Yearly Archives: 1976

He Was Bitter At The End (Satisfaction)

If there were no Monkees there would be no Residents.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.

Somehow They Came Out Differently (The Third Reich ‘n’ Roll)

I forgot about Ralph Records again, because it’s been almost two years since their last release.  So now it’s been a full three years since Santa Dog, three years to follow that up with the destined to be classic debut album from Ivory & The Braineaters, and they give us… The Residents again.  This is a group that is already on the edge of acceptance, and the Nazi theme of this new album isn’t helping matters.  Ralph’s plans must somehow dictate only one release in even-numbered years, but they’d better step it up a notch.  Ivory is their flagship bandleader, not… whoever The Residents guy is.  Now that I notice it, there are no names associated with this band.  I don’t blame them; I’d probably keep my name off this stuff if I made it, too.

Like Meet The Residents and its changing structures, there is a marked difference between the tracks.  Side one, “Swastikas On Parade,” definitely sounds like a natural follow-up to the first album.  Piano, saxophone, percussion and voices are all mixed together in a frenzy of barely controlled chaos.  They even repeat the trick of placing other people’s recordings into the mix, this time with Chubby Checker and James Brown.  Is that allowed?  I guess they can get away with it as long as it’s a few seconds and not an entire song.

The second side, though, immediately hits the listener with the additional sound of orchestral strings.  There’s definitely been an upgrade in all aspects: instrumentation, competence, song selection and mixing.  As the second side is named “Hitler Was A Vegetarian,” perhaps The Residents are showing their support for vegetarianism, associating it with their musical progress.

The concept of this album seems pretty straightforward.  I imagine there was a meeting at Ralph Headquarters (which I’m starting to believe is less high rise in the city and more card table in someone’s garage) in which the heads of the label said “Hey, Residents, here’s the deal: we can’t sell your music.  We know that, you know that.  The only reason anybody bought your first album is because it looked like The Beatles and the only reason they listened is because there was a Nancy Sinatra song on it.  So we want you to do more of that.  It will be like those collections of mediocre versions of good songs that have names like ‘The Beat Sound of Liverpool.’  People will buy it because they recognize the names.  They’ll hate it, but they still bought it.  And we need to bring in money since it looks like Ivory is never going to finish his magnum opus.  We should never have let him meet Brian Wilson.”

The Residents failed to hear the insult in this, and only heard “record other people’s songs and make the public hate you.”  So we have an album filled with other’s people’s music called The Third Reich ‘n’ Roll.  Curiously, the song titles are not listed anywhere.  I can only assume there was some legal issue and Ralph Records was stuck with an album they couldn’t release as intended.  But they are a label that has had two releases in three years, so they can’t afford to just let something sit on the shelf.  If it’s done, put it out there.

But it’s at this point I read the insert, entitled “Why Do The Residents Hate The Beatles?”  In it, they mention a second album produced in total secrecy and a claim that it cannot be released until its makers literally forget it exists.  With two albums available, Ralph Records went with this, so I can only imagine how bad the other one is.  At least advertising it is a way to never forget and therefore never release it.  According to the insert, the second album is inspired by the band’s guru, N. Senada, and the back cover of the first album said that he disappeared years ago.  He probably stole a lot of money.  No wonder Ralph’s hurting.