M1-2 The Residents

M1-2 We’re a Happy Family + Bali Ha’i

What to say about the most famous anonymous band in the world? Right from their beginning in 1969, The Residents vowed to keep their identity secret, and always appeared wearing masks – in particular their fabulously surreal eyeball masks. They liked to disguise their voices by routing them through effects units or changing the speed – often sped up like some strange munchkins (or for us Brits of a certain generation, like Pinky and Perky). All their music shimmers with an unsettling other-worldliness, and although they were apparently based in San Francisco, their actual home seems to be located quite close to the Salvador Dali dream sequence in Hitchcock’s “Spellbound.”

For those unfamiliar with this unique combo, take a look/listen to a few of their one-minute movies.
Perhaps you, dear reader, would care to suggest another film clip (other than any made by the band themselves) that encapsulates the general mood and philosophy of The Residents parallel universe? If so, please do so by adding a link in the Comments section (to be found either at the end of this post, or via the button near the top of the left margin). David Lynch and Jan Svankmajer films are a given, so they’re excluded…

There is a very thorough and interesting Wikipedia article on the Residents, so I will not go into their history here, however it slightly niggles me that in the same year that “Miniatures” was released, The Residents issued their “Commercial Album” – also a collection of one-minute pieces. Which came first…? Did my project inspire theirs? Or was it sheer coincidence, musical synchronicity? A second coincidence which I have unearthed is that one of the guest vocalists on their album was XTC singer Andy Partridge – another “Miniatures” artist.

Anyway, I must take my hat off in salute to one way the band promoted their collection of condensed curiosity:
Commercial Album (1980) consisted of 40 songs, each consisting of a verse and a chorus and lasting one minute. The songs pastiched the advertising jingle although the songs were not endorsements of known products or services… The Residents purchased 40 one-minute advertising slots on San Francisco’s most popular Top-40 radio station at the time, KFRC, such that the station played each track of their album over three days. This prompted an editorial in Billboard magazine questioning whether the act was art or advertising. (Wiki)

The Residents are the only artists to have actually squeezed two separate songs into their one-minute slot on “Miniatures,” although Ron Geesin had two distinct movements in his track, Piero Milesi had four, and Fred Frith claims to have shoehorned the entire works of Henry Cow into his.

I never met The Residents – only Jay Clem from their record company (but who knows – maybe he was one of them). From his letter above, it would appear he enjoyed the record I sent him – my “Hybrid Kids” album of bizarre cover versions.

Next up – the fastest poet in the West (well, at least in West London, when I recorded him)…

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