Many people have wondered why Zappa remixed We're Only In It for the Money and Cruisin' with Ruben & the Jets so much for their re-releases in the '80s - why he added new bass and drums recordings, for example. This page will attempt to gather theories, speculations and eyewitness accounts along with Zappa's own words. (In short, however, he basically wanted to do it, so he did it. He didn't have to.)

Questions & Answers

Q: Were the tapes DAMAGED?
A: Some of them were.

Q: WHAT tapes were damaged? The bass and drums tapes?
A: Either that, or the mixed-down 2-track masters. However, the 1995 CD of We're Only In It for the Money was made from a 2-track master and safety copy that were not all that damaged. From David Goodwin:

It's important to note that it's obvious that the tapes that were used to make We're Only In It for the Money's 1995 CD incarnation WERE damaged to a degree. The original LP doesn't sound that bad on certain tracks, and I don't hear the tape fuzz on (oddly enough) the drums and bass on the LP that I obviously hear on the CD. Make no excuses: the tapes WERE damaged, and pretty decrepit, but certainly not unusable.

Q: Did he HAVE to add new bass and drums?
A: No. He didn't do it on Freak Out!, for example, and not on Lumpy Gravy [1]. Those albums were just re-built from the original tracks. He put new bass and drums on We're Only In It for the Money and Cruisin' with Ruben & the Jets not because he had to, but because he wanted to.

Q: WHY did he want to do that?
A: It seems he didn't like the old '60s sound of the original albums very much, and thought they sounded better with '80s bass and drums added. Sometimes, though, he said he did it because he thought "the audiences of today" wouldn't like the '60s sound.

Zappa's Own Words

Here's a collection of Zappa's own words about the remixes. You will find that sometimes he told the truth, sometimes he bent it, sometimes he equivocated and sometimes he lied. From a "Speaking of Music" lecture at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco, May 20 1984:

Some of the original masters which I inherited after a very long lawsuit were stored so badly you could see through the tape. So we had to go back to original material and rebuild the things. In the case of Ruben & the Jets and We're Only In It for the Money, we replaced the drum tracks and the bass track with newly recorded digital bass and drums. But, Freak Out! is mixed from the original tapes with nothing added, Absolutely Free has nothing added ...

From Zapparap, an article by Andy Greenaway in the British fanzine T'Mershi Duween #48, supplied by Antal Adriaanse:

Some of the original masters had been stored so badly by the former owners that the oxide had actually worn off the tapes - you could see right through them - so it was impossible to go from two tracks to digital; it required a remix. I had to dig up the original eight-track and twelve-track masters of these albums. I decided that I would add new digitally recorded drums and bass. That's been done on We're Only In It for the Money. The master tapes for Ruben & the Jets were in better shape but, since I liked the results on Money, I decided to do it to Ruben too. I thought the important thing was the material itself. I'm not necessarily enthralled with the level of musicianship or technical capability of my recordings done in 1967.

[Note that the 1995 CD of We're Only In It for the Money was taken from original two-tracks, which can't all have been in such bad shape after all.]

One of the things that you gain there is your digital dynamic range. You put digital drums on it and suddenly you gain a whole new perspective. In the original recording, the drums were mono because you didn't have all that many tracks for them. When you record masters now, the drums are six tracks. Also, the drummer and bass player in this instance were much better musicians than the original guys who played the parts. Some of the songs were changed a little bit in order to take advantage of the extra skills of the performers. Then it was all remixed with digital echo and all the things that you use nowadays.

Some people prefer it. Maybe five per cent of the people who have heard it say they wish I would have left it alone [and they are all on alt.fan.frank-zappa! - Antal]. But there was no way to leave it alone, because the original masters were thrashed. The same was true of Lumpy Gravy, so I had no choice but to rebuild it.

  He used to write songs about girls with big jugs,
But this time he brought his ballet to work out the bugs -
And then he wonders why kids take drugs!
Jim Cox, "Frankie's in Town"

[Remember that there's a difference between "rebuilding" it from the old building blocks and using new building blocks instead of some of the old ones. It seems that Zappa wanted us to forget.]

If I were to go back and rebuild Money today, I might do it differently. We didn't have the all-digital editing equipment we have today for putting CDs together. All the original razor blade edits that were done on the two-track masters in 1967 I had to remake on digital tape! I'll be the first one to admit that Money is probably the least satisfactory of all the reissues that have come out.

(Zappa clearly says that yes, the original tapes were damaged - that is, the mixed-down masters were damaged, but not the 8-tracks and 12-tracks. He had to remix them, but this has nothing to do with the infamous overdubs: he chose to do them because he didn't like the original bass and drums. However, the 1995 CD of We're Only In It for the Money was taken from original two-track masters, which proved that there were master tapes after all that were indeed usable.) From Jon Naurin:

We've been through this many times, and the consensus, as I recall, has always been that Frank lied to us: He told us that the Wackerman/Barrow tracks were added because the original tape was damaged, while in fact the original 8-track tapes were fine, and Frank added new drums & bass because he didn't like the sound of the old ones. I stumbled across an interview (Goldmine 1989), which shows that on at least one occasion, Zappa did tell the truth. [Warning - Zappa sounds like a total jerk in this interview, especially in the parts highlighted in bold type :) - Ed.]

GOLDMINE: There's been some controversy about what you did with We're Only In It for the Money for the Old Masters set and the Rykodisc CD, the bass and drum tracks that were added to it. Was that the only solution to this tape problem?

ZAPPA: No, bass and drums added was not a solution to the tape problem. The tape problem had to be dealt with with a remix, no matter what. The idea of putting digitally recorded bass and drums onto those tracks was a creative decision that I made because I've always felt that this material in We're Only In It for the Money was good material, but I hated the technical quality of the recording; we were just trapped into that level of of technical quality because that's the way the world was then. I mean, we were virtually using a prototype eight-track machine when that album was done.

[...] But I've always had a kind of fondness for the tunes that were in there, and I wanted to enhance that album above and beyond the level of 1967 technical development. So that's why it was a creative decision, I decided to put it on. The problem with people who are collectors and purists and stuff like that is, their regard is not for the music, it is for some imaginary intrinsic value of vinyl and cardboard. People who demand to have the original release of this, that, and the other thing in the original wrapper and all that stuff, that's fetishism. And I think that's fine, if you want to be a fetishist, and have that kind of a hobby. But it is a type of attitude that I don't share when it comes to re-releasing the material. I think that the material should have a chance to sound as good as you can make it sound, given the technical tools that are at your disposal. So when digital audio came along and you had the possibility of a 95-dB dynamic range, and, in 1967, it might have been, maybe 40 dB or something like that, the chance to make those tunes punchier, and the same thing on Ruben & the Jets, the chance to have some aspect of 1980s transience and top end on those tapes was something that I felt was worth the time and the money that I spent redoing it.

[...] I don't have any more plans for taking older material and adding stuff to it - those are the only two albums that it was done - and I would describe any criticism of the addition of drums and bass as something less than a tempest in a teapot. If you've got time to worry about that, you really must have too much time on your hands. There's too many other important musical, social and intellectual problems floating around the country today to give a rat's ass as to whether or not I swapped the bass and drums on We're Only In It for the Money. [Zappa could be such a dickhead - JWB]

GOLDMINE: Part of the way to look at that too, though, is to say, who are you reissuing them for? Are you reissuing them for people who heard them then and remember them in a certain way or are you reissuing them for potentially a new audience?

ZAPPA: It's for a new audience, because I think that a lot of the things that were said in those lyrics, like "Mom & Dad" and some of the other songs that are in there, they have a relevance today. And the problem with appealing to the younger audience today is thay have become accustomed to a level of audio excellence and would psychologically reject certain older recordings just because of the way they sound without ever stopping to listen to what the content was. The tone quality of the recording itself would turn them off or dissuade them from in-depth listening. So, in an attempt to meet those new customers halfway, I would like to spiff the stuff up as much as possible, so that they can tolerate the sound of it while they're listening to the content that's in there.

Eyewitness Accounts

Arthur Barrow, the Clonemeister himself (who did the bass overdubs on Money and some on Ruben), sees it like this:

Frank has this great new UMRK studio and he's spent days, maybe weeks fine-tuning what he believes to be a fabulous state-of-the-art drum sound. At the same time, after a long fight, he finally gets posession of his old tapes. He listens to the tracks, and finds the drum sound to be bad in his opinion. Like I said before, he was probably never happy with the original drums in the first place. He puts 2 and 2 together and comes up with this "great idea" to replace the drums. And while he's at it, why not do the bass as well, Arthur knows all these tunes, right?

JWB adds Bob Stone's account:

According to Bob Stone, Zappa's engineer at the time, Zappa's REAL reason for replacing the bass and drums was because he hated the original performances. Bob warned him that fans would be displeased, but Frank didn't care. He used the "badly stored master" story as an excuse, conveniently failing to mention that it was the mixes that were damaged, and not the master tapes. In addition, there were safety copies of the We're Only In It for the Money mixes that conveniently popped up around 1995.

(It also needs to be addressed again that the Ruben tapes WERE NOT DAMAGED. Zappa added new bass and drums to make the album "more appealing" and more "stooge rock" because he "already had the studio set up that way after doing Money, so what the fuck". As I have always said, this is almost definitely part of the real reason for also overdubbing Money, along with his disapproval of the original performance.)

Bassist Arthur Barrow has one more thing to say:

Let me say that I tried to talk Frank out of the the idea of new drums and bass. As a fan, I was horrified.

I myself found an alt.fan.frank-zappa account from Spencer Chrislu, about the state of the tapes:

Well, I was never around to hear those famous FZ quotes, so I can't comment on them ... but, I was there with Frank, in the vault, pulling out these masters. We found the original master of We're Only In It for the Money and the safety backup copy. We listened and transferred both of them into the Sonic System and FZ did the editing. Now, this is not to say that there aren't some masters in the vault that have suffered the ravages of time and poor storage methods, but since we installed the climate control system in '93, I believe that many of the tapes have actually been saved from sure death. We have also found that Scotch tape formulations have held up much better than any of the Ampex tapes.

RE: musique concrète pieces, FZ did not lie about this. These things were recorded on an entirely different type of tape that has not held up well. On both We're Only In It for the Money and Läther, we had to take new versions of these pieces from the safeties or the EQ mastering copies and edit them back into their original places.

And here's Mark Pinske, interviewed in Mix Magazine 1/2003:

He had a studio set of drums, but we normally used the artist's drums. In that particular case, we took Chad Wackerman's drums. We had over a period of time eliminated the fact that John Goode, who's now the vice president of DW Drums, John was our drum roadie on tour. Frank became very fond of him, so John tuned all the drums for us. And what we would do is, John and I and Chad Wackerman, or whoever the drummer was - the ones that you talked about where we replaced the drums on "Rudy and the Jets" and that stuff, I was not very fond of that, because I really wanted - there was a chance for me to be able to remix all the original albums, you're talking about the old box master set, probably, and I was kind of upset about the fact that he wanted to replace the drums, because I had already gotten a pretty good drum sound out of even the mono recordings that were on the original ones, but he kind got - that was him getting carried away again. Trying to say, "Well, we might as well make it better." What we would do is, we would spend two or three days, just John and I and Chad, and we would try all kinds of different drum heads, and all kinds of different microphones, and all kinds of different things to try to get the absolute best drum sound we could get. So when we were done, we would have a really elaborate, great-sounding drum set. And Frank really loved this. He got to love the drum set so much. Where we really started getting carried away was on, like a piece called "Cocaine Decisions" on Man From Utopia. We just had this EMT compressors, and the toms would sound real big, and all this kind of stuff. So Frank started really liking this really good drum sound, and kind of wanted to start hearing it on just about everything. It was just a phase. We would go through these phases. Unfortunately, when we redid the old box set, a lot of the recordings were so bad, when we got the original 10-track 1-inch masters, and 12-track 1-inch master ...

MIX: They were 10-track 1-inch masters?

PINSKE: Yeah. There was a couple of them that were 10-track 1-inch masters. There was a machine that was built by Les Paul, down at Cucamonga Studios. It was a home-made machine that was probably the only 10-track tape that was ever existence in the world. It was a 10-track 1-inch.

MIX: You said Les Paul. Do you mean Paul Buff?

PINSKE: No, no. Les Paul. Les Paul and Paul Buff together. Paul Buff was the recording - was the engineer at Cucamonga. Later formed Valley People. Paul invented the noise gates and everything else. Frank actually had the original noise gate that Paul Buff invented. He was always really innovative. But they built a recorder together. It was a 10-track 1-inch. And the funny thing about it is, the darn thing sounded really good. It looked like some old refrigerator or something. It was homemade. We transferred all that stuff over, and when I transferred a lot of these tapes, they would only, in those days, just give one track to the drums. Drums never had much priority, so they might just have one shotgun mic or something in front of a drum kit. It wasn't anything great to listen to.

MIX: That must have been around '84, when you went digital. You didn't transfer them to 24-track analog, did you?

PINSKE: Oh, no, no. That stuff was later, yeah. We had the digital machine then, and I transferred them over to the digital machine. But what I did was, I had to almost make home-made - at that time - you know when I told you we bought the truck from the Beach Boys? In that truck was a Studer 2-inch 24-track. That was a lot better 24-track, sonically, than the Ampex MM1200s. We put the Studer in there, being the permanent fixture in the corner, and what I did was, I made, we kind of made home-made guides so I could take the 12-track 1-inch tapes and play them on the bottom 12 tracks of the 24-track 2-inch head. The problem with that was, it was a real meticulous thing, because you couldn't rewind them fast, because the tape would all creep up, and it wouldn't pack right. You could really only pass them through one time, because the guide system wasn't all that great. I took a pair of 1-inch rollers, for instance, and put them across there. So I meticulously striped those things. Also, we were concerned about the delicacy of the fact that they were old masters, and oxide's falling off them, and all this kind of stuff, so you didn't want to play them any more times than you had to. So, what I did was, I'd do a real slow wind in play speed, and then I would stripe them across, and the stripe across and hard patch them right across onto the digital machine, so that we could preserve the tracks the best we can, in the minimal amount of time of playing the tapes. So we did that with all the old masters that we got back from the end, the result of the law suit. So time-wise, it probably was about '82, '83, '84.


[1] He did actually remix Lumpy Gravy, and added new bass and drums to it, but that version was never released - Bob Stone (his sound man) talked him out of it (thanks, Bob). Three minutes of that version were released on the Old Masters Box 1 Sampler. [2]

[2] There seems also to be such a remix of Studio Tan: an excerpt from this seems to have popped up on the Guitar World According to Frank Zappa cassette from 1987 (available then by mail-order from Barfko-Swill and Guitar World magazine).

I Had a Dream About This

From Bossk (R), around 11:30, September 12 1999:

I had a really really weird dream this morning about Zappa's reasons for remixing the Ruben & the Jets album. It all started to unravel when a little-known French painter was found dead. A bunch of kids had found him and reported some very unusual details to the police, who soon got to verify them for themselves: his head was very fragile, and when it was cracked open a white powder came out. Later, three fairly big white worms were discovered inside him, and there was known to be a fourth, which hadn't been found yet. These worms had been introduced into his body when he was still alive (and had been the cause of death) by a secret society of French painters, who intended to use the white powder for their secret paint mixture. The white powder, of course, was the end result of the worms' eating away at a human body. It became known (through scientific testing, presumably) that these worms were extremely old and "went back to the time of Christ", with a hint that the same worms had been eating the body of Jesus Christ himself, possibly when, as in some versions of history, he survived the crucifixion and was exiled to what is now southern France, or died on the cross and had his remains taken to what is now France and buried there (see Andrew's & Schellenberger's The Tomb of God for an example of this, which also includes some secretive French painters!) - and, of course, countless other people since Roman times, to supply this secret society of French painters with their special paint. (The proposed victims throughout history included certain French Royal figures.) The reason that this particular painter (with no ties to the secret society) had been singled out as the latest victim was that his surname contained the syllable "sang", meaning "blood", apparently reason enough to select him on some occult grounds. Perhaps it was an indication that he was living preservation of the bloodline of Jesus Christ.

How does all this connect to Ruben & the Jets? Well, in the dream, when Zappa recorded Ruben & the Jets, this French painter was a member of the Mothers' entourage, and was hanging out extensively with Zappa and the band. And already then - in 1968! - had the white worms been introduced into the painter's organism (I have no idea why it took the worms some 30 years to start to eat!); to do this, the French society had had to drug him, and Zappa, and the entire band and crew, and Zappa remained under the influence of these unusually powerful drugs for quite some time - in fact, the whole album was recorded and mixed under that influence! That is why Zappa was later so unhappy with the way it sounded, and that's why he made such drastic changes to the CD remix, which (in the dream!) was much closer to the way Zappa had originally wanted the album to sound. Shudder! (This explains why the 1995 re-issue of Ruben was not restored to the vinyl mix, like We're Only In It for the Money was.)

When I heard the news of the French painter's death, I was listening to the radio with Mr Cal Schenkel, who had just recovered from some serious illness. It was thanks to him that the details about the painter's involvement with the Ruben album could be patched together, and the truth finally be known.


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