The Shaggs

JESS: Here. [tosses her a CD]
RORY: The Shaggs?
JESS: Trust me.

The Shaggs were an all-female rock and outsider music band formed in New Hampshire in 1968, composed of sisters Dot, Betty, and Helen Wiggin; Rachel Wiggin joined later. Their father, Austin Wiggin, insisted they form a band based on a prediction his mother had made during a palm reading that his daughters would form a musical group.

The Shaggs only released one studio album, in 1969, called Philosophy of the World. It gained very little attention, but the band continued to play locally, sometimes accompanied by their brother, Austin Jr, and their nephew Robert. The Shaggs disbanded in 1975, after the death of their father.

The Shaggs are notable for their perceived ineptitude at playing conventional rock music. Rolling Stone once described them as sounding like “lobotomised Trapp Family singers”. They were rediscovered in the 1970s, thanks to the Dr Demento radio show, which specialised in novelty songs. Frank Zappa appeared on the show, listened to the album, and professed a love for the band. The Shaggs themselves were bewildered by their popularity and cult status, which has never disappeared.

Jess gives (or loans) Rory a CD version of Philosophy of the World. Such CDs are now worth hundreds of dollars. (The original vinyl album, of which only 1000 copies were made, is now a collector’s item and extremely valuable). Interest in The Shaggs had recently been renewed by the 2001 release of Better Than The Beatles – A Tribute to The Shaggs, a collection of their songs covered by indie rock and punk musical artists such as Ida and Deerhoof.

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