Endless Boogie’s Paul Major gives us a look at his crate-diving addiction in his new book, Feel the Music, out now via Anthology Editions, the literary arm of Mexican Summer Records.
The tome details Major’s introduction to the ’70s New York punk scene, and includes essays by Johan Kugelberg, Jack Streitman, Michael P. Daley, Rich Haupt, Stefan Kery, Patrick Lundborg, Geoffrey Weiss, Jesper Eklow and Glenn Terry. Plus, there are tons of anecdotes about the vinyl rarities Major has gathered along the way.
The musician gave us a taste of the book below, including a playlist featuring some of his favorite obscure tracks.
A GLIMPSE INTO A LOST WORLD: INTRODUCTION BY PAUL MAJOR
I became obsessed with records in the fall of 1966, when I was twelve years old. I have deeply embedded musical memories from earlier years: the mariachi horns on Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” the tinkly piano on Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” the inescapable songs of Christmas… I was aware of the Beatles but simply didn’t go there. My interests were science, math, UFOs, Mad magazine, adventures in Cherokee Park in Louisville. I was utterly isolated with only a few friends, the stereotypical last guy to get picked for a team, chased by the bullies, all that stuff. I collected coins.
There was a small coin collector shop at the end of my street. I met my first real friend (not counting the usual neighborhood kids you play with when you’re only a few years old) at that coin shop, a guy named Leonard. About that same time I had the epiphany that changed my interest to music overnight: hearing “Psychotic Reaction” by the Count Five on the radio. Leonard had an older sister who had a lot of LPs and 45s. I started buying 45s in late 1966, but only could afford a few at a time, so nothing was more exciting to me than going to Leonard’s house and playing his sister’s records. At this early stage, I didn’t distinguish much between a song like “Talk, Talk” by the Music Machine and “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen, but that changed pretty quickly. I saw that famous Life magazine article about hippies and LSD, where they had a picture of a guy who thought he was an orange. Well, I wanted to think I was an orange, too.
Since LSD was nonexistent in my neighborhood, the closest I could get was to listen to these mysterious psychedelic records, the ones I could get at K-Mart. I’d imagine what it was like, take a ‘trip’ in the vinyl grooves while staring at the crazy album sleeves.
Early on, I didn’t separate the sounds from the physical items. Like the people in Fantastic Voyage, I imagined I was shrunken down to a size where I could walk through the LP grooves as if they were vast canyons. Even the color of the record labels seemed to influence my perception of the songs. The yellow label on “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream would be all wrong if switched with the red label on “Fire” by the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. There was some magical power in the actual physical object that enhanced the experience. This came back into play later, when I got into obscure record collecting: The look of the item was important to me, and the same song would groove me more in a cool sleeve than a crappy ordinary one. Took a long time to get over that delusion. In fact, I got so obsessed with the item, the record as an object, that I fantasized about being buried in a clear plasticine coffin with my favorite LP sleeves embedded in it.
After my early days carefully considering which LPs in the K-Mart bins would be the best bet for socking it to my hungry brain (especially the deletion/cut-outs section where they were cheap), I discovered used records at shops along Bardstown Road in Louisville, head shops with used LP sections, shops like Rivertown Records that were loaded with old LPs and 45s. I got Easter Everywhere by the 13th Floor Elevators for 29 cents. Bought every far out looking record I could. K-Mart was still cooking, too, since the deletion bins were filled with recent LPs that didn’t make the charts, sealed for 44 cents. Velvet Underground, Silver Apples, Morgen… what a rush it was every Saturday, when I took my lawn mowing money off on an adventure to seek out new sounds.
As far as sharing my enjoyment of this music, it wasn’t until I was 16 that I fell in with a circle of budding ‘freaks’ in high school and actually got my hands on grass and acid. Before then I was alone in my room, annoying the neighbors… I remember sticking my stereo speakers in the window when the mailman came around, trying to freak him out with “I Don’t Live Today.” Also a bad scene when I did actually take records over to a fellow 8th grader’s home. His parents saw the sleeve to Are You Experienced? and yelled about a ‘n*gger’ being in their house. My high school freak friends weren’t too crazy about some of the stuff I was bringing to parties, either: Velvets, MC5, Morgen… get that shit off and clear the air with some Yes or Tull. At the end of high school I did have my first real girlfriend, madly in love, and my fondest memories of the time are in her bedroom, where LPs like Beard of Stars and Loaded would blend in nicely with the more mellow lovey-dovey sounds that were best in that situation.
My taste for the obscure was born out of grabbing major label failures, since they were plentiful. I started to come across a few private pressings, and the further an LP was from the record industry, the more mysterious it seemed. Like a glimpse into a lost world. The more primitive the sleeves and pressings looked, the more excited I was. I soon branched out from my usual garage, psychedelic, hard rock comfort zone and took chances on anything that looked interesting. My obsession with the physical object was kicked into a higher key: The treasure seemed to be buried much deeper.
Who were the people behind these bizarre albums?
Jr and His Soulettes
Rich Haupt’s tale of tracking this one down is beyond bizarre, and he certainly fried my head with it one night over the phone back in the late ‘80s. A pinch-yourself, this-record-can’t-really-exist level of amazing. An 11-year-old guitarist and his three sisters who are even younger grooving it out with funky swirling go-go organs, primordial drums and titles like “Thing, Do the Creep” and “Mama Love Tequila.” They’re so tight and loose they sound like they’ve been playing together for decades!
Robbie the Werewolf
Probably the most twisted LP to come out in the ‘60s folk boom style, Robbie is not only a werewolf, he’s a gay werewolf. He uses melodies to standard folk boom hits but adds his own Mad magazine style parody lyrics. A novelty that wears off quickly, but notable for the most berserk madman laughter ever recorded during the song about Count Dracula at the end of side one. That is a sonic achievement even freakier than the stunning sleeve design, where he actually looks scarier before transforming into the Werewolf.
Abner Jay – Terrible Comedy Blues
One of the big revelations of my life, the first time I got this record, appealing right away to my Real People situation. He tells amazing jokes at the beginning of each song, and in the very first song he launches into how depressed he is, and says how when he was growing up they had nothing but grasshoppers, and it just tears your soul out. Instantly I thought this guy deserved a wing in the Smithsonian or something. It’s as real an American experience as you can get.
PAUL MAJOR’S PLAYLIST
Bent Wind, “Riverside”
Recorded in 1969, this is the most murderously bleak track on their legendary Sussex LP. Long regarded as the holy grail of Canadian heavy psych fuzz bombers, an original pressing would easily pull $5,000+ nowadays. The brilliantly absurd use of bird calls during the guitar break is a massive sonic achievement when heard in the context of a song about a guy who killed his girlfriend.
D.R. Hooker, “This Thing”
A glance at the picture of him in robes on the sleeve and a taste of the sound within makes it clear this particular Jesus is peaking on LSD. From Connecticut in 1972. Most of those hippie-era Jesus freaks seem to come out of a friendly version of the Bible… this guy seems more at home in the Twilight Zone.
Arther Lee Harper, “New Day”
Opening track on his mega rare LP Love is the Revolution, an amazingly melodic and prismatic trip through the late ’60s. Barefoot hippie girls, astrological signs, incense… it’s all captured here with an almost cinematic quality. From California, of course. He’s so sincere it gets creepy.
Anonymous, “Who’s Been Foolin'”
From Indianapolis in the mid ’70s comes this delicious blend of soaring psychedelic folk rock. The heartfelt vocal harmonies and devastatingly lyrical guitar action capture a magic similar to the best of the earlier West Coast psychedelic legends.
Damon, “Song Of A Gypsy”
Unsurpassed blend of Middle Eastern flavors and mystic nomad acid moves with plenty of dosed fuzz guitar. It’s Los Angeles in 1969 and Damon is the seeker handing out LSD in the schoolyard so the next generation can find enlightenment. I imagine him turning up in a vintage episode of Dragnet, Joe Friday eternally one step short of nailing him.
New Dawn, “Life Goes On”
At the tail end of garage psychedelia in 1970 these older guys out of Portland, Oregon, made this eerie world-weary LP. It has the lava lamps, brotherhood of man vibes, acid organ, fuzz guitars… all the trappings of the ’60s “now generation,” but then you realize it is a semi-concept album where the singer commits suicide during this, the final track.
Stonewall, “Outer Spaced”
Recorded in 1972, this is perhaps the rarest hard rock LP from the USA… a copy sold a couple of years ago for over $14,000. The band didn’t even know it was released. It was issued in 1976 by Tiger Lily, a tax scam label run by the notorious mob connected music biz legend Morris Levy. The singer just kills me every time I play it.
Mystic Siva, “Supernatural Mind”
Stunning psychedelic garage band from Michigan circa 1971, they make me feel like I’m tripping on Halloween in some deranged trailer camp. Gushy mystic go-go organs battle it out with pulverizing fuzz guitar attacks. Their take on “higher key” mental states clearly was not grasped through meditation.
Cold Sun, “Here in the Year”
A maverick psychedelic sound out of Texas, only one original acetate exists, stored in an underground bunker in Corpus Christi to protect it from hurricanes. To my ears only the first two 13th Floor Elevators LPs beat this one for reaching the pinnacle of Texan LSD dosed rock music, and it is related to that band as well.
New Tweedy Brothers, “I Can See It”
Amongst the most vividly fresh winds blowing through the San Francisco ’60s explosion was this band who came down from Oregon. This song captures the feeling of that moment you realize you are totally falling in love with such a joyous energy there briefly exists no meaning to the concept of coming down.
Cerebrum, “Eagle Death”
Bluesy hard rock sure got weird circa 1970 and this Spanish band take it all the way… underwater vocals with a sardonic melody, bizarre piano that seems to leak in from another room while the fuzz guitar rips like some escaped mental patient on a bender. I have no idea what the lyrics are about but I sense they must be disturbing.