Understanding America

Completed in 1991 but released in 2012, "Understanding America" is a new, Zappa-compiled release with "America"--and the understanding thereof--as its theme. The tapes were featured briefly in the "Peefeeyatko" documentary. The ZFT blurb says it all:

"This work is about love, peace, justice and the American way. It's about compassion and responsibility. It's about ethics and honor. It's about time and it is about money. And bogus pomp and circumstance. Predictions and politics. It is the low-down on high altitudes. Check out the menu for yourself and you will see that the main ingredients, each in their own persuasion and marinating well into the next century, have been carefully skewered and roasted to the peak of perfection by the Master chef, author of one of the all time great cook books, Understanding America. Oh, and finally, it is about Music. Put some in your cauldron and please, don't forget to vote!"

ESSENTIAL FOR COMPLETISTS: Yes (mostly for "Porn Wars Deluxe" and especially for fans of Conceptual Continuity). Note that this does not use the 2012 remasters as its source.

Also released on iTunes. Note that iTunes sets all 10+ minute tracks to "Album Only," so those just wanting to grab "Porn Wars Deluxe" are sadly out of luck.


  • Original 2012 CD (Zappa Records ZR 3892 [in the U.S.] and ZR 0238922 [elsewhere] October 26, 2012)
  • iTunes release

Annotated Tracklisting

Disc One

  1. Hungry Freaks, Daddy (remixed version from "Freak Out!" CD)
  2. Plastic People (pre-2012 CD version from "Absolutely Free")
  3. Mom & Dad (1980s remix with overdubbed drums and bass. Uses the beginning of "Bow Tie Daddy" as a segue into...)
  4. It Can't Happen Here (remixed version from "Freak Out!" CD, edited to remove instrumental interlude)
  5. Who Are The Brain Police? (remixed version from "Freak Out!" CD)
  6. Who Needs The Peace Corps? (1980s remix with overdubbed drums and bass)
  7. Brown Shoes Don't Make It  (pre-2012 CD version from "Absolutely Free")
  8. Concentration Moon  (1980s remix with overdubbed drums and bass)
  9. Trouble Every Day (edited version from "Freak Out!" CD. Ends early after "songs about being poor.")
  10. You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here (remixed version from "Freak Out!" CD)
  11. We're Turning Again (from "Mothers of Prevention")
  12. Road Ladies (from pre-2012 "Chunga's Revenge" CD)
  13. What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are? (from pre-2012 "Fillmore East '71" CDs. Contains a big of "Bwana Dik" at the end.)
  14. Camarillo Brillo (from 1990 Zappa Records version of the "Apostrophe(')/Over-nite Sensation" CD. We think.).
  15. Find Her Finer (from pre-2012 CD/Old Masters version of "Zoot Allures")
  16. Dinah-Moe Humm (from 1990 Zappa Records version of the "Apostrophe(')/Over-nite Sensation" CD. We think.)
  17. Disco Boy (edited version from pre-2012 CD/Old Masters version of "Zoot Allures," ending at 4:18)
  18. 200 Years Old (from pre-2012 CD/Old Masters version of "Bongo Fury")

Disc Two

  1. I'm The Slime (edit version from 1990 Zappa Records version of the "Apostrophe(')/Over-nite Sensation" CD. Ends at 2:34
  2. Be In My Video (from "Them Or Us")
  3. I Don't Even Care ("short version" from UK "Meets the Mothers of Prevention" CD)
  4. Can't Afford No Shoes (from pre-2012, non-Au20 CD version of "One Size Fits All")
  5. Heavenly Bank Account (edited version from pre-1998 CD of "You Are What You Is," minus the audio glitches! Starts at the first "He's got twenty million dollars")
  6. Cocaine Decisions (original mix from vinyl/EMI CD version of "Man from Utopia")
  7. Dumb All Over (short edit from pre-1998 CD version of "You Are What You Is," minus the audio glitches!)
  8. Promiscuous  (from "Broadway the Hard Way")
  9. Thing-Fish Intro (revised version from "Thing Fish")
  10. The Central Scrutinizer (edited version from "Joe's Garage." Ends at "Hi, it's me, I'm back!")
  11. Porn Wars Deluxe (extended, 25-minute version. Includes "Bow Tie Daddy" [original mix], portions of "It Can't Happen Here," portions of "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" [Tinseltown version], portions of "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?" [original mix], portions of "Who Are the Brain Police?" [Freak Out! remix], SEX [original mix], and portions of "He Used to Cut the Grass")
  12. Tinseltown Rebellion (from pre-1998 CD of "Tinseltown Rebellion," minus the audio glitches)
  13. Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk (from "Broadway the Hard Way")

Porn Wars Deluxe

From ursinator:

The only new material on porn wars is mostly spoken words stuff by the guest vocalists of the MOP album, nothing new by the piano people. There is also a longer statement by a woman (Tipper Gore?) that apparently was the source for samples like fire-and-chains or outrageous-filth. The only musical new stuff that i noticed is a little bit expansion of the maybe-i-could-make-a-good-rock-star frenzy. I guess this as unused material from the original version, obviously FZ didn't switch on his synclavier again for the deluxe version. The new vocal sections are mostly pretty comprehensive (=boring?), lasting for minutes. The musical excerpts in contrast often pop up only for a relative short time, especially the mothers material.


Mastered Bob Ludwig 2008, Vaultmeisterment by Joe Travers 2008, Original Source 1991/2/3 1630 Digital Master by FZ

Impressions and Musings

From ursinator:

IMHO the program works pretty good as a compilation. The new combination of the well known material is often funny and surprising. Especially disc2 has a very appealing buildup that leads towards porn wars. The central scrutinizer says "Hi, it's me, I'm back" that segues directly into "The reason for this hearing...". IMHO the creative value of the album/porn wars is the way in which the elements are assembled together to build new connections and associations. In this term it has the same handwriting as the YCDTOSA-series.

From Jaypfunk:

weird that FZ cut out the end solo in I'm The Slime but the transition into BIMV works

From zallures:

First off, this was obviously a project that Frank was going to release as it is the same tapes that are shown in the Peefeeyatko documentary. The exact same photos of the tapes boxes are printed in the insert for the CD. It says the original digital master by Frank on Feb 3 1991.

It was probably some sort of "best of' idea Frank had revolving around a political theme. Clearly it was to highlight his "Deluxe" version of Porn Wars and the strange politics of America.

The entire CD has been mastered with an increased volume and the low-end and high-ends peaking on almost every track. At some times the high-end seems a bit too high. Overall the sound is actually quite nice and a great listen.

There are no NEW live versions of any of the tracks on the CD (other than Promiscuous and Jesus Thinks you are a Jerk which were originally recorded live when released on BTHW) and after one listen I don't think there are any different versions other than the PWD track. Regarding PWD, there are lots more testimony added from the original version intertwined with musically additions and excerpts from the Freak Out, WOITFTM, LG, AF, "Sex" from "The Man from Utopia", and some additional Ike Willis ala Thingfish.

After a first listen, the difference in track times in "Trouble Coming Everyday" is that the song ends before the "harmonica" exit. The difference in "It Can't Happen Here" is that the piano/snare drum music is cut out in the middle of the track reducing the track time by 40 or so seconds. There is quite a few other edits on a other tracks where it seems that Frank shorten the song by removing music that didn't have relevance to the lyrics if that makes any sense..

Porteresque points out:

All songs except PWD sound like Ryko-era masters. After enjoying the new transfers for the last couple of months they were very noticeably inferior.  

A dissenter:

I don't think this functions very well as a career overview . . . [T]he track selection is really strange. [Also], it's dispiriting to realize that "Understanding America" reverts to the ugly days of old, where Zappa enjoyed layering reverb over everything and over-used his favorite digital devices to ill end. . . . Unfortunately, Zappa's over-use of digital compression adversely affects some of the songs that might otherwise function as fan-bait, such as the original mixes of the Man from Utopia tracks which are otherwise hard to obtain on CD.


  • Why are the versions of the YAWYI and Tinseltown tracks the same versions that appeared on the "bad batch" CD, but without glitches? Was Zappa aware of how bad those discs were as early as 1991? If yes, it's a pity they weren't corrected until 198.

Additional Informants

  • Everyone on Zappateers/Zappa.com who chipped in.

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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