Not Available is the second album recorded by The Residents, and their fourth in order of release. Supposedly recorded in complete secrecy between February and May 1974, Not Available was shelved by the group after completion, to be released only when the group had entirely forgotten they had recorded it.
A cohesive musical operetta in four parts and an epilogue, Not Available was eventually released by The Cryptic Corporation on Ralph Records on October 12th 1978, as a stop-gap following continual delays in the release of the group's ambitious project Eskimo.
- 1 History
- 2 Plot
- 3 Release
- 4 Cover art
- 5 Legacy
- 6 Track listing
- 7 pREServed edition (2019)
- 8 Liner notes
- 9 Credits
- 10 Release history
- 11 See also
- 12 Buy Or Die!
- 13 External links and references
Around the time of the release of their official debut album Meet The Residents in early 1974, The Residents were on the brink of collapse. The loose assembly of friends and creatives had been living together at their Sycamore Street warehouse for three years, and during that time had developed certain personal, creative, and sexual tensions, including the issue of a love triangle involving two members of the group.
Rather than let the group splinter, The Residents instead took the opportunity to isolate themselves, and developed their tensions into a dense psychodrama, conducting "rehearsals" as a form of group therapy and casting the primary roles in the drama with the actual parties involved in the group's tensions: Edweena, the woman at the center of the love triangle, her lover Porcupine, his rival Catbird, a Greek chorus in the person of Uncle Remus, and The Enigmatic Foe, whose role in the proceedings only became clear as the players acted instinctively, leading the drama towards a wholly unexpected conclusion.
While these rehearsals were ongoing (and unbeknownst to the other members of the group), one Resident saw potential in the idea of turning the developing drama into a musical operetta, and to this end gathered a number of recently-recorded musical scraps (including elements from the proposed score to their feature film Vileness Fats) into a demo reel which was given the provisional title X Is For Xtra (A Conclusion).
The lyrics to the operetta had mostly written themselves naturally through the process of rehearsal; "Ship's A Goin' Down" directly referenced the abyss the group was facing (and remains the only track The Residents have ever recorded in which the voices of all four members can be heard). The Residents then edited, mixed and re-recorded these elements, crafting an avant-garde symphony in four movements, which they would eventually title Not Available.
During this process, the Resident who had first compiled the recordings had become an adherent of Bavarian music theorist N. Senada's Theory of Obscurity, which posited that an artist does their best work in isolation, free of the influence of an audience; to this end, the Resident began to believe that the completed operetta should be withheld from release. Having now mostly resolved their differences, the rest of the group were happy to keep the album in the archives - they considered the completed work far too personally revealing to ever be released to the public - and unanimously decided to shelve the recordings for the foreseeable future.
Not Available focuses on a love triangle between three characters, Edweena, The Porcupine (her lover), and The Catbird (his rival), narrated by the distant and objective Uncle Remus. Spurred into a complete breakdown by the proceedings, The Porcupine's place in the operetta's climactic duel scene is taken by The Enigmatic Foe, a figure whose role in the proceedings up to this point has been unknown.
As the operetta reaches its peak, The Catbird and The Enigmatic Foe aim pistols at one another, while The Porcupine hides in a bush. Finally, the two come to the realization that Edweena, the mutual object of their desire, has eloped with the independently wealthy Uncle Remus. The tension is shattered by the Porcupine, who emerges from the shrubbery to paraphrase Shakespeare.
With illusions of love destroyed, the three are then able to forgive, embrace and even welcome the traitorous Remus back to the fold upon his return from his unexpected honeymoon.
The earliest reference by The Residents to an unreleased second album can be found in the liner notes of the group's third album (second in order of release), The Third Reich 'n Roll, in 1976. Judging from this and other promotional material from around this time, the official word was that the group had no intention of ever releasing this mysterious album, claiming that, in strict accordance with N. Senada's Theory of Obscurity, the work must strictly remain "not available" until its creators had forgotten its existence.
The eventual publication of the album came about as the result of further tensions within The Residents in 1978, when they were working on Eskimo, a much-touted (and already delayed) major release. However, after a disagreement with their management company The Cryptic Corporation, the members of the group disappeared to England with the master tapes, seeking refuge with their friend Chris Cutler.
In need of something to release, the Cryptics pulled "some old tapes" off the shelves, releasing them as Not Available. A promotional campaign, announcing "Now It Can Be Sold" (echoing the famous DEVO slogan "Now It Can Be Told") accompanied the release of the album on Ralph Records.
The Residents are said to have reacted to the unexpected release of Not Available with "a shrug", arguing that with the passage of time since the original recordings, and as they had not intentionally released it themselves, the release did not affect the philosophical conditions under which the album had originally been recorded.
Not Available was reissued by Ralph Records in 1983, and on CD in 1988 by Torso in the Netherlands and East Side Digital in the US. Torso also reissued the album on vinyl at this time. It was next reissued by East Side Digital on CD in 1997, and on vinyl and CD in 2004 and 2005 by Euro Ralph.
In 2011, The Cryptic Corporation released a newly remastered, extended version of Not Available, which restored approximately seven minutes of previously unheard material to the running time of the album. This material includes an extended instrumental introduction to "Edweena", and the pieces "Soundtrack Music Piece 17" and "Asonarose" (which are integrated into "Ship's A'Going Down" and "Never Known Questions" respectively).
The Residents originally intended to issue Not Available in a plain black sleeve, apparently with no credit or album title displayed anywhere on the packaging. The group would enact a similar concept many years later with the 2018 and 2019 pREServed Record Store Day vinyl editions of their long-unreleased demo tapes, The W***** B*** Album and B.S..
For the final release, the group instead opted for a more elaborate design by Pore-Know Graphics, prominently featuring a painting of the album's central figure Edweena, itself based on a drawing by "a Resident". The original drawing was shown publicly in 2011 at Johansson Projects in Oakland, California, in an exhibition of art by Homer Flynn and The Residents.
The back cover features a promotional photo of the Atomic Shopping Carts, on the set of the group's unfinished film Vileness Fats - perhaps a subtle reference to the true origin of many of the recordings which comprise the finished album.
Chronologically in terms of release, Not Available is The Residents' fourth studio album. However, the group themselves regard it as their second, and it has often been referred to as such in press releases and promotional material.
Due to the complexity of its tracks, the group have rarely performed songs from Not Available live in their entirety, instead usually opting to play segments. The only complete live performance of a Not Available track was in October of 2010, when Randy Rose and Už Jsme Doma performed "Never Known Questions" during a one-off concert in the Czech Republic.
When the group was planning their aborted 10th Anniversary show in 1982, they created a three minute abridged version of "Ship's A'Going Down" which exclusively featured the song's chorus. This shortened arrangement was adapted for the 13th Anniversary tour, where it was segued between "Eloise" and "The New Machine (Success)". The group would later adapt a segment from "The Making Of A Soul" into "Mourning Glories" for their Shadowland tour between 2014 and 2016.
"Ship's A'Going Down" was also the basis for the track "Ship of Fools" from the group's 20th Anniversary "mash-up" album, Our Finest Flowers in 1992. The Residents later performed "Ship of Fools" live during The Way We Were tour in 2005, and one year later, created a remix of it that would eventually appear on the 2009 album RMX. It was also performed during the Shadowland tour, as the finale to the main set.
In October 2014 Charles Bobuck digitally released solo versions of "The Making Of A Soul" and "Never Known Questions", both featuring Nolan Cook on guitar. The success of these newly-recorded renditions ultimately led Bobuck to record a full album of solo versions of Residents songs, Bobuck Plays The Residents, in September 2016.
All tracks composed by The Residents.
Side A (19:22)
- Part One: Edweena (9:27)
- Part Two: The Making Of A Soul (9:55)
Side B (15:54)
- Part Three: Ship's A'Going Down (6:34)
- Part Four: Never Known Questions (6:59)
- Epilogue (2:21)
"Classic Series" CD reissue (1988)
- Part One: Edweena (9:25)
- Part Two: The Making Of A Soul (9:56)
- Part Three: Ship's A'Going Down (6:30)
- Part Four: Never Known Questions (7:05)
- Epilogue (2:25)
- Intro: Version (with Renaldo & The Loaf) (1:22)
- The Shoe Salesman (with Renaldo & The Loaf) (4:08)
- Crashing (with Renaldo & The Loaf) (1:40)
- Monkey & Bunny (with Renaldo & The Loaf) (4:57)
- Mahogany Wood (with Renaldo & The Loaf) (4:09)
- The Sailor Song (with Renaldo & The Loaf) (6:00)
Extended edition (2010)
All tracks composed by The Residents.
Side A (20:58)
- Part One: Edweena (10:55)
- Part Two: The Making Of A Soul (10:03)
Side B (21:25)
- Part Three: Ship's A'Going Down (10:10)
- Part Four: Never Known Questions (8:54)
- Epilogue (2:21)
pREServed edition (2019)
Not Available was initially not included with the rest of The Residents' "classic era" albums in phase one of their pREServed reissue campaign (2018-present), in order to "pREServe" the Theory of Obscurity which guided the album's composition. It was, however, listed and crossed out in the liner notes to the reissues of Eskimo and Commercial Album in early 2019, even being designated a catalog number, NRT007.
The pREServed edition of Not Available was finally released in November 2019, alongside the 1971-1972 compilation set A Nickle If Your Dick's This Big. It includes the original 1978 release of the album on disc one, with bonus live versions of the album's tracks recorded between 1982 and 2014, and a second disc containing most of the contents of "X Is For Xtra", the previously unheard 1974 demo reel which eventually became Not Available.
The second disc features slightly longer versions of "Asonarose" and "Soundtrack Music Piece 17" than the edits previously heard on the 2011 extended version of Not Available. The pREServed edition does not include the extended "Edweena" from the 2011 edition, or the piano instrumental section "Available Piece" previously heard on the Beautiful Eyes compilation in 2010 (though part of the latter is audible in the background of the track "New Mexico Dream").
An unlisted bonus track, a pump organ version of "Rest Aria" entitled "Russian Love Song" is featured at the end of the second disc. Richard Anderson of Cherry Red Records has noted that this is the earliest known recording related to the Not Available project. An additional outtake, "Available Nonsensical", was first included in a promotional YouTube video announcing the release, and was released by The Residents for free on their official website shortly thereafter. The group explained that they found this outtake too late to include it in the pREServed set before it was printed.
(*) indicates tracks which are previously unreleased.
All tracks composed by The Residents.
Not Available + Available Live
- Part One: Edweena (9:27)
- Part Two: The Making Of A Soul (9:52)
- Part Three: Ship's A'Going Down (6:33)
- Part Four: Never Known Questions (6:59)
- Epilogue (2:35)
- Ship's A'Going Down (1982 Rehearsal) (2:36)
- Ship's A'Going Down (Live, 1986) (4:14)
- Mourning Glories (Live, 2014) (3:58)
- Mehico Ron Devoo (*) (3:04)
- Theme From X (With Roman Overtones) (*) (2:29)
- Theme From X (Pt 2) (*) (1:44)
- Salome And Goiter (*) (1:47)
- New Mexico Dream (*) (5:09)
- Ho Ho Bumped His Toe (*) (0:49)
- Where To Begin? (*) (4:22)
- Fairly Well (*) (4:09)
- Love Sprong (*) (2:47)
- Ah, Spare Us Gus (*) (2:09)
- Slow Texture (*) (2:17)
- Tennessee Williams (*) (2:06)
- Little A (An Authentic Folk Song) (*) (2:19)
- Asonarose (*) (2:30)
- Anaconda Montana (*) (2:53)
- Tune Of The Unknown (*) (1:31)
- Soundtrack Music Piece 17 (*) (1:54)
- Oh Solo Meow (*) (3:35)
- Mehico Ron Devoo Finale (*) (2:31)
- Russian Love Song (*) (14:46) (unlisted)
Torso CD edition (1988)
While there are a million stories about The Residents, one of the more intriguing concerns the recording of their second LP, Not Available. Early in the career of the band, the "theory of obscurity" was introduced to them by the German avant gardist, N. Senada. The plan called for the creation of complete projects that were literally not intended to be heard by anyone other than its creators. The Residents realized the truth in this ideal: that music really was difficult to record without considering the audience. They thought the experience gained by completing such a project would prove worthwhile toward achieving an independent attitude toward music. N. Senada had also been quick to point out that such a project reduces the amount of artistic clutter that is quickly swallowing the planet.
Not Available was completed in 1974 and stored. Several years later, in 1978, The Residents were severely over schedule on their opus, Eskimo. The final release deadline set by the record company arrived only to find that The Residents had fled to Europe and taken Eskimo with them. In desperation, the record company pulled Not Available from the masters room and released it. Surprisingly, The Residents were not upset by this fact since it in no way violated their original intent. Eventually Eskimo was retrieved from the bank vault in London but... well ... that's another story.
- Composed, Arranged, Recorded & Produced By: The Residents
- Reprocessed By: Ralph Records
- Cover Art by: Pore-Know Graphics
- Based on a drawing by a Resident
- Musician: Sally Lewis 
- Narrator: Reed Paulsen 
|1978||Ralph Records||LP||US||35:16||Three variations exist with different label colors.|
|1988||East Side Digital||CD||35:42||10th Anniversary CD, bonus selections from Title In Limbo.|
|1997||East Side Digital||CD||US||35:34|
|CD||RU||35:26||Part of Russian 'indie ВИД' series.|
|2010||MVD Audio||LP||US||42:23||Special Expanded Edition, 7 minutes longer.|
|Birdsong/Hayabusa Landings||CD||JP||35:31||Bonus selections from Title In Limbo.|
|Euro Ralph||RU||35:23||Box Set with Meet The Residents.|
|2011||MVD Audio||LP||US||42:23||Special Expanded Edition, 7 minutes longer.|
|2019||New Ralph Too/Cherry Red||CD||US/EU||35:26||2xCD pREServed edition.|
*Not including bonus tracks
Buy Or Die!
- Not Available at The Residents Historical
- Not Available at RZWeb
- Not Available at Discogs
- Not Available pREServed edition at Discogs
(1974 - 1978)
|The Mysterious N. Senada|
(1907 - 1993)
Max Steinway · Hardy Fox · Philip "Snakefinger" Lithman · The Delta Nudes · Residents, Uninc. · "Eloise" · "Kamakazi Lady" · Andrew Hook · O for Obscurity, Or, The Story of N.