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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Philosophy of The World by The Shaggs (Third World Recordings, 1969)

If you've never heard of this album, you might not be ready for it.

You may have grown up in the 1960s and thought you heard everything the 1960s had to offer. But if you haven't heard this album, you still haven't heard it all.

The Shaggs were Dorothy "Dot" Wiggin, Helen Wiggin and Betty Wiggin (and later, Rachel Wiggin), four sisters from Fremont, New Hampshire. They were formed as a group not under their own initiative, but by their dad, Austin Wiggin Jr.. His mother predicted Austin would marry a strawberry blonde woman and they would have daughters who would become a world famous music group.

The first two predictions came true. Austin married a strawberry blonde woman, Annie. And they had daughters. So Austin Wiggin Jr. set about making the third come true. He bought his daughters a drum kit and two guitars. And that was it. No formal lessons in playing or singing. They were on their own musically.

As a result, The Shaggs evolved, um, differently....

The Shaggs played live around the Fremont area. But the audiences weren't exactly thrilled by what they heard and often threw things at the band. It didn't matter. Austin Wiggin was going to make his girls stars. So he took the next step; Recording an album.

Austin Wiggin pulled out most of his savings to finance the album. They went to Boston and recorded Philosophy of The World on the independent Third World Recordings label. They pressed 1,000 copies of Philosophy of The World.

And 900 of them promptly disappeared. As with the head of Third World Recordings. Most of the remaining 100 copies went to radio stations, some of which escaped into the wild (as radio promo copies of albums often did.) Only one single was released, "My Pal Foot-Foot"(Foot-Foot was the name of Dot Wiggin's cat.)

To this day, no one knows what happened to those 900 missing album copies (or Foot-Foot.)

Or (as some wonder) if they were even printed.


Philosophy of The World has been called one of the worst records of all time. But Frank Zappa and Kurt Cobain called Philosophy of The World one of their favorite albums of all time. But who would even unleash such an album? Beat timing? Song structure? Performing on key? Big production? Artistic lyrics? FAH! Overrated.

But the reality was the Wiggin girls only went with what they honestly knew, which wasn't much. But they made the best of it to appease their father (although one could imagine the conflicts that must have went on between the girls and their dad at times were as bad as their music.) And the fact they weren't pretentious or egotistical lyrically (the song topics were about pets, sports cars, Halloween and random musings) made them just as inspiring. They became the godmothers of DIY punk and outsider music.

It's been said The Velvet Underground and Nico had 30,000 initial copies pressed and everyone who bought a copy started a band. The Shaggs pressed 1,000 copies of Philosophy of The World, lost 900 of them and still had the same effect. But Philosophy of The World, by all odds should never have survived.

The few copies that escaped quickly became collector's items initially not for their value, but for their weirdness. And their rarity has made the original LPs extremely valuable.

The Shaggs stayed together as an act until 1975. They did make an unreleased second album and on this one, there was studio help at last Their act had become famous once again when Boston rock station WBCN began playing tracks from Philosophy of The World as a joke, the album began getting renewed interest. Comedy radio host Dr. Demento also played tracks from Philosophy of The World on his syndicated radio show, which further interested/shocked listeners. When the jazz group NRBQ discovered them, they talked the Shaggs into re-releasing Philosophy of The World in 1980.

It was released on CD in 1999 on RCA Records. 

1 comment:

  1. Regarding the Shaggs' equipment: Austin Wiggin bought his daughters' instruments off an importer's catalog (Buegeleisen and Jacobson) at Academy of Music in Manchester, NH. It was a small storefront that carried no stock and mainly gave accordion, guitar and drum lessons.


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