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Frank Zappa’s Five-Hour ‘Dress Optional’ 1968 Concert at the Whisky Will Finally Come Out

In the summer of 1968, months after the releases of We’re Only in It for the Money and Lumpy Gravy and a few months ahead of the release of Cruising with Ruben & the Jets, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention found time for a five-hour concert on the Sunset Strip. A new box set, Whisky a Go Go, 1968 — due out June 21 — chronicles the unique evening, which the band recorded for release but, in Zappa’s signature fashion, divvied up for spare parts on other recordings. (Notably, Uncle Meat’s “God Bless America” came from this concert, and some tracks later surfaced on the Zappa soundtrack in 2020.)

A handwritten ad for the gig that the group ran in the L.A. Free Press promised “5 full hours of unprecedented merriment, which will be secretly recorded for an upcoming record album.” It went on to say, “Dress optional. Starting sometime in the evening. R.S.V.D.T.” but the state of the audience’s dress (or undress), what time it started, and whatever the “D.T.” stood for in French are all lost to history.

What does exist, at least now, are all five-or-so hours of jazz-rock experimentation the group treated their probably stark-naked fans with. The first officially released track from the collection, “The Duke – Take 2,” finds the Mothers noodling with wah-wah guitar, drums, and what could be a tambourine in perpetual motion for five-and-a-half minutes. (Incidentally, this is “Take 2,” since Zappa treated the whole night like a recording session and was unhappy with the first go, so they just did it again.)

A super deluxe edition of collection is available either as a five-LP or 3-CD set. It includes liner notes by the Zappa family “Vaultmeister” Joe Travers, who coproduced the set with Ahmet Zappa, and by the GTO’s Pamela Des Barres, who performed at the concert. Ahmet also interviewed Alice Cooper, who also performed that night, for the liners.

If five LPs is too heavy, there will also be a double-LP highlights release available. And all major high-res streaming services will host the full five hours.

“It truly was a night of nights,” Travers wrote in the liner notes. “The Mothers performance wasn’t perfect, but very good. Frank was in good spirits, the band played well, and the sequence of songs did capture the group’s live repertoire of the time.”

Whisky a Go Go 1968 Super Deluxe Edition track list:

Disc One:

1. “Whisky Improvisation: Episode I”
2. “America Drinks & Goes Home”
3. “Help, I’m a Rock / Transylvania Boogie”
4. “My Boyfriend’s Back”
5. “Bust His Head”
6. “Tiny Sick Tears Jam”
7. “The Purpose of This Evening…”
8. “Whisky Improvisation: Episode II”
9. “Status Back Baby”
10. “Memories of El Monte”
11. “Oh, In the Sky”
12. “Valerie”

Disc Two:

1. “Fun & Merriment”
2. “Hungry Freaks, Daddy”
3. “King Kong – Part 1”
4. “King Kong – Part 2”
5. “Octandre”
6. “Whisky Improvisation: Episode III”
7. “Meow”
8. “God Bless America”
9. “Presentation of Wings”
10. “Plastic People”
11. “Della’s Preamble”
12. “The Duke – Take 1”
13. “The Duke – Take 2”
14. “Khaki Sack”


Disc Three:

1. “The Whip”
2. “Whisky Chouflée”
3. “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It”
4. “Brown Shoes Shuffle”

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