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The Residents


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4 stars Good luck trying to find a copy of this rare, early artifact by San Francisco's renowned but anonymous avant-garde nut cases. It was briefly available in 1977 as a strictly limited edition mail order single (no more than 500 were ever pressed), and today is a fringe collector's curio of no small value.

The single was recorded to celebrate the re-release of "Meet the Residents", with a new cover supposedly commissioned after a (possibly apocryphal) lawsuit was threatened by Capitol Records over the original album's cheerful desecration of the famous "Meet the Beatles" cover art. That's the official story anyway, but like a lot of Residents mythology it probably never happened: the original album was already five years old in 1977, and still unknown to all but a few outsider music freaks.

But never mind. The Eyeball Guys were at the peak of their iconoclastic weirdness back then, and once again indulging in a healthy bit of cultural grave robbing. The A-side of the single ("Beyond the Valley of a Day in the Life", a.k.a. "The Beatles Play the Residents") is an amusing slice of creative archeology, cutting and splicing old songs and sound bites by the Fab Four into a scathing, satirical collage worthy of comparison to the merry Krautrock pranksters of FAUST.

The flipside ("The Residents Play the Beatles") is a more traditionally skewed Residents cover of the song "Flying", from "The Magical Mystery Tour", the only tune they could find credited to all four Beatles.

Both in their own way are suitably bizarre, and when heard back-to-back offer a brilliant, doubled-edged critique of popular music, targeting its most venerated icons. "Please, everybody, if we haven't done what we could have done, we tried", whines John Lennon in "Beyond the Valley." (his voice looped over and over, ad infinitum). The quote is picked up again on the B-side, this time shouted in that familiar Residents bayou twang, ending in a near-demonic peal of sarcastic laughter.

No, I don't own a copy of the rare, original edition myself. But the 1987 CD issue of "The Third Reich and Roll" included both sides of the single as bonus tracks, along with their twisted proto-Punk demolition of The Rolling Stones anthem "Satisfaction". Sadly, later re-issues of "The Third Reich." omitted the extra songs, and too bad, because they fit perfectly within the album's format of classic Residents rock 'n' roll smear jobs. Oh, well, that's progress for you.

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Posted Saturday, October 8, 2005 | Review Permalink

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