“Scene 6: Cave 1” | 61
It was the early to mid-’70s when I became aware of them. My reaction was quite weird and complicated. I loved them, but I existed in a completely alternate reality. During that time, I was performing with a 12-piece musical theatrical ensemble that wouldn’t touch a composition (other than ones that I wrote) composed later than 1938. In my brain, I lived somewhere between Paris and Harlem 1930s. But at the same time, I remember being pretty obsessed with The Residents. Other than the fact that we were both completely “whacked,” we were total opposites. One might think, “So you were doing one thing, and they were doing another, and you appreciated them. What’s complicated about that?” Like most people, I listened to many different musical groups and styles. They represented a door that I might have walked through but never did. A road treasured and admired, but never traveled. It’s like there was some point when I was 19 or 20 years old where I gazed at three or four doors to my musical future.
72 | “Scene 23: Night Club 1”
They were all very tempting, but I could only walk through one. I have no idea what different turns I would’ve taken in my life had I gone to college or art school or had any contemporary cultural influences. But I chose the weird, creaky, archaic door I chose, and that was that. It sent me on a trajectory that lasted the rest of my life. But there are certain musical groups, like The Residents, that haunted me in an uncanny way—like observing a parallel universe and perceiving an echo of a possible me I never became. Over the next decade or two, I would often wonder what my life would’ve been like had I simply gone through a different door. When I listen back now to Duck Stab! (which I think was my favorite album), it’s astounding to me how far ahead of their time they were. It’s still amazing!
114 | Not Available (October 1978, Ralph Records)
It is still astonishing to listen deeply to these records—packed with ideas and so breathtakingly original. Like The Beatles, they seemed to be open-eared and unschooled. You could sense their excitement at discovering everything on their own and inventing music from scratch. The Residents kicked open the doors to enchanted musical realms that bands like ours found irresistible. You can hear how much we owed to them in our early recordings.
John Linnell, They Might Be Giants
WITHOUT ANY DOUBT, THE RESIDENTS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR SOME OF THE GREATEST MUSIC EVER RECORDED BY ANTHROPOMORPHIC HUMAN EYEBALLS. “Weird Al” Yankovic
Eskimo (September 1979, Ralph Records) | 245
270 | Forty advertising slots on San Francisco’s KFRC were purchased to play each track of Commercial Album.
In high school, when I started playing music seriously, I was asked to sing for a band whose members were older. I was a freshman, and they were seniors. They were total heshers, or so I thought. They constantly pushed me to break away from all the unspoken rules of punk and metal by introducing me to stuff that wasn’t very popular with the punks in El Paso. It was that adventurous spirit that kept me up late at night searching for transmissions from other like-minded humans. The Night Flight TV show was my bible. In my quest, I discovered Dr. Demento taking over MTV for hours at a time. That’s when I first spotted these fucking weirdos who called themselves The Residents. Among videos like “Fish Heads” by Barnes & Barnes and other outsider music I saw, these strange people dressed as eyeballs completely floored me. It was like realizing the earth wasn’t flat. It was like witnessing one of the secret guardians of the flame.
IT RUINED ME. It was as if the universe gave me that “sign.” A sign that said, “You can pretend all you want, but you’ll never be like them.” From that point on, I knew I couldn’t just settle for fast hardcore punk or the uniform that went with it. I knew it would take time to shed those layers of skin. But the spark was there.
Cedric Bixler-Zavala, The Mars Volta
“Act of Being Polite” music video | 281
350 | Press conference at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC for the Uncle Sam Mole Show (October 7, 1983)