After the Cube-E tour, The Residents were feeling rather 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. It didn't help that after almost ten years of tours and major projects and more than twenty years of recorded work, the musical press still spent far more time talking about their costumes than their music.
Building on their fears and worries (a frequent source of inspiration for them) 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 don't necessarily tell these stories (though some do) but instead concentrate on the character of the people -- with the reminder that these are people, in spite of their often disturbing appearances. The group also turn the situation upside-down for one song, "Lillie". Lillie is a member of the audience who, in spite of being a so-called "normal" person, is so disturbing that she manages to freak the freaks out.
The Residents hired Tony Janssen, who had 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 band had started experimenting with the technology when they were hired do write soundtracks for episodes of Pee-Wee's Playhouse, but this was the most extensive use of the synthesizer networking system they had ever undertaken.
Freak Show was the group's most successful project in some years, and the group decided to expand on the work with explorations into multi-media, beginning with the music video for "Harry The Head", animated by Jim Ludtke (who would thereafter become a frequent collaborator of the group in the mid-to-late 1990s). Following this, the group released a graphic novel through Dark Horse, featuring a number of popular alternative comix artists. A special limited-edition hard-cover 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, expanding upon the original album, which was then re-issued in 1995 as Freak Show CD-Rom Soundtrack - identical to the original album but with additional CD-ROM content. 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)