Sunday, May 30, 2010

Three Minute Pop Songs: Philosophy of the World


The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World

[OMG it's still in print for you to purchase]

Some pop songs capture us with a compelling hook. Others may tap into a personal reminiscence of our lost youth. Some are slow and moving. Some are fast and spirited. We'd happily play them until we wore out the grooves.

And some are none of these things. Listening to them can be considered more of a rite of passage than a musical treat. Sadly for you, I have one such song that clocks in at exactly 3:00.

The Shaggs are unique in American music, both in their backstory and in their approach to music. Three sisters formed the group at the insistence of their father, whose own mother had predicted during a palmreading that "he would marry a strawberry blonde woman, that he would have two sons after she had died, and that his daughters would form a popular music group." After the first two predictions came true, he set about to realize the third by yanking his daughters out of their New Hampshire school and setting them to work learning to sing and play.

The results weren't pretty. For one thing, these girls can't find the rhythm with both hands and a flashlight. Their lyrics might pass for profound if English were your fourth or fifth language. Harmony – that's a town in Maine. So when Papa Wiggin died in 1975, the sisters hung up their guitars, dismantled the drum kit, and moved on with their lives.

Still, as is sometimes the way of these things (see also, for example, Florence Foster Jenkins or Mrs. Miller), their single 1969 album took flight, first catching the attention of the band NRBQ, and later Frank Zappa and Kurt Cobain. "Philosophy of the World" stands as a quintessential example of the style known as Outsider Music.

Give it a listen, if only for the bragging rights.

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