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Mrs Miller and Wing – Outsider Musicians?

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:: Growing up in the 60s, I recall a number of (what at the time seemed like) bizarre, offbeat musical acts, including Mrs Miller, a woman who couldn’t keep time or sing on key, yet developed a huge following and sold tons o’ records. Feel the groove as she destroys A Hard Day’s Night (requires Real Player), complete with what can be generously described as a guitar solo, featuring a standout, God-awful sour note in the midst of its execution. Cringe as you listen to the total cremation of the last few bars of the Petula Clark classic, Downtown. And what’s with whistling??

What reminded me of Mrs Miller was an e-mail from author Derryl Murphy, with a link to the site of the singer named Wing. Wing emigrated to New Zealand from Hong Kong, and notes “I have been learning singing in New Zealand and I do performances in Rest Homes and Hospitals and occasionally promotional concerts as I go along.” Recently she released Beatles Classics, featuring their famous, #1 hit, Hine Hine. Er, what? As for her take on the Beatles, here is a 30-second clip of her annihilation of I Want To Hold Your Hand. Her attempt to hit the high note when she sings, “I want to hold your HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND” is sad, and yet in a odd way, comforting. I wonder if she might consider doing a tribute album to McCartney’s 70s band, Wings. Wing Sings Wings. It makes sense.

It’s a pity that Mrs Miller is no longer with us, because if she and Wing decided to tour, I’d be first in line for tickets. Are Mrs Miller and Wing creators of outsider music? Last year, I bought Innocence and Despair: The Langley Schools Music Project, and loved it. Irwin Chusid, author of Songs in The Key of Z – The Curious Universe of Outsider Music, notes, “Outsider musicians are often termed “bad” or “inept” by listeners who judge them by the standards of mainstream popular music. Yet despite dodgy rhythms and a lack of conventional tunefulness, these often self-taught artists radiate an abundance of earnestness and passion. And believe it or not, they’re worth listening to, often outmatching all contenders for inventiveness and originality…” If so, I’d say Mrs Miller and Wing both pass the audition.

:: As for total weirdness, I just opened Amazon, to check for entries to add to this post. The page opened with “Hello, Randy…”, etc., and featured five products to do with outsider music. OK, is this like, cookie hell? I’m freaking out now. BTW, I can’t find a suitable subject heading for outsider music in the BC category listing, so I chose “Music – Home Recording.”

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About Randy Reichardt

  • Tom Johnson

    My parents actually have a Mrs. Miller record, which we put on occasionally for a laugh – a painful one. Still, nothing quite beats the Shaggs when it comes to this outsider stuff. Now THAT is some painfully hilarious listening.

  • Mark Saleski

    Chusid’s book is totally worth investigating if you’re a music lover and you’re interested in lookin ‘outside’.

    i think that’s how i got into Jandek (who is maybe the guy equivalent of the Shaggs)

  • Eric Olsen

    I love the Chusid book even if (because?) I find most of the music unlistenable – a total classic

  • randy

    The Shaggs are still going, have a web site, and apparently a movie is being made about them. Sez so here:

  • ClubhouseCancer

    The version of “Desperado” on that Langley Schools comp is absolutely incredible. The girl is perfect and heartbreaking. The performance is far from “inept” or “bad” by any measure.