Friday, May 27, 2011

Remember The Shaggs?

Philosophy of The World
The Shaggs
(Image from Wikipedia)

Remember that dreadful sound? The affectless, weirdly memorable lyrics? The shag haircuts. Okay, you probably don't -- particularly not the cuts since theirs obviously aren't shags!

I'd also forgotten them . . . until I read Rob Weinert-Kendt's recent New York Times article "Sad and Haunted Girls Who Couldn't Play Worth a Lick" (May 19, 2011), which informed me that a musical has been made of their career!

Apparently, the three girls had little interest in music, but their father, Austin Wiggin, Jr., had undergone a palm reading in his youth by his mother in which she prophesied that his future daughters would one day become a successful musical group, so when he eventually had those daughters, he removed them from school and forced them to form a band.

The result ought to have sufficed to discredit palm reading forever . . . but the palm fates are tricky, and the band has developed a following that has even inspired that aforementioned musical. Their music has come to be considered a form of "outsider art," or art brut! It is taken seriously! Some critics might consider it to have been a harbinger of musical trends to come, but I would classify it as a late instance of that old, weird America with its traveling medicince show quacks and its unlettered, itinerant, doomsday preachers. That, too, is now taken seriously.

And the girls did have their standards. They would sometimes break off in the middle of a song during recording sessions, saying that they had made a mistake and needed to start over, leaving the sound engineers baffled as to how the girls could determine when a mistake had been made. Apparently, they took their art seriously.

The cover to their first album certainly insists on being taken seriously. Look at that fractured Gothic Script in the image above, which foreshadows great, earnest, Teutonic seriousness itself! One anticipates some sort of deeply profound, German-inspired philosophy.

But the proof is in the pudding, so let's see what the lyrics to Philosophy of The World have to teach us (and you can open a second browser and click here to listen as you follow along):
Oh, the rich people want what the poor people's got
And the poor people want what the rich people's got
And the skinny people want what the fat people's got
And the fat people want what the skinny people's got

You can never please anybody in this world

The short people want what the tall people's got
And the tall people want what the short people's got
The little kids want what the big kids' got
And the big kids want what the little kids' got

You can never please anybody in this world

Oh, the girls with short hair want long hair
And the girls with long hair want short hair
Oh, the boys with cars want motorcycles
And the boys with motorcycles want cars

You can never please anybody in this world

It doesn't matter what you do
It doesn't matter what you say
There will always be
One who wants things the opposite way

It doesn't matter where you go
It doesn't matter who you see
There will always be
Someone who disagrees

We do our best, we try to please
But we're like the rest, we're never at ease

Oh, the rich people want what the poor people's got
And the poor people want what the rich people's got
And the skinny people want what the fat people's got
And the fat people want what the skinny people's got

You can never please anybody in this world
Well . . . there's some truth to those lyrics, I concede -- giving the song an edge over a lot of philosophy -- though I'm not sure that the message qualifies as quintessentially Teutonic, but the central question is this: What did The Shaggs themselves want?

Why, "the opposite way," of course -- not to be a music group. Their father had forced that on them. And yet . . . they sort of made a success of it, a belated success.

Proof that spectacular failure is a guarantee of being remembered?

I think that I'd as soon be as dis(re)membered as Osiris . . .

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At 8:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you sure you want to be remembered as Osiris?
I recall that when Isis, his wife and sister, gathered his remains, she was unable to find one essential part. As a memorial she made a replica of it, and required his worshippers to worship this object.
Sun-Ae might refuse to do the same.


At 1:27 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Ah, Uncle Cran, you know how ironic I can be . . . even if I haven't quite mastered what you have referred to as "JK's polite sarcasm."

But I believe that I actually wrote "dis(re)membered" . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Sperwer said...

The "Shaggs"? What was papa thinking?

At 3:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sure wish my neighbor didn't know where to obtain actual and real moonshine - else I would enjoy this post more. Especially Cran's "observations."

But those girls were right (in those lyrics anyway).

I want a definitive win in Afghanistan. There are people who tell me it's impossible.


At 5:43 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

My thought, too, Sperwer, but I guess the Papa didn't know British English.

And what's with that extra "g"? Or is "-ed" or "-ing" missing?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:46 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I do wonder what The Shaggs would have to say about our military attacks these days. Would they have supported the Afghanistan attack but not the Iraq attack? Their lyrics don't make this entirely clear . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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