While your five-song EP sits half-done in your GarageBand folder, The Shaggs’ Philosophy Of The World is getting a re-issue courtesy of Light In The Attic records.Generally regarded as one of the strangest outsider bands of all time, The Shaggs began playing around their hometown of Fremont, New Hampshire in 1968. To see and hear them play, it could be assumed that Helen, Betty, and Dorothy (and sometimes Rachel) Wiggin had never practiced, much less learned to play their instruments. The sisters did practice, though, every Sunday after church, in stressful rehearsal sessions run by their father, Austin Wiggin, Jr.
Austin was convinced that his daughters were destined for stardom in this business of rock ‘n’ roll, thanks to a palm reading by his superstitious mother, according to The New Yorker. The band’s first performance was met with jeering and soda cans tossed from the audience, and eventually the sisters started playing almost exclusively at the Fremont town hall and nursing homes around town (which, depending on where you stand on the band, could be considered elder abuse). The patriarch of the Wiggins clan invested his life savings to into The Shaggs’ debut album, Philosophy Of The World. 1000 copies were pressed, but 900 of them disappeared from the warehouse along with the album’s producer, the uncredited Charlie Dreyer.
The album became a favorite among collectors due to its sloppy playing and mostly nonsensical lyrics, and has been called “proto-punk” by some critics. (Frank Zappa once called The Shaggs “better than the Beatles,” and the band was also a favorite of Kurt Cobain.) Boston’s WBCN began playing a few tracks, giving the album a second life before is was reissued on NRBQ’s Red Rooster Records in 1978. From there, Dr. Demento got ahold of it, making The Shaggs’ “Its Halloween” a favorite amongst novelty-song aficionados.
While Philosophy Of The World was reissued on CD in 1988 by Rounder (alongside the band’s widely disregarded second album, Shaggs’ Own Thing) and again by RCA Victor in 1999, the original vinyl remains hard to come by. The new reissue from Light In The Attic will feature “Shag Carpet” swirl vinyl, a poster, enamel pin, and liner notes from Nuggets curator Lenny Kaye. Seth Bogart of Hunx And His Punx has also designed a T-shirt to celebrate the album’s re-release.
To commemorate this historic event, a tribute show—featuring members of the B-52s and The Dresden Dolls—will take place at Le Poisson Rouge in New York on September 9, and original Shagg Dot Wiggin will participate in a meet and greet at Newbury Comics’ Harvard Square location in Boston.
Philosophy Of The World hits record store shelves on September 9, and even Dracula will be there.