Philosophy of the World

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Philosophy of the World
Shaggs philosophy of the world.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJune 15, 1969
RecordedMarch 9, 1969
Studio
GenreGarage rock, pop rock, outsider music, avant-garde[2]
Length31:39
LabelThird World (1969); Red Rooster/Rounder (1980-1988); RCA Victor (1999); Light in The Atic (2016)
ProducerAustin Wiggin, Terry Adams, Charlie Dreyer[3] (uncredited)
The Shaggs chronology
Philosophy of the World
(1969)
Shaggs' Own Thing
(1982)

Philosophy of the World is the only studio album by the teen rock group the Shaggs, released in 1969.

History[edit]

The Shaggs comprised sisters Helen, Betty, and Dorothy (or "Dot") Wiggin, from Fremont, New Hampshire, USA. They were managed by their father, Austin Wiggin, Jr., and were sometimes accompanied by another sister, Rachel. They performed almost exclusively at the Fremont town hall and at a local nursing home, beginning in 1968 and ending in 1973.

Although most people in Fremont disregarded the band's sound, their father still believed they would be stars, and in 1969 used most of his savings to record an album. 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, Third World Recordings, they recorded their debut album in one day, recording a dozen tunes written by Dot.

Upon the first original pressing, 900 of the original 1,000 copies of the album vanished out of the warehouse, and shortly thereafter the record company's producer/president also vanished and the label quickly folded.

Despite the setback, music collectors quickly got a hold of the remaining copies and word of mouth started, with those who liked it giving almost universal praise, but with many others complaining of the sloppy, almost nonsensical way the arrangements were made as well as the singing. Some claimed this was done intentionally at the urging of their father (a rumor that persisted for many years, although he denied it, and the notion would further be disputed when the tracks from the band's 1975 recording session, which showed much more polished and professional-sounding musicianship, resurfaced in 1982). The Wiggin sisters themselves have expressed dismay with the finished product, noting that several of the quirks in the musicianship were in fact rhythm mistakes that were left in; this was a factor in the band's breakup and their reluctance to reunite in the wake of their newfound success.[4]

By the mid-1970s WBCN, a local radio station in Boston, Massachusetts, began playing a few cuts from the record, helping to bring the group and the record belated fame. It became further known in 1978 when famed independent music band NRBQ listened in, sought out a copy, then had it re-released in 1980 on the Red Rooster Records/Rounder Records label. Later, Dr. Demento, an American radio broadcaster and record collector specializing in novelty songs, comedy, and strange or unusual recordings, began to play the album almost exclusively on his radio show nationwide, especially around the holiday Halloween when he would play the album track "It's Halloween", and for many years since it became part of his top "Funny Five" recordings of the week. The Wiggin sisters have consistently expressed confusion and surprise in regard to why their music had become so popular, noting that the work was largely an accident.[4]

Other versions[edit]

Later a CD version of the album, which also contained their follow-up album Shaggs' Own Thing was released in 1988 by Rounder, and another CD of just the original first album was released by RCA Victor in 1999.

Light In The Attic Records reissued the album on vinyl, and in September 2016 issued a 180g three-color vinyl edition, which was limited to 500 copies, and included a booklet with rare photos and an extensive background essay on the history of the band and the recording of the album.

The title song appears as the first track on the first volume of Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic86/100[5]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[1]
Lester Bangs(favorable)[6]
Mojo (2008)(favorable)[7]
Mojo (2016)3/5 stars[8]
Pitchfork8.6/10[9]
PopMatters8/10[10]
Record Collector4/5 stars[11]
Uncut4.5/5 stars[12]

"Philosophy of the World is the sickest, most stunningly awful wonderful record I've heard in ages: the perfect mental purgative for doldrums of any kind," wrote Debra Rae Cohen for Rolling Stone in a review of the 1980 reissue. "Like a lobotomized Trapp Family Singers, the Shaggs warble earnest greeting-card lyrics (...) in happy, hapless quasi-unison along ostensible lines of melody while strumming their tinny guitars like someone worrying a zipper. The drummer pounds gamely to the call of a different muse, as if she had to guess which song they were playing - and missed every time."[13] "Without exaggeration," Chris Connelly wrote in a later Rolling Stone article, "it may stand as the worst album ever recorded."[14] In an article for The New Yorker, the album was described as "hauntingly bad".[15]

Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain listed Philosophy of the World as his fifth favorite album of all time.[16][17][18] The record has also been cited as highly influential by Frank Zappa, Kimya Dawson of The Moldy Peaches, and Deerhoof.[3]

The album is ranked number 100 in Blender (magazine)'s 100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever.[19] In 2010, it was included in NME's "The 100 Greatest Albums You've Never Heard" list.[20] In 2016, Rolling Stone ranked the album at 17 on its list of "40 Greatest One-Album Wonders".[21]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and arranged by Dorothy Wiggin.

Side one
No.TitleLength
1."Philosophy of the World"2:56
2."That Little Sports Car"2:06
3."Who Are Parents?"2:58
4."My Pal Foot Foot"2:31
5."My Companion"2:04
6."I'm So Happy When You're Near"2:12
Total length:14:47
Side two
No.TitleLength
1."Things I Wonder"2:12
2."Sweet Thing"2:57
3."It's Halloween"2:22
4."Why Do I Feel?"3:57
5."What Should I Do?"2:18
6."We Have a Savior"3:06
Total length:16:52

Personnel[edit]

  • Dorothy (aka Dot) Wiggin: lead guitar, vocals
  • Betty Wiggin Porter: rhythm guitar, vocals
  • Helen Wiggin: drums
  • Rachel Wiggin: bass guitar on "That Little Sports Car"

Production

  • Produced by Austin Wiggin, Terry Adams and Charlie Dreyer
  • Recorded and engineered by Bob Olive and Austin Wiggin

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Koda, Cub. "Philosophy of the World – The Shaggs". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  2. ^ Blevins, Joe (November 2, 2015). "Ultra-rare live footage of outsider rockers The Shaggs unearthed". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Venus Zine article: "Venus Zine Classic: The Shaggs Archived 2011-05-23 at the Wayback Machine".
  4. ^ a b Fishman, Howard (August 30, 2017). "The Shaggs Reunion Concert Was Unsettling, Beautiful, Eerie, and Will Probably Never Happen Again". Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  5. ^ "Reviews for Philosophy of the World by The Shaggs". Metacritic. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  6. ^ Bangs, Lester. "Better Than the Beatles (and DNA, Too)". The Village Voice. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  7. ^ Lane, Mike. "The Shaggs - Philosophy Of The World". Mojo. Archived from the original on 5 June 2008. Retrieved 4 June 2008.
  8. ^ The Shaggs couldn't play, they could barely sing and their songs are rudimentary, but you won't hear many records with such heartfelt authenticity of feeling. [Oct 2016, p.107]
  9. ^ Moreland, Quinn. "The Shaggs - Philosophy of the World". Pitchfork. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  10. ^ Paul, John. "The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World". PopMatters. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  11. ^ foist, d. "THE SHAGGS - PHILOSOPHY OF THE WORLD". Record Collector. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  12. ^ Yes, it's largely tuneless, the guitars and drums about as co-ordinated as a set of blindfolded square dancers, but the sisters' naive approach yields endless wonder. [Nov 2016, p.52]
  13. ^ Cohen, Debra Rae (October 30, 1980). "Philosophy of the World". Rolling Stone. Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. (329): 56.
  14. ^ Connelly, Chris (December 11, 1980). "Is Rock Ready for the Shaggs?". Rolling Stone. Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. (332): 19.
  15. ^ "Meet The Shaggs".
  16. ^ "Kurt Cobain Top 50 - 05 - The Shaggs - Philosophy Of The World video". NME. 2008-10-16. Retrieved 2012-03-23.
  17. ^ "Top 50 by Nirvana [MIXTAPE]". Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  18. ^ Cross, Gaar, Gendron, Martens, Yarm (2013). Nirvana: The Complete Illustrated History. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-7603-4521-4.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ "Blender's 100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever". Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  20. ^ "The 100 Greatest Albums You've Never Heard". NME. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  21. ^ Weingarten, Christopher R.; Spanos, Brittany; Exposito, Suzy; Reeves, Mosi; Grow, Kory; Harris, Keith; Fischer, Reed; Gehr, Richard; Johnston, Maura; Levy, Joe; Greene, Andy (2016-07-14). "40 Greatest One-Album Wonders". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2020-09-19.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Chusid, Irwin. Songs in the Key of Z.

External links[edit]