The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life

The Original Project

Pete Howard, "Frank Zappa Discusses Upcoming CD Projects," ICE #42, September, 1990

Zappa's also preparing an ambitious four-CD set drawn from his 1988 world tour, entitled The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life. "That has a couple of major things of interest on it," Zappa told ICE. "There's our version of Ravel's 'Bolero' which is pretty spectacular, 'Stairway To Heaven' which is also pretty amazing, and 'Purple Haze' and 'Sunshine Of Your Love' recorded at a soundcheck in Linz, Austria. And there's a lot of Jimmy Swaggart material on it—for example, a version of 'Lonesome Cowboy Burt' with the words changed to be about Swaggart and his prostitute friend. He was under investigation in the middle of our '88 tour, so we would change the words every night to reflect all the stuff that was coming out about him." Other tidbits include "Theme From The Godfather," "The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue," "The Orange County Lumber Truck," Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire" and, if room can be made for it, "Strictly Genteel." "I'm trying to squeeze as much of the good stuff from the 88 tour into this as I can," Zappa says. "The title is for alt the people in the U.S. who never got to hear the band. The reception overseas was unbelievable; we've never had such good reviews." Thus release, however, will not be issued by Rykodisc, since their deal with Zappa has expired, save for the You Can't On That On Stage Anymore series. Zappa says that the U.K.-based Music For Nations label will likely issue The Best Band . . . overseas first, before it comes out in America.

The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life vs. Make A Jazz Noise Here

FZ, interviewed by Den Simms & Rob Samler, Society Pages, June, 1991

DS: Is my assumption correct that [MAKE A JAZZ NOISE HERE] will have more instrumental stuff, and things that lean more towards jamming, and stuff like that?

FZ: Yeah. That's the reason I split 'em up, because THE BEST BAND leans more toward recognizable song titles, y'know, favorites from albums, mostly vocal material, or some of the more humorous stuff. I mean, we're still playing the solos and things in it.

DS: But it'll be more similar to BROADWAY THE HARD WAY . . .

FZ: No, it's not. [...] Well, [similar] only in that it's vocal oriented. There's not that much unreleased material on it . . . [...] or new material. [...] Most of the titles are familiar. It includes Stairway To Heaven and Ravel's Bolero. [...] The other logic is there's some people who don't like instrumental music, and some people who don't like some of the weird types of things that are in MAKE A JAZZ NOISE HERE. I separated that from the more entertaining type material.


The Cover Art

Original Photograph

Original liner notes, 1991

Photos: Bruce Malone, LGI./Design: Tracy Veal.

"The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life," Wikipedia, November 2, 2015

The original album simply featured a photograph of Frank Zappa and his band against a black background with blue lettering, but upon discovering that the photograph had been used without the permission of the photographer, Bruce Malone, Zappa simply continued issuing the cover with the photograph replaced with an empty black space.

Charles Ulrich, November 21, 2015

Bruce Malone said that the photos were taken at a rehearsal in Los Angeles. [...]

He said he didn't know why the photos were removed from the album.

Japanese Calvin Cover

Cal Schenkel,, September 27, 1997

When I came in, it was from a call from the Japanese distributor, who contacted me to do the cover for the Japanese release. Which, when Frank saw it, he decided he wanted to use it on the U.S. version. Which didn't actually happen until the Ryko 95 release.


Different Versions

UME, 2012

Jens Burger, February 13, 2013

I've detected two glitches at 5:53 and 5:55 mins on Stairway to Heaven the Best Band Version 2012. They were not present on my old Barking Pumpkin Version 1991. It's no manufacturing error, since it's also on the iTunes Version. It seems the digital Tape has suffered a bit.


disc 1

1. Heavy Duty Judy


Special thanks to Charles Ulrich

0:00-0:50 Würzburg, Germany, April 22, 1988
0:50-1:43 Rotterdam, Netherlands, May 3, 1988
1:43-6:04 Würzburg, Germany, April 22, 1988

What's that say? "Thanks for coming, what's the secret word for tonight? Your buddies Dirk, Tom and Tommy." Okay . . . Alright, guys, you're looking for another secret word?

FZ, interviewed by Michael Heinze, July 30, 1990

There are these three guys from Germany, Dirk [Weitz], Tom [Nagla] and Tommy [Mikkat], I don't know their last names, but they came to almost every concert in Germany in '88, and they would hold up a big sign in the audience that would say: "Frank, what's the secret word for tonight?"

And so every time I would see the sign I would just come up with a word, and that word would be like a virus that would infect every song during the show. And once I knew that there were kids in the audience that wanted to see that happen, we just did it more and more and more. There will be some good examples of that in this album that's coming out called "The best band you never heard in your life". In fact, on one—it's a quadruple CD—a lot of the stuff is from the German concerts, especially from the one in Würzburg. And I see the sign in the audience, and I read it, and you'll hear me, and you'll hear the results.

This afternoon at the hotel I was introduced for the first time to Johnny Cash, and Johnny was going to come to the concert tonight, and he was going to sing with us. Unfortunately his wife got sick so he can't come tonight.

Johnny Cash & FZ
[Johnny Cash, FZ.]


2. Ring Of Fire


3. Cosmik Debris

(Now exactly what kind of a RING OF FIRE are we talking about here tonight?)
Don't you know,
You could get better results with Anusol

Wikipedia, retrieved April 9, 2011

Anusol is a medication that can be used to treat hemorrhoids (also known as piles).

Brad Schmitt,, January, 2004

No joke—a Florida TV production company plans to pitch Preparation H and other hemorrhoid-relief products with a commercial that features the country classic Ring of Fire.

The idea is hilarious to the song's co-writer, Merle Kilgore, who penned the Johnny Cash hit with Cash's late wife, June Carter Cash.

You see, Kilgore, an ex-country artist and 20-year veteran of the road, used to use a hemorrhoid joke onstage whenever he'd introduce Ring of Fire.

"I'd say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, I want to give credit where credit is due. I dedicate this song to the makers of Preparation H,' " Kilgore said yesterday. "And they would just fall out. So when the song publisher called and told me about it, I said, 'I can't believe it!' "

Fox News, February 19, 2004

"There is no way we will ever let that happen," Rosanne Cash told the newspaper. "We would never allow the song to be demeaned like that."

The script for the commercial would have featured Kilgore's own rendition of the song, not Cash's, but the Cash children still hold veto power through June Carter Cash's songwriting credit.

"He [Kilgore] started talking about this moronic tie-in without talking to any of us," Rosanne Cash added. "The song is about the transformative power of love and that's what it has always meant to me and that's what it will always mean to the Cash children."

June Carter Cash died a few months before her husband last year.

"I certainly didn't want to upset the Cash family because I love them," said Kilgore, who now manages Hank Williams Jr. "I just thought it was kind of funny."


5. Who Needs The Peace Corps?

Mike Keneally, "All About Mike!,", c. 1998

"Peace Corps" in particular—not to be too fucking pompous, but that song probably wouldn't have happened on that tour if I weren't there (same with the Beatle stuff)—topped off by Frank not remembering the monologue at the end, asking me to recite it, then assigning it to me afterwards.


Special thanks to Charles Ulrich

0:00-0:07 Munich, Germany, May 9, 1988
0:07-2:40 Würzburg, Germany, April 22, 1988


7. Zomby Woof

Mike Keneally, "Really, Keneally?,"

Q: [...] Is that you playing the little solo guitar breaks on the tail end of "Zomby Woof" on TBBYNHIYL?

A: Yep.


Special thanks to Charles Ulrich.

0:00-0:29 Munich, Germany, May 9, 1988
0:29-0:43 Allentown, Pennsylvania, March 19, 1988
0:43-0:54 Munich, Germany, May 9, 1988
0:54-5:41 Allentown, Pennsylvania, March 19, 1988


disc 2

3. Let's Move To Cleveland


Thanks to Charles Ulrich

0:00-2:08 Modena, Italy, June 5, 1988
2:08-5:51 Montpellier, France, May 18, 1988


6. A Few Moments With Brother A. West

And a lot of you here, you smut-minded, musical people say, "King of kings, that must be Elvis."

Sources & edits

Upper Darby, PA, February 14, 1988 The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life (1991)
0:00-3:58 0:00-3:56
4:44-4:48 3:56-4:01


7. The Torture Never Stops Part One


Thanks to Charles Ulrich.

0:00-0:30 unidentified concert, 1988
0:30-1:25 London, England, April 19, 1988
1:25-2:56 Würzburg, Germany, April 22, 1988
2:56-5:20 London, England, April 19, 1988


9. Lonesome Cowboy Burt (Swaggart Version)

I spoo
Till I goo
On the rug


10. The Torture Never Stops Part Two

Scott Thunes, interviewed by Mike Flynn, Bass Guitar Magazine, January, 2011

With Frank, there are so many notes that I can get my ya-yas out, my juju actually happening, and please him and not play too much—like there's no way to play too much—which is funny because when I first started playing with him, Arthur Barrow, the bass player, said for "The Torture Never Stops," "During his solo Frank doesn't want to hear anything except the note A. You can play any octave you want but that's the only note you're allowed to play for that particular solo; there's all these other solos that do all these other things but for that particular one just do that." In '81 and '82 I agreed, but in '84 I forgot all about it and Frank never turned around. You know he never actually said, "What are you doing to my solo? This is the way it's been for years!"


11. More Trouble Every Day (Swaggart Version)

(Oh, my God, it's Tipper!)
I mean to say that every day
Is just another Voodoo Fudge

JWB, September 25, 1998

Vaginal discharge is sometimes called "voodoo butter". Butt discharge is called "voodoo fudge".


13. The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue

Sources (thanks to Charles Ulrich)
0:00-1:06 Royal Oak, Michigan, February 28, 1988
1:06-7:10 Syracuse, New York, March 21, 1988 (with an edit at 4:30)
7:10-9:18 Vienna, Austria, May 8, 1988 (with an edit at 9:08)


14. Stairway To Heaven

FZ, interviewed in Humo, December, 1993

Macho-behavior and humour can't be mixed. And hits are holy, so satire is also taboo. I can recall how my parodies of Bob Dylan, Peter Frampton and the Beatles were seen as blasphemious. I love Dylan and the Beatles, but you have to be able to laugh at everything. Frampton's "I'm in you" we made that into "I have been in you". The lyrics to "Lucy in the sky with diamonds" I turned into "picture yourself on a whore in New Orleans . . . ", and so forth. The Beatles themselves could laugh at that, but their fans couldn't. Some musical pieces, such as the "Bolero" have become such pompous clichés, that I like to pierce through them with an unusual cover version. I've given a similar treatment to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven", another one of those clichés.

Mike Keneally, "All About Mike!,", c. 1998

. . . me and Paul Carman launching into Jimmy Page's "Stairway" solo in unison without telling Frank we were going to (he'd been playing an improvised solo in that spot), Frank digging it, waiting until we were done, then saying "OK. Now show it to the REST of the horn section" . . .


Thanks to Charles Ulrich.

0:00-2:13 Vienna, Austria, May 8, 1988
2:13-8:21 Florence, Italy, June 6, 1988
8:21-9:20 London, England, April 18, 1988



Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos
This page updated: 2020-02-18