Considered by The Residents to be the official beginning of their history as a recording group, Santa Dog was first issued in a limited number of gatefold "Christmas cards" containing two 7" singles, sent to selected recipients (including Frank Zappa and Richard Nixon).
Santa Dog (alongside the group's debut album Meet The Residents) is considered by The Residents to be the first entry in their official catalog of recordings. The group had earlier recorded the demo tape B.S. in 1971 under their newly-adopted moniker, Residents, Uninc., and up to this point, had been a loose assembly of friends with a rotating membership.
Between October and December 1972, the group recorded four songs which were their most elaborate and sophisticated recording efforts to date. The songs were compiled into a double 7" EP, entitled Santa Dog (after a phrase which recurs heavily in the opening song "Fire").
Each of the four songs appearing on Santa Dog is credited to a different, fictional artist (including Ivory and the Brain Eaters, The College Walkers, Arf and Omega with The Singing Lawn Chairs, and The Delta Nudes), with additional fictional songwriting credits for each track. The four listed artists are all essentially The Residents, though each track features a different member of the group on lead vocals.
For the EP, the group made extensive and pioneering use of samples from other records, for instance "Fire" heavily samples "Peter Gunn" by The Ventures (from the album Play Guitar With The Ventures Volume 7), "Explosion" samples "Hunters of Heaven" from the album of the same name by Harumi, and "Lightning" samples "Two Ritmicas" by Amadeo Roldán.
"Aircraft Damage" was originally written and recorded for the soundtrack of the group's feature film project Vileness Fats. In the film, the song features as a chant used by Arf and Omega to summon the Indian princess Weescoosa in order to help them save the town of Vileness Flats.
"Fire" is frequently revisited by The Residents; the group re-recorded the track in 1978, 1988, 1992 and on the Refused compilation, which also featured an aborted attempt from 1984. Further versions followed in 2006, 2012 and 2017. The group initially planned to create a new version of "Fire" every six years, however after the perceived failure of the 1984 version, they decided instead to revisit it whenever their outlook or musical direction had changed sufficiently.
The Santa Dog EP consisted of two 45s in a hand silk-screened gatefold sleeve, which had been designed (by Homer Flynn in the guise of his newly founded graphic design company Porno/Graphics) to look like a Christmas card from an insurance company.
This sleeve included artwork illustrating each song, surrounded by text saying "Season's Greetings from Residents, Uninc." and announcing the upcoming Vileness Fats film project ("coming soon to a theater near you"). 500 copies were pressed, but only 400 were usable because of various problems. In addition, some of the sets were shrink-wrapped before the varnish on the silk-screening was dry, and the packages had to be torn apart to be opened.
Of the 400 usable copies, 300 were sent out to friends, record companies, and anyone else who came to mind, including then-President of the United States Richard Nixon, whose copy was returned stamped "Refused". The group sent a copy to Frank Zappa, but it was also returned to them unopened as Zappa no longer lived at that address.
Santa Dog was reissued for the first (and to date, only) time in its original double 7" format by Superior Viaduct in 2014, closely replicating the original design of the package.
Response from Hal Halverstadt
Similarly to the group's earlier demo tapes The W***** B*** Album and B.S., Santa Dog was also sent to Warner Bros. Records director of merchandising Hal Halverstadt, who the group had struck up an unlikely correspondence with, and who had inadvertently inspired their name in 1971 when returning The W***** B*** Album addressed to "Residents, 167½ 17th Avenue, San Mateo".
A letter to the group from Halverstadt reacting warmly to news of the founding of Ralph Records and the group's move into their Sycamore Street studio space is briefly seen in a video of Homer Flynn exploring The Residents' archive; although it is not entirely visible in the video, the legible text of the letter reads:
"Actually... actually... I'm your basic Mr. Empathy. And I was touched by your kind words of thanks (for what, I'm still not sure) and stimulated by what sounds like PROGRESS for the guys who comprise Residents, Uninc.
Congratulations (you knew I'd give in and say it) and please feed my name to Ralph.
If and when a party materializes to celebrate the opening of your new art factory, do put my name at the top of the list. In the meantime, if you can stand it, a bundle from Burbank is on its way with a pick of the past two months' crop - hopefully enough variety for every musical taste.
P.S. Stop wasting your money on Special Delivery."
- Ivory and the Brain Eaters - Fire (Play) (1:43)
- The Delta Nudes - Explosion (Gnue) (2:15)
- The College Walkers - Lightning (Givens) (3:17)
- Arf and Omega featuring The Singing Lawn Chairs - Aircraft Damage (Barnes/America) (3:45)
- The Ventures appear courtesy of Dolton Records
- The Singing Lawn Chairs appear courtesy of San Mateo County
- "Aircraft Damage" from the Ralph film "Vileness Fats" coming soon to a theater near you
- Artwork - Porno/Graphics
- Ralph Records and Porno/Graphics are divisions of Residents, Uninc. 18 Sycamore St Bldg SF CA 94110 (415) 863 5896
- © 1972
|1988||East Side Digital||CD||Bonus tracks with||11:16|
|1999||Ralph America||US||Part of Refused||11:12|
|2009||Birdsong & Hayabusa Landings||JP||Bonus tracks with||11:14|
|2018||New Ralph Too, MVD Audio & Cherry Red||CD||pREServed - bonus tracks with||11:29|
- "Santa Dog '78"
- "Santa Dog '84"
- "Santa Dog 88"
- "Santa Dog '92"
- "Santa Dog 17"
- Meet The Residents
Side A: "Fire" by Ivory and the Brain Eaters · Side B: "Explosion" by The Delta Nudes