“The Shaggs. Better than the Beatles – even today.” – Frank Zappa
The Shaggs? Who is that? I am sure that is what you are asking right now. Fret not, as I will reveal all, well most. They are, now bear with me, possibly the least influential band on the face of this desolate planet. From my knowledge they haven’t influenced anyone to conjure the thought ‘Hey, you know what, I am going to pick up the guitar and play till my fingers bleed’.
It all started on that fateful day between three, loving sisters – Dorothy ‘Dot’, Betty and Helen Wiggin, for the sake of the article I will shorten their names to Dotten. Here is the scenario I am assuming happened. Austin ‘The Dad’ Wiggin’s mother went to a palm reading session during her youth, there she was told of several occurrences her future would bring. Two of them are related to Austin, but irrelevant to the story but they came true, the third was that her grandchildren (Dotten) would be in a successful band. Well, after the first two coming true the only logical thing to do was think ‘YES!’ and believe that it was only destiny for Dotten to reach the top of the charts.
Wait? What? It’s true!
It all happened, and this story just got a lot more interesting! Unfortunately for you that’s the only paranormal part of the story but feel free to rewrite any passage of this essay to your liking.
So in 1968 Austin pulled Dotten out of high school, bought them the appropriate instruments for a rock band and enrolled them in singing and instrument lessons. According to Dotten , Austin was a bit of a slave driver. They didn’t want to be in a famous band and if we lived in a real society they couldn’t either. Austin also knighted them ‘The Shaggs’ named after two things, the trendy, shaggy hair cut of the 60s and as a homage to shaggy dogs.
My theory as to what had happened here is that Pope Paul IV banned Catholics from using the contraceptive pill. What would have happened was that he saw The Shaggs play live and knew that this was the only time that an ensemble of such talent were to exist, especially if birth control was in place.
What happened next was in 1969 these lucky girls packed up and headed for the recording studio and released their first, and unfortunately last album Philosophy Of The World. What would have happened here is that the people at NASA would have listened to said album and thought sending men to the moon would be the only logical way to be able compete with the recordings. The album houses the eternal classic ‘My Pal Foot Foot’ which is the whimsical tale of Dotten’s cat, Foot Foot, running away (this family seemed to have a thing for domesticated animals), hopefully to a better home I am sure you are thinking to yourself. Unfortunately for Foot Foot they found him behind a tree, God have mercy on his precious soul.
The recording engineers at the time stated that Dotten had sometimes claimed to make a mistake and had to start from the beginning and rerecord the whole song to make a mistake. The engineers lost nights of sleep wondering how they knew they had made a mistake. The whole album is one beautifully crafted mistake.
‘If Foot Foot didn’t like to roam so well
He would still have a place to dwell
Foot Foot, please answer me
I know where you are
You’re behind that tree”
After the album was released they found a man (let us baptize him Marco) to press 1,000 copies of the LP. Essentially what happened here was that Marco ran off, probably to Mexico, with the money Austin paid him and 900 of the LPs thinking they would be of some value. Unfortunately for him you could only trade them in for a stick of butter or some cheap candy. The other 100 vinyls that Austin had were sent around to radio stations but to no avail.
Critics were split at it’s release, some saying something along the lines of ‘What the fuck is this and why the fuck does it exist? How do we kill it?’ while weeping in their mothers arms and others praising it as the highest form of art. Now I have to agree with the latter, it’s not necessarily the highest form as art as they say but I feel it’s an important album. The people involved in the production of the album must not have ever heard any music in their lives due to living underground in a troll-infested city. Someone could have thrown some instruments down there and a couple of microphones and other recording equipment and then the trolls would have gathered and crafted this perfect monstrosity. There is no real structure to the songs and no real sense of rhythm to boot, or as Bonnie Raitt was once quoted for saying ‘The Shaggs are like castaways on their own musical island’. It has a very innocent and certain childlike quality-it really brings you back to a time when life was easier and virginity wasn’t ridiculed by your peers.
The Shaggs were rockin’ hard till 1975 until their father, Austin’s demise (the world came to a halt on this day and nothing exciting or world changing happened). He passed a way of a heart attack during the recording of their second, rumored masterpiece record. We can only assume that it would have been comparable to the works of Stravinsky and Bach. In 1999, due to their rediscovery, they reformed briefly. In 2001 a tribute album was released called Better Than The Beatles.
I really hope you get the time to check out this album, especially if you are a musician as this is a perfect example of what not to do.
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