Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, February 06, 2009
      ( 2/06/2009 06:55:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"THE KIND OF MUSIC THAT DON'T SAVE SOULS" Saw Lux Interior and the Cramps perform in a small Urbana club back in the IRS days. It was, to my ears, the band's peak era and Lux was at his most deranged: slavering and shouting through "She Said," fellating the microphone after sticking it down his too-tight pants, vamping his way through "Goo Goo Muck." Stood three feet from that small club stage, and I couldn't keep my eyes off him -- even with sexy wife guitarist Poison Ivy heating up the stage. The guy was one hell of a rock 'n' roller.

I've happily followed the Cramps through their ragged recorded career. They never much changed their willfully primitive sound: a wondrous blend of rockabilly, surf and psychotic reactions. You could call if "psychobilly, " but that doesn't really cover all the elements that (barely) held the band's music together. They were the first band I'd ever heard cover a song from a Russ Meyer movie, while their remakes of "Green Door" and "Route 66" made both standards sound more sinister than you could ever imagine.

Band leads Lux and Ivy had a collector's love for musical and cinematic trash, and they clearly enjoyed sharing this appreciation with their fans. First time I heard "TV Set," the crazed ("I cut your head off and put it in my teevee set/I use your eyeballs for dials on my teevee set.") opener to their debut disc, Songs the Lord Taught Us, I knew I was hearing one of Those Bands: a group I would happily follow until they stopped making music even if the rest of the ungrateful world forgot about 'em.

The Cramps' music has helped to get me through some tough times in the past, and will probably do so work in the future. Only this week, I read that the 60-year-old Lux (real name: Erick Lee Purkhiser) has passed on. "Life is short and filled with stuff," the Cramps man sang on more than one track. Too damn true.

ADDENDUM: Here's a piece of concert footage ("I Was A Teenage Werewolf") that was lensed for the IRS concert film, URGH! A Music War. Would've been around the time I saw 'em.

I've raved about the band's concert disc, Smell of Female, and their last full studio disc, 2003's Fiends of Dope Island, in earlier posts.
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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