Label: Ralph Records
Price paid: $10
Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY
Darkness fell upon the garden, as I sadly sat alone
Ralph Records was created fundamentally as a vehicle for the conceptual group The Residents; close to half the label’s output consists of the band’s material. Primarily active during the 70s into the 80s, the label began releasing product in earnest again around 2010 after a near twenty year absence. This recent upswing in production could have been due to the label being sold off around that time… more research is needed.
The label’s slogan “Buy or Die!” was used as the title of their mail order catalog and a series of 7″ compilation EPs. I’m not sure how many of these compilations were released; I can confirm a volume for 1980, 1980 1/2 (this one), and 1981. ‘Buy or Die’ numbers 14 and 14 1/2 were released in 1987, but- other than being compilations- have nothing to do with the early 7″s as far as I can tell.
If the overall sound of this EP had to be pigeonholed I’d have to file it under ‘Experimental’ with a hefty dose of ‘Minimalist Synth.’
The Residents: Easter Woman, The End of Home, Amber– The Residents are a self consciously shadowy art collective with accomplishments too numerous to even hint at here. These three quirky little jewels clock in at about one minute each.
Snakefinger: Trashing All The Loves Of History– British singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Snakefinger (aka Philip Charles Lithman) moved to San Fransisco in 1971 and began a working relationship with the Residents that lasted for decades. He died in July, 1987 of a heart attack.
Yello: Rock Stop– Swiss band probably best known for the song ‘Oh Yeah’, which was featured in the film ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,’ This track is slightly less marketable…
Fred Frith: Come Across– A British multi-instrumentalist (best known as a guitarist) and composer, Frith has worked with many avant-garde groups over the years including The Golden Palominos, Material, and yes, The Residents. He was also a member of the Art Bears, who released some material on Ralph as well. He is the subject of the 1990 documentary ‘Step Across the Border.’
I try not to throw around the word ‘iconic’ too often, but this single’s sleeve certainly lives up to that label. It was illustrated by Gary Panter, an influential artist known for his comic ‘Jimbo’, set design on the 80’s TV show ‘Pee Wee’s Playhouse’ (for which he won three Emmy’s), and (from 1978-1986) married to the manager of the LA punk band The Germs (Nicole Panter.) With it’s noxious palette and confrontational death imagery it perhaps exudes more of a hardcore vibe than plinky plinky art-rock cool, the sleeve nonetheless is a memorable statement to say the least.