Songs In The Key Of Z – The Curious Universe of Outsider Music by Irwin Chusid

Irwin Chusid takes a look at the weirdness of the world of Captain Beefheart, among many others.

MUSIC, 272 PAGES, 6 x 9
1-55652-372-6 WORLD

There is a tie-in CD release to complement the book, featuring tunes by the artists covered, including Captain Beefheart (“Vampire Suite” from Grow Fins. The CD has the same title and is released by Which? Records.

I’d recommend that you get both the book and CD – I found them rabidly entertaining and I love this kind of stuff.


You can read Graham’s review for this book and CD which appeared in Clicks and Klangs.

Press release

The first book ever about a mutant strain of twisted pop that’s so wrong, it’s right.

Outsider musicians can be the product of damaged DNA, alien abduction, drug fry, demonic possession, or simply sheer obliviousness. 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. This book profiles dozens of outsider musicians, both prominent and obscure – figures such as The Shaggs, Syd Barrett, Tiny Tim, Joe Meek, Jandek, Captain Beefheart, Wesley Willis, Daniel Johnston, and Harry Partch – and presents their strange life stories along with photographs, interviews, cartoons, and discographies.

“For years Irwin Chusid has listened to Outsider Music and tracked down those who create it. Songs in the Key of Z is the result, a zesty garnish to Chusid’s thick sauce of knowledge, written with an appreciation that makes us want to share in the cacophonous fun. A must-read for anyone who enjoys the weird side of the human soul, and I speak as an authority on human weirdness.” – Ken Smith, co-author, Roadside America

Irwin Chusid is a record producer, radio personality, journalist, and music historian. He was the primary force behind the resurgence of interest in pop composers Raymond Scott and Esquivel; he hosts the Incorrect Music Hour on WFMU; he has produced dozens of records and concerts; and he has written for The New York Times, Pulse, New York Press, and many other publications.


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