Produced in adherence with the "Theory of Phonetic Organization", devised by the mysterious Bavarian avant-garde composer N. Senada, Meet The Residents was Ralph Records' second release (after the Santa Dog EP in 1972).
The group known (then) as Residents, Uninc. had been recording actively and producing tapes since the late 1970s, as well as developing an ambitious film project, Vileness Fats, in their new studio space, El Ralpho, a former print-works on Sycamore St. in San Francisco.
Despite producing a number of demo tapes during this period (including The W***** B*** Album and B.S.), and a small number of public performances, the group's recordings had been private in nature until the 1972 release of their debut EP, Santa Dog - pressed in a limited edition and mailed to handpicked recipients.
The recordings which would eventually comprise Meet The Residents were not originally intended to become their debut studio album, but instead originated from a series of loose improvisational sessions regularly held by the group with various friends on Tuesdays between February and October 1973, as well as hours of further experimental and improvisational jamming during breaks in filming Vileness Fats.
Meet The Residents was then assembled by the group from the best of these sessions, in accordance with the Theory of Phonetic Organization, conceived by the obscure Bavarian avant-garde composer and music theorist N. Senada. Senada had appeared suddenly on the group's doorstep a couple of years prior, and had since assumed a mentor-like role with the group, appearing with them at their public performances and on their early recordings.
The group's friend Pamela Zeibak (who had also appeared in Vileness Fats) provided her signature operatic vocals on "Spotted Pinto Bean". She was later quoted as saying that since she was also working with a group at university who wrote "new music", she was very open to The Residents' experimental recordings.
The Residents wanted to release their first album with a provocative album cover design, to attract attention and invite purchases in record stores. As such, the album art, by Homer Flynn's Porno Graphics, defaces the front cover of Meet The Beatles!, The Beatles' second US album release.
EMI and Capitol Records were angry about the cover and threatened to sue the group, however it has often been said that at least one of The Beatles (variously John Lennon, George Harrison or Ringo Starr) loved the cover and had it displayed in his office.
Despite its arresting album art, Meet The Residents was not a success - The Residents estimate that aside from family and friends, only forty people bought the album of their own free will in the first year after its release.
Meet The Residents was the first release to officially credit the group simply as The Residents - their only prior official release, the 1972 Santa Dog double 7" EP, was credited to a variety of different pseudonyms (including "Residents, Uninc." and The Delta Nudes).
The group had financed the pressing of 1000 copies of the album, for release on their own Ralph Records imprint. Ralph had no means of nationwide distribution or even getting the album accepted for sale in record shops in California. The Residents also had no interest in promoting the album through live performances or touring, the usual way a band would generate interest from the public and press.
With some prodding from friends (including the art collective Ant Farm), The Residents instead chose more unique ways to market the release of Meet The Residents, producing a six minute abbreviated edit which was then pressed onto 4000 8" flexidiscs. These "samplers" were given away for free in Canadian art publication File Magazine, and Bay Area student publication Friday. This backfired, as most of the readers of both magazines assumed, due to the defaced Beatles album art, that the disc was a joke.
Eventually, Rather Ripped Records in Berkeley, California took a few copies. The group were so excited by this that they went down to the store to take a photograph of a copy prominently displayed in the racks. The album also gained some airplay from Portland disc jockey William Reinhardt, who became a close friend of the group. Reinhardt would then convince Portland record store, which "sat there for almost a year", eventually selling half of them, with a Resident attending the store personally to collect the check.
Stereo remixIn 1976, The Residents' newly-minted management company The Cryptic Corporation gained the original masters used to create the original monaural version of Meet The Residents from the group, and the Cryptics' engineer Hardy Fox proceeded to remix and re-edit the tracks to create an entirely new stereo mix, also choosing to shorten the album by nearly seven minutes overall.
This remixed version of Meet The Residents would be released in 1977, but due to the complaints about the album art from EMI and Capitol, the reissue featured a different cover, still parodying The Beatles, but this time featuring "John Crawfish, George Crawfish, Paul McCrawfish, and Ringo Starfish", with illustrations of the applicable sea creatures wearing Beatles suits.
Subsequent re-releases of the album have alternated between these two versions. The first CD pressing was the first edition to restore the full unedited mono version, but subsequent CD editions have reverted to the edited master. The 1988 reissue of the album also included the Santa Dog EP as bonus tracks. The 2018 pREServed edition includes both versions of the album, Santa Dog, and numerous previously unheard outtakes from the Meet the Residents sessions.
Although Meet The Residents was largely ignored at the time of its release, it has since garnered critical acclaim. David Cleary of AllMusic gave the album 4 stars, calling the group "true avant-garde crazies...[their] work of this time really sounds like nothing else that exists."
Nils Bernstein of eMusic also gave the album 4 stars, saying its "brilliance lies in collaging less avant-garde elements like vaudeville, early rock ‘n’ roll, world music and snippets of pop culture in "songs" that were as disorienting as the barrage of media and consumerism they subtly critiqued – the medium is the message, indeed."
In a positive review, Julian Cope said of the album "just as DJ's would play the best minute and a half or so the latest garage, soul or pop hits before fading it out into another great single before the listener gets bored, The Residents weld together a collage of the most annoyingly catchy riffs and tunes leaving the listener initially confused and later hooked."
Original mono version
- Boots (Hazelwood) (1:38)
- Numb Erone (1:05)
- Guylum Bardot (1:19)
- Breath and Length (1:45)
- Consuelo's Departure (1:44)
- Smelly Tongues (1:46)
- Rest Aria (5:06)
- Skratz (1:44)
- Spotted Pinto Bean (6:35)
- Infant Tango (5:57)
- Seasoned Greetings (5:06)
- N-ER-GEE (Crisis Blues) (9:41)
1977 stereo remix
- Boots (Hazelwood) (0:53)
- Numb Erone (1:07)
- Guylum Bardot (1:21)
- Breath and Length (1:42)
- Consuelo's Departure (0:59)
- Smelly Tongues (1:47)
- Rest Aria (5:09)
- Skratz (1:42)
- Spotted Pinto Bean (5:27)
- Infant Tango (5:27)
- Seasoned Greetings (5:13)
- N-ER-GEE (Crisis Blues) (7:16)
pREServed edition (2018)
The pREServed edition of Meet The Residents includes both the mono and stereo versions of the album, as well as Santa Dog, and a number of previously unheard outtakes from the same time period, including early versions of tracks later featured on the finished album, as well as most of the instrumental suite "1-10 (With A Touch of 11)" and excerpts from the group's Tuesday jam sessions.
It also features what may be old instrumentals with newly recorded vocals from the Singing Resident ("Spotted Pinto Queen" and "Poisoned Popcorn"), as well as tracks which appear to originate from an aborted attempt to produce a new version of the album circa 2013 ("Boots Again").
(*) indicates tracks which are previously unreleased.
Meet The Residents 1974 mono mix + Santa Dog EP + outtakes and ephemera
- Boots (Hazelwood) (1:26)
- Numb Erone (1:21)
- Guylum Bardot (1:23)
- Breath and Length (1:45)
- Consuelo's Departure (1:47)
- Smelly Tongues (1:51)
- Rest Aria (5:29)
- Skratz (1:49)
- Spotted Pinto Bean (6:46)
- Infant Tango (6:06)
- Seasoned Greetings (5:13)
- N-ER-GEE (Crisis Blues) (10:20)
- Fire (1:47)
- Explosion (3:22)
- Lightning (2:21)
- Aircraft Damage (3:57)
- Tuesday #1 / Guylum Bardot Version (2:25) (*)
- Boots Again (Hazelwood) (2:03) (*)
- Numb Erone / Inka (2:54) (*)
- Tuesday #2 / Smelly Tongues Version (2:07) (*)
- Consuela's Return (2:23) (*)
- Breadth and Length Version (2:04) (*)
- Numb Erone 'Live' (2:19) (*)
- Spotted Pinto Bean / Tuesday #5 (1:59) (*)
- 7733 Variations (1:18) (*)
Meet The Residents 1977 stereo mix + outtakes and ephemera
- Boots (Hazelwood) (0:50)
- Numb Erone (1:08)
- Guylum Bardot (1:20)
- Breath and Length (1:41)
- Consuelo's Departure (0:58)
- Smelly Tongues (1:45)
- Rest Aria (5:14)
- Skratz (1:42)
- Spotted Pinto Bean (5:31)
- Infant Tango (5:26)
- Seasoned Greetings (5:06)
- N-ER-GEE (Crisis Blues) (7:49)
- Overlay At High Speed (0:43) (*)
- Spotted Pinto Queen (2:59) (*)
- Inka Don't Dry (3:08) (*)
- Tuesday #3 (1:04) (*)
- Quick Brain Tuesday (0:45) (*)
- Poisoned Popcorn (2:45) (*)
- N-Er-Gee Crisis Outro (0:55) (*)
- 1-10 (With A Touch of 11) Pt. 1 (5:09) (*)
- 1-10 (With A Touch of 11) Pt. 4 (4:00) (*)
- 1-10 (With A Touch of 11) Pt. 5 (1:37) (*)
- 1-10 (With A Touch of 11) Pt. 6 (3:29) (*)
- 1-10 (With A Touch of 11) Pt. 7 (1:53) (*)
- 1-10 (With A Touch of 11) Pt. 8 (2:33) (*)
The Residents began collecting interesting and unusual tapes in the early 60's in an effort to expand their awareness of the very nature of sound. The tapes came from everywhere... cassettes of soldiers in Vietnam singing songs with impromptu instrumentation... reels from second hand shops... sounds effects and bird call collections from garage sales... and, yes, even a few bootleg tapes of well known pop artists going avant-garde between takes which were purchased on the black market and stored in a local bank vault.
The Residents not only collected other peoples tapes, but gained widespread notoriety for their unusual recordings. The underground network carried their reputation across the oceans where it finally hit the ears of the then unknown Englishman, "Snakefinger" Lithman. Packing a few clothes, he flew directly to San Mateo, California where the Residents then had their sound studios, in hopes of studying tapes of early Cajun music the Residents were alleged to have recorded while in college in Louisiana. 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 English), and 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.
The Residents negotiated with Warner Bros. Records executive Hal Halverstadt over the rights to the Snakefinger/N. Senada/Residents tapes, but Warner Bros. hit by a slump in record sales, decided the audience appeal was too limited and at the last minute withdrew their offer.
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. Senada. The Residents have taken the basic ideas of the phonetic organization but have applied the theories to a more Western style of music. The translation does not always hold intact, though there is more than enough example of this staggering new music style.
The instruments used on this record have been tuned to approximate Western culture harmonies and artistic freedom is assumed for the right to substitute normal instruments where necessary.
Listen closely to the record. Let the strangeness wear off through a couple of plays. Soon you too will whistle the merry tunes and wonder along with The Residents who that old man N. Senada really was.
Meet The Residents was originally released in 1974, on the Ralph Records label. The tapes were monaural recordings on home equipment and suffered further fidelity loss in the mastering and pressing stages. In 1976, The Cryptic Corporation came into legal possession of The Residents' recordings, and began working on how to restore these original tapes to studio quality. Using the master tape as a directive, the album was disassembled, reprocessed, and reconstructed into this true stereophonic version. No re-recording was employed. The artists who appear on this recording have personally approved this as an authorized realization of the original LP.
2018 pREServed edition
Both the original 1974 mono master and the 1977 stereo master have been excavated from The Residents' archives and remastered from the original tapes for this release. Embrace, enjoy and meet The Residents all over again. Possibly as you've never heard them before (offer subject to playback equipment, listener mood and extraneous atmospherics).
"On Meet The Residents" by Harvey Sox
Recently a new phenomenon has erupted in the recording industry. Record consumption has reached a high enough level to support the creation of private labels dedicated to material considered non-commercial by large corporate structures. Certainly one of the most interesting albums to emerge on a nationwide underground scale is Ralph Records' first release, Meet The Residents.
The cover takes a biting slap at the Beatles, with the original Capitol Records' Meet The Beatles jacket exactly reproduced with appropriate tongue-in-cheek changes like fangs, crossed eyes, drooling tongue, etc. Capitol Records, alerted to the possible breach of copyright, has threatened to "take action" if Ralph Records should press a second edition of Meet The Residents.
The parodies, however, are not simply confined to some type of humorous duplication. Illustrations seem the best way to explain their unusual characteristics. One cut aptly named "Infant Tango" (no doubt a pun on the notorious disease) is a shuck & jive soul number featuring Chinese instrumentation (properly wah-wahed) and electronically altered jazz saxophone. Does that explain it? Well, how about "Spotted Pinto Bean"? I would say Sun Ra with opera and honky-tonk after-hours piano during a thunderstorm backed by a Motown horn section. Is that any clearer? Maybe you have to hear it to understand.
Many listeners have compared Meet The Residents to some of the strange European releases which have recently been filtering more and more into the American music scene. However, The Residents are so totally American in the sources from which they draw, that the result is more pop-artish than, say, the heavy handed Germans or cutesie English. I mean, who else even thought to wonder how Stockhausen would do "These Boots Are Made For Walking"?
The Residents' Meet The Residents is not everyone's cup of tea. In fact, for most it is more a cup of bitters, but for that small minority for whom this record was made, it must be near heaven.
|1988||East Side Digital||CD||US|
|1997||East Side Digital||CD||US|
|2009||Birdsong & Hayabusa Landings||CD||JPN|
|2011||Ralph Records & MVD Audio||LP||US|
|2018||New Ralph Too, MVD Audio & Cherry Red||CD||UK, EU & US|
- Meet The Residents at The Residents Historical
- Meet The Residents at RZweb
- Meet The Residents at Discogs
- Meet The Residents pREServed edition at Cherry Red Records