1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear #7- The Shaggs’ Philosophy Of The World

January 26, 2022
2 mins read

1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear

#7- The Shaggs – Philosophy Of The World (1969)

Is it possible that MATT KELLY actually has a soft spot for an album that graces many a “world-ever” list? Read on!

Possibly the most revered album in the history of terrible music, 52 years on Philosophy Of The World remains an evergreen favourite on “worst album ever” lists.

The hype is justified – this thing is an experience.


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The backstory is about as strange as the album itself – Austin Wiggins, New Hampshire father of four daughters, was on a mission to fulfil a prophecy of his dead mother’s that his children would form a successful pop group. He pulled the girls out of school and more or less forced them to grab instruments and make this album, recorded in a single day.

It sounds like they’d been learning their instruments for a single day. Particularly offensive is the “rhythm” guitar of Betty Wiggins. Untuned and completely detached from anything the drummer is doing, Betty’s incessant strumming, bereft of melody or structure, starts to slowly pick away at your sanity over the course of the album. Just try and follow whatever the hell she’s doing on ‘That Little Sports Car’ – I’d love to see the sheet music for that.

Drummer Helen by contrast isn’t that bad. There are passages where she sounds decent – but she appears to be unable to hear the others, ignoring the song and not even attempting to lock in with other members of the band.

Dorothy’s naïve lead singing and Betty’s comically abrasive backing vocals are the icing on top of the cake, their lack of range conspiring to make every song sound like a continuation of the last.

The mind-meltingly arrhythmic ‘My Pal Foot Foot’ is perhaps the nadir of the record and cements the impression of a group of adults writing and playing as though they were six. And it is physically impossible to get through ‘My Companion’ with a straight face.

Yet I don’t hate The Shaggs. There is a charm and a sweetness to the record that has you rooting for them rather than loathing them. After my initial shock at how shambolic it is, I found myself unironically singing along with the title track, and big names in weirdo music such as Dr Demento and Frank Zappa respected The Shaggs for making an album that simply didn’t sound like anything else.

This was released literally the day before Trout Mask Replica, Captain Beefheart’s notorious attempt to intentionally make an unlistenable album as an act of performance art. Philosophy Of The World pulls the rug out from under that by unintentionally being so unlistenable it sounds like performance art. A classic.

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Matthew Kelly is the most important person in the music industry – the type of obsessive nerd without whom it would have no reason to produce box sets and nine-hour long documentaries.

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