Thursday, 12 June 2008

CRAZY MOON (incredibly strange musick)



Original Issue: 1969 Third World (TCLP 3001)

Reissue: 1999 RCA Victor (09026 63371-2)

Margot-meter: ??? moons / 5

Groundbreaking pre-everything masterpiece or complete rubbish?
Only YOU can decide!!!

This album has been variously defined as:
  • the worst musical performances ever
  • juvenile, awful, inept, and unlistenable while being creative, beautiful, sophisticated, and progressive
  • the proof to the old idea that putting a million monkeys at a million typewriters for a million years will eventually produce "Henry V"
  • a cultural phenomenon
  • naive, terrible, special, unique, childish and profound at the same time
  • everybody needs to hear the Shaggs in their lifetime
  • this is actual ANTI music
  • sounds almost exactly like some basic form of punk music
  • disconnected, disjointed, dysharmonious, dysrhythmic sounds made with musical instruments
  • I'd like to track down the beatnik who declared this album "cool and avant-garde" and punch him repeatedly
  • people giving this tripe five stars simply have it in their collection because it makes them feel superior and "in the know"
  • this stuff is horrid, but I must pretend to like it to show that I am one of the enlightened few
  • these girls had a mentally unbalanced, abusive father(possibly sexually abusive) who wouldn't even allow his daughters to have friends
so I think there are a lot of very good reasons to give it a spin ;-)

1 Philosophy Of The World (2:56)
2 That Little Sports Car (2:06)
3 Who Are Parents (2:58)
4 My Pal Foot Foot (2:31)
5 My Companion (2:04)
6 I'm So Happy When You're Near (2:12)
7 Things I Wonder (2:12)
8 Sweet Thing (2:57)
9 It's Halloween (2:22)
10 Why Do I Feel? (3:57)
11 What Should I Do? (2:18)
12 We Have A Savior (3:06)


Now THIS is something completely different. One of the cultest of all cult albums, Philosophy of the World is probably even weirder than any Captain Beefheart-album you own, as it almost sounds like an interrupted transmission from outer space.

The Shaggs consisted of three sisters (Dorothy, lead guitar and vocals; Betty, rhythm guitar and vocals; Helen, drums) who, “guided” by their ambitious father, took up music lessons and eventually also recorded an album. When the album came off the presses, the majority of the copies were stolen, so the poorly distributed album very quickly became a forgotten item…. until Frank Zappa declared it one of his all-time favorites a few years later, which triggered a true Shaggs-cult that went on throughout the years, eventually also resulting in a 1999 reissue, which tried to reinstate the original.

A prime example of ‘outsider music,’ Philosophy sounds as if it’s played either by complete ignorants or avant-garde musicians (for a long time I thought it was a hoax, instigated by some obscure free jazz collective, and you have to admit that the girls on the cover look a bit ‘weird’, too). If you thought that Jad Fair, Jandek and Daniel Johnston had already been making very personal and awkward music that seems to defy all musical conventions and logic, then The Shaggs’ approach might be a truly inspiring treat for you.

The girls sing without any harmony, tuneless, and with a weird phrasing. It sometimes sounds as if you’re overhearing a class of Chinese children singing American standards. The subject matter ranges from the equality of all people (“Philosophy of the World”), to a disappeared dog (“My Pal Foot Foot”), and other existential concerns (“Things I Wonder,” “Why Do I Feel?,” etc). Helen Wiggin’s drum kit apparently consists only of a snare drum, a floor tom and one cymbal (hi-hat), while her patterns can be called poly-rhythmic I guess, as they are as steady as an Elisabeth Taylor marriage, suddenly shifting from one rhythm to the next. On top of that she plays the weirdest drum fills imaginable (take that, Phil Collins), seemingly unaware of the song’s underlying structure. The competence of Dorothy and Betty is similarly limited, as they strum their guitars in a totally incoherent way, playing false notes and inventing new stuff as they go along.

And it is exactly this that seems to be the weirdest aspect of their music: it sounds as if these girls weren’t exposed to any music at all between their 2nd and 15th year. Somehow, they seem to have a basic idea of what music should be like (a basic rhythm, melody, ‘different parts,’ a grammar of the music), but at the same time they also seem confused about it, as verses and chorus seem almost indistinguishable and randomly placed.

The result of it all is one of the most incompetent albums imaginable, a ramshackle effort in which nothing is what it should be, an effort that defies almost every rule. And while some people thought it was one of the most liberating and inspiring albums in pop history, I can only endure this in small doses, and while I’m doing that, I probably make some funny faces. Therefore, yours sincerely considers this album as a curiosity any music fan should hear at least once, but it’s not one that you will ‘enjoy’ on a regular basis. Unless having the freakiest collection of your circle of acquaintances or driving your housemates mad is your ultimate goal.


Margot said...
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Anonymous said...

how to download this pearl?
respect from macedonia

Jeff Gee said...

Homina homina homina. In the face of this, words fail me. The alphabet itself fails me. THANK YOU.

gert said...

A true classic. Thank you! Also check the Dutch/American compilation Better Than the Beatles: A Tribute To The Shaggs.

Katrina said...

I'm anxious to hear this. Thanks for sharing it!

Anonymous said...

I've known the front cover for a while, it's beautiful music. Not as weird as Cpt Beefheart at all, more like Daniel Johnston or any NoFi artists...

mejii said...

Sift long enough and you can find tiny grains of pop gold.

thanks to margot

the cosmogonic escrotolitum said...

the best cannot-play-album ever

bv said...

Yikes! Thanks for sharing.

Roger Camden said...

Play this an people will fight you for control of the stereo.

"Foot-Foot" is about their cat of the same name. I actually think that song is cute. Also, "Philosophy of the World" gives solid examples of the duality of life.


Thanks for this one.
Do you have more outsider music?

Anonymous said...

The RAINCOATS- "Odyshape" they are NOT , but the truly open-minded should experience The Shaggs at least once.

Breaking all the rules is often a good thing .....
It`s brilliant at times, despite itself, AND though most people will find it too hard to take, ... well, beauty is in the ear of the behearer, so you simply need to adjust your mindset (however you may accomplish same).

really good posts as always , Lady Margot


PS: Others (who Zappa drooled over)and are far too over-looked, would be.....


gojira said...

they are better than the Beatles.

Margot said...

Ehy Roger,
your question is bizarre:

"Do you have more outsider music?"

I absolutely refuse to post "insider" musick ;-)


Anonymous said...

Although I have this one, I just want to say how I love to see this record on your blog. Real music in the key of Z ...


Zapple100 said...

I think it's great. You have to look at the history of the band to understand what's going on here. There's an innocence about the whole thing.
What you get here is real people playing real music.
Thanks for posting this album.

megan said...

Very curious, going to take this one. Thank you!

olaf675 said...
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