Here it is: The Residents’ swan song. Inside the sleeve of this single is a handwritten note that reads “Bye Bye Residents, Uninc.” I had suspected this was going to happen – you can’t keep using other people’s music and images and expect to be allowed to continue. I don’t know if this means the end of Ralph Records as well, but it probably does, since it seems they only have one group on the roster at this point. I suppose once The Residents showed up and brought along their legal baggage, the other, more responsible artists left. So I’m going to stop hoping for another Santa Dog. It isn’t going to happen, at least not on Ralph Records. There is a card asking me to register with the Cryptic Corporation, so that I can be kept informed of the current value of Ralph Records merchandise. It must be a fan club spearheaded by people who can’t let it go.
For their final release, The Residents have recorded a version of The Rolling Stones’ 1965 hit “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The selection of this particular song works in two ways. The Residents cannot be satisfied by the situation they’ve put themselves in, and since the title contains a double negative, this release also speaks to the lawyers finally getting the satisfaction they’ve sought. Unlike their last album filled with covers, they actually credit the composers here, and I can’t see this as much more than a final attempt to raise money for court costs.
And boy is it angry! I don’t think I’ve ever heard such terrifyingly angry music in all my life, and I’ll be glad to never hear this topped. The music is played so ferociously as to be nearly unrecognizable, and the lyrics completely rewritten (apart from the title refrain) that I wonder if this even qualifies as a Rolling Stones song. The Third Reich ‘n’ Roll was composed of bizarre but recognizable versions of songs that did not give composition credits. This gives credit, but to a song that Jagger and Richards definitely did not write. I wonder if this is some kind of revenge tactic. Maybe this was the only band that sued The Residents, and the settlement dictated they make a special release with proper credit attribution. And The Residents found the loophole in the fact that they weren’t ordered to perform a faithful rendition.
I have to respect them for that, even if I don’t like the song itself.
Despite the obvious flaw of being unlistenable, this version definitely has personality, a quality lacking in the original. The Rolling Stones could take a lesson from this: cut one verse of lyrics and fill the space with a guitar solo. But leave the screaming to the psychotics, please.
The B-side is an original called “Loser ≅ Weed.” I cannot make heads nor tails of it, other than it ends very abruptly, perhaps to mimic the short career of The Residents. It starts off strange yet whimsical, with a dose of lunacy that is not out of place for a modern day Spike Jones. It plays with the conventions of language and rhythm that we quite naturally take for granted. But beneath that playfulness are some very questionable decisions that seem to undermine the whole thing. It seems we are meant to ask “who are these people and what were they thinking?” And such a discussion leads to the inevitable “in the end, what does it all mean?” Perhaps this is a band tailor-made for the high school and college crowd, which thrives on all-night discussions of amateur philosophy. Perhaps in years to come there will be bands for us middle-aged folks, who desire something more than nostalgic love songs, but can’t stomach the juvenile sensibilities of these younger rock groups.
The Residents will be nothing more than a footnote in music history, but by golly a very interesting one. I didn’t especially like it, but I’m glad to have experienced it.