No one welded the spirit of the 50s to the insurrection of the 70s quite like The Cramps. Born in New York City - late 1975/early 1976 – the errant child of proud parents, Lux Interior & Poison Ivy - The Cramps were always going to be more than a pain in the stomach when the smack ran out. Raised on junk food, B-movies, TV repeats & deafening rock & roll, The Cramps were all about distortion. Essentially pimps pushing debauchery, sleaze & trash - wrapped in Psychobilly, Surf & 60s Garage Punk – The Cramps rose from the ashes of CBGBs: the living dead!
The Cramps (the classic line-up):
Lux Interior – vocals: Lux brought the crooning, the screams - & the animal impressions!
Poison Ivy – guitars: Ivy brought the licks, the Link Rayisms - & the discipline!
Bryan Gregory – guitars: Bryan brought the fuzz, the trash - & the sleaze!
Nick Knox – drums: Nick brought the kicking bass drum, the tom-toms of fire - & the heart!
The Cramps broke cover in April 1978 with their first 45: “The Way I Walk”/”Surfin’ Bird” – both covers - by Jack Scott & The Trashmen, respectively - & followed that in November of the same year with “Human Fly”/”Domino”.
All four cuts - plus “Lonesome Town” - turned out again in June ‘79 as the 5-track 12” EP: “Gravest Hits” - & marked the start of The Cramps’ association with Miles Coupland’s IRS Records.
The Cramps soon settled into Sam Philips’ Sun Studios (where else?) with Alex Chilton (Big Star) behind the desk to record what would become their classic debut LP: “Songs The Lord Taught Us” (April 1980).
“Songs The Lord Taught Us”:
“TV Set”/”Rock On The Moon”/”Garbageman”/”I Was A Teenage Werewolf”/”Sunglasses After Dark”/”The Mad Daddy”/”Mystery Plane”/”Zombie Dance”/”What’s Behind The Mask”/”Strychnine”/”I’m Cramped”/”Tear It Up”/”Fever”
The LP was preceded by The Cramps 3rd 7” 45 – another cover – this time a vershun of Little Willie John’s “Fever” – in March 1980. By May of the same year – following the release of their 4th 7” 45: “Drug Train”/”Garbageman” – the classic Cramps line-up was torn asunder by the departure of Bryan Gregory.
The Cramps classic early 45s were collated for posterity three years later – in May 1983 – with the “Off The Bone” collection – known in the US as “Bad Music For Bad People”.
“Off The Bone”:
“Human Fly”/”The Way I Walk”/”Domino”/”Surfin’ Bird”/”Lonesome Town”/”Garbageman”/”Fever”/”Drug Train”/”Love Me”/”I Can Hardly Stand It”/”Goo Goo Muck”/”She Said”/”The Crusher”/”Save It”/”New Kind Of Kick”
The Cramps prehistoric past has also been gathered for your edification on “How To Make A Monster” - a 2-disc 143-minute gorefest of previously unreleased rare tracks - including:
* The Cramps first ever rehearsals - featuring Bryan Gregory’s sister - Pam “Balam” Gregory - on drums
* Early stumbles through "Rumble Blues" & “Lonesome Town”
* A dope deal going down in the background during The Cramps 3rd ever show at Max’s Kansas City!
* A 28-page booklet with extensive liner notes by Lux and Ivy – with rare and unseen photos and flyers from their personal collection
* 1982 studio demos with the Gun Club’s Terry Graham on drums
* Early arrangement of "Journey To The Centre Of A Girl"
* Early version of "Everything Goes" - to the tune of “Bikini Girls With Machine Guns”
* Home demo of “All Women Are Bad” with just Lux, Ivy, and a drum machine
* A live set from CBGBs
“Cramps Live at Napa State Mental Hospital” - Wienerworld – (WNRD 2253) – DVD - 60 Minutes In June 1978, The Cramps were at their peak. They’d just finished recording "Gravest Hits". This DVD captures them live on stage at Napa State Mental Hospital entertaining the institution’s patients & staff. Midway through the second song, a young woman invades the stage and begins sharing the mic with Lux. By the time The Cramps get to "Human Fly" everyone in the house is on their feet. Who cares about playing prisons – rocking the nuthouse is where it’s really at!
The Cramps have survived many personnel changes over the last 30 years - & continued to record & tour (see Cuttings Corner elsewhere in this issue for a review of what could well be their last UK show ever!). For generation after generation, The Cramps have continued to repulse & inspire – often at the same time. Back in the 80s, their music influenced the UK post punk psychobilly scene - whilst their image was appropriated by the Goths of the same era. As for the 90s Garage Punk Scare - any White Stripes fans reading this may also like to note that not having a bass player is nothing new either. Meanwhile, back in the 00s - The Cramps legacy continues to fester to this day. trakMARX Club 45 stars - Black Time - count them as a major influence – as do flour doused upstarts: The Horrors. With the Rhino box-set “Rockin’ Bones” (see feature elsewhere this issue) shining a torch ever further backwards onto the 50s roots of Punk Rock – The Cramps seem more relevant now than ever.
Bad music for bad people? Depravity? Sleaze? Trash? With sounds like these, baby - who wants to be good?
Guy Debored – tMx 26 – 08/06
The Green Door:www.wienerworld.com/wworld.php?catnumber=WNRD%202253
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