Cruising with Ruben & the Jets, 1968 Mix

It’s completely understandable why many new and old fans alike skip over this particular title in the Zappa catalogue. Of all of Zappa’s official releases, it’s no doubt the most controversial among fans because it’s original version has never been officially released since Zappa reissued it in an alternate mix with newly recorded bass and percussion and added several vocal overdubs and heavily remixed the album in 1984. To many fans, including myself, they are now two distinct albums. Given that only the 1984 mix is made widely available does make any comparison between the two difficult at best. Still, periodically a vinyl rip of the 1968 recording does slip by the censors at YouTube, thus giving new fans an opportunity to hear the original recording in all of it’s doo wop glory – and a little bit of nostalgia for us older Mothers of Invention freaks. Take a listen to these tracks while they are still available:

Side One:

“Cheap Thrills” (Zappa)
“Love of My Life” (Zappa)
“How Could I Be Such a Fool” (Zappa)
“Deseri” (Buff, Collins)
“I’m Not Satisfied” (Zappa)
“Jelly Roll Gum Drop” (Collins) [above]
“Anything” (Collins, Zappa) [below]

Side Two:

“Later That Night” (Zappa)
“You Didn’t Try to Call Me” (Zappa) [below]
“Fountain of Love” (Zappa)
“No. No. No.” (Zappa)
“Anyway The Wind Blows” (Zappa)
“Stuff Up The Cracks” (Zappa) [below]



Mothers of Invention:

Frank Zappa – guitar, keyboards, sound effects, vocals, bass, drums
Jimmy Carl Black – guitar, percussion, drums, rhythm guitar
Ray Collins – guitar, vocals
Roy Estrada – bass, electric bass, sound effects, vocals, voices
Bunk Gardner – alto saxophone, tenor saxophone
Don Preston – bass, piano, keyboards
Euclid James “Motorhead” Sherwood – baritone saxophone, tambourine, guitar, vocals, wind
Art Tripp – drums, percussion
Ian Underwood – guitar, piano, keyboards, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, wind

Note: Many thanks to “vinzer72frie” for posting these vinyl rips. Their audio quality are quite excellent.

39 Responses to “Cruising with Ruben & the Jets, 1968 Mix”

  1. Grimpo says:

    Wow. My first time hearing these. Still don’t enjoy the drumming in early Frank but wow that bass should have never been taken off the record and the vocals sound much better stripped down here.

  2. jonnybutter says:

    I always really liked ‘No No No’, and bought the remixed ‘Ruben’ mainly to hear that song once in a while. A mistake! It sounds like shit on the remix. Check out the original vinyl version, and listen to the bass part especially – it makes the whole song work.

  3. Robert says:

    I must confess now. Throughout the years, whenever someone complained about FZ’s decision to remix & redo the whole thing, i always thought that FZ owns the rights so he can do with the stuff what he wants. The flaw with this thinking always was that i *never* had the chance to listen to the original version in decent audio quality. This has now been rectified and i’m changing my mind *now*. Still, however, the original tapes are probably actually gone forever, so it needs folks like this vinzer72fre guy to do the work and make it available. Thanks!

  4. jonnybutter says:

    A quote from jonnybutter:

    i always thought that FZ owns the rights so he can do with the stuff what he wants.

    No argument there. He had every right to make some of his old masters sound like shit. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.

    Frank loved to burst bubbles, to piss on sentimentality, especially about his own material. Notwithstanding his excuses, I am convinced that this was his reason for his messing up ‘Absolutely Free’, ‘Ruben’, and ‘Hot Rats’. ‘AF’ is the best of the three – I actually like the new version of ‘Flower Punk; ‘Ruben’ is just about unlistenable in its new form; and, with the exception of ‘Peaches’ (which really was improved -e.g. saxes no longer out of tune), and the longer guitar solo on ‘Pimp’, ‘Rats’ sounds quite a bit worse in the new version (e.g. ‘Umbrellas’ added tracks – piano, recorder – make the arrangement sound shitty; ‘Camel’ sounds like a confused mess).

    Frank did this stuff on purpose. He did *everything* on purpose.

  5. Thinman says:

    I think it is rather normal to revise stuff. Sometimes (and for somebody) it works, sometimes not. That is because art belongs to the creator and is not just product that belongs to the purchaser.

    When those versions came out in the 80s everybody thought it was an improvement.

    I have both versions of Ruben and like both.

    Th.

  6. Bálint says:

    And here comes my confession: I do not listen this album too much, but not because of the remix, but because of Ray Collins’ a bit annoying voice, and the cheesy sound of the whole album :-). It’s fun to hear Collins here and there on other albums, but all the way through… It’s too much for me.

    So: I really do not see too much difference between the new and the old – telling the truth, the vocals sound a bit better on the new version, to me (Of course I HEAR the difference, but the bass and the drum do not add too much to this album TO ME). Two different versions – I barely listen to any of these.

    But (in one way or another) still both versions are here to listen, so my main regret is not about this album, nor the Sleep Dirt CD (of which I do not like the renewed version), because in all these cases we still (can) have the originals – so we have two versions. What makes me really sad is the changed (and – to me – the completely annoying) bass-drum sound of the Helsinki Concert – and this is an album you’ll NEVER get a chance to hear in it’s original form. Was the original tape damaged? Maybe, but there are (were) sooo many other shows to choose from… (Eh, sorry for changing the subject a little bit).

  7. Alex says:

    The remix of ‘Sleep Dirt’ takes Frank’s first all-instrumental album and turns it into something pretty crummy.

  8. jonnybutter says:

    I actually like ‘Sleep Dirt’ with vocals. I like it without vocals, too. Tastes vary, but I don’t think this was a case of deliberate sabotage (cue sound effects!). When I listen to the new version of something like ‘Little Umbrellas’, I can hear Frank saying, ‘So, you thought this was just such a precious little song? Listen to all the crap I kept off the original release!’.

  9. barbssonn says:

    I agree about the remixes of those albums,
    but I have a suspicion that if we’d heard those
    remixed versions FIRST, we’d probably hate the
    originals.

  10. Sterbus says:

    I think that the case of Sleep Dirt is different. We know version with vocals of Flambay since 1974 (Duke singing it) so in that case it was just related to the aborted Hutchentoot project… he preferred to let those tracks without vocals…

  11. Theydon Bois says:

    A quote from barbssonn:

    I agree about the remixes of those albums,
    but I have a suspicion that if we’d heard those
    remixed versions FIRST, we’d probably hate the
    originals.

    Like many other people who weren’t born at the time of the original releases, I only knew the remixed versions of Ruben and Hot Rats for many years, and while the original Ruben is plainly better in just about every capacity except its ability to annoy, I find it very difficult not to hear the Hot Rats I grew up with as the “proper” version. Certainly the intro of “Willie The Pimp” sounds SO much better without bass that it’s almost comical.

  12. Christopher Atwood says:

    Back in the mid to late ’70′s, I would play RATJ for people that were on the fence about Zappa–you see, Zappa was considered to be misogynist (by some), therefore uncool, or his music was too hard to “get” (by others). I even gave RATJ as a gift (that person got hooked).
    To me, it is a logical side-growth of Uncle Meat; I think it is perhaps more surreal. Just as beautiful.
    My copy is worn. The cover is shot. There are now infuriating skips. I’ll play it again.
    It would put the ZFT in good stead to find a pristine version of this album and release it so others can enjoy it the way it was Meant to Be.
    “Three gold teeth and one glass eye/didn’t have the nerve to say goodbye.”

  13. KnirpsForMoisture says:

    Thanks for the heads up for this!!! Probably the best sounding copy of the original Ruben & The Jets I’ve heard!!

    While listening to this I realised just how much that little sax/drum blast at the very start of Anway The Wind Blows sounds just like the start of Mr Green Genes from Uncle Meat. There’s a similiar ‘blast’ at the start of Penguin In Bondage from Roxy & Elsewhere.

    Also, Ray Collin’s wailing on Stuff Up The Cracks (about 1:09 into the song under the instrumental part) sounds similiar to the wailing on Nanook Rubs It from Apostrophe – under the bit where Zappa and Napoleon Murphy Brock go “I can’t see…dum, dum, dum, duum, yeah….I can’t see, etc”

    Just my thoughts…!!!

  14. jonnybutter says:

    A quote from jonnybutter:

    Certainly the intro of “Willie The Pimp” sounds SO much better without bass that it’s almost comical.

    I agree. I suppose it’s a mixed bag. I like the whole newer version of ‘Pimp’ just fine. It’s those other two songs – ‘Umbrellas’ and ‘Camel’ – which were really trashed, at least for me, and I hear it as deliberate.

  15. Paul Sempschi says:

    I grew up with the 80′s mixes of Hot Rats and Ruben and enjoyed both. Got the torrent for the original mixes, I have to say that I prefer the 86 remix of Hot Rats over the original.

    But yeah, the original mix of Ruben is better, though either mix, the albums still nothing to write home about. Werent there gonna be one of those making-of jobs for it?

  16. urbangraffito says:

    Xmas in January…just received an email from “vinzer72frie” offering the original vinyl rip for the videos in this post:

    http://www.megaupload.com/?d=YKVLFM54

  17. Robert says:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    Xmas in January…just received an email from “vinzer72frie” offering the original vinyl rip for the videos in this post:

    http://www.megaupload.com/?d=YKVLFM54

    Got it! Thanks!

  18. Bob says:

    A quote from Alex:

    The remix of ‘Sleep Dirt’ takes Frank’s first all-instrumental album and turns it into something pretty crummy.

    “That’s alright honey. You can come out of the closet now”

  19. Andrew says:

    A quote from Robert:

    …the original tapes are probably actually gone forever…

    I may be wrong, but I thought that’s what the promised 40th anniversary CD will contain. Here’s hoping.

  20. Sterbus says:

    Anyway, the differences between the two mixes are not only drum and bass… read this article !!!
    http://www.lukpac.org/~handmade/patio/misc/way_beyond.html

  21. rob says:

    The samples Joe & Gail played on the NPR radio show were the original mixes that they said would be on a 1-disc Ruben’s 40th (but the extras are what I want to hear). They said it should be out soon. Of course that was about a year ago…SNAFU…

  22. urbangraffito says:

    For me, the original 1968 mix of Ruben will always be my favorite – along with all of its subtle musical nuances which are lost in the 1984 mix. I think it basically comes down to this: if you appreciated the musicianship of the original members of the Mothers of Invention, then the 1968 mix is just for you – if not, then it really doesn’t matter which mix you listen to.

    Re: Sleep Dirt. It was the instrumental Sleep Dirt that I first came to love, though being a fan of vocal jazz, it didn’t take me very long to adore Zappa’s remixed version with Thana Harris vocals.

    Re: Hot Rats. I scratch my head over this one. To me, the original album mix should have won a Grammy or something. It is Zappa’s masterpiece. It’s the album you play for people who absolutely hate Zappa. Like Ruben, I’ll never understand why Zappa remixed it. I’m only glad I still have the original vinyl mixes.

  23. Alex says:

    A quote from Bob:

    A quote from Alex:

    The remix of ‘Sleep Dirt’ takes Frank’s first all-instrumental album and turns it into something pretty crummy.

    “That’s alright honey. You can come out of the closet now”

    Someone get this feller a Pepsi, he must be parched from waiting for Part 3. Maybe a Snack Pack while you’re at it. Butterscotch. It’s his favorite.

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    For me, the original 1968 mix of Ruben will always be my favorite – along with all of its subtle musical nuances which are lost in the 1984 mix. I think it basically comes down to this: if you appreciated the musicianship of the original members of the Mothers of Invention, then the 1968 mix is just for you – if not, then it really doesn’t matter which mix you listen to.

    Re: Sleep Dirt. It was the instrumental Sleep Dirt that I first came to love, though being a fan of vocal jazz, it didn’t take me very long to adore Zappa’s remixed version with Thana Harris vocals.

    Re: Hot Rats. I scratch my head over this one. To me, the original album mix should have won a Grammy or something. It is Zappa’s masterpiece. It’s the album you play for people who absolutely hate Zappa. Like Ruben, I’ll never understand why Zappa remixed it. I’m only glad I still have the original vinyl mixes.

    With ‘Ruben,’ it’s just a massive “Why the fuck?” like the ‘WOIIFTM’ remix; unfortunately, ‘Ruben’ doesn’t have as much majority adoration as the other album. And I totally agree about it being a showcase for the original Mothers.

    As for ‘Sleep Dirt,’ it really does boil down to the vox. I’m not a fan, at all…I think they’re intrusive. I’m also not thrilled by the other additions (ex.: the drums on ‘Flambay’).

    When I first heard a sample of the original ‘Hot Rats’ it was on some obscure radio ad. I heard the drum intro on “Peaches” and was baffled. I’d always thought those drums at the end of the song sounded like roto-toms or digital drums or something. Turns out I was right. It’s one of the few vinyls I have…I just need to take the time to rip it into a digital format.

    Has anyone read Zappa’s rather caustic (although given that it was the late 80′s, him speaking like a bitter grump was the norm) comments about people who at the time were complaining about the remixes? He dismissed them as purists who simply wanted the original mixes not out of genuine nostalgia, but to satisfy a completist fetish – or words to that effect.

    It was about as spot-on as his appraisal of punk music (shit, not that he would have like Black Flag or The Germs, but they certainly weren’t the money-grubbing pieces of shit he apparently hallucinated on “Tinsel Town Rebellion”) and just about as close-minded and somewhat pig-headed.

  24. Bálint says:

    …interesting comments… I’ll definitely give chance to both Ruben and Hot Rats (vinyl versions).

  25. vince says:

    A quote from Alex:

    It was about as spot-on as his appraisal of punk music (shit, not that he would have like Black Flag or The Germs, but they certainly weren’t the money-grubbing pieces of shit he apparently hallucinated on “Tinsel Town Rebellion”) and just about as close-minded and somewhat pig-headed.

    You might change your mind about Black Flag if you read about how many people got screwed from their SST label!

  26. Bob says:

    A quote from Alex:

    Nice tie. Very professorial. It commands respect for your position as Teaching Assistant. The chicks dig it!

  27. jonnybutter says:

    A quote from jonnybutter:

    He dismissed them as purists who simply wanted the original mixes not out of genuine nostalgia, but to satisfy a completist fetish – or words to that effect.

    What?! What do you mean ‘genuine nostalgia’ (as opposed to what – non-genuine nostalgia?) I’m about 100% sure that ‘genuine nostalgia’ was not Zappa’s ideal. Surely, nostalgia was what he was trying to shatter.

    And I think Zappa’s comments about punk were misinterpreted, and it’s partially his fault, since he wasn’t really articulate about it. His target wasn’t bands like Black Flag. It was groups like ‘Green Day’ (which band didn’t exist yet, but still). It’s funny that Zappa is thought of as ‘intellectual’, since he actually dealt with things on an instinctive level quite a bit of the time. When his instincts were good, he was devastating – there is barely anyone in Anglo-American pop culture as incisive as Zappa. When his instincts were muddled – as I think they were vis a vis punk – things he said weren’t so clear.

    I also think part of his distaste for punk was not necessarily the music itself, but rather the tinsel-town bandwagon effect (remember the big promotional push in LA for the Sex Pistols?). And his target might also have been precisely nostalgia: the fetish for crudeness, the cliche of ‘stripping everything down’ – ‘forget your chops [ie your skill] and play real’ dumb’. Obviously, I can’t get into his head, but I don’t remember Zappa ever sneering at any band or musician who was sincerely committed to what they were doing – like X or Black Flag. He just didn’t like posing.

    If he were alive today….wow. To paraphrase someone (can’t remember who): I don’t think he could’ve eaten enough to vomit enough.

  28. jonnybutter says:

    Part of the misunderstanding here, by the way, may be about perspective. I’m old enough to remember very well the late 70s-early 80s in the US. Record/Music business assholes, in their silk suits and silly ponytails, really *were* of the attitude that ‘Oh, Punk is the New Thing – it’s so ‘real’ – and we all have to be more Punk.’ It really was ridiculous, and had little to do with the qualities of a group like Black Flag, et. al.

  29. Birdman! says:

    “…vomit…” = Christopher Hitchens

  30. jonnybutter says:

    A quote from jonnybutter:

    “…vomit…” = Christopher Hitchens

    Yes, that’s right, it was Hitchens. I love that phrase. Proof that even a crazy late-stage alcoholic can say funny things sometimes.

  31. Alex says:

    A quote from Bob:

    A quote from Alex:

    Nice tie. Very professorial. It commands respect for your position as Teaching Assistant. The chicks dig it!

    What’s that buzzing? Must be one of those gadflies…not even bothering to further discussion, just adding his own antisocial observations. And stop eating your paste!

    A quote from jonnybutter:

    Part of the misunderstanding here, by the way, may be about perspective. I’m old enough to remember very well the late 70s-early 80s in the US. Record/Music business assholes, in their silk suits and silly ponytails, really *were* of the attitude that ‘Oh, Punk is the New Thing – it’s so ‘real’ – and we all have to be more Punk.’ It really was ridiculous, and had little to do with the qualities of a group like Black Flag, et. al.

    I know what you mean. Witness the existence of Alvin & The Chipmunks’ “Chipmunk Punk” album. It got capitalized upon, sure, but I really can’t think of any bogus punk bands from that period. Even Green Day was good once, though, before they became the darlings of the music industry’s machinery.

    Regarding the original mixes, I misspoke. Maybe more along the lines of aesthetic desire, hearing the original mixes for their merits.

  32. jane23 says:

    when ruben came out it thought it was a disappointment
    but then i did not like uncle meat that much either
    but the more i listened
    the better they got
    the remixed ruben is blasphemy
    although it does have that anywhere anyplace anytime for any reason at all vibe which i loved so much
    so who knows?

  33. Bob says:

    A quote from Alex:

    A quote from Bob:

    A quote from Alex:

    Nice tie. Very professorial. It commands respect for your position as Teaching Assistant. The chicks dig it!

    …not even bothering to further discussion, just adding his own antisocial observations.

    A quote from jonnybutter:

    I misspoke.

    Apparently so. Ruben wears a tie.

  34. Alex says:

    A quote from Bob:

    A quote from Alex:

    A quote from Bob:

    A quote from Alex:

    Nice tie. Very professorial. It commands respect for your position as Teaching Assistant. The chicks dig it!

    …not even bothering to further discussion, just adding his own antisocial observations.

    A quote from jonnybutter:

    I misspoke.

    Apparently so. Ruben wears a tie.

    Yes, and now we must ask what the tie means. Is it representative of male on male dominance in the workplace, a silk yoke, a sign of hegemonic trends in fashion? The noses are phallic, but what of the ties? They’re long and droopy, too.

  35. Bob says:

    A quote from Alex:

    Yes, and now we must ask what the tie means. Is it representative of male on male dominance in the workplace, a silk yoke, a sign of hegemonic trends in fashion? The noses are phallic, but what of the ties? They’re long and droopy, too.

    Must we, really? Well, if we must, I’ll leave it to you to answer, Professor.

  36. Alex says:

    A quote from Bob:

    A quote from Alex:

    Yes, and now we must ask what the tie means. Is it representative of male on male dominance in the workplace, a silk yoke, a sign of hegemonic trends in fashion? The noses are phallic, but what of the ties? They’re long and droopy, too.

    Must we, really? Well, if we must, I’ll leave it to you to answer, Professor.

    Nice try, slacker. I’ve asked the question – now you give me a 6 to 8 page paper on it, potato-headed Bobby.

  37. metafunj says:

    Wow I didn’t even know that my CD version of Hot Rats was a remix. Is there anywhere to hear it?

    I also only have the remix version of “Ruben” and I think that this original bass sounds better, but the drumming is kind of annoying with the constant hi hat hits and everything else kinda muffled. The slap bass on the remix of “no, no, no” is kinda cool to hear though. Is there some where to ::cough:: procure a better quality version of this vinyl rip than youtube?

    Replaced Kick drums in Helsinki make the percussion solo in “Dupree’s Paradise” unlistenable.

    I like the sleep dirt lyrics and we get the instrumental versions on the “Laether” album. ;-)

  38. C-H says:

    The really bizarre thing about CWR&TJ is that it was *supposed* to be a pastiche of the pop music Frank and the rest of the Mothers had grown up with – deliberately simplistic songs, stock chord changes, doo-wop harmonies, etc., so updating it with 80s drums and bass not only changed the sound of the album into a bizarre ill-fitting hybrid, but completely destroyed the very purpose of it.

    Incidentally, just reading Drumbo John French’s book, and according to Art Tripp, the drums on CWR&TJ were originally played by Billy Mundi, but when Frank met Art one of the first things he asked him to do was replace the drums on these songs, which he did in a single day in the studio.

    Looking forward to the official reissue of the ’68 mix, but in the meantime vinzer’s vinyl dub is really very good quality.

    That link once again for those at the back: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=YKVLFM54

  39. Jimmy says:

    I’ve always likened FZ’s ’84 remix of Ruben to Welles colorizing Kane.
    Well, since the master tapes were indeed water damaged, Gail hires a couple of pros to remaster from vinyl. The result is “Greasy Love Songs”… basically Crusin’ remastered professionally from vinly. *With some great outtakes, single mixes and a few interviews re: the album. Brilliant packagin job and art work. Even comes with a wallet-sized FZ high school yearbook pic. *Loving it. I think I actually prefer it to a remaster from tape as it (somehow) has a certain “timbre” found on good vinyl. Worth the $21!
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/music_blog/2010/05/frank-zappa-jelly-roll-mp3-greasy.html

Comments for this entry have been closed.