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

3.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 15, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

"OUTSIDER MUSIC" refers to a genre of sonic exotica that in some ways is so wrong -- it's right! Outsiders could be the product of supernatural possession, damaged DNA, drug fry, psychosis -- or none of the above. These often self-taught artists may lack conventional tunefulness and self-awareness, but they display an abundance of earnestness and passion. And they're worth listening to, often surpassing all contenders for inventiveness and originality.

This CD is a counterpart to the book SONGS IN THE KEY OF Z: THE CURIOUS UNIVERSE OF OUTSIDER MUSIC (A Cappella Books/Chicago Review Press), and it was produced by the author, Irwin Chusid. The text explores such avatars of outré sonics as The Shaggs, Daniel Johnston, Harry Partch, Syd Barrett, the Song-Poem industry, Jandek, the Cherry Sisters, Captain Beefheart, Florence Foster Jenkins, Wesley Willis, Wild Man Fischer, and countless other musical eccentrics with cult followings.

This CD features songs by artists profiled in the book. From the uninhibited howling of the Legendary Stardust Cowboy to the arrested-adolescent passion of Daniel Johnston; the LSD-cabaret crooning of Arcesia to Joe Meek's rare, wobbly "Telstar" vocal demo; the Shaggs aboriginal backwoods rock to Lucia Pamela's vertigo-bent outer space lunacy -- SONGS IN THE KEY OF Z promises an unforgettable romp through music too strange for radio but too fascinating to ignore.

For more information on the artists featured on this CD, buy the book (available on Then behold the magic, the visionary nature of outsider sonics. You may never want to come back inside again.

This collection is a companion to Irwin Chusid's book of the same name. It celebrates outsider music, music "so wrong it's right," and if you're drawn to sounds that make you wonder just what the musician was thinking, this collection is for you. The compilation is enthusiastically, if not always respectfully, annotated by Chusid. His selections range from the output of blissfully un-self-aware but basically functional individuals to the certifiably insane. Among the former are Lucia Pamela, an Ethel Merman sound-alike who contributes an infectiously enthusiastic celebration of "Walking on the Moon," and Congress-Woman Malinda Jackson Parker, a late Liberian lawmaker whose "Cousin Mosquito #1" cautioned against contracting insect-borne disease. The latter include Daniel Johnson, whose "Walking the Cow" weds a sublime melody to puzzling lyrics and a toy keyboard arrangement, and Wesley Willis, who pays tribute to Chicago's "Rock 'n' Roll McDonald's." Some of the artists are quite famous (Tiny Tim), some anonymous (the unknown writer and performers of song-poem "Virgin Child of the Universe")--they're united by their blithe certitude that the world needed to hear their unlikely but singular creations. --Bill Meyer

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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. The Shaggs -- "Philosophy of the World"
  2. Daniel Johnston -- "Walking the Cow"
  3. Lucia Pamela -- "Walking on the Moon"
  4. Peter Grudzien -- "Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere"
  5. Jack Mudurian -- "Downloading the Repertoire" (excerpt)
  6. Shooby Taylor, the Human Horn -- "Stout-Hearted Men"
  7. B.J. Snowden -- "In Canada"
  8. Eilert Pilarm -- "Jailhouse Rock"
  9. Song-poem -- "Virgin Child of the Universe"
  10. Wesley Willis -- "Rock n' Roll McDonald's"
  11. Joe Meek -- "Telstar" (demo)
  12. Sri Darwin Gross -- "At the Grass Roots"
  13. Congress-Woman Malinda Jackson Parker -- "Cousin Mosquito #1"
  14. Luie Luie -- "El Touchy"
  15. The Legendary Stardust Cowboy -- "Standing in a Trash Can (Thinking About You)"
  16. Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band -- "Vampire Suite"
  17. Arcesia -- "Butterfly Mind"
  18. Jandek -- "They Told Me I Was a Fool"
  19. "Dusty Roads" Rowe -- "Baby, Your Love's In Town"
  20. Tiny Tim (with Miss Sue) -- "True Love"

Product details

  • Audio CD (September 15, 2002)
  • Original Release Date: September 15, 2002
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Gammon
  • ASIN: B00006NSX1
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,775 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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