Does Humor Belong in Music?

The 1995 CD is a thorough remix (and has a different cover), with one minute added to "Let's Move to Cleveland".

ESSENTIAL VERSIONS FOR COMPLETISTS: Old and new CD - completely different mixes. [completist's guide]


  • Original CD - not issued in the US (EMI CDP 7 46188-2 and EMI 46188 in Europe, January 1986; VACK 5080 in Japan)
  • 1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10548, May 16 1995; VACK 5080 in Japan, renumbered 5215 in 1998)
  • Bootleg LP (matrix: 746188A/B)
  • Video (VHS/laserdisc/DVD)
  • 2012 UMe CD (Zappa Records ZR 3874 [U.S.] or 0238742 [elsewhere] October 30, 2012)

the different original CD

1995 CD

Official Ryko statement: "Completely remixed and remastered. First time this has been available in the U.S. Completly new artwork from Cal Schenkel." [full statement]

From Juha Sarkkinen:

"Let's Move to Cleveland" is one minute longer on '95 version than on the EMI version.

From Patrick David Neve:

... it's very different. The non-Schenkel cover version is the original Bob Stone mix on EMI from 1986, and the Schenkel cover is the fantastic '93 remix and remaster, presumably engineered by Spencer Chrislu. In my opinion this is one of the best remasters ever, but some people prefer the EMI version. To my ears the EMI master sounds like it was mixed at the exact same time as the video, and besides that it has a "soundboard" kind of feel to it. It sounds like more of a rock band doing a live show. There are some problems, such as some phasing with the cymbals, and slight distortion with the rack toms. [Clarification: They're digital drums, but they're still distorted. Only slightly. I assume it was mixed digitally, and pushing a signal even one db past zero will cause it to distort. That was a rude awakening to analog engineers who were used to pushing levels into the red for a nice warm saturated sound. Can't do that with digital.] Also a general muddiness overall. It's still very listenable, and perhaps truer to the live sound of the band.

Also this only in relation to the '93 remaster, which by comparison is shimmering with clarity. The frequency range is extended all the way ... the UMRK chefs weren't afraid to use the entire 20hz-20khz bandwidth on this one. Those toms have been transformed into window-rattling cannon blasts and the high end range can make your smoke stand still as well. There is more depth to this recording, probably due to the increased sampling rates of '93 and also the increased frequency range. It sounds less like a live band in concert and more like a finished album.  Also, "Let's Move to Cleveland" is a minute longer.

Some people have criticized this release for being too "crispy" and digital-sounding, touting the EMI release as being "warmer" and generally sounding more musical. Though I personally prefer the '93 mix, I can see the truth in that, and personally I'm glad I've got both versions so I don't have to choose.

From AJ Wilkes:

I've often wondered about the toms - they sound like a TOTALLY different drum set than the ones from all the other '84 recordings. Can this kind of effect really be just from EQ and post-production trickery?

[Here is something else from AJ Wilkes :)]

From Herr Winkelmeier:

It's interesting for me to see that some people prefer the 1993 remix. I got a Canadian pressing of it as well as the '86 German pressing. I can hardly understand how anybody can consider the sound of the '93 remix to be better than the original version which may sound a bit rough in several places, but the overall sound quality is much better than the '93 remix which partly sounds like a better bootleg. Just listen to Zappa's vocal on "Tinsel-Town Rebellion" for example. All in all the original version sounds far more dynamic, there's much more pressure (we say Druck in German) on it. The volume level of all instruments compared to each other is also balanced better. The remix features some instruments the volume of which is simply not appropriate, i.e. too loud. The whole thing seems to be made without much care and/or in a hurry.

GOLA J: My copy of Does Humor Belong in Music, the recent Ryko re-release, has some kind of weird, static-like noise in the left channel during the guitar solos on "Penguin in Bondage" "Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel". Has anyone else noticed this on their copies?

THE SPENCE CHRISLU: The crunchy static you hear on those cuts was on the original multi-track master. It is the sound of Frank's guitar amplifier on the verge of collapse. I know Zappa chose not to include that particular channel on the original release of Humor, but it was my decision to include it because the guitar solo would then remain in true stereo and I wouldn't have to switch it to mono (which sounded bad). Also, that particular amp was the "fat" channel and it added tremendous heft to the solos (when it's not distorting). I took great pains to try to minimize the distortion as much as possible, but obviously it is still audible. I then played the finished master for both Dweezil and Gail, and they approved of my decision.

Bootleg LP

This album never came out on vinyl, and CDs were new back then and a lot of people didn't have CD players yet, and some eager beaver ran a vinyl bootleg of it, which you can read about here, in the Return of the Bootleg FAQ


There is also a video called DOES HUMOR BELONG IN MUSIC, which is a complete show from the same tour, band and venue.

From Richard Fox:

A one-hour video of a concert from 1984. There is also a CD of this name but the songs and performances differ on the CD. This is an excellent video and shows off the vocal talents of the 84 band. Songs include "Zoot Allures", "Tinsel-Town Rebellion", "More Trouble Every Day", "He's So Gay", "Bobby Brown", "Keep It Greasey", "Honey Don't You Want a Man Like Me?", "Cosmik Debris", "Dinah-Moe Humm", "Be in My Video", "Dancin' Fool" and "Whipping Post". There is also a little interview footage.

DOES HUMOR BELONG IN MUSIC was released on VHS in America and also on laserdisc in Japan. From Richard Kolke:

I would like to add that the Japanese laserdisc version of this show features a substantially different mix than the VHS video version. The keyboard parts seem to come out a little cleaner and the mix has a more "spatial" feel to it. Also, subtitles for all spoken (including interviews) and sung parts appear in Japanese at the bottom of the screen.

Following years of piratical releases, EMI did the unexpected and released DOES HUMOR BELONG IN MUSIC in late 2003/early 2004 as a bare-bones, bargain-priced DVD. Both the European (PAL) and US versions seem to be all-region DVDs, which is fairly spiffy. At present, it isn't clear which version of the audio is used by the DVD, but the programme is definitely not remixed into surround. Some discussion:

Dan Watkins: ...the picture quality of the DVD is far from great. In fact, it looks like it was transferred directly from an old VHS copy.

Biffy the Elephant Shrew: I've got to admit that I'm highly unimpressed by the picture quality.

NudeAdGuy: There are moments in this DVD where it seems like the vocals are pulled WAAAAAAY up for
no apparent reason. Don't remember it being that way on the tape.

John Henley: Has anyone who bought the US-issue DVD of DOES HUMOR BELONG IN MUSIC noticed that on that irritating peel-off barcode adhesive seal thingie, the title is rendered as DOES HUMOR EXIST IN MUSIC?

2012 UMe CD

1994 Digital Master, identical to the 1995 Rykodisc release, although it uses a variation of the 1980s artwork (to quoth myourself: it "eliminate[s] that silver, jizz-looking splash on the bottom left corner" and shrinks the "Frank Zappa" in the title).

Liv3evil notes a particularly heinous typographical problem:

Does Humor Belong in Music? specifies the following track order/index on the tray/in the insert:

01. Zoot Allures
02. Tinsel Town Rebellion
03. Trouble Every Day
04. Penguin in Bondage
05. Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel
06. What's New in Baltimore?
07. Whipping Post
08. Cock-Suckers' Ball
09. WPLJ
10. Let's Move to Cleveland

In actuality, the UMe is as follows (same as the '95 Ryko):

01. Zoot Allures
02. Tinsel Town Rebellion
03. Trouble Every Day
04. Penguin in Bondage
05. Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel
06. What's New in Baltimore?
07. Cock-Suckers' Ball
08. WPLJ
09. Let's Move to Cleveland
10. Whipping Post

This is a pretty big mistake!


  • Was this ever issued on cassette? A 1992 catalogue lists a TZAPPA54 cassette to be released that year, but a 1993 catalogue does not list it as having been released.
  • Does the original Japanese issue actually exist?

Additional Informants

  • Gladd6

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