Trust me: you may want to read this before checking out that YouTube clip.
So. The Shaggs. Hoo, boy.
Well, it goes like this according to Wikipedia: there was this guy named Austin Wiggin, see? His mother read his palm when he was a boy, and predicted three things: he would marry a strawberry blonde, he would have two sons, and his daughters would form a band. The first two predictions came true, so he set about making the third one come true.
He was demanding father, Austin Wiggin was. So when he decided that his daughters were going to form a band, then by God, they would form a band. They received music and vocal lessons, and in the late 1960s cut an album, Philosophy of the World.
The trouble was, if a comment on the YouTube video is to be believed, Austin Wiggin didn’t allow music in his house, so they had no idea what music sounded like.
At this point, before going on, I shall qualify and concede a number of things. This will involve starting a number of paragraphs with the word “yes,” and then with the words “and yes.”
Yes, Frank Zappa listed the album at number three on his all time favorite album list, and Kurt Cobain put them at number five.
Yes, there are numerous references to the Shaggs, most notably in an The Dead Milkmen song “When I Get to Heaven,” an episode of The Gilmore Girls, as well as the films Empire Records and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Yes, the band NRBQ was a fan.
Yes, Cub Koda—best known for writing The Brownville Station song “Smoking in the Boy’s Room”—wrote that the songs of The Shaggs, and I quote: “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.”
Yes, there is no doubt that The Shaggs are an inspiration to any young person who wishes to form a band, an absolute, iconic testament to the power of the sheer desire to create music, in spite of every logistic boundary, such as, you know, the ability to play musical instruments.
And yes, I can listen closely, and I’m sure I can find moments that compelled Terry Adams of NRBQ to compare the band’s songs to the free jazz compositions of Ornette Coleman.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.
I must come to a full stop here, step away from discussing the Shaggs, and gently pull you aside so that it’s the two of us, you and I. I need to explain the difference between the words “and,” and “but” It is important, because I want you to realize that I seek to be kind to The Shaggs.
I’ve never liked the word “but.” When someone says a lot of things and then says the word “but,” it is as if they are discounting everything they said before this. That’s why I prefer “and;” it allows me to say, specifically, that I am considering one side of an issue and holding all those elements of that side in my left hand, while weighing the other elements in my right.
I hold everything that accompanied “yes” in my left hand. It is there. I promise.
Well, maybe there’s the possibility that some of those comments are tongue in cheek.
Maybe yes (there’s that word again), the Shaggs prove that anyone can play, what I will tactfully call something in the general region of what we traditionally call music…and at the same time, maybe it would be a good idea for enterprising musicians to just play, well, a little better.
Just consider that. Maybe.
Now. Go ahead. Play that YouTube video. If nothing else, it will be one of the most surreal experiences of your life.