Following up on Bryan’s post on Beefheart, which I largely agree with. I think you have to also look at this (Cptn Beefheart in the 1970s–sorry about the irritating british guys setting up the video):
I don’t know what to think about it–is it the consumate joke, the big swindle, or does that crazy look in his eye make it something else? Incidentally, it’s quite interesting to check out the comments thread on youtube–there is no consensus on this; rather, it seems polarizing, probably because of how it plays out with regard to artifice and authenticity.
I would throw in the Shaggs here as well.
I mean, I LOVED the Shaggs in college, and I still have a fondness for them. But not really a fondness that I indulge by listening to their albums; it’s more a fondness that I indulge by thinking about them, remembering the songs, and smiling. What’s not to love–“Rich people want what the poor people got; skinny people want what the fat people got.” But the pleasure is the feeling that you are listening to something without artifice. I also loved a Madison-area street musician named Art Paul, and who sung songs like “My Cat Was Taking a Bath” and “Pink Pants” (“Tell all your uncles and all your aunts/You ain’t never lived till you’ve worn pink pants”).
People think of this music as having child-like qualities (the Shaggs, especially, but in general, music that seems to come out of some savant-like space), and I think we do because we often think of mentally compromised people as child-like (not that I know the psychological status of ANY of these artists, only that their music projects something like crazyness). I don’t have a good analysis of this, except to say that I played the Shaggs for my 10-year-old son the other day and he hated it. Somehow the fact that the “childish” appeals only to adults intrigues me.
Just now, after picking my kids up for school I was re-watching the Art Paul video, and my six-year-old said, “That’s not funny,” and walked off. I asked her what she thought of the Shaggs. That also received her derision, and to my surprise, the question, “how is that funny?” Needless to say, she did not care for “Upon the My Oh My” either.