Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Cramps' Lux Interior Passes Away At Age 62

The Cramps were really the only band from the punk era that mattered to me. The Clash and Sex Pistols had some great songs and I've definitely enjoyed listening to them over the years, but The Cramps were really the only band that I identified with. Back in high school I took a trip to Europe with my school German class. There were about 20 of us, many away from home without our parents for the first time, and it was one of the most exciting times of my life. I was open to anything, and everything was thrown at me all at once. Legally drinking a beer or three in public, at the age of 16? Sure! Staying up 'til 3am on the streets of a large city? Why not? None of my really close friends were on that trip, but I bonded with a guy named Ken who was in a punk band called The Pink Slips. He had cool hair and a leather jacket with the cover art from The Cramps' Bad Music For Bad People on the back, a cover which featured singer Lux Interior in a ghoulish artist's rendering. He told me about how great they were and how they were a huge influence on his band. Our first stop on our whirlwind trip around Europe was London, and the first place we went was King's Road, the birthplace of the UK punk movement. This was 1986, nearly a decade after punk was at it's peak there, so what we saw wasn't nearly as vibrant as it was before, but there were still tons of cool clothing shops, hair salons (all advertising mohawks and razor cuts, but not in a touristy way), and record shops packed with vintage vinyl. When I got back home I picked up a cassette copy of Gravest Hits in a used record shop, and at that point I had my first exposure to rockabilly (or psychobilly) and surf rock. It was no better introduction to this kind of music - there are only a handful of artists that did what they did with the amount of passion that Lux & Ivy delivered over 3 decades as the leaders of The Cramps. The book Incredibly Strange Music Volume 1 goes into great detail in an interview with them, revealing how they met, how they collected music (almost all vinyl) and how they immersed themselves in 50's/60's pop culture. Over the following years I slowly collected each of their releases - I didn't have a turntable at the time, so at first I collected cassettes, then moved on to CD's. In the 90's I was fortunate enough to have seen them twice - first with Brent Cole of What's Up Magazine at Oz in Seattle in 1992, then a couple of years later at KNDD's Deck The Hall Ball in 1994 (headlining a bill that included, and I'm not making this up, Sheryl Crow, Radiohead, Jesus & Mary Chain, Butt Trumpet and Fretblanket). I think they've swung through the NW a couple more times over the years, but as I've grown up and now have family responsibilities, it's not as easy to get down to Seattle for shows. In a way though, I'm glad I saw them when I did - it was definitely after their peak, but man, were they still a mighty force on stage. They were a great, great band and will be sadly missed by many.


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