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"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 mother of a young Austin Wiggin Jr. had three visions. 1) he would marry a strawberry blonde woman, 2) that he would have two sons after she passed away, and 3) that his daughters would one day form a pop group. The first two came true. A determined Austin set out to make that third vision a reality.
He withdrew his daughters, Helen, Dorothy, Betty & Rachel, from school, bought them instruments and set them up with music and voice lessons, going so far as to book them on Saturday nights at the Fremont, New Hampshire Town Hall. Eventually, he booked some time in a recording studio, where it became abundantly clear to the befuddled engineer that the girls weren't ready to record. Austin reportedly replied "I want to get them while they're hot." The result was Philosophy Of The World.
The Shaggs had an unusual approach at making pop music. Not only did their instruments sound blatantly out of tune, but their limited ability caused each member's individual performance to seemingly follow its own time signature. Each individual note matched up to every syllable they sang, and, in general, it all added up to what the average person would hear as a lot of disorganized sound. Despite all this, the band have developed a small cult following as well as some good reviews over the years (amongst them being no less than Lester Bangs, Kurt Cobain and Frank Zappa), with many praising the honesty and humanism of their lyrical content.
The band did have a second recording session in 1975, where, amongst other songs, they did a cover of "Yesterday Once More" by The Carpenters. The sessions never materialized into a full album, as the sessions were aborted after the death of Austin Wiggins.
Helen, the drummer, passed away in 2006. An off-Broadway musical about their life recently began in New York City.
Tropes featured in their music include:
- Abusive Parents: The girls' father forced them to perform solely because of his own mother prophetic dream. They had never played an instrument before and obviously lacked any sort of musical talent. Despite all that he took them out of the regular school system, bought equipment, forced them to rehearse for hours and sent them to live venues where the poor kids were basically ridiculed by the audience. And he disbanded the group because his eldest teenage daughter had met a cute guy during one of the concerts!
- Album Title Drop: "The Philosophy of the World"
- Better Than It Sounds: What the girls lack in talent they make up in beautifully innocent teenage charm.
- Giftedly Bad: At least in Austin's mind.
- Good Parents: "Who Are Parents?" is a sweet song about love for your parents and how they take care of you. Despite the fact that the Shaggs' father was a naïve, demanding and overprotective dad.
- Have a Gay Old Time: "Why Do I Feel" is even more hilarious with this in mind.
"Sometimes I worry over nothing at all
Sometimes I think life's just a ball
When life changes and turns the other way
I try to think of something gay"
- Stage Dad
- That Poor Cat: The song "My Pal Foot Foot" describes how the girls search for their lost cat, Foot Foot.
- Uncommon Time: In every single one of their songs... accidentally.
- Vocal Tag Team: Dot and Betty, in all their flat-voiced glory.