The Third Reich 'n' Roll(1976)
OverviewTracksLiner NotesUncle Willie
This album is the first published example of two things for which The Residents became known: the concept album and music about music. Considered by some to be the cornerstone of The Residents' reputation, The Third Reich 'N' Roll consists of two tracks (one on each side of the LP), each a medley of deconstructed (dismembered?) covers of popular songs from the '60s.
In the original album liner notes, The Cryptic Corporation calls The Third Reich 'N' Roll The Residents' "tribute to the thousands of little power-mad minds in the music industry who have helped make us what we are today, with an open eye on what we can make them tomorrow." The ESD Classic Series CD liner notes call the album a "scathingly satirical look at '60's bubble-gum rock somehow twisted into shocking '70's bubble-gum avant-garde". Other descriptions included "Pop meets Dada", "the 60's as done by the 70's German avant-garde". Uncle Willie describes the album as "[taking] all your favourite bubble gum riffs from the sixties, dress[ing] them up in avant-guard drag, and send[ing] them into the streets to break windows".
The Residents put a lot of effort into the packaging and promotion of the album. In keeping with the "Third Reich" theme, the promotional photos featured men in swastika glasses and wearing giant swastika collars. The Nazi references and swastikas were a problem all through the album's history.
In fact, the album couldn't be released in Germany at all because the swastikas in the cover art are banned there. The band put out a "censored" version of the album cover in responce.
The Residents also made a short film to promote the album -- one of the very first music videos. It is in two parts. The first features The Residents, in newspaper costumes, dancing around to the album's version of Land of 1000 Dances in a newspaper world the band created in their studio. In the second half, a newspaper man is joined by an Atomic Shopping Cart, giant pork chops, and various other props from the Vileness Fats movie in a pixelated dance. The newspaper costumes caused more publicity problems for the band, though, since the tall, conical hoods led some of people to think that the group was promoting the Ku Klux Klan. In actual fact, the costumes were made that way because that was the simplest way to make a head-covering out of newspaper.
Ralph Records also released a special limited release of twenty-five The Third Reich 'N' Roll Collector's Boxes in 1980. The packaging was very elaborate: the disk was "hand pressed" in red marbled vinyl with a silk-screened sleeve and labels, all wrapped up in a black, velvet-lined wooden box. The box opened by a sliding panel which was hand silk-screened with the cover art, and contained two signed and numbered lithographs. The whole thing was bundled up in a draw-string bag made of fabric left over from a Christo's art project.