Gary Wilson

You Think You Really Know Me (Motel)

In 1977, a 24-year-old Gary Wilson self-released You Think You Really Know Me, his only full-length. Recorded in his parents' Endicott, N.Y., basement, this singular collection of bizarro tunes sank rapidly to the depths of obscurity (but not before Trouser Press magazine tagged it the most unsettling thing it'd heard since the Residents). Subsequently, this compelling peek into one man's compulsions has become the stuff of legend in the world of outsider music, culminating in Beck name-checking Wilson on his "Where It's At" single.

While bearing passing resemblance to everything from Pere Ubu and Suicide to Steely Dan and the Cars, You Think You Really Know Meis one truly peculiar collision of synth rock, lounge pop, and dadaist experimentalism. Throughout the album, Wilson juxtaposes sublimely swinging drums and electric piano with guitar feedback, analog synth bleeps, and other incongruities.

But the heart of Wilson's music is his obsessive girl-centric lyrics. Women named Cathy, Karen, and Cindy play a huge role, as do kissing, making out, holding hands, blind dates, and the like. While Wilson's words may be very puppy-loveish, his delivery makes them wildly disturbing. On "I Wanna Lose Control," he sings, "I called you right up, about 10:32/ Your brother said you weren't home/ What, you trying to take me for a fool?/ 'Cuz I wanna lose control, for about 15 minutes/ And then I'll be real cool for the rest of the night." Yikes!

Wilson's surrealist non sequiturs are often open to interpretation. On the cryptically titled "6.4 = Make Out," our lounge-lizard lothario breathily attempts to sex us up, Gary-style. "You said you'd be at the party," he croons, "but when I got there, you weren't there/ What are you trying to do, put me on a sick trip or something?/ I don't kiss on my first date." Wilson later announces a crush on "Karen," then turns the seemingly innocuous line "She's a real groovy girl and she's got red lips" into some psycho-mantra. But the real pièce de résistanceis an epic lounge-rock ballad in which Scary Gary delineates how he wants to make a girl his "Chromium Bitch."

Gary Wilson equals stalker music? Perhaps, but to get all politically correct on a 1977 album is to miss the point. Like so many recordings rescued from oblivion, You Think You Really Know Meis simultaneously so very right and so very wrong. Whether approached as a joke, a historical document, or a timeless example of fucked-up genius, the thing works.

As for what happened to Wilson after this record, he was tracked down by the Motel Records staff in San Diego, where he was living with the girl of his dreams, playing keyboards in an Italian-restaurant lounge act, and working the graveyard shift in an adult bookstore. A more fitting epilogue couldn't be invented.

 
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