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A studio version of the third part of the group's Cube-E live show, The King & Eye is narrated by an aging Elvis Presley impersonator, telling the story of "The Baby King" to his two grandchildren through Presley's back catalog of hits.
The Residents have had a strange relationship with Elvis Presley since their childhoods. Likely having been aware of him since his debut on Louisiana public radio in 1954, the young music fanatics watched his career develop with great interest, seeing him as the culmination of American music. But over the years, as Elvis' star faded, they instead began to see him as a tragic figure, forced to represent all of American culture, and thus, milked to near death, and ultimately 'killed' by the rising popularity of British music, which had itself been influenced by Elvis' All-American combination.
The Residents saw this tale of tragedy spelled out in The King's lyrics, hidden behind catchy beats. Each song presented a different aspect of the man's life, even if he hadn't written most of them.
They parodied and paid tribute to The King several times following his premature death at the age of 42, starting with "Elvis & His Boss" from 1978's Duck Stab!/Buster & Glen, and continuing with two full studio covers of "Jailhouse Rock".
When the group were creating their "Buckaroo Blues" suite, which explores how modern popular music was influenced by Old-Western poetry and folk songs, they realized that Cowboy Music + African American Work Songs = Elvis, and began to work on a live performance based on that concept. The result was Cube-E, which told the history of American Music in three pieces.
Deciding that the third part of the Cube-E performance, "The Baby King", could stand on its own, The Residents began working on studio arrangements, recording a demo album at Ralph Studios in June of 1988, before debuting the live show in July at The Cowell Theater in San Francisco.
Following these performances and the particularly positive reception that the Elvis material receievd, the group used their larger than usual recording budget, to book a session at Different Fur Studios, where they, along with backing vocalist Laurie Amat, MX-80 guitarist Bruce Anderson, members of The Cryptic Corporation, Homer Flynn's daughter Jana Flynn, and Ralph Records' owner Tim Timony's son, Simon Timony, recorded the entire album in a single day.
At the time of recording, The Residents were in between record labels, Ralph was under significant financial distress, and was approaching bankruptcy, and RykoDisc had just dropped them, likely due to their expensive God In Three Persons mutli-release 'Potato Chips' concept. As a result they signed a two album deal with Enigma Records, a record company that had found success with alternate bands in the past, and had been home to friends of The Residents DEVO and They Might Be Giants. The album was released on Cassette by Enigma sublabel Restless Records. It was released in Holland by Torso, and in Greece by Virgin.
The album's packaging was handled differently: while Pore Know Graphics, the band's own in-house design group, did the actual cover art, the group hired Rex Ray, who was doing all of the UWEB artwork at the time, to do the packaging.
The "nothing new" complaint which had plagued the two American Composer Series albums resurfaced, and some felt that the studio version just did not live up to the live performance. Ian Shirley, in his biography Meet The Residents, describes the entire production as weak. Others, on the other hand, felt that the album was wonderful: Cole Gagne praises it highly in Sonic Transports.
In order to promote the album, Enigma, Torso, & Virgin all funded a world tour of the band's Cube-E live show, which the album was an adaption of. The first leg of the tour saw them play America & Europe. A second leg of America & Europe was funded by the trio of labels for Winter 1989/1990. Despite the mixed reception to The King & Eye, Cube-E was a smash success, and Enigma funded a third tour of the US for November 1990. It concluded prematurely, when a speaker fell into the audience and caught alight. Sensing more disasters in the future, and feeling that audiences were only there to see freaky visuals and hear weird music, the group decided to quit while they were ahead, and began working on their next album. Freak Show.
The King & Eye is a decisive album within The Residents' fanbase, whilst some are heavily critical of the strange production choices, others praise it for its unique sense of fun found in many of its tracks.
More recent references to The King & Eye almost come off as revisionist, the 1992 'Our Finest Flowers' album, The Residents re-wrote 'Little Sister' into the creepier Baby Sister, and in 2004 released 'The King & Eye: RMX' which transforms the original recordings into a 2000s style dance album.
Outside of the Cube-E tour, only one song from this album has been performed live; Teddy Bear, which seems to sum up the album's themes of lust and restriction into one song. It was played as the encore to the Way We Were show in 2005, as a part of the 2013 Wonder of Weird tour, and most recently for the 2017 - 2019 In Between Dreams live show. These live interpretations are largely faithful to the original studio recordings.
"On January 8th 1935, Glady's and Vernon Presley produced identical twin boys, Jesse Garon and Elvis Aron. Meanwhile, Tom "The Colonel" Parker had a circus act featuring a pony and a monkey. Jesse Garon died at birth. "The Colonel" told Elvis Aron that he would make him a king. Elvis became a king, but that didn't help get his name spelt correctly on his Tombstone. "The King" earned 316 gold records. Among them were the following songs:" - The Residents
- Blue Suede Shoes (Perkins) (2:36)
- The Baby King Part 1 (1:14)
- Don't Be Cruel (Blackwell) (2:58)
- Heartbreak Hotel (Presley/Axton/Durden) (1:55)
- All Shook Up (Presley/Blackwell) (2:03)
- Return To Sender (Blackwell/Scott) (2:58)
- The Baby King Part 2 (1:20)
- Teddy Bear (Low/Mann) (3:20)
- Devil In Disguise (Giant/Baum/Kaye) (2:56)
- Stuck On You (Schroeder/McFarland) (2:13)
- Big Hunk O' Love (Schroeder/Wyche) (2:47)
- A Fool Such As I (Trader) (2:33)
- The Baby King Part 3 (1:26)
- Little Sister (Pomus/Shuman) (2:55)
- His Latest Flame (Pomus/Shuman) (2:38)
- Burning Love (Linde) (3:04)
- Viva Las Vegas (Pomus/Shuman) (3:09)
- The Baby King Part 4 (1:47)
- Love Me Tender (Presley/Matson) (4:54)
- The Baby King Part 5 (1:06)
- Hound Dog (Leiber/Stoller) (2:18)
2020 pREServed Edtion
- Blue Suede Shoes (Perkins) (2:37)
- The Baby King Part 1 (1:15)
- Don't Be Cruel (Blackwell) (2:59)
- Heartbreak Hotel (Presley/Axton/Durden) (1:56)
- All Shook Up (Presley/Blackwell) (2:04)
- Return To Sender (Blackwell/Scott) (2:59)
- The Baby King Part 2 (1:20)
- Teddy Bear (Low/Mann) (3:22)
- Devil In Disguise (Giant/Baum/Kaye) (2:57)
- Stuck On You (Schroeder/McFarland) (2:14)
- Big Hunk O' Love (Schroeder/Wyche) (2:49)
- A Fool Such As I (Trader) (2:35)
- The Baby King Part 3 (1:27)
- Little Sister (Pomus/Shuman) (2:57)
- His Latest Flame (Pomus/Shuman) (2:40)
- Burning Love (Linde) (3:05)
- Viva Las Vegas (Pomus/Shuman) (3:10)
- The Baby King Part 4 (1:48)
- Love Me Tender (Presley/Matson) (4:56)
- The Baby King Part 5 (1:07)
- Hound Dog (Leiber/Stoller) (2:18)
- Dog Glue (1:14)
- Jailhouse Rock RMX (Leiber/Stoller)
- Surrender RMX (Pomus/Shuman/De Curtis)
- Heartbreak Hotel RMX (Presley/Axton/Durden)
- Little Sister RMX (Pomus/Shuman)
- Burning Love RMX (Linde)
- A Fool Such As I RMX (Trader)</Sub
- Blue Suede Shoes (Demo)
- The Baby King Pt. 1 (Demo)
- Don't Be Cruel (Demo)
- Heartbreak Hotel (Demo)
- All Shook Up (Demo)
- Return To Sender (Demo)
- The Baby King Pt. 2 (Demo)
- Teddy Bear (Demo)
- Devil In Disguise (Demo)
- Stuck On You (Demo)
- Big Hunk O Love (Demo)
- A Fool Such As I (Demo)
- The Baby King Pt. 3 (Demo)
- Little Sister (Demo)
- Burning Love (Demo)
- Viva Las Vegas (Demo)
- The Baby King Pt. 4 (Demo)
- Love Me Tender (Demo)
- The Baby King Pt. 5 (Demo)
- Hound Dog (Demo)
- I Can't Help Falling In Love With You (Demo)
- Don't (Demo)
- Surrender (Demo)
- Produced By: The Cryptic Corporation
- Laurie Amat: Sings
- Bruce Anderson: Plays Guitar
- Jana Flynn & Simon Timony: Portray The Kids
- Cover By: Pornographics
- Photography by: Henrik Kam
- Package Design by Rex Ray
- Cubo-Residents costumes designed & built by Ron Davies
- Recorded At: Different Fur Studios, San Francisco, CA
- Engineered By: Howard Johnston
- Assisted By: Ron Rigler & Chris Kellas
- Personal Management By The Cryptic Corporation
- Professional Management By Rich Shupe
|2020||New Ralph Too, Cherry Red, MVD||CD||US, EU|
Buy Or Die!
- The Cube-E Box at MVDShop (USA)
- Cube-E: The History Of American Music In 3 E-Z Pieces pREServed at Cherry Red Records (European)