Freak Show is a concept album detailing the stories of a number of different characters within the titular travelling carnival freak show. Following the success of the album, this concept was expanded to include multimedia projects such as a graphic novel and a CD-ROM.
History and concept Edit
After the Cube-E tour, The Residents were feeling de-spirited. The last leg of the tour had been plagued with problems and they'd been feeling more and more like what had started out as a piece of musical theatre had turned into an exhibition of bizarre cultural deformities with themselves as the star attraction. "Everyone comes to the freak show" became a back-stage catch-phrase for the tour.Building on their fears and worries (a frequent source of inspiration) and inspired by such sources as Daniel P. Mannix's book Freaks: We Who Are Not Like Others and the 1932 Tod Browning film Freaks, they came up with a series of short stories about a troupe of side-show freaks.
The songs which grew out of these stories do not necessarily tell the stories (though some do) but are instead character studies. The track "Lillie" is about a member of the audience who, in spite of being a so-called "normal" person, is so disturbing that she manages to freak out the freaks.
The Residents hired Tony Janssen, who had previously worked with them on the sound on the TV series Pee-Wee's Playhouse, to help out with the MIDI work on the album. The group had started experimenting with MIDI technology when they were hired to write music for Pee-Wee's Playhouse, but this was the most extensive use of the synthesizer networking system they had undertaken to date.
Freak Show was ultimately The Residents' most successful project in some years, and the group decided to expand on the album's concept with early explorations into multimedia, beginning with the music video for "Harry The Head". This video was animated by Jim Ludtke, who would become a frequent collaborator in the mid-to-late 1990s).
Following this, the group released a graphic novel through Dark Horse Comics, featuring a number of popular alternative comix artists. A special limited-edition hardcover version also included a single entitled Blowoff, a fifteen-minute instrumental piece based on musical ideas from Freak Show.
The success of the comic was followed in 1992 by a CD-ROM project by the group in collaboration with Voyager Company. The original album was then re-issued in 1995 as Freak Show CD-Rom Soundtrack with additional CD-ROM content. The success of this CD-ROM would lead The Residents to further experiment with the format, with the enhanced CD-ROM material featured on the group's 1994 album Gingerbread Man, and their 1995 game Bad Day on the Midway.
In 1995, the album was adapted into a stage performance in Prague, with the music performed by an orchestra of Czech musicians. In 2003, the album was re-issued in a 13th Anniversary Special Edition 2-CD set, the first disc featuring an extended version of the original album, with the second disc featuring a recording of the Czech live performance, as well as a nine minute "remix" of the Freak Show album created in 2001, and a live version of "Benny The Bouncing Bump" from the Icky Flix tour in 2001.
Track listing Edit
Original 1990 release / Freak Show CD-Rom Original Soundtrack (1995)
- Everyone Comes To The Freak Show (3:59)
- Harry The Head (2:54)
- Herman The Human Mole (3:57)
- Wanda The Worm Woman (4:34)
- Jello Jack The Boneless Boy (5:53)
- Benny The Bouncing Bump (6:07)
- Mickey The Mumbling Midget (4:26)
- Lillie (6:56)
- Nobody Laughs When They Leave (5:50)
Freak Show 13th Anniversary Special Edition (2003) - Disc One
- Everyone Comes To The Freak Show (5:24)
- Harry's Introduction (0:34)
- Harry The Head (3:02)
- Herman Watches TV (Mexican Porn) (2:38)
- Herman The Human Mole (3:59)
- Wanda Does Her Act (2:03)
- Wanda The Worm Woman (4:38)
- Jack Amuses The Crowd (0:46)
- Jack The Boneless Boy (5:57)
- Benny Bounces (0:34)
- Benny The Bouncing Bump (6:10)
- Mickey The Mumbling Midget (4:39)
- Lillie (7:00)
- Nobody Laughs When They Leave (5:57)
Freak Show 13th Anniversary Special Edition (2003) - Disc Two: Prague and Beyond
Tracks 1-10 performed by the Freak Show Band Based On Už Jsme Doma live in Prague 1995.
- Everyone Comes To The Freak Show (3:20)
- Wanda (3:54)
- Mickey (3:02)
- Bridge (2:58)
- Herman (4:20)
- Harry (1:14)
- Jack (3:39)
- Benny (6:44)
- Wanda's Letters (Part 17) (10:07)
- Nobody Laughs When They Leave (1:28)
- Freak Show Remix (2001) (9:00)
- Benny Live - Icky Flix Tour (2001) (10:09)
See also Edit
- Freak Show (graphic novel)
- Freak Show (CD-ROM)
- Freak Show Live
- Gingerbread Man
- Bad Day on the Midway