Greatest Hits Volume 1
LP - out of print | CD - $12.00 iTunes
No one is neutral about this man. A medically diagnosed chronic schizophrenic who makes a living selling his drawings and music on Chicago's streets. A "Best Of..." compiled by Jello Biafra from over two dozen self-produced CD's and some earlier unreleased tapes.
"A personal "I-knew-Wesley-Willis-when" story":
About seven or eight years ago, when I'd be down in the subways doing the street musician thing with friends, there was this guy who'd sit perched on a folding chair crawing and selling pictures of Chicago still life. Cross-eyed and afroed (then), he'd go into a rapid fire monologue that only made sense for the first few seconds before it petered out into screams. He used to pop up at the Chicago Blues Festival, too. Once, one of my musician homies wondered aloud what was wrong with this guy? The hell of it is, seven years later, my friend the musician was opening for the speedrapping artist (i.e. Wesley), who by now had put on about fifty pounds, has had a couple of indie labels nipping at his feet, discovered "rock-a-roll", and replaced the afro with dreads. In addition, through the auspices of Wesley Willis records ("rock & roll will never die"), he's put out about 50 or 60 CD's in two years, with titles like "He's Doing Time in Jail" and "Mr. Magoo Goes to Jail". How does he stay so prolific? His songs falls into three categories: Scenesters who he's made friends with, bands he's gone to see, and bad people who've fucked him or other people over. Hell, one CD (Rev. Norb #1) has one song about the guy who engineered the session ("Reid Hyams") and a love song to a girl who works at the same studio ("Amy Gorman")! However, Willis, a chronic schizophrenic, hears voices inside his head. Mean voices. And he responds in unlikely places. The "Amy Gorman" love song starts with him cussing out an insurance worker. And he's got more good catchphrases than Saturday Night Live and In Living Color put together "rock you like a magikist", "gettin' crazy like a dog's behind", "Kicked a mule's ass with a belt", "rockaholic", "rockin' like a three-ring circus", "rockin' like I was chasin two muddafuckas down the street." I've seen some dog's behinds that looked freaky, but I never associated rockin' the house with a carpet store or the notoriously rockless Ringling Bros. house band. Looks good in Wesley's interviews, though..." - Rocktober
Okay, fair enough. I've never heard of Wesley Willis. Ever. But apparently, this chronically schizophrenic Chicago street-artist has developed quite a following with tape traders and indie rock geeks for his mantra-like rants about subjects as diverse as Urge Overkill, McDonald's, Elvis Presley, Northwest Airlines, Santa Claus and Batman. Seven years ago Willis began to hear voices in his head. Four years later, after being diagnosed as chronic-schizophrenic, Willis began writing "songs", generally using a pre-programmed keyboard demo for his backing "band." According to the liner notes to Greatest Hits, Willis' prodigious output has resulted in 20 albums, 10 of which were accessed for this album, in addition to some unreleased work. What you'll probably find after one listen to this album is that these "songs" are generally the same keyboard demo, sped up or slowed down, with Willis shouting over the music. Now, I'm into minimalism as much as the next guy, and yes, hearing Willis repeatedly shout "I whupped Batman's ass" (from the song… um… "I Whupped Batman's Ass") does approach transcendence in a stilted way, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to own this album for any other reason than it could kill a party faster than playing Pyromania. Other great titles? "I'm Sorry That I Got Fat," "Kris Kringle Was A Car Thief," and "The Chicken Cow," about a creature (of Willis' own imagining) that terrorizes Chicago ("it can break a glass/It can also stab you in the ass..."). On first listen, those of us in the music department who were present were in tears, hysterics even. On second listen we all had a nice chuckle. By the third I think we were ready to start breaking things. Daniel Johnston enthusiasts need not apply." - Flagpole
"When I asked Will what I was getting for review, he started chuckling. Now I know why. I guess this is really funny sounding but it makes me really sad. Wesley Willis is a chronic Schizophrenic and hears voices in his head. "I felt like a jackass screaming at the top of my lungs." It's really very sad stuff. If you can get past the synthesizer/drum thing. (Let me not forget to tell you, the reader about the way cool metallic hardcore [Earth Crisis/Strife sounding] parts in the middle of the CD. ( They actually sound really fucking good!) and the bizarre vocals (he talks about his experiences, and then repeats the title of the song four times in a shaky, caterwauling, off-key voice) then you will be delighted by this record (I can, this is great!). Something that he does that I like a lot is repeating certain phrases ("Pontiac-We build excitement," or "Rock on London. Rock on to Chicago."). There's something so urban about it. "Folger's - it's good to the last drop."" - Punk Planet