The Shaggs were three sisters, Dot, Betty and Helen Wiggin, hailing from Fremont, New Hampshire, who formed a band, at their father’s insistence, in 1968. Daddy (Austin Wiggin, Jr.), after much practicing from the girls, paid for one recording session and the pressing of what would become The Shaggs’ weird and wonderful — and only — album Philosophy Of The World (1969).
It’s hard to say what exactly the Wiggins sisters were aiming for, as their sound is discordant as well as strangely musical in a left-of-field way. Strange being the key word here. To say that The Shaggs were in a musical world of their own is an understatement. Obviously not trained as musicians, The Shaggs make the early recordings of The Slits sound like King Crimson or any other classically trained art/prog band you could name.
Playing in time, in tune, and singing on pitch is something that didn’t occur to these young ladies or their supportive father, apparently. One could call The Shaggs a garage band. Yeah, a garage band who sounds like all three members are all playing in separate garages and can’t hear what the other two are playing. Then there are the lyrics. Where to begin? Like the title track where lead vocalist, Dot, half speaks, half sings in her hypnotic, monotone manner, “Oh, the rich people want what the poor people got, and the poor people want what the rich people got.” Simple and childish, or minimilist and profound? This is the argument that music critics and historians will be debating about for eternity. Other gems include the inquisitive “Who Are Parents” the whimsical “My Pal Foot Foot” with it’s “killer” opening drum solo. My personal favorite is “It’s Halloween,” which lists all of the fun and frightening aspects of this celebrated holiday.
We can all be very thankful for the way cool folks at Light In The Attic records can reissue an album like nobody’s business (sorry, Rhino). Not only is this album’s packaging great, but there are very informative and entertaining liner notes by Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye. To sum it up with some lyrics from “What Should I Do?” — “What should I do, What should I do? Tell me what should I do?” — what you should do is get a hold of this stellar reissue. It will make you question everything musical you’ve ever heard before, keep you fascinated, and bring a full-on smile to your face.
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