Frank Zappa called the band “better than The Beatles.” Kurt Cobain admired them as unwitting founders of the DIY/alternative movement. The New York Times proclaimed The Shaggs’ 1969 Philosophy of the World “maybe the best worst rock album ever made.” Lester Bangs called them an “anti-power trio,” while Rolling Stone chimed in that The Shaggs most resemble “lobotomized Trapp Family singers.” What to make of Dot, Betty and Helen Wiggin, likely the most controversial girl group of them all? Listen for yourself as the Wiggin sisters arm themselves with out-of-tune instruments, bizarre songs (from Dot’s own pen) and plenty of nerve and naïveté. Click below and play it LOUD.
Well, whether you think The Shaggs were musical trailblazers or incapable of creating anything even remotely resembling music, you’ve surely formed an opinion after listening to the singular soundscape that is “My Pal Foot Foot.” Could any other song even possibly sound like this one? Librettist/lyricist Joy Gregory, composer/lyricist Gunnar Madsen and director John Langs clearly saw something in the story of these young girls led to a musical career by their father, Austin Wiggin, despite their questionable talent. “He directed. We obeyed. Or did our best,” Dot Wiggin once observed. In November 2003 in Los Angeles, Gregory, Madsen and Langs premiered Philosophy of the World, a stage musical (with an original score!) dramatizing the girls’ short-lived but still (fondly?) remembered music career. Nearly eight years later, after a Chicago stand as well as a New York workshop, the Shaggs are following in the footsteps of Peter Allen, John Lennon, The Four Seasons and The Shirelles. Philosophy of the World is currently making its full-fledged New York debut, and the musical’s producers are remastering and reissuing the original 1969 album on CD, in conjunction with the production.
RCA Victor last reissued Philosophy in 1999, at which time it received considerable attention from the media, including not only music-centric publications but The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker. The album was embraced as a lost cult classic ready for the attention of a new generation. A Shaggs compilation on Rounder is out-of-print, like RCA’s edition; the Rounder disc added more tracks recorded between 1969 and 1975 including an improbable cover version of The Carpenters’ “Yesterday Once More.” The new reissue is on the musical’s private label, and restores the original 12-track line-up. It will exclusively be sold online at Ticket Central, at the theatre (Playwrights Horizons Mainstage Theater, 416 West 42nd Street, New York, NY) and via telephone at (212) 564-1235 ext. 3152. The original liner notes are included as well as new material by Joy Gregory, and the disc costs $16.00.
Hit the jump for the press release, track listing and ordering information!
Formed in 1968, the all-female rock group The Shaggs was composed of sisters Dorothy “Dot” Wiggin (vocals/lead guitar), Betty Wiggin (vocals/rhythm guitar) and Helen Wiggin (drums).
Produced by Austin Wiggin, Jr. and The Shaggs, Philosophy of the World was originally recorded on March 9, 1969, at Fleetwood Studios in Revere, MA. It was first released in 1969 on the small label Third World Records, and is the only recording by the rock trio. “Following an extremely limited release and only local performances centered around their New Hampshire hometown, the group disbanded in 1975 upon the death of their manager/father,” according to production notes. “The LP was reissued by Rounder Records in 1980, prompting Rolling Stone to proclaim the group ‘Comeback of the Year’ and one reviewer to call it ‘the most stunningly awful wonderful record I’ve ever heard.’ Legendary rock critic Lester Bangs declared the record a ‘landmark in rock ‘n’ roll history’ in The Village Voice. In 1996, Rolling Stone‘s Alt-Rock-A-Rama named the album among the ‘100 Most Influential Alternative Releases of All Time.’ Kurt Cobain loudly championed The Shaggs, cementing their reputation among indie artists as godmothers of the DIY movement.”
The LP was originally issued on CD by RCA Victor in 1999 and has been out of print until now.
The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World is a new musical based on the true story of the group. It features a book by Joy Gregory; music by Gunnar Madsen; lyrics by Gregory and Madsen; and story by Gregory, Madsen and John Langs. Directed by Langs, the co-production has an official opening night on June 7. The limited engagement will play through July 3. Previews began May 12.
Here’s how the musical is billed: “Set in Fremont, New Hampshire in the late ’60s, The Shaggs is based on the true story of a working class dad (Tony Award nominee and Obie Award winner Peter Friedman) who has a vision of rock ‘n’ roll destiny for his three talentless daughters (Jamey Hood, Sarah Sokolovic and Emily Walton), convinced they’re his family’s one-way ticket out of hardship and obscurity. But the girls have ideas of their own – and as their father’s ambition turns to obsession, the price of familial obligation becomes all too clear.”
The cast also features Kevin Cahoon, Annie Golden, Steve Routman and Cory Michael Smith.
For tickets, visit TicketCentral.com or call (212) 279-4200. For more information, visit www.playwrightshorizons.org or nytw.org.
The Shaggs, Philosophy of the World (Third World Records TCLP 3001, 1969 – reissued 2011)
- Philosophy of the World
- That Little Sports Car
- Who Are Parents
- My Pal Foot Foot
- My Companion
- I’m So Happy When You’re Near
- Things I Wonder
- Sweet Thing
- It’s Halloween
- Why Do I Feel
- What Should I Do
- We Have a Savior