The album itself is a dense concept album featuring a more musical and cohesive approach than that found on most Residents albums from the 1970s.
Throughout the band's first few releases, the official word was that The Residents had no intention of releasing their completed second album. The group claimed that they had recorded the album in secrecy as a way of exercising N. Senada's "theory of obscurity" to its fullest, and, in strict accordance with the theory, the work could never be released until its creators no longer recalled its existence.
Senada maintained that an artist does his or her best work in isolation, free of the influence of an audience. If the artist is modifying his or her ideas to suit the tastes of the audience (in order to get better reviews or better sales), then the work is being corrupted.
But those steeped in the lore of The Residents' milieu have long known that the recording of the album was in realty an exercise in group therapy. The real reason that the band wished to deny its existence was the fact that they felt that the work was too personally revealing. The band was having internal problems, in part due to the increasing diffculties they were facing in the production of Vileness Fats, so total isolation was looking like a good idea.
As part of their therapeutic process, The Residents considered the idea of creating an operetta based on Not Available. Casting the primary roles with the actual inhabitants of the group's internal drama, they then began a series of loosely structured "rehearsals" with those players enacting the principal roles of Edweena, The Porcupine, The Catbird, Uncle Remus and the Enigmatic Foe. By enacting this pseudo drama within a psycho drama, the internal conflict, still not completely understood by all of the participants, became much more clear, as the player/characters instinctively acted out their roles.
The story focuses on a love triangle between three characters, Edweena, The Porcupine, and The Catbird, narrated by the distant and objective Uncle Remus.
Spurred into a complete breakdown by the proceedings, The Porcupine's place in the operetta's climactic duel scene was taken by the Enigmatic Foe, a figure whose purpose up to this point had been unknown.
As the operetta reaches its peak, Catbird and the Enigmatic Foe aim pistols at one another while the Porcupine hides in a bush. Finally, the two come to the realization that Edweena, object of their desires, had eloped with the independently wealthy and no longer distant Uncle Remus. The tension is shattered by the Porcupine, who emerges from the shrubbery to paraphrase Shakespeare.
With illusions of love shattered, the three are then able to forgive, embrace and even welcome the traitorous Remus back to the fold upon his return from his unexpected honeymoon.
The eventual publication of the album came about as the result of another problem with the band. In 1978, The Residents were working on Eskimo, a much-touted major release. However, after a disagreement with The Cryptic Corporation, the band disappeared to England with the master tapes. Needing something to release, the Cryptics pulled "some old tapes" off the shelves and released them as Not Available, complete with ads in the UK music press announcing "Now It Can Be Sold" (echoing the famous DEVO slogan "Now It Can Be Told"). The Residents weren't bothered much by this deviation from their plan, however, since the 1978 decision to release of the album couldn't affect the philosophical conditions under which it was recorded in 1974.
In 2011, The Cryptic Corporation released a new, remastered and extended version of Not Available, which restored approximately seven minutes of previously unheard material from the original sessions to the running time of the album.
Not Available was not included with the rest of the group's "classic" era albums in their pREServed reissue campaign (which began in 2018 and continuing to the present day), in order to "pREServe" the Theory of Obscurity which guided the album's composition. It was, however, listed (albeit crossed out) in the liner notes to the reissues of Eskimo and Commercial Album in early 2019, even being designated a catalog number, NRT007.
Track listing Edit
Original 1978 release
- Part One: Edweena (9:29)
- Part Two: The Making Of A Soul (9:59)
- Part Three: Ship's A'Going Down (6:34)
- Part Four: Never Known Questions (7:00)
- Epilogue (2:21)
2011 restored version
- Part One: Edweena (10:55)
- Part Two: The Making Of A Soul (10:03)
- Part Three: Ship's A'Going Down (10:10)
- Part Four: Never Known Questions (8:54)
- Epilogue (2:21)
Liner notes Edit
While there are a million stories about The Residents, one of the more intriguing concerns the recording of their second LP, Not Available. Early in the career of the band, the "theory of obscurity" was introduced to them by the German avant gardist, N. Senada. The plan called for the creation of complete projects that were literally not intended to be heard by anyone other than its creators. The Residents realized the truth in this ideal: that music really was difficult to record without considering the audience. They thought the experience gained by completing such a project would prove worthwhile toward achieving an independent attitude toward music. N. Senada had also been quick to point out that such a project reduces the amount of artistic clutter that is quickly swallowing the planet.
Not Available was completed in 1974 and stored. Several years later, in 1978, The Residents were severely over schedule on their opus, Eskimo. The final release deadline set by the record company arrived only to find that The Residents had fled to Europe and taken Eskimo with them. In desperation, the record company pulled Not Available from the masters room and released it. Surprisingly, The Residents were not upset by this fact since it in no way violated their original intent. Eventually Eskimo was retrieved from the bank vault in London but... well ... that's another story.