OverviewDatesDiaryReleased RecordingsUncle Willie
The Mole Show is the stage version of The Mole Trilogy, a series of albums which tell the story of two societies, the Moles and the Chubs, and the conflicts between them.
After ten years of making music The Residents decided to go on tour as a way of dealing with anger, confusion, and frustration in the band. Between the sudden rejection of The Commercial Album by the once-friendly New Wave press and internal problems in the group, they felt that they needed something new with which to work off steam. They had never toured before because their music depended so much on the studio and they feared that it would not translate well to stage. However, the invention of EM-U's Emulator in 1981 was a big step forward in music creation. The Emulator was the first affordable sampler, and it allowed musicians to take all those sounds which can't be produced by conventional instruments and play them back with great precision and control. They were so impressed that, ever the technophiles, they ordered one immediately. Their first one was Emulator #0005. The band used it extensively on the second Mole Trilogy album, The Tunes of Two Cities, and started experimenting with using it to perform music from The Mark of the Mole live in their studio.
When The Residents decided that they wanted to tour, they knew that they didn't want to do the standard "rock concert" kind of show. They wanted something more theatrical, and considered reviving the Eskimo opera idea which they had been playing with. That project didn't provide the impending-doom mood the band was seeking, so they decided to go with the Mole stuff they were working on at the time.
The Mole Trilogy was inspired by various stories of the Great Depression, such as John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. The first album, The Mark of the Mole, tells of how the primitive but hard-working Moles were driven from their homes and forced to live with the sophisticated and superficial Chubs, who used them as cheap, lower-class labour until the friction between the groups exploded into war. The second part, The Tunes of Two Cities, doesn't tell a story, but rather juxtaposes music from the two cultures. These two albums were to become the material for the new show: Mark gave the show a story, and Tunes provided linking music between scenes.
The successes which they had been having with sales meant that their Cryptic Corporation was relatively well off. With the capital from the company and the expectation that the tour would pay for itself, the group went all out with the production. The set consisted of huge 21' x 18' backdrops flanking a burlap scrim, behind which the band played. Chubs and Moles were represented by cut-outs which were manipulated by stage hands in Groucho Marx glasses. The dancers, also in Groucho glasses, would act out the story in front of all this. The band hired their friend, Penn Jillette, to come on the tour as narrator, to help get the audience through the story and to give them someone to whom they could relate.