I wanna leave a happy memory when I go,
I wanna leave something to let the whole world know,
That the rock 'n' roll daddy has a done passed on,
But my bones will keep a rockin' long after I've gone...
Lux Interior left instructions as to what should happen in the event of his demise. We're supposed to rock on, which is exactly what I intend to do. But not before paying proper respect.
It's impossible to calculate the effect The Cramps' music has had on me personally. It was largely through The Cramps that I learned to appreciate the pleasures of junk culture--the stuff I had always been taught to look down on. More than any punk band, The Cramps taught me that rock'n'roll music is at its most powerful when it is at its simplest. More than any other band (with the possible exception of The Ramones) The Cramps taught me that rock'n'roll music should be fun. More than any other band The Cramps taught me not to eat stuff off the sidewalk (no matter how good it looks). I literally do not know what would have become of me without The Cramps.
I can't think of a better description of The Cramps' music than that provided on the back of their first EP, Gravest Hits, by Dr. J.H. Satisfy, Professor of Rockology, American Rock'n'Roll Institute, Washington D.C. U.S.A.:
In the Spring of 1976, The Cramps began to fester in a NYC apartment. Without fresh air or natural light, the group developed its uniquely mutant strain of rock'n'roll aided only by the sickly, blue rays of late night TV.
While the jackhammer rhythms of punk were proliferating in NYC, The Cramps dove into the deepest recesses of of the rock'n'roll psyche for the most primal of all rhythmic impulses - Rockabilly - the sound of Southern culture falling apart in a blaze of shudders and hiccups.
As late night Sci-Fi reruns coloured the room, The Cramps also picked and chose amongst the psychotic debris of previous rock eras - instrumental rock, surf, psychadelia, and sixties punk.
And then they added the junkiest element of all - Themselves.
Nick Knox, stoic drummer with the history of the big beat written in his left hand. Ivy Rorschach, Voodoo guitarist with the rhythm method down as pat as her blonde beauty. Bryan Gregory, flipping cigs and fractured guitar runs at the incredulous mob. And Lux Interior, the band's frontal lobe, wherein Elvis gets crossed with Vincent Price and decent folks ask, "What hath God wrought?"
The Cramps don't pummel and you won't pogo. They ooze, you'll throb.
The rock 'n' roll daddy has done passed on, but his bones will keep a rockin' long after he's gone.
I'm breaking my usual rule about not posting music that is commercially available because "Rockin' Bones" is available on the Psychedelic Jungle/Gravest Hits CD two-fer. And if you don't own--at the very least--The Cramps IRS records, go out and buy them right now, then work your way through the rest of their catalog. But this version is kind of special because it was transcribed directly from a vinyl copy of Psychedelic Jungle purchased by a genuine mutant teenager.
Next week: "Songs The Cramps Taught Us."