Abbott loses to Australia’s Prince Leonard

I wrote this blog the morning after Tony Abbott was elected as Australia’s PM last September. If I’d known how grim it was to get, I’d have packed my bags for the Hutt River Province then and there.

THE MEANING OF LARF

From Abbott rut to the State of Hutt

5 million+ Australian Labor voters awoke today with a bone-crushingly retrograde hangover thanks to a night drowning in embalming fluid followed by salt rubbed in the wounds and a squirt of lemon in the eye, otherwise known in the bar trade as a Lib Sip Sucks.

Forlorn and disenfranchised, lefties have since been posting and tweeting in droves from their sick beds, simultaneously petitioning against Murdoch and renouncing their citizenship (oh, the delicious irony) while entertaining migration to more progressive co-ordinates such as Middle Earth. And yes, I’ve been one of them.

But really … where to now that we’ve been hoisted by our own retards? How do we exit stage right without abandoning what’s left of a country we still love?

The answer, comrades, is both home AND away.

Australia’s Principality of Hutt River, 517kms north of Perth, was recognised as…

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My Top 30 Country & Western song titles

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  1. If the phone don’t ring, it’s me not calling you up.
  2. I still miss you baby, but my aim’s getting better.
  3. You’re the reason our kids are so ugly.
  4. If you can’t live without me why aren’t you dead yet?
  5. She got the ring and I got the finger.
  6. If I can’t be number one in your life then number two on you.
  7. If I had shot you when I wanted to, I’d be out by now.
  8. I gave her my heart and a diamond and she clubbed me with a spade.
  9. I don’t know whether to kill myself or go bowling.
  10. At the gas station of love I got the self-service pump.
  11. Get off the table, Mabel (the $2 is for the beer)
  12. Walk out slowly backwards so I’ll think you’re walking in.
  13. My give-a-damn’s busted!
  14. If I were in your shoes, I’d walk right back to me.
  15. Tequila makes her clothes fall off.
  16. (Pardon me) I’ve got someone to kill.
  17. Since you left me Ruth I’ve been so ruthless.
  18. My wife ran off with my best friend and I sure do miss him.
  19. I’m so miserable without you it’s like having you here.
  20. She’s acting single and I’m drinking doubles.
  21. I would have wrote you a letter but I couldn’t spell YUCK.
  22. Velcro arms, Teflon heart.
  23. Drop kick me Jesus through the goalposts of life.
  24. Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed.
  25. Thanks to the cathouse I’m in the doghouse with you.
  26. I ain’t never gone to bed with an ugly woman but I sure woke up with a few.
  27. Get your tongue out of my mouth, I’m kissing you goodbye.
  28. Did I shave my legs for this?
  29. I wouldn’t take her to a dog fight cause I’m afraid she’d win.
  30. I went back to my fourth wife for the third time and gave her a second chance to make a first class fool out of me.

Noble rot: The Duchess of Alba

When you’re 87, a duchess seven times over and Spain’s richest woman, who’s going to stop you marrying your toy boy civil servant and dancing a barefoot jig at the wedding?

FILE: Duchess of Alba Suffers Broken leg While On Vacation In Rome

Such is María del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva’s offbeat appetite for everything from spouses to the surgeon’s scalpel, that her event-filled life has compelled her to pen not one but two autobiographies.

marriage papps

Papped, snapped and clapped at the nuptuals.

Alba marriage 2 freak on

Husband #3

Credited by the Guinness World Records as having more aristocratic titles than anyone else in the world (over 40 noble and 150 hereditary ones), as the head of the House of Alba her portfolio includes castles, palaces, country houses and land across Spain including her birthplace, the Liria Palace in Madrid, along with a priceless collection of 250+ oil paintings by the likes of Rembrandt, Goya, Van Dyck and Rubens.

Alba young family

In her youth Picasso asked the Duchess to pose nude for him but she refused on the basis that she found modelling boring.  Instead she spent her formative years rubbing shoulders with the aristocracy’s inner sanctum along with American royalty, namely Jackie Kennedy.

horseriding

Horsing around with Jackie Kennedy

But after her first marriage to the son of the Duke of Sotomayor in 1947, considered the last feudal wedding in Spain and the world’s most expensive at that time, the Duchess went on to snub her resculpted retrousséd nose at the establishment by making an illegitimate defrocked Jesuit priest and her former confessor, husband number two in 1978.

Alba marriage 1

Wedding #1. Her dress is thought to have inspired Alexander McQueen’s efforts for Kate Middleton.

She was at it again in 2011 when she married her third husband, a man 24 years her junior, causing such a ruckus in the family that she divided her $3 billion fortune between her children and grandchildren just to shut them up. The tactic appeared to work with her saying  “They’re more or less satisfied … at least they can’t put up any more objections.”

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Spam sandwiched between husband #3 and Tom Cruise.

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Little Photoshop of Horrors

These days the Duchess is better known for her electrocuted shock of fairy floss hair, flamboyant fashion sense, including an extensive array of bikinis she’s taken to sporting on the Riviera and for her relentless pursuit of surgical enhancements.

Bikini show

A one woman Bikini Atoll

While there’s not much to love about a life writ large by a self-indulged, self-absorbed existence of entitlement, there is always something to appreciate about the privileged few who do a fine job of hoisting themselves by their own petard. So the fact that the Duchess of Alba’s remodelled face is now reminiscent of one of Picasso’s later, more contorted masterpieces, seems rather fitting.  Perhaps it should be renamed Albatross.

alba freak on close up at bullfight

The Del Rubio Triplets; 3 gals, 3 guitars, 1 birthday

Some 20 years ago, my friends Julie, Mandy, Alison and I scaled three flights up Sydney’s Kinselas nightclub to witness the platinum-bouffanted, leggy septuagenarian guitar goddesses, the Del Rubio Triplets in action.

Del Rubio 1

Whip itjpg

Their insanely campy, goofy and sugar-coated rendition of Devo’s Whip It! was just one of the drawcards, along with a rolled gold repertoire of 1,000+ songs that included The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’, The Bangles’ ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ and The Pet Shop Boys’ ‘What Have I Done to Deserve This?’.

We bathed in the aura of their sublime sequinned splendour that evening while simultaneously getting rinsed on a heady cocktail of high-octane anticipation mixed with unbridled exuberance at the prospect of seeing the triplets up close and personal for the first (and as it turned out only) time.

You’d be hard pressed to find a more curious act than the Del Rubio Triplets, so it’s not exactly surprising that their unique brand of sass actually masked a veritable mass of contradictions.

del rubio babies

Eadie, Elena and Mildred Boyd, born just 15 minutes apart on August 23 1921 in the Panama Canal zone, remained inseparable throughout their lives and never married.  A friend called them ‘completely dysfunctional without each other’. In fact, according to Milly, they would tell would-be suitors “First comes God, second comes our sisters, third comes our music. You’ll have to wait in line!”.  Evidently the queue never progressed much, if at all.

Del Rubio young 4In their youth, the Del Rubio’s found a modicum of fame via Bob Hope and his 1950s nightclub circuit, and were renowned for their flashy low-cut, thigh-high costumes. Yet they eschewed a crack at real celebrity, the glittering lifestyle of the entertainment world and all its rich trappings for a quiet life away from the glare of stardom in a three bedroom mobile home in San Pedro that they shared for decades until Eadie’s death in 1996.

del rubio holiday inn

They also never made much of a fuss of the fact that their great uncle was American president Woodrow Wilson, and their low-key off-stage demeanour only hinted at their devout Catholicism.

The triplets with their great aunt, the First Lady.

The triplets with their great aunt, the First Lady.

Yet for all the conservatism, when they were rediscovered in the mid 1980s by Grammy Award winning songwriter Allee ‘Neutron Dance’ Willis, they opted for low-cut leotards, miniskirts, gaudy blue eye shadow and go-go boots in appearances on everything from Married … With Children, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Night Court, The Golden Girls and a McDonald’s television commercial.

Married ... With Children

Married … With Children

Their Sydney performance was riotous fun and our locust-like descent on the merchandising stand after the show was testament to it. So by the time Eadie, Elena and Mildred emerged from behind the curtains and we found ourselves chatting with them, we were all precariously close to synchronised spontaneous combustion.

Jules, Luce, Al and Mand get a triple treat.

Jules, Luce, Al and Mand get a triple treat.

But there was more high drama to come.  In all the excitement I momentarily lost my balance and nearly crash-landed onto a guitar which had been left lying on the floor behind us.  One of the finest moments of my life unfolded then and there; a night which might otherwise have unravelled in the most horrific way.  Somehow I managed to execute a commando roll away from the instrument mid flight and I will go to my grave thanking the Flying Spaghetti Monster for it, given that those guitars were their very first; three identical Martin models presented to the girls by their beloved father in their childhood, which the Del Rubio’s continued to play throughout their 50+ year career until their very last performance.

I put the trip into the triplets that night.  I’m just mightily relieved they didn’t have to rename their act, 3 gals, 2 guitars, 1 birthday, on my account.

Sydney’s Grotta Capri – the Restaurant at the End of the Universe

In the suburban wasteland of my youth, the scorching sun bleached dog poo to a whiter shade of pale on bitumen of black lava and mournful sounds of punters losing their crumpled notes at the nearby racecourse wafted pointlessly across west-facing shopfronts with half closed blinds, as if the windows’ eyes were cast downward in shame.

Amidst this soulless, stultifying stillness stood the preposterous oasis that was the Grotta Capri restaurant.

Grotta Capri interior 2grotta 1

I hated growing up in Kensington as passionately as I loved the Grotta Capri, often wondering how a suburb as unprepossessing as mine could be worthy of such grandeur.  It was as if a meteorite with a Rococo pop sensibility had crash landed on Planet Banality; a folly of shell-studded stalactites, fish tanks, Tyrrhenian trompe l’oeil awash with blue light and, in its early days at least, waterways complete with sound effects running beneath illuminated Perspex underfoot.

grotta bar

Grotta exterior good

That it was a restaurant was largely peripheral to proceedings.  The plastic sleeve was the tastiest thing on the menu and most of what got served up looked like crumbed cocker spaniel anyway.  

Of far greater note were the cocktails.  For reasons which remained unclear, there was an over-reliance on Advocaat in most of the recipes, making for a frothy tipple that just about scrambled itself on the way down.  Quite handy then that the accompanying mermaid and dolphin-themed plastic swizzle sticks, glowing like uranium under the black light, could be used to fish out the coagulated egg swinging from your epiglottis like Miley Cyrus.

If that didn’t make for enough high weirdness, the tables were occupied by SP bookies with bad rugs and polyester slacks that crackled with static, accompanied by their dubious, er, business associates from the neighbouring racetrack – the sort of people who put the ‘colourful’ into ‘racing identity’.

Grotta Capri filming Underbelly in 2011

The Grotta Capri played host to both the famous and infamous, featured in the Australian film favourite Muriel’s Wedding and television series Underbelly, and it was with utter delight that as an adult I also got to accompany Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for dinner when they were on tour, not so much for the name-dropportunity but to witness how comprehensively perplexed and uncomfortable they appeared to be amongst all that hideous fabulousness.

I shed a salty tear or two in 2010 when the Grotta Capri closed after 60 years. While Giovanni Battista’s ode to the life aquatic might have been made out of chicken wire and cement, it played a distinguished role for me in nourishing the vivid imagination of a small child in what was otherwise a vapid suburban commuter belt of antimatter.

grotta exterior night

I’m just sorry Douglas Adams never made it to the Grotta Capri because if nothing else, its Advocaat-crash cocktails would have given the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster a run for its money any old day.

(Ps. So long and thanks for all the Fishermen’s Baskets)

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5 reasons why Virgil Tracy is my dream guy

With a veritable smorgasbord of strapping male eye candy on display, any hot-blooded 5 year old girl worth her salt would find something to swoon over at 6am most weekends while glued to Gerry Anderson’s 1960s Supermarionation tv series, The Thunderbirds.

6 portraits

The line-up of talent

The five Tracy men; Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John, played distinct roles in their piloting of International Rescue’s squadron and equally, they had distinct personalities and interests.  They were all fine upstanding men and any one of them would cut the mustard with your mother too.

But here’s why, counting backwards from five (is there any other way?) Virgil Tracy is the only one for me.

5 countdown

F.A.B is their all-important clarion call and Virgil was the first one to utter it in The Thunderbirds’ very first episode.

4 countdown

Virgil was principal pilot of Thunderbird 2, the coolest, best loved and most versatile vehicle with its interchangeable pods.

Tbird2 pod

The versatile TB2

Tbird 2 pods

And its pods

3 countdown

If Tracy Island had a Renaissance man, then Virgil was the guy, equally skilled as an artist as well as a brilliant concert pianist.

_virgil_piano

Virgil on piano … dreamy!

What about Scott?  Too Alpha Male for me.  John? Too solitary in his star-gazing pursuits. Gordon? A tad tepid, despite his aquatic skills and as for Alan? Skittish and at times a bit of a petulant dolt (besides which, Tin Tin already had him by the strings).

alan

Alan, Tin TIn, Jeff and Brains

alan top hat

Alan with Lady Penelope

2 Countdown.

Call me old fashioned, but as a card-carrying pacifist, I’m impressed by the fact that Virgil didn’t actually kill anyone … unlike Scott, Gordon and Alan!

scott gun

Scott and Gordon packing heat

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If that weren’t enough, Virgil shares my dad’s birthday – August 15th, albeit some 100 years later.

Virgil pilot

Virgil piloting Thunderbird 2

While Scott Tracy was mooted to be modelled on Sean Connery, it was Virgil’s more refined looks, rich, deep voice and rounded vowels that made me giddy, along with his penchant for the odd drop of Pernod while in gay Paris.

Where Virgil’s concerned, thundering hearts are go and SuperMARRYonation was MY dream … no strings attached.

Crazy Kickstarters that put the arse into ars gratia artis

Kickstarter funding succeeded well ahead of its December deadline for the creation of the world’s largest jock strap, which only goes to prove that what constitutes creativity is also in the eye of the beholder.

With over $1 billion in pledges under its belt since 2009 and with its current poster girl, The Veronica Mars Movie raising $2 million in the first 24 hours of its appeal, Kickstarter is now a serious crowdfunding business model and something of a juggernaut.

Veronica-Mars-Movie-Kickstarter-616x425

But I prefer to think of it as a Petri dish of quixotic artistic lunacy where a meeting of creative nutjobs and their zealots’ wallets can mosh with their sweaty dosh.

Scratch the surface and you’ll realise that some of the weirdest creative pursuits that got the thumbs up from the rabble start to make Kickstarter feel more like the Colosseum …. if Derek Zoolander was Nero and the whole spectacle was being broadcast by Public Access TV with a pilled-up Liza Minnelli doing presenter duties.

For your edification, I present five perplexing if not utterly dubious concepts that got the green light (or perhaps not).

1. Giant inflatable of Lionel Richie’s head (funded)

Created specifically for Bestival, a four day music festival in the Isle of Wight, the sculpture garnered double its appeal from 211 backers and came to fruition in October last year, as such ‘head-lining’ the event.

kickstarter lionel

2. Tentacle Bento – a rape-based card game (funded)

At last, an intuitive card game that lets you become a tentacle monster which rapes an assembly of school girls specifically lined up for that purpose. Suspended in May last year but not before it made three times as much money as it needed, with over 600 backers. Kickstarter’s reason for suspending it? The campaign was ‘too sexy’.

TBsplash

3. Bring your dick to the table! (not funded)

Intended as a ‘fun reminder’ that women are equal when negotiating at the boardroom table, the perpetrator clearly has a serious case of penis envy. Her manifesto? ‘If all it takes is a dick, then here is mine. Now, let’s get down to business!’

Kick bring your dick to the table

4. Drop a baby grand onto a pyramid of champagne glasses (funded)

And why the hell not?

kickstarter piano champagne

And my personal favourite?

5. Kickstarter fund to buy Kickstarter (not funded)

Aiming to raise the $19 million it was valued at by worthofweb.com at the time the appeal was submitted by comedian and rabble-rouser Eric Moneypenny, Kickstarter rejected it on the basis that they don’t do ‘fund my life’ projects. Moneypenny insisted he was just following a dream and takes issue with Kickstarter being the judge and jury of his.

And as he points out, ” It’s not like there was nothing in this for them. Kickstarter makes a profit off of every successful Kickstarter, so Kickstarter would’ve made even extra money from my purchase.”

The fact that a $10,000 pledge only got you a pizza party with ‘new Kickstarter CEO Eric Moneypenny’, probably didn’t help much.

kickstarter (1)

For more crazy Kickstarters and a double dose of ‘arse gratia artis’ try:

Yourkickstartersucks.com and Freakstarter.com

Love and other catastrophes: the weird world of romance novel genres

I have Australian band Smudge’s recent gig poster to indirectly thank for propelling me down an interweb rabbit hole to Planet Bizarro Romantico; the crazy kingdom of romance novel subgenres.

smudgen

Last time I looked (way back in the 90s) Fabio, the Italian male model with the body of a stallion and intellect of a hamster, all but monopolised the genre’s cover art with his swashbuckling simplicity, honed as it were by the Easter Island Statue School of Acting.

fabio

But now that romance novel sales top $1.5 billion+ in the US alone for a market that appears to be permanently on heat and seeking ever more customised titilation, the genre has spawned thematic subsets of an increasingly obscure, bizarre and unintentionally hilarious nature.  

For a literary form where the suspension of disbelief is the price of entry, poor old Fabio just couldn’t carry off what’s required of today’s cover model, which includes everything from a white lab coat and stethoscope to Mormon underwear, a yamulkah or even a sex change.

So here are just four reasons why it’s Fabiover and out!

#1 Amish Romance

‘You can leave your hat on!’

Evidently there’s nothing quite like the raw magnetism of a sombre, bespectacled chap in a straw hat and merkin beard to get you all hot under your grandpa shirt collar.  The only sense I can make of this genre is that The Amish’s dislike of both electricity and shirt buttons makes for a fumble-free evening’s roll in the hay.

Amish romance novels

#2. NASCAR romance

‘Wheels and doll baby’

nascar

If you’re not really the horse and buggy type, then you can always rev your engine with NASCAR which funds a line of over 30 novels and appears to specialise in the relentless pursuit of cringe-worthy motoring puns, starting with the titles like, ‘Overheated’, Hitting the Brakes’  ‘Hearts Under Caution’ and plot descriptions like ‘The spark plugs between the two start firing almost immediately’. I’m just waiting for the short story, ‘Speed Hump’.

#3 Medical Romance

‘Is that a speculum in your pocket? …’

It may be one of the fastest growing subsets but the medical backdrop appears to be largely incidental because none of the female patients is ever subjected to anything as tawdry as a breast examination, pap smear or treatment for chlamydia. That’s also because the heroine is never actually a patient, presumably because the legal and ethical complexities of a doctor-patient sexual relationship simply get in the way of the prescriptive plots. As an Irish psychiatrist noted last year after studying the genre and posting his findings in “The Lancet”, almost every medical romance is the same and virtually every one of them is utterly scandal-free.  Only one diagnosis for this lot. DOA!

dangers-of-dating-dr-carvalho

#4 Paranormal Romance

‘Let’s get (meta)physical!’

Women have long gnashed their teeth over the paucity of male talent on Planet Earth.  Now they can exit the real world and try their luck instead with a vampire, ghost or shapeshifter. Even the Grim Reaper (seriously!). Most stories follow the Buffy/Angel model where the frisson of excitement lies in the forbidden fruit of alien-human mating. Assuming vampires play to type and do a lot of biting, the sex must be truly, er, transcen-dental.

hunters moon

But, four on the floor and I’m already beat! For those still aching for more there’s also Time Travel, Lesbian, Gay, Satyr, Amnesia, Centaur, Mail Order Bride, Faery, Hannukkah and even Transexual subgenres.

hanukkah-bliss bookriot

Fortunately, the saving grace that made this whole mad adventure truly worthwhile was the light relief of the romance novel cover piss-take, the grandmaster of which is a stud named Longmire who looks like the bastard son of Bill Bailey and Ron Jeremy and whose motto is ‘All the Romance. None of the Bullshit’.  

My personal favourites are ‘Lord of the Tube Socks’ and ‘For the Love of Scottie McMullet’.

Read ’em and weep.

Longmire

hissy

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osmond

closer

mcmullet

tube_sox

The most romantic gesture you can never make again.

As the commercial juggernaut that is Valentine’s Day hurtles towards us like space debris, it is with wistful yearning that I recall the most romantic of gifts, a memory now receding in the rear view mirror of my mind’s eye.

The gift that aroused the greatest frisson of excitement in me cost all but nothing in dollar terms yet displayed more meaning and beauty than just about anything else I received.

It could also have the same intoxicating effect on any other day of the year too.

That American poet, film critic and essayist Geoffrey O’Brien referred to this highly visible pastime of 1980s youth culture as ‘the most widely practiced art form in America’ is all the more appealing given so many were creating for so few; in fact for the most part, for an audience of just one person.

Behold, the humble yet glorious romantic pursuit that was the mixtape.

There was no greater labour of love than a compilation of songs conceived for a party of one.  Sometimes the selections were overt in intent. Other times, particularly amongst shy types, oblique and tentative layers of meaning might unfold.

For you

Each was unique but all of course reflected the compiler’s musical tastes and their considered selection could become an artistic statement in its own right.  To that end, the mixtape required a theme or mood to evoke an experience shared, a simmering feeling, an unexpressed emotion.  It was never just a random selection of songs thrown together.

And the ordering was just as important. Would it be a musical journey with each track acting as a layer in the aural brick road? Or a surprise package with alternating genres and tempos that delivered a mercurial experience as you seesawed your way through the audio hurdy gurdy?

hi fidelity

As Nick Hornby wrote in the mid-90s classic, High Fidelity: “Making a tape is like writing a letter … a good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do.  You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with ‘Got to Get You Off My Mind’ but then realised that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can’t have white music with black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can’t have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you’ve done the whole thing in pairs and … oh, there  are loads of rules.”

Yes Mr Hornby, there were loads of rules and not just creative ones. Like ensuring the last track on Side A wasn’t cut off.  Better still that you’d mathematically engineered the playlist to leave as little blank tape at the end as possible so as not to interrupt the flow when it automatically switched to track one on Side B.

Likewise it was imperative to have the precision of an orchestral conductor with the Pause button so there were no audible clicks between songs.  And then there was the cassette case artwork and liner notes to consider, a whole other artistic pursuit in itself.

I made quite a few mixtapes of my own in the 80s and as they used to say at the Streets’ factory, you never share ice cream with someone you don’t like.  Similarly, you never made a mixtape for someone you didn’t like.

all_tapes400 Whether they were for friends or more, I still thought of them as a romantic exercise in musical self-expression and shared experience that spoke of great affection and appreciation for the recipient.

And if you happened to be creating a mixtape for someone you fancied, were falling for or were actually in love with, they could be all-consuming, ambitious projects of epic, heroic, Herculean proportions.

Sure, CD compilations and MP3 playlists became faster and more convenient methods by which to deliver the goods but like the romance of rail travel in the 1920s, a mixtape was as much about the journey as it was the destination.

Which is why I fully appreciated the magnitude of the gesture when I was on the receiving end.  More so, the singular sensation when receiving a mixtape from someone I was enamored of, which could set off an involuntary flush of pink to the cheeks and a palpable 128 beats per minute from beneath my shirt.

And that was before I even hit Play.

mixtapes-go-to-heaven

Postscript: For those desperate to relive the halcyon days via a 3D printer and flash drive try MakerBot Mixtape. A quick look at MakerBot Mixtape

The Shaggs: Best worst band in the world

The late American rock critic Lester Bangs described the Wiggins sisters’ one and only album, Philosophy of the World as ‘a landmark in rock and roll history’, Frank Zappa apparently declared them ‘better than the Beatles’ and Kurt Cobain put the album at number five in his all-time Top 50, well ahead of the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks, Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation and REM’s Green.

the Shaggs

It’s true that people tend to be passionate about The Shaggs … one way or another.  In the opposing corner of the ring, Rolling Stone magazine described The Shaggs as sounding like ‘lobotomised Von Trapp Family Singers’, The New Yorker as ‘hauntingly bad’ and another reviewer was sufficiently traumatised by the listening experience to state he’d ” walk across the desert while eating charcoal briquettes soaked in Tabasco for forty days and forty nights not to ever have to listen to anything Shaggs-related ever again.’

the shaggs playing town hall

Rocking out at the local town hall

The fact that this seemingly inconsequential curio of an album could engender such extreme reactions is one of the many delicious aspects of The Shaggs’ enduring appeal.

Their story features some archetypal themes, including a domineering father from Freemont, New Hampshire, hell-bent on realising the American dream of his daughters’ fame as a three-piece band, foretold by his mother in a palm reading. In the relentless pursuit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, Austin Wiggin hauled them out of school and made them practice endlessly until they were, by his reckoning at least, match fit to record an album..

austin wiggin5

Austin ‘Shaggs Svengali’ Wiggin with his wife.

As weirdestbandintheworld.com notes, at first listen, Philosophy of the World seems like an absolute mess; the drums are arrhythmic and out of sync; the guitars are often out of tune; the sisters’ harmonies are childlike and spookily dissonant. The lyrics make Rebecca Black’s “Friday” sound like Emily Dickinson; songs are about such profound topics as Dot’s pet cat (“My Pal Foot Foot”) and how awesome the Wiggin parents are (“Who Are Parents”), although they do also try to get deep on the title track: “The skinny people want what the fat people’s got/And the fat people want what the skinny people’s got/You can’t please anybody in this world.”

But, as many musicians and critics have pointed out, there’s a consistency to The Shaggs’ music that suggests they actually knew exactly what they were doing. During the recording sessions (at which the engineers would have to mute the control room so the Wiggins couldn’t hear the howling laughter), Austin would often stop the girls midway through a take because “they made a mistake” The engineers were shocked, considering what they heard sounded like nothing but mistakes.

Either way, The Shaggs sounded unlike any other band on the planet but there’s nothing to suggest it was a contrivance on their part. They were just being who they were (and for the most part that meant supremely untalented), but as Bangs pointed out, the beauty of it was that ‘they wrung out every ounce of whatever talent they did have.’

The shaggs reunion 1`988

The Shaggs reunite at CBGB in 1999.

the Shaggs stage musical June 7 2011

The New York Theatre Workshop’s production of The Shaggs musical in 2011. Dakota & Ellen Fanning are also said to be planning to star in a biopic as two-thirds of the band.

Whether you consider them banal or brilliant, more idiot than savant, gratingly simplistic or intensely complex, syncopated or constipated, The Shaggs certainly put the sing into singular.

Visit The Shaggs website here