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
Genre
Length31:39
LabelThird World (1969); Red Rooster/Rounder (1980-1988); RCA Victor (1999); Light in the Attic Records (2016)
Producer
  • Austin Wiggin
  • Terry Adams
  • Charlie Dreyer
The Shaggs chronology
Philosophy of the World
(1969)
Shaggs' Own Thing
(1982)

Philosophy of the World is the only studio album by the American band the Shaggs, released in 1969.

The Shaggs formed at the insistence of their father, Austin Wiggin, who believed that his mother had predicted their rise to fame. Philosophy of the World was recorded in 1969 in Revere, Massachusetts, and released in limited quantities by a local record label. It received no attention and the Shaggs disbanded in 1975 after Austin's death.

The Shaggs had no interest in becoming musicians and never became proficient in songwriting or performing. Philosophy of the World features bizarre songs with badly tuned guitars, erratically shifting time signatures, disconnected drum parts, wandering melodies and rudimentary lyrics about pets and families. It has been described as both among the worst records of all time and a work of "accidental genius".

Over the decades, Philosophy of the World circulated among musicians and attracted fans including NRBQ, Frank Zappa and Kurt Cobain. After it was reissued on Rounder Records in 1980, it received enthusiastic reviews for its uniqueness in Rolling Stone and The Village Voice.

Background[edit]

The Shaggs were formed in 1965 by the teenage sisters Dorothy ("Dot"), Betty and Helen Wiggin in the small town of Fremont, New Hampshire.[4] They formed at the behest of their father and manager, Austin Wiggin, Jr.[4] When Austin was young, his mother had read his palm and made three predictions: he would marry a strawberry-blonde woman, he would have two sons after she had died, and his daughters would form a popular band. When the first two predictions proved accurate, Austin set about fulfilling the third.[4] Dot later said the sisters thought their father was "nuts", but they did not want to do anything to insult their grandmother in his eyes.[5]

Austin withdrew his daughters from school, bought them instruments and arranged for them to receive music and vocal lessons.[4] He designed their schedule and had them practice as a band for hours every day.[4] The sisters had no interest in becoming musicians and did not enjoy the rehearsals. Dot later said: "[Our father] was stubborn and he could be temperamental. He directed. We obeyed. Or did our best."[6] Austin arranged for the band to perform at the Fremont town hall every weekend for several years.[4]

Recording[edit]

In March 1969, Austin took the Shaggs to record at Fleetwood Studios in Revere, Massachusetts.[7][8] The studio was mainly used to record local rock groups and school marching bands.[9] Austin dismissed the engineer's opinion that the Shaggs were not ready to record, saying: "I want to get them while they're hot."[7]

One producer, Bobby Herne, recalled: "We shut the control room doors and rolled on the floor laughing. Just rolled! It was horrible. They did not know what they were doing, but they thought it was okay. They were just in another world."[9] He said the girls "smelled like cows. Right off the farm. Not a dirty smell — just smelled like cows."[9]

Shortly afterwards, Herne and another Fleetwood employee, Charlie Dreyer, bought the Third World recording studio in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. They were enlisted to remix the Shaggs' recordings, and hired session musicians to rerecord parts. The attempt was abandoned when the musicians were unable to follow the Shaggs' erratic timing.[9]

Release[edit]

Austin paid to have Third World press 1000 copies of Philosophy of the World.[9] He wrote the album's liner notes, which said the Shaggs "loved" making music and described them as "real, pure, unaffected by outside influences".[7]

According to many accounts, Dreyer delivered only 100 copies of the album and disappeared with the remaining 900.[9] Dot recalled: "He took my father's money, gave us one box of albums, and ran. My father couldn't get in touch with him. He tried telephone calls, but no one knew where he was."[9] However, according to the music executive Harry Palmer, Dreyer said Austin had refused to distribute the extra copies because he feared someone would copy the Shaggs' music. Dreyer kept boxes of the records in the studio and would give them to anyone who asked.[9] The journalist Irwin Chusid argued that it was unlikely Dreyer had stolen the records, as they were valueless at the time; many copies may have simply been disposed of.[9] Philosophy of the World received no media coverage.[9]

The songs "My Pal Foot Foot" and "Things I Wonder" were released as a 45 rpm single on Fleetwood Records.[9] In 1975, Austin died of a heart attack at the age of 47.[10] The Shaggs disbanded and sold most of their equipment.[10] The Wiggins had never profited from their music and took blue-collar jobs to support their families.[10][11]

Reissues[edit]

In the 1970s, copies of Philosophy of the World circulated among musicians[12] and it developed a cult following.[13] In 1980, Terry Adams and Tom Ardolino of the American band NRBQ convinced the Wiggin sisters to reissue Philosophy of the World under their record label, Rounder Records. The sisters were cautious, and asked how much it would cost. Adams told them: "No, we'll be paying you."[14] Adams and Ardolino curated a new release, the 1982 compilation Shaggs' Own Thing, comprising unreleased recordings made between 1969 and 1975.[15] In 1988, Philosophy of the World and Shaggs' Own Thing were remastered and rereleased by Rounder Records as the compilation The Shaggs.[16] In 1999, RCA Victor reissued Philosophy of the World with the original cover and track listing.[17] Despite the increasing interest in outsider music and airplay on college radio stations, the reissue sold poorly.[17]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic86/100[18]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic[1]
Lester Bangs(favorable)[19]
Mojo (2008)(favorable)[20]
Mojo (2016)[21]
Pitchfork8.6/10[22]
PopMatters8/10[23]
Record Collector[24]
Uncut[25]

"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."[26] "Without exaggeration," Chris Connelly wrote in a later Rolling Stone article, "it may stand as the worst album ever recorded."[27] An article for The New Yorker describes how one internet reviewer described the album as "hauntingly bad".[28]

Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain listed Philosophy of the World as his fifth favorite album of all time.[29][30][31]

The album is ranked number 100 in Blender's 100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever.[32] In 2010, it was included in NME's "The 100 Greatest Albums You've Never Heard" list.[33] In 2016, Rolling Stone ranked the album at 17 on its list of "40 Greatest One-Album Wonders".[34]

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 (uncredited)[35]
  • 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. ^ Jackson, Josh. pastemagazine https://www.pastemagazine.com/music/garage-rock/the-50-best-garage-rock-albums-of-all-time. Retrieved 5 April 2023. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d e f Orlean, Susan (1999-09-22). "Meet the Shaggs". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 2022-08-13.
  5. ^ Grow, Kory (2016-09-30). "Shaggs' Dot Wiggin reflects on divisive Philosophy of the World album". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2022-08-13.
  6. ^ Chusid
  7. ^ a b c Orlean, Susan (1999-09-22). "Meet the Shaggs". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 2022-08-13.
  8. ^ Moreland, Quinn (14 October 2016). "The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2021-05-13.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Chusid
  10. ^ a b c Orlean, Susan (1999-09-22). "Meet the Shaggs". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 2022-08-13.
  11. ^ Moreland, Quinn (14 October 2016). "The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2021-05-13.
  12. ^ Orlean, Susan (1999-09-22). "Meet the Shaggs". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 2022-08-13.
  13. ^ Zoladz, Lindsay (2013-09-06). "The philosophy of the Shaggs". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2022-08-17.
  14. ^ Sullivan, James (15 July 2020). "Even if their album was the all-time worst, the Shaggs still have plenty of fans". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2022-08-20.
  15. ^ Shaggs' Own Thing - The Shaggs | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic, retrieved 2021-05-13
  16. ^ Moore, David (23 August 2004). "The Shaggs: The Shaggs". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2021-05-13.
  17. ^ a b Orlean, Susan (1999-09-22). "Meet the Shaggs". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved 2022-08-13.
  18. ^ "Reviews for Philosophy of the World by The Shaggs". Metacritic. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  19. ^ Bangs, Lester. "Better Than the Beatles (and DNA, Too)". The Village Voice. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  20. ^ Lane, Mike. "The Shaggs - Philosophy Of The World". Mojo. Archived from the original on 5 June 2008. Retrieved 4 June 2008.
  21. ^ 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]
  22. ^ Moreland, Quinn. "The Shaggs - Philosophy of the World". Pitchfork. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  23. ^ Paul, John. "The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World". PopMatters. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  24. ^ foist, d. "THE SHAGGS - PHILOSOPHY OF THE WORLD". Record Collector. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  25. ^ 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]
  26. ^ Cohen, Debra Rae (October 30, 1980). "Philosophy of the World". Rolling Stone. No. 329. Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. p. 56.
  27. ^ Connelly, Chris (December 11, 1980). "Is Rock Ready for the Shaggs?". Rolling Stone. No. 332. Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. p. 19.
  28. ^ Orlean, Susan (September 27, 1999). "Meet the Shaggs". Popular Chronicles. The New Yorker. Vol. 75, no. 28. pp. 72–77.
  29. ^ "Kurt Cobain Top 50 - 05 - The Shaggs - Philosophy Of The World video". NME. 2008-10-16. Retrieved 2012-03-23.
  30. ^ "Top 50 by Nirvana [MIXTAPE]". Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  31. ^ Cross, Gaar, Gendron, Martens, Yarm (2013). Nirvana: The Complete Illustrated History. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-7603-4521-4.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  32. ^ "Blender's 100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever". Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  33. ^ "The 100 Greatest Albums You've Never Heard". NME. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ Tighe, K (1 September 2008). "Venus Zine Classic: The Shaggs". Venus Zine. Archived from the original on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2022.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]