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The Curious Universe of Outsider Music

Updated on September 4, 2018

Songs in the Key of Z


Songs in the Key of Z: Volume One

It takes a special kind of person to love this CD collection. Someone that loves the bizarre and unusual. Someone that gets that the music is serious artistic expression and not somebody's idea of a weird joke.

My Imaginative Musings:

The pop song travels on its journey to capture and record that 'perfect' performance. While it's traveling, the song is sidelined with human hope and despair. It's hit up side the head with genius and ineptitude. What pulls these songs together in any coherent sense is their utter sincerity. The magic is they are music in which the human animal is expressing his or her primal grunt of 'I am!' I wouldn't quite say they are all spiritually transcending, but they speak for that particular soul at that particular time. You can't help but respect the musicians in this CD.

The album includes bizarro rock/pop icons like Captain Beefheart and Tiny Tim. Let's just say Andy Kaufman would be a welcome addition to this collection.

I believe the compiler of this music, Irwin Chusid, made an effort to get real music, none of it is faked silliness. Irwin Chusid started the phrase 'outsider music' to describe performances that traced the edges of emotion, sanity and ability. His book that is sold separately details why each of these artists was carefully chosen.

As I was preparing to listen to the tracks to get reacquainted with the music, I felt an inner excitement. I was almost more eager to hear this CD than I was to listen to my favorite bands on my iPhone!

Songs in the Key of Z on Amazon

Songs in the Key of Z: Vol. 1 & 2


Five Zee Songs

Here are descriptions of some of the music.

Philosophy of the World The Shaggs

The Shaggs was a New Hampshire group of three young sisters that were recorded and produced by their dad, Austin Wiggin. In a nutshell, Austin basically forced his daughters write songs, practice and record. They became an underground hit. I listened to the Shaggs in the 80's and was struck by how much the drummer and the rest of the band were individually playing the same song simultaneously while in different parallel universes. My favorite is the Halloween song. This one is their big hit.

Stouthearted Men Shooby Taylor

My absolute favorite song on the CD. I laugh but then again, I'm in awe of his determination to fill every orifice of this song with notes.

Telstar(demo) Joe Meek.

Joe helped write and produce the song Telstar while in the band the Tornadoes. Telstar became a big number one hit in England and the U.S. This eery, dark version of the song predicts his fall into despair, mental illness and ultimately his suicide.

Walking the Cow Daniel Johnston

This song was recorded with just his electric keyboard and a boombox, Daniel became very well known in music circles and has had various record deals throughout the years. He finally had to be institutionalized for schizophrenia.

Downloading the Repertoire (excerpt) Jack Mudurian

Jack was in a nursery home when he recorded over 100 excerpts of songs in under an hour.

Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

— Max Erhmann

The Shaggs - Philosophy of the World

Daniel Johnston - His Unfinished Album

Rock and Roll McDonalds: A Tribute to Wesley Willis

There are people who climb Mount Everest, people that row a small boat across the Atlantic Ocean, or walk a tight rope between skycrapers.

For people like Wesley Willis, expressing himself musically while working to keep his sanity was his Mount Everest. The amount of effort it took him to do this was, in my opinion, equal to the efforts of those that accomplish amazing physical feats or make great discoveries.

Born in 1963 he experienced a difficult life as a poor and abused victim of his environment. His saving grace was his love of creating songs and singing. Willis started as a street musician and eventually got enough fans to get a record deal. In and out of hospitals, he died in 2003 of heart disease and other health problems.

His song Rock and Roll McDonalds became our theme song when riding with my family on car trips. We even got our cousins in the car to sing/yell at the top of their lungs "Rock and roll, McDonalds!"

Wesley's McDonalds Song with Stills

Does this collection draw you? Explain.

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    • Kim Milai profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Milai 

      4 years ago

      Thank you for reading my article. It's hard to express how much I enjoy this music without my family and friends thinking how weird I am! :)

    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 

      4 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Enjoyable hub! I have previously read the book and have found it quite fascinating. I have always had a soft spot for outsider music and Wesley Willis is a personal fave of mine.


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