During Frank Zappa's 1976 tour, which took the band to Japan, drummer Terry Bozzio found a publicity photo of Angel's guitarist Punky Meadows in a Japanese music magazine. The boy's androgynous looks fooled him. When he found out the truth, it shook his manhood a bit (so to speak). Of course, Zappa thought this scene from "life on the road" had to be immortalized. It could have been done through a straightforward bluesy comedy routine -- such examples abound in the Mothers of Invention's 1969-1971 repertoire -- but instead Zappa wrote a rich, complex, and striking ten-minute piece. Bozzio was cast as the lead singer, spewing his story with a voice deformed by desire.
Unlike the other extra tracks included on the CD reissue of Zappa in New York, "Punky's Whips" should have been part of the original two-LP set. At the last minute, Warner Bros. yanked it out, leaving side A with only ten minutes of music. The crux of the biscuit: Angel was a Warner Bros. recording artist and the company felt that lines such as "Punky, Punky, your album's the shits" were unacceptable. Prior to that, Zappa wanted the piece part of the ill-fated four-LP set Läther. In the end, the first recording of the song made available was released on the video and picture disc Baby Snakes in 1983 (a live show from 1978).
Fragments of "Punky's Whips" were first performed in October 1976 as part of "Advance Romance." The complete version premiered around December 1976 and remained a regular live feature until the completion of the 1978 tour. It disappeared when Bozzio ended his term in Zappa's group.