The incendiary device that ignites a musical awakening is generally a song, album or artist: you hear “tired of being alone” or Prayers on Fire or Bikini Kill and your life is never the same. For top Dollar, AKA Paul Majors, the guitarist and vocalist at the center of Endless Boogie, it wasn’t a song but a sound. “i was a pretty quiet kid, very into science. then—it was 1966, so i was about 11—i heard a fuzz guitar on the radio and… that was just it.”
Grandma was cajoled into buying the aspiring rocker a guitar—a plastic, nylon-stringed acoustic guitar, the very antithesis of rock ‘n’ roll. Majors had seen pictures of Eric Clapton in Cream and understood that any self-respecting psych rocker and protobluesman just had to have an otherworldly axe with a freaky beards-and-rainbows paint job, so he set about customizing his guitar with the tools he had at hand—his box of crayons. When the resulting creation failed to yield the mind-expanding fuzz he craved, he taped a pencil under the bridge of the guitar so it would buzz against the strings. Doing so zipped him several times across the ocean and also back in time, from his psychotic reaction in Louisville, Ky., to clubs in Great Britain where the Beatles and the stones were imitating sounds they’d heard from across the ocean—back in the american south from Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters, whose use of distortion has been traced back to the slave coast of africa, where aboriginals have been building instruments that incorporate droning, buzzing or rattling sounds for hundreds of years.
So, Endless Boogie’s primal rattle started in africa but also in Kentucky and in new york City where, in the waning years of the 20th century, Paul Majors was fermenting in a Manhattan apartment after a divorce. after working a series of bad jobs—selling vacuums door-to-door, banging the heads onto poodle-shaped bottles of bubble bath with a rubber mallet—he’d found his niche trading rare vinyl. as a kid, he’d spent the money he made mowing lawns on the cutout records at local stores, choosing them arbitrarily: “Ooh, this has a really long track called ‘Mindflowers.’ that might be like LsD.” those discarded records, written off by labels and bought for pennies, were now worth top dollar.
“It just goes to show you that your parents were wrong,” laughs Jesper Eklow, Endless Boogie’s second guitarist and producer. He lured the reclusive record collector out of his apartment in the late ’90s to jam with some friends. they played in secret in a small practice space on stanton street for roughly the length of Creedence Clearwater revival’s entire recorded career. “not like practicing for three or four years made us any better,” Majors says, “it was just an orgy of crudeness.” Finally, at the urging of stephen Malkmus, who Eklow had worked with in his job at Matador records, Endless Boogie emerged from its beery, smoky womb to make its first public appearance. it hasn’t been a straight shot to stardom since that gig in 2001—recent appearances have included the Primavera Festival in spain, all tomorrow’s Parties and the basement of Williamsburg’s the Charleston—but a short 44 years after Paul Majors was converted to rock ‘n’ roll, Endless Boogie stands poised to fulfill the promise of that first crayon-covered guitar.
An accurate description of the genre Endless Boogie works in is “improvised psychedelic blues rock,” a combination of words in such frequent contact with shit that they feel skidmarked. Endless Boogie is two guitars, bass, drums; song lengths are as variant as the wait time for the G train (four minutes, OK, but 22?) dictated by a mysterious authority known as “the vibe”; the bandleader sports both luxurious, flowing silken locks and a mustache. How does a band tread such a well-worn trail without defaulting to simian caricature (Blues traveler), self-conscious parody (Blues Explosion’s later missteps) or insecure worship (any electric blues festival)?
With “new Pair of shoes,” a concise, raunchy groove off the new release, Full House Head, Endless Boogie’s answer is “with great feeling.” the initial come-on riff tumbles into a sexy, strutting chug and then, Jesus, that voice, like andre Williams trapped in the bottom of a well after a week-long bender with a one-legged hooker. top Dollar’s in top form here, hoarse and hoary, humming like a vibrator dropped to a hardwood floor, croaking like Howling Wolf through an electrolarynx. His raspy celebration of the joys of naked consumerism terminates with a goad somehow both unexpected and so suggestive that it makes you want to scour the world for a child of untarnished innocence, just so you can protect her from top Dollar’s lascivious machinations. Buzz, fuzz, overdrive, harmonic distortion—call that noise Endless Boogie is giving off whatever you want, but that isn’t a death rattle you hear, it’s the sound of life.
>> Endless Boogie July 24, Coco 66, 66 Greenpoint Ave. (betw. Franklin & West Sts.), Brooklyn, 718-389-7392; 8, $8.