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Recorded in and released in , Meet The Residents was the first album being a parody of Meet the Beatles!, The Beatles' second US album release. Perhaps you've read about their twisted covers of Elvis, the Beatles, and the As Ian Shirley details in his biography Meet the Residents. It was around this time that The Residents met two individuals who were . Although it was rumoured that at least one of the Beatles bought a.
Snakefinger had also brought an acquaintance that he had met in the woods of Bavaria while on an expedition there for Britain.
That friend was none other than The Mysterious N. Senada who had developed a complex musical system based upon phonetics. For six months Snakefinger, N. Senada who spoke very little Englishand The Residents worked together recording and listening to tapes. A few lucky people were even able to catch impromptu performances by The Mysterious N. Senada and Snakefinger at several of San Francisco's folk and jazz clubs.
- Meet The Residents
The Residents negotiated with Warner Bros. Snakefinger returned to England to become a rock and roll star, and The Mysterious N. Senada, well he just disappeared one day. The Residents have ventured to guess that he has probably gone to the arctic regions.
He believes some musical link is hidden among the Eskimos of the frozen north.
The music on this album is not that of Snakefinger or of The Mysterious N. The Residents have taken the basic ideas of the phonetic organization but have applied the theories to a more Western style of music.
Meet The Residents - Historical - The Residents
Come to think of it, who were the band behind this monstrous music? It was, to borrow an overused phrase from Winston Churchill: It seemed like the original motherlode of otherness to me then and despite hearing many other unusual recordings over the 25 years since that moment, it's oddness has remained entirely intact.
The story of how The Residents began has long since passed into the realm of legend. According to the myth perpetuated at various times by the likes of Simpsons creator Matt Groening and British science-fiction author John Shirleythe band met whilst at high-school in Shreveport, Louisiana. They came together as outsiders, sharing an appreciation for J. Comics' Tales From The Crypt and low-budget horror movies.
The five friends split for a time after school but soon found their common interests calling them to regroup. Inthey decided to make a break for San Francisco but only made it as far as San Mateo, where their truck broke down. There they stayed for the next few years, working at day jobs and spending their money on crude recording equipment. Byone of the five had left though there are some who would argue that the fifth Resident was but a playful allusion to the fifth Beatleand two tapes of proto-Residential material had been completed.
When a third tape, which later became entitled The Warner Bros. Album, was returned by Hal Haverstadt, who had been instrumental in signing Captain Beefheart, it was addressed simply: It was around this time that The Residents met two individuals who were to have a profound effect on their developing sound.
Phillip 'Snakefinger' Lithman was a talented, unorthodox British musician who contributed his highly original guitar, violin and piano playing to many of The Residents' early works. His nickname derived from a photograph taken during a particularly difficult violin solo, during which his little finger appeared to be poised, snakelike and ready to strike.
Given the era during which they met in San Francisco, there is also the strong likelihood of LSD being part of the mix. The other figure, N supposedly Nigel Senada, was a kind of guru-figure to the group. It has been speculated that his name is most likely a play on the Spanish 'en se nada,' which translates as 'is nothing in'. Most likely he did not exist outside of the imaginations of the band and in retrospect seems to represent the kind of musical philosophising undertaken by Harry Partch.
Senada's 'Theory of Obscurity' stated that pure art can only be made without consideration of the outside world.
The Beatles Play The Residents and The Residents Play The Beatles
Whilst his 'Theory of Phonetic Organisation' involved a decontextualisation of meaning so that the individual sounds of words could regain their primal, magical quality.
Inthe band moved to San Francisco and formed Ralph Records, when it became apparent that if they wanted release records they would have to do it themselves.
The name came from the slang term for vomiting 'calling up Ralph on the big white telephone' and the band named their studio El Ralpho in tribute to Sun Ra, who had called his El Saturn.
Most of was spent recording their first 'proper' album Meet The Residents, which was released on April Fool's Day in to an utterly indifferent public. Despite giving away free promotional flexi-discs, a mere 40 or so people bought the album in the first year of its release.
Given the musical climate of the time, this was hardly surprising. The album defied categorisation and was, in all likelihood, more extreme and experimental than anything the general public would have been exposed to at the time. Given the benefit of hindsight, however, it is possible to identify a number of recordings released some years prior to the album which in all likelihood exerted a strong influence upon its makers.
Inspired by Japanese Noh theatre and featuring a large number of Partch's custom-made instruments, Delusion Of The Fury fuses tragedy and farce into a unified work in a way that recalls the ancient Greek tradition of following a tragedy with a satyr play and it has been suggested that Partch, who experienced injustice and rejection from society, may have viewed it as a way of expressing and confronting his own anger towards the world.
Harry Partch born June 24 was an American composer, theorist and designer and builder of musical instruments who spent his early years as a transient worker and sometime hobo who rode the railways during the Great Depression, following the fruit harvests across the country. Partch enrolled in the University of Southern California's School of Music in but left by the summer ofdisenchanted with his teachers and eventually rejecting the validity of the standard twelve-tone equal temperament of Western concert music in favour of a system of just intonation derived from the natural Harmonic series.
In order to play his music, Partch devised a number of unique instruments with remarkable names such as the Quadrangularis Reversum a kind of oversized marimbaCloud Chamber Bowls, the Chromelodeon and the Zymo-Xyl - an oak-block xylophone augmented by tuned liquor bottles, Ford hubcaps and an aluminum ketchup bottle.
The Beatles Play The Residents and The Residents Play The Beatles - Wikipedia
Whether Nigel Senada was in fact a cryptic reference to Harry Partch or not, there can be little doubt that he was a strong early influence on the band. Similarly, a direct reference to Partch's passing is made in the song 'Death in Barstow,' also from that album.
Two other records that are likely to have been an influence on the early Residents' sound are The Heliocentric Worlds and Atlantis by Sun Ra. Already so far ahead of his time as to appear as though he were manifesting from another universe, Sun Ra really pulled out the stops for these two records, which made radical departures from any previous ideas of melody and harmony to produce an otherworldly sound seemingly without reference to anything outside of themselves.
Whilst Heliocentric Worlds relies on a heavily percussive sound not dissimilar to Partch's Delusion Of The Fury, Atlantis is particularly reliant on the unusual sound of the Hohner Clavinet for its evocation of alien textures and tonalities. Szwed's excellent book on Sun Ra, Space Is The Place, Ra expresses his interest in music that has unusual tunings, explaining that whilst any group of talented musicians can play a tune together, if they are willing to explore being 'out of tune' together, then that is a truly fertile ground for creativity.
In this aspect, Ra resembles Partch's experimentation with microtonal music. Whilst these records existed under most people's radar, the genius of Meet The Residents lay in its repackaging of some of those ideas as 'pop' music.