Just who are the world, anyway?
In October 1997, the Residents celebrated their 25th anniversary with a series of shows at San Francisco’s Fillmore. Friends, it was my lucky lot in life to attend one of these concerts. (I believe it was Richard’s even luckier lot to attend one of the 13th anniversary shows, where they were joined by the late, great guitarist Snakefinger.) There are many memories I treasure from that magical evening, but the Residents’ reading of “We Are the World” will always have a special place in my heart. I have never heard the song the same way since.
The centerpiece of the Fillmore concerts was “Disfigured Night,” a/k/a “The Saga of Silly Billy,” a 30-minute piece of music which tells the story of a telepathic deaf mute who befriends a one-legged chimp. The simian’s former human companion, a one-legged girl, appears to Silly Billy in a vision, and he and the chimp set out to find her.
In Billy’s vision, the girl sings a siren-like melody; it haunts the boy throughout his quest. At the climax of “Disfigured Night,” after Billy undergoes a miraculous transformation, he stands on his bed and belts the song. Yep, you guessed it: it’s “We Are the World.”
Here’s the end of “Disfigured Night” as it was performed in Köln, Germany in August 1997. As you’ll see, the audience can barely contain its excitement. This footage comes from the long out-of-print Disfigured Night DVD.
Later, readers—I have to heed a certain call, if you know what I mean.