Mystery Disc

What to Get: The 1998 Ryko CD is reported to have better liner notes, but the content of the two available CDs is the same.

Summary: A CD re-issue of two vinyl LPs that came as bonuses in the Old Masters boxes of vinyl re-issues. Two of the LP tracks are not included on the CD, but they can be found on the Absolutely Free CD. Three tracks on this album are also on Lost Episodes (two of them in slightly different versions), six other tracks are edits of Ahead of Their Time material, and one track is a different edit of a Stage #5 track.

ESSENTIAL FOR COMPLETISTS: Yes, if you don't have the original Mystery Disc LPs already. [completist's guide]


  • Advance CD (RCD 10580 ADV)
  • CD (RCD 10580, September 15 1998 in the US, September 14 in the UK, VACK 5391 in Japan (not renumbered in 1999, when most of the rest of the line were))
  • Japanese mini-LP edition (VACK 9004, Feb 16 2004)
  • 2012 UMe CD (Zappa Records ZR 3891 [U.S.] and 0238912 [elsewhere] November 19, 2012)



Some of the material on Mystery Disc is also on the Lost Episodes, Ahead of Their Time and Stage #5 CDs. Here is a comparison from the Mystery Disc CD booklet (sent by Mikael Agardsson):

  • Track #1, "Theme from RUN HOME SLOW" is the same performance as on the The Lost Episodes. The Mystery Disc version is a mono mix while on The Lost Episodes it is in glorious stereo. The Mystery Disc version also includes an FZ guitar solo missing from The Lost Episodes version.
  • Track #12, "Charva" is the same performance as on The Lost Episodes. The Mystery Disc version is a strange, almost binaural mix/mastering while The Lost Episodes version is true mono.
  • Track #21, "Harry, You Are a Beast" is an edited version of Ahead of Their Time track 17.
  • Track #22, "Don Interrupts" is an unedited version of version Ahead of Their Time track 2, "Progress".
  • Track #23, "Piece One" is the same version as Ahead of Their Time track 3, "Like It Or Not".
  • Track #24, "Jim/Roy" is a heavily edited version of the combined Ahead of Their Time track 4, "The Jimmy Carl Black Philosophy Lesson" and track 5, "Holding the Group Back" and track 6, "Holiday in Berlin" and the spoken beginning of track 7, "The Rejected Mexican Pope Leaves the Stage".
  • Track 25 , "Piece Two" is an edited version of the music portion of Ahead of Their Time track 7, "The Rejected Mexican Pope Leaves the Stage" and track 8, "Undaunted, the Band Plays On".
  • Track 26, "Agency Man" is an edited version of Ahead of Their Time track 9, of the same name and the beginning of track 10, "Epilogue".
  • Track 29, "Wedding Dress Song / The Handsome Cabin Boy" is the same recording though later individually wrapped. On The Lost Episodes, tracks 16 and 17.
  • Track 32, "Black Beauty" is the same performance as on You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Vol. 5, track 25, "Underground Freak-Out Music". But this Mystery Disc version is the seriously unedited version [a minute and a half longer - Charles Ulrich].

Advance CD

From Jos van Galen:

There is also an advance CD (Ryko RCD 10580 ADV); no insert; on the back side is a track list (the same as on the commercial issue) and the dates of release (September 15 1998 in the US and September 14 1998 in the UK).

Japanese Mini-LP Sleeve Edition

Thomas Marrot describes this curiosity thusly:

Two paper sleeves with one CD, with new orange & yellow covers and stencil/stamp like red title. The second sleeve contains the lyrics booklet(s) (japanese + english). Also the timing of this new CD is different than RCD 10580, but as I do not own VACK 5391, I could not compare the 2 Japanese editions.

Alternate Track List

As you know if you've seen the CD, there's a tape box label with an alternative track listing depicted under the transparent CD tray:

03:00 Sharleena
15:17 Wiki-Wiki
16:31:27 Willie Story
18:05:17 Bass/Drs.
19:28:28 96 Tears
24:30:04 Harry/Beast
Eend: 24:44:16

26:00 Fest Hall Show
End: 48:01

From Charles Ulrich:

  • "Sharleena" is 23 seconds longer than on The Lost Episodes - presumably the same
  • "Willie Story" is clearly "The Story of Willie the Pimp", one second longer than the released version.
  • "Buns Trim" is almost two minutes shorter than the Lost Episodes version of "Cops & Buns", if that's what this is [trimmed down] from.
  • "96 Tears" is half a minute longer than "Tiny Sick Tears". No doubt the Stage #4 version edits out the first 33 seconds because they're too recognizable as "96 Tears" [by Question Mark & the Mysterians, parodied in "Tiny Sick Tears" - Ed].
  • "Harry/Beast" is five seconds shorter than the released version, but "Fest Hall Show" is two seconds longer than cuts 21-26 of the released Mystery Disc (including "Harry, You're a Beast").

So all we're missing is "Wiki-Wiki" and "Bass/Drs.", for a grand total of 01:56. 

From JWB: 

"Bass/Drs" is 42 seconds long. The bass/drums jam from "Black Beauty" is EXACTLY 42 seconds long! Mystery solved?

About "Wiki-Wiki":

CHARLES ULRICH: (I don't know if it's relevant, but in the 1960s, Chevron gas stations had some promotional contest thingie called Wiki-Wiki Dollars. Some sort of Polynesian theme. I don't know if wiki-wiki is a real word in Hawaiian or Tahitian or some other actual language.)
KEN WALTER: The term "wiki-wiki" means "quick" or "quickly" in Hawaiian. It is also the name of the free shuttle buses between terminals at the Honolulu airport.

Ryko Press Release

Here is a September 1998 press release from Rykodisc, provided by Randy Cech in August 1998.

Dear Frank-o-philes,

Just when you were thinking … what next? Rykodisc releases the latest Frank Zappa CD … Mystery Disc! And just in time for Halloween!

As many of you know, FZ released, between 1985 and 1987, three mail-order-only boxed set vinyl versions of much of his album catalog, restored to its factory showroom artwork and packaging. All told, twenty of his albums, from Freak Out! to Zoot Allures, were re-issued this way. He called this series The Old Masters. Inside each of the first two Old Masters boxes was an unavailable elsewhere bonus album of previously unreleased material, which FZ called Mystery Discs. FZ later used some of the Mystery Disc material on other releases* though much of it has never been released on CD, and the Old Masters are extremely hard to find.

On September 15, Rykodisc will release these rarities as Mystery Disc, a single CD collection that includes everything from both vinyl Mystery Discs, except two tracks we figured most people already have - "Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?" and "Big Leg Emma" - since they're also on Absolutely Free. We had to lose something to fit on one CD and this seemed the best solution.

The track list follows. [No, it does not - when I got this press release, the track list had kind of got deleted along the way, but it will follow here shortly - Ed.] The recordings are circa 1962-69 (one "field recording" from '72), many from Studio Z, several from the 1968 Royal Festival Hall in London performance, rehearsals and live recordings and radio visits of the original Mothers of Invention, not to mention a few gems with Captain Beefheart.

In the first Old Masters box, FZ included a 13" X 13" booklet with lyrics, photos, and notes about the Mystery Disc recordings. Unfortunately, there was no such book in the second box, although there were some brief notations on the Mystery Disc sleeve itself about locations and dates. The 32-page booklet included in the Mystery Disc CD includes all the above mentioned notes, plus some new ones, and a LOT of cool photos, clips, and more. The booklet was designed by the one and only Cal Schenkel, who came to our offices in Salem for a few days to complete the job. (You can read all about his trip on Cal's web site:

*) There's a section in the notes that details all the previously-available-on-CD stuff and how it differs (or not), now we'll say, in addition to the two tracks mentioned above that FZ eventually included on the Absolutely Free CD, he used other Mystery Disc tracks on Ahead of Their Time (tracks 21-26), The Lost Episodes, and You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Vol. 5. [When it's all released, this section will probably find its way onto this page somehow - Ed.]

This message was brought to you by the FZ Subsection.

ORDER Mystery Disc and receive deep discounts on other Frank Zappa titles ... cheepnis! 1-888-2EARFUL by phone or order on-line:

Rykodisc - 15 Years Of Spirited Independence

2012 UMe CD

Taken from the 1995 Digital Master, so the same as the old disc. Liner notes are reported to be missing information that was contained in the 1998 Ryko version. Soop.broth writes:

I compared the new Mystery Disc liner notes with the Ryko version. Oh boy. The new ones are severely truncated. Many of the blurbs are shortened and some are missing entirely. The ENTIRE first page is also absent, as well as the entire last page ("Fetish Dept").

Additional Informants

  • Patrick Neve

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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