Sorry.

Beneath the mayhem and incompetence, this is a good song with a great hook in the chorus.  And the lyrics are as true as any.  According to Wikipedia, Terry Adams of NRBQ likened their melodies to Ornette Coleman.  I hear what he’s getting at.  The long melodic lines appear to meander, but then they resolve into a nutty coherence.  But I dunno that they remind me that much of Ornette Coleman.  Since none of you can throw a beer at me for being a pretentious ass (today, at least), I’ll go ahead and submit that their melodic lines remind me of Hector Berlioz.

Love ’em or hate ’em, the Shaggs are a genuine enigma, and those are always interesting.

If you happen to run across an original pressing (you won’t), snap it up.  They’e very rare and worth thousands.

9 Replies to “Sorry.”

  1. Every few seconds, everything syncs up and it sounds like a song, then it all falls apart again. Maddening!

    Weren’t they forced into this by their dad or something?

  2. Yes, the story is that when the father was young, his mother predicted via palmreading that he would have daughters who would become a popular music group. He set about to make it happen, although few would hear about them until years after he died and they quit playing. I assume the father made up the story to motivate them.

  3. Sorry:

    ”But credit must be given to the foremothers: the Shaggs. Way back in 1972 they recorded an album up in New England that can stand, I think, easily with Beatles ’65, Life with the Lions, Blonde on Blonde, and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks as one of the landmarks of roll’n’roll history. The Wiggins sisters (an anti-power trio) not only redefined the art but had a coherent Weltanschauung on their very first album, Philosophy of the World. Basically what it comes down to is that unlike the Stones these girls are saying we love you, whether you’re fat, skinny, retarded, or Norman Podhoretz even. Paul Weyrich. Don’t make no difference, they embrace all because they are true one world humanists with an eye to our social future whose only hope is a redefined communism based on the open-hearted sharing of whatever you got with all sentient beings. Their and my religion is compassion, true Christianity with no guilt factors and no vested interest, perhaps a barter economy, but certainly the elimination of capitalism, rape, and special-interest group hatred. For instance, in their personal favorite number, “My Pal Foot Foot,’ they reveal how even a little doggie must be granted equal civil rights perhaps even extending to the voting booth. Hell, they let Nancy Reagan in! They also believe that we should jettison almost completely the high-tech society which has now perched us on the lip of global suicide, and return to third world-akin closeness with the earth, elements, nature, the seasons, as in my personal favorite on this album, “It’s Halloween,’ which emphasizes that seasonal festivals are essential to a healthy body politic (why d’ya think all them people in California got no minds?).

    Unfortunately the Wiggins’s masterpiece was lost over the years — it came out on a small label, and everybody knows the record industry has its head so far up its ass it’s licking its breastplate. But this guy from NRBQ had the savvy to rescue it from oblivion (in a recent issue of Rolling Stone, he compared their work to early Ornette Coleman, and he’s right, though early Marzette Watts might be more apt), so now we got it out on the Red Rooster label, which of course is a perfect joke on all those closet-queen heavy-metal cockrockers. How do they sound? Perfect! They can’t play a lick! But mainly they got the right attitude, which is all rock’n’roll’s ever been about from day one. (I mean, not being able to play is never enough.) You should hear the drum riff after the first verse and chorus of the title cut — sounding like a peg-leg stumbling through a field of bald Uniroyals, it cuts Dave Tough cold and these girls aren’t even junkies (of course!). They just whang and blang away while singing in harmonies reminiscent of three Singing Nuns who’ve been sniffing lighter fluid and their voices are just so copacetic together (being sisters, after all) you’d almost think they were Siamese triplets. Guitar style: sorta like 14 pocket combs being run through a moose’s dorsal, but very gently. Yet it rocks. Does it ever. Plus having one of the greatest album covers in history, best since Blank Generation. God Bless the Shaggs. Now if they will only emerge from (semi?) retirement (?) no one ever will have cause again to say “Rock’n’Roll is dead, man . . .’ Up an’ at ’em, Valerie.”

    – Lester Bangs, Village Voice, 02/03/81

    1. Jesus. King of Hyperbole indeed. Maybe if I took as many drugs as he did, I’d hear all that too. I guess that’s my problem with him. As fun as he can sometimes be, I’m a formalist music nerd, and there’s too much extra-musical interpretation. Seems like the kind of guy who’d be fun to talk to for an hour or so before you’d be desperately trying to get away.

      Sure, there’s a kind of innocent purity to the Shaggs. But death of capitalism? Nah.

  4. I haven’t read Bangs all that much, and am quite enjoying the hyperkinetic overwrought prose. I may overdose soon.

    I took the opportunity to listen to some Berlioz last night, and of course read what others said about him, imagining those as descriptions of The Shaggs …

    ”A monster … not a musician at all. He creates the illusion of music by means borrowed from literature and painting.”

    ”never did contrive to express what he aimed at in the impeccable manner he desired. His boundless artistic ambition was nourished by no more than a melodic gift of no great amplitude, clumsy harmonic procedures and a pen without pliancy.”

    ”The remarkable inequality of his composition may be explained, in any rate in part, as the work of a vivid imagination striving to explain itself in a tongue which he never perfectly understood.”

    Hopefully Berlioz had the 19th Century equivalent of Bangs to fight the haters and sing his praises.

  5. The Shaggs reminded me of Berlioz in a very limited way. They both have these long peculiar melody lines that make sense in a crazy way. But the contemporary reviews point to another similarity: they were both polarizing. People either loved or hated Berlioz. His music was considered noisy, as he very much wanted to up the ante on Beethoven’s more excessive moments. But he did have plenty of admirers.

    Another similarity is that Berlioz was considered techincally deficient. He came to music late (i.e. not as a child), and had to play catch-up. He never obtained much formal skill. That made him a bit of a laughing stock among well-trained musicians. But he turned that into a strength, replacing lack of techinical skill with imagination.

    The critic who said that he takes from literature and painting was correct. His music alway tells a story. His most famous work, Symphonie Fantastique, is a hallucinogenic masterpiece about obsessive love, an execution, and a witches sabbath. All Berlioz is about something, it’s never abstract. That was new, and many didn’t like it. But it’s what makes him important, and it’s why every music history class on the planet has to deal with him. He was the first to use musical color (i.e. an impression as opposed to a theme) in places. He also pioneered the idee-fixe, the technique of using a specific theme to evoke a charcater or idea. In that sense, he was the father of modern movie scores, which use that technique constantly (i.e, the “Imperial March” in Star Wars).

    Of couse, his over-the-top romanticism and “noisiness” appeared pretentious to many (especially the stuffy Brits) , and this hilarious cartoon pretty much sums that up:

  6. March to the Scaffold is part of Symphonie Fantastique. It depicts someone having an opium nightmare about getting beheaded. The “chop” chord at 4:29 represents the blade chopping off the head. The nice clarinet theme before the chop represents the convict’s last thoughts of his beloved. The little thump afterwards is the guy’s head falling into the bucket. Then ta-da. Drugs, beheading…this is pretty much 19th Century Alice Cooper.

    That beloved theme appears again in twisted form as part of a witches’ sabbath in the next movement. I play this whole thing every Halloween.

  7. Sometimes I feel like I´m auditing an exclusive music class. Thanks for bringing the Wozniak-level nerddom to this discussion.

    Once you mentioned film scores, I had to find the intersection of Morricone and Berlioz. Surely one exists?

    YES! The Russian novel The Master and Margarita has a character named Berlioz – based upon the real Berlioz and ideas espoused in his opera The Damnation of Faust. Ennio Morricone wrote the score for one of the film versions.

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