Posted 02/05/2009 by cal
Few artists have had as deep an impact on the trajectory of my musical journey as The Cramps, a group which came to a definitive end yesterday with the death of founding singer Lux Interior. Like Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa, I was drawn to Lux in my youth for his humor and shock value, but there was also just a visceral thrill in the echoey, punkish guitars and Lux's primal howling that grabbed me in a way I couldn't compare to anything else at the time. Over time I fell in love with his abiding passion for resurrecting the demons of true rock and roll and making it something my parents could hate and fear again. His gift for writing demented, clever rockabilly songs was matched only by his need to dust off forgotten classics from the 50's and bring them to a new audience, making them his own in the process. As a singer he was a cross between Elvis and a b-movie psychotic wolfman, reverb-drenched and over the top. He brought rockabilly back from the dead in the late 70's, and his influence has kept it alive ever since. I didn't even discover the Cramps until the mid-90's, but they instantly made everything else in my collection seem timid and boring. I listened to little else for months. At the time it was as much the intoxication, horror-film imagery and sexual perversion as the punk attitude, but now I listen to The Cramps for the pure soul and raw energy that still emanates from (almost) everything they recorded. And, Lux's crazed imagination can still make me laugh. "Spiders in my eyelids and ghosts in the cheese." 'Nuff said.
Just last year, I finally located one of my holy grails: an original vinyl copy of The Cramps' first E.P., Gravest Hits. I brought it home, stuck it on the turntable, dusted it off and put the needle on. The glorious clang of "Human Fly" rang through the house. I got halfway through "The Way I Walk" before my downstairs neighbor called. "Cal, what the hell are you doing, man?" I hope he wasn't exaggerating with his claim that his pictures were falling off the walls. I didn't have it up that loud, after all, but the destructive yelp of Lux Interior is a powerful thing. He didn't write these next couple of lines, but he sang them the way I'll always remember them, his preemptive epitaph:
"The rock 'n roll daddy has done passed on
but my bones will keep a' rockin' long after I'm gone"