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      NRBQ / The Shaggs
    Thank 'Q' for the memories

    Not only is NRBQ in town to celebrate its 30th anniversary, they've brought a special guest, the legendarily talentless girl group The Shaggs, in its first performance in 25 years. Or, practically, ever.


    Even if NRBQ's only achievement were bringing the Shaggs to the listening public, the group would still deserve a place in many listeners' personal Halls of Fame. That is why it is fitting that the list of guest performers at NRBQ's 30th anniversary celebration this Saturday and Sunday night at the Bowery Ballroom includes two-thirds of the Shaggs, making their first live appearance in a quarter-century (and, as the ads note, their first ever outside Fremont, N.H.).

    Terry Adams
    Tom Ardolino
    Joey Spampinato
    Johnny Spampinato

    The Shaggs:

    Dorothy Wiggin
    Helen Wiggin
    Betty Wiggin.

    Related links: NRBQ | The Shaggs
    NRBQ (the initials stand for New Rhythm & Blues Quartet) was formed in 1969 in Louisville, Kentucky, a sort of Southern counterpart to the Fifties revivalism that was independently taking root in San Francisco with the Flamin' Groovies. That same year, independent of both bands and, seemingly, nearly all musical trends past and future, the Shaggs recorded their lone studio album, Philosophy of the World.

    A decade later, while the Shaggs' album had died in virtual obscurity (save for a quote from Frank Zappa calling it "better than the Beatles"), NRBQ were at their peak of popularity, enjoying a sizable cult following and commercial radio airplay. And so, the "Q," being longtime Shaggs fans, used their own notoriety to draw long-deserved attention to "Philosophy of the World," reissuing it on their Red Rooster label.

    Although there have been other Shaggs reissues since, most recently RCA Victor's straight reissue of Philosophy of the World on CD, NRBQ deserve full credit for enabling the trio of sisters — Dorothy, Helen, and Betty Wiggin — to take their unique place in rock history. Yoko Ono withstanding, they are the most heralded nonplayers to ever lay tunes onto tape, and for good reason.

      The Shaggs debut album, Philosophy of the World in NRBQ / The Shaggs
      The Shaggs debut album, "Philosophy of the World"
    As writer Gary Pig Gold recently noted in In Music We Trust , "'Philosophy' . . . is absolutely brimming with the sort of decorum-be-damned bash 'n' popping that such supposed heirs-to-the-genre as Half Japanese and even those Replacements couldn't ever come within a hundred thousand miles of emulating . . .. Sure, a cursory half-listen suggests only a trio of inept-at-best gals trying to differentiate their fingers from their toes, musically speaking that is. Yet a closer examination instead reveals some fiercely detailed and downright ingenious compositional skills beneath all of the Neanderthal strum und drumming (for example, one should note how flawlessly Dorothy Wiggin's lead guitar ghosts her melody lines during most every song, in true "Muddy Waters by way of Peter Tork" fashion).

    A Shaggs insider tells OffOffOff that only two Shaggs will be at the NRBQ shows — presumably Dorothy and Betty, since a recent New Yorker feature on the group said that Helen suffered from depression and was homebound. NRBQ drummer Tom Ardolino will fill in for her, though there's no word whether or not he will wear a shaggy blond wig. Said source also warns not to expect the same sort of glorious ineptitude for which the group is famous, but that should be no surprise; they've had 25 years to practice.

    NOVEMBER 18, 1999

    Reader comments on NRBQ / The Shaggs:

  • I Love you my pal foot   from peter smine, Aug 19, 2001
  • I willbe in NH Monday i know were u Live   from Bill Sime, Aug 19, 2001

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