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Commercial Album is the seventh studio album by The Residents, released on October 29th 1980 on Ralph Records.

Another manifestation of The Residents' whimsical relationship with pop music and their interest in music about music, Commercial Album is a collection of forty one-minute long "commercial" songs.

History and concept

Commercial Album was conceived and recorded by The Residents between September 1979 and July 1980. It pares down the concept and structure of the average "commercial" pop song and reduces it to a one-minute "jingle", designed to be played three times to form a complete pop song. Commercial Album contains a compilation of 40 such sixty-second vignettes, or, the band's own "personal top 40".

The group used a number of ideas in the composition of Commercial Album which had cropped up during the recording of Eskimo, but which were not appropriate for that project. The new concept meant that some songs of average length had to be stripped back to their basics for the final release. The longer, original version of "Ups and Downs" can be found on the Residue of the Residents compilation.

During the recording of Commercial Album, The Residents teamed up with several artists, including their old friend Snakefinger, who not only provided guitar, but sings on "Ups and Downs". The band also recruited Chris Cutler, who had worked with them on Eskimo, and Fred Frith.

The liner credits also mention "Special Secret Appearances by ?" - these were Lene Lovich, who sang "Picnic Boy", and Andy Partridge of XTC, who plays and sings on "Margaret Freeman". The cover art by Porno Graphics features John Travolta and Barbra Streisand.

Release

Commercial Album promo art, 1980

Prior to the album's release, The Cryptic Corporation bought forty one-minute commercial slots on KFRC-AM, the most popular top 40 radio station in San Francisco at that time, and used them to broadcast the full contents of Commercial Album over a three day period.

According to Cryptic treasurer and spokesperson Jay Clem, "the conception, execution and marketing of the LP was intended to be more commercial than anything we've done so far. When it came time to make the choice of a station for the world premiere, we really only had one choice, since KFRC is the top-rated Top 40 station in the market and is a consistent national award-winner. Because the album has 40 cuts we wanted to premiere on a Top 40 station, and we have also pressed 40,000 copies of the album."[1]

Commercial Album was the first Residents album to be licensed overseas, and was heavily promoted by the licencees. PRE Records in England even put out The Commercial Single, which included two songs which had been left off of the album because The Residents felt that they didn't quite fit in for various reasons.

Phonogram and Celluloid Records financed a short film directed by The Residents with Graeme Whifler entitled One Minute Movies, featuring the tracks "Moisture", "The Act of Being Polite", "Perfect Love", and "Simple Song". The advent of MTV in the years following the release of this short film meant that these clips received a great deal of rotation when MTV was first on the air, despite the experimental nature of the music and visuals, due to a lack of available music videos at the time.

The promotional campaign was successful, and Commercial Album ultimately sold well. Despite this, the New Wave music press, which had been lavish in its praise of the albums from Fingerprince to Eskimo, decided that Commercial Album was not at all interesting. Suddenly, The Residents were no longer the darlings of the alternative music world. This, combined with some internal frictions, led The Residents into a period of frustration which culminated in the conception of The Mole Trilogy.

Reissues

The album has been reissued a number of times on CD. The ESD Classic Series reissue includes ten "bonus babies", including "Diskomo", "Shut Up Shut Up" and "And I Was Alone" from The Commercial Single, "Theme for an American TV Show", a cover of the Ramones' "We're A Happy Family" from the Miniatures compilation, "The Sleeper", "Boy In Love" and "Jailhouse Rock" from Residue of The Residents and the later singles "This Is A Man's Man's Man's World" and "Hit The Road Jack". The album was reissued in a deluxe hardbook edition in 2004 on Mute Records.

Commercial DVD

In 2004, The Residents expanded upon the concept of their original "One Minute Movies" by creating a number of new videos for each song on Commercial Album, and commissioning independent filmmakers to create additional videos, thus resulting in multiple alternative music videos for each track on the album, all of which were released on Commercial DVD.

Track listing

Commercial Album t-shirt print

Original release

All tracks composed by The Residents.
Side A (20:59)

  1. Easter Woman (1:03)
  2. Perfect Love (1:03)
  3. Picnic Boy (1:01)
  4. End of Home (1:04)
  5. Amber (1:02)
  6. Japanese Watercolor (1:02)
  7. Secrets (1:03)
  8. Die in Terror (1:03)
  9. Red Rider (1:02)
  10. My Second Wife (1:02)
  11. Floyd (1:03)
  12. Suburban Bathers (1:04)
  13. Dimples and Toes (1:03)
  14. The Nameless Souls (1:04)
  15. Love Leaks Out (1:04)
  16. Act of Being Polite (1:03)
  17. Medicine Man (1:04)
  18. Tragic Bells (1:03)
  19. Loss of Innocence (1:04)
  20. The Simple Song (1:02)

Side B (21:12)

  1. Ups and Downs (1:04)
  2. Possessions (1:03)
  3. Give It to Someone Else (1:03)
  4. Phantom (1:04)
  5. Less Not More (1:03)
  6. My Work Is So Behind (1:04)
  7. Birds in the Trees (1:04)
  8. Handful of Desire (1:04)
  9. Moisture (1:04)
  10. Love Is... (1:03)
  11. Troubled Man (1:04)
  12. La La (1:04)
  13. Loneliness (1:04)
  14. Nice Old Man (1:04)
  15. The Talk of Creatures (1:04)
  16. Fingertips (1:04)
  17. In Between Dreams (1:03)
  18. Margaret Freeman (1:03)
  19. The Coming of the Crow (1:04)
  20. When We Were Young (1:02)

1988 ESD/Torso CD reissue

All tracks composed by The Residents unless otherwise noted.

  1. Easter Woman (1:06)
  2. Perfect Love (1:05)
  3. Picnic Boy (1:03)
  4. End of Home (1:06)
  5. Amber (1:04)
  6. Japanese Watercolor (1:04)
  7. Secrets (1:05)
  8. Die in Terror (1:05)
  9. Red Rider (1:04)
  10. My Second Wife (1:04)
  11. Floyd (1:05)
  12. Suburban Bathers (1:05)
  13. Dimples and Toes (1:06)
  14. The Nameless Souls (1:06)
  15. Love Leaks Out (1:05)
  16. Act of Being Polite (1:05)
  17. Medicine Man (1:06)
  18. Tragic Bells (1:05)
  19. Loss of Innocence (1:06)
  20. The Simple Song (1:04)
  21. Ups and Downs (1:06)
  22. Possessions (1:06)
  23. Give It to Someone Else (1:05)
  24. Phantom (1:06)
  25. Less Not More (1:05)
  26. My Work Is So Behind (1:06)
  27. Birds in the Trees (1:06)
  28. Handful of Desire (1:06)
  29. Moisture (1:05)
  30. Love Is... (1:05)
  31. Troubled Man (1:06)
  32. La La (1:06)
  33. Loneliness (1:06)
  34. Nice Old Man (1:06)
  35. The Talk of Creatures (1:05)
  36. Fingertips (1:06)
  37. In Between Dreams (1:06)
  38. Margaret Freeman (1:05)
  39. The Coming of the Crow (1:06)
  40. When We Were Young (1:03)
  41. Shut Up Shut Up (1:04)
  42. And I Was Alone (1:04)
  43. Theme For An American TV Show (1:27)
  44. We're A Happy Family (Ramones) (1:06)
  45. The Sleeper (2:58)
  46. Boy In Love (2:56)
  47. Diskomo (4:34)
  48. Jailhouse Rock (Leiber/Stoller) (1:05)
  49. This Is A Man's Man's Man's World (Brown) (1:06)
  50. Hit The Road Jack (Mayfield) (1:03)


pREServed edition (2019)

Postcard included with early copies of Commercial Album pREServed

Released alongside Eskimo in January 2019, Commercial Album is the seventh installment in The Residents' pREServed series of expanded and remastered editions of their catalog of albums.

A two-disc set, it contains the additional tracks from The Commercial Single, as well as other songs featured on previous CD reissues of the album, and a considerable amount of previously unheard material, such as outtakes "Kraftwerk" and "Cosmetics for Reality", 1982 studio rehearsals, the new versions of Commercial Album songs recorded by The Residents in 2004 for The Commercial DVD, and live versions of songs dating from 1986 to 2015.

Further pREServed releases related to Commercial Album are expected for release at an unknown time in the future, as at least one entry in a series of limited edition vinyl releases sold via mail order. This series is expected to include a mono mix of Commercial Album created for airing the tracks as radio commercials[2], and an unspecified "multi-track exploration" of the original master tapes.[3]

Track listing

(*) indicates tracks which are previously unreleased.
All tracks composed by The Residents unless otherwise noted.

Disc 1

Commercial Album + Bonus Tracks

  1. Easter Woman (1:03)
  2. Perfect Love (1:03)
  3. Picnic Boy (1:03)
  4. End of Home (1:03)
  5. Amber (1:02)
  6. Japanese Watercolor (1:03)
  7. Secrets (1:03)
  8. Die in Terror (1:02)
  9. Red Rider (1:02)
  10. My Second Wife (1:02)
  11. Floyd (1:03)
  12. Suburban Bathers (1:03)
  13. Dimples and Toes (1:03)
  14. The Nameless Souls (1:04)
  15. Love Leaks Out (1:02)
  16. Act of Being Polite (1:03)
  17. Medicine Man (1:03)
  18. Tragic Bells (1:03)
  19. Loss of Innocence (1:02)
  20. The Simple Song (1:03)
  21. Ups and Downs (1:03)
  22. Possessions (1:03)
  23. Give It to Someone Else (1:03)
  24. Phantom (1:03)
  25. Less Not More (1:03)
  26. My Work Is So Behind (1:03)
  27. Birds in the Trees (1:03)
  28. Handful of Desire (1:03)
  29. Moisture (1:03)
  30. Love Is... (1:03)
  31. Troubled Man (1:03)
  32. La La (1:03)
  33. Loneliness (1:03)
  34. Nice Old Man (1:03)
  35. The Talk of Creatures (1:03)
  36. Fingertips (1:03)
  37. In Between Dreams (1:03)
  38. Margaret Freeman (1:03)
  39. The Coming of the Crow (1:03)
  40. When We Were Young (1:09)
  41. Shut Up, Shut Up (1:02)
  42. And I Was Alone (1:04)
  43. Electronic Elaborate Waste (1:02) (*)
  44. Kraftwerk (1:03) (*)
  45. Cosmetics for Reality (1:06) (*)
  46. Rosco's Righteous Rodent (1:01) (*)
  47. Pretty Baby (1:04) (*)
  48. Tuxedos (1:08) (*)
  49. No Longer Unused (1:03) (*)
  50. Instant Hostility (3:04) (*)
  51. Elevator Lady (2:37) (*)
  52. We're A Happy Family (Ramones) (1:10)

Disc 2

Bonus Tracks

  1. Shut Up, Shut Up (Residue Version) (1:12)
  2. And I Was Alone (Alternate) (1:03) (*)
  3. Ups and Downs (Residue Version) (3:07)
  4. Boy In Love (2:55)
  5. Die In Terror (1982 Rehearsal) (1:28) (*)
  6. Give It To Someone Else (1982 Rehearsal) (0:53) (*)
  7. Love Leaks Out (1982 Rehearsal) (1:09) (*)
  8. The Talk of Creatures (1982 Rehearsal) (1:04) (*)
  9. Easter Woman (Live 1986) (2:30)
  10. Amber (Live 1986) (1:45)
  11. Red Rider (Live 1986) (1:32)
  12. Die In Terror (Live 1986) (1:26)
  13. The Coming of the Crow (Live 1986) (1:45)
  14. Moisture (Icky Flix Version) (1:05) (*)
  15. Act of Being Polite (Icky Flix Version) (1:03) (*)
  16. Perfect Love (Icky Flix Version) (1:06) (*)
  17. Simple Song (Icky Flix Version) (1:04) (*)
  18. Red Rider (Commercial DVD Version) (1:09) (*)
  19. Moisture (Commercial DVD Version) (1:10) (*)
  20. Commercial Album Suite (Live 2005) (5:48)
  21. Give It To Someone Else (Live 2013) (3:04)
  22. Easter Woman (Live 2015) (2:34) (*)
  23. My Second Wife (Live 2015) (2:28) (*)
  24. Loss of Innocence (Live 2015) (2:18) (*)


Liner notes

The Residents, 1978

1988 ESD CD reissue

Point one: Pop music is mostly a repetition of two types of musical and lyrical phrases, the verse and the chorus.

Point two: These elements usually repeat three times in a three minute song, the type usually found on top-40 radio.

Point three: Cut out the fat and a pop song is only one minute long. Then record albums can hold their own top-40, twenty minutes per side.

Point four: One minute is also the length of most commercials, and therefore their corresponding jingles.

Point five: Jingles are the music of America.

Conclusion: This compact disc is terrific in shuffle play. To convert the jingles to pop music, program each song to repeat three times.

Credits

Release History

The incorrect sleeve

The Commercial Album was released in the US by Ralph Records in three variations. The first of these, limited to 15,000, features an incorrect track listing on the back sleeve but the correct one on the label, with tracks 8 - 14 being completely re-arranged, perhaps suggesting an early track listing.

Commercial would be the first Residents album, after the 1979 compilation Nibbles, to be released worldwide. In the UK it was released by PRE Records, who would also release The Commercial Single. The German pressing was released by Charisma Records, and featured an extensive 14 page bio on The Residents written by Alfred Hilsberg. Both the British and German pressings featured the incorrect track listing on the sleeve. Whilst the UK LP corrected this on the label, the German pressing has no track listing on the label at all, just '1-20' (20:00) and '21-40' (20:00). Charisma also released the album on Cassette, making this the first Residents album to be publicly released on that format. The track listing on the cassette is correct, but Suburban Bathers is misspent 'Suburdan Bathers'. The second US pressing, limited to 20,000, corrected the incorrect track listing.

In Australia it was pressed by Missing Link, who had previously released Nibbles there. The Australian cassette was released by 7 Records & Tapes, and the New Zealand LP was released by RTC.

The French pressing, from January 1981[7] was pressed by Celluloid, and contained the same sleeve error as the earlier pressings, but came with an additional 7 inch single containing two outtakes from the album, 'Shut Up, Shut Up' & 'And I Was Alone', previously released on the British Commercial Single EP. Later Celluloid pressings, which corrected the incorrect track listing, did not come with the bonus single. The French cassette, released by Vogue, contains the same spelling error as the German one.

1988 Green Lp

In 1985 the record was re-issued for The Residents' 13th Anniversary. This version doesn't differ much from the second US pressing. Three years later it would be repressed for The 'Residents Classic Series' collection of re-issues. This version was pressed onto both black, and a special limited green vinyl. The LPs were pressed b Ralph Records, whilst East Side Digital released the album on CD. This CD included special bonus tracks, the Shut Up, Shut Up single, two additional minute long songs, excerpts from Residue, and two covers. The LP and CD were released in Holland by Torso. In 1990, Ralph Records' sub-label, T.E.C. Tones released the album on Cassette in the US.

The CD was re-released in 1994 as part of the rare In Memoriam Torso Box-Set.

Euro Ralph released the first remaster of the album in 1995 in a limited quantity of 5,000. Two years later this remastered version was released in the US by East Side Digital, and in Japan by Bomba Records. The Japanese release of this remaster came with a 16 page booklet.

To support the release of The Commercial DVD, Mute re-released the album in a hardbook style case with an additional 24 page booklet. This version boasts itself as being the 25th Anniversary Repress, despite being released on the albums 24th Anniversary. This mistake is likely the reason behind Spotify listing the album as a 1979 release. This was the first release to credit Andy Partridge, Lene Lovich & Nessie Lessons as collaborators on the album.

The second remastered version was released by Birdsong/Hayabusa Landings in Japan for the album's 30th Anniversary. It was remastered by Soichiro Nakamura and contained the same bonus tracks as the 1988 East Side Digital version.

MVDAudio have released two versions of this album, the 2015 version, largely the same as all early pressings, and the 2019 pREServed double CD edition co-released by New Ralph Too and Cherry Red Records.

Year Label Format Region Notes
1980 Ralph Records LP USA Three variations.
PRE Records UK Incorrect track listing on sleeve
Charisma Records Germany Incorrect track listing on sleeve, no track listing on label.
Cassette Suburban Bathers misspelt.
Missing Link LP Australia
7 Records & Tapes Cassette
RTC LP New Zealand
1981 Celluloid LP+7" France Incorrect track listing on sleeve, contains additional 7".
LP Correct track listing on sleeve. No 7"
Vogue Cassette Suburban Bathers misspelt.
1985 Ralph Records LP USA 13th Anniversary Re-Press.
1988
East Side Digital CD Contains 10 bonus tracks.
Torso LP Holland
CD Contains 10 bonus tracks.
1990 T.E.C. Tones Cassette USA 10th Anniversary Re-Press.
1994 Euro Ralph CD Europe As part of the Memoriam Torso Box Set.
1995 Remastered Version
1997 East Side Digital USA
Bomba Records Japan Remastered Version, comes with 16 page booklet.
2004 Mute Europe 24th Anniversary Repress (Mislabled as 25th.) 32 Page Booklet
2010 Birdsong/Hayabusa Landings Japan 30th Anniversary Remaster. Same bonus tracks as 1988.
2015 MVD Audio USA
2019 New Ralph Too, Cherry Red USA, EU pREServed edition. 2xCD

See also

Listen online

External links and references

  1. Billboard magazine, November 15th 1980, pg 23
  2. I know there are plans afoot for some mail order only obscure vinyl too, but The Residents were slightly unsure what the demand would be, so this all bodes well. The complete '1-10 (With A Touch Of 11)' tape, the complete 'German Slide' tape, the complete 'Commercial Album' commercials tape (which I think is a mono mix of the album too) and so on..." - Richard AndersonThe Residents Facebook group, March 19th 2019
  3. "I was sent a bunch of Commercial Album multitrack explorations this week. Fantastic sounding stuff... as I understand it they were so pleased with how the pREServed stuff was received that they've dug out the multitracks of the 70s albums and begun playing around with those. That's how both Eskimo DeConstructed and X Is For Xtra came about, I think." - Richard Anderson, Ralph Records Facebook page, October 6th 2020
  4. The Residents - [1]Heaven? Credits
  5. 2004 Mute Re-issue Credits
  6. 2018 'pREServed' Liner notes
  7. https://residents.com/historical/?page=commercialalbum#commsingle