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  • Carl Z.
    A 60 s Singer-Ranter Who Fell Short of Fame By STEPHEN HOLDEN Published: November 3, 2005 Outsider
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3 2:39 PM
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      A 60's Singer-Ranter Who Fell Short of Fame

      Published: November 3, 2005

      Outsider art is the gentle, nonjudgmental term applied to the output
      of musicians like Larry (Wild Man) Fischer, the psychotic songwriter
      and performer (found to be both paranoid-schizophrenic and bipolar)
      who is sympathetically profiled in Josh Rubin's documentary portrait,
      "dErailRoaDed." Not everyone who watches this sad, disturbing film
      with its flashy, animated embellishments will agree that what Mr.
      Fischer does is art, whether outsider or any other kind.

      Some of the most extravagant claims on his behalf come from Mark
      Mothersbaugh, the lead singer of Devo, who compares Mr. Fischer to van
      Gogh. The dreaded word "genius" is trotted out. Be assured, there's no
      sign of that.

      Musically, Mr. Fischer occupies the same marginal territory as Daniel
      Johnston, another troubled musician whose raw, jingly effusions are
      also revered by a fervent cult. Mr. Johnston, who is much less
      aggressive than Mr. Fischer, also happens to be the subject of an
      adoring documentary, "The Devil and Daniel Johnston," shown earlier
      this year in the New Directors/New Films series in New York. That film
      showed how easily pity can masquerade as adulation.

      Once a skinny, wild-eyed hippie with a mischievous grin, Mr. Fischer
      has grown into a bearish, middle-aged man with a bush of unruly gray
      hair and a distant resemblance to David Crosby.

      Frank Zappa discovered him nearly 40 years ago on the streets of Los
      Angeles, where Mr. Fischer was peddling made-up songs on the spot for
      spare change. Signed to Zappa's Bizarre record label, he put out a
      double album, "An Evening With Wild Man Fischer," in 1968 that sold
      12,000 copies and made him a minor figure of the psychedelic era. The
      album cover showed him holding a butcher knife to a cardboard cutout
      of a woman labeled "Larry's Mother."

      At the height of his notoriety, he appeared on "Rowan and Martin's
      Laugh-In" as a noisy, grinning kook dragged offstage by Ruth Buzzi.
      The closest he came to rock star glory was an appearance at the Rose
      Bowl on a bill with Janis Joplin and Joan Baez.

      "One thing you've got to remember is that he actually is a wild
      person; Larry is dangerous," Zappa declares in an old interview. Their
      relationship ended when Mr. Fischer, in a rage, hurled a bottle that
      barely missed striking Zappa's daughter, Moon Unit.

      The movie, which includes generous snippets of Mr. Fischer's singsong
      rants (one of the best known is the nagging, childish ditty
      "Merry-Go-Round"), tells the unhappy story of his life in and out of
      mental institutions, and of how his allegedly promising recording
      career fizzled out.

      Years after the Zappa fiasco, he was given a second chance. His
      spontaneous jingle for Rhino Records, a Los Angeles record store that
      expanded into an independent label, became the company's first single
      and was followed by three albums, "Wildmania" (1977), "Pronounced
      Normal" (1981) and "Nothing Scary" (1984). Each sold fewer copies than
      the one before.

      "We wanted to give him his 'Sgt. Pepper,' " says one of his producers,
      Bill Mumy, with an apparently straight face.

      Mr. Fischer eventually went to live with an aunt and later to an
      institution for the mentally disabled. There he received medication
      that treated his psychoses but curtailed his creativity - a happy or
      unhappy ending, depending on how you look at it.


      Opens today in Manhattan.

      Directed by Josh Rubin; director of photography, Bryan Newman; edited
      by Mr. Rubin, Jeremy Lubin and Howard Leder; music by Wild Man
      Fischer; produced by Mr. Lubin; released by Ubin Twinz Productions. At
      the Two Boots Pioneer Theater, 155 East Third Street, East Village.
      Running time: 86 minutes. This film is not rated.
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