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The Cramps

Related: rockabilly - trash - American music


The Cramps are a punk rock/rockabilly band whose only permanent members have been Lux Interior (Erick Purkhiser) and Poison Ivy (Kristy Wallace), the lead singer and lead guitarist respectively. Their musical style is fuzz-toned, stripped-down rockabilly, mostly in twelve bar blues form, played at varying, though usually fast, tempos, with two guitars, vocals and a very minimal drumkit. In more recent years they have added a bass player. The content of their songs and image is sleaze, trashy Americana, sexual fetishism, and a lot of cheap, horror B-movie cliche. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cramps [Jun 2005]

Proto-rock n roll

Influences on the sound [of the The Cramps are early rockabilly and proto-rock n roll like Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry and Hasil Adkins, 1960s surf music acts such as The Ventures and Dick Dale; 1960s garage rock artists like The Seeds, The Gants, The Sonics, and The Monks; as well as the early punk scene from which they emerged. They also owe a lot to Screamin' Jay Hawkins for having invented the theatrical horror-blues stage act. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cramps [Mar 2005]

Horror and Rock 'n Roll [...]

It all appears to have started with The Ramones and The Cramps in the late seventies. Their early songs collectively referred to films like Freaks, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Fly and Blood Feast, and their trash-punk/shockabilly has spawned many admirers and imitators. But this new fusion of rock and horror was different. Gone were the oh-so-mysterious wonderings of Brian Jones, Jimmy Page and Black Sabbath, whose music attempted to seriously penetrate the dark forces of satanism. Gone too were the camp sensibilities of horror as promoted by Glam acts like David Bowie, Alice Cooper and The Tubes. The eighties have nurtured heady hommages and delerious debts to anything and everything trashy, cheapo, B-Grade, tacky, tasteless, illicit, sick, wacko, over-the-top, perverse, freaky, psychotic and maniacal. The endless offspring of The Cramps and The Ramones have formed a subculture whose epitaph reads : "sex, drugs, rock'n'gore equals teenage heaven". -- Philip Brophy, http://media-arts.rmit.edu.au/Phil_Brophy/R&PVCSartcls/RockGore.html [Nov 2004]

Rock and Roll Archaeology

The band's reputation for rock and roll archaeology was cemented several years ago with the release of some compilations that gathered together vintage recordings of songs covered by the Cramps.

Among the earliest of these was SONGS WE TAUGHT THE CRAMPS, a pressing of 1000 that introduced those lucky enough to find the album to the original "Rockin' Bones," by Ronnie Dawson, The Phantom's "Love Me," and a brace of hot oldies by the likes of Johnny Burnette, Roy Orbison, the Third Bardo, the Rumblers, the Sonics and the Ventures.
The opening volume of the BORN BAD series of compilations shares some tracks with SONGS WE TAUGHT THE CRAMPS, but adds Wanda Jackson's "Funnel of Love," and seldom heard music by Glen Glenn, the Groopies and others.

Born Bad series () - Various Artists

  • Born Bad V.6 () - Various Artists [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    1. Jailhouse Rock 2. Beat Out My Love 3. Fourth Dimension 4. Oo-Ma-Liddi 5. He's Waitin 6. Dirty Robber 7. Yum Yum Yamaha 8. Mini-Skirt Blues 9. Hipsville 29 B.C. (I Need Help) 10. Green Door 11. Pretty Plaid Skirt (And Long Black Sox) 12. When I Get The Blues (Strangeness In Me) 13. Golden Boy 14. Get Off The Road (& Spoken Intro)

    Ghoulardi and the Cramps

    Ghoulardi was the irreverent movie host on a show entitled "Shock Theater" on Cleveland, Ohio's Channel 8 from 1963 to 1966. Ghoulardi was played by Ernie Anderson who later went on to wider fame as the "voice" of the ABC network. Shock Theater and Ghoulardi were immensely popular and helped launch a series of spin-off movie hosts still going to this day. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghoulardi [Apr 2005]

    The Cramps
    Once upon a time, Lux Interior was born in Akron, Ohio....a desolate industrialized part of America. Little Lux was heavily into EC comics, b-movies, TV and radio - especially the radio DJ the 'Mad Daddy' who introduced Lux to early rock n roll. He played an eclectic mixture of R&B, Doo Wop, crazed rock'n'roll and novelty songs. Also there was the Ohio character of Ghoulardi, a TV horror host. Some of Ghoulardi's catch phrases stayed with Lux and the Cramps...."Stay Sick!" "Turn Blue!" and "Purple Knif" (...which is fink spelled backwards.)

    Ivy was born and raised in Sacramento, California and was the youngest of three children. Ivy's course in life was set when she bought her first record, Sheb Wooley's "Purple People Eater". She was fanatically obsessed with primal rock n roll and loved the instrumentalists Link Wray and Duane Eddy and surf bands. She taught herself guitar as she listened to old records, watching b-movies and horror movies....much like Lux Interior who eventually found himself in Sacramento.....

    He picked up Ivy hitch-hiking around 1972 (or did they meet in an art class? )-- and they have been inseparable ever since. The records they voraciously collected would be the basis of the band they would be forming. They survived by selling "illegal stuff", second-hand clothes on market stalls and taking part time jobs that would never last long....eventually they moved to Ohio. Lux first adopted the name of Raven Beauty, and then Vip Vop, but settled on Lux Interior --from a Cleveland car advertisement which was illustrating the latest features! Ivy's name came to her in a dream....Poison Ivy Rorschach. Lux and Ivy decided to move to N.Y.C. in 1975 to begin their musical career. A lot of revolutionary bands were playing at the time: the Heartbreakers, Television, Dead Boys, Ramones, Suicide, Talking Heads, and Blondie. Lux met Bryan Gregory as they both worked in a record store, and quickly became friends. Bryan quickly bought a cheap guitar--not realizing Ivy was the guitarist! Since no one was willing to play bass, they became the first rockabilly-influenced band in history with no bass player! --http://members.shaw.ca/thecramps/bio.html [Apr 2005]

    I noticed your last album was dedicated to GoulardiÖHe just past away, right?

    Lux: Yup.

    Out here Zacherly is pretty much THE Horror Host. Can you explain to our readers the difference between the two, I donít think most people are too familiar with the horror hosts and that whole phenomenon.

    Lux: They were different people, Zacharly and Goulardi. To say they were just Horror Hosts, they were much more than that, they were somewhere between a horror host and Hitler. Goulardi, he was just way out of control, always causing trouble, always in trouble but he was so powerful that he could get away with it. Kind of like Elvis Presley shaking his hips on television, he was so powerful he could get away with it, everyone was upset about it but they couldnít do anything about it because it was bringing in too much money. When Goulardi was on TV in the 60ís crime just plummeted because no one was out, they were all watching Goulardi. He was just a totally rebellious character. A good model for young people and was one of the forerunners of what later became youth counterculture type thing.

    They had a lot of audiences based on television more than letís say the movies themselves.

    Lux: Yeah,oh yeah. The movies were, of course those movies were great and everything and thatís part of it, but the part where they played music it was like a party, just the chance to go nuts, the music like Goulardi played "Poppa Ooh Mao Mao" by the Revingtons, wild great rockíníroll records that he played during the time that he was on. He would blow up things. He was just a role model.

    Have you seen any tapes of Zacharlyís show that he had in the 60ís with the house and the Standells and the Young Lions, they always used to play. I used to live near there when I was little.

    Lux: Yeah, Iíve never seen Zacharly, Iíve seen the video tape of Zacherly introducing trailers and stuff which is great. I never saw his show but Iím always a big fan of Zacherly in the monster magazines. He was just an amazing. I think that Goulardi and Zacherly were probably really the best ones. Iíve always loved Goulardi and as a matter of fact we often play his hit single.

    Our band did "Coolest little monster" with Zacherly on the B side of one of our singles. He got a new record deal so he redid that song. He originally was going to sing it with us but he couldnít do it because of his contract, he was still signing by contract so he let us take from the original record the intro and the middle so on our record itís him doing the introÖ.We see him all the time. Have you ever gone to the Chiller Theatre conventions. --http://www.gravyzine.com/LuxInteriorInterview.html [Apr 2005]

    Ernie Anderson was born Nov. 12, 1923 in Lynn, Massachusetts. He began working in radio at Burlington, Vermont's WSKI-AM in 1946. He met Tim Conway at WHK-AM in Cleveland and began writing with him. They were hired by Cleveland's WJW-TV in 1961 where they created "Ernie's Place", a daytime show of movies and comedy sketches. He created the beatnik character "Ghoulardi" for himself, wearing a lab coat, fright wig, fake goatee beard and moustache and became popular introducing WJW-TV's Friday night horror movie show "Shock Theater". Rose Marie, best known as "Sally" on The Dick Van Dyke Show, recommended him to Steve Allen who recruited him for his own show. He had many run-ins with his management in Cleveland and moved to California full time in 1966. He appeared in two episodes of Conway's TV series, "Rango" in 1967 and then formed a comedy act with his old friend. More television followed and in 1970 he revived the Ghoulardi character for the Cleveland TV station, WBMX-TV. He was hired as 'the voice of ABC' in the late '70s where he continued to work well into the '80s. He died of cancer on 6 February 1997. --http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0026700/bio [Apr 2005]

    Ernie Anderson / Ghoulardi: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0026700/bio

    John Zacherle: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0951650/

    see also: The Cramps


    1. The Cramps - Bad Music for Bad People (1984) [1 CD, Amazon US]
      This album was my introduction to The Cramps, and it highlights the best of their early (and best) albums on I.R.S. Records, from the days when that was the most happening punk/new wave label. The Cramps successfully mix rockabilly, surf trash, punk, country and garage into an outta sight 60's B-horror movie sound that opens the ears,boggles the mind, and gets you to jump around the room, insane and highly recommended. -- John Spokus for Amazon.com

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