Enter the name for this tabbed section: THE COMMERCIAL ALBUM
Stacks Image 2351

First Release
LP - 1980 - Ralph Records - RZ8052L - US
The Complete Lack Of Sincerity It Takes To Be Successful (The Commercial Album)
October 29, 1980
The most surprising aspect of the new Residents album is that it does not contain a cover version of “Woman In Love.” I expected as much when I saw that Barbra Streisand graces the sleeve. But I have been hearing that song far too much lately, so I can’t honestly say I am disappointed with the omission. I imagine the original idea for this album was to repeat what had been done with The Third Reich ‘n’ Roll, only this time focus on modern songs. The artwork here is similar enough to bear out that theory, and perhaps was commissioned with that original concept in mind. But somewhere along the way, possibly from fear of creative stagnation, the contents of the album changed dramatically.
The Residents decided to challenge themselves to write 40 different songs for their new album. But did they meet the challenge? There are 40 songs, yes, but many have a similar sound and at times it’s difficult to tell them apart. 40 songs, but not necessarily different from one another. This could be the creative stagnation coming back, but I think it’s a deliberate choice.
Again the eyeball-headed figures are featured, so again we’re dealing with a commentary on our culture. The Residents might be saying that all popular music sounds the same, but the evidence doesn’t support that. Along with Miss Streisand the radio has been filled with Queen, Kenny Loggins, and DEVO, so there is definitely variation in the performers and music. Instead, as demonstrated by the fact that this is a pressed record – an artifact that will remain unchanged – The Residents are lamenting that when a song hits the top of the charts, it tends to stay there a long while. Every week we hear nearly the same top 40, with only minor changes from week to week. And every time we play this record we will get exactly the same 40 songs. The Residents would rather live in a world in which music is constantly changing. Case in point: this new record bears a significant Gary Numan influence. The previous one was disco. Before that, it was wind. The Residents certainly practice what they preach.
Despite this, the songs are not throwaways. Many feel like seeds that could be grown into some truly wonderful full-length compositions. But they have opted to leave what could be their best work unfinished. Are we to gather from this a sense that popular music isn’t reaching its full potential? Do too many songs leave the listener with thoughts such as “yes, that’s nice, but what happens next?” According to The Residents, the answer is an unqualified “yes.”
Most of these songs are vignettes with themes that can be (and have been) explored in countless ways, distillations that remind the listener that much of popular music is about finding love, losing love, or remembering the past. Some, such as “Ups And Downs,” seem like the eerie openings of stories that would easily find a place among the many Poe imitations.
But “Loss Of Innocence” stands out as a complete story. It has a protagonist, an action, an emotional arc, and even a post-modernist lament. While some of the other songs have a feeling of closure, this is the only one that is satisfying in terms of a piece of short-short fiction. Its title should not be lost upon the listener; the only complete song in this entire collection of simple songs (indeed it is followed by “The Simple Song”) drives the point home that popular music is largely immature and only scratches the surface of the human condition.
But we mustn’t discount it entirely. Popular music is, after all, popular, mostly because it is fun. And The Commercial Album is fun, and though I’m sure it was difficult to write and record, the joy in creating it is quite evident. The Residents are very pleased with this album. It may or may not get them their 15 minutes of fame, but that is immaterial. This is their eternal Top 40.

This is a post from
Gio's blog
Enter the name for this tabbed section: credits - tracks
with guests:
F. Frith
C. Cutler
D. Jackovich
S. Sandwich
Mud's Sis
Secret Appearance
• Easter Woman
• Perfect Love
• Picnic Boy
• End of Home
• Amber
• Japanese Watercolor
• Secrets
• Die In Terror
• Red Rider
• My Second Wife
• Floyd
• Suburban Bathers
• Dimples and Toes
• The Nameless Souls
• Love Leaks Out
• Act of Being Polite
• Medicine Man
• Tragic Bells
• Loss of Innocence
• The Simple Song
• Ups and Downs
• Possessions
• Give it to Someone Else
• Phantom
• Less Not More
• My Work is So Behind
• Birds in the Trees
• Handful of Desire
• Moisture
• Love is...
• Troubled Man
• La La
• Loneliness
• Nice Old Man
• The Talk of Creatures
• Fingertips
• In Between Dreams
• Margaret Freeman
• The Coming of the Crow
• When We Were Young
Enter the name for this tabbed section: lyrics
Easter Woman
Down, down down, down down, down down...
Easter woman came today
And took away my wife
Took her to an open doorway
To the afterlife

Perfect Love
There's something I must tell you
There's something I must say
The only really perfect love
Is one that gets away

Picnic Boy
She called my friend a picnic boy
I never could stand that
Oh she called my friend a picnic boy
And said he was too fat
I left her in the early morning
Looking at the rain
I found I could not take the pressure
So I took the train

End of Home
Darkness fell upon the garden
As I sadly sat alone
Dreaming of the end of summer
And again the end of home
Our love was like a flowing river
Deeper still than what it seemed
It consumed my waking hours
Creeping deep into my dreams

Life is just a situation
Life is just a game
Life is just a whirlpool
And it's calling out my name
Amber were the autumn leaves
And amber was her skin
Amber was the evening
When the whirlpool pulled her in
It was irresistible
Was what she used to say
Like the sound of running horses
Early in the day

Japanese Watercolor

Something's going on between them
Something I can see
Nobody seems to pay attention
So it's up to me
They're always touching
Always looking
In a secret way
I thought that I might cut them deep

Die in Terror
She said she wished to die in terror
Screaming in the night
To feel the crawling flesh of panic
As her hair turned white
She also had a pretty little
See-through negligee
I often wonder where she went
And if she got her way

Red Rider
Cellar doors were open
For the storms were out that night
The night reflected from the leaves
The sky was still too bright
I saw her passing as the wind
Was rising in the air
She rode upon a red bicycle
And she had red hair

My Second Wife
Yesterday my second wife fell in the afternoon
Slipped into hysteria and talked about the moon
Well this was only temporary so the doctor said
So I watched a football game and she went off to bed


Suburban Bathers
Suburban bathers own the sea
But just between you and me
The sun has never fully set
That's seen the bathers fully wet
I see the sea,
The sea sees me
They seem to run to morning light
And crash the boards between the night
If they'd learn to love themselves
They might survive the murky depths
I see the sea,
The sea sees me
If I'd learn to love myself
I might survive the murky depths

Dimples and Toes
She is unhappy and even unkind
She would not listen but I do not mind
Kissing her dimples and touching her toes
She is attractive but very restrained
Slightly because of worry and strain
I was her father a long time ago
Kissing her dimples and touching her toes

The Nameless Souls
She was just uncaring
She was just untrue
She was just indifferent
What else could she do?
I was just a stranger
I was just subdued
I was just uneasy
What else could I do?
We were just the nameless
Souls that sit inside
Wishing that we were
Someone on the outside
Wishing that we were
The ones on the outside
Wishing that we weren't
The ones who were stuck

Love Leaks Out
Hour by hour
Day by day
Love leaks out
And goes away

Act of Being Polite
I found her crying in the morning
Sitting in a chair
She was wrapping something up
And wrapping it with care
I did not mean to hurt her
When I fell asleep last night
I was just exhausted
From the act of being polite
Yes, I was just exhausted
From the act of being polite

Medicine Man

Tragic Bells
Tragic bells are ringing for me
Tragic bells are ringing in my ear again
And I don't know why I'm going on

Loss of Innocence
Amusement parks are caked with sounds
A solid hunk of meat
A barker's sweat flings from his tongue
His tattoo shines with heat
A wary stranger stands and sways
Enraptured by his stance
Two-headed goats come stumbling by
And give a troubled glance
The barker looks into the eyes
The stranger tries to bend
The barker swears to more delights
For all who seek within
The stranger enters canvas doors
And smells the fresh cut hay
The barker points to Siamese twins
The stranger looks away
The eyes of horse faced women
Watch the few who wander through
They sense the tension in the air
And smell the sweet taboo
A heart beats fast against a chest
The stranger leaves the tent
The waves of people drown the sounds
Of loss of innocence

The Simple Song
We are simple
You are simple
Life is simple, too

Ups and Downs
She was opening up an elevator
On a rainy day
Sitting on a little stool
And looking far away
I asked if she would take me
To another floor
She laughed and said she probably would
And then she closed the door

Some are into silver
Some are into gold
Some are into having
Something nice to hold

Give it to Someone Else
I wanted to give it to someone else
And hear what they would say
I wanted to give it to someone else
And watch them as they played
I left it helpless all alone
And waiting on the floor
Squirming just a little bit
And looking at the door
He would take it as he wished
And I would listen in
Documenting as I would
The sound of slapping skin


Less Not More
The railings of the bridge
Were moving by the glass
The opportunity to leave
Was coming up fast
The situation passed across my
Mind once more,
And I decided that I needed
Less not more
Less not more
Less not more

My Work is So Behind
Smoke was feeling up the house
A burning yearning heat
The cats were looking through the haze
And licking at their feet
They were licking at their feet
A caller came and looked at me
And asked me if I'd mind
I said I would not normally
My work is so behind
I'm just way behind
The fire it sparkled in his smile
And then beneath his skin
And so he jumped right in right in
And so he jumped right in

Birds in the Trees
Birds in the trees
Shook dust from their wings
I thought of the heartaches
That shattered our love not long ago
Birds in the trees
Now asleep

Handful of Desire
Sinews crackled in the heat
Of noonday raptured thrill
A moisture laden syncopated
Automated thrill
A handful of desirous needs
That's much too soon fulfilled

Someone saw a strange amount
Of moisture on her lips
And it was also seen upon
Her arms and on her hips
No one knows exactly
Who she was or how she died
But when they opened up her purse
They found a snail inside

Love is...
Love is only loneliness
Divided by another
Love is only living for the lonely
Love is only loneliness
Divided by another
And I know that life is lonely

Troubled Man
His wife had left him long ago
For someone without skin,
And now he faced the mirror
And he saw a doubled chin
He was having trouble
And he'd had it for awhile,
His doctor died a year ago
She was his only child

La La
La, la-la
La, la-la
La, la, la
La, la-la
La, la-la
La, la, la
La, la-la
La, la-la
La, la, la

I came upon it in the night
And left it in the rain
And from that moment to today
I've never been the same
I knew not what the weather meant
When he said goodbye
I only know this loneliness
Will never make me cry
Make me cry

Nice Old Man
Something smiling sweetly
Something tall and thin
Something deep within my heart
Reminded me of him
He was not my lover
He was not my friend
He was just a nice old man
Who played the violin

The Talk of Creatures
Mumbling weighs upon my mind
The talk of creatures in my spine
A contest fought between two souls
To know which thought that each controls
They argue deep into the night
Displaying wrongs, inciting rights
They sing their songs with unknown tones
And keep the beat upon my bones

Something faintly emanating
Perfume and decay
Whispered lightly in the wind
That she had got away
Longing for the touch of something
Soft upon my face
I thought about her fingertips
And not her lack of grace

In Between Dreams

Margaret Freeman
Margaret Freeman had a body
Unlike any I'd seen
It seemed to drip her mental thoughts
Like much too warm ice cream
One day while she washed the dishes
In the nude I saw
How her mother's sodden ways
Had rubbed her rib cage raw

The Coming of the Crow

When We Were Young
Enter the name for this tabbed section: liner notes
The Commercial Album is another manifestation of The Residents' whimsical relationship with pop music and their interest in music about music. The album is a collection of forty one-minute commercial songs -- their very own personal Top 40, or perhaps a collection of one-minute jingles: the music of commercials. The Residents teamed up with several artists, including their old friend Snakefinger, who not only provided guitar, but sings on Ups & Downs. The band also recruited Chris Cutler, who had worked with them on Eskimo, Fred Frith, Lene Lovich, Andy Partridge and others. Working from September, 1979, to July, 1980, The Residents used a number of ideas which had cropped up during the recording of Eskimo but were inappropriate for that project. The Commercial Album was the first Residential album to be licenced overseas, and was heavily promoted by the licencees. PRE Records in England even put out The Commercial Single, which included two songs which had been left off of the album because The Residents felt that they didn't quite fit in. Phonogram and Celluloid Records financed a series of four short videos called One Minute Movies, featuring the songs Moisture, The Act of Being Polite, Perfect Love, and Simple Song. Meanwhile, in North America, the Cryptic Corporation bought forty one-minute commercial slots on KFRC-AM radio, the top-40 radio station at that time in San Francisco, and broadcast the entire album in bite-sized chunks. This stunt was questioned by Billboard magazine as payola, though the time purchased was quite definately commercial time. The album is currently in a deluxe release by Mute Records. An award winning interactive DVD, also distributed by Mute, is available featuring 56 one minute videos.


The premise of this album, which contains 40 one-minute songs, was for The Residents to create their own Top-Forty. They very nearly succeeded. The Commercial Album takes over where Duck Stab left off. It further distils the music of The Residents into a stream of compact and multi-faceted musical and lyrical gems. The songs on this kaleidoscopic album are conveying more with less.
One of the most important aspects of this album was the accompanying release of their four One Minute Movies. These brought to life the visual imagery of The Residents and spread it further than it had been before. Since they had not yet gone on tour, these videos gave us a chance to see what the Residents looked like. Created before MTV, they received a lot of air play when MTV was finally invented.
In order to make easier the task of discussing this album, I’ve chosen from their Top-Forty a list of Top-Ten songs. I feel that these ten songs accurately capture the soul of this album. They are listed in the order in which they appear on the album. If you own a CD player which allows you to program the order in which the songs are played, program it to play them in the following order.

Easter Woman (1) Amber (5) Red Rider (9) Floyd (11) The Nameless Souls (14) Love Leaks Out (15) The Simple Song (20) Moisture (29) Loneliness (33) When We Were Young (40)

The result is a ten-minute piece of music which passes through the disturbing open doorway on “Easter Woman”, the languid trotting whirlpool of “Amber”, the glowing embers of “Red Rider”, the sonorous textures coaxed from the analog synthesizer on “Floyd”, the quirky variety of instruments on “The Nameless Souls”, the impending doom of “Love Leaks Out”, the silly simplicity of “The Simple Song”, the loneliness of “Loneliness”, and the nostalgia of “When We Were Young”. “Moisture” deserves a sentence all to itself. I believe that it is the finest song on this album and that to write about it would be fruitless.
Due to the self-imposed time limitations, the lyrics for each song usually consist of no more than two to three sentences and last about thirty seconds. In spite of this economy of words, bright, bizarre, disturbing, languid, sad, ethereal, and silly images abound. The ability to create such complete and compelling images with so few words is an extraordinary talent indeed.
The idea of a commercial album by The Residents is contradictory. It is always difficult to compare their music with that of their contemporaries (in this case the year is 1980) for they follow no trends and their music disregards time and place.
It is fitting to end this section of the book with this album, for it marks the end of an era. Soon the technology of making music will drastically change. There will be computers and MIDI, digital synthesizers and samplers, and hard disk recording. Since the nature of The Residents is to be on the cutting edge of art and technology, they will be among the first to embrace these new changes. Besides, looming in the distance can be heard the rumbling of the Moles.
- David Willenbrink

CD Liner Notes
• Point one: Pop music is mostly a repetition of two types of musical and lyrical phrases, the verse and the chorus. • Point two: These elements usually repeat three times in a three minute song, the type usually found on top-40 radio. • Point three: Cut out the fat and a pop song is only one minute long. Then record albums can hold their own top-40, twenty minutes per side. • Point four: One minute is also the length of most commercials, and therefore their corresponding jingles. • point five: Jingles are the music of America. • Conclusion: This compact disc is terrific in shuffle play. To convert the jingles to pop music, program each song to repeat three times.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: opinion
            The Commercial Album is an album by the Residents.  It contains 40 tracks, each approximating a minute in duration.  The publicized comment is that these tracks resemble a Top 40 billboard and that they function, as a collective, as a criticism of Pop-music and the idea of commercialization of sound.  Each song individually has its own narrative supplemented by a title.  There is no claim made about this being a unified album with any sort of over-arching narrative.
            I think there is one.  I think the Commercial album is a very telling biography of some individual who loses their loved one and his experiences moving on from that love.  Memories permeate the landscape of his mind as he moves through the minutiae of his life.  New affairs occur, but his feeling for his first wife can never be overcome.  His mind turns to her now and again, but he perseveres.  And simply because I can observe it, it does exist.  I can ascribe meaning to differences in voices, or interpret significance in instrumentals and those with lyrics.  And I do.
1.      Easter Woman ? The opening signifies a death march while a lonely man sits down at the front of a Christian funeral.  ?Down, feeling down, I?m down, down town.  Down, feeling down, I?m down, way down.?  2nd voice: ?Easter Woman came today and took away my wife.?  One represents his self-aware pathos, the second represents his observation.
      Perfect Love ? A loved one dead never stops being loved.
      Picnic Boy ? A man encounters his first romance, or perhaps the one he lost.
      End Of Home ? Our first voice from Easter Woman reflects on his depth of love for his lost one.
      Amber ? A description of the lost loved one, the man remembers her fondly.
      Japanese Watercolor ? Perhaps a trip to Japan for the man, perhaps a visit to a museum, perhaps a means to escape from the depression and feeling of loss through art.
      Secrets ? A sense of paranoia settles in on our character; perhaps he has finally removed the grief that had overwhelmed him earlier, but perhaps a cynical pettiness has settled in for now.  Or perhaps it is the jealous suspicions remembered from a tense moment in the relationship.
      Die in Terror ? A lover, perhaps one meant to supplicate him or one remembered from long ago.
      Red Rider ? Amber returns again, a reference back to the original woman.
  My Second Wife ? I assume that her lover married again, moving on with life.  But, the lyrics would indicate that it is not one driven by passion or compassion.
  Floyd ? Perhaps our main character going for a walk.  I think this makes the most sense, but I don?t like having a name to work with.  Music seems to indicate thoughts shifting at one point, before returning back to the everyday task of doing something.
  Suburban Bathers ? One of my favorite tracks from this album.  Our character, perhaps in a younger time, is looking over the sea and wondering about love.  Perhaps it is a mix of the old and new, with him combining lessons from his past and present self here.
  Dimples and Toes ? He had a child?  Perhaps, this appears to be a song dealing with a father trying to reconcile with an estranged child.  Also, could be incestuous, but I doubt it.  It seems like it?s trying hard to be insidious with innuendo, which makes me think it is ironic.
  The Nameless Souls ? A song about sleeping with a prostitute if taking place in the present.  Looking for a way to break out of apathy, or remembering such a time, is another interpretation.  Maybe working with his first lover to accomplish this ? a factor that brought them together.
  Love Leaks Out ? Passion subsides over time.  Maybe he became callous.
  Act of Being Polite ? A memory of a low moment in his first relationship.  An argument, or perhaps the reflection on an act of sex that was fully self-gratifying for the man but exploited the wife.
  Medicine Man ? An instrumental that maybe reflects Floyd?s career path.  Or perhaps it refers to feelings of more spiritual means of relieving one?s self from cares.
  Tragic Bells ? Thoughts of suicide ring through his head.
  Loss of Innocence ? A childhood memory, one looked at objectively from the case of the present.  An elaborate and charming poem.
  The Simple Song ? Halfway point ? reflection leading to thoughts of simplicity.  Reducing the self down into a point.  Believing in an easy explanation that is self-fed.  If I see things as easy, things will become easy; right?
  Ups and Downs - A memory of the original lover, akin to Picnic Boy ? note the voice.  A memory of how love was found.
  Possessions ? loneliness returns to our character.  He cares for nothing but for some sort of companionship right now.
  Give it to Someone Else ? a sort of voyeurism has taken hold of our character.  He wishes to observe others having sex, seeing them at work.  A way of humanizing the character, or making it harder to sympathize easily with him.  Make him seem deeper than merely a man seeking for love after having lost it.
  Phantom ? a haunting instrumental that seems to indicate appearance of our main character at this point in the narrative.  He himself has become ghoulish, perhaps.
  Less Not More ? Another thought of suicide.  Difficult to interpret in terms of narrative because of the ambiguous nature of the line ?Less not more?.  Did he actually kill himself this time?  Or maybe he jumped, but survived?  Or maybe it was just a passing thought after all.
  My Work is So Behind ? Another great piece supplemented by a great new voice  Maybe the arrival of sin, maybe the desire for sex, maybe a literal fire, maybe a man rejecting his desires but becoming overtaken by them despite his, admittedly apathetic, efforts
  Birds in the Trees ? a man looking back on problems with his first wife, wishing he hadn?t make mistakes and unable to forget them.
  Handful of Desire ? Masturbation, relief of sexual tension.  Possibly with a woman, but more than likely just himself.  Perhaps akin to Loss of Innocence and maybe an observation of his younger self, but the voice doesn?t seem objective enough.
  Moisture ? One of the most powerful songs outside of the context of the album.  Perhaps the memory of his wife dying, perhaps a casual observation that occurred in his daily activities.
  Love is? - A self-aware reflection on personal definition of love.
  Troubled Man ? Our character looking at his body, wondering what has become of his life.  He reflects on the loss of his wife and of his daughter, apparently a medical doctor.  He has grown fat.
  La La ? Obviously a mention back to the first wife; the same voice, sounds of a horses running.  One of my favorites.
  Loneliness ? My favorite track.  It makes my back shiver each and every time.  It is our character in his younger days, remember some horrible incident that left him scarred.
  Nice Old Man ? A new voice, maybe a third-party observing our main character.  Giving us another perspective on his presence.  I would like to think that the harsh break before final words is the Nice Old Man imposing his presence.
  The Talk of Creatures ? His internal consciousness, reminding him of his existence in the late of night.
  Fingertips ? Our character returns to the beach ? mentally, I believe ? thinking of his wife and reliving his youthful days.  Perhaps the line, ?her lack of grace?, hints at how she died.
  In Between Dreams ? A period of relaxation between his dream of his lost wife and his next dream that also reflects on his wife.
  Margaret Freeman ? Our character?s wife.  He remembers a flaw, and it terrorizes his thoughts briefly.  It is only an observation though.
  The Coming of the Crow ? He is dying, this is the end.
  When We Were Young ? A beautiful piece ? perhaps it is him reminiscing one final time about his first true love.  Maybe he?s meeting her again.  I do not know.  Whatever it is, it is beautiful.
I could have just made everything fit what I wanted to, however.  But, there is a man and a woman on the cover, yes?  It doesn?t matter what names they have, they have become bigger than themselves at this point.
I really enjoy this album.

Jon Daniel Stephenson