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.
By DAWN EDEN
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.).
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.
|NRBQ / THE SHAGGS|
Related links: NRBQ | The Shaggs
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.
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).
| ||The Shaggs debut album, "Philosophy of the World"|
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
|NOVEMBER 18, 1999|
OFFOFFOFF.COM THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK
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