A Musical Guide To Stalking Your Ex Girlfriends

A Musical Guide To Stalking Your Ex Girlfriends
Photo: João Canziani

  • January 01, 2005

Published in Bizarre Magazine, 2005.

It is hard to describe the work of Gary Wilson. People have called it 'equal parts David Byrne, Andy Warhol and James Brown" and 'Prince on crack', but neither captures the unique nature of his 'art'. it also doesn't begin to convey the creepiness of his odes to irretrievable lost love, Mary Had Brown Hair.

Gary himself describes it as "Gary Wilson music" but, in case you find that unhelpful, it sounds like the offspring of Feargal Sharkey and a Smurf with an acute psychosexual disorder, spending a carefree afternoon listing all the ex-girlfriends he wishes he could coax back into his arms, and setting it to music. The result, which is funny, weird, joyous, disturbing and surprisingly musically fulfilling, could easily have been called 'Music To Watch Girls By (From In The Bushes)'. The album opens with the instrumental 'Very Small Town', which serves as a warning that what you are about to hear is the musical equivalent of Twin Peaks. It then slips into the first of Gary's worryingly devoted unrequited-love songs, 'Linda Wants To Be Alone'.

The message of the song is that Linda wants to be alone. All. The. Time. She doesn't love Gary any more and wants to eat alone, sleep alone - she just wants to be alone, "all into the night", understand? Well, Gary doesn't. He keeps pestering her until she starts writing notes to Gary's parents about how he won't leave her alone and keeps calling her up to tell her he still loves her.

Even 'Debbie Debbie', which begins with the sweet and seemingly untroubled "Debbie, Debbie tell me what to do! My heart feels lonely when I think of you," ends with him fantasizing, "Debbie, Cindy, Linda... kept on touching me". His odd relationship with the women once in his life is something that can only really be appreciated by seeing him live. Then, he is joined by mannequins, all of whom loosely represent lost loves.

"I usually travel with at least two mannequins, sometimes more. Not so long ago, I think Cindy and Karen got mad at me when I named the album Mary Had Brown Hair. Sometimes they get jealous of each other when we are onstage. I have to lock them away at night."

But jealous mannequins and creepy love songs are only half the live expenence. "The shows can be a little wild. I used to go out with the band, picking up garbage - dresses, bales of hay - and we would put it all on the stage," he explains. Garbage all over the stage? "Yes, but it was interesting garbage. During the show, we would throw chocolate milk and flour and red paint all over the place. Often we'd all be drenched in milk and flour. There was a lot of instrument-breaking as well." (He doesn't use milk any more. Older and wiser and more fearful of electrocution, he just uses the flour now.)

This all happens as Gary is dressed up as, well, a man wearing two wigs, shades, some police 'danger' tape - "It's just something I put together" - and, what is that other thing? "I think the thing on my head is some kind of plastic bag," he says, like it is an everyday piece of headgear. On the cover of Mary Had Brown Hair he looks like Michael Jackson will probably end up.

The theme is relentless. By track nine, the song title tells us that Gary's in the park. And what would he be there for? A picnic? The fresh air? Come on, "Gary's in the park/And you know I'll be waiting for you/Gary's in the dark! And you know I'll be waiting for you" the chorus informs us. And before the album closes he is distraught about catching Linda - who was his first true love - kissing Frank: "Gary saw Linda last night, kissing Frank... he was sad." Maybe because Frank isn't watching her from behind a tree and Gary is, who knows? "I grew up in a wooded area of New York State. Sometimes the only way to see things was through some trees," he explains.

Mary Had Brown Hair is out now on Stones Throw Records www.stonesthrow.com