Still your best friend

Yours truly, from earlier this month:

I’m not entirely sure what The Last Thing I Ever Expected might be, but there’s at least a reasonable chance that it might be a solo album from a former member of the Shaggs.

Ready! Get! Go!So here’s Dot Wiggin, now somewhere in her sixties, still doing what she did in front of her sisters four and a half decades ago: singing intensely personal, fiercely melodic, idiosyncratic songs that don’t match up to any genre you’ve ever heard of. There is much to learn here, starting with a refutation of this Citation Needed remark in the Shaggs article at Wikipedia:

Reportedly, during the recording sessions the band would occasionally stop playing, claiming one of them had made a mistake and that they needed to start over, leaving the sound engineers to wonder how the girls could tell when a mistake had been made.

Jesse Krakow, who organized the project, produced the recording and wrote the liner notes, is here to tell us otherwise:

I got a package in the mail containing Dot’s handwritten charts to “Your Best Friend”, “My Pal Foot Foot”, “Philosophy Of The World”, and the lyrics to “Banana Bike” and “The Fella With A Happy Heart”. And there they were. The long, non-repeating melody lines, the choppy rhythms, the odd pauses, the unpredictable instrumental breaks, the playful lyrics, the inimitable way that the lyrics, melody, and chords were stapled together. They were all written out. Which was shocking. For all of their supposed ineptitude, The Shaggs (specifically Dot) wrote all their songs down in traditional musical notation. In fact, Dot told us that whenever they performed they always had the sheet music onstage. So to all of those musical experts who love The Shaggs because “they didn’t know what they’re doing”, guess what? They did!

The material here is all Dot with occasional contributions by Krakow, except for “Wiggin Out,” a goofy surf-styled chant assembled by Krakow, and “The End of the World,” which you know from several thousand cover versions already. Apparently it’s Dot’s Favorite Song Ever. There are two tracks bearing the title “Speed Limit,” the first a new Dot song about the Need for Speed, the second (officially titled “Speed Limit 2″) a 1970 song the Shaggs never recorded, turned here into some weird desiccated blues that suggests the need maybe isn’t so important after all. (Dot, we are told, drives very fast.) “Banana Bike,” Dot’s tribute to sister Helen, might be the obvious single here, but the track I keep coming back to is “Eh,” a tribute to diffidence and the avoidance of same, despite its title containing no Canadian content whatsoever.

Why this is on Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label, I don’t know. I don’t really care. But I thank him for turning it loose onto a world that needs the Shaggs’ philosophy more than ever.







1 comment

  1. McGehee »

    30 November 2013 · 9:06 am

    If music could be described as non-Euclidean, the seven seconds I was able to endure from the media link on The Shaggs’ Wikipedia page would be the exemplar.

    My goodness.

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