The Old Masters
ESSENTIAL FOR COMPLETISTS: Not if you have the CDs, but the Box I Sampler
has unique material and is essential for completists. [completist's
The three Old Masters
boxes were vinyl re-issues of old albums - ironically, they did not use the old
master tapes, as they were remastered or remixed. To make things easier for me and not for
you, any differences between the Old Masters version of an album and
other versions are, at least for now, covered on the album's individual page, and not on
the Old Masters page. At any rate, they were often the same versions that
turned up on CD later. (There were also so-called Mystery Discs in two of
the Old Masters boxes, which had previously unreleased material on them. These were
re-issued on CD as Mystery Disc in September 1998.)
A fourth Old Masters box was planned, but not released - it was to
include a third Mystery Disc, which "didn't fit" in the third
box (source: Richard Lehnert, Stereophile Magazine
Volume 12 #6, June 1989).
From Lewis Saul, famous vinyl elitist:
I have all 3 Old Masters, and have been so ridiculously careful with
them that I can proudly say there isn't so much as a click on any track in all 3 volumes.
This vinyl seems to be EXTREMELY HIGH QUALITY - it seems as quiet as
the great German classical labels (DGG, Telefunken, &c.).
This was the first release of the often very infamous '80s remixes with overdubs of
albums such as We're Only In It for the Money and Cruising with Ruben & the Jets, which were even more
controversial when they were re-released on CD and the original musicians were still
credited, even though the tracks they recorded had been completely deleted, and the new
musicians weren't credited, and it was indeed not at all indicated that any overdubs had
taken place. But in the Old Masters box one (from Biffy the Elephant
Arthur and Chad were credited on the initial release of those mixes in
the first Old Masters box. These credits were in the booklet, not on the
album covers. (Also in the booklet, Jimmy Carl Black and Roy Estrada were credited only
with vocals on We're Only In It for the Money, and on Cruising with Ruben & the Jets Jimmy Carl Black and Art were
credited with "old drums" and Roy again with just vocals.) When the CDs came
out, they just reproduced the LP covers, and neglected to add the credits for the
From artwork maestro Cal Schenkel:
The covers of the original "mystery disc" sleeves were a simple design of a
pseudo-rubber stamp on a plain ground, the one in box 2 being a variation in color I
think. (I don't have copies of the Old Masters box sets, so I'm going
from memory, my notes, and copies supplied to me in the beginning of production of the Mystery Disc CD). I could have used the pseudo-rubber stamp,
but I didn't think it was particularly distinctive, so I chose to design a new cover.
Of the Old Masters box art, there were 3 different paintings -
one on each box, and I think there was also the Old Masters sampler album
with a Donald Roller Wilson painting on the cover. I would also like to see this art
reproduced, maybe they could be used for some future release(s).
Box 1 (Barking Pumpkin BPR 7777, April 1985)
The first box contained re-issues of
plus a "mystery disc" (BPR 7777-6), jam-packed with
fun stuff like old recordings of the Mothers and pre-Mothers recordings. Since Freak Out! was a double LP, box 1 was a 7-LP box.
Mikael also provides some liner notes from the booklet ("General Notes Regarding /
THE OLD MASTERS"):
The original tapes for this album were obtained after a lenghty and expensive court
battle involving two record companies, a former manager, and his brother, an attorney.
When the tapes were finally returned, the earliest masters were in wretched condition
(due to improper storage at MGM's vault and 20 years of deterioration of the cheezoid
quality tape stock originally used). Re-mixing was a necessity.
The We're Only In It for the Money album and Cruising with Ruben & the Jets have new bass and drum track
added (except for "Stuff up the cracks" - the original 8 track master
couldn't be found, so the version included here is a re-EQ'd copy of the original 2 track
mix ). All other cuts feature the original players.
Every effort has been made to improve the audio quality of these old tapes. In some
cases (Especially on the Mystery Disc), distortion on the original tape
could not be removed. Audio science has come a long way in the past 20 years, but not to
the point where it is possible to fix that kind of problem.
Lyrics to all the songs are included, except for the dialog on Lumpy Gravy.  Please note
that the tunes from the Freak Out! album which were
re-recorded on Cruising with Ruben & the Jets appear only in
the Freak Out! lyric file.
You must be a maniac if you bought this box ... but, it's people like you that
make projects like this possible. Everybody at BARKING PUMPKIN thanks you for being
deranged as you are. We hope you get a nostalgic hernia over box number one. We will be
releasing one per year, for the next four years, making up the complete OLD MASTERS
collection.  Thanks again.
 The CD version of "Stuff Up the Cracks" has new brass
added, which were not on the vinyl version (see Way
Beyond Just Drums & Bass, an article reproduced from a bootleg CD version of the
album). Was this brass also on the Old Masters version?
 There were also no lyrics to the Mystery Disc.
 Of course, there were never a fourth Old Masters
More notes, also provided my Mr Agardsson, from the end of the booklet:
Produced & arranged Frank Zappa
Engineered by Bob Stone & Mark Pinske at The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Second engineer: Tom Ehle
Disc mastering by John Matousek at Hitsville
Cover painting by Donald Roller Wilson
Art direction: Gabrielle Raumberger, New Age Art
Design: Wendy Sherman
Special thanks to Tom Gracyk for his ZAPPA paraphernalia
A digitally re-tweezed analog recording
Information phone: 818 Pumpkin
From Mikael Agardsson:
- "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" (Freak Out!)
is called "Cream Cheese" in the booklet.
- "Trouble Every Day" (Freak Out!) is called
"Trouble Coming Every Day" in the track list, but the lyric title is
"Trouble Every Day".
- "The Chrome-Plated Megaphone of Destiny" (We're Only In
It for the Money) is listed as being 07:09 in the booklet. On the 1995 CD it is 06:25
and on the Verve 50545X LP it's listed as 06:30.
- The American Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention came
with an order sheet for mail-ordering the Old Masters box 1, and if you
did, you got a special Old Masters T-shirt with the box [saying
"I BOUGHT THE BOX" - see top of page]. The price
was $100 for US residents, and for non-US residents it was $115 for surface shipping and
$140 for air mail delivery.
From Biffy the Elephant Shrew:
At the time the first Old Masters set came out, in 1985, the
Barfko-Swill hotline claimed that all those albums would NOT come out on
Box 2 (Barking Pumpkin BPR 8888, November 1986)
The second box contained re-issues of
plus another "mystery disc" (BPR 8888-8), jam-packed
with fun stuff like old recordings of the Mothers and pre-Mothers recordings. Since Uncle Meat was a double LP, box 2 was a 9-LP box.
From Record Collector magazine #118, June 1989 (quoted by Mikael Agardsson):
As with the first box, all the albums in box two have been digitally
remastered and come with their original sleeves and inserts where applicable (these are
contained in a bogus record sleeve featuring similar artwork to the box itself). Unlike
the originals, which in the US all had heavy-duty matte cardboard sleeves, the re-issues
are relatively flimsy affairs with glossy finish giving the covers a modern appearance.
The discs themselves have benefitted immeasurably from the remastering process, especially
the two live albums, both of which originally suffered from somewhat muddy sound but now
sound totally rejuvenated. Each box is individually numbered and buyers are invited to
obtain an "owner's certificate" by filling in and returning a
Box 3 (Barking Pumpkin BPR 9999, December 1987)
The third box contained re-issues of
and no "mystery disc". Since Roxy & Elsewhere was a double LP, box 3 was a 9-LP box.
In September 1998, it was still available by mail-order from Barfko-Swill, for a price of $125.
The "Mystery Discs" in first two boxes were shock-full of
rarities, and the only way you could get them was to buy the boxes. They became very
sought-after among people who could not stomach or afford to buy the boxes, and they were both bootlegged. Someone else realised
the demand too, and in September 1998, Ryko re-released them on one CD, called simply
Mystery Disc, as a bit of nostalgia for the old folks.
The first two boxes were also accompanied by sampler albums, which you can read about
in the Samplers section of the Weirdo