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Frank Zappa’s Epic ‘Halloween 81’ Costume Box Set Is Out Now

The epic 1981 concert is immortalized with a six-disc ‘Halloween 81’ costume box set featuring more than 70 unreleased tracks and Count Frankula costume.

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Zappa Halloween 81 Box Set

Frank Zappa’s Halloween 81 costume box set is out now through Zappa Records/UMe. The gigantic, six-disc box takes in Zappa’s historic October 31 Halloween night concerts and the closing November 1 show, recorded live at the New York Palladium in 1981 and the collection includes 78 unreleased live tracks totaling more than seven hours of live performances from three complete concerts.

The expansive Halloween collection 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 will include 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 Halloween 81 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 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.

The Beatles - Now And Then
The Beatles - Now And Then
The Beatles - Now And Then

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


By 1981, 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 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.

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.”

The Halloween 81 6CD Costume Box Set can be bought here. View the complete tracklisting below.


10/31/81 – 8pm Show 1
1. Chunga’s Revenge
2. “The Finest Night Of The Year”
3. You Are What You Is – Take 1
4. You Are What You Is – Take 2
5. Mudd Club
6. The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing
7. Dumb All Over
8. Heavenly Bank Account
9. Suicide Chump
10. Jumbo Go Away
11. Envelopes
12. Drowning Witch
13. What’s New In Baltimore?
14. Moggio
15. We’re Turning Again
16. Alien Orifice

10/31/81 – 8pm Show 1 – cont’d
1. Teen-age Prostitute
2. Flakes
3. Broken Hearts Are For Assholes
4. The Blue Light
5.Tinsel Town Rebellion
6. Yo Mama
7. Bobby Brown Goes Down
8. City Of Tiny Lites
9. “We’re Not Gonna Stand For It!”
10. Strictly Genteel
11. Dancin’ Fool
12. Whipping Post

10/31/81 – 12am Show 2
1. Black Napkins
2. “A Historical Event”
3. Montana
4. Easy Meat
5. Society Pages
6. I’m A Beautiful Guy
7. Beauty Knows No Pain
8. Charlie’s Enormous Mouth
9. Fine Girl
10. Teen-age Wind
11. Harder Than Your Husband
12. Bamboozled By Love
13. Sinister Footwear II
14. Stevie’s Spanking
15. Commercial Break

10/31/81 – 12am Show 2 – cont’d
1. Cocaine Decisions
2. Nig Biz
3. Doreen
4. Goblin Girl
5. The Black Page #2
6. Tryin’ To Grow A Chin
7. Strictly Genteel
8. The Torture Never Stops
9. “The Real Show Keeps Going”
10. Joe’s Garage
11. Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?
12. The Illinois Enema Bandit
13. “The Halloween Tradition”
14. King Kong
15. Auld Lang Syne

1. Zoot Allures
2. “The Last Of Our Halloween Shows”
3. I’m The Slime
4. Pound For A Brown
5. Dave & Al
6. Cosmik Debris
7. Montana
8. Easy Meat
9. Dumb All Over
10. Heavenly Bank Account
11. Suicide Chump
12. Jumbo Go Away
13. Envelopes
14. Drowning Witch

11/01/81 – cont’d
1. What’s New In Baltimore?
2. Moggio
3. We’re Turning Again
4. Alien Orifice
5. Teen-age Prostitute
6. Sinister Footwear II
7. Stevie’s Spanking
8. Cocaine Decisions
9. Nig Biz
10. Goblin Girl
11. The Black Page #2
12. Whipping Post
13. Broken Hearts Are For Assholes
14. The Torture Never Stops

1. Chunga’s Revenge (Live at the Palladium – 10/31/81 – Show 1)
2. “The Finest Night Of The Year” (Live at the Palladium – 10/31/81 – Show 1)
3. I’m The Slime (Live at the Palladium – 11/1/81)
4. Montana (Live at the Palladium – 10/31/81 – Show 2)
5. Easy Meat (Live at the Palladium – 11/1/81)
6. Joe’s Garage (Live at the Palladium – 10/31/81 – Show 2)
7. Why Does It Hurt When I Pee? (Live at the Palladium – 10/31/81 – Show 2)
8. Sinister Footwear II (Live at the Palladium – 10/31/81 – Show 2)
9. Stevie’s Spanking (Live at the Palladium – 11/1/81)
10. Goblin Girl (Live at the Palladium – 11/1/81)
11. The Black Page #2 (Live at the Palladium – 11/1/81)
12. Strictly Genteel (Live at the Palladium – 11/1/81) – Exclusive Bonus Track
13. Whipping Post (Live at the Palladium – 11/1/81)
14. The Torture Never Stops (Live at the Palladium – 10/31/81 – Show 2)


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