The brain-damaged electro-funk of Gary Wilson was new wave when the label was still mainly used to categorize punk acts with a sweet tooth for pop.
Completely ahead of his time, Wilson used chilly synthesizers and bizarre sound effects and samples to tell his odd tales of love and sex. In 1977, he recorded You Think You Really Know Me in the basement of his parents' house in Endicott, New York. Home tapings eventually started becoming prevalent by the '90s, but in the late '70s, Wilson was an indie pioneer, releasing a strange lo-fi record that eventually influenced Beck. Moreover, the LP inspired Olympia, Washington, college radio station KAOS to spin underground artists, helping to cultivate a taste for non-commercial music that later gave birth to K Records and Sub Pop. Legendary Seattle DJ Stephen Rabow even presented one of Wilson's gigs in the early '80s. Wilson toured with his group, the Blind Dates, at times covering their bodies with flour on-stage. But the masses were not ready for Wilson's eccentricities.
Wilson did not immediately release a follow-up to You Think You Really Know Me; nevertheless, the album's cult status grew as years passed. Finally, in 2003, Motel Records released Forgotten Lovers, a follow-up album of sorts assembled from Wilson's previously unreleased material, rarities, and vinyl-only pressings from 1973 to 1982. It further solidified his stance as the unsung hero of indie rock. One year later, Wilson returned with a new album, Mary Had Brown Hair, which appeared on Stones Throw in the fall of 2004. The following year, a documentary about Wilson's return to the stage called You Think You Know Me: The Gary Wilson Story made its debut at Lincoln Center.
Back in the public eye, Wilson resumed recording, releasing Lisa Wants to Talk to You in 2008 and Electric Endicott in 2010, the latter of which he promoted with an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon backed by the Roots. His next record, Feel the Beat, was released in 2011. In spite of his aerophobia, Wilson eventually made his first appearances outside of the U.S., touring Europe in 2013 and 2014 with his band the Blind Dates. Also in 2014, he shared the stage with another fellow cult hero, R. Stevie Moore, in Brooklyn, marking their first performances together. The year 2015 saw the release of both a new record, Alone with Gary Wilson, and a mid-'70s collection called Music for Piano. The eclectic Wilson also made another network TV appearance, this time on Jimmy Kimmel Live -- with an introduction by another longtime fan, rapper Earl Sweatshirt. In 2016, Feeding Tube Records reissued Wilson's long out of print 1974 debut, Another Galaxy. A jazz record, it was credited to the Gary Wilson Trio and featured Wilson on both piano and bass. In mid-2016, Cleopatra Records released a set of new material from Wilson, It's Friday Night with Gary Wilson, which revealed his skewed pop sensibilities were as strong as ever, and the following year Wilson issued a collection of sci-fi-themed, lo-fi funk jams titled Let's Go to Outer Space. ~ Michael Sutton & Timothy Monger, Rovi