Cheap Thrills

  • Ryko RCD 10579, May 1998 (not issued in Japan)
  • Ryko FZ 001 (German promo)

ESSENTIAL FOR COMPLETISTS: NO [completist's guide]

Ryko put this compilation together to "celebrate" the move of quite many Zappa CDs from the full-price to the mid-price range. It contains album versions only (and an "enhanced CD" portion, with the entire Ryko catalogue in HTML format), but as "Ned the Mumbler" points out:

... and I get to track 10 with the Captain wailing away with "The Torture Never Stops (Original Version)" and about 02:30 into it there is this crappy "fooot fooot fooot" noise (like the old surface noise you USED to get on a crumby LP). So I take it back to HMV and they replace it with NO problem at all. Then I get in the car once again and put the Captain back on ... fooot fooot fooot. Back into the store for another copy. No problem again. Back in the car ... you guessed it - FOOOT FOOOT FOOOT. I still have this copy. I'm too embarrassed to go back in the store. Is this what they mean by "Cheap Thrills"?

Patrick Neve takes a listen, and:

Yup, it's there alright. Quality control at Ryko is slipping!

David G. elaborates:

It seems as if this comp was produced on the cheap. The audio problems Ned describes are definitely there, and are not on Stage #4. The problem sounds less like a bad LP to me, and more like slight digital errors. Perhaps the masters used to create this disc were extracted from the stock CDs, as this sounds like error-rific digital-audio-extraction to me

Another thing: most of the music tracks on this disc have been hit with a healthy dose of compression ("You Are What You Is," the aforementioned "The Torture Never Stops"). They're not maxed out or anything, but they are noticeably different. In other words, they're not totally identical to the original discs.

According to cover artist Cal Schenkel, Cheap Thrills "sold like gangbusters" (much), and a Son of Cheep Thrills was released on April 27, 1999.

Greetings from Zoot

While I was down at the Federal Building filling out several dozen Freedom of Information Act requests for Mr Gula's FBI files, there was, laying upon a desk, an advance copy of Cheap Thrills, along with related marketing materials, which seemed to have come as part of a Rykodisc pre-solicitation marketing campaign.

For those who are interested, I thought I might detail a little bit of what I saw and heard.

I do not offer these comments with the intention of attempting to argue the justification of the release of compilations of previously existing material over the release of any of the thousands of unissued Zappa masters which have yet to be made available for commercial sale (there is simply no argument, everyone who likes Zappa would prefer unissued masters), rather I offer these comments simply as a description of the piece of product which has been produced.

To begin with the package is stunningly beautiful in that glorious 100% PURE CAL SCHENKEL way. If you believe that Cal is to Zappa packages as George Martin is to the Beatles sound, as I do, then you will be simply thrilled to see a package which, though very basic, is easily the equivalent in tone and style and "vibe" of either Playground Psychotics or Ahead of Their Time. Other than the "Enhanced CD" logo and the UPC, there is not a single bit of typeface anywhere in the package. Everything is in Cal's handwriting. The insert is an 8-page folder which seems to use fluorescent magenta, fluorescent yellow, standard cyan and standard black inks. The artwork will, to use the expression, blow your mind. The inside of the inlay card looks as if one might need 3-D glasses to decipher the layers (if, in fact, anything is there to be deciphered at all).

The 13 tracks of music/voice are 47:71 in length. The music sounds wonderful. And the edit points between tracks, the segues, are virtually seamless and give this assembly a surprising coherence one may have thought, from the simple reading of the track titles, it could ever possibly possess.

The CD enhanced track contains a version of the Rykodisc Zappa on-line catalogue pages. The opening page contains an revolving series of Zappa album covers. These catalogue pages are the ones just the way they used to appear on the Rykodisc website before Rykodisc recently redesigned everything. These catalogue pages include information on every Ryko FZ release through 200 Motels. The readme.txt file of this enhanced track says:

Readme File
Cheap Thrills - Zappa Catalog
RCD 10579

Welcome to the Enhanced section of Cheap Thrills, wherein we take an opportunity to show you the full extent of the Frank Zappa oeuvre, and show you what you are missing if you don't already own every single one of the releases included here (if you already do, then go back to pestering us to put out more unreleased stuff).

So, how does this work?

Well, here's what you want to do:

A) If you have a web browser, like Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer, already installed in your computer ...

  1. Go to the folder on this disc called "Artist" and double-click on the file called "Zappa_a.htm". This will launch the catalog.
  2. Browse around, choose a bunch of titles, and visit your local retailer to buy them. Or call the number provided at the bottom of the screen.

B) If you do not have a browser installed on your machine ...

  1. Open the folder called "Netscape." Double click on the file called "N32E404.EXE" and follow the instructions to install Netscape Navigator on your machine. When you have successfully installed the program, go to Step 1 listed above.

System Requirements:

The HTML files on this disc are viewable on any computer with a web browser installed. If you are reading this, you have a multisession-compatible CD-ROM drive already installed, so you should be off to the races.

C) Email any questions or problems to

When Zappa was signed to Warner Bros in the 1970s, a single-disc mail order only sampler (yes, I know, two different versions of this single disc sampler were produced) was created by the Warner Bros marketing department. It was called Zapped. Its purpose was, ultimately, to invite as many people as possible, but mostly people who had NEVER listened to Zappa stuff to become familiar with both Zappa music and Zappa-related music from, and hopefully become buyers of, existing (and future) Bizarre/Straight releases in exchange for as little money as possible (which was, at the time, one dollar).

A quarter of a century later, Rykodisc seems to be doing the same exact thing with Cheap Thrills. Except now is it a CD sold in any store which will stock it with a list price of 6.98 (which is, more or less, the equivalent of a CD single and which will likely sell for only 4.99 to 5.99).

All of us are waiting for Rykodisc and the Zappa Family Trust to work together to release all those recordings we've never heard before. Some of these, such as the Varese album, we have been "teased" with for years. But, although people who enjoy FZ, or any music, like to think in ideal terms, the day-to-day practical situation of it is that if a company like Rykodisc, or any record company, cannot create appropriate retail sales for an artist, including Zappa, then they begin to lose retail shelf space, they begin to lose the practical and economic advantages of the Zappa "brand name" (as it were) and Zappa music in retail stores will slowly but surely disappear and that shelfspace will used for other product which does turn over.

For good or for bad, according to Soundscan US sales figures, Strictly Commercial (a compilation, like Cheap Thrills, of all previously released masters, by the way) has outsold every other Rykodisc title by many times over. Strictly Commercial has sold nearly twenty times the number of copies of 200 Motels. Yet 200 Motels was a "lost" release which Zappa fans (I among them) begged and pleaded with Rykodisc to release on CD for years and years. But when 200 Motels finally does show up, no one, comparatively, bought it.

As discussed already on and on Rykodisc's Message Board, I think it is clear that Rykodisc's preference would be to only release packages of unissued Zappa masters, but as that appears not to be possible right now, it seems Rykodisc is using Cheap Thrills to invite all many people as possible into the Frank Zappa tent, to broaden the sales base, and to have more potential ears eager to hear whatever new releases of unissued Zappa masters that will eventually come than heard, let's say, the begged-for 200 Motels. While FZ music may be a living, breathing part of the lives of people who are on, for it to become a living, breathing part of our children's lives or our grandchildren's lives, which it what is required for it to remain vital, takes equal parts of new important unissued material finally being released, the continued appreciation and sale of the existing works as well as a large enough, and EXPANDING, customer base which will support, by their pu***ase, the titles which are released.

For all of the complaining, Rykodisc has created and released only three compilations: Strictly Commercial, Strictly Genteel and, now, Cheap Thrills. Every other Rykodisc release has either been a Zappa-compiled collection he created to be issued after his death or a Zappa-fan requested "lost" album. Strictly Commercial and Strictly Genteel are legitimate, necessary collections which, each in its own way, distill nearly five dozen albums into handy bite-sized pieces. Cheap Thrills is the worthy successor to Zapped, created for the same purpose. To invite people into the Zappa tent. Don't we all want as many people as possible in that tent with us ready and waiting for whatever comes next?


From Hari Ossa:

Did you notice that in the complete discography they fucked up with The Perfect Stranger? they listed all the tracks of all the CDs but when you look at The Perfect Stranger, the tracks are the ones from Francesco Zappa ... nobody check the stuff when it comes out of Ryko?

German Promo

From Mikael Agardsson:

As we know, Cheap Thrills does not exist as a promo CD in the US, but it does in Germany. (The CD is pressed in Germany.) The differences from the regular version is that this promo doesn't have a regular CD case, but a cardboard cover. The cover is also slightly different [it has a picture of the regular CD cover, tilted 10 or so on a same-colour background; above it, in the upper-left corner, it says "CHEAP THRILLS"/"SPECIAL EDITION"; in the lower-right corner, it says "SAMPLER"/"NOT FOR SALE"; and in the lower-left corner is a Ryko logo], as is the CD itself [saying "SPECIAL EDITION" and "SAMPLER"/"NOT FOR SALE"/"Made in Germany"]. And there's no information about the songs.

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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