Them Or Us

What to Get: The 2012 CD reissue.

Summary: There are two basic versions: the original LP version (released on the 1986 Ryko CD, the 1987 EMI CD, and the 2012 UMe CD) and a partial remix from 1989/1990 (released on the Zappa Records CD and the 1995 Rykodisc CD). The partial remix contains an extended, remixed edit of "Them or Us" and has markedly different EQ, but it suffers from the "bad batch" problems: right-channel fluttering, volume swells, and so on. The 2012 re-release is the original LP version, but fixes some small glitches.

ESSENTIAL VERSIONS FOR COMPLETISTS: One "LP version" and one "remix version." Most people will be satisfied with the 2012 CD plus the 1995 CD. [completist's guide]


  • Original vinyl (Barking Pumpkin SVB 0 742 00 in the US, October or December 1984; EMI FZD1 EN 24 0234 3 or 2402439 or 1 C 164 0234 3 in the UK, December 1984)
  • Canadian vinyl (Capitol Rainbow STBK 6515, 1984)
  • French vinyl (EMI 2402343, gatefold sleeve)
  • Portuguese vinyl (Barking Pumpkin / EMI 24 0234 3)
  • Greek vinyl
  • Argentine vinyl: Ellos o Nosotros (EMI 8259, with black & white inner spread)
  • Australian promo vinyl (EMI VMP-240235, "sampler" on label)
  • Brazilian vinyl
  • Japanese vinyl (EMI EMS-67176-77, English lyrics in the gatefold, Japanese lyric sheet; white-label promo also reported)
  • South African vinyl (EMI EMCJD (S) 2402343, gatefold sleeve)
  • Cassette (EMI 464 24 0234 9)
  • British vinyl re-issue (Zappa Records ZAPPA 30, 1989)
  • Digitally re-mastered German vinyl (1C064Y2402341)
  • Original CD (Ryko RCD 40027 in the US, 1986 (imported into Australia by Festival Records and re-stickered Ryko D40708); EMI CDP 7 90080 2 in the UK, 1986; VACK 5046 in Japan)
  • Barking Pumpkin cassette
  • Zappa Records CD (CDZAP 30, September 1990)
  • Zappa Records cassette (TZAPPA30)
  • Russian CD (JPCD 9710283 DORA)
  • 1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10543, May 2 1995; VACK 5131 in Japan, renumbered 5266 in 1998)
  • Japanese paper-sleeve CD (Ryko/VACK 1254, October 23 2002 - black inner sleeve)
  • 2012 UMe CD (Zappa Records ZR 3870 September 25, 2012)

And on the weird side, parts of this album seem to have been issued in Poland as a set of flexi-disc postcards.

Misspellings: on the LP, "The Closer You Are" featured "BOBBY MATIN" and "The Planet of My Dreams" has "PARTICK O'HEARN". The former has been corrected for the CD. In Argentina, the LP had "BOBY MARTIN" on "The Closer You Are".

Original UK Vinyl

Stephen Robinson helps out with the mystery of the correct UK catalogue number:

On the back it says: UK: FZD1 (little lp symbol) EN 24 0234 3 2 RECORD SET (ES 24 0234/5 1) (Little cassette symbol) EN 24 0234 5

In fact along the spine it says:-

On the inner sleeve things, black with a Barking Pumping crest on one side, and Zappa joint the dots symbol and Warning/Guarantee statement, it's got "E24 0234 1 (1)" on one, and "E  24 0235 1 (1)" on the other.

On the record label it's got "E 2402341" with a smaller "E 2402341TA" on side 1, "E 2402341TB", these also are what is stamped into the run out groove, along with a 1-1-1-1. On the second LP, it's got "E 2402351"

Original CD

Boy Wonder, I Love YouJWB has listened to the original Ryko version:

You can hear the very beginning of "Johnny Darling" after "The Closer You Are" if you turn the volume up really loud!!! Holy digital reverb, Batman!

Very low DB's, as with all of Ryko's 1986 and 1987 Zappa releases.

Someone else adds:

Sound quality is OK...more than a bit flat, actually. Ridiculously low DBs. Seems to match the vinyl.

Mike Espinoza answers a very important question:

As for the Them or Us issue, I have some clarifications:  My CD is a Rykodisc circa 1994 (purple face silhouette disc) and it DEFINITELY is the 1986 version as I made a home compilation with other stuff and the Them Or Us tracks were at a SIGNIFICANTLY lower volume, but the sound quality is good.


Dave G. writes:

Pretty much like the old Ryko CD, but a bit louder.

Barking Pumpkin Cassette


There are some subtle differences I've discovered between the CD and the cassette. In the title track, there are a few bars of music missing from the cassette release. If you compare the CD to the cassette, the sections from 04:33 to 04:47 on the CD are not on the cassette. However, on the cassette mix, there are some staccato (pop-and-slap) bass notes right around 03:53 to 04:00 that are not in the mix on the CD. There are other places in this song where bass guitar is present on the cassette mix, but not on the CD mix. Odd.

A presence clarifies clarifies:

I hear what you mean, but I still think I can hear those staccato bass notes...they're buried by the compression and EQ, but they're there. That said, parts of this track sound so different that I wouldn't be surprised if it were an alternate mix.

1995 CD

Official Ryko statement: "New master. New timing sheet. Louder dBs than first Rykodisc CD." [full statement

"Them Or Us" is longer on this CD.

From Cruisin4Burgers:

I was astonished to find that the '95 version of the title track "Them Or Us" is actually a full 14 seconds longer than the original CD version!

From David G:

EQ is far more powerful than on the older CD--no more flatness!--but other sound quality issues emerge instead. The right channel is chewed up, just like all of the other "bad batch" items.

Here's a good test to perform. Listen to "Baby Take Your Teeth Out" on the old discs (old Ryko or EMI, NOT Zappa Records) with headphones. The very first crash cymbal should be clearly imaged to the right ear. On the new Ryko, the compression causes it to appear imaged center. Pay close attention to the distortion on "kitchen table" in the right channel of the '95 CD if you want to hear more compression-o-rama.

From Pat Buzby:

The 1986 CD release is the same as the LP. The 1995 version has an extra 8 bars in the title track which were edited out of the previous version (I'm afraid I don't know the precise time, but it's around 4:30) and is a different mix.

There was talk about "Baby, Take Your Teeth Out" also being longer. From Román:

I can't find any difference between the versions of "Baby, Take Your Teeth Out" on my vinyl (EMI, 1984) and my CD (Rykodisc, 1995). Both last the same (c 01:54). On the other side the part approximately from 04:32 to 04:47 of the CD version of "Them or Us" doesn't appear on the vinyl.

From Charles Ulrich:

Doesn't sound so good

From Fredrik Runnström:

I'm surprised everyone things the Them Or Us CD sounds OK ... I have the Zappa Record issue and recently bought the Ryko 95, and they don't sound good at all. Some examples:

  • "Ya Hozna": the cymbal washes in and out of the recording from around 02:00-02:30 - on the LP, it is completely even
  • "Be in my Video": listen to the word "video" at the beginning, there's some weird swell there and the vocals are nowhere near as even and straight as on the LP
  • "Them Or Us": where's the Moog? Perfect on the LP, non-existent on the CD.
  • "Whipping Post": the whole track up to the solo sounds like shit! Cymbals fighting to be heard, static, right channel suffering from You Are What You Is syndrome (fluttering).

I'm sure there's more, but in my disappointment I can't bear playing the whole thing through. How do these CDs get made? Is there no quality control?


The title track, "Them Or Us," is a slightly extended remix on this version. A reader elaborates:

What an odd remix it is! The solo is taken from a 1982 show, and by golly, the version of "Them or Us" on the post-1990 CDs actually sounds like a live take; the drums are are mostly mono and the thing is very congested. The moog is buried.

By contrast, the original LP mix--which is on the Ryko '86, the EMI disc, and the new remaster--sounds much more like a post-production job. In particular, Chad's drums are suddenly in stereo and sound like they do on the rest of the album. I'd swear this was an overdub (and that, by contrast, the version we hear on the remix contains the original live drums), but I can't for the life of me pick out any actual variations in the performance...a common problem with Wackerman tracks, as he's ridiculously good at performing complex tracks the same way, again and again. I note, too, that the edit around 4:30 is kind of clumsy, generating a wavery cymbal sound that, in retrospect, might have convinced Frank to not bother the second time around.

Japanese Paper-Sleeve Version (2001-2002)

Starting in 2001, Video Arts Music released a limited-edition series (2000 copies each) of Zappa CDs in paper sleeves - miniature LP sleeves. There was nothing special about this series other than the covers, which were very well done - inserts and "bonuses" were reproduced, the albums that originally had gatefold covers got little miniature gatefolds, and cover track lists were exactly as on the corresponding LPs, even in cases where the CD has bonus tracks or a different track order. Included in this series were some entries that never had "proper" LP issues, i.e. Läther. Additionally, some rarities--like the "green/gold" cover of Chunga's Revenge--were reproduced as special items in this run.

We need to stress that the sound quality of these discs matches the US Ryko issues, which they are clearly derived from. These are collectors items, not new remastered editions.

Late-2012-update: It appears as if the Japanese may be warming up the mini-LP ovens for a new batch based on the 2012 UMe remasters. We'll let you know if this happens.

2012 UMe CD

Remastered by Doug Sax from the original 1984 digital master (this album was recorded digitally, so there was no analog master to use). Reverts to the original LP mix, which means it contains the original, shorter version of "Them or Us." A reader summarizes the changes:

Notes on the 2012 reissue: this has been boosted, somewhat, and as a result is sliiightly more compressed than the original. I think it sounds fine. It lacks the ridiculously low dBs of the original Ryko (a problem that the EMI solved, to an extent), and also lacks the ugly digital edit that begins "Them Or Us." All in all, I'd say it's an upgrade.


  • Any tape details?
  • Any details on the Russian CD?
  • Is the Greek vinyl authorised?

Additional Informants

  • Mikael Agardsson
  • Patrick Neve
  • Gonçalo Falcão 
  • Steve Jones
  • Mike Lee
  • Harry de Swart
  • Hasi
  • Charles Ulrich

home - vinyl vs CDs - weirdo discography - bootlegs - misc - hot lynx - e-mail us at zappa dot patio at gmail dot com 2006-04-22 20:02

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