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One of the great stories of rock & roll is that of the three Wiggins sisters (Dot, Helen, and Betty), better known as the Shaggs. Growing up dirt poor in New Hampshire, the three girls were turned onto forming a band by their father, Austin Wiggins, who bought their instruments and payed for lessons. Despite their lack of musical expertise, Austin drove the girls down to a studio in Massachusetts, determined to get them on tape “while they were still hot.” Striking a deal with a local fly-by-night record company called Third World, the Shaggs recorded their debut album, Philosophy of the World, in one day, recording a dozen tunes all written by Dot. One thousand copies were pressed and all but 100 of them quickly disappeared, along with the president of the company. The Shaggs started playing a regular, Saturday night dance back home in Fremont, NH, and added another sister, Rachel, on bass, to their ranks. When Austin Wiggins passed away in 1975, the group disbanded and never played together again. But over the intervening years, their lone misguided attempt at recording started gaining cult status. In a Playboy magazine interview, Frank Zappa called Philosophy of the World his third all-time favorite album, and by the time NRBQ had reissued it in 1980, its legendary status was already confirmed. Other, later, and slightly more profieicent recordings emerged on the compilation Shaggs’ Own Thing, and both albums were produced for compact disc on Rounder, issued as simply The Shaggs. In 1999, RCA Victor finally reissued the original Philiosophy album with its original cover, notes, and sequencing, keeping the music of the Shaggs (which one can view as either guileless primitive art or just a garage band that really can’t play or sing) alive into the new millennium.

Supplanting the Rounder single disc that combined the group’s original album with later sides, this brings the package back to its original form. It features the original mixes (the Rounder reissue used remixes), sequencing, cover, and liner notes along with updated historical notes from producer Irwin Chusid. While a 12-song reissue that replaces a fuller and longer collection would seem like a beat for the money, this puts the Wiggins sisters’ primitive attempt to make original rock & roll in its proper context. The guilelessness that permeates these performances is simply amazing, making a virtue out of artlessness. There’s an innocence to these songs and their performances that’s both charming and unsettling. Hacked-at drumbeats, whacked-around chords, songs that seem to have little or no meter to them (“My Pal Foot Foot,” “Who Are Parents,” “That Little Sports Car,” “I’m So Happy When You’re Near” are must-hears) being played on out-of-tune, pawn-shop-quality guitars all converge, creating dissonance and beauty, chaos and tranquility, causing any listener coming to this music to rearrange any pre-existing notions about the relationships between talent, originality, and ability. There is no album you might own that sounds remotely like this one.

-Cub Koda, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
The Shaggs-PHILOSOPHY OF THE WORLD (1969)
320kbps

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One Comment

  1. This is a great album. Nice to see it up here. People need to check it out.


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