The Shaggs: A Unique Band with a Unique Backstory

Mathew Yeager, Staff Writer/Co-Editor

While scrolling through my YouTube recommended page I stumbled upon a video titled, “The WORST Album Ever Made”, and, intrigued, I clicked on it. The video talked about a band called the Shaggs and their first and only album Philosophy of the World. The band consisted of three sisters, Dorothy Wiggin as the lead guitarist, Betty Wiggin as the rhythm guitarist, and Helen Wiggin on drums. After learning about the history of the band, I decided to listen to the album to its full extent. In this article, I will be talking about the band’s unique history and legacy, as well as my final opinions on the album itself. 

In essence, the creation of the Shaggs is due to Austin Wiggin, the father of the band members, and his mother. Austin’s mother had predicted during a palm reading that Austin would marry a girl with strawberry blonde hair and have two daughters who would create a popular music group. As time went on, Austin had eventually married a girl that matched his mother’s description and had multiple daughters. After the first two predictions came true, Austin was convinced that the third prediction was accurate as well, so he abruptly took his daughters out of school and bought them instruments where he promptly assumed the role of manager. He directed the girls to practice all day and to learn the instruments on their own, giving them little to no lessons and barely providing them with any knowledge as to how to create songs. After five years of practicing, Austin took his daughters to Fleetwood studio in Massachusetts where they recorded their studio album Philosophy of the World. 1000 copies of the album were created but mysteriously only 100 copies were ever distributed, with some speculating that the 900 were thrown out by the record manufacturers. The album remained unknown until the early 1970s after Frank Zappa, an iconic and extravagant rock musician, expressed his love for the album on the Dr. Demento show. Afterward, more artists began to bring the album to mainstream attention with Kurt Cobain ranking Philosophy of the World as his fifth favorite album of all time. Record companies started to create more copies of the album, and critics started to give their own opinion on the record, with some calling it “hauntingly bad” and others praising it for its uniqueness. 

After listening to the full album, I can comfortably say that it is one of the worst albums I have ever listened to. It was hard for me to listen to it at times for an inexplicable reason that I can only describe as discomfort. It sounds exactly like what one would expect from a group of teens who had barely known the basic mechanics of the instruments they were tasked to handle. Personally, I do not think I’ll be listening to the album again anytime soon, and I can’t pinpoint any one song that stood out as being slightly better than another; but if you are ever in the mood for listening to an album completely different and unattached from anything you will find today, Philosophy of the World is not a bad option.