Back in 1992, someone over at the Japanese video game giant Konami decided that the world had waited long enough for a video game version of one of the cheesiest movies ever made, Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space.
Vampira (played by Finnish-born actress, Maila Nurmi), in a digitized scene from the ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’ video game
Tor Johnson as seen in the 1992 video game
The point-and-click style game was released for Commodore’s Amiga personal computer and the Atari ST in both Europe and the US. Hard-to-find copies of the original game also came with a bonus—a VHS tape of Wood’s film inside. Like the film itself, gameplay was pretty tedious. As the player, you are a private investigator who must travel to locations in and around Los Angeles in search of missing film reels that were stolen by Bela Lugosi’s movie double. To spice things up a little, Konami used digitized footage (pictured above) from Plan 9 From Outer Space in their game design, which was actually pretty slick for the time (believe it or not, kids).
Screenshots from the “Plan 9 from Outer Space” video game by Konami, 1992
At the age of ten, Howard Menger was playing in the woods near his home in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, when he claims that he encountered a beautiful blonde from Venus wearing a “ski-type outfit.” It was the first in a series of alleged contacts with extraterrestrials that culminated in the alleged landing of an interplanetary spacecraft at Menger’s house in High Bridge, New Jersey in 1956, and included a musical transmission from Saturn that Menger was allegedly instructed to deliver to the human race.
From the sleeve notes of Menger’s only LP, Authentic Music from Another Planet:
Howard Menger met a man from Saturn who played for him on a Saturnian instrument very much like our piano. He instructed Howard Menger that he was to bring this music to the attention of the people here on Earth by playing it for them on a piano. Howard Menger never played a piano before and had no knowledge of music whatsoever. Yet he was assured that, when he sat down at the piano, his hands would be guided and he would be able to play. From that time on, Howard Menger has been able to play the piano. He plays best after midnight. On several occasions he played for hours without rest, while his spellbound friends listened in appreciative silence and awe. This music as played by Howard Menger is never duplicated in his interpretation. When he is playing, it has an exhilarating effect on many people hearing this music.
Released by Newark’s Slate Enterprises, Inc., Authentic Music from Another Planet is a recording of Menger talking about his encounters with aliens and playing three pieces of music. The two selections on side one, “Marla” (for his wife, Connie, a/k/a Marla Baxter, the author of My Saturnian Lover) and “Theme from the Song from Saturn,” are merely “interpretations taken from the actual music that came from another Planet,” which is good, because they sound like all-too-human accordion music from Buca di Beppo. Side two is devoted to “The Song from Saturn,” the music the Space Brothers told Howard to bring back to Earth for our spiritual benefit. I think they gave their best tunes to Sun Ra, but I will say that it sounds like the music of the spheres compared to side one.
You can read Menger’s “incredible” story in his book From Outer Space To You, edited and published by Gray Barker, the notorious ufologist and hoaxer who probably came closest to revealing what he knew of our space masters’ secret agenda in his poem “UFO IS A BUCKET OF SHIT.”
All of Authentic Music from Another Planet is up at Internet Archive in the “Saucerology” section of Faded Discs Archive, Wendy Connors’ enormous hoard of UFO audio. Below, hear “The Song from Saturn.”
“I think what I’d do, as president, is I would make a phone call to whoever, to the group. I’d talk to the leader. I would talk to him and I would say, ‘You gotta get out — come see me, but you gotta get out.”
I mean, what is this thing anyway? A sequel to Waiting for Guffman, with a Posse Comatose perhaps? Is it Blazing Saddles directed by Alex Jones?
Or perhaps it’s an Americanized take on Chris Morris’ darkly funny incompetent terrorist comedy Four Lions? I like that last notion the best, but as I am currently (like many of you reading this, I’m sure) binge watching Making a Murderer on Netflix, I can’t help but to hope that they are rolling video 24/7 at the protest.
Like imagine how this video, a “selfie” meant ostensibly for his wife and children, shot by self-promoting, self-aggrandizing “patriot” anti-Muslim hate crime-waiting-to-happen Jon Ritzheimer might be used in the context of a ten hour, true life Netflix mockumentary about this event. In the clip, Ritzheimer, then en route to the Oregon Mensa gathering at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, tearfully explains how “Daddy took an oath!”
Wow! He’s the fucking best, right? I can’t get enough of this goofy human time bomb.
But another colorful figure is starting to grab some of the spotlight…
LaVoy Finicum! This has to be the best name for a gun-toting rural rube since something WC Fields came up with, like Elmer Prettywillie or J. Pinkerton Snoopington… LaVoy fucking Finicum! Say it aloud for the maximum comic effect.
If you google his name, you’ll see that LaVoy Finicum is a fellow rancher and supporter of Cliven Bundy, Ammon’s daffy pappy and advisor to “the negro.” Finicum is also the author of the self-published quasi-apocalyptic anti-government novel Only By Blood and Suffering. Here’s his own blurb for the book, taken from Amazon:
Tells of a family’s struggle to come together and survive in the midst of national crisis. A stirring, fast-paced novel about what matters most in the face of devastating end-times chaos. Filled with gripping action and relatable characters, readers are drawn into the heart-rending dilemmas each member of the Bonham family faces. You may even find yourself stopping to ask, “What would I do?” LaVoy Finicum is a real life Northern Arizona Rancher who loves nothing more in life than God, freedom, and family. His spine tingling storytelling conveys in graphic detail just how fragile and precious freedom truly is and leaves his readers with an increased desire to stand for freedom
LaVoy Finicum also has a website to promote himself and his novel, OneCowboysStandForFreedom.com. Since joining up with Ammon Bundy in Oregon, Finicum was tweeted, several times, to get the word out on his book.
I’m quite sure that, well, with a name like his that LaVoy Finicum is sincere about his goofy anti-government beliefs, but I also can’t help but wonder if he’s just trying to siphon off a lil’ of Ammon Bundy’s media spotlight to help himself to sell a few books?
Or maybe he’s just a complete nutjob?
Let’s let the man speak for himself. Here’s what he told an NBC reporter about how far he would go to defend his “freedom”:
When Oliver Sacks was starting out on his career in neurology, he noted that many of his colleagues never seemed to read or make reference to any scientific papers more than five years old. Sacks found this strange, for as a teenager in England he had devoured numerous books on the history of chemistry and biology and even botany. However, to his fellow neurologists Sacks’ interest in the “historical and human dimension” of science was considered “archaic.” Undeterred, Sacks was convinced the historical narrative offered a better understanding of scientific investigation.
This became evident with his diagnosis of a patient who suffered incessant jerking movements of the head and limbs. With his knowledge of previous scientific investigations, Sacks was able to correctly identify the cause of the patient’s illness while at the same time confirm a theory put forward by two German pathologists—Hallervorden and Spatz—in 1922, which had almost been forgotten. This only further convinced Sacks of the great insights to be gleaned from having some historical understanding of science.
Something similar is going on here in the phantasmagorical Augsburg Book of Miraculous Signs from 1552—which presents a continuous religious narrative from Biblical stories through historical events, and assumed portents and signs right up to the 16th century—the era when Protestantism became the dominant Christian religion in England, Scotland, Germany and Switzerland.
Privately commissioned in the German town of Augsburg, this “miracle” book was published in “123 folios with 23 inserts, each page fully illuminated, one astonishing, delicious, supersaturated picture follows another.” While church reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin denounced Catholicism for its superstitious and idolatrous beliefs, the Augsburg Book of Miraculous Signs served to remind its Protestant readers of the hand of God working thru various strange and ominous events—earthquakes, plagues of locusts, weird beasts, monstrous births and unusual solar activity. Like many of his fellow reformers, Luther believed such portents signified The End of Days and the coming Apocalypse—a trope that continues to this day.
But for the modern secular reader, these beautiful water colors and gouaches describe meteorological events—floods, hailstones, storms; seismic activity—the Lisbon earthquake; solar activity; and the cyclical path of comets; all of which—as Oliver Sacks understood—can give science its human and historical dimension.
M’colleague, Martin Schneider previously posted on this wondrous book, stating he wished he was able to read the descriptions accompanying the images. Well, this where possible I have now done or have described the scene illustrated. For those who would like to own their own copy, a facsimile edition of the Augsburg Book of Miraculous Signs has been published by Taschen and is available here.
The great flood—in the center what maybe a representation of Noah’s ark.
When I watched this the first time, I wasn’t aware of the fact that it was actually produced by a group of conservatives, the Public Integrity Alliance of Arizona, a nonprofit largely made up of East Valley Republicans. Frankly one doesn’t expect to see something legitimately amusing coming from Republican quarters—as everyone knows Republicans aren’t funny. But this is excellent, a pitch-perfect country-rock video starring Phoenix-based comedian Brian Nissen’s redneck “Dwain” character, a mullet-wearing simpleton who wants to “make America great again” by voting for a blustering, buffoonish billionaire who believes American wages are too high, that we need a border wall to keep out all of the Muslims and Mexicans and all kinds of other silly stuff tailored to the basest of the GOP base… Perhaps you know who he’s talking about?
As Raw Story’s Travis Gettys points out, although the song brutally mocks Trump’s most outrageous ideas “in the bizarro world of the 2016 presidential race, it’s not hard to imagine Trump playing the song at his own rallies.” Sadly this is all too true…
“I’ve noticed that some of the Trump fans loved it,” said Tyler Montague, founder and president of PIA. “They’re like, ‘Yeah, this is everything Trump is about, this is dead on.’ We’re like, ‘You’re kidding us, right?’”
Montague, who appears in the video as a redneck buddy, said the 501(c)(4) group — which is not required to report its donors but cannot be used primarily to influence elections — became motivated to act after Trump suggested a ban on Muslims in the U.S.
“When he said the stuff about Muslims, we were like, we’ve got to call that out and make fun of the absurdity of that,” Montague said.
He blasted Trump’s ideas as anti-conservative and un-American.
“I don’t want to overstate it, but [Trump’s] kind of a fascist,” Montague said. “It’s the closest thing to fascism that America’s had, at least in our lifetime.”
Here’s the video. Tell me if you think the average Trump supporter will get the joke or simply sing along?
Snuff started life as Slaughter, a dire exploitation film shot in 1971 by husband and wife filmmakers Michael and Roberta Findlay. The Findlays were prodigious in the field of exploitation. Whether working apart or together, they churned out films to meet current trends in the market, so cheap it was nigh impossible they could lose any money. One early production that Michael worked on (without Roberta) was Satan’s Bed (1965), starring the unknown Yoko Ono. The rest is a succession of cheese and grindhouse sleaze, including roughies like Body of a Female (1964) and horror pictures like Shriek of the Mutilated (1974). Slaughter was exceptionally bad, however. It fell between the cracks. Indeed, the film’s producer, exploitation specialist Allan Shackleton, had almost given up on it when he got the idea to film a new ending and precipitate its release as Snuff with a scurrilous marketing campaign.
Scrubbing all references to the Findlays’ movie, Shackleton removed the original title and credits and adopted a new title — Snuff, as in ‘snuff film’. Shackleton was ready to scratch a legend into the annals of exploitation history with a stunt comparable to the War of the Worlds radio broadcast, Orson Welles’ play that convinced 1938 America that Martians were invading Earth. Now, Snuff was primed to electrify the imaginations of a new generation, same as the old generation.
The next move was to engineer additional footage (running a little under five-and-a-half minutes) and splice it onto what was left of Slaughter. For this task, Shackleton hired Simon Nuchtern, a jobbing director with a handful of not altogether remarkable movies to his name.
In the newly-edited Slaughter, the scene cuts away to reveal the new material: A studio set with actors caught in the moment. Surrounding the actors are the trappings of movie making, including one archetypal bulldozing director.
The director confides to a pretty production assistant that the last take “was dynamite. That was a gory scene and it really turned me on.” She confesses it turned her on, too.
What follows is a stupefying descent into madness, and for the tawdry movie of the last seventy-odd minutes a contrivance as daft as it is unexpected. The director, wearing a t-shirt that bears the slogan VIVA LA MUERTE (Long live death), begins to lean on the girl. “Why don’t you and I go to the bed and get turned on… turn each other on, mm?”
“What about all these people watching?” she asks.
“Give ’em just a minute, they’re gonna be gone.”
Still in long shot, still in whispers, the director and girl engage in a little light petting on the prop bed. Contrary to leaving, however, the other people in the room slowly focus their attention on the couple, including the cameraman and soundman.
Point of view of the cameraman as the couple grope and fondle; the girl’s startled face as she suddenly becomes aware that the camera is on them.
“What are you doing? Are you filming this? They’re filming it!”
The girl struggles to free herself from the director’s pawing. “Don’t worry about it,” he says.
“Just move a little back up here — ”
“You’re crazy!” Scared.
“ — right back up here.”
“Let me go!”
“Shaddap!” Then to the crew he says, “Do all of you wanna get a good scene?”
Cutaway to the crew and affirmation.
“Okay… watch yourself… watch …”
“Let me up!”
“Let me go! You’re crazy!”
The director calls for assistance. A member of the crew expressionlessly complies, holding the girl’s arms down on the bed, while the director reaches for a knife.
“You’re crazy. You’re not serious. You’re not really gonna do it,” the girl pleads.
“You don’t think so?”
“Think I’ll kill her…”
The director slices through the girl’s blouse and across her shoulder. Blood (the colour of raspberries) oozes from the wound. She writhes and hollers.
“Scream, go on, scream!” the director demands. “That’s it, scream!”
The screaming becomes a pathetic sob.
Exasperated, he bellows, “STOP!! You want to play!?”
Following a few minutes of spectacular, if hardly convincing violence, the frame runs to leader-tape, then blackness. A whisper punctuates the void: “Shit, shit… we ran out of film.”
Another voice whispers: “Did you get it — did you get it all?”
“Yeah, we got it all.”
“Let’s get outta here.”
The sound of breathing. Ends.
The movie did not premiere with any of its stars in attendance (after all, they were supposed to be dead), nor did it boast any local luminaries. Not many people attended the premiere at all. Sixteen people in total turned out for the first evening show at 6pm. A uniformed security guard was on hand to make sure no one below the age of eighteen was admitted.
Ticket price notwithstanding, Monarch stuck to their original campaign and public awareness of the movie increased. By the time Snuff left Indianapolis it was already picking up momentum. More than 300 people attended the film’s opening night at the Orpheum Theater in Wichita, Kansas, on January 30. Many of those in attendance were “laughing instead of moaning”, reported a theater spokesman. Shackleton was driving the print of the film in his car from one engagement to another on its route to New York, ballyhooing it at every turn. Having traveled from Cincinnati to St Paul, he witnessed people being turned away from the box office of the Strand Theater on the day of its St Paul premiere, February 20. Pickets and adverse press weren’t only conspiring to stop him in this instance: The theater itself had been closed down by police the day before the scheduled screening, pending a matter of theater licensing. The resourceful Shackleton simply packed Snuff back into his trunk and drove across the river to Minneapolis, where it played an impromptu engagement at the American Theater, fittingly an X-rated movie house, complete with ads proclaiming its ‘ban’ in St Paul.
The trailer—not really all that safe for work—for Shackleton’s ‘Snuff’
The Adult Film Association of America was not happy with Snuff. Not surprising really. Formed in 1969 to protect the interests of those involved in the production, distribution and exhibition of adult motion pictures, the AFAA fought against negative representation, which included among other things child exploitation and rumours of so-called snuff films. Shackleton, hitherto a member of the AFAA, was unceremoniously kicked out of the organization because of Snuff.
Aware that it was all a gimmick and that no one was actually killed in Snuff, the AFAA nevertheless took pains to distance itself from the film. It was the sort of attention they didn’t need. President Vince Miranda, owner of the Pussycat Theater chain, announced that AFAA member theaters would not be screening it. But by and large, Snuff circumvented adult theaters anyway and played the regular houses. The AFAA unwittingly played into Shackleton’s hands when its members joined picket lines on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. “We called a press conference to say the film was a phoney,” recalled AFAA chairman David Friedman, “and that we were proud to say we would not show it.” But the AFAA were not the only group protesting Snuff. Women’s groups were also up in arms.
The absurdity of a theatrical motion picture that dabbled in actual murder (of a crew member, no less) was lost on some; likewise, that such a movie, supposedly having been ‘smuggled’ into the country, should turn up in New York City and openly promote itself on Times Square and around the country. It didn’t matter because lobby groups still protested against it, media still arrived to document the protestations, and officials continued to look into the matter.
But the protests outside the National Theater, which included the presence of ‘high profile’ FBI agents, didn’t stop the movie grossing over $300,000 during its first eight weeks and it certainly didn’t halt the publicity, which shifted into gears possibly beyond the expectation of even Allan Shackleton. Snuff was a rampaging publicity monster.
Killing for Culture available now in special edition—out in paperback next year. And below you can check out the official new Killing For Culture documentary, The Death Illusion: Murder, Cinema & the Myth of Snuff, directed by David Hinds and written and narrated by occasional Dangerous Mind Thomas McGrath.
Last year I posted about Ace Frehley’s former ultimate fan, Bill Baker and his brush with greatness his fallen idol. It’s a real life “lovable loser” story tailor-made for a Peter Bagge comic book adaptation. In the comments of that post, a reader named Eric posted “Watch this next” and a link to a YouTube clip, part 1 of “Ace’s High,” a short 1999 documentary about—get this—an all Ace KISS tribute band then apparently operating in Detroit.
Each of the members of Ace’s High dresses as Ace in all his 70s glory and they only play songs written by Ace, or else associated with him such as “New York Groove.” That’s right, Paul and Gene are “assholes” and Peter Criss hardly gets a mention from the four members of Ace’s High (although they do all seem to harbor an apparently infinitely deep hatred of Vinnie Vincent, the guitarist who had the audacity to try to step into Ace’s unfillable platforms when he left the group in 1982.)
Here’s the thing, I’ve looked these guys up on the Internet every which way (there is precious little about them or the film) and I’ve watched this thing three times now to see if it might be a goof, but I’ll be damnedI think this is—or was—a real tribute act! There will be arguments aplenty as to whether or not this is scripted or a “mockumentary” but from what I can tell, nope, these guys really did form an all Ace Frehley KISS tribute band.
Fiction is not this stupid.
The motivation as to why someone would do such a thing remains mysterious to me, but it’s, it’s… how do I put this? It was a noble endeavor?
This is SO Spinal Tap that it hurts. And take it from a man whose TV stock-in-trade was getting wackos to talk to him and keeping a straight face, this is an absolute gem of outsider documentary. Watch it on a KISS fanatics double bill with the Bill Baker videos. But do watch it, it’s the fucking best thing ever. If you like things like American Movie, the films of Christopher Guest and Documentary Now, trust me, you’re gonna like this, too… It’s a stone classic, another Heavy Metal Parking Lot.
Starring: Hotter than Hell Ace ‘74, Kiss Alive Ace ‘75, Destroyer Ace ‘76 and Love Gun Ace ‘77. Produced by AWOL. Part 2 is here.
With a major motion picture release and several significant organized events coming up across the United States this weekend, 2015 may be the year Krampus, the Christmas devil, breaks through to the American mainstream.
Krampus, for anyone out of the loop, is a horned, anthropomorphic, demon-like creature who, according to Alpine folklore, is a companion to Saint Nicholas. He acts as the yin to Santa’s yang—punishing the naughty children while Saint Nicholas rewards the good. Krampus provides the dark balance to Saint Nicholas’ light.
Traditionally, Krampus is thought to beat naughty children with sticks. Children that have been extra bad are treated more severely: they are stuffed into bags and thrown into the river. It’s really quite a brilliant legend: if your kids are misbehaving, scare the shit out of them with the threat of being flogged and tortured by the Christmas devil!
It’s been theorized that the Krampus lore was brought over to the U.S. by German-speaking immigrants, but never took hold on American shores due to anti-German sentiment over the first and second World Wars… but that Santa Claus did catch on because he made a great mascot for the Coca Cola company. A devil who beats children isn’t really going to be an effective soda pop pitchman. A jolly fat guy who hands out gifts? Perfect.
In Alpine countries, Krampusnacht is traditionally celebrated on December 5th or 6th. On this night festivals are typically held in which Saint Nicholas will visit the good children while townspeople dressed as Krampus or perchten, wild pagan spirits, will terrorize the naughty ones. These festivals include a Krampuslauf, or “run of the Krampuses,” and are often alcohol-fueled free-for-alls. It is customary for celebrants to be offered schnapps and, in some cases, for (naughty) people to be actually beaten by the hairy “creatures.”
While the Krampus stories had been on my radar for some time through studies of Germanic culture, and a very special 2004 episode of The Venture Brothers, it wasn’t until I saw a video which had gone minorly viral in 2008 that I became obsessively interested in the modern celebration of the Krampus traditions in the Alpine regions.
This video titled “Krampus attack in Silandro (South Tirol)” is essentially a collection of clips of costumed celebrants beating the crap out of townsfolk. I was utterly mesmerized:
Thus began a personal obsession with the creature and the customs which lead to eventually organizing an Americanized version (obviously with no beatings of random strangers) of a Krampuslauf in 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina. Another group of people in Portland, Oregon had a similar idea that same year, and the first two Krampus-related events in the United States were launched.
It didn’t take long for other cities to quickly fall in line, and in the past six years the number of Krampus celebrations across the United States has grown by leaps and bounds. There were, at last count a year ago, over 30 different Krampus celebrations in different cities—some taking place on Krampusnacht, some taking place on weekends near the date. This year that number could double, with small Krampuslaufs popping up all over the map. Something about this Christmas demon is starting to resonate with Americans. Perhaps it’s the fact that he represents the antidote to the unrestrained American sense of entitlement?
Some of the major Krampus celebrations are taking place this year in the aforementioned Columbia and Portland, but also in Dallas, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans. Perhaps the best Krampus event currently held in the United States takes place in Bloomington, Indiana. While many organizers take a more anarchic approach, the Bloomington group works with city officials to put on a major event which attracts thousands of spectators and has more of a “family fun day” vibe. The time they put into event planning and costuming is evident and they currently set the bar for American Krampus celebrations.
Every city seems to do something a bit different, which makes the whole phenomenon of these festivals sprouting up all the more interesting. Detroit’s event is held for charity. Dallas does a walk and pub crawl. Los Angeles has five different major events: a run, a traditional play, films, a ball, and another Krampus-themed show. Elgin, Illinois’ group received arts grant funding for their costume designs. New Orleans’ celebration culminates in a Krampus dance party. Columbia features a “Circle of Atonement” which allows volunteers to enter the circle and be spanked by the Krampuses in order to be absolved for their sins of the past year… so that Santa will visit them on the 25th!
Krampusnacht, Richmond, VA
Watching these festivals spring up over the past six years has been like watching a brand new holiday take shape, with each participating group adding their own spin. There are no established traditions for an American celebration, other than the bits and pieces that can (LEGALLY) be adopted from the Alpine traditions—which sends the whole shebang into different and interesting directions anyplace a new one pops up.
Bowman, South Carolina (population 968) is home to the “UFO Welcome Center,” possibly the best/worst roadside attraction in America, which mainly consists of a dilapidated, ramshackle spaceship cobbled together from scrap wood and various repurposed construction materials. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet, and I’m lucky as a South Carolinian to get to visit it quite often. I treasure my meetings with the man behind the saucer, “UFO Man,” the adorably kooky Jody Pendarvis.
The giant UFO Pendarvis built in the front yard of his trailer home is in somewhat less than flight-worthy condition and is usually inhabited by a dozen or so feral cats. But if you ever find yourself in Bowman, Jody will gladly give you a tour of the ship and the philosophy behind the UFO Welcome Center, which is essentially a beacon for extraterrestrial visitors.
Jody Pendarvis. Photo: Bickel
“UFO Man” made the local newspapers this week with his endorsement of Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. Bush seems like a good candidate for endorsement from the UFO people. Trump has made his stance regarding aliens quite clear (he’s against them), and Ben Carson has attempted to deny the hard work of aliens in building the Egyptian pyramids, claiming that the pyramids were built by Biblical Joseph to store grain—which is clearly insane. Bush is the clear choice for those of us who build giant wooden flying saucers in the front yards of our trailers.
We’re quite sure the Bush campaign will get a huge bump from this crucial endorsement.
For more on the “UFO Man,” check out Vice’s excellent short documentary on the UFO Welcome Center:
Here are a few pre-Bush-endorsement photos I took during my last trip to see Jody and the spaceship, three months ago:
Of all outsider music, none is further outside than The Shaggs. Three young sisters from Fremont, New Hampshire whose harrowing story is like no other pop music story in history, is known at this point far and wide. Their father took them out of school, harassed and abused them to force them to “make music,” hoping to hit it rich off that new rock and roll fad. Since they didn’t have one iota of knowledge about music, the girls invented their own music. An amazing otherworldly music like nothing anyone’s ears have ever experienced! And being that they were young girls, this music had a great innocence to it, coming through guitar bass and drums. Now I don’t just mean they wrote songs, but that they reinvented music almost in an autistic way. Not knowing their back story early on, it’s amazing that this was created under duress. Everyone that heard it thought it was just the bizarre childish ramblings of the weirdest teens on earth! And they were, but still…
To implement their father’s bizarre plan, these girls (Dot, Betty, and Helen Wiggin) were also forced to play every weekend at Fremont Town Hall where, it is said, that they were endlessly abused by rotten kids for doing the “Shaggs’ Own Thing,” yet they soldiered on weekend after weekend because they had to. Next was to record an LP and here is where their magic was set in stone. Released in 1969,The Shaggs’ Philosophy Of The World came and went and legend tells of them being thrown in a dumpster by the studio owner/co-producer (with their dad, Austin Wiggin). Either way 900 of the thousand LPs disappeared, so right off the bat it was incredibly rare. Being the most famous weirdo of his time the record made its way into the hands of none other than Frank Zappa who went on a radio interview in 1970 with the Shaggs LP under his arm and famously during the interview proclaimed “this band is better than the Beatles” and then made them play a song—the first public mindblower the band created. They kept playing until the day their father died of a massive heart attack in 1975 and then just stopped.
Ten years after its original release, at the end of the first punk wave, mega record collector Terry Adams, singer for cult rock-n-roll band NRBQ, got his record label (Rounder Records) to re-release the LP. The minds punk opened were endlessly searching for weirdness in records, movies and pop culture. People like myself scarfed up the Shaggs LP and were mesmerized by its unique weirdness. It started being used as the measuring stick for weird music. People like Kurt Cobain put it in his top five favorite records of all time. In 1999 for the 30th anniversary NRBQ celebration concert they put on a show in New York That was one of the greatest and most bizarre nights of my life. I went with Shaggs megafan and one of my best friends, the late Bill Bartell (aka Pat Fear of California punk band White Flag) and it was a true mind bender. The Shaggs, playing their first show ever outside of Fremont, NH had the middle spot between Sun Ra’s Arkestra and NRBQ! Possibly the weirdest bill ever. I secretly recorded it, and it sounds exactly like the record. They read the music off of the original handwritten charts and only did four songs because they could only find those four pieces of sheet music! I had Dot Wiggin recreate the drawing of her cat Foot Foot from the back cover of the LP—made infamous in their “biggest hit” song “My Pal Foot Foot”—on my ankle and had it tattooed on the very next day! (I already had a tattoo on my actual foot foot.)
Pat Fear: When I went to New York in 1999 to see the Shaggs when they played with NRBQ at their 30th Anniversary concert, I ended up getting to know them. They didn’t understand that they were going to be mobbed and I ended up being their handler. They had never experienced anything like being mobbed for autographs, so I set them up with a table for merch and stuff and ended up being their manager for a day. So I got to know them pretty well over the course of the two days.
They were really nice. It was only two of them; Helen wasn’t well enough to play [The Shaggs were comprised of three sisters: Dot, Betty, and Helen Wiggin; Helen died in 2006] so it was just Betty and Dot. That was the first time they had played since they broke up in 1975. I went to the soundcheck because I was not going to miss one second of Shaggs performances!
I met them and they were just standing around, these two, nice, older women—normal people who looked like middle-aged housewives—but they had guitars with them. And I barely recognized them. I said, “Look I don’t want to bother you but I came from California to see you. This is a big thrill and I’ve always liked your music.”
And they were like (adopts Shaggs-like accent), “Oh, that’s so nice!” They talk just like they do on the records. I was like, “Wow, this is actually happening.”
Dorothy [Dot] had a PeeChee folder in her hands and she opened it up right before they were about to do the sound check and she said (in Shaggs voice), “Oh, we’re only gonna do four numbers because we didn’t have time to study them.” And she opened this PeeChee folder and there was handwritten sheet music to “My Pal Foot Foot.”
Popshifter: Oh my goodness.
Pat Fear: Those songs were written out and scored on sheet music, by hand! And when she said “study” she meant, study the sheet music.
Popshifter: How is that even possible? (laughs)
Pat Fear: Jaw on the floor! I was with Howie Pyro [D Generation] and we were both like, “Oh. My. God. You don’t know how much I want that piece of paper.”