Frank Zappa's Unreleased 'America Drinks & Goes Home' From Forthcoming Collection Available Now

Frank Zappa’s legendary three-hour performance at the famed Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood on July 23, 1968, will be released for the first time on June 21.

By: May. 21, 2024
Frank Zappa's Unreleased 'America Drinks & Goes Home' From Forthcoming Collection Available Now
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Frank Zappa’s legendary three-hour performance at the famed Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood on July 23, 1968, will be released for the first time on June 21 via Zappa Records/UMe as the 3CD/5LP/digital collection Whisky a Go Go, 1968.

Ahead of its anticipated release, a previously unreleased live performance of “America Drinks & Goes Home,” is available to stream now. Originally released on Absolutely Free in 1967, the track shows off the quick wit and crooning style of the wonderful singer Ray Collins. The song, played in the first of the three sets that night, was written as a parody of the days when Zappa played the Calif. bar circuit in the early ‘60s. This release follows a previously unreleased version of “The Duke,” which at the time of the Whisky ’68 recording was a brand new composition.

In characteristic fashion Zappa took advantage of the opportunity and treated the evening like a “Recording Session” as stated on the marquee the night of the event, and played “The Duke” in full twice. Both takes are included in this comprehensive release. 

Also available now are the first two episodes of the four-part Whisky A Go Go Series on YouTube, hosted by Vaultmeister Joe Travers and recorded inside the Whisky. In the first episode, Travers sits down with Sunset strip icon Pamela Des Barres who reflects about her own band, Girls Together Outrageously (the GTOs), making their world premiere at the wild five-hour show, and what performing with Zappa meant to her. The second episode continues with Des Barres reminiscing fondly about the historic gig as she sees footage for the first time ever of herself and her friends performing that night culled from previously unreleased film discovered in The Vault. A full 14-minute video of the Whisky show footage, which has been synched to the audio from the concert, will be released June 21. Watch Episode 1: The One Night In 1968 and Episode 2: The Vault Film HERE.

The hand-scrawled ad in the L.A. Free Press — an open invitation to Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention’s all-night affair at one of their favorite venues, L.A.’s historic Whisky a Go Go — laid things out in black and white as to what Zappa and the band’s intentions were for that soon-to-be historic evening. It read: “The Mothers of Invention cordially invite you to join them on Tuesday, July 23, 1968 when they will be taking over the Whisky a Go Go for 5 full hours of unprecedented merriment, which will be secretly recorded for an upcoming record album. Dress optional. Starting sometime in the evening. R.S.V.D.T.”

The show was billed on the Whisky marquee as “Mothers Of Invention – Recording Session,” and thus, Zappa had indeed recorded the entire evening’s aural festivities with the intention of releasing an album. That project never quite fully materialized — until now. Whisky a Go Go, 1968, the latest provocative live collection to be released from The Vault, will be released June 21 via Zappa Records/UMe. Produced by Ahmet Zappa and Joe Travers, this extensive collection, some 55-plus years in the making, compiles everything The Mothers of Invention played across their three sets that night, nearly three hours in all, complete and newly remixed in 2023 from hi-res 24-bit/96kHz digital transfers of the original 1” 8-track analog tapes by Craig Parker Adams at Winslow CT Studios. A Super Deluxe Edition box set will be released on both 5LP 180-gram black vinyl or 3CD, and feature a booklet with many unseen photos from the night’s events, along with copious liner notes by Vaultmeister Joe Travers, an essay by Pamela Des Barres of the Zappa-signed group The GTO’s who played that evening, and an interview by Ahmet Zappa with the legendary Alice Cooper, whose own band made a most momentous splash at the Whisky that night as one of the featured acts.

The 5LP collection contains nine sides of music all told, while the 10th side features a silkscreen printed image, and will also include an extra special bonus — a custom turntable mat. In addition to the 5LP set, a 2LP Highlights edition will also be available, spotlighting highlights from all three sets. All vinyl was cut from hi-res digital file by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering in 2023 and is being pressed at Optimal: Media in Germany on BioVinyl, a new environment-friendly formulation and sustainable product made from bio-based PVC (polyvinyl chloride). The petroleum previously required for PVC production is replaced by recycling used cooking oil or industrial waste gases. Through the use of renewable energies and recycled raw materials, CO2 emissions are significantly reduced. 

Finally, a standalone, complete digital edition of Whisky a Go Go, 1968 will be made available on all major hi-res streaming services. Additionally, a new merch collection for Whisky a Go Go, 1968 is also available now. 

Early on during the Whisky proceedings — right after the quite gnarly eight-minute “Tiny Sick Tears Jam” — Zappa told the eclectic gathering of freaks and hippie-cum-hipster music geeks alike, “The purpose of this evening is supposedly to make some recordings of The Mothers live, in person.” Zappa’s core intention of live invention that night was to capture an entire Mothers performance on multi-track tape. The only other time this had occurred was two months earlier at the Miami Pop Festival on May 18, 1968, when Eddie Kramer had documented The Mothers’ set on 1” 8-track tape. For the Whisky engagement, Zappa had hired the Wally Heider remote truck, which itself had been outfitted with a 1” 8-track recorder that would be helmed by recording engineer Dick Kunc.

The choice of venue was no accident either. The Whisky had been very good to The Mothers over their formative years, and this showcase event was a way to give back to the place where manager Herb Cohen had persuaded producer Tom Wilson to witness Zappa and The Mothers perform in late 1965. That ultimately resulted in the band securing a record contract with MGM, not to mention planting the seeds of the fruitful relationship that developed between Zappa and Wilson. By the time The Mothers came back to the Whisky in July 1968, they had quite well established themselves as leaders of the underground.

Led by Zappa on guitar and vocals, The Mothers’ formidable lineup for this extravaganza included Ray Collins (vocals, percussion), Ian Underwood (alto sax), Bunk Gardner (tenor sax, flute), Don Preston (keyboards, gong), Motorhead Sherwood (baritone sax, percussion), Roy Estrada (bass, vocals), Art Tripp (drum set, percussion), and Jimmy Carl Black (drum set, percussion).

Along with the three individual sets The Mothers played that night, there were also performances by Alice Cooper, Wild Man Fischer, The GTO’s, and a still-mysterious guitar player from New Jersey named Joe Piresanti. The ensuing mayhem during these performances — “from time to time, there’ll be interesting events taking place here in the arena, to keep you occupied,” as Zappa put it — was duly captured on film as well. Vito, Szou, Carl and The Freaks writhed and contorted themselves in an orgy-like state on the floor in front of the stage, while The GTO’s danced, twirled, and screamed along for the entire evening, hands down the most raucous and most verbally reassuring cheerleading section in the house. Besides all their gyrating, whooping, and hollering, The GTO’s also performed a pair of carefully hand-selected numbers onstage during “King Kong – Part 2.” Other notable scenesters in attendance that evening were The BTO’s, Kim Fowley (whom, at FZ’s insistence, joins in vocally early on in the set, a la his accompaniment on Freak Out!), The Turtles, John Mayall, Elliot Ingber (a former Mother now part of The Fraternity Of Man), and members of The Rolling Stones.

What attendees and participants alike witnessed that night at the Whisky — keeping in mind that some audience members had to be swapped in and out from set to set, since people were lined up around the block to get in (Thank you teenagers, one and all). Linchpin songs like “Memories of El Monte” and “Help, I’m A Rock” were there, and well known from the beginning days of The Mothers’ L.A. gigs. Improvisation was critical — “Just start playing something nice, in G minor. Make it up,” Zappa implores before The Mothers dive into “Improvisation: Episode II” — plus, there were doo-wop chops for days (“Valerie,” the soaring falsetto from Roy Estrada in “Oh, In The Sky”). As for Zappa himself, not only did he commence the first set by utilizing his trademark hand signals to direct the band in real time, he also got to deploy his then newly acquired Les Paul Gold Top guitar before the Bigsby tailpiece and other experimental modifications on the instrument had been implemented.

For his part, Alice Cooper remains thankful to this day for not only what Zappa saw in his fledgling group, but for giving them a cherished slot on that fateful Whisky night. “Nobody would touch us except Frank. He was the only one that even gave us the time of day,” as Cooper related to Ahmet Zappa in the liners. “He saw something specific in us that was pretty insane. All the record companies wanted the next Buffalo Springfield, and we were not that.” No, they were decidedly not that — and Alice Cooper collectively lit the Whisky ablaze with an incendiary performance of their own that set the table for a career that’s still in full swing.  

“It truly was a night of nights,” as Travers oh-so-succinctly put it in the liners. “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.” The Mothers were already poised for greater pastures and pastimes ahead by virtue of the music they would soon enough be creating for their next studio album, one that would arrive before the tail end of 1968 — the doo-wop-inspired concept piece, Cruising With Ruben & The Jets. But for five glorious hours on a hot mid-1968 summer night in L.A., the Whisky a Go Go was the most happening place to be. To best absorb the contents of Whisky a Go Go 1968, we should all follow the advice given by GTO’s royalty Miss Pamela Des Barres, who implores us to “listen to all of this album in its entirety and try to envision the Whisky a Go Go that long ago night. It happened in a space and time that will never come again, so buckle up, baby, close your eyes, let your imagination soar, and set your freak free.”

FRANK ZAPPA & THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION: WHISKY A GO GO 1968 SUPER DELUXE EDITION Tracklists

3CD – SUPER DELUXE

CD 1

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

CD 2

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

CD 3

1. The Whip

2. Whisky Chouflée

3. Brown Shoes Don’t Make It

4. Brown Shoes Shuffle

 Bonus Vintage Mixes

5. The Whip (FZ Mix)

6. Hungry Freaks, Daddy (FZ Mono Mix)

5LP – SUPER DELUXE

Side 1

1. Whisky Improvisation: Episode I

2. America Drinks & Goes Home

3. Help, I’m A Rock / Transylvania Boogie

Side 2

1. My Boyfriend’s Back

2. Bust His Head

3. Tiny Sick Tears Jam

4. “The Purpose Of This Evening…”

5. Whisky Improvisation: Episode II (Part 1)

 Side 3

1. Whisky Improvisation: Episode II (Part 2)

2. Status Back Baby

3. Memories Of El Monte

4. Oh, In The Sky

5. Valerie

Side 4

1. “Fun & Merriment”

2. Hungry Freaks, Daddy

3. King Kong – Part 1

Side 5

1. King Kong – Part 2 

2. Octandre

3. Whisky Improvisation: Episode III

4. Meow

5. God Bless America

6. Presentation Of Wings

7. Plastic People

Side 6

1. Della’s Preamble

2. The Duke – Take 1

3. The Duke – Take 2

4. Khaki Sack

Side 7

1. The Whip

2. Whisky Chouflée

Side 8

1. Brown Shoes Don’t Make It

2. Brown Shoes Shuffle

Side 9 – Bonus Vintage Mixes

1. The Whip (FZ Mix)

2. Hungry Freaks, Daddy (FZ Mono Mix)

Side 10

No Music – “Mothers” Silkscreen Image

LP – WHISKY A GO GO 1968 HIGHLIGHTS

Side 1

1. Help, I’m A Rock / Transylvania Boogie

2. My Boyfriend’s Back

3. Bust His Head

4. Tiny Sick Tears Jam

Side 2

1. “Fun & Merriment”

2. Hungry Freaks, Daddy

3. King Kong

Side 3

1. “The Purpose Of This Evening…”

2. The Duke – Take 2

3. Khaki Sack

Side 4

1. The Whip (FZ Mix)

2. Brown Shoes Don’t Make It



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