All about the The Cramps - Psychotic reaction





photo: Danny Hole
photo: Rocky Schenck
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 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 colored the room, The CRAMPS also picked and chose amongst the psychotic debris of previous rock eras - instrumental rock, surf, psychedelia, and sixties punk. And then they added the junkiest element of all — themselves.
— J. H. Sasfy, Professor of Rockology
from the liner notes of The Cramps 1979 release Gravest Hits

It would be almost impossible to have never heard of The CRAMPS. Their career has been the stuff of legend.  Dangerously bizarre but most of all cool, The CRAMPS represent everything that is truly reprehensible about rock’n’roll.  Founding members Lux Interior (the psycho-sexual Elvis/Werewolf hybrid from hell) and guitar-slinging soul-mate Poison Ivy (the ultimate bad girl vixen) are the architects of a wicked sound that distills a cross of swamp water, moonshine and nitro down to a dangerous and unstable musical substance. Their cultural impact has spawned a legion of devil cults and dance-floor catfights, and created in its wake a cavalcade of cave-stomping imitators. As punk rock pioneers in the late seventies, they cut their teeth on the stages of CBGB and Max’s Kansas City and recorded their first record at Sam Phillips legendary Sun Studios, funded mainly by Ivy’s income as a dominatrix in NYC. They coined the now popular term “psychobilly” on their 1976 gig posters. Their hair-raising live performances are still a total, no-holds-barred rock’n’roll assault. After a quarter century of mayhem, they’re too far gone to even consider any other course.

The Cramps were an American rock 'n' roll band, formed in 1976 and active until 2009. The band split after the death of lead singer Lux Interior. Their line-up rotated much over their existence, with the husband and wife duo of Interior and lead guitarist Poison Ivy the only permanent members. The addition of band members guitarist Bryan Gregory and drummer Pam Ballam comprised the first complete lineup in April 1976.
They were part of the early CBGB punk rock movement that had emerged in New York. The Cramps are noted as influencing a number of musical styles: not only were they one of the first garage punk bands, they are also widely recognized as one of the prime innovators of psychobilly, and they inspired many of the early goth rock bands

Their music is mostly in rockabilly form, played at varying tempos, with a minimal drumkit. An integral part of the early Cramps sound is dual guitars, without a bassist. The focus of their songs' lyrical content and their image is camp humor, and retro horror/sci-fi b-movie iconography.
Their sound was heavily influenced by early rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll like Link Wray and Hasil Adkins, 1960s surf music acts such as The Ventures and Dick Dale, 1960s garage rock artists like The Standells, The Gants, The Trashmen, The Green Fuz and The Sonics,[citation needed] as well as the post-glam/early punk scene from which they emerged. They also were influenced to a degree by the Ramones and Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who was an influence for their style of theatrical horror-blues.
In turn, The Cramps have influenced countless subsequent bands in the garage, punk and rockabilly revival subgenres, and helped create the psychobilly genre. "Psychobilly" was a term coined1 by The Cramps, although Lux Interior maintained that the term did not describe their own style


Lux Interior (born Erick Lee Purkhiser) and Poison Ivy (born Kristy Marlana Wallace) met in Sacramento, California [6] in 1972. In light of their common artistic interests and shared devotion to record collecting, they decided to form The Cramps. Lux took his stage name from a car ad, and Ivy claimed to have received hers in a dream (she was first Poison Ivy Rorschach, taking her last name from that of the inventor of the Rorschach test). In 1973, they moved to Akron, Ohio, and then to New York in 1975, soon entering into CBGB's early punk scene with other emerging acts like the Ramones, Patti Smith, Television, and Mink DeVille. The lineup in 1976 was Poison Ivy Rorschach, Lux Interior, Bryan Gregory (guitar), and his sister Pam "Ballam" Gregory (drums).
In a short period of time, the Cramps changed drummers twice; Miriam Linna (later of Nervus Rex, The Zantees, and The A-Bones and co-owner of Norton Records) replaced Pam Ballam, and Nick Knox (formerly with the Electric Eels) replaced Linna in September 1977. In the late 1970s, the Cramps briefly shared a rehearsal space with The Fleshtones, and performed regularly in New York at clubs such as CBGB's and Max's Kansas City, releasing two independent singles produced by Alex Chilton at Ardent Studios in Memphis in 1977 before being signed by Miles Copeland III to the young I.R.S. Records label.
In June 1978 they gave a landmark free concert for patients at the California State Mental Hospital in Napa, recorded on a Sony Portapak video camera by the San Francisco collective Target Video and later released as Live at Napa State Mental Hospital. Once back to the east coast, they played the Revamped 40's swing Club, "The Meadowbrook" in NJ which had a huge stage and dance floor and were the featured act, opened by Nozon and the Smiths. Then back in NYC for a short session in the studio. They released the two singles again on their 1979 Gravest Hits EP, before Chilton brought them back that year to Memphis to record their first full length album, Songs The Lord Taught Us, at Phillips Recording, operated by former Sun Records label owner Sam Phillips.
[edit]1980s


Poison Ivy performing with the Cramps, 1991, Tokyo
The Cramps relocated to Los Angeles in 1980 and hired guitarist Kid Congo Powers of The Gun Club. While recording their second LP, Psychedelic Jungle, the band and Miles Copeland began to dispute royalties and creative rights. The ensuing court case prevented them from releasing anything until 1983, when they recorded Smell of Female live at New York's Peppermint Lounge; Kid Congo Powers subsequently departed. Mike Metoff of The Pagans (cousin of Nick Knox) was the final second guitarist – albeit only live – of the Cramps' pre-bass era. He accompanied them on an extensive European tour in 1984 (that had been cancelled twice because they couldn't find a suitable guitarist) which included four sold out nights at the legendary Hammersmith Palais. They also recorded performances of "Thee Most Exalted Potentate of Love" and "You Got Good Taste" which were broadcast on the acclaimed UK music show The Tube (the mid-summer night special).
In 1985 the Cramps recorded a one-off track for the horror movie The Return of the Living Dead called "Surfin' Dead", on which Ivy played bass as well as guitar. With the release of 1986's A Date With Elvis, the Cramps permanently added a bass guitar to the mix, but had trouble finding a suitable player, so Ivy temporarily filled in as the band's bassist. Fur (Jennifer Dixon) joined them on the world tour to promote the album. Their popularity in the UK was at its peak as evidenced by the six nights at Hammersmith in London, three at the Odeon (as well as many other sell out dates throughout the UK) and then three at the Palais when they returned from the continent. Each night of the tour opened with the band coming on one at a time each: Knox, Fur, Ivy and then Lux before launching into their take on Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel". The album featured what was to become a pre-dominating theme of their work from here on: a move away from the B-movie horror focus to an increased emphasis on sexual double entendre. The album met with differing fates on either side of the Atlantic: in Europe, it sold over 250,000 copies, while in the U.S. the band had difficulty finding a record company prepared to release it until 1990. It also included their first UK Singles Chart hit: "Can Your Pussy Do The Dog?"
It was not until 1986 that the Cramps found a suitable permanent bass player: Candy del Mar (of Satan's Cheerleaders), who made her recorded debut on the raw live album RockinnReelininAucklandNewZealandxxx, which was followed by the studio album Stay Sick in 1990.



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