Blog Archives

Frank Zappa Historic/Epic 1981 Halloween Concert Immortalized with Six-Disc/81 Costume Box Set

With more than 70 unreleased tracks and Count Frankula Mask & Cape

By 1981, Frank Zappa’s Halloween shows in New York were already legendary – a rock and roll bacchanalia of jaw-dropping musicianship, costume-clad revelry, spontaneous theatrical hijinks and of course a heavy dose of Zappa’s signature virtuosic guitar workouts. Eagerly anticipated every year, fans never knew exactly what was in store but knew it would be of epic proportions and one-of-a-kind experience that only Zappa and his skilled group of musicians could provide.

When Zappa returned to The Palladium in NYC in 1981 for a five-show four-night run from October 29 to November 1, the nearly-annual tradition was even more anticipated than usual as the 1980 concerts were cut short due to Zappa falling ill. Curiously there was no fall tour the previous year and thus no Halloween shows.

Perhaps because of this, Zappa arrived at the 3,000 capacity Palladium raring to play, armed with a cracking new band, a just-released double album and a film crew in tow.

In addition to recording all shows with a professional mobile rig and filming the Halloween night festivities for future releases, the midnight concert was to be the first live simulcast in cable history, broadcasting via satellite over the radio and on a recently launched music channel called MTV. The early 8 pm show was captured on video by Zappa’s crew and the footage of the two shows ended up being utilized for a number of different video projects over the years, most notably the home video releases, The Dub Room Special (1983) and The Torture Never Stops (1982).

While some of the audio from these concerts has been released on CD over the years including as part of the You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore live series, The Dub Room Special soundtrack and One Shot Deal, audio from the complete shows has never been released in its entirety…until now. 

For the first-time ever, Zappa’s historic October 31 Halloween night concerts and the closing November 1 show recorded live at The Palladium in 1981 are now available via Zappa Records/UMe as a gigantic six-disc box set featuring 78 unreleased live tracks totaling more than seven hours of live performances from three complete concerts.

The expansive release is the latest in the acclaimed costume box set series which began with the Halloween 77 box set in 2017 to chronicle these iconic concerts and celebrate Zappa’s love of Halloween. The specially-designed costume box includes a Count Frankula mask along with a red and black cape so fans can dress like vampire Frank Zappa for Halloween or display alongside their FRANKenZAPPA mask and gloves from last year’s Halloween 73 box or the retro mask and costume of the maestro himself from the inaugural release.

Fully authorized by the Zappa Trust and produced by Ahmet Zappa and Zappa Vaultmeister Joe Travers, the concerts have been newly mixed from the original Ampex 456 2-inch 24-track analog tape masters by Craig Parker Adams in 2020. This king-size offering also includes a 40-page booklet with rare photos from the event by John Livzey (Livzey.com) and new liner notes by touring band member Robert Martin, Vaultmeister Joe Travers and super fan-in-attendance Gary Titone who pens a remembrance of the shows.

In addition, a 1CD version titled Halloween 81: Highlights From The Palladium, New York City is also available, featuring performances from all three shows along with an exclusive track, “Strictly Genteel,” from the November 1show not included on the box set. It is packaged in a jewel case with liners by Travers.

STREAM & PURCHASE ZAPPA’S HALLOWEEN 81 HERE

Zappa returned to The Palladium boasting a brand new band with three new players – Scott Thunes on bass, Chad Wackerman on drums and Robert Martin on keyboards – joining veteran members Ray White on guitar, Ed Mann on percussion and Tommy Mars on keys along with that “Little Italian Virtuoso” Steve Vai, now on his second tour as a band member.

While the group had only been on the road for a month, by the time the Halloween shows took place they were in lockstep when they hit the stage and delivered sensational performances night after night. As Travers writes in the insightful liners, “although there may not have been as much audience interaction and festivities as in the past, the performances lived up to the hype. There were hardly any stops in the action, song after song being presented like rapid fire, all the while drenched in Halloween spirit.”

From the audience’s exalted roar and opening salvo of “Chunga’s Revenge” from the early 8 pm Halloween show that kicks off disc 1 to the closing notes of “The Torture Never Stops” on disc 6 that concluded the November 1 show, that spirit and enthusiasm is palpable throughout the more than seven hours of performances which features Zappa leading his band through three wildly eclectic concerts, handling vocals for many of the songs.

Having recently released his new album You Are What You Is in September of that year, the setlist is a showcase of many of the songs from that double LP such as the title track, “Teen-Age Wind,” “Goblin Girl,” “Doreen,” “I’m A Beautiful Guy,” “Mudd Club,” “Dumb All Over,” “Suicide Chump,” and others, alongside Zappa classics like “Black Napkins,” “Strictly Genteel,” “Dancin’ Fool,” “Bobby Brown Goes Down,” and “King Kong.”

Zappa and Vai’s mind-altering guitar prowess is on full display throughout the shows and spotlighted here with extensive guitar workouts on “The Black Page #2,” “Easy Meat” and “Stevie’s Spanking.” Other highlights include the band’s feverish take on the Allman Brothers Band’s “Whipping Post” and standout tracks “Drowning Witch” and “Sinister Footwear II.”

Although the final concert ends with Zappa saying, “see you next year,” unbeknownst to him this would actually be both the last Halloween show at The Palladium and the last time he’d ever play the classic venue.

It would also end up being the penultimate Halloween show as the final one would take place in 1984 at the Felt Forum where the NYC tradition began in the ‘70s. “Halloween 1981 became one of Zappa’s most popular of all the Halloween residencies in New York City,” Travers writes. “The image of Frank in his hot magenta jumpsuit has gone on to become an iconic one in the world of rock and roll.”

Now nearly forty years later,Zappa’s legendary Halloween 81 concerts have been immortalized for all to experience or to revisit for the lucky ones that got to witness these transcendent nights of musical history.

Robert Martin, who manned the keyboards at these shows, offers in the liner notes, “All in all, the elements of sonic exploration and social commentary that run through all of Frank’s albums and tours are especially well represented in this release, perhaps amplified by the surreal aspect of Halloween and the openness of the crowd to participate even more fully in the ‘anything can happen’ experimental atmosphere that Frank lived in and personified.”



Watch Hendrix Play ‘Foxey Lady’ in Preview for New ‘Live in Maui’ Film

Music, Money, Madness  captures 1970 gig and the making of the infamous Hendrix-adjacent film, Rainbow Bridge

Jimi Hendrix rips through “Foxey Lady” in a new clip from the upcoming documentary, Music, Money, Madness … Jimi Hendrix in Maui, set to arrive November 20th.

[embedded content][embedded content]

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Foxey Lady”

The film chronicles the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1970 trip to Hawaii, which coincided with the filming of the infamous hippie film flop, Rainbow Bridge, produced by the Experience’s manager, Michael Jeffrey.

The Experience was already set to play a show in Honolulu during the trip, but because Rainbow Bridge director Chuck Wein wanted to feature Hendrix in the movie, he cooked up a plan for a free concert on the lower slope of the dormant Haleakala volcano in Maui (in true hippie fashion, the audience was arranged by astrological signs).

As the clip exhibits, the performance itself was a huge success: Even though Hendrix does appear to forget some of the words to “Foxey Lady” at one point, his guitar playing is impeccable and replete with signature tricks, like playing with this teeth.

The one hiccup in the performance was technical difficulties that forced drummer Mitch Mitchell to overdub his drum tracks at Electric Lady Studios in 1971, after Hendrix’s death.

“He was determined to fix what suffered on the recordings due to the 50-mile-an-hour winds because they were playing on the side of a bloody volcano!” engineer Eddie Kramer said in a statement.

“After Jimi died it took a while before I was able to go back to the closet with all the tapes. Mitch was a trooper with a can-do British attitude. It’s all very well to overdub drums but to do it so you can’t tell, that’s the magic. He knew the material extremely well and it’s a tribute to his sensitivity as a great musician and an equal and willing partner of  Jimi’s.”

As for Rainbow Bridge — the film was a massive flop and featured just 17 minutes of Hendrix concert footage when many were expecting a full concert film. Hendrix’s posthumous Rainbow Bridge soundtrack was much more well-received, even though it didn’t feature any music from the Maui concert.

The new doc, Music, Money, Madness, was directed by John McDermott and, on top of the concert footage, will feature interviews with Kramer, Wein, bassist Billy Cox, Warner Bros. executives, and various cast members of Rainbow Bridge. A new two-CD live album, Live in Maui, featuring the two sets the Jimi Hendrix Experience played, will also be released November 20th.

Live in Maui Tracklist

Disc One
1. Chuck Wein Introduction
2. Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)
3. In From the Storm
4. Foxey Lady
5. Hear My Train A-Comin’
6. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
7. Fire
8. Purple Haze
9. Spanish Castle Magic
10. Lover Man
11. Message to Love

Disc Two
1. Dolly Dagger
2. Villanova Junction
3. Ezy Ryder
4. Red House
5. Freedom
6. Jam Back at the House
7. Straight Ahead
8. Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)/Midnight Lightning
9. Stone Free



Get All The Best Music News

Loading

Blog

Categories

Archives

Top