Sanity isn't a prerequisite when it comes to making good music. Syd Barrett and Roky Erickson are only two of many performers who've created intriguing songs in spite of -- or perhaps because of -- minds that don't operate in ways most of us regard as normal. In that sense, Marlin Wallace, a singer, musician and songwriter from Springfield, Missouri, who appears to have a rather tenuous grasp on reality, isn't unique. But in virtually every other respect, he most certainly is.
In the liner notes to Double Album, which can be ordered at www.RasslinRecords.com, Wallace lays out his tale in near-clinical detail. Beneath a banner that reads "THE TRUTH THAT MUST BE TOLD," he writes, "My mother was against communism, but she was badly deceived by the concealed communists around her. When she died of heart trouble in 1977, I attributed her death to the red conspiracy." He subsequently points out that "the reds began using lasers on me as far back as 1961. For a period of many years, I never knew what was causing the attacks I was having. These attacks came only during the night when I was asleep and felt like a bolt of electricity hitting me in the head.... After much study and investigation, I began to suspect that I was being victimized by the reds."
Such torture didn't stop Wallace from recording dozens of tunes between 1973 and 1981 (the year Double Album was originally released) with assorted collaborators, including members of the Skeletons and Dave Alvin's Guilty Men. Thanks to their assistance, much of the music on Wallace's magnum opus resembles fairly typical country-tinged folk; likewise, the singing contributed by Maurice Rock, Jim Grandstaff and others seems amateurish but ordinary. But as Wallace knows all too well, appearances can be deceiving. His only Double Album vocal, on "Wildcat Mabellene" (performed using the pseudonym Al Colter), is marked by wild yips and yelps that symbolize the looniness lurking just beneath the surface.
"This Is War" touches on the dire threat of international communism via couplets such as "There's a sniper up ahead/Just a-waitin' to shoot you dead/There's gonna be a whole bunch of bloodshed/Because you know he's a red," while "The Russian Bear" warns of pinko-inspired "fightin' and corruption all over this land/From the ghetto right up to the White House door." Equally twisted are "The Planet Mars" and "The Jungle in Flight" (voiced by Kelly McGuire), which sport sound effects whose bargain-basement quality only adds to their creepiness, and the casually bizarre "Abominable Snow Creature." During the latter, crooner Alton Davis declares, "I'll never climb another mountain/And I'm gonna watch where I go/Because I never know when I'm gonna meet/The strange creature of the snow" in so deadpan a manner that listeners won't know whether they should laugh, shudder or contact the authorities.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Rasslin Records' Tim Harris, corresponding via e-mail, reveals that he initially heard "Abominable Snow Creature" and the rest of Double Album in 1998, then spent the next two years tracking down Wallace, 65. Upon finding him, Harris paid Wallace an advance for the right to bring his music to a new generation; with the money, Harris says, Wallace "triple-razor-wire-fenced his entire property, bought a new guitar, and a phone that he doesn't answer because of the reds!" During a recent Harris visit, Wallace "explained that cars backfiring were a way that agents were harassing him, that a passing neighbor was driving by as a form of spying and harassment, and that a song he'd heard during the World Series, 'Who Let the Dogs Out,' was a subconscious plagiarism of two of his songs -- one about 'Letting the Dog Out' and the other about 'Hoot the Owl.'" Wallace has penned over 900 ditties of late, so more claims of theft may be forthcoming.
Why should anyone care about music made by so delusional a personality? Harris has a fine answer: "There is a level of past, present and future violent behavior that shines through his music, along with loneliness and rambling," he says, adding, "I'm just glad that he continues to fight against the mind-control waves that are trying to get him to kill."
Amen to that. As long as he's singing and not shooting, communism doesn't stand a chance.