The Residents, 1972
The Residents’ first fan club, W.E.I.R.D. (We Endorse Immediate Residents Deification), was founded in 1978, and one of its charter members was Life in Hell and Simpsons creator Matt Groening. As a member of the Residents’ second fan club, UWEB, I am bound by the most solemn oaths never to discuss any of the secret handshakes, passwords, ciphers, rituals, buttons, bumper stickers or T-shirts of the inner sanctum, but I can point seekers to this exoteric document: Groening’s “The True Story of the Residents.” This phantasmagoric bio of the group, first published in 1979’s The Official W.E.I.R.D. Book of the Residents and reprinted in 1993’s Uncle Willie’s Highly Opinionated Guide to the Residents, gives a wild yet relatively concise account of the band’s founding myth.
The Official W.E.I.R.D. Book of the Residents (cover by Gary Panter)
You’ll notice that most of the fun facts in this true story are lies; for instance, I tend to doubt that “Six Things to a Cycle” originated as a “lengthy ballet” that “was canceled when The Residents were rumored to be selling experimental monkey depressants to grade school children.” But Groening weaves the Residents, the Mysterious N. Senada, Philip “Snakefinger” Lithman, the Cryptic Corporation, and “a squealing Boston terrier on acid flung into a barrel of live albino sand eels” into a tale that will make tears stream from your eyes and snot run from your nose. Look how he gets the band from Louisiana to its early base of operations in San Mateo:
After high school, the gang (which numbered five) split up and went their various ways—college, grunt jobs, draft evasion. They kept in touch with each other’s progress, however, and soon found themselves hopping like rabid Rhesus monkeys to rhythm and blues—particularly James Brown and Bo Diddley. James Brown’s Live At The Apollo is an album which makes them quiver to this day. But they soon found that they needed each other, and re-grouped to plot strategy. They didn’t know what the hell they were doing, but they knew James Brown made their butts twitch, and some how it would all work out. In 1966 or so, after a couple of them had made it almost all the way through college, they decided to escape the slimy Southern scourge of George Wallace. So they loaded up their truck and headed straight for San Francisco, where they had heard all the go-go mod action was goin’ down. As fate would have it, their truck broke down in a quiet suburban town called San Mateo, some 25 miles south of the big city. Behind them they left a few loyal, more balanced acquaintances who would later follow to start The Cryptic Corporation. In California they saw the minds around them already beginning to break down. Youngsters everywhere were growing their hair out and joining the “bushhead” movement. Beach boys frolicked with trained wild seals on the sand, and local cretins began electrocuting themselves with guitars on-stage while thousands chanted, “You endorse our mindless lives,” in unified spontaneity. Charles Manson pierced his nipple with a Love button while on acid, and the Psychedelic Revolution was born. The Residents began licking their lips.
To read “The True Story of the Residents” in full, go to this page in the “Historical section” of residents.com and click “Matt Groening’s TRUE STORY.” Below, Groening talks about connecting with W.E.I.R.D. and writing his “fanciful” bio in a clip from the upcoming documentary about the Residents, Theory of Obscurity.