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The Residents

Over the course of a recording career spanning several decades, the Residents remained a riddle of Sphinx-like proportions; cloaking their lives and music in a haze of willful obscurity, the band's members never identified themselves by name, always appearing in public in disguise -- usually tuxedos, top hats and giant eyeball masks -- and refusing to grant media interviews. Drawing inspiration from the likes of fellow innovators including Harry Partch, Sun Ra, and Captain Beefheart, the Residents channeled the breadth of American music into their idiosyncratic, satiric vision, their mercurial blend of electronics, distortion, avant-jazz, classical symphonies and gratingly nasal vocals reinterpreting everyone from John Philip Sousa to James Brown while simultaneously expanding the boundaries of theatrical performance and multimedia interaction.

It was commonly accepted that the four-member group emigrated to San Francisco, CA, from Shreveport, LA, at some point in the early '70s. According to longtime group spokesman Jay Clem -- one member of the so-called Cryptic Corporation, the band's representative body -- they received their name when Warner Bros. mailed back their anonymous demo tape, addressed simply "for the attention of residents." Finding no takers for their oddball sounds, the Residents founded their own label, Ralph Records, for the purposes of issuing their 1972 debut "Santa Dog," released in a pressing of 300 copies which were mailed out to luminaries from Frank Zappa to President Richard Nixon. Their debut full-length, 1974's Meet the Residents, reportedly sold fewer than 50 copies before the group was threatened with a lawsuit from Capitol Records over its cover, a twisted Dadaesque parody of the art to Meet the Beatles.

The follow-up, 1974's neo-classical excursion Not Available, was recorded with the intention of its music remaining unissued; locked in cold storage upon its completion, only a 1978 contractual obligation resulted in its eventual release. Released in 1976, Third Reich 'n' Roll was the next official offering, a collection of pop oldies covers presented in a controversial jacket portraying Adolf Hitler clutching an enormous carrot. After a 1976 concert in Berkeley, CA which cloaked the Residents behind an opaque screen, wrapped up like mummies -- the most famous of only three live performances mounted during their first decade of existence -- they issued an abrasive 1977 cover of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," which became an underground hit on both sides of the Atlantic at the peak of the punk movement. As the decade drew to a close, the group released a flurry of recordings, further building upon their growing cult following -- among them were 1977's Duck Stab/Buster & Glen; 1979's Eskimo (purportedly a collection of native Arctic chants); and 1980's Commercial Album, a compilation of 40 one-minute "pop songs" that aired on San Francisco radio only because the Residents played them during the advertising time they bought.

In 1981 the Residents embarked upon their Mole Trilogy, a prog rock collection of albums -- 1981's The Mark of the Mole, 1982's The Tunes of Two Cities, and 1985's The Big Bubble -- recounting an epic battle between a pair of tribes named the Moles and the Chubs; a lavish, multimedia tour, The Mole Show, followed. In the interim, the group also mounted another ambitious project, the American Composer series, although only two of the projected titles -- 1984's George and James (a reinterpretation of songs by George Gershwin and James Brown) and 1986's Stars and Hank Forever (celebrating John Philip Sousa and Hank Williams) -- ever appeared. Instead, in the wake of financial and corporate difficulties which resulted in the creation of a New Ralph label, the Residents issued the one-off God in Three Persons (a talking blues outing), and 1989's The King and Eye (a reinterpretation of Elvis Presley standards).

After losing control of the Ralph label as well as their back catalog, the Residents regained the rights to their music in 1990 and began reissuing long out of print material as well as the new Freak Show, a meditation on circus sideshows and carnival dementia. Four years later, Freak Show was reissued as a CD-ROM, marking the group's first leap into the new digital interactive technology; Have a Bad Day followed in 1996, and included the soundtrack to the CD-ROM game Bad Day on the Midway.

In 1997, the band celebrated their silver anniversary with the release of the career-spanning overview Our Tired, Our Poor, Our Huddled Masses. Wormwood: Curious Stories from the Bible followed the next year, with Roadworms (songs from Wormwood as performed in the stage show) being issued in mid-2000. They followed that up with the Icky Flix DVD, an incredibly detailed collection of their videos that featured both old and new soundtracks, 5.1 digital stereo Surround Sound, countless hidden videos, and in-depth histories of each individual track. A subsequent tour incorporated the DVD, while guest singer Molly Harvey joined the band on-stage for some truly creative duets. Several high concept projects followed the 2002 compilation Petting Zoo. The first was Demons Dance Alone, a complicated pop album that recalled the catchier material from Duck Stab and The Commercial Album. The live retrospective Kettles of Fish on the Outskirts of Town contained three CDs and a DVD. Despite the release of so much old content, new material wasn't in short supply. Their releases throughout the latter end of the 2000s' first decade included Animal Lover (2005), Tweedles! (2006), The River of Crime (2006), The Voice of Midnight (2007), The Bunny Boy (2008), The Ughs! (2009), Ten Little Piggies (a sneak peak at projects in the pipeline, released in 2009), and Coochie Brake in 2011. Much of it, of course, was highly conceptual. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: The Third Reich 'N' Roll

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Track List: Kettles On Fish On The Outskirts Of Town

Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4

Comments

Chokapol: Duck Stab IS up.
Everyone else: Did u hear about the Ultimate Box Set theyre selling 10 of?! Comes in a fridge, has an archival original pressing of EVERY album, an official eye/tophat mask and more! Price: $100K lol thats BOLD
the Blast from the past!
luke.ingolds b y
asdfasdfds
DUCK STAB DUCK STAB DUCK STAB!!!! Cmon,Pandora , i t s my FAVORITE Residents album!!! These are MY KINDA -------uuuhh h h h h - - - - - PEOPLE( ????? )
I came to the rez late. I'm glad to support em though
True artists.
@Tory Z Starbuck i listen to Mr. Bungle and The Residents in whatever mood i'm in :)
Never understand them, but always like them.
Mr. Bungle would never even have existed without the Residents. As much as I appreciate Mike Patton and crew, He would probably be the first to say The Residents really had a pull on me...
This is not a slam to Mr. Bungle because when in the mood I listen to them as well but The Residents are REAL in the way that if it was discovered that they were all from a different planet or plane of existence it would be easily accepted. Where Mr. Bungle have a few tricks up their sleeve they are not as multilingual as the Residents. Snakefinger, Tuxedomoon and Chrome also came from this school of art and thought.
mradowski
Are these guys retarded? Bummer how they lump someone amazing like Mr. Bungle with this group of fuckups
the greatest rock n roll band ever.
Pioneers in a serious way! They embraced any new technology over the years and tried to apply it to their work. They are the creators of today's common 'sampling' technique, but they did it in the early to mid 70's. They among the first to make music videos, among the first to experiment with using computers to create music, created cd rom's when they were cool, and were overall...fe a r l e s s . Amazing what a lifetime of 'cid can do huh?
It talks about albums, but The Residents perform AMAZING live shows. AMAZING!!!!
Similar Artists??? Maybe the Pink Dots. But really, what can be similar to the Residents. They are one of kind!
hattaman
greatest band ever. easily.
I'm the only one at my school who listens to the Residents. Everyone else listens to dubstep and eminem. The residents are the most interesting band I have ever heard, and I wish some of my friends liked real music like this.
The Residents are a fantastic band. I used to play these guys to death when I was a DJ at a college radio station. I played the Commercial Album in between innings during Baseball broadcasts.
stellarviole t
only 8 people "like" the Residents?!? I always KNEW there was something fundamentall y wrong with facebook... I'm sure Pandora will get around to including "Freak Show", "Gingerbread Man" and "Stars and Hank Forever" in the compendium, until then, I hope the rest of those who've submitted comments on this page will join me in a rousing minor key variant chorus of 'we are the world' - this is the place where I would put a smiley face if I were one of those people who used emoticons...
I've only heard one song by these guys, but after reading about them, I love them.
phypolite7
Need to hear "Happy Home". It's been 25 years already.
calvin000
Did the Residents sit at the feet of Robert Calvert? Or perhaps next to his shoes?
crabalocker9
C'mon, if Pandora can include "Third Reich n' Roll", then they could also include "Eskimo".
dcsides
Residue of The Residents! It was their best stuff! Their rendition of Jailhouse Rock was the best remake of any song ever done!
seriously, where the hell's duck stab
unpleasant psychedelia. wonderful. my feel-bad band of the seventies.
dyule
No Duck Stab?
what? No mention of "What ever happened to vileness fats"
wouldwebeali v e
There are no Residents. Enjoy.
gretnoid
Howdy Resheads! Turn your friends on to Pandora.com okay? okay? okay?

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