To many, the music of The Shaggs is borderline unlistenable, full of wrong notes and sour-sounding chords. But loyal Shaggs fans, including such luminaries as Kurt Cobain and Frank Zappa, have declared that the group’s lone studio album, 1969’s Philosophy Of The World, is nothing short of an avant-garde masterpiece. Either way, it is difficult to deny that the band’s backstory is both bizarre and compelling. Guided by the deathbed prophecy of his beloved mother, a Fremont, New Hampshire mill worker named Austin Wiggin pulled his girls out of school and essentially forced them to become a rock band, learning their craft through correspondence school classes. Wiggin kept The Shaggs alive for years, despite the unwillingness of his girls and the near-total lack of interest from the public. The band ended with his death in 1975. Very little survives of The Shaggs: that one famous album, some outtakes that were cobbled together into a compilation called Shaggs’ Own Thing in 1982, and the fading memories of the now-grown Wiggin girls themselves.

But now, thanks to YouTube, there is some actual footage of The Shaggs in their curious prime, back when Austin Wiggin was cajoling them to play regular concerts at the Fremont Town Hall in the early 1970s in front of a sometimes-indifferent, sometimes-hostile local audience of teenagers. These silent home movies, augmented with genuine Shaggs audio, show what it was like to attend one of those legendary Shaggs performances in Fremont. The town’s youth did turn out for these concerts, largely because there were precious few entertainment alternatives in the town, and the film proves that the teens did make an attempt to dance to the arrhythmic music of TThe Shaggs. The film also provides some insight into The Shaggs’ own performing style. Lead singer and songwriter Dot Wiggin relied on hand-written charts propped up on a music stand, and the band’s performances included a bit of crude choreography as well.

[via Dangerous Minds]

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