Läther (pronounced "leather") is a 1996 posthumous triple album by Frank Zappa. It was a project he wanted to make for nearly 20 years, but his idea was halted in 1977 due to legal troubles with his record label Warner Brothers and his former manager Herb Cohen. At the time, Zappa was contractually obligated to make four albums for them; Zappa, having quickly grown to detest his contract with Warner and hoping to get out of it as quickly as possible, came to the big suits with the idea of a quadruple-album. The folks at Warner, however, weren't keen on selling something that ludicrously long, and instead released the material as four separate albums: Zappa in New York (1977), Studio Tan (1978), Sleep Dirt (1979) and Orchestral Favorites (1979). Only the first one was produced according to his vision, but still Executive Meddling caused Warners to censor much of the material and change the tracklist as a result. Zappa sued, and the three other albums were released without his permission during the ensuing legal battle.
Zappa tried to find another label willing to release his full four-LP album, but Warner prevented this, claiming to own the rights. Legally unable to release new albums and forced to make a living by touring, Zappa did something that for the time was quite audacious and unprecedented. He went to a radio station in Pasadena, California and allowed them to broadcast Läther in its entirety from a test-pressing made that same year. Zappa encouraged listeners to tape the album from the radio, well aware that he did bootleggers a favor; Jean-Michel Jarre would pull a similar stunt six years later with his sixth studio album Music for Supermarkets, with the added incentive of destroying the master tapes and plates after his own broadcast (Jarre, however, had no legal quagmires to worry about).
In 1993, Zappa died of pancreatic cancer, but three years later Läther was finally released by Rykodisc according to his original vision, the Zappa estate having finally gotten the rights to the album and recovered the original master tapes by that point. Released across 3 CDs, the album may come off as fairly redundant for longtime fans, given that most of the tracks also appear on Zappa in New York, Studio Tan, Sleep Dirt, Orchestral Favorites, Sheik Yerbouti, Joe's Garage, and Tinseltown Rebellion, though some appear there in different arrangements, longer, edited, or with lyrics. For those people already owning the bootleg LP and/or any of the four albums Warner Bros. cobbled it into, bonus tracks were added: "Duck Duck Goose", "Down in de Dew", a remix of "Regyptian Strut", "Leather Goods", "Revenge of the Knick Knack People" and "Time Is Money".
Most of these tracks were previously unreleased, save for "Time is Money" (first included on Sleep Dirt); "Regyptian Strut (1993)" is technically a previously unreleased track in the sense that the remix was created specifically for the 1996 release of Läther, but the original track (which opens Läther) was, like "Time is Money", first released on Sleep Dirt. In 2012, the album was reissued as part of the Zappa Family Trust's massive remastering campaign, this time without the last four bonus tracks and with a new set of artwork based more closely on Zappa's intended cover art (the artwork Zappa planned did get completed, but was ultimately used for Joe's Garage in 1979). Like the 1996 release, the 2012 reissue is spread across 3 discs, though some have suggested that it would fit on two CDs just fine.
Läther still remains an awesome album for Zappa fans, and arguably sums up his many musical strengths better than any other release in his catalogue. As such, despite its length, it may be a good point of introduction for neophytes.
- "Regyptian Strut" (4:36)
- "Naval Aviation in Art?" (1:33)
- "A Little Green Rosetta" (2:48)
- "Duck Duck Goose" (3:01)
- "Down in De Dew" (2:58)
- "For the Young Sophisticate" (3:15)
- "Tryin' to Grow a Chin" (3:26)
- "Broken Hearts Are for Assholes" (4:40)
- "The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit" (12:43)
- "Lemme Take You to the Beach" (2:47)
- "Revised Music for Guitar & Low Budget Orchestra" (7:36)
- "RDNZL" (8:15)
- "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?" (4:57)
- "The Black Page #1" (1:57)
- "Big Leg Emma" (2:11)
- "Punky's Whips" (11:07)
- "Flambé" (2:06)
- "The Purple Lagoon" (16:22)
- "Pedro's Dowry" (7:45)
- "Läther" (3:50)
- "Spider of Destiny" (2:40)
- "Duke of Orchestral Prunes" (4:21)
- "Filthy Habits" (7:12)
- "Titties 'n Beer" (5:23)
- "The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution" (8:33)
- "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary" (21:00)
1996 Bonus Tracks (omitted from the 2012 release)
- "Regyptian Strut" (1993 version) (4:42)
- "Leather Goods" (6:01)
- "Revenge of the Knick Knack People" (2:25)
- "Time Is Money" (3:05)
The planned 4 LP edition would have had disc 1, tracks 1-6 on side A; disc 1, tracks 7-9 on side B; disc 1, tracks 10-12 on side C; disc 2, tracks 1-4 on side D; disc 2, tracks 5-6 on side E; disc 2, tracks 7-10 on side F; disc 3, tracks 1-3 on side G; and disc 3, track 4 on side H.
The 2012 reissue is still on three CDs despite the fact that, without the bonus tracks, the album would have been possible to release on two CDs, with sides A-D on the first CD and sides E-H on the second. However, despite the CDDA standard allowing for nearly 80 minutes worth of audio on a disc, many manufacturers will only guarantee up to 79, so this may be the reason the album was still pressed on three discs; disc two in a hypothetical 2-CD edition would run to 79:13.
- Frank Zappa: vocals, guitar, percussion
- Ray White: vocals, guitar
- Ricky Lancelotti and Davey Moire: vocals
- Eddie Jobson: violin, keyboards
- George Duke and Andre Lewis: keyboards
- Bruce Fowler: brass
- Tom Fowler, James "Bird Legs" Youman, Max Bennett, Roy Estrada, Patrick O'Hearn and Dave Parlato: bass
- Ruth Underwood and Emil Richards: percussion
- Don Brewer: bongos
- Chester Thompson, Terry Bozzio, Paul and Ralph Humphrey and Jim Gordon: drums
- Michael Zearott: conductor
- Randy Brecker: trumpet
- Michael Brecker: tenor sax, flute
- Lou Marini: alto sax, flute
- Ronnie Cuber: baritone sax, clarinet
- Tom Malone: trombone, trumpet, piccolo
- Don Pardo: narrator
- David Samuels: timpani, vibes
- Chad Wackerman: drum overdubs
- Added Alliterative Appeal: "Titties 'n Beer" talks of a "Mountain of Mystery".
- Album Filler: As magnificent the album is in its scope a lot of tracks already appeared mostly unchanged on earlier Zappa albums, the most notable being Studio Tan, which one can almost completely skip to buy as all four tracks appear here in full. The only difference is that "Greggery Peccary" was 20:40 on "Studio Tan", while on "Läther" it's 21 minutes long. Of course, this is all thanks to those earlier albums being what this one was cut up into before it was finally released as originally intended in 1996.
- Alliterative Title: "Down in De Dew" and "Revenge of the Knick Knack People".
- Animal Stereotypes: Greggery Peccary in "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary" is a filthy and sleazy pig.
- Anti-Love Song: "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?", where a couple meets each other, but the man gets angry when she doesn't want to be kissed by him. As a result he calls her bad names, but when he wants to leave his car battery is dead. He then rings on her door again to use her phone and at that point she gives him oral gratification.
- Attractive Bent-Gender: Occurs with Terry Bozzio in "Punky's Whips", in reference to androgynous male singer and guitarist Punky Meadows, a member of the Glam Rock band Angel.
- Audience Participation:
Then they'll put out a call-yooou! for the jury folks(That's you over there)
- During "The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit" Zappa mentions that the criminal is brought to court and addresses someone in the audience:
- Bawdy Song: "Titties 'n Beer", "The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit", "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?"
- Being Watched: "The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit''Then they'll drag in the bandit for all to see(...)And then the bandit might say: "Why is everybody lookin' at me?"
- Big Beautiful Woman: "Big Leg Emma"She was my steady date, until she put on weight
- Body Horror: Frank Zappa defeats the Devil by invoking the power of Titties 'n Beer... and burrowing right into his body.
- Call-Back and Continuity Nod: Naturally, since a lot of songs and tracks appeared on earlier Zappa albums. Even if the album had been released in its intended configuration in 1977, there would still have been examples of this, such as Billy the Mountain's cameo in "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary" and the orchestral remake of "The Duke of Prunes". There's also the cover art on the 2012 reissue, a nod to that of Joe's Garage; fitting, as the art for the latter was originally intended for use on Läther before Warner Bros' meddling forced a change of plans.
- Capitalism Is Bad: Greggery Peccary thinks up time-wasting trends to capitalize on them.
- Chirping Crickets: "Titties 'n Beer"I noticed even the crickets were actin' weird up here
- Classical Music: "Duke of Orchestral Prunes", "Naval Aviation in Art?" and "Pedro's Dowry".
- Cold Open: "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary".
Ain't talking about beheaded-tated Bobby... haha... try again... Potato Headed Bobby.
- After "For the Young Sophisticate" ends Zappa is heard chuckling: "Sick..."
- When Zappa asks Bozzio about his pickle in "Titties 'n Beer" Bozzio cracks up.
- Ray White stumbles over his words near the end of "The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit"
- Cut Short: Originally Quentin Robert DeNameland's philosophical speech was a lot longer. In Zappa's book Them or Us (1984) the entire text is printed:Well folks as you can see for yourself the way this clock over here is behaving: time is an affliction. Now this might be cause for alarm on a portion of you that's from a certain experience I tend to proclaim: the eons are closing. Now what does this mean precisely to the layman? Simply this: Momentarily the need for the construction of the new light will no longer exist. Of course some of you will think, "Who is he to fell me from this light?" But in all seriousness, ladies and gentlemen, a quick glance at the erratic behavior of the large precision built time delineating apparatus beside me will show that it is perhaps only a few moments now... Look how funny it's going around there! Personally, I find mechanical behavior of this nature to be highly suspicious. When such a device doesn't go normal, the implication of such a behaviour bodes not well (if you know what I mean). And quite naturally ladies and gentlemen if the mechanism in question is entrusted with the task of the delineation of time itself and ahh if such a mechanism goes "On the bum".... or the fritz... Well, it spells trouble.
- Deal with the Devil: In "Titties 'n Beer" the Devil tries to make a deal with Zappa to give him back his girlfriend in exchange for his soul. When Zappa immediately agrees the Devil lampshades this trope by claiming that he "ain't that bad" and points to the souls of Nixon and Agnew to show that he had far worse people in his collection of souls. Then Zappa subverts the trope by making a deal with the devil, to which he replies: "Wait, you ain't supposed to wanna make a deal with me."
- Department of Redundancy Department: "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?" liberally abuses this trope to its most logical extent during its climax.
- Distinct Double Album: As Zappa explains on his radio announcement: "This is an eight-sided album. They don't happen very often. I had my nerve, didn't I?"
- Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?"He was the Playboy type, he smoked a pipe
- Double Entendre: "Titties 'n Beer"Zappa: You ate my Chrissy?Devil: Titties and all!Zappa: Well, what about the beer then, boy?Devi: Uh... were the cans this tall?
- Epic Rocking: The 12:43 "The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit", the 7:36 "Revised Music for Guitar & Low-Budget Orchestra", the 8:12 "RDNZL", the 11:07 "Punky's Whips", the 16:22 "The Purple Lagoon", the 7:46 "Pedro's Dowry", the 7:12 "Filthy Habits", the 8:33 "The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution", the 21:00 "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary", the 6:01 "Leather Goods".
- Everything's Better with Cows: The cow on the cover.
- Everything Is an Instrument: Typewriters are heard when Greggery visits his office.
- Face on the Cover: The 2012 reissue features a portrait of Zappa covered in foam; this is based on the original plan for the album's cover back in the 70's, which was later reused as the cover photo for Joe's Garage.
- Fading into the Next Song: Due in large part to the use of Studio Chatter throughout the album, most songs on each album side run seamlessly into one another. Some are flat-out Siamese Twin Songs, such as "The Black Page #1" and "Big Leg Emma".
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: At a certain point "The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution" seems to have ended, but then it goes on for a full work-out.
- Fetish: "The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit", who loves giving women an enema.
- Gluttonous Pig: Greggery certainly takes financial advantage of anything that could be changed into a trend.
- Greatest Hits Album: A lot of material is from Zappa in New Yorknote , Sleep Dirt note , Orchestral Favoritesnote , Studio Tannote , Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitarnote , but sometimes a bit longer or unedited. There are also early and differently arranged versions of "Tryin' to Grow Me a Chin", "Broken Hearts Are for Assholes"note , "A Little Green Rosetta"note and "For the Young Sophisticate"note . This is a strange example of this trope because Zappa initially intended to release the songs in this form, but they were only released this way nineteen years later and three years after his death.
- Hairy Girl: The novel in "For the Young Sophisticate" describes a sophisticated youngster rejecting his girl because "she doesn't shave her underarms". Yet the protagonist of the story doesn't mind if her hair grew "all down the side of my kimono (...) if it did not cause you to trip."
- Hell-Bent for Leather: The title continues the Running Gag "leather" in Zappa's work.
- I'm a Humanitarian: The Devil ate the biker's girlfriend in "Titties 'n Beer".
- Immune to Bullets: Zappa tries to shoot the Devil, but in vain.''So I shot him with my shooter, said: "Bang Bang Bang!"''Then the sucker just laughed 'n' said: "Oh put it away, you know, I ate her all up... now what you gonna say?"
- Instrumentals: "Regyptian Strut", "Naval Aviation in Art?", "Duck Duck Goose", "Down in de Dew", "Revised Music for Guitar & Low-Budget Orchestra", "RDNZL", "The Black Page", "Pedro's Dowry", "The Purple Lagoon", "Läther", "Duke of Orchestral Prunes", "Filthy Habits", "The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution", "Flambé", "Leather Goods", "The Revenge of the Knick Knack People" (has sped up laughter halfway in). "Spider of Destiny" and "Time Is Money" appear as instrumentals on this album, but appeared with lyrics on Sleep Dirt.
- In the Style of...: "Greggery Peccary"'s music resembles a cartoon soundtrack.
- Lampshading: "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?"And that's the end of the story!
- Lemony Narrator: During "Greggery Peccary" Zappa describes all the events in sarcastic fashion.
- Live Album: All tracks from Zappa in New York are live, with overdubs.
- Long Title: "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary", "Revised Music for Guitar & Low-Budget Orchestra", "The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution", "The Revenge of the Knick Knack People", "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?", "The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit".
- Longest Song Goes Last: The 21-minute "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary" closes out the album on the 2012 release, thanks to the omission of the bonus tracks that were included on the 1996 version. As the 2012 release is faithful to the 1977 test pressing, the same also applies to that as well.
- Mickey Mousing:
- "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary" has various scenes that are illustrated musically or by sound effects.
- When Zappa mentions the band name Angel in "Punky's Whips" some angelic music starts playing.
- "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?" has musical sounds and sound effects illustrate various scenes in the story.
- Monster Fan Girl: Some women in court want the Illinois Enema Bandit to be freed.
- Monster-Shaped Mountain: Billy the Mountain, who appeared earlier in "Billy the Mountain" from Just Another Band from L.A., has a cameo during "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary".
- Mundane Made Awesome:
- Some of the epic jams are about veritable Toilet Humour topics, such as a biker who is only interested in "titties 'n beer", a criminal who gives his victims enemas, a man who insults a women but does get oral gratification afterwards and a drummer with a homo-erotic fascination for a publicity photo of a metal singer.
- "For the Young Sophisticate", about a girl crying over a book with a love story about a young sophisticate who falls in love with an "aggressive agitator", but hates her later because she doesn't shave her underarms.
- Obsession Song: "Punky's Whips", about drummer Terry Bozzio's obsession with a publicity photo of Punky Meadows.
- One-Man Song: "Punky's Whips", "The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit", "Duke of Orchestral Prunes".
- One-Woman Song: "Big Leg Emma".
- One-Word Title: "Läther" and "Flambé".
- Only in It for the Money: Greggery thinks up time wasting trends, just for profits, and Quentin Robert DeNameland gives not really helpful philosophical advice, while still demanding to be paid in huge cheques.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: One gets mentioned in "Titties 'n Beer".There was a werewolf honkin' 'long the side of me.
- The Parody: "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary" is a parody of musical fairy tales such as Peter and the Wolf and rock operas, while "Lemme Take You to the Beach" is a parody of Surf Rock pop tunes, with insanely happy lyrics.
- Pig Man: Greggery is described as "a little pig", yet he drives a car and works at an office.
- Product Placement: Greggery rides around in a red Volkswagen and checks out "The Whole Earth Catalogue".
- Pun-Based Title: "Leather" is spelled with an umlaut and said by a cow on the cover. The 2012 reissue of the album shows Zappa with the lather of shaving cream on his face on the cover instead.
- Questioning Title?: "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?", "Naval Aviation in Art?"
- Repurposed Pop Song: Many tracks are from previous Zappa albums, some under a different title. "Revenge of the Knick Knack People" appeared as background music in Baby Snakes (1979).
- Satan: Zappa tries to make a Deal with the Devil on "Titties 'n Beer".
- Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: In "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?" various things are imitated by the band, including an Irish setter and a hockey match. During "Titties 'n Beer" Zappa also says: "Bang Bang Bang!" to imitate the sound of a gun.
I heard a rumor he's more fluid than Jeff Beck.
- The 1996 album cover is a noticeable riff on that for Pink Floyd's 1970 album Atom Heart Mother.
- "Titties 'n Beer" has Zappa making a deal with the Devil. This is loosely inspired by Igor Stravinsky's L'Histoire du soldat ("The Soldier's Tale"), which was Zappa's favorite piece by this composer. The Devil even mentions Stravinsky as one of the things Zappa would be "interested in". The Devil also brags he has the souls of Milhouse Nixon and Agnew note . Both "Titties 'n Beer" and "Punky's Whips" reference guitarist Jeff Beck:
- "Punky's Whips" provides a shout-out to Punky Meadows, lead singer of the band Angel. When Bozzio says: "Isn't it Romantic?" the melody of this 1920s song of the same name starts playing.
- The "favorite group" of the girl in "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?" is Helen Reddy. During 1980s performances Zappa would change this into Twisted Sister or Echo & the Bunnymen.
- On the album "Price iz hibernacije" (2011) by the Serbian rock band Mononukleozni Rodjaci the song "Slepi Tuljan" samples the intro of "The Legend Of The Illinois Enema Bandit"
- Mattias Eklundh covered "The Black Page" on his debut album "Freak Guitar".
- "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary" is a pun on actor Gregory Peck. His invention of the calendar references the Gregorian calendar.
- Two trends that are brought up in "Greggery Peccary" are the Twist and Flower Power.
- Greggery Peccary's line "what hath God wrought?" is a reference to Samuel Morse and the very first long-distance telegram ever sent.
- After the line about "slowly aging very hip young people" in "Greggery Peccary" Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" from Head Hunters is quoted.
- The honky tonk piano section during "Greggery Peccary" references the theme from the TV show My Three Sons.
- After the line "garishly painted buses" in "Greggery Peccary" Zappa quotes from "Entry of the Gladiators" by Julius Fucik.
- Near the end of "Greggery Peccary" "Louie Louie" is quoted after the line "perform lewd acts". The radios tuned to different channels all paying at once, references "Imaginary Landscape" by John Cage.
- "Duck Duck Goose" is a popular children's game, played with a handkerchief.
- "Leather Goods" quotes musically from the Led Zeppelin's songs "Dazed and Confused" and "Whole Lotta Love". "Duck Duck Goose" also quotes from "Whole Lotta Love".
- Silly Love Songs: "Lemme Take You to the Beach"Eat a candy!
You are dandy!
'Can I kiss you?
Maybe I'll just hold your hand-eeee!
- Singer Name Drop:Hi, this is Frank Zappa as your temporary bogus disc jockey!
Wait a minute. This is for Roy Estrada, wherever he is. Wanna, wanna enema, e-nemààààà, wanna, wanna enema, e-nemàààà
- Also, near the end of "The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit" Zappa provides a shout-out to former band member Roy Estrada, who was convicted of sexual assault of an underage child around 1977, probably explaining why he is mentioned in context of an enema giving bandit. Estrada was arrested for the same charges in 1994 and 2012 and now serves time in jail, not eligible for parole.
- Special Guest: Saturday Night Live announcer Don Pardo delivers "sophisticated narration" on "Punky's Whips" and "The Illinois Enema Bandit".
- Speech Bubbles: The cow on the album cover speaks in speech balloons.
- Spoken Word in Music: The album features several interludes between tracks featuring various, random dialogues covering a variety of topics.
- Step Up to the Microphone: The part of the Devil in "Titties 'n Beer" is played by drummer— and future Missing Persons founder— Terry Bozzio, who speaks his lines in a kind of whacked out Peter Lorre accent. Bozzio also delivers most of the vocals on "Punky's Whips".
- Studio Chatter/Throw It In!: In almost every song.
- That Makes Me Feel Angry: Done in "Honey, Don't You Want a Man Like Me?""This is a petulant! Frenzy! I'm petulant! And I'm having a frenzy!"
- There Should Be a Law: According to Don Pardo in "The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit", there was no law specifically prohibiting forcibly giving people enemas.
- Title Track: "Läther", which is an instrumental track. It appeared earlier on Zappa in New York as "I Promise Not to Come in Your Mouth".
- Uncommon Time: Several tracks contain examples of this.
- Walk Like an Egyptian: "Regyptian Strut". Zappa explained it re-imagined the typical Egyptian strut.