Meet The Residents: America’s Most Eccentric Band! by Ian Shirley
Another Visual Bookshelf summary/review that I wrote before the site disappeared
Meet The Residents: America’s Most Eccentric Band!
By Ian Shirley
188 p., SAF Publishing, Wembley, UK, 1998
Is it possible to write an accurate biography about a group of performers who have woven a thick shroud of obscurity around them? Perhaps not. As one of the Residents wrote to their unauthorized biographer Ian Shirley, “You must know that everyone you spoke with intentionally lied to you at some point.” However, until another biography of The Residents comes out, this book will have to do.
Since this is the only lengthy treatment of this mysterious band, Shirley’s book is a must-read for any Residents fan. Shirley discusses their roots (they are supposedly from Shreveport), their early meeting with Phillip “Snakefinger” Lithman, their move to San Francisco, and the mysterious (and likely fictitious) N. Senada. Each of their projects, up to The Gingerbread Man and Bad Day on the Midway, is described as well.
Shirley contends that The Residents are not trained musicians. When they need someone with some chops, the Residents bring talented musicians into the studio or take them on the road. It is possible that some of the founding members of The Cryptic Corporation are actually Residents, including Homer Flynn, John Kennedy (who bankrolled their projects), Hardy Fox, and/or Jay Clem.
Some interesting celebrities have crossed The Residents’ path, notably Penn Gillette, who served as a “one man Greek chorus and…a comedian” for the concert version of the Mole Show in 1982. (You can hear him doing the announcements on Mark of the Mole.) Matt Groening wrote The Official W.E.I.R.D. Book of The Residents in the late 1970s (W.E.I.R.D. was the Resident’s fan club, standing for: We Endorse Immediate Resident Deification).
The book includes discussions of their aborted film project, Vileness Fats (since restored and released on the Icky Flix DVD), their early music “videos” (actually short films), their CD-ROMs, and their concert tours. In the back of the book you will find a decent discography.
Residents fans will love this. Readers with little knowledge of their work may be intrigued enough to want to listen to a CD, or just confused (especially if they’re not familiar with more experimental types of pop music).
I wrote a brief overview of The Residents, their importance to popular music, and a detailed review of their Talking Light tour from 2010, which you may read here.