Co-written and edited by Brett Buchanan
Kurt’s favorites is a new series where Alternative Nation will take a look back at some of Kurt Cobain’s favorite albums. This will give a better understanding of what helped shape Nirvana and Grunge’s sound. For this first entry, we will be looking at one of the most infamous albums of all time. This album is known as Philosophy of The World by the Shaggs.
Before we get into the album’s music, one must know the Shaggs’ history, as it is pretty ridiculous. It all started when a young boy named Austin Wiggins had his palms read by his mother. The woman told him that he would marry a strawberry blonde woman, and that their daughters would become popular musicians. He was also told that he would have two sons after she had died. Over the years, two of these predictions would end up becoming reality. Because of this, Austin figured that if his daughters formed a band, they would become popular musicians. He withdrew his three daughters, Dorothy (vocals/guitar), Helen (drums), and Betty from school, bought them instruments, and had them take lessons. Thus the Shaggs were born.
Though popular locally, the band wasn’t well known elsewhere. In 1975, Austin died and the Shaggs broke up. During their run, the band released only one album, 1969’s Philosophy of the World.
Considered to be one of the worst releases of all time, the release shows that the girls did not want to play music. Everything went wrong with this album, with none of the girls knowing how to play their instruments. The riffs are terrible, and the drumming is completely out of time with everything else. The vocals are also awful and out of key, they’re downright hard on the ears. The lyrics make no sense whatsoever, and feel like they were written by toddlers. With lines like: “And the skinny people want what the fat people’s got,” it is hard not to laugh on first listen.
All and all, this is a tough album to listen to. While funny at first, the joke wears off fast, and it becomes clear that you are listening to one of the worst albums ever released. With all that being said, this terrible album is actually very important.
Philosophy of the World is an early example of outsider music. This term describes music that is very underground, has bizarre melodies and lyrics, and lacks structure. Other examples of this genre include: Wesley Willis, Roky Erickson, and John Frusciante’s solo albums. The minimalist nature of the release made it an influence on many punk and noise rock acts. In the 1970’s, Frank Zappa admitted to loving The Shaggs and said they were “better than the Beatles.” And last but not least, Kurt Cobain named Philosophy of the World one of his favorite albums of all time. So the girls might have not have become the rock stars that their grandmother predicted they would, but at least they influenced one of the biggest names in rock.