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And the big kids want what the little kids get
May 12, 2011 12:56 PM   Subscribe

"If you have basically heard no music, and then you're told to create music, what will it sound like?" Jon Ronson talks to The Shaggs - the girl group from the 1960s who were home schooled and practised for hours every day in their basement.
posted by ameliaaah (220 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite

 
Huh; that's kind of how the friend who introduced me to The Shaggs described them -- "Imagine that Martians came to earth and tried to form a rock band, but all they had to go on was a book about Rock and Roll and a couple of guitars."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:03 PM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Thanks for this. Getting married tomorrow; our first dance is a Shaggs song <3
posted by jtron at 1:05 PM on May 12, 2011 [26 favorites]


What are parents.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:06 PM on May 12, 2011


The Shaggs are perhaps the ne plus ultra of outsider music. Their sole LP remains a profound musical statement. I'm glad I live in a world where this band exists.
posted by theartandsound at 1:07 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd only ever heard "Foot Foot" and it sounds like they put the wrong drum track on it. It really gets in your head though.
posted by Hoopo at 1:09 PM on May 12, 2011


Getting married tomorrow; our first dance is a Shaggs song

Congratulations! You guys must be having the coolest wedding ever...
posted by theartandsound at 1:09 PM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I completely agree with theartandsound - I also am glad to live in a world where this band exists. The Shaggs are just spectacular, and are profound evidence that the way people do things is usually just because that's the way people do things. There are other ways.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:10 PM on May 12, 2011


This is really, really amazing from a music theory perspective. How correct is it to say that they had no exposure to music?
posted by odinsdream at 1:12 PM on May 12, 2011


As to the question in the post: In the case of the Shaggs, my opinion is: "Terrible."
posted by jocelmeow at 1:12 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh man. The Shaggs. Love the Shaggs.
posted by everichon at 1:14 PM on May 12, 2011


Stuart Maconies Freakier Zone podcast from 7th May ( here ) has them in a section on "world's strangest and most creative vocalists". It must have been Shaggs week on the BBC.
posted by stuartmm at 1:15 PM on May 12, 2011


About once a week or so, I'll get "You're Something Special to Me (2, 3, 4)" stuck in my head, and it burrows it's way in to take up like 90% of my brainspace like no other song can manage. And then I have to pretend like this supremely weird, wonderful song isn't the only thing I'm paying attention to because the alternative is to try to spend the next five minutes describing The Shaggs from the ground up.

I love that song.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:17 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I actually, believe it or not, hear this at MY JOB fairly often.
posted by tremspeed at 1:18 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reminded me of the film Dogtooth, which is probably not a good thing.
posted by afx237vi at 1:21 PM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Original Chillwave!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:26 PM on May 12, 2011


Susan Orlean on The Shaggs, from The New Yorker.
posted by Ian A.T. at 1:29 PM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


What's interesting is how subtle and unmistakable their appeal is. I mean, it's totally not a "so bad it's good" thing. It's not Rebecca Black. Nobody who likes the Shaggs thinks they're bad. Their music evokes kind of a spooky, unfamiliar charm; it is music seen from an oblique angle. And we get this, instinctively. They were very very good at doing exactly what they did, even if what they did is not what most people are into. Which means that, in a very important way, The Shaggs ... were a success.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:31 PM on May 12, 2011 [19 favorites]


ah, the shaggs. music for relaxing over a steaming bowl of congealed mayonnaise on dogshit.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:34 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


While the story is interesting and the "music" is gruesomely... diverting... in small enough doses... I do think some people are a little to ready to overlook the fact that they were irredeemably shite.
posted by Decani at 1:38 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


TOO ready. Gah.
posted by Decani at 1:38 PM on May 12, 2011


Still better than Nickelback.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:39 PM on May 12, 2011 [55 favorites]


I've had a copy of Philosophy of the World for ten years maybe and rarely play it, but some of the tunes on it are so creepily wonderful I can barely stand it.
posted by cropshy at 1:39 PM on May 12, 2011


How correct is it to say that they had no exposure to music?

It's incorrect. From Ian A.T.'s link:

"The girls liked music -- particularly Herman's Hermits, Ricky Nelson, and Dino, Desi & Billy -- but until Austin foretold their futures they had not planned to become rock stars."

So this music isn't coming from people who are unfamiliar with pop tunes. They did this with full knowledge of what pop sounds like. I don't know what that means.
posted by Hoopo at 1:40 PM on May 12, 2011


While the story is interesting and the "music" is gruesomely... diverting... in small enough doses... I do think some people are a little to ready to overlook the fact that they were irredeemably shite.

This isn't just people saying "Oh, what an interesting story." Many people (me included) genuinely do enjoy listening to the music they created. It's incredibly compelling in that it basically could not have been created by trained musicians even if they tried.
posted by dfan at 1:44 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Previously.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:46 PM on May 12, 2011


They've got some wonderful songs. Who Are Parents and You're Something Special to Me are two of my favs.
posted by Corduroy at 1:48 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


2, 3, 4, Hut! 2, 3, 4
posted by hap_hazard at 1:51 PM on May 12, 2011


Huh; that's kind of how the friend who introduced me to The Shaggs described them -- "Imagine that Martians came to earth and tried to form a rock band, but all they had to go on was a book about Rock and Roll and a couple of guitars."

Having listened to a few tracks on youtube, this is entirely accurate.
posted by kafziel at 1:52 PM on May 12, 2011


I just listened to "My Foot Foot". Inexplicable. It is so ... surreal? that is almost seems to be trying to hard to be strange. But then you just settle into .. well, that was something. Not sure what it was ("music" seems to be stretch, in a way, since it clearly defies the patterns). Kind of like listening to improv when all the performers have wandered off in their own directions....
posted by Bovine Love at 1:54 PM on May 12, 2011


Still better than Nickelback.

My kitty wetly barfing is better than Nickelback.
posted by everichon at 1:59 PM on May 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yeah between the pool in the backyard, the calisthenics and the possible abuse, total Dogtooth vibe.

I, for one, think they're one of the best bands ever. It's like twin language or something.
posted by mike_bling at 2:05 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


"A girl group of Kaspar Hausers" is a brilliant description.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:08 PM on May 12, 2011


Timely!

I just got through making about 60 grocery store product packaging forgeries for the off-broadway musical about the Shaggs that opens tonight. When I first started into production on these, being unfamiliar with the band, I figured I'd stream their music as inspiration while working.

That idea lasted through two thirds of "Foot Foot".
posted by stagewhisper at 2:08 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah I have to say that to me they sound like people who had heard a lot of the pop music of their day, they just had NO IDEA how to recreate something similar. But who cares, they just went for it anyway.
I think the most off-putting thing is the complete disconnect between what the drums are doing vs. the other instruments. As I said somewhere else on Metafilter, there's almost a Steve Reich phasing thing going on sometimes.
They remind me of the great realization I had a while back that hey yeah I will never play like any of the people getting on the radio, but who fucking cares? I'm going to keep playing and keep having a fucking blast and if nobody wants to hear it well that's fine.
(Well except for the neighbors. Sorry, folks.)
posted by zoinks at 2:12 PM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


My kitty wetly barfing is better than Nickelback.


Oh man, I love MKWB! I recently found their one and only album in a dusty milk crate the Salvation Army: "The Inimitable Thomas Grelch Handbag Sound-Party Volume 1"

A true pop gem
posted by jnrussell at 2:16 PM on May 12, 2011 [16 favorites]


Orson Scott Card wrote a short story about a musical prodigy who was deliberately kept from listening to any music so that he could be completely original. I probably haven't read it in twenty years, but I thought it was great as a kid.
posted by callmejay at 2:17 PM on May 12, 2011


Brings to mind this Orson Scott Card story, vividly remember reading it in Omni as a kid and it making a big impact on me.
posted by jbickers at 2:18 PM on May 12, 2011


(owe you a coke, callmejay)
posted by jbickers at 2:18 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I keep hearing how bad people think The Shaggs drummer was, but I still contend it was no worse than what I hear every time I listen to the Velvet Underground.
posted by Ber at 2:21 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


stagewhisper: This sounds fantastic. I'm buying tickets.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 2:23 PM on May 12, 2011


Orson Scott Car--

Shit.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:24 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mozian says, "... It is kind of a bad record; that's so obvious, it's a given. But it absolutely intrigued me, the idea that people would make a record playing the way they do."

I first heard 'Philosophy' in '89 or '90 from someone that just wanted to see the look on my face. I was amazed, needless to say, but I listened to that record for much of the next few years.

I really do love that record, though admittedly can only handle a song or two at a time now. I always try to be true and original in my own songwriting and musicianship, to not be a poser or cop too many of my heroes, and when I think of the Shaggs I'm always reminded how far I've yet to go.
posted by makabampow at 2:25 PM on May 12, 2011


Has this been done for porn?
posted by juiceCake at 2:27 PM on May 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Rock music causes people to be violent. Listening to The Shags makes me want to kill Nickelback.
posted by En0rm0 at 2:28 PM on May 12, 2011


I keep hearing how bad people think The Shaggs drummer was, but I still contend it was no worse than what I hear every time I listen to the Velvet Underground.

Any one of the sisters on The Shaggs' album cover could be Mo Tucker in a wig. Think about it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:28 PM on May 12, 2011


Orson Scott Card wrote a short story about a musical prodigy who was deliberately kept from listening to any music so that he could be completely original.

They told him to invent games. They told him to play music. They told him to write stories. They told him if he did these things they would let him out of the box.

And he did these things, and he did them incredibly well. But they didn't let him out of the box, they lied!
posted by Hoopo at 2:32 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I keep hearing how bad people think The Shaggs drummer was, but I still contend it was no worse than what I hear every time I listen to the Velvet Underground.


Oh, that's nothing! You should listen to Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music!"
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:32 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


This sounds pretty much like what happens when I get my non-musically-inclined friends drunk and introduce them to my music room.

What would be even better though is if "Foot Foot" became a 70's superhit, and we had a Lena Horne or maybe a Tina Turner cover.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:39 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Many people (me included) genuinely do enjoy listening to the music they created.

I genuinely enjoy listening to washing machines, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. I have a slight preference for top loaders, incidentally.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:39 PM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh my. I love the Shaggs so, so much. They inhabit a special corner of my heart, not by themselves but damn near close to it (for some reason, the Dead Milkmen also reside there. As does the t.v. show 'Emergency!' and certain types of food.) I'm almost afraid to read this interview. I don't think I ever thought I'd read one, and certainly not one given by as mainstream a reporter as Ronson, someone I actually like quite a bit.

I'm almost afraid to read it, but I'm about to. I probably won't be reporting back. Here goes.
posted by item at 2:41 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The father talked about God. He wanted to know if God had a language. Don't ask me what this means. I am only telling you because I know the words. The father thought a baby might speak it if the baby saw no people. But what baby was there? Ah. Now you begin to see. You did not have to buy him. Of course, Peter knew some people words. That could not be helped. But the father thought maybe Peter would forget them. After a while. That is why there was so much boom, boom, boom. Every time Peter said a word, his father would boom him. At last Peter learned to say nothing. Ya ya ya. Thank you.

"Peter kept the words inside him. All those days and months and years. There in the dark, little Peter all alone, and the words made noise in his head and kept him company. That is why his mouth does not work right. Poor Peter. Boo hoo. Such are his tears. The little boy who can never grow up.

"Peter can talk like people now. But he still has the other words in his head. They are God's language, and no one else can speak them. They cannot be translated. That is why Peter lives so close to God. That is why he is a famous poet.
posted by empath at 2:41 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh holy fucking jesus. It's a VIDEO?!?
posted by item at 2:49 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The whole "so-bad-it's-good" thing becomes tiresome after a while. A peculiar set of circumstances/coincidences created the cult of The Shaggs. If their nutty/controlling father hadn't drilled his musically inept girls to practice for years, developing bad habits with no concept of time, articulation and pronunciation, then the album never would have been created. We have that man to thank for deluding his daughters and himself into thinking they'd be the next Beatles. I remember when my friend gushingly tried to convince me of their greatness; he played me the album and my reaction is what their recording engineer experienced: I laughed and said "Oh, I get it, they simply don't know how to play and have rehearsed that way. They're just a couple of girls with little to no musical training trying to create a rock record. Big fucking whoop. Somebody like Justin Beiber or Lady Gaga does the same thing now with better production value and sells millions. I don't see what is so special about that. The only reason people think it's surreal and otherwordly is because yeah, they spent months maybe years working on those shitty songs, so they play at a good enough level to make them sound convincing in their atrociousness.
posted by ReeMonster at 2:56 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


One thing is clear. The Shags are better than Billy Joel.
posted by philip-random at 2:58 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


juiceCake: "Has this been done for porn?"

Well yeah this one father got all his daughters in on this...

no sorry I can't finish that joke I feel gross now.
posted by idiopath at 3:02 PM on May 12, 2011


Wait wait wait. A bbc.co.uk bit of web media which isn't blocked outside the UK? *falls over in a dead faint*
posted by hippybear at 3:04 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


no sorry I can't finish that joke I feel gross now.

Okay, I'll finish it:

"...The Aristocrats!"
posted by empath at 3:06 PM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


hippybear: "Wait wait wait. A bbc.co.uk bit of web media which isn't blocked outside the UK? *falls over in a dead faint*"

Wait until you see what the volume slider goes up to...
posted by danny the boy at 3:09 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


One thing is clear. The Shags are better than Billy Joel.

That's pretty faint praise. You could say the same thing about recordings of Hitler straining during a bowel movement or people from Buffalo yelling affirmations during intercourse.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:09 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's got nothing to do with 'The whole "so-bad-it's-good" thing.' It's so different there's barely a category for it.

Was it child abuse or something, that he made them practice and play and record and play a bunch of dances (after which they had to stay and clean up the hall)? Maybe. But seriously, maybe you just get it or you don't, but if all this music gets out of you is a laugh and a derisive comment, then maybe it's just not for you, and that's fine.

Me, I don't *need* to know that Frank Zappa, Lester Bangs, Carla Bley, Kurt Cobain, and Jonathon Richman agree with me to like it. But if I didn't like it, that might give me pause. YMMV.
posted by hap_hazard at 3:11 PM on May 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's incredibly compelling in that it basically could not have been created by trained musicians even if they tried.

This is entirely true. I've been in groups of trained musicians trying to play out of rhythm or sing out of time or out of tune... and once you get music wiring in your brain, you simply cannot create anything like what you find with this band.
posted by hippybear at 3:11 PM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


From the liner notes:

The Shaggs love you....They will not change their music or style to meet the whims of a frustrated world. You should appreciate this because you know they are pure what more can you ask?

Yipe.
posted by supercres at 3:12 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh my god, they're real? They were part of an Octopus Pie storyline a while ago (they show up here) and I just assumed it was a comi-tragic (opposite trajectory of tragicomic, I suppose) invention.
posted by roobot at 3:14 PM on May 12, 2011


I just assumed it was a comi-tragic (opposite trajectory of tragicomic, I suppose) invention.

You mean, the girl group equivalent of Jonathan and Darlene Edwards?
posted by hippybear at 3:16 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


^ not to say "Hey a bunch of famous weirdos like this music so you have to!" Rather, if they - and a shitload of nonfamous peoples on metafilter and elsewhere - say "I really like this music and I'm not kidding" then maybe there's something in it that it would be worth your while to hear. But again of course ymmv.
posted by hap_hazard at 3:16 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


(I really need to stop giving away things I could do an FPP about in comments like that.)
posted by hippybear at 3:17 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


(In all honesty, having Carla Bley say that your music completely stopped her brain.... isn't necessarily flattery on any level.)
posted by hippybear at 3:24 PM on May 12, 2011


"They made my mind stop." What a great quote.
posted by PHINC at 3:26 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The whole "so-bad-it's-good" thing becomes tiresome after a while.

The "I get the truth of how actually crappy this art is, while the rest of you suckers are just delusion" thing gets tiresome as well.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:29 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wasn't familiar with The Shaggs before this post (not a surprise) so I listened to some of their tunes, including the ones posted in this thread as favorites. Jesus, it's like someone stabbing me in the ear with a pencil. I was wincing the whole time.

And yet, as pointed out a few times, still better than Nickelback.
posted by Justinian at 3:33 PM on May 12, 2011


They're just a couple of girls with little to no musical training trying to create a rock record...The only reason people think it's surreal and otherwordly is because yeah, they spent months maybe years working on those shitty songs, so they play at a good enough level to make them sound convincing in their atrociousness.

I'm not a huge fan of the Shaggs based on what I've heard. But I read that they've done more traditional songs with traditional pop song structure too, and that people didn't like those as much. I have no idea if they did poorly at those because I haven't heard them, but training has seemingly little to do with the end product. Plenty of famous and semi-famous musicians are self-taught, no "musical trainng" per se. The Shaggs heard and liked pop music, and apparently could produce music that conformed to a pop music structure. The reason it's surreal and otherwordly is that because it's fucking weird and they deliberately chose to make it that way for some reason.
posted by Hoopo at 3:34 PM on May 12, 2011


I agree and disagree vehemently with ReeMonster about this this:

If their nutty/controlling father hadn't drilled his musically inept girls to practice for years, developing bad habits with no concept of time, articulation and pronunciation, then the album never would have been created.

...that's actually makes The Shaggs so fascinatingly and completely different from Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga or whoever.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:34 PM on May 12, 2011


Astro Zombie: "I get the truth of how actually crappy this art is, while the rest of you suckers are just delusion Deleuzian"

it's the standard antischizoanalytic stance, FTFY
posted by idiopath at 3:34 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think their old man and Brian Wilson's old man should get together and go bowling.
posted by Knappster at 3:36 PM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Is this the thread where we pretend that The Shaggs arent awful?

Atonal noise by design can be engaging. This isnt that.

This is the sort of thing self-absorbed (and often self-impressed) music nerds put on their Desert Island Discs list between Marquee Moon and Ryuichi Sakamoto, all the while trying to quiet their true inner instinct that knows for a fact that if they ever had to make that list for real it would have The Eagles Greatest Hits, the Space Jam soundtrack, and whatever LIVE record they were really into at age 14 in their places. But that isnt the sort of thing you say to impress other similarly insufferable people, so The Shaggs it is.

Yeah I get it. Its bad in a different and primal way. Its also fucking terrible.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:40 PM on May 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's horrible, yes. But it's horrible in a really interesting way. It takes the naivete of a toddler banging pots and pans with the technical ability of, say, a ten-year-old who took two guitar lessons and quit. But since it's done by teenagers, it's not carefree-- it's really eerily earnest. Not to mention that the lyrics sound like something straight out of an abusive-homeschooling-parent episode of SVU.
posted by supercres at 3:42 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is this the thread where we pretend that The Shaggs arent awful?

I genuinely find it beautiful. If you feel the need to hand-wave that away with a selection of satiric jabs about music nerds, go ahead. There may be a time when your cleverness and haven't contempt for people who don't share your limited tastes makes up for your small-mindedness.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:44 PM on May 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


Strike "haven't" from that sentence. I don't know what hell it's doing there.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:46 PM on May 12, 2011


Your favorite band sucks.
posted by nooneyouknow at 3:48 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Senor Cardgage, what exactly is it about this music, or people saying they enjoy it, that threaten you so much? Is this the thread where we get all "show me on the doll where the Shaggs fan touched you?"

Seriously- I have absolutely zero time for ironic appreciation of crap. I could not care less what hip people listen to unless it's good. I have exactly no friends who would ever bother lying about what kind of music they like, because life's too fucking short. I would like to think it's also too short to go around loudly proclaiming the superiority of one's taste, or threadshitting, or whatever, but hey who knows. I think the Shaggs are amazing, and if that impresses, or annoys someone, what in the hell is that to me?

If in your world that makes me "insufferable people," then that's cool. But I can't imagine how it's any more insufferable than you insisting on saying so.
posted by hap_hazard at 3:50 PM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Your favorite band sucks.

Or the worse insult: Your favorite band is The Shaggs.
posted by supercres at 3:50 PM on May 12, 2011


I also vote for beautiful, although I probably wouldn't include it in a desert island list. The hate for them and/or for people that like them is harder to understand, though.
posted by MrMisterio at 3:54 PM on May 12, 2011


Metafilter: You like your favorite band for disingenuous reasons.
posted by everichon at 3:57 PM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Senor Cardgage, what exactly is it about this music, or people saying they enjoy it, that threaten you so much?

Just because it isnt a corporation doing the pushing doesnt mean that something isnt being marketed. For the last 20 years The Shaggs have been marketed (mostly by musicians with an interest in cloaking themselves in arty outsider cache) as a secret handshake or form of social currency to a certain type of music fan that wants to portray themselves as so omnivorous that they'd eat the plate itself.

Again, I have no quarrel with noise, dissonance, atonal musings, odd constructions, Zappa or the whole ball of that kind of wax. But Ive had two decades of seeing people trumpet the brilliance of The Shaggs yet oddly you never see or hear of people listening to them more than the one-time qualifying round to be able to talk about them. I'm of the opinion that it's something people want to be seen liking. Like reading Ulysses at a conspicuous angle in a coffee shop.

If this stuff brings you joy then more power to you, but I call the bluff on this being anything more than a hugely inessential oddity. And even the oddness isnt really that odd.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:02 PM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm of the opinion that it's something people want to be seen liking. Like reading Ulysses at a conspicuous angle in a coffee shop.

Well, I've listened to the albums dozens of times, and have it on my iPod. So your opinion is wrong. I await a retraction of the series of baseless assumptions you've made.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:04 PM on May 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yeah, c'mon. This is really some kind of put-on by Sonic Youth, right? Right!?
posted by DarkForest at 4:06 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Okay their song "My Cutie" is actually pretty good.
posted by hellojed at 4:07 PM on May 12, 2011


Metafilter:

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
posted by Casimir at 4:12 PM on May 12, 2011 [17 favorites]


even the oddness isnt really that odd

Really?

Palm-reader tells eccentric, possibly abusive man he will have daughters in a band, years later he frog-marches his daughters into rock-n-roll, whereupon they produce music like that, and then it is recorded?

You are wrong: it is odd.
posted by everichon at 4:13 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


But Ive had two decades of seeing people trumpet the brilliance of The Shaggs

People are doing brass covers of the Shaggs now?
posted by Hoopo at 4:21 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, wow, the enraged insistence that one couldn't like the Shaggs just because one likes the Shaggs is way weirder than the Shaggs, and weird in a bad creepy way not the near transcendent, absolutely gorgeous way the Shaggs are weird. I mean, I find it hard to believe that anyone enjoys swedish fish, but you can buy them all over town and the ironic enjoyers of that candy can't be that numerous. Anyhoo, the Shaggs are so utterly guileless yet so freakily knowing that I don't think of them as aliens so much as visitors from the true earth.
posted by generalist at 4:23 PM on May 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Man, I love the Shaggs. For me it's the sincerity in their music, the utter lack of any affectation or artifice, that really won me over and has kept me a fan since.

I will admit though, the first time I heard them I laughed my ass off.
posted by tiger yang at 4:28 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Today was my first introduction to the shaggs, strangely enough given how much I sought after this king of music when I was in high school.

My biggest reaction to it, aside from the fact that I very genuinely love this music, is how much is sounds like riot grrrl/how much riot grrl sounds like this. And, thinking about the kind of abuse suffered at the hands of kathleen hanna and the kind of abuse apparently/seemingly suffered at the hands of these girls, the parallels are kind of neverending.
posted by ameliaaah at 4:29 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


... mysterious heart attack, huh?

I think Stephen King needs to get to work on an alternate history of The Shaggs where their dad did abuse them and they killed him and kept the secret hidden all these years.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:30 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


If this stuff brings you joy then more power to you

Thanks!
posted by dfan at 4:30 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just listened to their 'songs'. This is literally the worst thing.
posted by empath at 4:32 PM on May 12, 2011


Yeah, wow, the enraged insistence that one couldn't like the Shaggs just because one likes the Shaggs is way weirder than the Shaggs

It is kinda like if you had two people trying different salsas, all of which happen to have corn in them. The two people like different salsas, there is some overlap. They each have their own tastes and accept the differing tastes of the other person, even if they disagree.

But as it turns out...Person A digs salsa BECAUSE it has corn in it. Person B finds corn incidental.

Along comes a salsa without corn. Person A thinks it is patently ridiculous. Clearly not salsa worth jarring. Person B happens to like it (POSSIBLY because he/she thinks it makes them more interesting/hip/alive/righteous than person A, but also POSSIBLY because they just genuinely like it..or even a combo of the two). Person A thinks that Person B cannot possibly ACTUALLY like cornless salsa and instead likes it just as an affectation. And Person B could be absolutely wrong, or absolutely right, or some weird combo.

err, something like that.
posted by ian1977 at 4:36 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Haha, Kurt Cobain liked them.
posted by ReeMonster at 4:36 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just listened to their 'songs'. This is literally the worst thing.


Well yeah dude. There's your problem right there.
You're thinking of them as songs when you should be thinking of the entire band as an affectation.
Sorta like growing a handlebar moustache or going everywhere with a ventriloquist dummy.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:36 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ha! I actually typed that before I read that ian1977 had used "affectation"

it's kismet, yo!
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:37 PM on May 12, 2011


There's a point in the Jon Ronson piece where the musicality of the Shags' unique weirdness gets discussed. Basically, it's three girls singing all the same thing, no harmony, with two guitars basically matching the vocals, and drums doing much the same thing (ie: keeping with the rhythm of the "melody", or maybe it's the other way around). So, three instruments, three voices, all doing the same thing with no sense of trying to match up with anything they've ever heard before, because they're the Shags, they haven't heard anything before.

How could the result not be weird? How could it not be disorienting at first impact? How could it not sort of grow on you from there, given that it comes from a true, albeit demented place?

full disclosure: I've been aware of the Shags for years (going back to the early 80s at least) but, short of throwing occasional tracks down in the midst of very noisy radio shows (often playing them at the same time as three other songs) I've honestly never bothered to really listen to them until today. And I must say I like them, much as I can like a particularly stinky cheese. Because it's so extreme ... and yet it's not poisonous. It expands my world.
posted by philip-random at 4:41 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


literally the worst thing
See I always thought the worst thing was a cancer cell inside a blackhead inside a pimple inside a scab inside one of those toothy, hairy tumors inside a goiter on your mom's neck. Good to know.
posted by generalist at 4:43 PM on May 12, 2011


Person C sees the dance of Person A and B. By just 'oh yawn, cornless salsa, its not even THAT crazy, just boring' that have validated and invalidated Person A's and Person B's argument.

Person D decides to one up Person C and says, well, yes, cornless salsa is of course boring and trite, but it is boring and trite in such a way that somehow the lack of corn forms a cornless space in which true expression is achieved, in a way that neither A, B, or C could possibly understand.

Person E decides to make cornless salsa, but somehow ends up having corn in it.

Person F finds a jar of salsa years later and asks.metafilter if it is okay to eat even tho it is fizzy.
posted by ian1977 at 4:44 PM on May 12, 2011


By * just 'oh yawn, cornless salsa, its not even THAT crazy, just boring' that have validated and
invalidated Person A's and Person B's argument.


* insert the word 'saying' here
posted by ian1977 at 4:45 PM on May 12, 2011


See I always thought the worst thing was a cancer cell inside a blackhead inside a pimple inside a scab inside one of those toothy, hairy tumors inside a goiter on your mom's neck. Good to know.

Which reminds me of a joke I once heard:

Q: What's worse than finding a worm in an apple?
A: The Holocaust.
posted by acb at 4:46 PM on May 12, 2011


Sounds to me what "Freak Out" would sound like if Frank Zappa had absolutely no talent.
posted by Splunge at 4:47 PM on May 12, 2011


The Shaggs are fucking transcendent. Literally.

1. The lead vocal and the lead guitar are LOCKED DOWN. They play EXACTLY the same notes at EXACTLY the same time, always--quite a feat when they're both so totally out of tune.

2. The drums being so totally off from everything else creates a low-frequency heterodyne. The CIA et al. have studied heterodynes for mind control applications, the idea being that your brain gets so confused that you zone out into a trance-like state.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:47 PM on May 12, 2011 [16 favorites]


Man, years ago, via a really early Questionable Content, I ran into "My Pal Foot Foot" performed by Deerhoof. Now I've got "that was a cover?!" shock on top of Shaggs-shock.

Who the hell puts corn in salsa, anyway?
posted by darksasami at 4:48 PM on May 12, 2011


Who the hell puts corn in salsa, anyway?

By my analogy, not The Shaggs.
posted by ian1977 at 4:50 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait wait wait. A bbc.co.uk bit of web media
which isn't blocked outside the UK? *falls over
in a dead faint*


In general, all BBC radio content online is available to international audiences at the same level of access as UK audiences, I believe. Yes you can even use the web iPlayer for this.2
posted by Bwithh at 4:51 PM on May 12, 2011


Years ago, at the wonderful Otto's Shrunken Head bar in New York's Alphabet City, I put "My Pal Foot Foot" on the jukebox in the midst of the usual run of Stooges/Ramones/Dictators tracks. About 15 seconds into the song, the bartender yelled "I can't take this shit!" and hit a button behind the bar and, poof, the jukebox switched to the next song. I do love the Shaggs.
posted by AJaffe at 4:52 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


So does all this infamy (for decades The Shaggs have been cited as the world's worst band AND the world's greatest band), not the least of which is a 100+ comment thread in MeFi, mean that grandma's prophecy in fact came true?
posted by bonefish at 4:56 PM on May 12, 2011


Senor Cardgage,

sometimes you can immerse yourself in music or art to such a degree that even the hands-down, most creative genius, best-ever stuff of that medium that everyone loves is boring to you and you need something completely new, fresh, and different. Particularly when you're a creator, you try and try to come up with something new or different and interesting and are frustrated by only being able to come up with what seems to be endless variations of things that have already been done. Sometimes you can only listen to so many 3-chord songs, you can only look at so many representational paintings of landscapes, before you wonder if there's anything left worthwhile to try in those media. Picasso has articulated this about children being true artists and the difficulty of keeping that same childlike spirit of creativity into adulthood. He's looking at what a child produces on a page with fingerpaints and no prior experience and seeing something valuable in it, worth examining and understanding and enjoying and emulating and a fundamental source of inspiration to be drawn upon.

What you're saying is "no, that's dumb, children just scribble and throw paint and they totally suck."
posted by Hoopo at 4:59 PM on May 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


I had never heard any of their songs before now, and rather than look for some to listen to directly, I let the long video intro play while I read this thread. I've just gotten past the parts where they play their music and oh my god.

That was SO MUCH LESS WEIRD than you all made me think it was going to be.

Unlike some people, I can see why people would enjoy it, but... it's still just some terrible young musicians who don't know what they're doing. It's not music from outer space.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:05 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have just discovered the Shaggs.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:08 PM on May 12, 2011


I'd never heard of The Shaggs before. I've just listened to them for twenty minutes, and had goosebumps almost the entire time. I can take some pretty brutal sonic punishment and enjoy it (if only the one time, and never again), but that was something else altogether.

If you listen to it with pop music expectations, then I guess you might only hear the cluelessness and clashiness, and experience pain. But there are a lot of great and terrible things in here. It is most definitely not just kitsch value that people see. There's a bone-chillingness to it that speaks to the deep idiosyncrasy of the whole setup, and an undeniable simple beauty to aspects of the performances.

My Cutie blew my mind. Not because it's er, smoother than their other songs, but because, more than anything else, it captures a sense of the father's imposition of alienation, as well as a sort of wistful acceptance of it. This is the stuff that faraway stares are made of.
posted by Casimir at 5:10 PM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Eponysterical.
posted by YamwotIam at 5:25 PM on May 12, 2011


Wow. This is why I avoid the blue. Hipsters and wannabeanti-hipsters flinging shit so fast my creaky old ass just can't get the fuck out of the way.

Is there some musical reason we must despise the Shaggs? For that matter, is there such a thing as a musical reason?
posted by bricoleur at 5:31 PM on May 12, 2011


While the story is interesting and the "music" is gruesomely... diverting... in small enough doses... I do think some people are a little to ready to overlook the fact that they were irredeemably shite.
posted by Decani at 13:38 on May 12

No need for the scare quotes there, Decani, unless you just want to make yourself appear stupid. Because what the Shaggs made was unquestionably, undeniably and incontrovertibly music.

And no one, I repeat, no one is overlooking any "fact" about their music being "irredeemably shite". No such fact exists. A personal opinion about music is never a "fact". It's an "opinion".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:46 PM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh, and one important point needs reiterating:

They are still better than the Beatles.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:50 PM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Slanging invective at the Shaggs reminds me of Vonnegut's line about critics putting on a full suit of armor to attack a hot fudge sundae. And you know, I actually love invective, and pointlessly attacking stuff, and if this were a Gaga thread I could kinda see it (though it would still be annoying). Because she actually *is* a huge and threatening hot fudge sundae, and she's a millionaire for what you might see as annoying accomplishments, and maybe you always have to hear her on the radio or TV or Farmville and your friends all love her and you think ,that sundae is going to kill me! I must stop it!

But for the Shaggs? Seriously, this is something people feel like they need to attack?

I understand the importance - to our beloved Internets - of the trope of the Emperor's New Clothes. Maybe it's like a rule 34 kind of thing- for *any* phenomenon whatsoever, there are a whole bunch of people who can't wait to chime in about how stupid it is, and their kid could paint it, and only stupid people like it, and they only pretend to like it anyways, because MAAN I can see through all the hype! I am a brave truth-teller!

In this case, though, you're not the lonely, honest boy in the crowd, are you? Does anyone think that hating-the-Shaggs is some snowflake-like minority position? That everyone here's been just so blindly accepting of them that maybe a certain brave lad, wise beyond his years, and shucks maybe just a tad charmingly naive, can point a finger and Speak the Unpopular Truth we'll all go "Dang, it was all a lie, they've always sucked, and I was a fool to think I liked them?"

Because, OK. Otherwise though I have no idea what the bunch of you are on about.
posted by hap_hazard at 6:03 PM on May 12, 2011 [9 favorites]



Wow. This is why I avoid the blue.


Oh? This is why I love the blue. A fascinating story about a weird band that I've never heard of, and an impassioned debate about why they suck/are awesome.

Sys Rq's explanation of why they're good is just great.
posted by graventy at 6:13 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow. This is why I avoid the blue.

So glad you could at least pop in long enough to let us know that. But feel free to avoid it more often!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:17 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


In this case, though, you're not the lonely, honest boy in the crowd, are you? Does anyone think that hating-the-Shaggs is some snowflake-like minority position? That everyone here's been just so blindly accepting of them that maybe a certain brave lad, wise beyond his years, and shucks maybe just a tad charmingly naive, can point a finger and Speak the Unpopular Truth we'll all go "Dang, it was all a lie, they've always sucked, and I was a fool to think I liked them?"

It's posturing. It's using The Shaggs not as an artefact, but as cultural currency.

Some claim to like The Shaggs in order to be more broad-minded and hip. And some, who would otherwise ignore them, claim to hate them in order to differentiate themselves from all the Fucking Hipsters who like them. And some people just listen to them for the way they sound.
posted by acb at 6:19 PM on May 12, 2011


Does anyone think that hating-the-Shaggs is some snowflake-like minority position?

Hah! I could totally see the Onion headline : Area Man Dislikes Unpopular Thing
posted by Afroblanco at 6:26 PM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Man, I had never heard of the Shaggs. Speaking as someone who once studied music, and in particular music theory, my considered opinion is that this shit is crazy.
posted by danb at 6:30 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


This seems identical to the minimalist art debates that pop up now and again.

My perspective on it would be that the Shaggs are simultaneously good and bad depending on what standards you apply. If you're trying to judge them in comparison to other music, taking the other music as a standard of "good", then obviously they'll be terrible. But if you take them out of that context and listen to them straight up, then it's likely to be a much more divided reaction, as the rhythmic qualities and the independence of all the lines are uncommon in music due to the special needs of training bad habits to make them even "worse". Some people may find this pleasing due to its unconventionality; others might hate it. It's just music in the end, we all have different opinions.
posted by solarion at 6:37 PM on May 12, 2011


I haven't really listened to the Shaggs, but I'm glad they exist. I used to be into Wesley Willis, but that felt too exploitative.
I get up at open mic nights and sorta have a band. I can't really sing. I mostly just shout over improvised music and recite bad poetry. It's fun, and some people appreciate it. There was a Simpsons episode last night where Homer sang some bad rock lyrics and I was thinking that I could be perfectly happy doing that for my whole life. I'd rather have 100 untrained ametuers than one polished Bieber or Gaga (though I appreciate things like Pet Sounds and Big Star). There's too much artificiality and not enough pure passion. Like Frank Turner says, try this at home.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:38 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is like the tenth time this has been posted on the Blue but I love it more everytime
posted by GilloD at 6:40 PM on May 12, 2011



Wow. This is why I avoid the blue.

So glad you could at least pop in long enough to let us know that. But feel free to avoid it more often!


The fact that every music thread has somebody hating on The Beatles or Bob Dylan or Good Vibrations makes me want to avoid music threads, honestly, and keeps me posting about things I like. I'm thinking about the big Bob Dylan birthday post and part of me figures it's not worth the hassle of assholes thinking pretending they're too cool for him.

I love that his comment: I understand the importance - to our beloved Internets - of the trope of the Emperor's New Clothes. Maybe it's like a rule 34 kind of thing- for *any* phenomenon whatsoever, there are a whole bunch of people who can't wait to chime in about how stupid it is, and their kid could paint it, and only stupid people like it, and they only pretend to like it anyways, because MAAN I can see through all the hype! I am a brave truth-teller!


came right before flapjack saying The Beatles suck, because the only reason to say you hate the Beatles is because you want to take that stance.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:41 PM on May 12, 2011


Could they not hear themselves and each other during the recording session? I've always wondered. I can't carry a tune in a dump truck, but I know when I'm off-key.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:44 PM on May 12, 2011


Thanks for this. Getting married tomorrow; our first dance is a Shaggs song <3
posted by jtron at 1:05 PM on May 12


Is this the dance?
posted by unliteral at 6:46 PM on May 12, 2011


"The first time I heard Trout Mask, when I was 15 years old, I thought it was the worst thing I'd ever heard. I said to myself, they're not even trying! It was just a sloppy cacophony.

Then I listened to it a couple more times... About the third time, I realised they were doing it on purpose: they meant it to sound exactly this way. About the sixth or seventh time, it clicked in, and I thought it was the greatest album I'd ever heard."
That was Matt Groening talking about Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica. I had a similar experience with Philosophy of the World. It was pain. It was awful. It made me wonder why I had the lunacy to listen to this. Yet, I spun it again. I hated it. I tried again. I hated it. Then, somehow, "My Pal Foot Foot" wormed its way into my head. Eventually, I realized I liked it. I loved it.

If you don't like it, you don't like it. Try it again, though. Give it three listens. Please. If you still can't stand it, I don't blame you one bit. For those who it connects with those, I don't know what bizarre wiring we have in common, but you and I, we are brothers and sisters all.
posted by SansPoint at 6:52 PM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Jon RonsonRon Swanson talks to The Shaggs

Just thought I'd put that picture in your heads
posted by Sparx at 6:54 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


came right before flapjack saying The Beatles suck, because the only reason to say you hate the Beatles is because you want to take that stance.

Haha! Ah, my dear Lovecraft, you don't really understand me yet, do you? Well, let me gently assure you that not every single statement of mine is to be taken at face value, 100% literally. See, my statement ("They are still better than the Beatles") was an ironic one (in addition to being a reference to one of my favorite Frank Zappa quotes) which sought to convey, as its essential message, my opinion that assigning hierarchical relative values to music is, well, kind of absurd.

But, yeah, listen man, I actually like the Beatles a lot, OK, and I'm not in any way, shape or form afraid to admit that. I've made, you know, a couple of posts about, 'em, actually.

By the way, the above mentioned Zappa quote ("The Shaggs. Better than the Beatles - even today.") was also used in the title for a Shaggs tribute album some years back.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:08 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your favourite band is better than the Beatles.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:14 PM on May 12, 2011


Pretty sure Zappa meant it about them being better than the Beatles, but on the other hand, I'm pretty sure he didn't hate them (hey, he didn't cover a lot of his contemporaries, but there were 4 Beatles songs in his last tour's sets. ) But in a way, for all their creativity, the Shaggs staked out more new ground than the fabs did.

Was about to speculate charitably - and correctly it seems - about flapjax at midnite's reasons for saying that but whew, I don't have to do that now! Thanks for the tip re: that tribute album- is it any good?
posted by hap_hazard at 7:15 PM on May 12, 2011


^their = the Beatles'
posted by hap_hazard at 7:17 PM on May 12, 2011


re: that tribute album- is it any good?

I've never heard it! I'd be interested to hear it, though. Gotta be pretty tough, covering the Shaggs.

posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:19 PM on May 12, 2011


Well, that Deerhoof track I linked above is from it, if you want to give that a shot. I also saw a cover of We Have A Savior from it on YouTube which I'm too lazy to look up again.
posted by darksasami at 7:22 PM on May 12, 2011


If anyone here hates The Shaggs, I encourage you to post a cover in the Mefi Music for this month's challenge: cover a song you hate. I'd love to hear it.
posted by Corduroy at 7:33 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or, you know, covers of any of the bands on the seemingly infinite list of musicians being hated upon in here would be great too!
posted by Corduroy at 7:35 PM on May 12, 2011


re: that tribute album... oh, googling things with site:mediafire.com, is there anything you can't do? Not this!
posted by hap_hazard at 7:46 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, a contentious thread about outsider music seems like the right place to post this gem of a song/life-philosophy.
posted by Kattullus at 8:18 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's easy to listen to The Shaggs and hate them because they don't sound like what music is supposed to sound like. But the point is that these girls rehearsed for five years in a basement to sound like that. They were not under-rehearsed or incompetent. They were vastly over-rehearsed. They did not 'not know' what they were doing. They sounded like that because that is *exactly* what their dad wanted them to sound like.

What is powerful about The Shaggs is that it opens up a space of music that nobody else could. I challenge the musicians among you to even come close to playing what they played. I challenge you to even attempt transcribing it.

It is really even not that far out there harmonically or rhythmically. It is just a click away from what your brain wants you to hear.

But anyway, to reiterate. They were not imcompetent, or under-rehearsed, or ignorant. They were just playing music you do not like.

But I DO!
posted by unSane at 8:20 PM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


To put it another way, a medieval composer listing to the Rolling Stones would probably have the same reaction, because the distance beween the two gestalts is so massive. And there was a clear musical gestalt going on with The Shaggs -- they had a well defined style.
posted by unSane at 8:22 PM on May 12, 2011


a medieval composer listing to the Rolling Stones would probably have the same reaction

Dood, no way! Listen to that part in Ruby Tuesday where they play the recorders! They'd have been down with the Stones, cause recorders were what those medieval dudes played back then!

Plus, like, Brian Jones wore medieval hats and shit!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:42 PM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


... and anyway, Flapjax (and Zappa) never said they hated The Beatles. They just said the Shags were better. And, for what it's worth, Yes were far better than the Shags. The Shags didn't even have keyboards.
posted by philip-random at 8:52 PM on May 12, 2011


Anybody else getting a "this content doesn't seem to be working" error? I really want to watch this...

I mean, I don't fault anybody for not liking the Shaggs, but I really believe that if you love rock and music and art as a general proposition then you have to implicitly be on the side of shit like this. You should be standing up for the freaks and the weirdos and the people who go to singular weird places with their art with this much verve and this little guile. I reject absolutely any paradigm that imposes some kind of elistist or snobby dynamic on liking or defending the Shaggs.
posted by anazgnos at 8:58 PM on May 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yes were far better than the Shags. The Shags didn't even have keyboards.

Absolutely right, philip-random!. Rick Wakeman was a 20-fingered god who owned more keyboards than have ever been made in all of music history.

Plus, he wore medieval hats.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:01 PM on May 12, 2011


the shaggs made music according to rules and structures that i can't even begin to parse or comprehend - but the music makes sense - according to what we musicians regard as good, they're godawful - but the music makes sense

therefore, as a musician confronted with music that seems to be terrible, but - has an inner structure that holds together, even if i can't understand what that structure is - breaks every rule i've ever heard of but still sounds valuable and interesting - sounds random and childish, but is clearly the result of a lot of deliberation - has almost no relation to any other kind of music i've ever heard save toddlers and animals banging on pianos - but while keeping that spontaneous creativity manages to channel it into actual composition and performance - and most important of all, does it in a way that expresses whimsy, wistfulness, conflict and deep sadness, all with unquestionable sincerity and guilelessness ...

their music has always made me question what i or anyone else really knows about music - and has taught me to listen to music much more carefully and openmindedly - and makes me wonder what else is possible

as bill graham said about the grateful dead - they're not the best at what they do - they're the ONLY ones who do what they do - and i can understand why people don't dig that

but as for myself, a couple of times a year i take my philosophy of the world cd and play it and wonder just how in the world something that sounds so bad and chaotic be so good, original and challenging of everything i know about music?

i don't know and don't know if i ever will - but i will continue to listen to them and love them because i sense a brilliance in that record that no one else has ever been able to duplicate - and if you're not willing to learn from that, it's your loss, not mine
posted by pyramid termite at 9:16 PM on May 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


Thanks, pyramid. That was very well said.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:29 PM on May 12, 2011


If you guys didn't know the backstory, you never would have listened to this trash twice, imo.
posted by empath at 9:37 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


actually, i shouldn't really call it trash. They're kids, they tried hard, but it's just bad.
posted by empath at 9:38 PM on May 12, 2011


This is the sort of thing self-absorbed (and often self-impressed) music nerds put on their Desert Island Discs list between Marquee Moon and Ryuichi Sakamoto, all the while trying to quiet their true inner instinct that knows for a fact that if they ever had to make that list for real it would have The Eagles Greatest Hits, the Space Jam soundtrack, and whatever LIVE record they were really into at age 14 in their places.

People don't all secretly like the Eagles! This is a much stranger idea than the notion that some people legitimately enjoy the Shaggs.
posted by Adventurer at 9:58 PM on May 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


Never heard of them before, but I like them. I think it's because I have a thing for eerily-in-unison singing and these girls are really, really eerily in unison. The way they always take a moment to find the pitch just reinforces how in sync they are.

I wonder if Kimya Dawson likes them. Her vocals have a similar sound, and she's also trying for a childlike guilelessness.
posted by subdee at 10:29 PM on May 12, 2011


If you guys didn't know the backstory, you never would have listened to this trash twice, imo.

I first heard the Shaggs in Boston. It was the LP that the singer from NRBQ is talking about, the one that was first re-released by Rounder, in 1980. It was playing at a friend's house. I knew nothing about them, had heard no backstory whatsoever. It totally knocked me out. I was astonished and amazed and fell in love with it immediately. I had only a few months before discovered Captain Beefheart, and somehow I drew a parallel between the Shaggs and old mister Van Vliet. I still think they are spiritual musical cousins.

But yeah, as concerns my feelings about the Shaggs at the time of my first hearing them (and probably many, many other folks' as well), your opinion is totally off.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:43 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you guys didn't know the backstory, you never would have listened to this trash twice, imo.

I'd never heard any of these songs before today, but I'm already a fan. i actually don't like the backstory and feel like i would have enjoyed the songs more if i didn't know that these girls were all but forced to be a band by their dad. that's just sad. not knowing the backstory to something that sounds like this would have allowed me to contemplate their motivations for doing what their doing on every listen. i'm not too bummed, though, because the performances stand pretty firmly on their own for what they are.

what i like about this and other similar bands, like beat happening, shonen knife, or my friends and about hers, is that there's little else to the music except conviction. every note sounds deliberate. even the mistakes. actually, especially the mistakes because you can hear what they wanted to do but just aren't all that proficient on their instruments. capable musicians are all easy enough to find, but for me, unless i can hear conviction or meaning behind what's being played i'm just not interested.

i'd bet that most folks who would trash talk the shaggs also dislike jonathan richman. he's a perfectly capable musician but his music is focused on sincerity rather than popular sounds, which might be scary for some people.
posted by mexican at 10:46 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


On reflection, it's kind of hilarious how polarizing this band is. That's so punk rock! Who's down for a meet-up/Shaggs riot?

Had to rush home and listen to some Shaggs Own Thing and, yeah. It's difficult music in a way, but it also makes me laugh much the way Thelonius Monk fer example can. They can sound like a semi-skilled garage band falling down the stairs, but I also hear stuff in here that makes me think of Beefheart like everybody else says, and also some gamelan, and some Dirty Projectors, maybe Joseph Spence, middle-period Stooges? The Monks? Rahsaan Roland Kirk? Not trying obvs to say there's influence either way (well maybe a little) there's just stuff that engages and surprises me in similar ways.

Maybe there is some element of Kool-Aid you have to drink, or you have to have the discipline to listen to things that don't make immediate sense, like pyramid termite was saying, but once it *clicks*, it's great. Every element of it can sound 'wrong' but they all just fall together. And it's obviously *intended* to sound this way - the precision of the vocals, the abstractness of the drum parts... it's not like they're trying and failing to sound like the Shirelles.

The context means something, of course. The sheer... I don't know what to call it, balls? To decide that you could just create this music, ex-nihilo, and that it would be a hit? Maybe that's why it's so threatening to people, because it just doesn't give a fuck about AOR men or what the kids are listening to these days or what music is "supposed" to sound like. Sure their dad is probably in showbiz-dad hell right now. But he decided that this was going to happen, and this is what his girls came up with, and it wasn't just good enough- it was damned good! At being whatever it is. So maybe it has the seeds of that alternate world where they became bigger than Elvis, and oh, it probably already laid them in my head. Oh well!

The reason that you'd want this on a desert island is, if you're like me, you can already recreate the whole Eagles catalog (dang I accidentally wrote Beatles) in your head if you want to. But the Shaggs? Yeah, I can't do that by myself.
posted by hap_hazard at 11:03 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


But for the Shaggs? Seriously, this is something people feel like they need to attack?

I've never heard of them before this thread, and I like weird music. I even like bad music. And experiments that went wrong. I have piles of songs that I would say are objectively bad, but I bought them because they are bad in interesting ways.

I just didn't find anything appealing or interesting about this. It sounds like a bunch of kids playing around with some instruments they found laying around the basement. It's not like they understood harmony and rhythm and decided not to use it so they could make something nobody had ever made before. They just didn't know what they were doing.
posted by empath at 11:15 PM on May 12, 2011


It's not like they understood harmony and rhythm and decided not to use it so they could make something nobody had ever made before. They just didn't know what they were doing.

I would have to think that any serious music fan will have, by a certain point of their life, have heard these exact kind of words coming out of the mouths of people failing to grasp perfectly legitimate music so many times that they'd really think twice before starting to say them.
posted by anazgnos at 12:13 AM on May 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yeah, anazgnos, I was pretty shocked myself, really.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:16 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


People don't all secretly like the Eagles!

I secretly like the eagles.

Well I used to.

I wanted to like the shaggs and yes, be a bit hip at the same time .... I couldn't really listen that much but the wierd timing kind of stays with you, plus that reaction you can have to it.
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:17 AM on May 13, 2011


plus that reaction you can have to it.

Gives one a... mmm, how to put it? A peaceful easy feeling.

You do know they wrote that after an intensive Shaggs-listening period, right?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:35 AM on May 13, 2011


I can't find a video of it online, but you guys need to listen to "Shaggs' Own Thing [Vocal Version]". On it, the girls' father, Wiley Wiggens, and their brother join in. It's incredible.
posted by meadowlark lime at 1:59 AM on May 13, 2011


The Shaggs are not good. The Shaggs are not bad. The Shaggs are interesting. I like the Shaggs precisely because they fall outside the normal music continuum that is marked by the "good" and "bad." They challenge my mind in terms of understanding what music is.
posted by KingEdRa at 2:23 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Upsetting and beguiling in the way that outsider art can be. A manifestation of the environment it evolved from. Not unlike the auto-tuned, compressed, mp3 ready sounds that dominate the charts in having a particular signature sound. Both are fairly unsettling, in the same way as being exposed to someone with a particular psychosis, and I choose to avoid them.

Off to listen to some Happy Flowers for some respite from this lunacy.
posted by asok at 3:26 AM on May 13, 2011


I openly like the Eagles. Well, Desperado, anyway. AND the Shaggs.

Your heads may now explode.
posted by unSane at 3:55 AM on May 13, 2011


Constipation, that's the feeling I get from the Shaggs and the autotuned pop fare that the young people are listening to. Confined and uncomfortable.
posted by asok at 5:17 AM on May 13, 2011


I don't mind at all that some (well, most) people hate the Shaggs. It would be a weird world indeed in which everyone thought this was great music.

What does really get my goat is when people claim that when I say that I, personally, like the Shaggs, I am lying.
posted by dfan at 5:22 AM on May 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


a cancer cell inside a blackhead inside a pimple inside a scab inside one of those toothy, hairy tumors inside a goiter on your mom's neck a cancer cell inside a blackhead inside a pimple inside a scab inside one of those toothy, hairy tumors inside a goiter on your mom's neck a cancer cell inside a blackhead inside a pimple inside a scab inside one of those toothy, hairy tumors inside a goiter on your mom's neck a cancer cell inside a blackhead inside a pimple inside a scab inside one of those toothy, hairy tumors inside a goiter on your mom's neck a cancer cell inside a blackhead inside a pimple inside a scab inside one of those toothy, hairy tumors inside a goiter on your mom's neck a cancer cell inside a blackhead inside a pimple inside a scab inside one of those toothy, hairy tumors inside a goiter on your mom's neck a cancer cell inside a blackhead inside a pimple inside a scab inside one of those toothy, hairy tumors inside a goiter on your mom's neck a cancer cell inside a blackhead inside a pimple inside a scab inside one of those toothy, hairy tumors inside a goiter on your mom's neck.

YOUR MOM'S NECK.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:21 AM on May 13, 2011


Bottom line for me is: The Shaggs are another case of trying to convince people that I'm not fucking kidding, I'm not being ironic, I'm not somehow part of a group dupe of sneering college radio DJs trying to sneak a musical shibboleth past the unsuspecting squares.

I like Circus Peanuts. I think Ralph meant viking figuratively. And I listen to The Shaggs. I do so alone or in public for one simple reason, and it is not to try and fool anybody - it's because I like the way the music makes me feel. Just like The Beatles, Eagles, Cars, Troggs, Kinks, Who, The, Revolution, Heartbreakers, Stones, and News.

Also, way up thread:
(...) given how much I sought after this king of music when I was in high school.

Is there a word for a poetic typo?
posted by dirtdirt at 6:50 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Orlean:
After a while, the house's new owner complained to people in town that Austin's ghost haunted the property. As soon as he could afford it, the new owner built something bigger and nicer farther back on the property, and allowed the Fremont Fire Department to burn the old Wiggin house down for fire-fighting practice.
posted by ovvl at 7:13 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't listen to The Shaggs very often, but I like the fact that they exist in this world.
posted by ovvl at 7:35 AM on May 13, 2011


Interestingly, they also recorded a cover of "Paper Roses" - same guitar-accompanying-vocals, same utter lack of enunciation, but someone else's song. Does it still have the same je ne sais quoi that the Shaggs lovers love?
(it's not on Youtube except for in this video of a guy with a pigeon on his head)
posted by Gordafarin at 8:15 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I openly like the Eagles. Well, Desperado, anyway.

I love this version more than words can say.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:48 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just hear foot foot for the first time. I love it and the lyrics and sensibility I can glean from only five songs strikes me as the same vein of quirky genius as Ivor Cutler.
posted by Lisitasan at 8:54 AM on May 13, 2011


i actually don't like the backstory and feel like i would have enjoyed the songs more if i didn't know that these girls were all but forced to be a band by their dad

It's like the Jackson 5.
posted by Hoopo at 9:06 AM on May 13, 2011


an entirely cool Eagles song ...
posted by philip-random at 9:15 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Never heard these girls before today. I found that Foot Foot song and most of the others unlistenable, but I genuinely like Philosophy of the World and I sorta want to learn to sing and play it on guitar, knowing there's no chance of being able to play it right with that drum beat.

Who Are Parents is objectively terrible, but it sounds very much like a song a six-year-old would write, and I have this vision of one of them singing it into a tape recorder at age 5 and then the girls later taking that recording and trying to make a real song out of it sort of like Jonathan Coulton did with Rock and Roll Boy. And so I can't help but listen to "Who Are Parents" with that imaginary backstory and thinking it's awesome.
posted by straight at 9:36 AM on May 13, 2011


It's like the Jackson 5

No. Not at all. The Jackson 5 actually made amazing music.
posted by empath at 10:10 AM on May 13, 2011


Ok so after popping in here for a bit of pointless snark I finally decided to go and actually listen to some Shaggs tunes. My thoughts:

In the first moments of listening it all does seem to be a special kind of awful, but then something weird happens, something utterly mesmering. I doubt I'll ever be able to explain it well, but when I'm listening to The Shaggs something turns on in my brain. Like I said, at first it does sound like really bad musicians playing poorly, but as I closed my eyes and really listened to the music, to the actual singing and playing, there's an undeniably coordinated looseness in there that just blows my mind.

Things that sound like mistakes end up not being mistakes at all, they are totally deliberate. You can tell by how inexplicably cohesive all the instruments are, even while sounding totally unconnected. It makes no sense to me how this works, it shouldn't work, but somehow it does in a way that I will never be able to capture, and that is really inspiring.

It reminds me of the first time I listened to jazz. I picked up some Thelonius Monk at the record shop. I was like 16 or 17 years old. I listened to it, it made no sense to me. It just sounded like jumbled, messy noise. I really didn't like it. But I kept listening to it, trying to understand it.

A few years later, after much listening as well as playing in bands and practicing and reading lots of music theory and all kinds of stuff, I found one day that I could listen to Monk or Mingus or late-era Miles Davis or any number of Jazz artists and I finally got it. Somehow, without being able to explain it, it just made sense, and I've been in love with it ever since. There's this intent in certain kinds of music and art that at first glance seems like "badness" but on further inspection reveals itself to be transcendent and wonderful and brain-chemistry altering.

Also, for the record. I love The Eagles (blame my parents) and The Beatles (my parents hated them, though), and so far the only things I've been sure must be on my own desert island disc are a recording of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring (the fully orchestrated complete ballet, not the suite) and Allison Krauss singing Stephen Foster's Slumber My Darling.
posted by jnrussell at 11:20 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you guys didn't know the backstory, you never would have listened to this trash twice, imo.

You have a lot of opinions about what I would or would not do in an imaginary situation. Do you really find it impossible to male a case that isn't based around an unprovable assertion?

In my opinion, if you had flossed more often, you would love the Shaggs. And, in my opinion, if King Kong has been a dolphin instead of an ape, the Shaggs would have been the Rolling Stones.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:06 PM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


SHAGGS RIOT Y'ALL!

Just had to say that again.

in my opinion, if King Kong has been a dolphin instead of an ape, the Shaggs would have been the Rolling Stones.

In my opinion, if enough people, inspired by this thread, listen to the Shaggs at the same time, those things will suddenly always have been true.

and Mick Jagger will have been a rotund New Jersey housewife for the last 40 years. For some reason though, Keith Richards will be exactly the same.
posted by hap_hazard at 12:36 PM on May 13, 2011


Thank you so much for introducing me to the Shaggs. I found out that the delightfully awkward Danielson Familie covered the Who are Parents? song, and that makes me pretty happy too.

The Shaggs station on Pandora is pretty great.
posted by mmmbacon at 1:24 PM on May 13, 2011


Allison Krauss singing Stephen Foster's Slumber My Darling.

That recording on Appalachian Journey is so intimate, I almost can't bear to listen to it. It makes me feel like I accidentally walked in on her while she was undressing or something.
posted by straight at 2:01 PM on May 13, 2011


A solid half hour of entertainment that I got to share with my dad. It's been a long time since I cried tears of laughter, and poor ol' dad was laughing so hard he couldn't lift his head off the desk. It was wonderful and delightful to share The Shaggs with my dad the funk musician. Mom was not so pleased when we made her listen and had to cleanse her mind with some jazz. You could not be this bad on purpose and that's what I liked about it.

I did read the thread, I see they brought rhapsody, joy, and transcendence to most of you and I for one do not doubt you. They're special all right. If their album takes you to your happy place then that's great. I guess my happy place isn't so nice, but they did make me happy.
posted by Danila at 3:02 PM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


but as I closed my eyes and really listened to the music, to the actual singing and playing, there's an undeniably coordinated looseness in there that just blows my mind.

I wish people would go this far out of their way to like the terrible music that I like.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:48 PM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


undeniably coordinated looseness

Good one. It's reminiscent of Bob Dylan's characterization of Roscoe Holcomb, when he said that Holcomb had "an untamed sense of control".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:30 PM on May 13, 2011


I'm throwing in my chips with empath. This just seems to me like a My Kid Could Paint That situation of people willing to find art in anything. There's nothing wrong with that and I'm not claiming that everybody's affection is pretense. What I do submit is that any three teenage girls picked at random and lent an interesting backstory could probably produce a similar reaction.
posted by WhitenoisE at 5:41 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


WhitenoisE: "any three teenage girls picked at random and lent an interesting backstory could probably produce a similar reaction"

I have spent quite a bit of time making music with non-musicians. Frankly, most nonmusicians are really boring in comparison to the Shaggs - because the typical nonmusician will do a crappy job of making normal music, rather than a very polished job of making something else entirely.

A random set of three teenage girls who practice for years without actually learning how to play music? Yeah, there is a good chance they would be just as interesting. But good luck making that happen.
posted by idiopath at 6:12 PM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Man, you know what youse philistines would *really* hate? The Portsmouth Sinfonia.

Knew there was a previously on that, so I check it out... and there's pyramid termite 3 comments in calling them "the shaggs of the classical music scene".

and thus, the circle of life is complete
posted by hap_hazard at 6:34 PM on May 13, 2011


No. Not at all. The Jackson 5 actually made amazing music.

So we can throw "jokes" in along with "The Shaggs" and file it under "things Empath doesn't get"
;)
posted by Hoopo at 7:31 PM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


You guys are just pretending to like humor. It's sone sort of secret bister handshake to cover up the fact that you're talking nonsense.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:37 PM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


By bister I mean hipster. What the Fu mm autocorrect?
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:41 PM on May 13, 2011


Update: we used "you're something special to me" for the cake cutting and "love at first sight" for the first dance.

it was awesome.
posted by jtron at 12:06 AM on May 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


AWWWWWWW

^real awe

That is the sweetest thing ever, congratulations! (And thanks for updating!)
posted by hap_hazard at 12:26 AM on May 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


/twin derail

The Portsmouth Sinfonia aren't quite as outside as The Shaggs, though - they were led by Gavin Bryars (who went on to write Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet and The Sinking of the Titanic) and were sort of connected with the art music scene - Brian Eno, Michael Nyman and Simon Fisher Turner were members, and the whole thing was inspired by the music-making strategies of Cornelius Cardew.

The most outside performer I ever knew was Smiley, who would turn up regularly at the famous acoustic club / drop-in centre for the unusual Bunjies, just off the Charing Cross Road in the late 1990s. He had a guitar, sometimes a balalaika and if you were very unlucky a harmonica. He would tune his instruments carefully, and then perform a number of originals and covers, intoning the words while he plucked one string of the instrument over and over. One day he announced that he was about to play an instrumental and, indeed, proceeded to pluck the one string at varying tempos for about four minutes.

At the time, it felt like hell on earth, but now I kind of wish I'd recorded it.

There's something very deep in the human psyche about making music, and I suspect notions of quality and taste interfere with that a lot more often than they help.
posted by Grangousier at 1:46 AM on May 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, this is my introduction to the Shaggs. A new favorite! I've been a Deerhoof fan for years, and they are like Deerhoof in 1968.
posted by free hugs at 2:21 PM on May 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


2. The drums being so totally off from everything else creates a low-frequency heterodyne. The CIA et al. have studied heterodynes for mind control applications, the idea being that your brain gets so confused that you zone out into a trance-like state.

The stereo separation is pretty extreme on a lot of the tracks, too, so you have the drums doing their thing in one ear and the guitar plonking away in the other - it's incredibly disorientating.

Anyway, I found out about The Shaggs via the usual music nerd channels, and as a result pretty much dismissed them as an 'outsider album you're supposed to own but never listen to' band, until one day they popped up on my iPod, which was set to shuffle... and I had to stop walking and sit down, because Philosophy of the World made my legs go wonky. I don't know if they're good or bad, but The Shaggs still have that strange physical effect on me, and I like it.

IIRC, the Shaggs track that converted me to their charms was on one of the Songs in the Key of Z compilations - if you're interested in unusual music, they're worth checking out.
posted by jack_mo at 5:28 PM on May 14, 2011


And if you like the Songs in the Key of Z comps, there's an excellent book of the same name; the RE/search "Incredibly Strange Music" books and cds are great, too.
posted by jtron at 6:08 PM on May 14, 2011


Brian Eno, Michael Nyman and Simon Fisher Turner were members, and the whole thing was inspired by the music-making strategies of Cornelius Cardew.

And David Jackman/Organum, among others.
posted by ovvl at 9:56 PM on May 14, 2011


until one day they popped up on my iPod, which was set to shuffle

This is quite possibly the best and most important feature of modern music listening technology. With ever-expanding memory, people wind up with thousands of songs on their iPods, and often rarely or never listen to some percentage of them. Shuffle play is a fabulous way to reacquaint yourself, by surprise, with music that you actually own but rarely (or never) listen to. A rediscovery of something in your own collection.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:08 PM on May 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is quite possibly the best and most important feature of modern music listening technology

Absolutely, and I now 'shuffle' my vinyl and CDs by just walking purposefully towards the shelves and pulling something out without thinking.

I have thought about writing a script to output shelf positions for true analogue shuffle - with the current method I'm sure I'm subconsciously gravitating towards a genre or artist. Maybe I could get some of those dice Dungeons & Dragons people use, or set up some sort of yarrow stick I Ching divination thing.

I just tried the 'walk at the shelves' thing, and got DJ Bogdan Raczynski presents '96 Drum N Bass Classixxx which is proving to be way better than the title makes it sound - don't think I've played it since it came out in 2002, either.
posted by jack_mo at 10:14 AM on May 15, 2011


Absolutely, and I now 'shuffle' my vinyl and CDs by just walking purposefully towards the shelves and pulling something out without thinking.

Ah ha ha ha. That's very, very funny.

Doesn't work with individual songs though, I reckon. Unless you're walking to your shelf full of 7" singles, popping 'em out blindfolded, putting 'em on your turntable, dropping the needle, stepping back and saying "wow", didn't know THAT one would come up!" Or, maybe you are doing that! Amazing! That's a lot of walking blindfolded and putting vinyl onto turntables, though. Whether it's singles, EPs, LPs or CDs. (78s, anyone?). I guess it wouldn't work too well while you're riding the bus, either.

Anyway, thanks for spectacularly (and willfully obtusely, one might add) missing the point!

So happy for you, though, that you could get back in touch with what was rocking your world back in 2002. An affirmation of your good taste in music from those days must be especially rewarding!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:03 PM on May 15, 2011


Absolutely, and I now 'shuffle' my vinyl and CDs by just walking purposefully towards the shelves and pulling something out without thinking.

I never managed to put my records back in the right sleeves when I was mixing records at home or after gigs, so I had kind of a de facto shuffle feature going on, even though it wasn't intentional.
posted by empath at 3:07 PM on May 15, 2011


de facto shuffle

I like the sound of that! That's a song title, right there!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:43 PM on May 15, 2011


It's rock and roll empirical
It's causin' a kerfuffle
We're randomizing imeatspace
It's the de facto shuffle!

You can't deny reality
But flipping tracks enough'll
Get your hooked on serendipity
It's the de facto shuffle!
posted by unSane at 6:00 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rhyming "enough'll" (ha!) with shuffle = brilliance.

Now I know: unSane was a Tin Pan Alley songsmith in a past life.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:30 PM on May 15, 2011


Take your MP3s and shove 'em
(I can see your feathers ruffle!)
Close your eyes and pick an LP
It's the de facto shuffle

All those hours alphabetizing
All that head-scratch organizing
Hours and hours categorizing
Made your music unsurprizing
So mix your Manson with your Hanson
Anything you get your hands on
Fifty Cent with Steely Dan, son
It's the de facto shuffle

Patsy Cline, meet Robert Quine!
Fela Kuti? Tutti Frutti!
Thelonious monk, here's straightedge punk!
Patty Smith! Hindemith!
Hey, Marillion! Know Bob Dyllion!
Kingston trio! Ronnie Dio!
Let your dance card be stochastic
As you trip the light fantastic
Everybody, take your partners
For the de facto shuffle
posted by unSane at 5:36 AM on May 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


unSane, you are on a motherfukkin' RUN, son! I'm digging it!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:03 AM on May 16, 2011


Kingston trio! Ronnie Dio!

Nice, but my sense of inner rhythm dictates that this line would be more effective as ...

Kingston trio! Ronnie JAMES Dio!
posted by philip-random at 10:00 AM on May 16, 2011


I was hearing it as all eighth notes but if you do 'Ronnie' as two sixteenth notes, by all means!
posted by unSane at 11:05 AM on May 16, 2011


unSane, that is wondrous.

I never managed to put my records back in the right sleeves when I was mixing records at home or after gigs, so I had kind of a de facto shuffle feature going on, even though it wasn't intentional.

One of my favourite things is to find a tranche of records that have remained undisturbed after being pulled out of a record bag months or years before - a little archaeological trace of a forgotten night.

Anyway, thanks for spectacularly (and willfully obtusely, one might add) missing the point!

The sad part is, I really do do the de facto shuffle, and really was inspired by my iPod!

Doesn't work with individual songs though, I reckon. Unless you're walking to your shelf full of 7" singles, popping 'em out blindfolded, putting 'em on your turntable, dropping the needle, stepping back and saying "wow", didn't know THAT one would come up!

Yes, that too. Well, not blindfold, but without looking at the label. I once got three songs on the Sleng Teng riddim in a row, which is pretty much my version (pun intended) of a religious nutter finding the face of the Virgin Mary in an overcooked pancake.

I should probably add that I only do this sort of thing when a bit tipsy, I'm not completely bonkers.
posted by jack_mo at 1:54 PM on May 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, I started thinking about that script. Wouldn't be too hard to make a web app that asked for the length of your record collection in feet and inches, and gave you back a random precise length.

Amazingly, the defactoshuff.ly domain is unregistered. Though maybe factoshuffle.de would be more apt. I could sell branded tape measures. This might be the next Google.
posted by jack_mo at 2:05 PM on May 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Again, I have no quarrel with noise, dissonance, atonal musings, odd constructions, Zappa or the whole ball of that kind of wax. But Ive had two decades of seeing people trumpet the brilliance of The Shaggs yet oddly you never see or hear of people listening to them more than the one-time qualifying round to be able to talk about them. I'm of the opinion that it's something people want to be seen liking. Like reading Ulysses at a conspicuous angle in a coffee shop.

It always amuses me when people think this way. Like because you can't fathom liking something personally there's no way anyone who claims to could be telling the truth. Very strange, and even stranger what a common attitude it is.
posted by ifjuly at 1:30 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


And to be a bit bitchy about it, given the people in this town I've known who adopt that attitude by default I've come to the conclusion it almost always says more about you than the people you're making assumptions of.
posted by ifjuly at 1:32 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


My perspective on this has changed somewhat, so thanks to this thread. I still think The Shaggs are horrible and wrong and bad and all of that. I have listened to them a lot now, and I just hear more layers of what's wrong. But when I first started reading the thread, I agreed with empath that a lot of people claiming to like them are posers. If there is objectively bad music then The Shaggs are it, and for people to say something is good just because it's different and breaks the mold, well, that doesn't mean you actually like to listen to it.

But there was more to my disgust than that. It felt like the Viking thread all over again. Like, it's simply not possible and it's just WRONG and y'all need to stop saying it. But then, as now, I was wrong and it is possible for people to just have a completely different perspective. Those who enjoy The Shaggs just have one more joyful thing in their lives, something my brain can't access, and they're the richer for it.
posted by Danila at 4:02 PM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the last few days, I have read a lot about the Shaggs, watched the interview linked in this FPP, and listened to their songs over and over.

At first I liked their music in the same way I like Deerhoof. Then I realized how sad the whole story is, and how all of their song lyrics are full of pain and isolation. Now I find the songs depressing and sadly touching.

I very seriously doubt they were trying to sound like this, as some have suggested. I think they were accustomed to the sound of their out-of-tune instruments, and built their musical vocabulary around that, but they didn't try for it purposely. They were genuinely not good at playing their instruments.

But underneath all that, they had some real compositional chops, and that's part of why people keep coming back to them. Strange to think of all the factors that combined to create this music, and how it never would have happened if they hadn't been forced to do it.

It bothers me when people describe them as "having heard no music" and being asked to "invent music from scratch". They had music lessons, they listened to other bands. They even have a song about carrying their radio around with them and listening to it all the time (My Companion). Isn't the story amazing enough without exaggerating it?
posted by free hugs at 12:43 PM on May 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


"My Companion" is my favorite Shaggs song, hands down, and yes, I find a lot of the whole schema pretty moving/touching if you approach it the right way. What's that old children's literature quote..."You can't see it?...I guess I'm the only one who can, then." Or, you know, the tail end of what Danila was getting at/conceded. Thanks, free hugs.
posted by ifjuly at 12:57 PM on May 19, 2011


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