For decades, Paul Major has been collecting and selling the strangest records ever pressed on vinyl. Much of what was initially known about many a wonderfully weird LP was due to his mail order catalogs, in which he described the obscure garage rock, psych, and often beyond-classification albums he had for sale. He’s tracked down many of the outsiders who made singularly great, private (a/k/a vanity) pressings, leading to authorized reissues.
Anthology Editions has just released Feel The Music: The Psychedelic Worlds Of Paul Major. The book contains images from his ‘zine-like catalogs, vintage flyers, photos, as well as album art and his assessments of those way-offbeat LPs, many of which are quite rare. Major has loads of great stories, including accounts of meeting some of the eccentrics behind his favorite records.
We’ve put together a collection of tunes and cover art from twelve oddball albums, with Major’s commentary from the pages of Feel The Music.
Jr. and His Soulettes – ‘Psychodelic Sounds’ (HMM Records, 1971)
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!
Michael Farneti – ‘Good Morning Kisses’ (Full Moon, 1976)
Just a genius record. One of those one-man pop guys.
The Shaggs – ‘Philosophy Of The World’ (Third World Recordings, 1969)
Perhaps the most famous of all the Real People private pressings and certainly one of the most life-affirming in its sincere and sideways beauty, despite the fact that they weren’t particularly into being a band. Their father made them to do it, visions of Beatles level success and dollars in his mind.
Dennis The Fox – ‘Mother Trucker’ (MusArt, 1975)
I remember when that first landed in my mailbox, I was astonished because I couldn’t think of any other record that’s like it, and it’s still that way. My take on it was, here’s some literate-type dude that’s attracted to funky situations. It’s like, the guy’s kind of literate, he’s a little bit of a poet, but he’s just gotta live his life in sleazy motels. It’s a fantastic record; it’s not hard rock, it’s maybe a little bit of country, a little bit of this and that. But he’s really got his own sound, and I love the seedy back-up female singers.
Robbie The Werewolf – ‘At The Waleback’ (No label, 1964)
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.
July – ‘July’ (Major Minor, 1968)
In a lot of people’s top level UK records, certainly one of the rarest major label UK records, and I like it. But then again, you know, it’s more like to me, they’re doing up the sound of the time really good but I’m not getting personality out of it. So, that’s a personal thing. But it certainly turned out to be one of the rarest records, and it’s quintessential UK swinging London psychedelic music.
Randy Holden – ‘Population II’ (Hobbit, 1970)
This is one of the great small label hard rock records. A heavy guitar monster, still devastating today.
Raven – ‘Back To Ohio Blues’ (Owl, 1975) [reissue cover art]
I can remember where and when it was that I actually first came across that record. It was 1986, I’m pretty sure, and I got ahold of a copy and it totally flipped me out. I figured I had to find this guy. After a bunch of work I finally found him, and I dialed the phone number and the phone rings and then “Goodbye!” the phone slams down. I called back, and the same thing, “Goodbye!” “Goodbye!” And then after a while a woman gets on the phone and we assessed that he was just hanging up his phone because bill collectors were after him or whatever. It was a recurring thing, where I’d track people down and they’d think I was a bill collector or friends playing a joke on them. But it seemed like when other people got in touch with him much later, it was kinda confirmed that he was out of his mind. I love the record, it’s so unhinged; it’s got that one song, “Raven Mad Jam,” where he’s going, “You gotta get fucked, you gotta get fucked, nail me to your cross.”
“Raven Mad Jam”
Gary Wilson – ‘You Think You Really Know Me’ (MCM, 1977)
Legendary strange brilliant genius record, that back in my days had been lumped in with the experimental and the punk and the new wave thing too, but at the same time it was sort of coming across with the strange private pressing thing. Like here’s a guy who has a foot in both of those camps. I remember getting it then, of course, and the camp I put it in was, “Oh, here’s one of those guys that’s out of his mind and manages to get it onto vinyl.”
Damian and the Criterions – ‘Avant Garde’ (United International, 1983).
He made three LPs, and they are proof that brutally ugly music deserves attention. Defies genre: elements of disco, rock, harsh noise…you can bet this guy has a twisted backstory. One of the tracks is titled “Atlantic City U.S.A.” and that sleazy location smells just right for this sort of sonic torture.
Paul Major holding Kenneth Higney’s 1976 album, ‘Attic Demonstration.’
This was the game changer for me, when I realized acid rock and garage rock is not the deepest stuff in the world; it’s about getting inside somebody’s head. It’s the record that turned me on to Real People and made me come up with the phrase.
This record has been spoken about a lot. It’s called a yardstick by people that call things Higneyan and so forth, but the gist of the record is that here’s a guy who was trying to make country demos and become famous, and it went wrong in the best possible way where it became deep art.
“No Heavy Trucking”
The Fallen Angels – ‘It’s a Long Way Down’ (Roulette, 1968).
They were from Washington DC, and it’s one of those cases where they had two records on Roulette, Morris Levy’s label, and the first one is very common. But for some reason the second one is among the most impossible-to-find major label records, even back in the days when nobody was looking for these records, I only ran across it a few times. It’s probably a four-figure record now, I imagine. It’s also way better than the first album.
The strange promo film for the Fallen Angels song, “One Of The Few Ones Left.”