Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Residents Are Deadheads!

No. No, they aren't. But there are rumors to that effect... Back in the day, I did in fact have a Deadhead friend try to get me into the band by claiming that the Residents sometimes attended Grateful Dead shows in costume. Imagine my shock when I learned the truth behind the story -- a shadowy truth linking the Residents, the Dead and my very own guitarist, the hon. Richard Talleywhacker!

I have a vague feeling I may have told this story on the blog before, but I can't figure out where and when. It's good enough to be worth re-telling, though. For those unfamiliar with certain types of popular music, let me introduce our cast of characters.

First off, the Grateful Dead. They were a hippy-era band from San Francisco. They're one of those bands that's actually a lifestyle in disguise, kinda like (and predating) Jimmy Buffett. Their followers were a gentle drug-addled cultish group referred to as Deadheads.

Musically? They combined roots music with psychedelia, and were well-known for their live improvisation. I do enjoy some of their stuff, but the majority of their their oeuvre makes me feel as if I have the flu. They were skilled and gifted musicians -- it takes remarkable ability to do music as bad as the Dead at their worst.

(I am awfully fond of Jerry Garcia's solo work and especially his collaborations with Dave Grisman.)

The Residents, on the other hand, are exactly my dish of tea when I'm in the mood. Right now I've got a copy of their faux-Innuit folk music album Eskimo sitting next to the bed for listening-in-the-dark purposes.

I first heard the Residents back in the early eighties, on the Dr. Demento show. Even in that venue, their music came off as aggressively weird and willfully intelligent, so of course I fell for it. The Resident's are actually nearly as old as the Dead -- I think their first release came out in '69. And they have always been way, way avant guarde. They did some of the first videos, early use of synthesizers and sequencers, etc, etc. They have an admirably unified aesthetic, incorporating multimedia and design into their work. I fucking love them.

They are totally anonymous. No one knows who they are; I've heard that one of their core members is a really famous musician who you'd never imagine would be a Resident. I'm hoping it's Bob Seger, just for the shock value.

They perform wearing masks. Initially, the masks were all eyeballs wearing top hats. (see above) But when an eyeball was stolen at a live show, they replaced it with a giant skull, thus enhancing their mythology.

I've recently heard a theory put forth that at least one of them is a woman. It was an interesting theory, backed by intriguing rumors of circumstantial evidence. So I'm changing my mind. I now hope that Dolly Parton is a Resident.

So when Brian --

("Brian, you can play your fucking Dead until the cows come home, but you have played Sugar Magnolia six times today and if I hear it a seventh time I promise my behavior will be both shocking and spectacular." "But dude! Those were all from different shows! They're totally different songs!")

-- when Brian told me the Residents attended Dead shows in their stage costumes, I was troubled.

Years later, after the hon. Richard Talleywhacker and I decided to play music, we set up a studio at his house. (The special quality of our early recordings is due to the fact that the space we occupied could be described accurately as being both a garage and a basement, thus squaring our credibility.) And what did I find decorating the studio?

See the image at top.

It turns out that it was a costume that Mr. Talleywhacker created and wore in high school.

And Mr. Talleywhacker, may the lord pity him, is a Deadhead.

(When Jerry Garcia died, out of respect for my dear friend's grief, I waited more than a year to tell Mr. Talleywhacker what my initial response to the news has been. "Dude, I knew it was just a matter of time before you dragged my ass to a Dead show. So when I heard Jerry died, my first thought was that the band was finally living up to its name -- he was dead, and I was grateful."

He looked at me with great sorrow in his face, flooding me with guilt. "Dude, I knew I'd hear something like that from someone, but I didn't think it would be you."

Of course, our at-the-time asshole lead guitarist suggested that the Dead's best hope for continued success would be to put Garcia's corpse on stage and say it was the Touch of Grave tour...)

Anyway, it seems that for a number of years, Mr. Talleywhacker was in the habit of attending Dead shows while wearing the eyeball. We were discussing this last night and Mr. Talleywhacker expressed some disgust for the gullible Deadheads.

"Just look at it. The real eyeballs don't have that heavy stoner red-eye on them. And when did the Residents ever wear fucking tie-died shorts?"

I'd just like to remind Mr. Talleywhacker that all of the witnesses to his awesome presence were high.

Very, very high indeed.