The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life

the original cover was cancelled because Zappa had no right to use the cover picture, and he didn't want to pay the photographerThe 1995 CD has a distortion fix on "Heavy Duty Judy". The European version does no longer have "Bolero", for copyright reasons. The original CD cover was cancelled and has been replaced twice.

ESSENTIAL VERSIONS FOR COMPLETISTS: US version (for "Bolero") of the 1995 CD (which is a remaster, and has a distortion fix). [completist's guide]


  • Original CD (Barking Pumpkin D2-74233 in the US, Zappa Records CDDZAP 38 in the UK, April 1991)
  • Double cassette (Barking Pumpkin Records D4 74233 in the US, Zappa Records TZAPPA38 in the UK, 1991, photo cover)
  • Pre-1995 Japanese CDs (VACK 5093/4 and Music Scene Inc. MSI 0052/3, possibly as "The Best Band - 1988 Live")
  • Japanese MSI 80052/3 CD (pre-1995)
  • Russian CD (JPCD 9803204, picture and non-picture disc versions)
  • American/Japanese 1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10553/54, May 30 1995; VACK VACK 5093/4 in Japan, renumbered 5228/9 in 1998)
  • European 1995 CD (Ryko RCD 10653/54, May 30 1995)
  • Japanese mini-LP sleeve issue (VACK 9001, Feb 16 2004)

Original CD

With & Without "Bolero"

When this CD came out, there was a LOT of trouble with Zappa's "Bolero" cover. Ravel's estate had tons of objections to it, and the result was that Zappa had to remove "Bolero" from the European version, where the estate's copyright was still effective. (Rumour has it that Zappa even had to publish a written apology somewhere, stating that it was never his "intent" to "pervert" the composition, or somesuch.) "Bolero" stayed on American versions. Japanese versions without "Bolero" have been reported.

PAUL HINRICHS: The copyright is French. In France, copyright durations are much longer than they are in the US. The rest of the EC respects the French durations, so the laws in their countries follow suit. US laws do not concur with the French copyrights. Therefore, "Bolero" can be legally released in the US, but not in Europe. The original European Ryko re-releases (as well as the original releases) had "Bolero", but this mistake was soon corrected.

MIKE: According to Zappa himself, interviewed on BBC Radio One in autumn 1991, Ravel left the rights to his gardener (Manuel the gardener?) and it is his heirs who objected to the inclusion.

RYAN DAVENPORT: I have a Japanese MSI pressing which does not contain "Bolero". The catalog number is MSI 80052/53. Many Japanese releases will show a date of release on the obi  - unfortunately, this disc does not, so I can't say when it was made. Cal Schenkel's site shows the cover art as having a 1992 date. The Japanese liner notes are in a 36-page booklet (including English lyrics) and are dated March 31 1992. There is also a folded color insert as was found in the early Ryko CDs, with the picture of the band. I don't have any other Japanese pressings to check whether or not they do actually include "Bolero". I could only find one site on the net with track listings for Japanese releases (the "Dali / Jawaka" site, I think), and it didn't show "Bolero" on the disc either.

CHRISTOPHE GAUTHIER: I recently read a book about the Sacem, the French society which protects the composers' and musicians' rights (or say they do so), and there is a whole chapter about the Bolero and the story of the people owning the rights to Ravel's music. To sum up: the Sacem indirectly holds these rights and has managed to extend their duration way beyond the standard length. This is a pretty tricky story, I have to read the chapter again but if you want it, I can try to sort things out and write a short text to explain some of the reasons behind the absence of the Bolero on certain copies of this CD.

The Cover Variants

the original cover was cancelled because Zappa had no right to use the cover picture, and he didn't want to pay the photographer original back cover

When this CD came out in America and Europe, the cover was a picture of the band on stage. It turned out that Zappa had used this picture without the photographer's permission, so the cover had to be revoked. Zappa replaced it with a blank, black cover (top of page). The Japanese CD had a different cover, drawn by Cal Schenkel, which was used for the 1995 re-issue. (Perhaps the Japanese CD came out after the original cover had already been stopped.)


The European CDs were plain silver with black lettering; the American version had one yellow disc and one blue. From Juha Sarkkinen:

Some tracks are given wrong timings on the back cover of the original European CD [and this is a pretty extreme case, too - Ed.].

From Michael Pierry:

Remember those long boxes CDs used to come in? No point, really, I was just thinking of those things, they were the biggest waste of cardboard. I used to have a whole bunch of 'em that I saved, but I guess I threw them out at some point.  Had a whole buncha red Barking Pumpkin longboxes. God, I remember drooling over The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life and Make a Jazz Noise Here when they first came out, NEW ZAPPA!


Variants of the original CD include:

  • American Barking Pumpkin CD with Bolero (photo cover)
  • American Barking Pumpkin CD with Bolero (black cover)
  • Japanese MSI CD with Bolero (Cal Schenkel cover)?
  • Japanese MSI CD without Bolero (Cal Schenkel cover)
  • European Zappa Records CD with Bolero (photo cover)
  • European Zappa Records CD without Bolero (photo cover)
  • European Zappa Records CD without Bolero (black cover)

The 1995 CDs all had the Cal Schenkel cover.

1995 CD

  • American/Japanese version: Ryko RCD 10553/54, with "Bolero"
  • European version: Ryko RCD 10653/54, without "Bolero"

The European version does not have "Bolero" on it, because Ravel's estate, who still control the rights to it in Europe, protested against the blasphemy. Listen to Dr. Istvan Fekete:

I have both of them - with and without Bolero. Here's the raw data:

  • US/Japanese: RCD 10553/54, bar code 0 14431 05532 4
  • European: RCD 10653/54, bar code: 0 14431 06532 3

Both versions have been manufactured in Canada. They look exactly the same - except for the track list. The only visible difference between the two is in the blue, red & yellow colors used on the inside pages of the booklet.

And Paul Hinrichs, as above:

The original European Ryko re-releases (as well as the original releases) had Bolero, but this mistake was soon corrected.

From David G:

I compared my "no-photo" BP with my '95 Ryko. Verdict: they're not identical. Different EQ work and a different mastering pass overall on the '95, seemingly, at least on the tracks I compared.

Official Ryko statement: "New master. New timing sheet. Distortion fix on 'Heavy Duty Judy'." [full statement] Additional official Ryko statement, from their Zappalogue catalogue: "The cover artwork is by Cal Schenkel from the original Japanese release".


  • What about Euro cassettes?
  • Any details about the Russian CD?
  • When exactly was the photo cover revoked, and when exactly did the Japanese cover come out?

Additional Informants

  • JWB
  • Patrick Neve
  • Robbert Heederik
  • Chris Maxfield
  • Charles Ulrich
  • Thomas Marrot

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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