As seen on WFMU’s mighty “Beware of the Blog”: If you are a fan of outsider music, The Shags, and/or feral children, then the “music” of Amanda is probably right up yer strasse. You could even think of her as a much, much younger version of Ari Up, when she was first fronting the Slits as a 14-year-old. Or not, maybe it’s just a kid mucking about sans any inhibition. You decide!
Irwin Chusid tells the Amanda story in “Don’t Mess With the Power Child: The Amanda Chronicles”:
The “Amanda” recordings have emerged as an unexpected cult sensation on my WFMU program over the past two years. The chronicles feature Amanda Whitt, a growling (think Cookie Monster), defiant pre-pubescent with a Southern twang spewing mayhem over 1980s breakbeats and disjointed shards of pop hits. On some tracks Amanda shrieks while clanging pots & pans. The recordings exude undeniable charm, but there’s nothing cute about it. Any sentient adult witnessing this behavior would commence punitive action or summon law enforcement.
Power-child Amanda was recorded between 1986-89 at home in Alabama, between ages 8 and 11, by her older (by 7 or 8 years) brother Joseph (a.k.a. Jody). Joseph and Amanda were a couple of hyperactive kids pretending to be, respectively, a music video director and a child star. Most recordings were captured on cassette, others on video cam, in the lowest of lo-fi. The duo sometimes enlisted friends in the frolics, and often drove their parents crazy (with incidents caught on tape). The most durable performances were titled (e.g., “The Pickle People,” “Horrible Hybrid Tulips,” “Indian Hoots Echo Baby,” “Me Swinging in Cookieland”) and compiled on “albums,” whose design awkwardly replicated the commercial cassette format. Inserts were pasted up and xeroxed, and collections assigned titles (e.g., Primitive Swagger, Monumental Whopper Turmoil Jam, Empires and 5th Dimension Perspective, and Worship Me). The recordings were not circulated beyond friends.
At age 11, Amanda began to chafe at Jody’s stage-brother puppeteering; she soon discovered boys, and the recording project was abandoned. The tapes were stored in shoe boxes in Joseph’s closet, where they remained for decades as forgotten adolescent artifacts.
A sample lyric:
I am Cookie
You must worship me
Bow before MeMe
I am your idol
I am the goddess of cookie
You will worship me
Chant before me butt-slave
Come to me at the temple of MeMe
You must worship me
Don’t mess with the power child
I control you
The Amanda recordings found their way to Irwin Chusid’s ears via home taping legend, R, Stevie Moore. Now you can hear them yourself: Stream or download here. Listen to a contemporary interview with siblings Joseph and Amanda here. (Part 2 is here)
Previously on Dangerous Minds: Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music