HERE'S FIVE ROCKIN' CLASSICS as recommended by The Cramps Lux Interior & Poison Ivy.
AMONG THE Cramps' own songs have always nestled their radical reinventions of rock 'n' roll,
R&B and blues classics. Here they suggest five at random which are worth checking out.
You've probably heard of at least one of them.
1. GENOCIDE by Link Wray
Ivy: "It's kinda like the ultimate Link Wray, apocalyptic, grim,
moment of truth kind of instrumental. Which is how you think of his
stuff anyway, but this one kind of gets it more. . .it's very austere.
It's on one of those Ace, Big Beat things."
2. SHOMBALOR by Sherriff And The Revels
Lux: "It's a very strange record. It's from the 'Surfin' Bird' school of,
ah, music? It's real great. Unbelievable. I can't explain it."
Ivy: "The lyrics are kinda surrealistic. Or Dadaistic."
Lux: "Right in the middle of it, he goes, 'I'd rather be a bear", and all
the music stops and he goes "Roooarrrgh!" and then all the music
starts again. It's hard to explain. It's got these real orgasmic lyrics."
3. DIRTY ROBBER by The Wailers
Lux: "The single version. That's different from the
album version and it's just better than The Sonics, it's
unbelievable. My God, . .this vocalist is like, he either
had a broken microphone or a broken throat. It's really
great. But it's gotta be the single. They put it out on
an album, but that's a much lamer recording from a
coupla years later."
4. GANG WAR by Gene Maitals
Lux: "Boy, he's great. This one is real neat, and then
there's 'The Raging Sea'. . .all of his songs are
apocalyptic rockabilly. 'Crazy Baby'. . .he swallows his
tongue on that one."
5. 197O (I FEEL ALRIGHT) by The Stooges
Lux: "That got us thrown out of a discotheque in Italy
four years ago. They were having a party for us in this
place and playing all these kinda horrifying records,
and we went in and put this on and just played it over
and over again, and locked 'em out of the control
room â€” and we were Gatoring, that's a Cleveland
dance, which means you lay on the floor and roll, and
knock all the other dancers down. They threw us out.
But it was our party! They threw us out of our own
party. But that's the best Stooges song there ever
was. That's the best vocal he ever did."
FOR MORE ON THE CRAMPS YOU SHOULD TRY THIS DEDICATED CRAMPS PAGE
WITH SOME GREAT LINKS.
AND THERE'S A DETAILED BIOGRAPHY HERE...
SHAKIN' THE DISEASE
Over the following pages we examine the legacy of
those quintessential rock 'n' rollers The Cramps.
Here Robin Gibson meets LA's coolest 'teenagers' and
finds them suitably disgusted with the youth of today.
Sunglasses before dark by Steve Double
(SOUNDS February 17th 1990)
ROCK 'N' roll in Los Angeles 1990 is a joke. The
sprawling city teems with drongos in drippy hairdos and
dipstick clobber from myriad stores that flog the same
old tat they've been peddling down London's
Kensington Market for the last half-decade.
The scene portrayed so hilariously on celluloid in The Decline Of
Western Civilisation Part II: The Metal Years is only depressing in the
The mags of the metropolis carry identikit ads for bands with names
like Teezer, Pleezer, Skweezer and Kreemer.
Their aspirations are to be the next Guns N' Roses or Poison; their
knowledge of rock, R&B and the blues seems to start with 'Sticky
Fingers'-period Stones; and their motives are questionable.
But 20 minutes' drive away by fur-lined '56 Dodge Golden Lancer, in
the hills of East Hollywood up by the old Allied Artists movie studios,
live The Cramps.
Probably still bathed in the eerie glow of the TV set described on the
sleeve note of their 'Gravest Hits' EP of '79, Poison Ivy, Lux Interior,
drummer Nick Knox and bassist Candy Del Mar don't often go out in daylight. And when
they do they carry parasols. The Cramps are the quintessential rock
'n' rollers who save the city. The Cramps have stayed pale and their
new album, a great disc which flobs all over their last studio album
is 'Stay Sick!'.
On these Godforsaken boulevards of blow-dried dreams. The Cramps
are a groovy quicksand. They know their stuff. "It beats shovellin'
snow, livin' here," says a shiny black Poison Ivy Rorschach.
Lux Interior, Cramped singer, sums it up: "I think the main reason we
live here is because you can keep a big old car here. That's really
IF YOU didn't know The Cramps, you may now, as their new single,
'Bikini Girls With Machine Guns', rattled into the Top 40 last week - an
unprecedented happening for the band whose enthrallingly sick and
often sordid rock 'n' rollercoaster has never taken them close to the
mainstream If you do know The Cramps, you'll know that their
earliest sleazy emissions - horribly twisted, hysterical resuscitations of
rockin' corpses like 'Surf in' Bird' and 'The Way I Walk' and their first
two classic albums, 'Songs The Lord Taught Us' and 'Psychedelic
Jungle' - set the way for the malevolent '80s rock 'n' roll and blues
wrought by talents like The Gun Club, The Birthday Party and The
Sisters Of Mercy.
The follow-ups - another classic in the form of 'Smell Of Female' and
the patchy 'A Date With Elvis' - shared the racks with a whole bunch
of contemporaries trading under The Cramps' psychobilly tag, and
another bunch (the goths) who'd adopted the band's earlier fixation
with voodoo and magic.
Even in their deepest commercial trough The Cramps came up with the raving goods live and remained a huge cult. And now they've
returned with an LP littered with classic Cramps howls and some major label muscle (Enigma through Capitol) to back it up, rather
than another indie or their own label. We shoot the black leather and PVC - clad Cramps at Greystone Park and find that even
among afternoon LA sun-baskers lurks the occasional dark heart.
"Ivy, I just wanna tell you I love you guys," comes a cry from the top of the stone stairwell we're descending.
"Who are you?" yells back the guitarist.
"Oh, just a fan. . ."
"Well, don't bother with her. Ivy," declares Lux in his best Hanna-Barbera chuckle. "She's just a fan. . ."
No one could ever accuse The Cramps of being liberals.
BACK IN the hotel bar, Poison Ivy Rorschach drinks mineral water and Lux Interior red wine. Apparently days of excess for The
Cramps are over but they're still classic outsiders.
"Not that we try to be," grumbles Lux. "But we certainly are. I wish we were just part of a great scene that was happenin' but that's not
the way it is."
Isn't it a hopeless battle?
Ivy: "I don't think so. We've always had the vision and the power, we just need some muscle behind it. We don't wanna change
anything we're doing, but we've taken it as far as we can by ourselves. Yeah, I have faith that we could blow it away. But, ah, it's
pretty frightening that young people dance to electronic noise."
Lux: "It's pretty frightening, the things I see going on in, I guess, pop music. It's completely frightening that young people, who listen to
what they consider hot, hip music and everything like that, really seem to be concerned with, like, morals and goodness and rock
music that's doing something good for the world and all this kinda stuff. . , It's just like, it's depressing to me, horribly depressing."
The whole social work thing really blew up with Live Aid, didn't it?
"Yeah, I mean, rock 'n' roll was a totally anti-social thing when it started and then, maybe ten years ago, it actually got to that place
where it was becoming respectable. And that was completely intolerable â€” but then from respectability, it went to the priesthood, or
something! I can't believe it. "We just saw some band I won't mention (Guns N' Roses, as it happens) they showed up at some press
conference or other and said fuck and damn and piss and shit all over the place - and they lost a lot of their fans. Their fans are
upset because they were swearing and drunk. And this is something beyond my
scope of understanding."
Are The Cramps, arguably the coolest perennial proto-teenagers in the world, disgusted by the young of today?
"Yeah," drawls Lux. "I think rock 'n' roll is supposed to be listened to
by teenagers-and, ah, my God! Where are they?!? There is no such
thing as a teenager any more. . ."
One song on the new album, 'God Damn Rock 'N' Roll', is as close to
a manifesto as The Cramps will ever get, espousing the kinda dirty
trash that "don't save souls" and don't have much to do with prime
time TV either. It certainly scuppers them in the parent-friendly rock
"We're saying it's supposed to be God damn," says Ivy.
"It's not supposed to be 'good ole', it's supposed to be God damn. It's
supposed to be this cursed, blighted thing. And the whole thing of the
album, 'Stay Sick!', that's what it's about."
Lux: "The most important thing in rock 'n' roll is the attitude and what
the people are sayin'. It has to be apocalyptic. It should be loaded
with passion and tension and it should get so exciting in two and a
half minutes that it leaves you wanting to put it back on at the
beginning. The rock 'n' roll attention span should'nt be any longer
than two and a half minutes, anyway."
"The first time I went out with Ivy, we went to a rock 'n' roll show, and she wore a see-through
dress with nothin' underneath it. That's when I discovered she was an exhibitionist."
- LUX INTERIOR
Ivy: "And part of its goal is instant gratification."
Lux: "Savin' the world sounds like a lot of hard work to me, y'know?
(he laughs). I sorta feel like I don't have time today, maybe tomorrow,
y'know, I can get to it."
How much do you have to do with reality? Can people in the street
relate to you?
Ivy: "Ah, no. They don't seem to be able to. But, you know, that's
problems they have with reality. We don't fit into whatever their
narrow exposure is. That's OK, though."
Have you ever wanted to be role models?
Ivy: "I think we're both exhibitionists, so that must be an innate urge to
some kinda leadership. And apparently we have some kind of
leadership qualities, cos we seem to suck a lot of people into following
our whims, you know. So, ah, yeah, I hope we're good role models."
Lux: "I don't care whether I'm good or not, just so long as I'm a role
model. . ."
When did you discover you were exhibitionists?
Lux: "Well, the first time I went out with her, we went to see a rock 'n'
roll show, and she wore a see-through dress with nothin' underneath
it. That's when I discovered she was an exhibitionist. We were on acid
at the time, so it must have been a long time ago. 'Bout '72 or
Ivy: "Me, I don't know. I was kind of a loner. I quit trying to impress
people at a pretty early age. I'm sure you're born that way. It's like
being born with a stripe down your back or somethin'. It's just there. I
think meetin' each other helped. Havin' someone else to do somethin'
with kinda empowers you."
It takes a certain dedication to do what The Cramps have done.
Some might call it fanaticism.
Lux: "I don't know. We don't know of nothin' else."
Ivy: "I ignore people, I'm sure plenty of people are thinkin'. Who's she
think she is? But that's not my problem. I don't know what stops a lot
of people from doing various things but my criteria is. Is someone
gonna hurt me for doin' this? And other than that, why not do it,
y'know? As long as someone isn't gonna shoot me.
"I mean. What's anyone really gonna do to you? Even your parents.
Now, what are your parents really gonna do to you? Come on, they're not gonna kill you, they're not gonna hurt you, so. . . do what
you want, y'know? It's that easy."
It seems like rock 'n' roll has ceased to be an effective way to create a generation gap.
Lux: "Yeah, maybe that's because, today, the parents are cooler than the kids. That's the problem."
Ivy: "It must be weird for, y'know, some 40-year-old with a 20-year-old, square kid."
RIGHT FROM the start. The Cramps have made modern rock 'n' roll. At the point when classic rock was denied a seat anywhere in
the inner sanctum of punk, they came along and sucked it through a timewarp, injecting equal parts US TV trash, credibly devilish,
blues-derived imagery and sci-fi fascination into the rockin' bones of R&B. They reminded the punk generation that it was a viable
Lux: "Yeah, there was a definite anti-rock 'n' roll sentiment in those punk days - no more Beatles, Rolling Stones, all that. But the
thing that makes rock 'n' roll great is that it's timeless. "The '70s almost got into folk music, where they'd sing so much about what was
goin' on right at that time, those little minuscule things. . .I mean, singin' about, ah, the Sandinistas, or somethin' like that, was, ah...
'A 45 record can be imprinted with the ghost of whoever owned it in the '50s and played it and danced to
it. Trash and spirituality go together." - Poison Ivy
Should it actually be confined to certain subjects?
"Yeah, I think so. I hate to hear any rock 'n' roll that talks about religion. Religion is the stoopidest thing that ever happened on earth.
I think it's something for fools and people that are against it are fools too. Who cares? There are quite a few things, though. Rock 'n'
roll is about freedom and goin' crazy and sex and ah. . .all the things that frighten people."
Why do those things frighten people?
"Well, basically people are scared, and they're always lookin' for someone to tell 'em it's not scary, y'know? As soon as you're born,
the doctor takes you out and starts smackin' you around and stuff., .and then there's a whole life of things to frighten you. What
makes rock 'n' roll great is it's something that gives you the energy to rise above all that stuff. "But the thing I notice about song lyrics
today is that they don't, ah. . . write about anything! A lot of the time in heavy metal, I like really great dumb lyrics, but it seems the
lyrics they write now are in between stupid and some sort of sensitive artists. They're in that mid-range, mid-land. . .they're mediocre.
I mean, maybe there's some purpose in people having
dull lives, but I can't figure out why."
Ivy: "We're outsiders in a musical sense, because any
other band seems to just zero in on one facet, and
don't get hold of the whole thing. "Some of the
influences that we have just go so far back, diggin'
blues music and R&B and all, and that's years and
years, not just a matter of discovering the music and
all of a sudden starting to listen to it. That's burnt in
our brains. I'm not sure that someone else could just
come along, dig what we're doin' and just step into
THE CRAMPS are touched by the darkness of the
delta blues and voodoo lore. But later generations of
psychobillies and goths picked up the thread only
cosmetically, not sussing its roots and The Cramps'
fix of genuinely scary hellhound mumbo-jumbo and
comic horror flick imagery remains unchallenged.
Ivy: "The origin of that is from our very original posters,
like in 1976 when we started playing and we'd write
flamboyant things to try and drag people in to our
shows. Like, we invented the term psychobilly, and rockabilly voodoo. They
were carny words. And there was a kind of hoodoo goin' on at our shows, but
we meant rock 'n' roll hoodoo, like instant raw power magic that just happens,
not because of some old religious practice or anything. . ."
Here looms the ghost of Bryan Gregory, original Cramps guitarist (until the
mid-'80s they used two guitars and no bass) who for some time was rumoured
missing or dead in best Robert Johnson style due to his occult dabblings
Ivy: "I think Bryan actually bought into the publicity which came afterwards,
like, reading someone else's misinterpretation of yourself and buying into it,
you know, he was attempting to get into it seriously, and that just became like
some kind of Spinal Tap joke.
Lux: "This is somebody that would take an amazing amount of energy to read
a menu! So how this guy knows anything about the occult. . .we went through
the hippy days and we know about that stuff. We know what it is. But it doesn't
make it any more powerful than those dumb lyrics we were talking about. And
voodoo is a thing that's used for white magic a lot too."
Ivy: "We believe in magic I think, and we believe if there is voodoo at our
shows, then it's that if we can believe something is gonna happen and anyone
in the audience believes it, then it will. You have to at least have that foolish
faith that something incredible is gonna happen."
Lux: "I think we believe in some kinda spirituality, not necessarily a good or a
bad thing, but just another thing beside your physical body. Somethin' like
Doesn't this kind of thing clash with your love of tack and trash ephemera?
Lux: "But trash is reality. You go back and watch, say 'Plan 9 From Outer
Space', or any old crummy movie that everybody says is horrible and, the
thing is, you're seeing real people who can't act - and they're not in sets,
they're in somebody's living room. . .there's a lot of reality there. If you watch
some great MGM movie from the same time, you'll see no reality."
Ivy: "As far as collecting trash, or whatever, material items can become
imprinted. . .they're magical items. A 45 record can be imprinted with the
ghost of whoever owned it in the '50s and played it and danced to it. An old
guitar can be imprinted with the ghost of whoever played it - whether they're dead now, or not, they still leave ghosts and I believe in
ghosts and I don't think you have to die to leave 'em. Trash and spirituality go very well together."
If they do, then The Cramps may yet cast their spell over the globe, even though half its teenage population has given up on rock 'n'
roll to jack its body to Acid House and the other half is going green or else being duped by the daft, misogynistic mumblings of the
metal wannabees. But anyway, until the fever takes a hold, the rock'n' roll grail is safe in their hands.
(This interview was first publishined in SOUNDS on February 17th 1990 reprinted from the Don't Care Archives)