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Outsider musicians can be the product of damaged DNA, alien abduction, drug fry, demonic possession, or simply sheer obliviousness. This book profiles dozens of outsider musicians, both prominent and obscure—figures such as The Shaggs, Syd Barrett, Tiny Tim, Jandek, Captain Beefheart, Daniel Johnston, Harry Partch, and The Legendary Stardust Cowboy—and presents their stran Outsider musicians can be the product of damaged DNA, alien abduction, drug fry, demonic possession, or simply sheer obliviousness. This book profiles dozens of outsider musicians, both prominent and obscure—figures such as The Shaggs, Syd Barrett, Tiny Tim, Jandek, Captain Beefheart, Daniel Johnston, Harry Partch, and The Legendary Stardust Cowboy—and presents their strange life stories along with photographs, interviews, cartoons, and discographies. About the only things these self-taught artists have in common are an utter lack of conventional tunefulness and an overabundance of earnestness and passion. But, believe it or not, they’re worth listening to, often outmatching all contenders for inventiveness and originality. A CD featuring songs by artists profiled in the book is also available.


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Outsider musicians can be the product of damaged DNA, alien abduction, drug fry, demonic possession, or simply sheer obliviousness. This book profiles dozens of outsider musicians, both prominent and obscure—figures such as The Shaggs, Syd Barrett, Tiny Tim, Jandek, Captain Beefheart, Daniel Johnston, Harry Partch, and The Legendary Stardust Cowboy—and presents their stran Outsider musicians can be the product of damaged DNA, alien abduction, drug fry, demonic possession, or simply sheer obliviousness. This book profiles dozens of outsider musicians, both prominent and obscure—figures such as The Shaggs, Syd Barrett, Tiny Tim, Jandek, Captain Beefheart, Daniel Johnston, Harry Partch, and The Legendary Stardust Cowboy—and presents their strange life stories along with photographs, interviews, cartoons, and discographies. About the only things these self-taught artists have in common are an utter lack of conventional tunefulness and an overabundance of earnestness and passion. But, believe it or not, they’re worth listening to, often outmatching all contenders for inventiveness and originality. A CD featuring songs by artists profiled in the book is also available.

30 review for Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    I have to tell you this one, I know my friend Raymond won't mind. This is a true story. Raymond has five jobs and one of them is busking. He busks, playing his folky stuff on the melodian or concertina and singing mellifluously. So one day he's busking and it's getting late-ish in the afternoon and a woman has been watching him for quite a few minutes now. He decides to pack up and finishes his song. She continues to stand in front of him. He thinks she looks a little familiar but he can't quite I have to tell you this one, I know my friend Raymond won't mind. This is a true story. Raymond has five jobs and one of them is busking. He busks, playing his folky stuff on the melodian or concertina and singing mellifluously. So one day he's busking and it's getting late-ish in the afternoon and a woman has been watching him for quite a few minutes now. He decides to pack up and finishes his song. She continues to stand in front of him. He thinks she looks a little familiar but he can't quite place her. He asks "Er - do I know you?" She says "Yes, I used to be married to you." And now, a review. There is a thing called "outsider art" which is art created outside the established way of doing things - examples would be the Watts Towers and the coastal sculptures of Abbe Foure and Helen Martin's Owl House, and a whole lot more. The movie Junebug is about an expedition to sign up a batty old outsider/primitive painter. (Nice movie, recommended, a very sexy scene of rumpy pumpy and Amy Adams' first big role, she's a knockout. ) So Irwin Chusid transferred the concept over to music. I would have said "popular music", as this is stuff emphatically not in any kind of classical tradition, but that term would be hideously inappropriate, as this is the least popular music ever. Mr Chusid lucidly and un-condescendingly describes a bunch of real musical weirdos in this book. Most of them are, frankly, out to lunch. But they stumbled on, and made their own music in their own way, and sometimes got themselves a little cult of fans. There is an uneasy freak-show aspect to all of this, which does make some readers uncomfortable. Mr Chusid is at great pains to say that these are strange musicians, often producing works of monumental interiority (i.e. no tune, incomprehensible lyrics, accompanied by formless plonking and recorded in less than Studio A quality on a C90 found in next door's bin) but they are still valid artists, and we just need to expand our understanding of what music is to encompass them. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though a lot of the artists described have led damaged lives. Here is a playlist of some of the stuff we are talking about. Philosophy of the World - The Shaggs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxPsXP... Walking On The Moon - Lucia Pamela http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qACGIf... Stout-Hearted Men - Shooby Taylor, The Human Horn http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wm7SKI... In Canada - B.J. Snowden http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AywSN... Jailhouse Rock - Eilert Pilarm http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHoxK6... and of course, the towering Jandek They Told Me I Was a Fool - Jandek http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqc2w2...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ed Wagemann

    http://generation-add.blogspot.com/20... To pin down an exact definition of Outsider Music is like trying to turn a bottl of ketchup into a tomato. If you define it as music that is outside the mainstream music industry, then that could include anything from punk to polka. If you define it as music that is recorded not for popular consumption, then that too is not exactly correct, since Outsider musicians often dream (perhaps delusionally) of mains http://generation-add.blogspot.com/20... To pin down an exact definition of Outsider Music is like trying to turn a bottl of ketchup into a tomato. If you define it as music that is outside the mainstream music industry, then that could include anything from punk to polka. If you define it as music that is recorded not for popular consumption, then that too is not exactly correct, since Outsider musicians often dream (perhaps delusionally) of mainstream success. If Outsider music is defined in relation to Outsider Art, then it has to be put in the context of music that is created by folks who are mentally imbalanced (for that is what Outsider Art was originally meant to define: the artwork made by mental home patients). Jack Mudurian, whose musical repertoire was recorded in 1981 by the activities director at the Nursing Home where he was a resident, would be a classic example of this definition. But not all Outsider musicians are mental patients. Some seem more like novelty acts, but at the same time it is also wrong to define Outsider musicians as simply novelty acts because Outsider musicians are not necessarily "in" on the joke, so to speak. The only undeniable unifying aspect of Outsider music is its genuine expression of feelings, ideas, emotions, etc., that can't be effectively expressed otherwise. . . --- ©2006 Rockism 101. All Rights Reserved

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Most people were introduced to the concept of so-called "Outsider Music" through this book. It is alternately fascinating, informative and pretty darned irritating. The chief annoyance: The author doesn't draw a distinction between a talentless goofball, of which there are many in this book (I've heard many of these "artists", and many of them are essentially the equivalent of godawful American Idol rejects, or worse, one or another variation on crazy), and a gifted avant-gardist like Captain Be Most people were introduced to the concept of so-called "Outsider Music" through this book. It is alternately fascinating, informative and pretty darned irritating. The chief annoyance: The author doesn't draw a distinction between a talentless goofball, of which there are many in this book (I've heard many of these "artists", and many of them are essentially the equivalent of godawful American Idol rejects, or worse, one or another variation on crazy), and a gifted avant-gardist like Captain Beefheart or Harry Partch or a genius, however suffering or broken, like Roky Erikson or Syd Barrett. Those guys were hitmakers before they took too much acid. They're not, say, Wesley Willis or The Shaggs. Joe Meek, outsider? Certainly Meek had some mental problems. But the guy had hit after hit in the UK, and a couple in the US (most notably "Telestar" by The Tornadoes) as well. They may sound pretty weird now, and they do, but then so does "Runaway" by Del Shannon, and nobody's calling him an Outsider. That really grating annoyance aside, the book does have plenty of fascinating info about genuine Outsider Musicians you may not have heard of, many of whom made one record and disappeared into the vapor of history.

  4. 4 out of 5

    J.T. Wilson

    Outsider music is a slippery category to define. It's not to do with sales: Syd Barrett and Captain Beefheart sold loads. It's not to do with aptitude: Robert Graettinger was apparently very talented as a musician and composer. It's to do with a certain uniqueness of style or approach which has little to do with anything in the mainstream. Rebecca Black is not an outsider artist, Jan Terri is. It's one thing to unsuccessfully ape the mainstream. It's another to sound like you have no idea what t Outsider music is a slippery category to define. It's not to do with sales: Syd Barrett and Captain Beefheart sold loads. It's not to do with aptitude: Robert Graettinger was apparently very talented as a musician and composer. It's to do with a certain uniqueness of style or approach which has little to do with anything in the mainstream. Rebecca Black is not an outsider artist, Jan Terri is. It's one thing to unsuccessfully ape the mainstream. It's another to sound like you have no idea what the mainstream is. Chusid's book was released after the Internet but before YouTube, Soundcloud or Bandcamp, so his artists would have been thrift store finds, remembered for a tape or vinyl or CD floating around, selling less than 1000 copies but somehow displaying a certain X-factor. Each gets a chapter, in an order I don't quite grasp. Artists include The Shaggs, a sister beat combo playing ramshackle, arrhythmic songs about lost cats; Jandek, an unfathomably bleak solo artist who had never played gigs; The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, a frazzled yodeller and yelper who was later covered by Bowie. This book concisely summarises the artists' unusual qualities and distinctive features plus some biographical data. Mental health issues feature frequently (Daniel Johnson, Barrett, others) but never as a punchline, and rarely as an explanation for the astounding musical output. The book is best enjoyed with its companion CD, which compiles the artists one song each (one song is more than enough for one lifetime with some of these characters). It being 17 years down the line, the world has changed for some of these artists: Jandek is now playing gigs, in a typically abstract, obtuse manner; Dot from the Shaggs is touring a solo album; Wesley Willis is no longer with us. It's probably time for a revised edition eh Irwin?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alvaro

    Música outsider, vaya mundo. Es complicado definir qué es, pero al final del libro se ofrece una buena explicación: aquella que nos hace preguntarnos "¿en qué estaban pensando?". Música tan alejada de lo común, o en bastantes ocasiones del buen gusto, que tenemos que estar muy preparados para abordarla. Tenemos gente con talento (Harry Partch, Daniel Johnston) y sin talento (The Cherry Sisters o Eilert Pilarm, el Elvis sueco); increíblemente influyentes (Captain Beefheart, Joe Meek) y totalmente Música outsider, vaya mundo. Es complicado definir qué es, pero al final del libro se ofrece una buena explicación: aquella que nos hace preguntarnos "¿en qué estaban pensando?". Música tan alejada de lo común, o en bastantes ocasiones del buen gusto, que tenemos que estar muy preparados para abordarla. Tenemos gente con talento (Harry Partch, Daniel Johnston) y sin talento (The Cherry Sisters o Eilert Pilarm, el Elvis sueco); increíblemente influyentes (Captain Beefheart, Joe Meek) y totalmente desconocidos (Jack Mudurian, cualquiera de los semianónimos letristas de las canciones-poema); artistas recluidos (Jandek) y otras que han estado hasta en la luna (Lucia Pamela). El mayor pero de este libro es la ocasional falta de tacto de su autor al tratar a algunos de los sujetos, que contrasta con su más que clara pasión por el tema. Como puerta a este universo curioso, en cualquier caso, es ideal. Y agradeceré siempre que me introdujera a la WFMU, la emisora neoyorquina donde participa el autor y en a que los peculiares artistas de este libro (y centenares más) conviven en paz y armonía con los "insiders".

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ben Arzate

    Full Review Some of his choices for who he writes about are a bit odd to me. Beefheart for the reasons I previously mentioned. It also seems odd that he gives two sentences to the Chipmunks but only mentions Anton LaVey at the end where he names some other artists that might fit in the genre. It seems like music by the founder of the Church of Satan would be worth more than a mere mention. I also noticed the complete absence of Y. Bhekhirst and JW Farquhar. Though I'll grant it would be impossibl Full Review Some of his choices for who he writes about are a bit odd to me. Beefheart for the reasons I previously mentioned. It also seems odd that he gives two sentences to the Chipmunks but only mentions Anton LaVey at the end where he names some other artists that might fit in the genre. It seems like music by the founder of the Church of Satan would be worth more than a mere mention. I also noticed the complete absence of Y. Bhekhirst and JW Farquhar. Though I'll grant it would be impossible to name every artist who could possibly fall in the genre. The book is also somewhat dated. It was released in 2000 and some of the artists mentioned have died. Despite that, this book is a great read and valuable as a reference. If I ever want to find some weird music, I can just pull this out and look up the artists listed. Highly recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

    I know that the pallor of "laugh at the freaks" hangs over this book, but it inspired me to take up the mantle of "outsider" music (don't we have a better term yet) and even buy a couple of Jandek records. Fascinating stuff. I've read this thing a bunch of times.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Phil Jensen

    This is a great collection of essays on outsider music, which is to say music that is enjoyable because it is made without the skills or knowledge to make conventionally good music. Some of these musicians were already in my library or on my radar, and others were complete discoveries. Chusid tries to differentiate between the uncomfortable laughing with/laughing at nature of enjoying this music, but it's really hard to pick apart. There's definitely some unabashed love for these songs and the p This is a great collection of essays on outsider music, which is to say music that is enjoyable because it is made without the skills or knowledge to make conventionally good music. Some of these musicians were already in my library or on my radar, and others were complete discoveries. Chusid tries to differentiate between the uncomfortable laughing with/laughing at nature of enjoying this music, but it's really hard to pick apart. There's definitely some unabashed love for these songs and the personalities that created them, but also some fascination with the mental decline of some of the musicians. I really enjoyed the documentary Off The Charts: The Song-Poem Story, but when my wife watched it, she thought the whole thing was an offensive way to exploit and mock people with mental disabilities. I can see that perspective, but I also can't stop enjoying classics like "Jimmy Carter Says Yes." This appeals to the same part of my brain that loves Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood and The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film. And, yeah. Shooby Taylor, if you're out there, please send us more music.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David

    Chusid provides some brief sketches about the music and lives of a number of outsider musicians, ranging from Captain Beefheart to the Legendary Stardust Cowboy to Shooby Taylor, and many others. Like me, he has a fascination with the fringes of music. However, he points out that all of these "musicians" are generally oblivious to how strange their music is perceived by 99.9% of the population, as opposed to say, the music of the Butthole Surfers, which is deliberately weird. I had to do interne Chusid provides some brief sketches about the music and lives of a number of outsider musicians, ranging from Captain Beefheart to the Legendary Stardust Cowboy to Shooby Taylor, and many others. Like me, he has a fascination with the fringes of music. However, he points out that all of these "musicians" are generally oblivious to how strange their music is perceived by 99.9% of the population, as opposed to say, the music of the Butthole Surfers, which is deliberately weird. I had to do internet searches for a number of these folks, as I'd never heard of most of them. I have a high tolerance for the bizarre and yet found much of this music unlistenable. Nevertheless, their stories are fascinating and told without condescension but a fair amount of genuine humor.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Malini Sridharan

    I picked this book up because I wanted to read about Florence Foster Jenkins without spending too much time on it (my father makes occasional references) and it had pieces on a few other artists I like. I expected the tone to be uppity and cooler than thou, but it was mostly thoughtful and informative (the intro and afterword were somewhat irksome). I was annoyed by the chapter on Jandek, but, in the author's defense, I have always found the whole corwood industries man of mystery thing a bit su I picked this book up because I wanted to read about Florence Foster Jenkins without spending too much time on it (my father makes occasional references) and it had pieces on a few other artists I like. I expected the tone to be uppity and cooler than thou, but it was mostly thoughtful and informative (the intro and afterword were somewhat irksome). I was annoyed by the chapter on Jandek, but, in the author's defense, I have always found the whole corwood industries man of mystery thing a bit suspect.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Devoted more to biography and anecdotes than it is to a serious discussion of the music itself, Songs in the Key of Z presents little, if any information that would not already be known by a fan of Daniel Johnston, Wesley Willis, Syd Barrett et al. It is a serviceable introduction to this bizarre corner of the music world--choppy, bullet-point prose notwithstanding.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mikal

    This is great with the companion CD. I love strange artists in all genres, and I LOVE strange music!

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Davy

    You don't have to listen to Irwin's show to enjoy this survey of performers who go down like a musical Malort, a floral liquor concoction that became an inside joke among Chicago bartenders whose pallets were worn out from "normal" whiskey and vodka, and were thrilled with something that was just different, no matter how uh, unconventional the taste might have been, but it won't hurt to tune in at least a couple times to get handle on the man's droll cadences. In one of the later chapters, an in You don't have to listen to Irwin's show to enjoy this survey of performers who go down like a musical Malort, a floral liquor concoction that became an inside joke among Chicago bartenders whose pallets were worn out from "normal" whiskey and vodka, and were thrilled with something that was just different, no matter how uh, unconventional the taste might have been, but it won't hurt to tune in at least a couple times to get handle on the man's droll cadences. In one of the later chapters, an interview subject relays a quote from German painter Hans Hofmann, "Quality is synonymous with the spirit in which something is made." After some googling, I suspect this may be a garbled translation, but I cannot imagine a finer standard. I am only left to wonder how many more stars shine in this universe that have yet to be observed. Keep your telescopes at the ready!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christoph

    It was about the end of spring 2008 when I first became aware of this study of Outsider music. I was at my local noise fest and in between one of the random audience members getting on-stage to do their pre-show assigned sign-up set and one of the various random activities that cropped up around the backyard of White Bitch (local noise artist who organizes the fest) such as getting a random noise box handed to use so you too can be an expert knob-twiddler in an impromptu noise session, that I no It was about the end of spring 2008 when I first became aware of this study of Outsider music. I was at my local noise fest and in between one of the random audience members getting on-stage to do their pre-show assigned sign-up set and one of the various random activities that cropped up around the backyard of White Bitch (local noise artist who organizes the fest) such as getting a random noise box handed to use so you too can be an expert knob-twiddler in an impromptu noise session, that I noticed this book laying on a chair next to me. I picked it up and thumbed the pages and thought, surely I could take this and nobody would miss it; it was just sitting there. But of course that was not the spirit with which it was left randomly to sit on that seat. It was for informational purposes only. So i took note of the many artists listed in the book (I was familiar with most of them having access to a 100,000+ music library at the local college radio station, WTUL, where I was pretty much the most outsider DJ on the docket, which is saying a lot for this rather eclectic station) and vowed to read it one day. I recently happened upon it on the bookswap portion here on goodreads.com and snatched it up as soon as I could. Since that time I had already found we had both of the volumes on CD associated with the book at the station in our compilations section and had played many cuts in different sets I had put together over the years. Id say by far, Congresswoman Malinda Jackson Parker is my favorite of those, but thats a different story. I had also seen more about the individual artists, such as the Johnston documentary (The Devil and...) or getting to actually see Jandek play live (YES, Jandek PLAY LIVE which apparently has been happening to some extent since 2005). Another aside, it was an amazing performance. Working with the station to organize the show, I got to briefly meet him although I didnt talk to him, just observed the situation. He is a stoic man to say the least, terse and contrite. But his set consisted of him creating these sweeping vistas of notes on a piano with no discernible melody or key while a female compatriot traveling with him played a theremin. I provide my anecdote for experiencing this book, 1) because i think its a rather intricate story and 2) because it fits in well with the narrative. The book itself can be a little bit of a groan due to the constant one-liners and inside jokes he mixes in with the narrative of each artists life or lives. Also, since in the introduction he establishes that this is a sort of folklore apparently he decided it necessary to not discern between the myths and come-ons that surround many of these artists personalities, although compared to some of the myths out there about these artists, this definitely cuts through the bullshit. I also was disappointed with the lack of a weaving grand narrative between the artists. To some degree, it is a series of mini-bios about the artists. I would have preferred a more discussion on the intricacies of the genre and how these artists played into it then just a strait retelling of their lives whether true or false. That said, for those who are unfamiliar with this world of amateur music in the mainstream or just on its fringe, this is an intriguing book. It might even compel you to investigate some of these recordings. I hope if you did, you approached them with an open-mind, as it is the only way to enjoy them. For those who had been converted even before this book was written, you can easily pick apart the selections in the book and suggest more notable and interesting candidates. But again, I say, that is not what this book is about. Chusid even made it as clear in the introduction. Instead, I would only propose and updated version for the (now gone) naughties, or at least the 21st century in general. Perhaps some updates on those few folks who are still alive from the first book (at this point is it only Jandek, with one foot in the grave, Johnston, and Pilarm) along with some new folks in the genre or just those completely missed in the first volume. You could call it, Songs in the Key of Z#.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Owen

    I've always been drawn to these type of artists, so this book was pretty much a slam dunk for me. The writing style is at the level of a magazine article and sometime the author's choice of comparisons or use of humour falls flat. In the end, it's really the subject that you read this for. The variety of artists here covers quite a spectrum. I still have trouble with his categorization of "outsider music"(and still think that Sun Ra should definitely made the cut) as many of the artists included I've always been drawn to these type of artists, so this book was pretty much a slam dunk for me. The writing style is at the level of a magazine article and sometime the author's choice of comparisons or use of humour falls flat. In the end, it's really the subject that you read this for. The variety of artists here covers quite a spectrum. I still have trouble with his categorization of "outsider music"(and still think that Sun Ra should definitely made the cut) as many of the artists included here seem to just be tone-deaf people oblivious to the opinions of others but otherwise living normal lives. This group of artists are also among the least interesting to read about' as "true outsiders" might be hard to live with but this make them interesting to read about. What really makes the book is the author's commitment to the topic. He has been in personal communication with many of the artists, often relating to them over periods of several years. He frequently mentions others in his circle of obsessives about this music who share recordings and are in a constant hunt for nearly-impossible-to-find recordings. The sheer amount of wretchedly dull music that would have to be listened to while searching for artists of the "outsider" ilk would be mind-numbing and demoralizing for the normal music-hunter. Even some of the featured artists have their music described in such a way in this book that most people would go out of their way to avoid listening to them after reading about them. Ultimately, it was a fascinating book by someone truly passionate about his subject matter. Some of the chapters could be easily glossed over but most tell unique stories that justify every word. It's good that someone documented these musicians' work and anyone the least bit interested in this subject should pick this up.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Blue

    As a musician myself, I try to be open to all types of music. So I read this book to help broaden my horizons, and because I'm personally intrigued by outsider music. I found that Songs in the Key of Z didn't go as in-depth as I'd liked it to- most of the information about each artist could be found on Wikipedia, at least the ones notable enough to receive Wikipedia pages. This was tedious when I was reading about artists I had heard of, like Tiny Tim and The Shaggs, and felt that I was retreadi As a musician myself, I try to be open to all types of music. So I read this book to help broaden my horizons, and because I'm personally intrigued by outsider music. I found that Songs in the Key of Z didn't go as in-depth as I'd liked it to- most of the information about each artist could be found on Wikipedia, at least the ones notable enough to receive Wikipedia pages. This was tedious when I was reading about artists I had heard of, like Tiny Tim and The Shaggs, and felt that I was retreading information I'd already absorbed elsewhere. However, it was a great introduction to artists I had never heard of, like Jandek and Daniel Johnston (who passed away not long after I read about him in this book- just in time for me to feel sad about it). There were also a few points where I sensed an air of "point and laugh," especially when discussing Syd Barrett- I wasn't really satisfied with how his mental illness was discussed. Overall, I'm glad to have learned about outsider music, but I feel that the companion album compilation is a much better primer than this book. Put it on without context and see if you find something you like. I did!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Funke Donovan

    Irwin Chusid is a radio host and journalist with an interest in "outsider music." Composed by the insane, the amateurs, and the just plain clueless, outsider music is not just "anti-establishment" (like the avant garde), but simply fails to enter the establishment in the first place. Chusid looks at characters ranging from manic depressive alt-rocker Daniel Johnston to egotistical opera singer Florence Jenkins. Besides the fact that outsider musicians tend to be rather colorful, the book appears Irwin Chusid is a radio host and journalist with an interest in "outsider music." Composed by the insane, the amateurs, and the just plain clueless, outsider music is not just "anti-establishment" (like the avant garde), but simply fails to enter the establishment in the first place. Chusid looks at characters ranging from manic depressive alt-rocker Daniel Johnston to egotistical opera singer Florence Jenkins. Besides the fact that outsider musicians tend to be rather colorful, the book appears to provide a rather thorough introduction to the "genre." I, however, may find myself taking issue with some of the musicians he has chosen to include. Harry Partch? If you are going to include him, you have to include Charles Ives. But we quibble for now.

  18. 4 out of 5

    S.D.

    Chusid’s concise study of artists in the realm of Outsider Music is a must-read those seeking an introduction to the music of “non-musicians” (by the accepted standards music theory & mainstream taste) and those who already know about it. Profiling “big names” (The Shaggs, Daniel Johnston, Wild Man Fischer), the obscure (Lucia Pamela, Eilert Pilarm, Jack Murdurian), and others (The Cherry Sisters), Songs... offers a broad peek into the Outsider Music spectrum. Yet while revealing what it is that Chusid’s concise study of artists in the realm of Outsider Music is a must-read those seeking an introduction to the music of “non-musicians” (by the accepted standards music theory & mainstream taste) and those who already know about it. Profiling “big names” (The Shaggs, Daniel Johnston, Wild Man Fischer), the obscure (Lucia Pamela, Eilert Pilarm, Jack Murdurian), and others (The Cherry Sisters), Songs... offers a broad peek into the Outsider Music spectrum. Yet while revealing what it is that makes these individuals worthy of attention, the unwitting subtext of Songs... asks, “At what point does Outsider Music become Insider Music? At what cost?” The answer is as assured, disturbed, or inaccessible as the music of which it’s asked.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Published in 2000, this book would now work better as a multimedia work on the Web. But it is a decent survey of outsider music — Wesley Willis, Syd Barrett, the Shaggs, Captain Beefheart, Jandek, Daniel Johnston, Tiny Tim are some of the more well-known artists profiled. The better chapters cover the wilder personalities — Harry Partch, Joe Meek, Robert Graettinger — and subjects with more available research — Daniel Johnston, Tiny Tim, Captain Beefheart. The author is neither condescending nor p Published in 2000, this book would now work better as a multimedia work on the Web. But it is a decent survey of outsider music — Wesley Willis, Syd Barrett, the Shaggs, Captain Beefheart, Jandek, Daniel Johnston, Tiny Tim are some of the more well-known artists profiled. The better chapters cover the wilder personalities — Harry Partch, Joe Meek, Robert Graettinger — and subjects with more available research — Daniel Johnston, Tiny Tim, Captain Beefheart. The author is neither condescending nor pretentious. He balances appreciation and ambivalence for his subjects.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    This is an interesting book relating stories of several eccentric musical figures. There is not much distinction between the "serious" avant-garde (Harry Partch, Captain Beefheart, etc.) and the merely insane, talentless types. It's still interesting and it makes you want to figure out who Jandek is especially. Quite funny as well.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    One of the best books about outsider music. The book focuses on some personalities of the genre and then talks about their life - which are equally interesting and their music. There are some interesting choices too like Nick Drake and Captain Beefheart but it's very readable and seek out the accompanying compilation, which is superb.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

    Pretty decent beginner's guide to "weird" music. I think this is how I was turned on to song poems. It's not super deep though. Doesn't get to far past song poems and stuff Dr Demento's covered already.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Greg Fanoe

    A little disappointing but for the most part interesting. The accompanying CD is a must-listen though.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Peter Lehu

    A shallow read on an interesting subject. Chusid tries too hard to be witty and more interested in mocking these artists than trying to understand them.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ronald

    Informative at times, but written poorly with a bad sense of humor.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Arnie

    Great introduction to some amazingly talented, yet bizarre, musicians.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gunnar Hjalmarsson

    Grundvallarrit "hamfarapoppsins".

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ethan Smith

    love outsider music, lots of great info, well written, rock on brother

  29. 5 out of 5

    Craven Lovelace

    Chusid's style is a tad snarky for me, but he knows his stuff. I appreciated the mini-bio on Buddy Max.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tyson Brinacombe

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