A Guide to The Residents

“On a Saturday afternoon in early June, the sidewalk outside the historic TLC Chinese Theatre in Hollywood is teeming with street performers dressed as pop culture icons. Spider-Man, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis mingle with tourists. A man in an old-timey paper hat sells popsicles from a cart, standing atop a courtyard embedded with cement handprints from the likes of Steven Spielberg and the Marx Brothers. Meanwhile, in the lobby of the theater, dozens of people are lining up to see a documentary about a band of timeless figures of a more underground stripe. The movie is called Theory of Obscurity: A Film about The Residents, and as the title suggests, it covers the sprawling, 40-plus year history of one of America’s weirdest musical groups. Based out of San Francisco, The Residents moved from humble beginnings in their hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, and became celebrated for their groundbreaking experiments in avant-garde music, electronic composition, sonic storytelling, and multimedia. Throughout, the Residents have rejected the usual trappings of the rock star persona, opting instead to preserve their mystique and independence through anonymity, misdirection and giant eyeball-and-top-hat masks. …”
Red Bull Music Academy Daily (Video)
The Quietus: The Strange World Of… The Residents – Homer Flynn Interviewed (Video)



Pan-Africanism is a worldwide movement that aims to encourage and strengthen bonds of solidarity between all indigenous and diasporan ethnic groups of African descent. Based on a common goal going back to the Atlantic slave trade, the movement extends beyond continental Africans with a substantial support base among the African diaspora in the Caribbean, Latin America, the United States and Canada. … Pan-Africanism stresses the need for ‘collective self-reliance’. Pan-Africanism exists as a governmental and grassroots objective. Pan-African advocates include leaders such as Haile Selassie, Julius Nyerere, Ahmed Sékou Touré, Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara and Muammar Gaddafi, grassroots organizers such as Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X, academics such as W. E. B. Du Bois, and others in the diaspora. Pan-Africanists believe that solidarity will enable the continent to fulfill its potential to independently provide for all its people. Crucially, an all-African alliance would empower African people globally. The realization of the Pan-African objective would lead to ‘power consolidation in Africa’, which ‘would compel a reallocation of global resources, as well as unleashing a fiercer psychological energy and political assertion…that would unsettle social and political (power) structures…in the Americas’. …”
YouTube: Special A_Sheshamane Call + Mixman_Sheshamane cut 4, Max Romeo_Selassie I Forever + Mafia & Fluxy_Dubwise, The Heptones_Revolution + Leroy Sibbles_Total Destruction + Baba Leslie_Version, Johnny Clarke_It Dread + Russ D._Dub, Special A_Destiny + Destiny Dub, Vibronics feat. Mark Iration_Struggle + Version, Dan I Locks_Thanks and Praises + Praises Dub + Version, Yabby You_Chant Down Babylon + Version, Johnny Clarke_Dreader Dread + Rastafari Dub

Johnny Thunders – So Alone (1978)

“Following the drug-fueled implosion of the Heartbreakers, Johnny Thunders bounced back with his first solo outing, So Alone. Featuring a veritable who’s who of ’70s punk and hard rock — Chrissie Hynde, Phil Lynott, Peter Perrett, Steve Marriott, Paul Cook, and Steve Jones, among others — the record was a testament to what the former New York Dolls guitarist could accomplish with a little focus. Much like Thunders‘ best work with the Dolls and Heartbreakers, So Alone is a gloriously sloppy amalgam of R&B, doo wop, and three-chord rock & roll. Despite the inevitable excesses that plagued every Thunders recording session, Steve Lillywhite‘s solid engineering job and a superb set of songs hold everything together. A cover of the Chantays‘ classic instrumental ‘Pipeline’ leads things off, and is a teasing reminder of what a great guitarist Thunders could be when he put his mind to it. The record’s indisputable masterpiece is ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Round a Memory,’ a wrenching, surprisingly literate ballad in which Thunders seems to acknowledge that his junkie lifestyle has doomed him to the abyss. Songs like ‘Leave Me Alone,’ ‘Hurtin’, and the chilling title track continue the theme of life inside the heroin balloon. Fortunately, all this back-alley gloom is leavened by some memorably animated moments. ‘London Boys’ is a scathing reply to the Sex Pistols‘ indictment of the New York punk scene, ‘New York.’ The funky ‘Daddy Rolling Stone’ features the inimitable Lynott on background vocals, while the rave-ups ‘Great Big Kiss’ and ‘(She’s So) Untouchable’ are terrific examples of Thunders‘ raunchy take on classic R&B. Sadly, Johnny Thunders never followed up on the promise of his solo debut. His subsequent records were a frustrating mix of drug-addled mediocrity and downright laziness. But for one brief moment, he seemed to put it all together. That moment is So Alone.”
allmusic (Audio)
W – So Alone
YouTube: So Alone (Full Album 1992 4 Bonus)

The Poetry Project’s Half-Century of Dissent

“February 10, 1971, on a Wednesday night in the East Village, a full moon glowed in the wintry sky over St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery. Inside, a group of New York’s most cutting-edge scene-makers gathered at the Poetry Project to hear a reading by poet and Warhol aide-de-camp Gerard Malanga. Andy was there, as was Lou Reed, along with poets Gregory Corso, John Giorno, Joe Brainard, and Bernadette Mayer. First up that night was a dark-eyed, lanky young poetess by the name of Patti Smith. An up-and-coming playwright named Sam Shepard, with whom she’d recently become involved, was there in support, as was her closest friend and collaborator, Robert Mapplethorpe. Smith knew she didn’t just want to read that night; rather, she wanted to electrify the audience with poems that possessed the power of rock ‘n’ roll. She invited the guitarist Lenny Kaye to play while she recited, and she decided to sing a few songs as well, including a cover of ‘Mack the Knife,’ in honor of Bertolt Brecht’s birthday. …”

“Down in the Tube Station at Midnight” – The Jam (1978)

“‘Down in the Tube Station at Midnight’ was the second single taken from the album All Mod Cons by The Jam. Released on 13 October 1978, it reached #15 in the United Kingdom’s Singles Chart on release. The single was backed by a cover version of The Who‘s song ‘So Sad About Us‘, and the song ‘The Night’, written by Bruce Foxton. … The song tells the story of an unnamed narrator travelling on his own who enters a London Underground tube station at midnight to get the last train home, where he is attacked by a gang of skinheads as he buys a ticket from an automated machine. The song starts with the atmospheric sounds of a London Underground station, then a tense, syncopated beat carried by the bass guitar. The lyrics are sentimental, contrasting the warmth of home and domestic life with the dangers of 1970s London’s urban decay and casual late-night violence. Tension is heightened by a heartbeat audio effect in the left stereo channel at points during the song. …”
Let The Day Begin…Let The Day Start!: Day 308 – All Mod Cons
Genius (Audio)
YouTube: Down In The Tube Station At Midnight (Live), Down In The Tube Station (Live), So Sad About Us, The Night

The ROIR Label’s Timeless Documents of Underground Music

“If you had a taste for underground music in the ‘80s, you almost certainly had multiple releases on the ROIR (pronounced ‘roar’) label in your collection. The tiny New York label’s output was exclusively available on brightly-colored cassettes, with liner notes by noted rock critics like Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, Byron Coley, Kurt Loder, Jon Pareles, and a pre-Yo La Tengo Ira Kaplan. The catalog included releases by proto-punk and punk legends like the MC5, Television, the New York Dolls (and Johnny Thunders), Nico, the Raincoats, the Dictators, and Suicide, as well as hardcore acts like Flipper and GG Allin, compilations like New York Thrash (featuring the Beastie Boys’ earliest recording), and the Bad Brains’ legendary ‘yellow tape.’ They also released noisy, arty music by Glenn Branca, Christian Marclay, Laibach, and Einstürzende Neubauten. And they balanced their loud, aggro side with releases that revealed label founder Neil Cooper’s passion for dub and reggae, with titles by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Big Youth, Niney the Observer, Yellowman, Bill Laswell, and others. …”
bandcamp (Audio)
Guardian – Label of love: ROIR

Music for 18 Musicians – Steve Reich (1976)

Music for 18 Musicians is a work of musical minimalism composed by Steve Reich during 1974–1976. Its world premiere was on April 24, 1976, at The Town Hall in New York City. Following this, a recording of the piece was released by ECM New Series in 1978. In his introduction to the score, Reich mentions that although the piece is named Music for 18 Musicians, it is not necessarily advisable to perform the piece with that few players due to the extensive doubling it requires. The piece is based on a cycle of eleven chords. A small piece of music is based on each chord, and the piece returns to the original cycle at the end. The sections are named ‘Pulses‘, and Section I-XI. This was Reich’s first attempt at writing for larger ensembles, and the extension of performers resulted in a growth of psycho-acoustic effects, which fascinated Reich, and he noted that he would like to ‘explore this idea further’. A prominent factor in this work is the augmentation of the harmonies and melodies and the way that they develop this piece. Another important factor in the piece is the use of human breath, used in the clarinets and voices, which help structure and bring a pulse to the piece. The player plays the pulsing note for as long as he can hold it, while each chord is melodically deconstructed by the ensemble, along with augmentation of the notes held. The metallophone (unplugged vibraphone), is used to cue the ensemble to change patterns or sections. …”
Pitchfork: Steve Reich – The ECM Recordings
NPR: Steve Reich’s ‘Maximum’ Minimalism (Audio)
YouTube: Music for 18 Musicians – FULL PERFORMANCE with eighth blackbird
YouTube: Music for 18 Musicians

Wire – The Peel Sessions (1989)

“In 1978 and 1979, Wire taped three sessions for the John Peel show. Most artists might have taken the opportunity afforded by a coveted Peel session to promote a recent or forthcoming release. Wire did otherwise. Wire often moved swiftly on to new projects once material had been committed to vinyl. Consequently, only one of the numbers chosen by the group for its first BBC session in January 1978 was from the recent debut album, Pink Flag. Even that track (‘106 Beats That’) was treated to a compressed rendition. Nevertheless, the session arrangements of ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ and ‘I Am the Fly’ closely resemble the versions that would be released eight months later on Chairs Missing. Wire returned to the BBC studios in September 1978, having spent most of the year touring and giving fans ample opportunity to acquaint themselves with the material released that month on Chairs Missing. True to form, the second session comprised new tracks that would appear on 154, almost a year later. However, a couple of the versions differ from their eventual album incarnations, emphasizing that the object of Wire‘s art was the work in progress, not the finished product. ‘The Other Window,’ for instance, would be a vaguely menacing exercise in dramatic tension on 154; here, it’s a sprightly pop song. When the third Radio 1 session aired in late 1979, 154 was enjoying critical acclaim. Rather than showcase the album, Wire chose to perform Crazy About Love,’ a quarter-hour improvisational oddity spawned in rehearsals. Although The Peel Sessions hints at early Wire‘s weaknesses without regular producer Mike Thorne — who seemed uniquely capable of bringing the group’s sound into focus — the material collected here does nothing to diminish Wire‘s status as the most innovative and influential band of the punk era.”
allmusic (Audio)
W – The Peel Sessions Album
YouTube: Wire Peel Session 17:40

Syd Shelton discusses his exhibition of antiracist protest photographs in London

Bagga, 1979
“… I became involved with Rock Against Racism after the Battle of Lewisham in southeast London in 1977. This was when a racist march by about one hundred National Front supporters was met with five thousand antiracist activists who had traveled down from all over the country. The Metropolitan Police were determined that the National Front be able to march, so they deployed a quarter of their force, suited with riot gear. This was the first time the police in Britain were militarized, and the officers’ use of riot shields really shifted the goalposts for activists—we were up against something different now. At the same time, Eric Clapton had just delivered a horribly racist tirade onstage, in support of Conservative politician Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech. We realized we needed to grab the headlines to counter the right-wing media’s high profile, and our first major event was a carnival in April 1978—a huge concert in the Victoria Park in Tower Hamlets. We didn’t want it to just be a free rock concert, though; we wanted it to be a demonstration. …”
Guardian – Rock Against Racism: the Syd Shelton images that define an era
Interview – Syd Shelton
Rock Against Racism: Syd Shelton’s photographs of a movement in 1970s Britain
W – Rock Against Racism
vimeo: Archive in Focus: Syd Shelton, Rock against Racism 7:19

Darcus Howe (with loudhailer) addresses a crowd from on top of a toilet block, 1977.

Blondie – Blondie (1976)

Blondie is the eponymous debut studio album by American rock band Blondie, released in December 1976 by Private Stock Records. The first singleX Offender‘ was originally titled ‘Sex Offender’, but since radio stations would not play a song with such a provocative title, the band renamed the song. After disappointing sales and poor publicity, the band ended their contract with Private Stock and signed with Chrysalis Records in 1977. Chrysalis re-released the album in September 1977, along with the single ‘In the Flesh‘. … Through the production of Richard Gottehrer, who had worked with the Angels and other artists of the 1950s and 1960s, much of the music is suffused with the girl group sound of that era. Harry told an interviewer in 1978 that the band never intended to be retro and when some journalists described them that way, it was ‘quite a shock’. Likewise she rejected any attempt to brand the music as pop, insisting that Blondie played new wave music. …”
YouTube: Blondie [Full album : 11/11 songs]