Them Or Us

This is a bit of a headache. It seems as if there are several variations within various CD pressings which haven't quite been ironed out yet. The 1986 Ryko CD seems to be identical to the vinyl, but starting with the Zappa Records CD from 1990 this falls into the "bad batch" category, with right channel distortion and other unpleasantness; it also had a slightly longer version of the title cut. Thing is, Ryko might have switched their master at some point, although as we've received reports that the "purple face" Rykos still use the good master, this is unlikely. Unfortunately, the 1995 disc uses the Zappa Records master, and is thus damaged.

ESSENTIAL VERSIONS FOR COMPLETISTS: The 1995 CD has the most audio content, but has some sound quality issues (none nearly as egregious as the infamous "You Are What You Is," but...). The EMI/1986 Ryko match the vinyl. [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)

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:

The original CD (RCD 40027) clocks in at 71:06 whereas the '95 version is a shorter 70:55. 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! And this being on the shorter of the two CD's! OK, so if the '95 CD is shorter, then where did the extra time come from? Well, most of the songs have been shortened by one or two seconds, and "Truck-Driver Divorce" and "Whippin' Post" have both been shortened by six seconds. I don't know if these time variations are due to a slowing down (in the case of the '95 title track) or a speeding up as to other tracks. Maybe someone more anal than myself can figure out if there is actually added notes to the title track and conversely notes taken away from others. 

PS: The '95 sound quality is sooo much better!!

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:

Román has solved the case of the missing thirty seconds of "Baby, Take your Teeth Out". Apparently there was a typo on the back cover of the LP, whereby the song was listed as 01:24, though it was actually 01:54, as on the CD.

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?

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-2005-UPDATE: Ryko USA has apparently been importing the overstock of these releases to sell as domestic "special editions," causing the speculators who paid top dollar for the entire collection to hari-kari themselves. This includes some of the discs that, as of August 2005, were pretty hard to find ("Money" and others).


  • 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

Search WWW Search all of

DISCLAIMER: people quoted may not share webmaster's opinions (on James Brown); information culled from many sources with no guarantees; site may look bad in other than latest Internet Explorer for Windows (I wish I were skilled enough to change this last one).