Ignored Obscured Restored
Back in 1976, a band called Klaatu released their first album. For some reason they chose to package the album without any photos or credits. This anonymity led to speculation as to who was behind this “mystery band.”
That speculation took flight when journalist Steven Smith, of the Providence Journal, published an article suggesting that Klaatu might really be The Beatles, reunited under a pseudonym. This rumor seemed to be supported by the Beatlesque sound of some of the recordings and the coincidence that they were released on Capitol Records – the same as The Beatles’ early records in the US.
It was later revealed that Klaatu was a group of Canadian musicians. “Sub-Rosa Subway” and “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” were minor hits (both reached #62 on the Billboard Hot 100). “Interplanetary” was covered by The Carpenters who carried it to #32 in the US in 1977.
Around the same time, in the mid-’70s, another band chose to labor in obscurity – San Francisco’s Art Rock band, The Residents.
In a 2018 article for NPR Music, writer Jason Roth described The Residents’ approach to music:
The group’s musical canon – comprising over 60 albums that collectively are more of an ongoing act of cultural subversion than a traditional catalog of songs – includes a “four-part trilogy” of concept albums about a subterranean race of mole people, a record that contains exactly 40 one-minute-long commercials for itself and an album of Eskimo folk music consisting of what The Residents imagined Eskimo folk music might sound like. Which also, naturally, provided the group with its critical and commercial breakthrough.
The Residents’ debut album was titled Meet the Residents and had one of the best covers ever – a defaced parody of Meet the Beatles (released on April Fool’s Day, 1974). This too, caused some rumors to circulate that The Beatles were behind the group.
The album opens with an anarchistic, deconstructed (unrecognizable) version of Nancy Sinatra’s “The Boots Are Made For Walking.” Not everyone will be able to make it through the cut’s brief, less than 2 minutes, of chaos.
From 2010 to 2016, the band toured using the character names “Randy, Chuck, and Bob.” But in 2017, Hardy Fox revealed himself as the primary composer for the band as well as “Chuck.” Apparently he decided to finally expose his identity because he was sick and dying.
If you’re a fan or are interested in learning more about The Residents, check out the new book documenting their history from 1972 to 1983.
Enjoy… until next week.