Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Third Reich 'n' Roll

The album that put the Residents on the collective map...

** Side One:  Swastikas on Parade

** Side Two:  Hitler Was A Vegetarian
* Note German censorship of album cover

Noted psychoanalyst Erik Erikson professed that humans go through eight stages of psychosocial development in their lifetime; the most significant stages, obviously, being the earliest.  According to Erikson, all early stages were meant to prepare the human for stage seven: Middle Adulthood (35-55). 

When I was eight years old, my Uncle Larry (AKA: Donald to you) felt it time to introduce a 'proper music education'.  In his infinite wisdom, the first album he ever played for me was the Residents' Third Reich 'n' Roll.  Within minutes, I became so disturbed that I began to cry.  His reaction, at least initially, was to turn up the volume and laugh at me.

Being ten years older than myself, I have no doubt that the end result that day was exactly what he intended.  Teenagers, after all, have cruel streaks in them.  Had he known that his act of sonic terrorism would set me on a bohemian-laced, avant gardening path, he probably would have been twice as pleased with himself.

We all could use an Uncle Larry in our lives.

1974:  Meet the Residents

The Residents mythology is a complex one.  The group and their hardcore fans steadily maintain a pro wrestling like gimmick of complete anonymity; 40 years into their careers and people still pretend to debate the Residents' identities.  Whatever.  They can try to pull the wool over my eyes, but I've never fallen for it.

The Residents were an art collective made up of four friends sometime around 1969.  These friends, Homer Flynn, Hardy Fox, Jay Clem, and John Kennedy, were acid drenched fans of the avant-garde.  And Captain Beefheart.  And Sun Ra.  And Harry Partch.  And all of the true psychedelics of the world.

The Grateful Dead?  Pfft.  They, like just about every big name psychedelic band you can think of, tiptoed around the avant-garde, pussyfooted the 'Out There, Man' act, then became a county and western band to a bunch of Dead Heads. 

Through sheer creativity and gumption, this art collective would end up producing some of the more powerful, interesting, and subversive material of the 1970s.  Not bad for a bunch of hicks that couldn't even play their instruments when they began recording in 1970.

After being largely ignored by the music press, 1976's 'The Third Reich 'n' Roll' album and the companion 'Satisfaction' single released that same year would make a splash.  For a year or two, the 'band' (though they never really were a band) became darlings of the hipster press; right up through 1979's Eskimo album, the Residents could do no wrong.   

In 1982, the art collective became a duo.  After a severe financial crisis brought about by the ill-fated Mole Show tour, Clem and Kennedy abandoned the Residents to Flynn (the singer and lyricist), Fox (the composer), and anyone that would collaborate with them.  

Despite the fact that sparks of genius have been produced since, many early fans will suggest that the Residents began to parody themselves the minute Clem and Kennedy left.  While the mythology and respect for them runs deep, I am not one to argue that particular sentiment.

1979:  Eskimo

Links of Interest:

* Santa Dog, (1972) - Oceanos en Trance blog
* Meet the Residents, (1974) - Bravo Juju blog
* Duck Stab / Buster & Glen, (1978) - I carry it in my Heart blog 
* Not Available, (1978) - Out Sounds blog
* The Commercial Album, (1980) - Nice to finally meet blog


  1. Eric, I will be back with my comments later on but I just wanted to say that you once again posted a thought provoking musical act. I must investigate further...

  2. Thanks for the comment, Charlie. You're one of the few that bothers - for that I am grateful.

    After 30 years, I've completely given up on trying to sway people to the Residents. The band is so far our there, I am almost convinced that you have to be a little crazy to 'dig' them.

    Add to the fact that I have found that band to be a total bore since around 1990; it's tough to recommend it.

    Still, some of their pre-82 material is quite amazing.

  3. You are most welcome, Eric. Believe me, I appreciate your comments on my posts as well!

    I have not listened to all of the music you provided at this moment but I have listened to enough to be quite interested in hearing more. They have a nice groove and good guitar work from what I have heard so far. You seem to have a great ear for picking up the groovy stuff, sir. I see them not truly fitting into a niche and I like that. I know the music is not related at all but it reminds me of how different Celtic Frost sounds from most everybody else in the metal genre.

    You are right - everybody needs an uncle Larry (David in my case) in their life!

    1. Here's something that you can't say about many people: You've an open mind, Mr. Warren; celebrate that.

      One of my greatest Residents experiences... I had a metal head roommate when in my early twenties. One night, without even consulting me, he invited a bunch of his metal head friends for a party. No biggie. You've got to swallow some pride when living with people.

      I was going through my record collection, smoking a joint in a sea of Pabst Blue Ribboners, when one of the long hairs asked if I had any Iron Maiden.

      "No. Sorry, dude - no Iron Maiden. But you might like this..."

      I proceeded to put on Meet the Residents.

      Within ten minutes, I literally cleared that room of every metal head in sight. I ended up not being very popular with my roommate - mainly due to my constantly asking him if he wanted to listen to Meet the Residents again - but I still consider that move one of legend.

      Lesson of the story? Metal heads would rather hang out in crowded kitchens than listen to the Residents.

    2. Crud. And I forgot to mention:

      If you are a guitar man, you should know that a lot of the Residents guitar parts were done by Phillip Lithman; aka Snakefinger.

      Tremendously underrated and influential player who sadly died in 1987. He was 38.