Enter the name for this tabbed section: SANTA DOG 1972

First Released
2x7"vinyl - 1972 - Ralph Records - RR1272 - US

Perfection Ends When Life Begins (Santa Dog)
December 22, 1972

This week a strange little recording has come into my life.  It’s called
Santa Dog, and it is the inaugural release of a new label called Ralph Records.  The pair of 7-inch records compiles four songs from four different artists:
  • “Fire” performed by Ivory & The Braineaters
  • “Explosion” performed by The College Walkers
  • “Lightning” performed by Delta Nudes
  • “Aircraft Damage” performed by Arf & Omega featuring The Singing Lawnchairs
Ivory & The Braineaters have the standout hit.  It’s a catchy little surf tune with echoes of “Jingle Bells” that’s clearly been put through the filter of psychedelic experimentation.  You can see why Ralph Records chose to name this compilation after the lyrics of this song.  The Braineaters are the flagship band on the label, and Ralph Records is betting money on their success to support the other acts.

The College Walkers’ contribution starts off as a loungy, jazzy piece that sounds not too different from a lot of records from the past decade.  I expect the cover of their LP to feature not the band but an attractive woman in some sort of sexy pose: draped on a grand piano, wearing a belly dancer costume, or nude with strategically placed potted plants in the frame.  But that lasts less than a minute before we’re treated to a percussion piece that then skirts into the avant garde.  It sounds a lot like the crazy percussion records my uncle had when I was young.
The Delta Nudes’ track continues in this vein, but unlike the first two acts there is no attempt to begin with a mainstream sound, other than starting with the “Jingle Bells” melody.  It could very well be an extended jam session from The College Walkers.  These two groups might cross-pollinate, but at the very least they must be friends.

Arf & Omega round out the collection with poetry accompanied by barking dogs.  The meter of the poem at times bears a strong resemblance to Shel Silverstein’s “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out,” which was released earlier this year.  The Singing Lawnchairs (I’m not sure if they are a fifth Ralph Records group or just one-off guests) finish the song with a lovely blend of voices singing decidedly ugly words: “kick a cat today, fish are dumb pluck an eye from one.”

By the end, you come to realize that this is not a traditional record label sampler that merely collects the singles with the best selling potential.  First of all, the titles seem to have nothing to do with the songs themselves, and instead are part of the packaging, which mimics an insurance company’s holiday card.  It’s clear that we are meant to judge the piece as a whole, and not as a group of individuals.

Amongst the songs there is much sharing of ideas and themes.  ”Jingle Bells” appears in two tracks; the close pairing of “present” and “future” is made in two songs; the uncommon (for pop music) word “effervescent” is used twice; and dogs permeate the collection with the overall name, the lyrics of the first song, and the percussive use of barking in the last piece.

And, if played in the correct order (which takes conscious effort, as the discs pair sides 1 and 4 together and sides 2 and 3 together), what you get is a collection that begins sounding like it could be a radio hit with a bit of work, and slowly delves further away from the mainstream towards the avant garde.  But it’s not cowering away from the effort needed to produce pop hits, nor is it all-out rejecting that aspect of music.  What is happening is a growing confidence in doing it differently.  We have been taken by the hand and led from our comfort zone to the land of Ralph Records.

It seems a little scary, and maybe there will be no hand-holding from this point forward, but I’m interested in seeing what these four (or five) artists on Ralph Records will bring next.

from Gio's blog.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: 1978

First Released
7"vinyl - 1978 - Ralph Records - RR7812 - US

The Purpose Of Those Other People Was Explained (Santa Dog ’78)
December 19, 1978
“Santa Dog ’78″ turns out to be a new recording of “Fire,” the Ivory & The Braineaters song from the Santa Dog compilation.  It was my favorite from that collection, and I had high hopes that Ivory and company would return with more.  They never returned.  But, as it turns out, that’s only because they never left.
The song is now attributed to The Residents, which implies the two bands are the same.  At first I was having a fair amount of trouble wrapping my head around that.  Sound-wise, I don’t recognize anything from the original in what I am hearing.  But then again I don’t recognize anything from Duck Stab! as having much in common with Meet The Residents, either.  Bands change, especially if they have room to experiment.  But this is a much more dramatic change than The Beatles underwent in their six years.  Despite them starting as a small skiffle combo and ending as a polished group with lush string arrangements, I had no problem understanding that “Let It Be” and “Love Me Do” came from the same people.  (“Revolution 9″ is an outlier of course.)
For me it’s the voices.  “I Am The Walrus” is really out there, but I recognize John’s voice, and can tell it’s the same one that sang “Twist And Shout.”  I’ve listened to the two versions of “Santa Dog” back to back, and I can’t tell it’s the same singer.  But maybe it’s not – there are no individual credits, so it could simply be another member. And that is not unheard of.  The singer of “Penny Lane” does not sound like the singer of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” after all.
It stands to reason that the other three bands from Santa Dog are also The Residents.  I had a suspicion they shared members, but not that they were all a single entity.  Now I’m forced to reevaluate what I know about this group.  I’ve come to know them as a band with no identities, but now I know they started out as a band with several identities.  An alter ego is, in the end, a form of anonymity, so it’s not much of a stretch to go from many false personae to none at all.  I wonder if David Bowie’s experience as Ziggy Stardust was an influence.  At first the group saw the idea of a stage character very exciting, and created many to play with.  But by 1974 they saw how the Ziggy persona overtook the man behind it, so they went to the other extreme in order to guarantee their public and private lives never intersected.  The notes say The Residents recorded this song as a tribute to their former innocence.  Did their innocence die along with Ziggy?
One Resident says “innocence must always give way to maturity eventually” which is very surprising coming from such a youth-oriented musical group.  Most promote rebellion against the status quo and, well, people my age.  Or they get caught up in their own success and, unable to cope, self-destruct.  Another Resident also sees this tragic state of affairs and offers this advice: “happiness comes from manipulating your weaknesses into your strengths, not from chasing desires.”
As rebellious youth goes, this is a rebellion against the rebellion.  I’m reminded of a piece from Mad Magazine many years ago (as a teacher I’m often obligated to confiscate the comic from students, and as a person who likes a chuckle I always read some before returning it at the end of the day, often saying with a wink “now don’t let me catch you with the next issue!”).  It was called “How To Be A Mad Non-Conformist,” and while the examples are lost to time, I do remember the premise being that there are conformists and there are non-conformists, but the non-conformists all seem to behave in the same way, which has become its own kind of conformity.  The Mad non-conformist takes it a step further, and that’s exactly what The Residents have been doing.

This is a post from
Gio's blog.
Enter the name for this tabbed section: 1988

First Released
CD - 1988 - UWEB - UWEB001 - US

Enter the name for this tabbed section: 1992 - SHOW US YOR UGLY

First Released
CD - 1992 - UWEB - UWEB009 - US

Enter the name for this tabbed section: 1999 - REFUSED

First Released
CD - 1999 - RalphAmerica - RA06 - US

Enter the name for this tabbed section: 2006

First Released
2006 download

Enter the name for this tabbed section: SD12

First Released
2012 download