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An eyeball helmet used by The Residents in concert
|Origin||Shreveport, Louisiana, United States|
|Labels||Ralph, Pre, Charisma, Cordless, Mute|
Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers
Renaldo and the Loaf
U? Jsme Doma
The Residents are an American art collective best known for avant-garde music and multimedia works. Since their first official release, Meet the Residents (1974), the group has released over sixty albums, numerous music videos and short films, three CD-ROM projects, and ten DVDs. They have undertaken seven major world tours and scored multiple films. Pioneers in exploring the potential of CD-ROM and similar technologies, the Residents have won several awards for their multimedia projects. Ralph Records, a record label focusing on avant-garde music, was started by the band.
Throughout the group's existence, the individual members have ostensibly attempted to operate under anonymity, preferring instead to have attention focused on their art output. Much outside speculation and rumor has focused on this aspect of the group. In public, the group appears silent and costumed, often wearing eyeball helmets, top hats and tails--a long-lasting costume now recognized as its signature iconography.
Its albums generally fall into two categories: deconstructions of Western popular music, and complex conceptual pieces composed around a theme, theory, or plot. The group is noted for surrealistic lyrics and sound, disregard for conventional music composition, and the over-the-top theatrical spectacle of their live performances.
The artists who would become The Residents met in high school in Shreveport, Louisiana in the early 1960s. Around 1965, the group of young artists began making their first amateur home tape recordings and making art together with a number of friends. In 1966, with the intentions of joining the flourishing hippie movement, the members headed west for San Francisco, but after their truck broke down in San Mateo, California they decided to remain there.
While attempting to make a living, the group purchased crude recording equipment and began to build on their home recording and tape editing skills, as well as photography, painting, and anything remotely to do with art that they could afford. The Residents have acknowledged the existence of at least two (of perhaps hundreds) unreleased reel-to-reel items dating from this era, titled The Ballad of Stuffed Trigger and Rusty Coathangers For The Doctor. "Uncle Willie", former Residents fan club president, wrote in his book Uncle Willie's Highly Opinionated Guide to the Residents that, while searching through the band's archives, he came across "a suite named The Ballad of Stuffed Trigger," but not a complete album. Further evidence of pre-1970 recordings surfaced with the release of the song I Hear You Got Religion, supposedly recorded in 1969, and released originally as a downloadable track from Ralph America in 1999. The Cryptic Corporation has confirmed that there are many tapes in their archives dating back decades, but all were recorded before the group had officially become "The Residents" so the band does not generally consider them to be part of its discography.
Word of the unnamed group's experimentation spread, and in 1969 a British guitarist and multi-instrumentalist named Phil Lithman. Around this time the group also made the acquaintance of the mysterious (and perhaps apocryphal) N. Senada, whom Lithman had picked up in Bavaria where the aged avant-gardist was recording birds singing. The two Europeans would become great influences and life-long collaborators with the group.
In 1971 the group sent a reel-to-reel demo tape to Hal Halverstadt at Warner Brothers, as he had signed Captain Beefheart (one of the group's musical heroes) to the label. Halverstadt was not overly impressed with The Warner Bros. Album (he describes it as "okay at best" in Uncle Willie's Cryptic Guide to the Residents), but awarded the tape an "A for Ariginality". Because the band had not included any name in the return address, the rejection slip was simply addressed to "Residents". The members of the group then decided that this would be the name they would use, first becoming "Residents Unincorporated", then shortening it to the current name. The Warner Bros. Album would remain officially unreleased by the group until 2018, when it was remastered and re-issued in a limited edition as part of their comprehensive "pREServed" campaign.
The first known public performance of the band who would become The Residents was at the Boarding House in San Francisco in 1971. This brief, guerrilla-style performance took the audience completely by surprise, and produced a photograph of Lithman playing violin with his pinky "about to strike the violin like a snake" - this photo originated the nickname that he would use as his stage name for the rest of his life, Snakefinger. Later in 1971, a second tape was completed called Baby Sex, featuring a long collage partially consisting of recordings from the Boarding House performance. The original cover art for the tape box was a silk-screened copy of an old photo depicting a woman fellating a small child, an example of the extremely confronting and deliberately puerile visual and lyrical style the group had adopted throughout this period.
In early 1972, the band left San Mateo and relocated to 20 Sycamore St, San Francisco; a studio they named "El Ralpho", which boasted a completely open ground floor (seemingly ideal for a sound stage), allowing the group to expand their operations and also begin preliminary work on their most ambitious project up to that point, a full-length film entitled Vileness Fats, which would consume most of their attention for the next four years. Intended to be the first-ever long form music video, The Residents saw this project as an opportunity to create the ultimate cult film. After four years of filming (from 1972 to 1976) the project was reluctantly cancelled because of time, space, and monetary constraints. Fifteen hours of footage was shot for the project, yet only approximately 35 minutes of that footage has ever been released.
The group also formed Ralph Records at this time, as a small, independent label to release and promote their own work. To inaugurate the new business, the group recorded and pressed the Santa Dog EP, their first recorded output to be released to the public. Designed to resemble a Christmas card from an insurance company, the EP consisted of two 7" singles, with four songs between them.
They sent copies of Santa Dog to west coast radio stations with no response until Bill Reinhardt, program director of KBOO-FM in Portland, Oregon received a copy and played it heavily on his show. Reinhardt met the Residents at their studio at 20 Sycamore St. in the summer of 1973 with the news of his broadcasts. The Residents gave Reinhardt exclusive access to all their recordings, including copies of the original masters of Stuffed Trigger, Baby Sex, and The Warner Bros. Album.
Throughout this point, the group had been manipulating old tapes they had collected and regularly recording jam sessions, and these recordings eventually became the group's debut full-length album, Meet The Residents, which was released in 1974 on Ralph. To aid in promoting the group, Reinhardt was given 50 of the first 1,000 copies of Meet the Residents. Some were sent to friends, listeners and critics, and two dozen were left for sale on consignment at the Music Millennium record store, where they sat unsold for months. KBOO DJ Barry Schwam (Schwump, who also recorded with the Residents) promoted them on his program as well. Eventually, KBOO airplay attracted a cult following.
Having just released an album, an EP and working on a difficult film project with limited resources, the group suffered some internal turmoil around this time, which eventually resulted in a large, "embarrassing" food fight; they decided to resolve this tension in 1974 by recording what would later become their "musical film noir masterpiece", Not Available. Deemed by the group as being too personal to release, the album was representative of N. Senada's Theory of Obscurity taken to its logical conclusion; the group placed it in storage, intending not to release it until they had forgotten it existed.
The Third Reich 'n Roll, the group's second album to be released, was recorded in concentrated sessions in 1974 and 1975. The album was a pastiche on 1960s rock and roll and a commentary on similarities between the music industry and the Third Reich, as perceived by the group. This theme was represented visually on the album cover, which featured Dick Clark in an SS uniform holding a carrot, with a number of Hitlers dancing in pairs on clouds behind him. On each side of the record was a single composition, approximately 17 minutes long, using recordings of classic rock and roll songs that were spliced, overdubbed, and edited with new vocals, instrumentation and tape noises. The original songs were finally removed leaving entirely new and bizarre performances. In 1976, the group created their first short music video to promote this album, using the sets for the recently abandoned Vileness Fats project. The band also released two singles, The Beatles Play The Residents and The Residents Play The Beatles, and a cover of The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction", which got the band some attention among the punk and new wave press, which had begun to appear in America and Britain.
Following The Third Reich 'n' Roll came Fingerprince, a particularly ambitious project not unlike the earlier Not Available recordings. The band's original intention with Fingerprince was to release it as the very first "three-sided" album, entitled Tourniquet of Roses - the group had calculated a way to simulate a "third side" on a vinyl album, by arranging the grooves on one side of the vinyl album to play a completely different program of tracks depending on where the needle was dropped on. However, this idea was dropped when the band discovered that the Monty Python comedy troupe had executed the very same idea three years earlier with their Matching Tie and Handkerchief album. The "third side" of the album was later released as an EP titled Babyfingers, and these tracks have since been re-integrated into the Fingerprince album on CD reissues.
The Residents followed Fingerprince with their Duck Stab! EP - their most accessible release up to that point. This EP got the band some attention from the press (namely NME, Sounds and Melody Maker), and was followed in 1978 by the Duck Stab/Buster & Glen album, which paired the EP with a similar, concurrently recorded EP which had not been released separately. The group had also begun work on their most ambitious recording project yet - Eskimo, containing music composed largely of non-musical sounds, percussion, and wordless voices. Claiming inspiration from tapes of arctic wind sent to them by N. Senada, the band worked on this album between 1976 and 1979, a difficult production noted by many conflicts between management and band, which led to a number of delays in the release date.
The sudden attention afforded to them by the success of the Duck Stab! EP and "Satisfaction" single required an album release as soon as possible to help fund the band's spiralling recording costs. This forced the release in 1978 of the band's long-shelved "second album" Not Available. The Residents were not bothered by this deviation from the original plan not to release this album as the 1978 release ultimately did not affect the philosophical conditions under which it was originally recorded.
Eskimo was finally released in 1979 to much acclaim, even making it to the final list for nominations for a Grammy award in 1980. Though the album did not end up being nominated, the group were invited to the ceremony and shared a table with Donna Summer. Rather than being songs in the orthodox sense, the compositions on Eskimo sounded like "live-action stories" without dialogue. Fearing that they were now taking themselves too seriously, The Residents remixed the "songs" in disco style, the results of which appeared on the EP Diskomo. Eskimo's cover presents the first instance of the group wearing their signature eyeball masks and tuxedos, which would be featured in many subsequent releases, films, live appearances, and promotional materials. Eskimo was reissued in surround sound in 2003 and released on DVD, featuring a slideshow of still images conveying the album's narratives.
Commercial Album (1980) consisted of 40 songs, each consisting of a verse and a chorus and lasting one minute. The songs were inspired by advertising jingles; the liner notes state that songs should be repeated three times in a row to form a "pop song". 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.
When MTV was in its infancy, the Residents' videos were in heavy rotation since they were among the few music videos available to broadcasters. The Residents' earliest videos are in the New York Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection and were eventually released together in 2001 on the Icky Flix DVD, which includes an optional audio track of re-recorded versions of each track.
In 1981, Mark of the Mole was released as the first part of an expansive trilogy of concept albums. The Mole Trilogy is made up of parts I, II (The Tunes of Two Cities) and IV (The Big Bubble: Part Four of the Mole Trilogy), in addition to releases of related material such as Intermission.
The group's first tour ensued to promote The Tunes of Two Cities, hosted by Penn Jillette. The performance featured the Residents performing behind a burlap screen, occasionally wearing disguises (such as their iconic eyeball masks), while dancers and actors appeared in front of painted backdrops used to help illustrate the story. Penn Jillette would come out between songs telling long intentionally pointless stories. The show was designed to appear to fall apart as it progressed: Penn pretended to grow angrier with the crowd, and lighting effects and music would become increasingly chaotic, all building up to the point where Penn was dragged off stage and returned, handcuffed to a wheelchair, to deliver his last monologue. During one performance, an audience member assaulted Penn while he was handcuffed to the wheelchair.
However, the Mole Show was not a financial success. It almost resulted in the dissolution of the band, and did result in the Mole Trilogy being brought to a premature end. During this period the Residents were conspicuously less prolific than they previously had been, with only an outtakes compilation Residue of the Residents, a collaborative album with Ralph labelmates Renaldo and the Loaf and a brief edited version of Vileness Fats with a newly recorded soundtrack being the only major releases from this period.
After the failure of the Mole Show and abandonment of the unfinished Mole Trilogy, the band turned their attention to a new concept - a series of albums, each consisting of a side-long suite of covers by American composers the band admired. The group had hoped to cover a number of different artists, but only two albums from this period saw completion and release - 1984's George and James (dedicated to George Gershwin and James Brown) and 1986's Stars & Hank Forever: The American Composers Series (featuring tributes to Hank Williams and John Philip Sousa). Some tracks from an abandoned album dedicated to Sun Ra and Ray Charles have also surfaced.
After this, their Japanese distributor approached them for a two-week run in Japan. Admittedly reluctant at first to return to the stage after the underwhelming response to the Mole Show, the Residents created the 13th Anniversary tour. While the musical performance was more mainstream, the stage show was another over-the-top spectacle, featuring inflatable giraffes, dancers in eyeball masks illuminating the darkened stage with work lights, and a lead vocalist who seemed to change costumes throughout the show from wearing his eyeball mask to wearing a Richard Nixon mask, and at one point wearing only a wig and fake ears. After the two-week run in Japan, the Residents took the show through the US. During the US leg of the tour the band encountered a few problems, including having the tour manager having to fan a member's keyboard because of overheating, being booked in a pool hall and having someone run on stage only to be thrown back into the audience.
The Residents also toured Australia and New Zealand in August 1986 - appearing across the two countries as a five piece ensemble including two female dancers, and with Snakefinger on guitar. The European leg also ran into logistics issues, resulting the band's equipment not arriving for a performance in Tromso, Norway. According to Homer Flynn, the band "had to borrow equipment from people there in the town" including instruments and costumes to make the performance.
Backstage at the Hollywood Palace show on December 26, 1985, one member's eyeball mask (Mr. Red Eye) was stolen so it was replaced with a giant skull mask. It was actually stolen by someone who found a backstage pass on the wall and threw into a dumpster outside the venue through an open window. A few weeks later an avid fan in Cerritos California who attended the palace show also went to a New Year's Eve party where he overheard someone bragging about having Mr. Red Eye. He called Ralph Records and spoke to representative Sheena Timony and asked if it was true about the eye being stolen. She was inquisitive with him and proceeded to tell him that there was a curse on the eye and that there was a police report out on it. He said he wanted to get it back because he loved the band so much and it was the right thing to do. She told him the Residents were going to Georgia in a few weeks and that it needed to be retrieved ASAP. With her help she called the thief to tell him they knew he had it and that reps for Ralph were on their way. The thief was so rattled that he gave it back to some friends of the fan who posed as Ralph employees. The three of them immediately traveled by car to SF and went to Ralph Records in Folsom st. at the time. The Eye was returned but was in bad condition from being thrown around and the Residents decided that it was a superfluous shell of its former self. This is when they decided to replace the eye with "Mr Skull". They continued the 13th anniversary tour and handed out memorial black armbands with the missing eyeball on it. The Residents later were interviewed on MTV where they told the story of it being stolen.
"Cube E" was a three-act performance covering the history of American music. It was a step up from previous shows, featuring more elaborate dance numbers and sets. It was also the first show composed exclusively of music written for the show. The show was almost entirely backlit, with blacklights highlighting fluorescent pieces of costumes and set.
They introduced the first part, which covered cowboy music, on German television as "Buckaroo Blues". It featured the singer and two dancers wearing giant cowboy hats around a glowing campfire. Part two was called "Black Barry" and focused on slave music and the blues. The act ended when a giant cube head rose from the back of the stage. Part three, "The Baby King," featured Elvis songs performed by an elderly Elvis impersonator for his grandchildren. The show ended with an inflated Elvis dying as a result of the British Invasion.
In the late 1980s, they created the epic recording God in Three Persons, a story about the exploitation of two Siamese twins with healing powers by a male dominant force and The King & Eye, a surreal biography of Elvis Presley and the birth of rock and roll.
In the 1990s, they created Freak Show. This marked the beginning of the Residents' obsession with emerging computer technology in the 1990s. Much of the music was made with MIDI devices. Freak Show also served as the name for a CD-ROM released by the Voyager Company on January 1994, shortly after Laurie Anderson's first multimedia CD-ROM experiment, Puppet Motel. Freak Show was illustrated and animated by artist Jim Ludke (who is now deceased.) In a review of the CDROM by Ty Burr for Entertainment Weekly around the time of its release, he commented: "Designer Jim Ludtke (not a member of the band) is the star here: His renderings literally glow with colors you've never considered before. If Xplora 1 chases you off with dutiful enlightenment. Freak Show sucks you in with its hypnotic sympathy for the damned."  He went on to create "Bad Day on the Midway" for the band, and worked with them to create artwork and animations for "Gingerbread Man." Freak Show was also a stage performance by a theater company at the Archa Theater in Prague that premiered on November 1, 1995 musical director was Miroslav Wanek and major part of the Freak Show Orchestra took the band U? Jsme Doma, and a comic book. Several of the songs were also performed live during the 1997 25th anniversary concerts at the Fillmore in San Francisco. After the CD-ROM's success, the album was re-released as The Freak Show Soundtrack with a different cover. A limited edition, The Freak Show Special Edition, was released in 2002 to mark their 30th anniversary.
Other multimedia projects by the Residents included The Gingerbread Man and Bad Day on the Midway.
Based on Bible stories, Wormwood featured the Residents departing from pre-programmed music and again using a live band. The band wore ecclesiastical robes and performed in a brightly lit fluorescent cave. The male and female lead singers switched leads, depending on what characters they needed. Act one consisted of one-off stories about individual Bible characters. Act 2 focused on suites of songs about Bible figures such as Abraham, Moses, and King David. During a performance in Athens, Greece, Nolan Cook, their guitarist, had to leave the stage after taking a rock to the head from an audience member.
The Residents recorded the dramatic album Demons Dance Alone (also a tour and DVD in 2002) and Animal Lover in 2005. Singer Molly Harvey began as a Ralph employee but by the mid-90s contributed to virtually all of the Residents' many projects. The Residents' increased reliance on Harvey, essentially handing her half of the vocal duties since at least Demons Dance Alone, parallels their artistic revitalization. Nolan Cook, Carla Fabrizio, Toby Dammit, Eric Drew Feldman, and many other artists continuously worked with the band over the last five years, recording and performing live. The new artists helped to counter what Allmusic derided as a "sonic palette [confined to] factory presets from their new Macintosh audio" of the CD-ROM era.
In February 2005, the Residents toured Australia as part of the What is Music? festival, performing a two-hour retrospective set titled the 33rd Anniversary Tour: The Way We Were. These shows saw a fairly minimal band; three eyeball-headed Residents (one on guitar and two laptop/sample operators), a "stage hand" performer, and a male and female vocalist in costumes reminiscent of the Wormwood Tour. Video projections and unusual flexible screens were added to the stage set, creating an unsettling ambiance. The performances on the Way We Were tour were recorded and were released on CD and DVD in 2005.
Summer of 2006 brought the internet download project, River of Crime (Episodes 1-5). River of Crime was their first project with Warner Music Group's Cordless Label. Following the success of that album, the Residents launched their weekly Timmy video project on YouTube. In 2007 they did the soundtrack for the documentary Strange Culture and also released a double instrumental album, Night of the Hunters. On the Fourth of July 2007, the planned October release of its latest project with Mute Records, The Voice of Midnight (a music theater adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffmann's short story "Der Sandmann"), was announced on its Web site.
On the May 21 the band announced on its website that its first North America tour since Demons Dance Alone for a project titled The Bunny Boy was set to begin on October 9 in New York--later an earlier date was added for Santa Cruz. Soon, it was announced that the tour would also include Europe, starting November 13. On June 3, the Residents.com Web site boasted the planned release of The Bunny Boy, which was released on September 1. The Web site had posted information in which "Foxboro" claimed this would be a farewell tour; it was later revealed that this was nothing more than a mistake by Foxboro.
November 3, 2009, saw three new releases. The Ughs! is a mostly instrumental album made up of music composed earlier in the band's career, which had been completely reworked for the Voice of Midnight album. Ten Little Piggies is a "futurist compilation", ten songs from projects that may or may not be released in the future. Finally, Is Anybody out There is a DVD collecting all the Bunny Boy videos from the series posted on YouTube. The episodes are streamlined and not exactly the same as the originals.
In January 2010 the Residents began a series of tours titled Talking Light, touring North America and Europe. During the tours, which lasted until April 2011, the Residents appeared as a trio (with the explanation that the fourth member "Carlos" had grown tired of the music business and gone home to Mexico to care for his mother), and, alternately "after 40 years he suddenly decided that the Rock and Roll life style wasn't for him after all!", and adapted new identities and costumes. The singer, "Randy", wore an old man mask, and the other two, keyboardist "Chuck" and guitarist "Bob", wore dreadlocked wigs and some kind of illuminated optical gear over their faces. The songs were stories about various characters' obsessions with ghosts, imaginary people, and supernatural phenomena. One of these performances was featured as part of the edition of the All Tomorrow's Parties festival curated by Matt Groening in May 2010 in Minehead, England, UK. The band released several albums related to the "Talking Light" concept, including the instrumental albums Dollar General and Chuck's Ghost Music, live album Bimbo's Talking Light, and studio album Lonely Teenager.
In October 20, 2010, Randy, the Residents' singer, performed in Olomouc Moravian Theatre in collaboration with band U? Jsme Doma 13 songs of the Residents. Arrangements were made by Miroslav Wanek (he was musical director of The Freak Show, too).
In October and November 2011, the Residents presented an early version of Sam's Enchanted Evening at The Marsh performance center in Berkeley, with the lead singer appearing as "Randy Rose". A new version of Sam's Enchanted Evening was subsequently performed in March 2012 at Henry Street Settlement in New York City in a production directed by Travis Chamberlain, co-starring Joshua Raoul Brody and Jibz Cameron (aka Dynasty Handbag).
On January 10, 2012, the Residents released Coochie Brake; it focused on an ambient, slightly ethnic sound, with lyrics in Spanish spoken by, apparently, a new singer. On 7 December 2012, as part of the celebrations of the upcoming 40th anniversary of its first release, the Santa Dog EP, the Residents released an infomercial starring its lead singer, "Randy Rose", who notified the public of the release of the Residents' Ultimate Box Set--a 28-cubic-foot refrigerator that contained the first pressings of every Residents release to date as well as other ephemera (such as an eyeball mask and top hat). The Cryptic Corporation advised in a press release that the intended audience for this project was the realm of fine art, and, accordingly, the price of the set is $100,000.
In 2014, it was reported that the band were cooperating in a documentary, Theory of Obscurity, being made about them by Don Hardy and Barton Bishoff and offering "an unparalleled glimpse behind the scenes of the world's most mysterious band". The film was completed in 2015.
In May 2016, the end of the "Randy, Bob, and Chuck Trilogy" (comprising three tours: Talking Light, The Wonder of Weird, and Shadowland) was announced, and a new studio album was said to be in development.
In September 2016, the band announced their next studio album, the Ghost of Hope (alongside a single titled "Rushing like a Banshee"), and said it was slated for a February 2017 release.
In November 2016, they had released a promo video (featuring "Randy") for a movie titled "Double Trouble", a non-direct "sequel" to their failed movie project Vileness Fats.
In October 2016, The Residents released Rushing Like a Banshee, the first single off their next album, alongside a video directed by John Sanborn. It was announced later found that it was part of a longer piece on The Ghost of Hope.
In early 2017, they announced a new show, titled In Between Dreams, was to premier at the Blue Note in Tokyo, the first show in Japan since the 13th Anniversary Show. Rather than "Randy", "Bob" and "Rico", the show was to feature "The Real Residents", the "original" group featuring four members, much like their earlier years. Three of the members wore blue and white checkered suits, plague doctor masks with dark lenses and white bowler hats while the singer wore a cow-pattern bodysuit with a fake cow nose and plastic horns. Two shows were to be played over the course of two days, and later the same show was to be played at the Safe as Milk festival in the Wales. The show in the Wales, however, never happened as the festival was cancelled in early April. Later, in March 2017, they announced the tour to officially begin in Copenhagen, Denmark, in November 2017.
Less than a week after the premiere of In Between Dreams, on March 24, 2017, the group released their first album in over 4 years, The Ghost of Hope. The album, based around historical train wrecks from the late 19th century and early 20th century, featured guest players such as Eric Drew Feldman ("who has worked with everybody cool") and Nolan Cook. The album gained large media attention, with notable magazines like Billboard and Wired covering the album shortly before its release.
Several months later, in late October 2017, the full In Between Dreams tour kicked off in Copenhagen, featuring the same cast and decorations as the Tokyo show, though with a substantially changed setlist that included preview tracks from an upcoming blues-styled album: "Die! Die! Die!" and "Tell Me." In Between Dreams was the first show featuring the "Real Residents"; Tyrone, the singer, Eekie, the guitarist, Erkie, the keyboardist, and a new member, Cha Cha, a percussionist (the first in the band since "Carlos'" departure.) The decoration of the show consisted of a blue and white checkered (with the iconic eyeball with the top hat breaking the pattern every so often) backdrop, several dynamic and color changing lights, and the same giant ball screen from Shadowland for displaying videos in between every couple songs. The videos consisted of various well-known figures reminiscing of dreams they had; Richard Nixon's dream about being a blues singer, John Wayne's nightmare about a lone ballerina that disappears when he attempts to approach her, Mother Theresa's dream about a train wreck, and so on. The tour ran through Europe from late October all the way to the end of November 2017, and later the United States from early April to early May 2018.
In the early days of the group, many rumors circulated about the membership of the band. Due to the cover art of Meet the Residents being a parody of The Beatles' 1964 North American release, Meet the Beatles! there were some rumors that The Residents were actually The Beatles, even specifically naming George Harrison. Many other rumors have come and gone over the years, one being that 60s experimental band Cromagnon shared members with the band. Les Claypool, frontman of rock band Primus, and Gerald Casale of new wave band Devo claimed to have been accused of being members of the band; and Mark Mothersbaugh is alleged to have played keyboards during the band's 13th anniversary tour.
Since the late 1970s, much of the speculation about the members' true identities has involved the group's management team, known as The Cryptic Corporation. Cryptic was formed in 1976 as a corporation in California by Jay Clem (born 1947), Homer Flynn (born April 1945), Hardy W. Fox (born 1945), and John Kennedy, all of whom denied having been band members. (Clem and Kennedy left the Corporation in 1982, much to the chagrin of some fans). The Residents members do not grant interviews, although Flynn and Fox have conducted interviews with the media on behalf of the group.
Nolan Cook, a prominent collaborator with the group in both the band's live and studio work (as well as being a live member of I Am Spoonbender), denied in an interview that Fox and Flynn are the Residents, saying that he has come across such rumors, and they are completely false. However, Cook himself is considered a member of the band by some, as he is known to wear the same head coverings as the rest of the group during live shows, even wearing the trademark eyeball mask during the Wormwood Tour. He also played the part of "Bob" during the "Randy", "Chuck", and "Bob" trilogy of shows.
William Poundstone, author of the Big Secrets books, compared voiceprints of a Flynn lecture with those of spoken word segments from the Residents discography in his book "Biggest Secrets". After noting similar patterns in both, he concluded "the similarities in the spectograms second the convincing subjective impression that the voices are identical." He posited that "It is possible that the creative core of the Residents is the duo of Flynn and Fox." A subset of that belief is that Flynn is the lyricist and that Fox writes the music. The online database of the performance rights organization BMI (of which The Residents and their publishing company, Pale Pachyderm Publishing (Warner-Chappell), have been members for their entire careers), lists Flynn and Fox as the composers of all original Residents songs. This includes those songs written pre-1974, the "Residents Unincorporated" years, the year Cryptic formed.
Simon Reynolds wrote in his book "Rip It Up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978-1984" that "the Residents and their representatives were one and the same," and elaborated further on one of his blogs, stating that "this was something that anybody who had any direct dealings with Ralph figured out sooner rather than later." Reynolds quotes Helios Creed, who identifies the Residents as a keyboardist named "H," a singer named "Homer," and "this other guy called John." Peter Principle of Tuxedomoon claimed that he and others "eventually figured out that the guy doing the graphics and the engineer in the studio were, in fact, the Residents."
Cryptic openly admits the group's artwork is done by Flynn (among others), under various names that, put together, become "Pornographics", but the pseudonym is rarely spelled the same way twice (examples: Porno Graphics, Pore No Graphix, Pore-Know Graphics); and that Fox is the sound engineer - meaning that he is the main producer, engineer, master, and editor of all their recordings. (Since 1976, the Residents' recordings have all listed their producer as the Cryptic Corporation, presumably meaning Fox in particular.)
More recently, the group's official Facebook page listed the members of the Residents as "Randy", "Chuck", and "Bob", with further reference to a former member of the band named "Carlos" who left the group permanently following a disagreement with "Randy". There is speculation that "Carlos" is Carlos Cadona. Better known by his stage name, "6025," Cadona was in the original lineup of the Dead Kennedys and appears on a live album by Snakefinger. "Bob" is guitarist and long time collaborator Nolan Cook.
A synopsis for the Residents' 2012-stage production "Sam's Enchanted Evening" provides the name "Randy Rose" as that of the Residents' lead singer. "Chuck", or "Charles Bobuck" was the primary songwriter for the group and released a series of solo albums (or "contraptions") under this name during the "Randy, Chuck and Bob" era. The member known as Chuck would later retire from live performance due to ill health in 2015, and ultimately would retire from The Residents altogether following the release of the Theory of Obscurity documentary film. A replacement, Eric Drew Feldman, was chosen for Chuck who continues to perform with the band under the name "Rico".
In October 2017, Hardy Fox identified himself as both the anonymous primary composer and producer for The Residents as well as the pseudonymous Charles Bobuck.
sent back addressed to "Residents, 20 Sycamore St., San Francisco
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