"Outside Now" is one of the best compositions from Joe's Garage, although the studio version found on the 1979 album doesn't show all of its power. The song constitutes a rare occasion where Frank Zappa aimed at emotional instead of cynical content, both in terms of lyrics and music. On the album (and often on stage too) it is preceded by the goofy "Keep It Greasey," where incarcerated record executives (music is now illegal) sodomize Joe for a long period of time. Back in his cell, the frustrated guitarist dreams of "imaginary guitar notes that would irritate/An executive kind of guy" while waiting for the moment when he will be able to see "what's it like on the/Outside now."
The song is built on a single slow 11/8 riff -- the melody changes between verse and chorus but the backing music remains the same. Its half-depressed, half-fantasized mood is quite unique in Zappa's book. On the studio album, the guitar solos Joe dreams up are, indeed, unreal. The composer took them from pre-existing, unrelated live recordings and pasted them on the studio tracks of "Outside Now," a process he referred to as xenochrony and used extensively on Joe's Garage, Acts II & III. This conceptual link disappeared in live performances, but the "real" solos tended to be more effective (as can be heard on You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 4). Ike Willis sang the song on record and on-stage throughout the 1980s.
Zappa reworked the song into "Outside Now, Again," a piece for Synclavier included on the 1984 album The Perfect Stranger. The 11-note motif has been slowed down to a crawl, creating an anticlimactic atmosphere of despair that works as the album's most striking moment.