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RIP Lux Interior

On Feb 6th, the great frontman of the Cramps died. Check out BS co-owner Rob Miller's obituary in Blurt

THEY SPREAD LIKE FUNGUS: The Cramps
BY ROB MILLER
http://www. blurt-online. com/features/view/275/

Lux Interior, the singer, showman, shaman, rock and rock archeologist, thinking and fucking man's Elvis by way of Vincent Price, huffing, puffing, grinding leather-panted and stiletto-healed leader of the Cramps died on February 4th. They were/are my favorite band. Ever. Lux, guitarist Poison Ivy and the rest messed me up but good and I never really got to thank them for it.

I can still distinctly recall the exact time and place I first heard the Cramps in 1981: on the late night, left of the dial radio show "Radios in Motion" broadcast over the oily waters of the Detroit River from Windsor, Ontario. Amidst the preening synth-pop, humorless art rock and knuckleheaded hardcore so prevalent at the time came "Human Fly." The fuzz. THAT fuzz. It crawled into my ears through the headphones and gave me an itch I scratch to this day. It was like a light switch turning on and I ain't been right since. They oozed, I throbbed.

That week I picked up the Gravest Hits EP, Songs the Lord Taught Us LP and the Drug Train 7" at Sam's Jams in Ferndale. I have since worn out all but the 7'' from untold numbers of spins.

While everyone in my high school was going ga-ga over the Go-Gos, I had Poison Ivy. While the great rockabilly scare brought on by the Stray Cats caused a run on rayon shirts and leopard skin creepers, I was soaking in, goggled-eyed, the fatback reverb, the scuzzy howl, the horrorshow ethos and the campy heresies contained in those grooves. In a punk/hardcore scene where regionalism ruled and every town had their bands, and, at least in Detroit, "from DC" or "from LA" seemed to be on every other flier (back in the day when most info on shows in the underground was disseminated via fliers), the first Cramps one I ever saw said " from Outer Space." I was not then, nor am I now, inclined to disagree.

I'm the night head hunter lookin' for some head...

Seeing the Cramps in concert cemented my nascent love of live music. Lux was a spectacle. There was no mopey shoe gazing or static crooning, there was only pure, feral conviction and, in the face of indifference, confrontation. He was going to take you on sweaty thrill ride whether you wanted to go or not by any means necessary. If he had to strip naked or climb a PA stack or deep throat his mic, he would do it in the name of the naughty spirit of true rock and roll rebellion. Once, I saw them on acid and it is an experience I want to neither repeat nor forget. One does not want to cheapen one's conversion on the Road to Damascus, you know.

From the Cramps, it was a short trip to the Gun Club, X, the Meat Puppets, Panther Burns and a host of other bands that were churning through the guts of Americana and fermenting in me a love of music that exists between the genres, that looks back to look forward. Thanks to them I discovered the REAL freaks and weirdos, never-beens and no-hit wonders that lurk in the nooks and crannies of rock and roll's basement, and each song they covered was like a mysterious rune from a wild and hastily hidden past. Forgotten or never known American treasures like Hasil Adkins, Andre Williams, Ronnie Dawson, the Trashmen, the Novas, the Phantom and Charlie Feathers found new opportunities to entice and enthrall and dement. They exposed the mainstream freaks and weirdos like the Misfits and Marilyn Manson, who scared and titillated the dollars out of suburban kiddies' pockets, to be the frauds they were. The Cramps didn't try to be out there, they were out there.

Sure, the latter years saw them trading on their increasingly cartoonish image, but they were never mere shtick. If they were, they wouldn't have influenced a thousand other bands to get real, real gone for a change, or a dope like me to someday start a record label. Lux could sing in that rare way that was leather tough for the guys but would make the girls sneak out their bedroom windows to meet him behind the biker bar. The Cramps were beyond punk or psychobilly, beyond trite hyphenates like sleaze-rock or horror-rock or garage-punk. They were the Cramps.

One knew exactly what that meant.

I'm the king of the jungle,
They call me Tigerman

It is somehow befitting that Lux Interior should die as the mainstream media waxes rhapsodic over the 50th anniversary of The Day The Music Died, when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash. Rock and Roll, like all families, has characters that can be sometimes uncomfortable. The nostalgia factories and revisionist musical historians would like us to enjoy it (and consume it) as all virginal Peggy Sues and Donnas and rave ons and la bambas and sock hops and malts, memories to recall fondly, safely, sitting on the plastic slip-covered sofa, thumbing through the photo album with your kindly Aunt. The Cramps, though, were like the dirty uncle we all secretly hoped would come to a family reunion and tell us stories about knife fights and scoring with showgirls, show us the shrunken head he bought at a bazaar "somewhere out East." and then wink, give us a boozy, smoky laugh and let us take a pull off his flask if Mom wasn't looking. Both sides of the family of rock and roll sang about the virtues of wanting to kiss your sweet lips, it's just that the Cramps aimed a little lower, and a little truer than most spoke of in decent company.

It is not hyperbole to say that Bloodshot Records would not exist if not for the Cramps and the damage they inflicted on me. I have no doubt that dozens of other labels and hundreds of bands could make that same claim. Without them, I might not ever have known the joy and freedom that comes from mutating and molesting forms and sounds and tropes that have come before us. Beyond music, it's the way I've lived my life. For that, I am grateful to them.

Lux Interior is dead. There will never be any performer like him again. That is at once high praise and very, very sad. It's time to listen to their dissection of "Surfin' Bird," which teeters on the edge of disintegration. Lunacy. Exquisite. Epochal. I hope the end of the earth sounds something like it. Truly it would be a joyful apocalypse.

The Cramps were born to give us fever...be it Fahrenheit or centigrade!

***

Rob Miller is co-owner of Chicago's Bloodshot Records label.

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