YET ANOTHER TRUE STORY by Uncle Willie
According to mythology, The Residents hail from Louisiana's largest northern city, Shreveport. However, information so clearly handed out is almost certainly inaccurate, knowing how they create myths within myths. I can't say that it matters to me where they are from, though it is certainly the South; one can't fake an accent that accurately. But who cares anyway?
Their musical history actually does start somewhere: San Mateo, found some twenty miles south of San Francisco. The myth claims they ran out of gas on the way to San Francisco and took it as a sign to settle there. Further, the myth says that they never put more gas into the car and it was eventually towed away by the city. Maybe. After all, they would have been no more than kids at the time.
The mythological claim is also that they recorded either 2 or 4 albums in San Mateo. My personal research in their tape storage (which is poorly marked and organized) has tuned up a few pieces of "Rusty Coat Hangers for the Doctor;" a suite named "The Ballad of Stuffed Trigger;" an album, The Warner Bros. Album, and another album, Baby Sex. The truth seems to be that there are two unreleased albums and two "not-quite" albums, hence the confusion about what really exists.
Santa Dog is the official start of The Residents' career. This is so because it was released to the public and therefore became a matter of record rather than superstition. they left San Mateo for San Francisco's sunny Mission District. The year was 1972. Santa Dog became an official Christmas card announcement of the groups' (sic)plan to invade the music world. Not that the music world was to care, having been overblown with its own ability to feed insensitive youth with tedious musical pabulum (sic) while collecting sinfully large sums of money. Santa Dog stands against everything that the music industry felt was important. It was free.
The Residents were never a band, and were easy to irritate by just the implication that they were musicians especially of the rock genre. For three or four years their time was spent constructing an elaborate reality under the belief that they were creating the ultimate underground movie named Vileness Fats. Even though never finished, perhaps they were successful. We have yet to see the footage brought together into some version of the original plan. Even in its fractured form, which was released in 1984 on video as Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats, the footage we have is startling in its beauty and originality.
As Vileness Fats lumbered along on its cumbersome shooting schedule, The Residents continued to record music. Meet The Residents, Not Available, and The Third Reich 'N' Roll all came from this period. Friends of The Residents__Jay Clem, Homer Flynn, Hardy Fox, and John Kennedy__had moved into business positions to help launch this new entertainment concept and a new record label, Ralph Records.
The Theory of Obscurity was in full bloom. the Residents, always ones to convert their reality, good or bad, into a purposeful intent, figured out that being obscure gave them the added advantage of not having to please anyone but themselves with their music. Not Available was the big obscure album, so obscure in fact, they never intended to release it at all. It did get released by The Cryptic Corporation some five years after it was finished out of economic necessity__a move that caused some tension around the studio.
Actually, The Residents dumped the theory once the media started to notice them. The final lines of Vileness Fats ask, "Is obscurity itself the test tube of tomorrow, or is it the testing done to pave the way of sorrow?" Obviously, the group was considering that the Theory of Obscurity was not in their best interest. The Warner Bros. Album and Baby Sex remain the last vestiges of this theory.
Then they go big time. the business structure reformed as The Cryptic Corporation, an "art and entertainment" corporation and moved to the infamous "444 Grove Street" address in San Francisco. The ill-fated Vileness Fats was stopped, having over-reached its technology, its budget and its time allotments. The English press, New Music Express, Sounds, and Melody Maker had discovered the group and, overnight, had embraced them as the darlings of the "New Wave" ("New Wave" being what people called the independent music fad of the late 1970s).
During this time, Fingerprince, Duck Stab, Eskimo, and The Commercial Album were recorded. The English press, after deciding the first three were masterpieces, finally decided that The Commercial Album was quite dreadful and not what people wanted to listen to at all. The British press had slid so far back in comprehension of The Residents by the time the more sever (sic) Mark of the Mole was released a year later that one scathing review actually complained that he "didn't find it the least bit funny." The "New Wave" fad had ended. Middle-of-the-road was back.
Fortunately, the press announcing your demise does not mean that you are dead. But the year was now 1981. For the sake of this book, this is the end of the first ten years. The Residents were not dead, but they knew life had changed. some things that used to be important could no longer be thought that way.
The Residents had lost their innocence. pp27-30