributor. When the deal with Phonogram (a Mercury Records affiliate) began to jell, Warners threatened to release one of the four discs, a live performance, under the title, Zappa in New York.

Both Zappa and his estranged company have copies of the recordings, so now it's up to the judicial system to grant release privileges. "I know who has the rights to them. I do!" Frank leans forward in his chair, speaking, well—frankly. "I paid for all the expenses in making the albums. I paid for the recording, I paid for the musicians . . . We're taking it to the Federal Appeals Court."

Rip Rense, "Frank Zappa—A Would-be Chemist Who Turned To Music," The Valley News, December, 1977

There ore four Zappa creations recorded and ready for marketing, including a concert performance by the Abnuceals [Emuukha] Electric Symphony Orchestra and a mysterious piece called "[Greggary] Peccary," but the four albums are unreleased.

Furthermore, Zappa is urging people not to buy any of his Warner Brothers recordings.

"I had a contract with Warner Brothers. It was lousy but it was a contract, and I lived up to my contract.

"Between last October and Dec. 31 of this year I was required to deliver to Warner Brothers four completed albums. I delivered all four in March of this year. According to the contract, upon receipt of the tapes, they have to pay me. They received the tapes and they did not pay me." he said.

Also, Zappa charged, Warner's is withholding royalties on other Zappa albums in its catalog, something the musician described as "just another case where a large corporation figures they're going to push an individual around."

According to Zappa, Warner's recently "threatened" to issue a recording from Zappa's latest tour entitled "Zappa in New York"—a threat that drove off a deal to start a Zappa Records label with Mercury-Phonogram.

He is suing Warner Brothers for breach of contract.

Paul Rambali, "Stern Words In Knightsbridge," New Musical Express, January 28, 1978

In March of last year Zappa delivered four albums to Warner Brothers: Live In New York; Studio Tan; Hot Rats 3 and Zappa Orchestral Favourites: His contract stipulated immediate payment of $60,000 per album. He claims he wasn't paid. True to style, he immediately sued.

Since his contract had allegedly been breached, Zappa took his copy tapes of the four albums, added some new material, subtracted some old, and prepared a four-record set called Lather, but pronounced "Leather."

[...] And you nearly had a chance to buy it too, because a deal was set up last autumn with Phonogram records for a new Zappa label, kicking off with Lather.

Here, however, the precise scam becomes lost in a flurry of law suits, threats and machinations. Lather remains unreleased. The fate of Live In New York is undecided due to some defamatory material included therein about a certain Punky Meadows.

[...] Meadows heard it, felt flattered, and gave Zappa permission to release it—but Warner Brothers wouldn't.

Impasse. Zappa's not about to co-operate with Warners. Any attempt to sign with another company would be blocked by Warners. It could be between three and five years before Zappa's case is dealt with due to the long civil court waiting lists in California.

[...] The prospect of not being able to release any new material doesn't trouble him. "I can still record", he points out—making clear by his tone that he considers this an undeniable imperative—"and I can still tour. So that's what I am going to do".

FZ, interviewed by Keith Elshaw, CFNY, Toronto, Canada, October 2, 1978

Warner Bros. [...] released one album called Live In New York, and they just released another one down there called Studio Tan, and they have two more albums that I delivered to them, Hot Rats III and Zappa Orchestral Favorites. [...]

Läther was made out of four albums. Warners has released two of them already and they have two more that they're probably gonna release.

FZ, interviewed by Dave Rothman, Oui, April, 1979

I lived up to the terms of my contract with Warner Bros. I delivered four albums to them. My contract says that when I give them the albums, they give me the money. They didn't give me the money; they didn't give me the royalties; they've already released two of the live albums I delivered [Live in New York and Studio Tan]; and they're getting ready to release another one. They haven't paid me and they don't have publishing licenses for the songs.

FZ, interviewed by Michael Davis, Record Review, April 1979

When the four albums were delivered to them, they would not even listen to 'em. Apparently, somebody had done this before—not delivered four albums—but in order to finish off a contract, had walked in with an album of the person singing, backed up with an acoustic guitar. They thought, 'What is this? Just Frank and a guitar?' They said that to me. And it was weeks before they could find time, or find somebody qualified to listen to the tapes and notice it was a very elaborate thing. And then they said stuff like, 'Well, what if we released these things all at once?' I said, 'Yeah, that would be a great idea.' They go, 'It would?'

They're so stupid about it. They should have released it all at once. It would have sold more units; it would have been a really exciting package. But no.

Headley Gritter, "The Sanest Man In The World Today?," RAM, April 4, 1980

When did you fall out with [Warner Bros.]?

I got very pissed off at them when I delivered four albums to them and they didn't pay me.

When was that?

About two years ago. It was in March. Four completed albums, on tape, reader to master. Four. All done. I have a contract that says, when I give them the tape, they give me a cheque. I gave them tapes for four albums, and they didn't give me any money, and I had paid out of my pocket to make the four albums, and I was waiting to be reimbursed by them in order to pay off the expenditure that I had put into the thing. They didn't give me the money, they didn't have publishing licenses for the material, and they proceeded to, against my wishes, and in breach of the contract, release all four albums, without paying for them, and without getting publishing licenses.

Some people say you just rushed them off to get out the quota of albums you had to do for them.

Absolutely not.

Was it part of your stashed away material?

No, absolutely not. There's at least one real masterpiece that was delivered in that batch and that's Greggery Peccary.

'Greggery Peccary'?

Yeah, the whole side of one of those things. I mean, anyone listens to that and thinks it was rushed out . . . there's a lot of stuff on there that probably has more production values than a lot of the ones that came before it.

Rock et Folk, June, 1980 (translation by A. Murkin)

RF: Were the last 4 records released by Warners (In New York, Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt and Orchestral Favourites) made up of recordings intended to be released as a Box-Set?

FZ: Yes.

RF: Everything that the Box-Set would have contained has been released?

FZ: Yes. I've got a lot more tapes from those sessions, but everything I chose for the Box-Set is on those 4 records.

RF: Why didn't the project see the light of day in its original form?

FZ: Warners didn't do any promotion. The records were released in the most dreadful sleeves I've ever seen in my life, without any liner notes, because Warners didn't legally have permission to release them. Warners had no permission, no publishing details, no musicians' credits: no one knew who played on what. In fact, it happened like this: I still had a year and a half of my contract to run with Warners, I owed them 4 albums. My contract stated that when I delivered a tape to them they would send me a cheque. I turned up one morning with my 4 albums and asked for my money and my freedom. They took the tapes, released them and never paid me. No cheque, nor royalties. It's a big loss, which has greatly inconvenienced me in my work.

RF: Are you sueing Warners?

FZ: Yes, it's in hand.

RF: Can you tell me something about what the original project turned out like? The division into 4 albums, the selection of tracks for each one—are you satisfied with the ordering of the pieces?

FZ: First of all, I always deliver a finished product to the recording company. I personally supervise the sleeve design, which I was only able to do on the first one released, Live in New York; then I follow all the processes up to the cutting, I make the last corrections myself and the final equalisation in such a way that I get exactly the sound I want. I couldn't do these jobs on any of these records. I wasn't even told about the cutting. The sound is ruined, even though the music is good. It makes me mad to see the music badly cut and stuck in horrible sleeves.

RF: Do you plan to release them again properly one day?

FZ: When the case is over I hope to get my tapes back and release the Box-Set as originally planned. In fact, it was a monumental error on Warners' part to refuse to release the Box-Set originally planned. At the time when I delivered the tapes to them there wasn't yet a 'record business crisis'. There was a big marketing coup to be made. The Box-Set would have made a lot more noise with such a large amount of music released in one go and promoted as an unprecedented event than with separate records and released as casually as possible. It would have been smarter for them. They would have definitely sold more Box-Sets than separate records.


disc 1

1. Re-Gyptian Strut

Well, spit it out, son


3. A Little Green Rosetta

Neil Slaven, Electric Don Quixote—The Definitive Story Of Frank Zappa, 2003, p. 212

Another song, "A Little Green Rosetta," didn't appear until a year after that on Joe's Garage Acts II & III. Demoed in Studio D at the Record Plant, it was "just George Duke playing a tack piano and me singing on top of it," according to Frank. "It was just a little stupid song."


4. Duck Duck Goose

"Duck Duck Goose" vs. "Leather Goods" vs. London, February 17, 1977

Thanks to Charles Ulrich & Patrick Buzby.

"My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama" (London, February 17, 1977) "Leather Goods" (Läther, Rykodisc, 1996) "Duck Duck Goose" (Läther, UME, 2012)
0:00-2:45 0:34-3:18  
2:51-4:44 3:18-5:10  
4:44-5:05 5:10-5:31 0:00-0:21
5:05-5:08 5:31-5:34  
5:08-5:18 5:34-5:44 0:21-0:31
5:18-5:21 5:44-5:47  
5:21-5:31 5:47-5:57 0:31-0:41


5. Down In De Dew

The Guitar World According To Frank Zappa (1987) liner notes by FZ

1975 recorded at Paramount Studios, Hollywood, California
previously unreleased—will be included in the next guitar box set
engineer: Kerry Mac Nab
original recording medium: 24-track analog tape
musicians: Frank Zappa, all guitars and bass / Jim Gordon, drums
guitars: Gibson acoustic-electric. Custom fretless. Hofner bass

This piece began as a recorded jam session at Electric Lady Studios in New York City. The only thing that remains from the original recording is the drums. Everything else was layered on in over-dubs at subsequent sessions in Los Angeles. This selection was an out-take from the "APOSTROPHE" album. Another example of fretless guitar soloing can be heard on the song 'San Ber'dino' in the "ONE SIZE FITS ALL" album. Unfortunately, the fretless guitar was stolen several years ago.

The Frank Zappa AAAFNRAA Birthday Bundle 21.12.2014 (2014) liner notes

Produced by Frank Zappa
Recorded at Electric Lady Studios, NYC 1972, & Paramount Studios 1973
Engineer, Kerry McNab
FZ, Guitars, Bass
Jim Gordon, Drums

The Crux Of The Biscuit (2016) liner notes

Originally Recorded at Electric Lady Studios, 11/8/72
Original Recording Engineer: Dave Whitman
Original Recording Source: 2" 16-Track Analog Tape Master
Re-recorded at Paramount Recording Studios 11/18/72
Engineer: Kerry McNabb
Recording Source: 16 Track 2" Analog Tape Master
Mixed by Kerry McNabb at Paramount Recording Studios 1973 to 1/4" 2-Track Stereo Analog Tape


Special thanks to Patrick Buzby.

Läther (1996) (Universal, 2012)/TGWATFZ (1987) RSD (2014)/TFZAAAFNRAABB 21.12.2014 (2014)/The Crux Of The Biscuit (2016)
0:00-1:59 0:00-1:58
2:07-2:21 2:09-2:23
2:32-2:43 2:23-2:34
2:21-2:32 2:45-2:56
2:43-2:54 3:05-3:16

7. Tryin' To Grow A Chin


time source
0:00-0:21 (grout)
0:21-3:15 London, February 16, 1977
3:15-3:26 (grout)


8. Broken Hearts Are For Assholes

Formerly Buddy Love the Baron Of Beef

Den Simms, Eric Buxton & Rob Samler, "They're Doing the Interview of the Century—Part 3," Society Pages (US), September 1990

FZ: Buddy Love is the character that Jerry Lewis played in that . . . scientist movie. [...] Buddy Love, the nutty professor. Isn't that the character that Jerry Lewis turns into when he drinks the potion? (laughter) Patrick O'Hearn is the one responsible for all the Buddy Love stuff.


tinylightz, Zappateers, December 2, 2015

Is vocal part (from 4:26 to 4:49) of Broken Hearts Are For Assholes [from Cologne, February 6, 1977] used on Lather? I think that it's very similar to the Lather version of the part of this song.

time source
0:00-0:36 London, February 16, 1977
0:36-1:11 London, February 10, 1977
1:11-1:21 London, February 16, 1977
1:21-2:44 London, February 10, 1977
2:44-2:54 ?
2:54-3:04 London, February 16, 1977
3:04-3:39 ?
3:39-4:00 Cologne, February 6, 1977
4:00-4:34 ?

Additional informant: JWB.

9. The Legend Of The Illinois Enema Bandit

Gwonam, Zappateers, September 10, 2011

The Illinois Enema Bandit (timings taken from läther and 12 29 audience)

1:05—One Beat (approx. 0.8 seconds long) edited out.
3:01—6:10 minutes consisting of horn, bass and guitar (Ray?) solos edited
out, leaving just Frank's solo (which had lots of delay added to it)
6:39—redone vocals by ray ("the illinois")
6:56—mixture of live and studio vocals by frank + doubletracking and chorus (mostly live)
7:55—vocal overdub by Frank
8:31—overdub or doubletracking on frank's voice(?)
10:45—delay on ray's vocals not present on the audience recording

some of the overdubs can only be detected through close listening to
the audience recording, which is a little bit muddy. Frank sings\speaks a
few lines with slightly more power in his voice.

pbuzby, Zappateers, September 10, 2011

Yes, that's a guitar solo by Ray as well as a sax solo by, I think, Lou Marini on the audience tape but edited out of the ZINY and Läther releases.

The Läther version uses delays and effects on the vocals (on the end of Don Pardo's monologue as well as other bits you mention by Ray and FZ) while the ZINY mix sounds more like a straight live recording.

ZINY vs. Läther

Patrick Buzby, November 12, 2012

Same edit, but different mix. It has some effects on the vocals (reverb on Don Pardo's "Michael Kenyon...." and some sort of doubling effect on FZ's "the police will say 'you're under arrest'") while ZINY has single tracked, live sounding vocals, at least on the CD.

Charles Ulrich, November 13, 2012

The ZINY LP [...] matches Läther at both these points.

disc 2

1. Honey, Don't You Want A Man Like Me?

2. The Black Page #1

3. Big Leg Emma

4. Punky's Whips

5. Flambé

FZ, KROQ, Pasadena, December, 1977

It's one of the tunes from a musical I wrote called Hunchentoot—another one of my projects that never got brought to the public.

The story of Hunchentoot is the story of the DEEP romance between a eight foot tall space girl named Drakma, the Queen of Cosmic Greed, and a fake giant spider named Hunchentoot.

This is the love song that Drakma sings to the giant spider in the show—of course the words aren't on it, this is the cocktail version being played by George Duke and Ruth Underwood and Chester Thompson, Patrick O'Hearn on bass.


6. The Purple Lagoon

8. Läther

Patrick Buzby, alt.fan.frank-zappa, May 16-19, 2012

FZ announced the title as "I Promise..." during the December 1976 shows. Presumably he changed it to "Lather" some time after he wrote the ZINY liner notes.

I remember at least one fall 77 show where FZ took the trouble to mention that the song was titled "Lather" but was previously titled "I Promise..."


disc 3

1. Filthy Habits

2. Titties 'N Beer

3. The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution

4. The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary

Galeans, Zappateers, February 16, 2017

I've just realized the final guitar chord that appears on the "Lather" version of "Greggery Peccary" (20:52) can be found in "Advance Romance" from "Philly '76" (11:41).


1996 Bonus Tracks

5. Re-Gyptian Strut (1993)

Warner Brothers does not have the rights to this material, although it was delivered to them.


6. Leather Goods

Aren Hill, September 18, 2019

Am I not hearing correctly or is that almost a quote of 'Big Swifty' at 1:50?


7. Revenge Of The Knick Knack People

FZShows, v. 7.1

Frank Zappa's Band, September 1977—February 1978

Intro: excerpts from Knick Knack People (through PA system)

Frank Zappa Sessions Information, compiled by Greg Russo, August, 2003

08/21/78 (1-4AM) Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA—The Revenge Of The Knick Knack People (9:15); Flakes (7:20)
MUSICIANS: FZ (leader), Terry Bozzio

United States Copyright Office

Title: Curse of the Knick Knack people.
In: Baby snakes. 2 videocassettes ; 1/2 in.
Claimant: Munchkin Music
Created: 1977
Published: 15Sep79

Den Simms, Eric Buxton & Rob Samler, "They're Doing The Interview Of The Century—Part 2," Society Pages (US), June, 1990

DEN SIMMS: We've heard a little thing, that you used to open up the shows with, I believe in '78, called either "Revenge . . . " or "Attack of the Knick-Knack People". What is it? Was it "revenge" or "attack"? Let's clear that up.

FRANK ZAPPA: [thoughtful pause] I can't remember, 'cause my tapes in there just say "Knick-Knack". Um . . . OK. Remember I told ya about that period when I couldn't get a record contract, and I was just doing little shitty experiments here in the basement? That's part of what I was doing, gluing those little pieces of tape.

DEN SIMMS: Right. Doing that editing. When were the things that you glued together, when were those recorded? At that same time, or . . .

FRANK ZAPPA: No, no, no, no . . .

DEN SIMMS: I mean, I get the feeling that they sound Lumpy Gravy-ish, and . . .

FRANK ZAPPA: Yeah, it's all earlier sound sources.

DEN SIMMS: Was that put together for the exclusive use of putting on at the beginning of shows, or was it just a project that you did, and . . .

FRANK ZAPPA: It was just a sound object that I wanted to make, just choppin' tape together, and then, since there was no way to release it anyplace, I thought people might enjoy hearing it, and we used it to open the show.

DEN SIMMS: Right. OK. Um . . .

FRANK ZAPPA: I think it was "CURSE of the Knick-Knack People".

DEN SIMMS: "Curse of the Knick-Knack People". Alright.

Gail Zappa, original liner notes, July 13, 1996

Joe [Travers] went on a search and seizure mission for material directly related to Läther. [...] He found outtakes. Outs from master reels labeled "Baby Snakes outtakes" from whence was caused to be unleashed "Revenge Of The Knick Knack People." Other snippets carne from a box labeled "Odeon Percussion" from the same era.

Andrew Greenaway, "Interview With Joe Travers," The Idiot Bastard, February 14, 2001

IB: Whose decision was it to edit 'Revenge Of The Knick Knack People' on 'Läther'? [...]

JT: Well, 'Läther' was being worked on pretty much right when I started the Vault job. The stuff on the bonus section I found in one afternoon of looking for nuggets. I had certain things in mind for it. I was going to continue my searches, but the next day I came into the studio and Spence said, "Here it is, check it out." He had compiled the stuff he liked from the one and only day and was content. I didn't have the say-so to recommend we keep searching. We needed the complete 'Knick Knack'—plus the complete 'Flambay'—and I wanted to get the accapella version of 'Dong Work For Yuda' from the live 76 band featured on 'Läther'. There you have it.

Different versions & other appearances

Thanks to Tan Mitsugu, Patrick Buzby & Charles Ulrich.

KPFK 1981 Leather Era Outtakes

ROTKKP (Läther, 1996) [Rykodisc 1996]

"Dancin' Fool" (Sheik Yerbouti, 1979) [Rykodisc 1995] Baby Snakes (1979) [Eagle Rock 2003] Halloween (2003) Quaudiophiliac (2004)
0:00-0:05 0:00-3:03     0:03:58-0:04:03
0:05-0:06     0:04:03-0:06:56      
0:06-0:07     Radio Interview. 5:47-5:48    
0:09-0:10     Radio Interview. 5:48-5:49    
0:30-0:33     Radio Interview. 4:33-4:36    
1:21-1:29       1. NAIA?. 1:13-1:21  
1:36-1:38       1. NAIA?. 1:21-1:23  
1:40-1:49       1. NAIA?. 1:23-1:31 (*)  
1:49-1:50       2. LG. 0:00-0:01 (*)  
1:52-1:55   3:17-3:21      
2:26-2:43       2. LG. 0:40-0:57 (**)  
      0:06:56-0:07:14 (***)      
        0:02:20-0:02:36 (***)      
3:12-3:21       0:02:36-0:02:44
3:21-3:33       0:10:33-0:10:45      
        0:10:45-0:12:54 (***)      
3:50-3:58   0:00-2:22          
3:58-4:27           8. VTB. 1:25-1:54
4:27-4:30           9. WJ. 0:00-0:02
4:31-5:31     0:12:54-0:14:36      
5:31-5:43         7. CB. 11:36-11:48
5:43-5:45         8. VTB. 0:00-0:06
5:45-5:49       1. NAIA?. 1:23-1:31 (*)
5:49-5:53       9. WJ. 12:56-13:18
5:53-5:55       2. LG. 0:00-0:01 (*)
    2:22-2:25   0:14:36-0:14:39     9. WJ. 13:18-13:21
6:12-6:16 (3:01-3:03)              
Tan's [and Román's] notes

(*) During [1:23-1:31] of NAIA?, the two segments from ROTKKP are overlapping each other. On LG [0:00-0:01] the two segments from ROTKKP continue to be overlapping each other.

(**) [0:57-1:05 of LG is a loop repeating 0:56-0:57.]

(***) [These sections of Baby Snakes are hard to identify as they're so buried in the mix.]

Glenn Leonard, October 9, 2001

Anyone know the origin of the title Revenge of the Knick Knack People? On the surface, it seems funny to imagine little knick-knack people overthrowing it's household while listening to it. I'm also reminded that FZ referred to putting in too many fills n stuff as "knick-knacks". Could that be the musicians' he thwarted getting their revenge with all that insane diddling?



Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos
This page updated: 2019-09-22