Three years ago my granddaughter had the idea to take selections from my music diary and put them on the Internet. She was only interested in the entries about The Residents, and that’s understandable because theirs is one of the more interesting stories – or lack of stories – in the music and art world. She set the clock at an accelerated pace, and the end was always going to be today, December 25, 2016. There isn’t a new “Santa Dog” to bark about, but I feel something has to post today, so I’ve decided to write about my relationship with The Residents.
A year into her project, Jennifer received an email from Charles Bobuck. I told her he didn’t exist. She took that to mean that I thought the email was a prank. On the contrary, I knew it was genuine, but I also knew that Charles was a fictional construct. A contraption, if you will. But whether a person or a character, he said he enjoyed reading my pieces, even if he didn’t agree with them (a side effect of me having to guess at the truth while he lived it). I only write my music diary for myself, never intending for anyone to read it, let alone the subjects of my entries. Obviously I let go of what I suppose could be considered my implementation of the Theory of Obscurity, and Mr. Bobuck rewarded me by letting go of his. Just a little. Enough to make human contact, that which is so needed but so often overlooked.
Jennifer also shared comments from fans. Most were positive, a few were negative. The most interesting ones were based on the assumption that I myself am a member of The Residents. As far as I can tell, it wasn’t even debated in the fan forums, only accepted as unspoken fact. I know that to be completely false, but to try to deny it would be futile. The legend of The Residents has grown beyond the originators, and will swallow up anyone who gets too close, even if it is just an old man muttering about what he thinks the latest album is trying to convey.
I have, quite by accident, become an authority on the history of this group. This is unfortunate due to my having no confirmation for most of my conclusions. Sometimes I’d make a mistake and the fans would run with it, believing I was revealing new insider knowledge, and refused the much more likely possibility that I was just wrong. But that is also perfectly acceptable if we believe that art does not live in the artist, but within the mind of the audience (even, and perhaps especially when, that audience is not a consideration when making said art). The Residents are what we make of them, and they probably mean something different to each person who has found them.
And so I will leave you with this, my most recent realization about The Residents: they are completely normal. I don’t mean the people ultimately responsible for the art; of course they are normal (otherwise they wouldn’t have made it past the first few years). I mean The Residents as an artistic entity. Look at mainstream music. Really look at it. Doesn’t it strike you as strange that so much of it sounds similar? Art is about individual expression, about showing the world who you are. The Residents are one of the very few doing just that. The others are following a formula, and only veering off in pre-approved ways, just enough to brand themselves in the marketplace.
Everybody has art within them. Everybody has a song. But most of us don’t share our personal song because it doesn’t fit with what we’re told personal songs are supposed to sound like. More people should contribute their own views to the world. We should all step up and declare ourselves art world citizens. We should all become Residents.
Merry Christmas. Arf.