It’s Halloween

TRACK #170:

It’s Halloween by The Shaggs

Supposedly Frank Zappa once called The Shaggs “better than the Beatles.”

Kurt Cobain cited their sole album, Philosophy of the World, as his 5th favorite album of all time.

So they’ve got that going for them.

That same album has also been called “the worst album ever recorded,” and “hauntingly bad.”

Wherever the truth lies for you will somewhat depend upon your temperament, as with most things of this nature. Say what you will however, The Shaggs, with only 1 album to their credit, managed to record a song about Halloween and we all know what that means as far as The Shindig is concerned. Pick em up!

More bizarre than the song itself perhaps is how The Shaggs came to be.

Hailing from New Hampshire, The Wiggin sisters were forced together with instruments by their obsessive father Austin. Seems their grandmother had a prophetic vision that one day her son would sire girls who would form a famous band.

That was good enough for old Pops Wiggin, who set about providing training and putting secondhand instuments into the hands of his less than willing daughters. The results were, well…

Legendary singer, songwriter and music critic Cub Koda probably sums it up most accurately:

“There’s an innocence to these songs and their performances that’s both charming and unsettling. Hacked-at drumbeats, whacked-around chords, songs that seem to have little or no meter to them … being played on out-of-tune, pawn-shop-quality guitars all converge, creating dissonance and beauty, chaos and tranquility, causing any listener coming to this music to rearrange any pre-existing notions about the relationships between talent, originality, and ability. There is no album you might own that sounds remotely like this one.”

However, this one from Rolling Stone’s Debra Rae Cohen is pretty spot the fuck on as well:

“The Shaggs warble earnest greeting-card lyrics in happy, hapless quasi-unison along ostensible lines of melody while strumming their tinny guitars like someone worrying a zipper. The drummer pounds gamely to the call of a different muse, as if she had to guess which song they were playing – and missed every time.”

Just one go-round of this tune and every one of these descriptions will all become clear.

As typically is my nature, I’m mostly moderate on the matter. The Shaggs produce not the worst music I’ve ever heard but it’s more than just a little difficult to sit through. I wouldn’t say their better than The Beatles, as Zappa suggests, but I do think they’re more interesting. And despite Kurt’s empathic inclusion, I won’t be putting Philosophy of the World on any top five albums list.

What I will be doing however, is including It’s Halloween on The Shindig, because c’mon, how could you not?

“It’s time for games, it’s time for fun. Not for just one, but for everyone!”