Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A Date with Poison Ivy: My Epic Cramps Post

I just got back from ten days in Canada on Friday 2 November. There’s not much to do in rural Quebec besides eat and sleep (I was averaging 11 hours a night), so at the moment am looking and feeling fat’n’sassy, albeit jetlagged to hell and fighting off a cold.
Anyway, I’ll probably post something about my trip to Canada another time. (There’s actually quite a backlog of stuff I want to blog about – it’s been a while). My “art project” while I was in Canada was experimenting with my mother’s photo scanner and transcribing my 1990  interview with Poison Ivy Rorschach of The Cramps to post as a blog. Virtually all of my music journalism from the 1990s isn’t online, so I thought I’d better start rectifying that. Over the years younger friends would look dazzled when I’d tell them about the punk royalty I managed to interview in the old days, especially when I'd namedrop The Cramps, but I didn’t have much convenient evidence to back it up! (I’ll eventually upload my Lydia Lunch interviews from MAXIMUMROCKNROLL, Flipside, etc too).

Needless to say, The Cramps were and  are heroic figures for me.  As a teen in small town Quebec I discovered their albums roughly around the same time as the cinema of John Waters, both of which definitely shaped (warped? Twisted?) my worldview and aesthetic. Like a lot of people, The Cramps provided my entry into the dark art of rockabilly. Before that I was into punk, but then I found myself irresistibly drawn to how The Cramps and the equally important Los Angeles band X  melded frantic punk with twang-y, rhythmic rock’n’roll. And it was via The Cramps’ cover versions I was introduced to the music of the likes of Charlie Feathers, Hasil Adkins and The Phantom. It sounds corny, but you could say The Cramps set me on my path.

Some background: I interviewed Poison Ivy in Montreal in 1990 when The Cramps played at The Rialto. (I'd ultimately be lucky enough to see The Cramps perform three times: twice in Montreal and once in London. Each time was pretty damn exhilerating). I was then a student at Carleton University at Ottawa, Ontario; the article was for Trans-FM, the “house paper” of CKCU, Carleton’s campus radio station. (Doesn’t the title Trans-FM imply a "specialty publication" for cross-dressers?). The Cramps were touring in support of Stay Sick!, their first album of new material in four years (they’d been mired in an ugly legal dispute with their previous label IRS). I’ve already blogged a bit about that day before to mark the anniversary of Lux Interior's death (4 February 2009), so I won't go into detail again. Read it here.

/ The Stay Sick! line-up of The Cramps I saw in Montreal in 1990: Drummer Nick Knox, bassist Candy Del Mar, guitarist Poison Ivy and frontman Lux Interior /

Re-visiting these articles, it sure was tempting to tweak them in places, but I resisted it. I cringe at how jejune and callow I sound (I sure was fond of the expression "amphetamine-induced". I must have seen it used in CREEM magazine and it left a vivid impression). In June 1990 I would have been twenty one years old (two years later I would split for London). For better or for worse, below is an accurate depiction of how I wrote at the time!

The glamorous and charismatic Ivy was incredibly courteous with me; I’m sure my interview with her ran well over the allotted time. There was so much good material from that afternoon that I was able to cannibalise it into several separate pieces: the original Trans-FM article, then one for Ghastly magazine (a Californian goth zine; for them I also interviewed Alien Sex Fiend!) and still have enough left for a proposed interview for Montreal punk zine RearGarde (they didn’t use it; I can’t remember why).

In my university days, I would routinely review shows or interview musicians passing through Ottawa or Montreal for my student papers (including Henry Rollins, Chris Isaak and Divinyls) and my then-flatmate Shawn Scallen would take the accompanying photos. We were the dream team! The multi-talented Scallen is a bit of a renaissance man: he also DJs and is a punk gig promoter. I contacted Scallen (who's still based in Ottawa) via Facebook begging him to go through his files, dig up the negatives from that Cramps gig and send me high-res scanned attachments so I could use them in this blog. (Yes, I am a demanding mofo). He admitted he hasn’t kept his archives in any kind of order or gone digital with his old pics – which horrifies me, as he has a treasure trove of punk history which really should be out there and accessible! So instead I did my best to scan the photos from the original articles. I didn’t do a great job; if I can get better versions I’ll replace them.

/The Cramps tearing up "Bikini Girls with Machine Guns" and "Muleskinner Blues" on British TV in 1990. The glistening black rubber and PVC fetish wear, the pallid complexions illuminated by livid green lighting:  It gives you a pretty good taste of what their sleaze-tastic Montreal performance was like (although Lux definitely wasn't wearing a bra at the Montreal gig!) /

The Cramps Stay Sick! (June 1990 issue of Trans FM)

/ Photo by Shawn Scallen /

Call it psychobilly, punkabilly or shockabilly, The Cramps have been snarling out their reverb-drenched surf/punk/psychedelic voodoo garage rock for almost 14 years now.

In the process they’ve acquired a hardcore cult following and made a career out of giving bad taste a good name. Newest release Stay Sick! keeps up the tradition. I talked to Cramps co-founder and guitarist Poison Ivy – a vision in leopard skin and cat glasses – prior to their soundcheck at Montreal’s The Rialto.

We reminisced about The Cramps’ early days. Ivy first met cadaverous lead singer Lux Interior in Sacramento in 1972 when he picked her up hitchhiking. They’ve been a couple – onstage and off – ever since.

“He was actually in his friend’s car, his friend was driving and Lux was in the passenger’s seat. I had seen him around town before and was already impressed, so I was really glad to meet him that way.”

/ In the beginning: The unrecognisable young Lux (when he was still Erick Lee Purkhiser) and Ivy (Kristy Wallace) in 1972. Photo courtesy of the awesome Dangerous Minds blog /

They went through their hippie phase together (“I guess we took a lot of acid together. That’s probably considered a hippie thing”) and listened to a lot of T Rex and New York Dolls. “We also dug early Alice Cooper. Anybody who was just sexy and wild and played rock’n’roll, we dug it.”

They also discovered 1950s rockabilly.

“When we were living in Sacramento we met this Mexican guy who collected black vocal groups (records) and he turned us onto that. That’s what started us collecting records from junk stores, getting doo wop records.

“Then we just sort of discovered rockabilly that way, because there were no reissues out then, like there are now. The only way you could get it was to find the originals and learn about it that way. And so we just learned about that music and fell in love with it,” says Ivy.

By ’76 they teamed up with poker-faced drummer Nick Knox and Bryan Gregory (first of many guitarists / bassists, the most recent being the gorgeous gum-cracking Candy Del Mar) and made their debut as The Cramps at New York’s CBGBs. Legend has it they were out of tune for the first 45 minutes.

"Yeah, we were because we didn’t want to break strings so we put brand new ones on our guitars right before we stepped onstage. We were too naïve to know they would go out of tune instantly! So they were totally out of tune and we thought, we can’t stop now, we’re out there so we’d better keep playing. We got encores, so I think everybody just couldn’t believe we had the guts to stay up there. And some people thought we were doing some avant garde atonal thing.”

Through the years, from Songs the Lord Taught Us to A Date with Elvis and Stay Sick!, The Cramps have stayed true to their original trash appeal vision. Now that rock has become respectable and even virtuous, with musicians preaching about saving the rain forests, The Cramps stubbornly resist current trends and make bad music for bad people by taking rock back to its wilder outlaw roots.

I was curious, then, what a retro purist like Ivy thinks of the compact disc’s sweep of the music industry.

“I actually love the way they sound. I think they sound amazing. They made a mistake in the packaging – there’s no reason they can’t be packaged in a big package like a 12-inch vinyl disc. And they shouldn’t make vinyl obsolete. If anything, it’s the cassette that should be. What’s scary is that cassettes outsell even CDs, and pre-recorded cassettes sound crummy and they’re really disposable. I think they should be put out CDs with the 12-inch package, then I’d be happy.”

You don’t think it’s ironic, the grungy-sounding Cramps on pristine CDs?

“I don’t think it’s pristine, I think it’s powerful. It’s the closest to how it sounded in the studio, it’s the most dynamic it can sound, on a CD, and I think that’s good for rock’n’roll.”

/ Photo by Shawn Scallen /

(Yes, I know -- what a crazy note to end the article on! But at the time CDs were a controversial new format, it was then au courant and topical!)

The Cramps: For the Love of Ivy in Ghastly Magazine (circa 1990/1991)

/ Photo by Shawn Scallen /

Walking into Montreal’s The Rialto for their soundcheck, The Cramps are instantly recognizable, all zombie-pale, lean and uniformly clad in basic black.

For thirteen years now the ultimate cult band has conjured up their amphetamine-induced voodoo-hillbilly black magic on classic albums like Songs the Lord Taught Us, carving a niche for themselves by taking rock back to its lowest, wildest, outlaw form.

Their Montreal performance established that The Cramps are still a force to be reckoned with in the 90s, their most recent LP Stay Sick! blending seamlessly with old favourites. On stage ghoulish singer Lux Interior is a frothing mad man, a cross between Elvis and Iggy in black vinyl g-string and spike-heeled women’s pumps (the 6’3” Lux wears size 13). Snarling scantily clad hellcat guitarist Poison Ivy sneers and grimaces, slashing out reverb-drenched chords while pouty bassist, Betty Page-style brunette Candy Del Mar cracks gum and drummer Nick Knox, looking like the ghost of Roy Orbison, provides a suitably stark, primitive backbeat.

I interviewed the ageless, seductive Ivy prior to the show. We talked about The Cramps’s well-documented love of the macabre. They signed their new contract with Enigma Records over the grave of actor Bela Lugosi.

“We did! The Holy Cross Cemetery happens to be practically in the backyard of Enigma in Culver City. There’s a lot of celebrities (buried) there – Sharon Tate, Rita Hayworth. It just seemed like an appropriate thing to do.”

I ask what the inspiration was behind Lux and Nick posing in drag with Ivy and Candy on the back cover of Sick!

“It arose out of Halloween. We did this photo spread for a magazine called Rip and they wanted us to dress like monsters, a kind of more clichéd thing, for the Halloween issue. We didn’t want to do something so obvious, so we decided that since it’s also the drag holiday, that would be our Halloween testament. The wig Lux is wearing, the white one, is the A Date with Elvis wig. We recycle our clothing! I like wigs.”

Ivy and Lux also like horror movies, a prime inspiration in their songwriting, evident in titles like “Creature from the Black Leather Lagoon.” She tells me her favourite is Herschell Gordon Lewis ’s 1963 proto-slasher gorefest Blood Feast. We agree that a low budget is essential to any good horror flick.

“Somehow that makes it even sicker. It’s people trying to do the most with the least: they’re wearing their own clothes, talking in the way they really talk, with their own dialogue, so you can see what life was really like in that year, 1963. They couldn’t afford to get actors, so that’s how people really talked in ’63, that’s how they wore their hair, that’s how they really were. It’s usually filmed either in someone’s home or in a hotel room – that’s kind of cool.

“I like really stark, simple, scary films. Neither Lux nor me are much impressed by realistic special effects, which I think most movies put all their efforts into now. I think Blood Feast, even though it’s funny, is also still horrifying if you think about it, even though you can look at it and say, that looks like ketchup and it’s unrealistic. The idea of it all is horrifying. The guy who thought it up first, just the notion of what’s going on, makes you horrified of the guy who made it, even. Yikes! Who set him loose?!”

The guitar that Ivy wields so impressively onstage is a 1958 Gretsch 6820 Chet Atkins, “the coolest all-purpose guitar there is!”

“It’s orange – Halloween orange. It matches my hair. And I’ve got another guitar that matches my car, a gold and white ’56 Dodge Golden Lancer. And then I’ve got this ’52 Gibson, it’s like a gold-topped Les Paul but it’s the same colour of gold that the car is, so it matches. And it’s got this ivy motif on it, with ivy leaves! But I got it for the sound,” she enthuses.

Being hardcore rockabilly authorities, Lux and Ivy like to pay homage to their roots by covering their favourite 50s obscurities. Sick! keeps up the tradition with re-workings of “Muleskinner Blues” and “Shortnin’ Bread.”

“Lux and I have been talking off and on, probably since The Cramps started, about doing “Muleskinner Blues.” That was the other thing besides “Surfin’ Bird”, that was a wild song originally. It took us this long to figure out how we would do it.

“”Shortnin’ Bread” sounds like a peculiar choice but actually there’s a tradition in the early 60s; a lot of surf bands covered “Shortnin’ Bread.” I don’t know why, but you find a lot of versions if you look in surf discographies. We do a stomp and surf version.”

The Cramps actually scored a surprise Top 30 hit with the single “Bikini Girls with Machine Guns” in the UK. I suggested the unlikelihood of that happening in the playlist-regulated North America where acts like The Cramps are still relegated exclusively to campus radio. This sparked a discussion on the differences between European and North American radio.

“There are weird reasons why you can’t get played on the BBC. Suicide is something you can’t mention. The strange thing is “What’s Inside a Girl?” got played there. You can have a title or reference that has a double meaning, but you can’t just come right out and swear or something. You can be filthy in a way that’s convoluted and that’s fine, whereas I don’t think that’s true here.”

/ The Russ Meyer-esque video for "Bikini Girls with Machine Guns" /

Finally, I had to ask Ivy about the old Gun Club song “For the Love of Ivy” in which singer Jeffrey Lee Pierce pledges his undying passion. Ivy played coy.

“I’m probably as mystified by it as you are. It was printed in a English paper that one time onstage he got real gone and started ranting and raving about how he wanted to murder Lux! That’s all I know. I’m afraid to ask him about it!’

/ Bassist Candy Del Mar. Photo by Shawn Scallen /

Cramps profile submitted to the Montreal punk zine Reargarde (never used! Previously unseen!)

/ The Stay Sick! line-up of The Cramps: Candy Del Mar, Lux Interior, Poison Ivy and Nick Knox /

Anyone who saw punk veterans The Cramps – the band for whom words like “psychobilly” and “shockabilly” were invented – at The Rialto in April know they’re as fierce as ever. The Munsters / Addams Family of rock are currently riding high with Stay Sick!, their first studio LP since 1986’s A Date with Elvis.
At a pre-soundcheck meeting guitarist Poison Ivy Rorschach made for a funny, articulate and gracious interview subject (she got me coffee!). Wrapped in leopard skin (ersatz), black velvet (crushed) and her trademark glitter cat glasses (drop-dead cool), Ivy spoke in a bewitchingly slurred, flat voice, saying “git” instead of “get” and “real” instead of “really.”

She first met Cramps co-founder, vampiric vocalist Lux Interior, in Sacramento in 1972, when he picked her up hitchhiking. They’ve been a couple – musically and romantically – ever since. Together they discovered 1950s rockabilly and, with original guitarist Bryan Gregory and drummer Nick Knox, formed The Cramps in ’76. Legend has it the band made a suicide pact: if they failed they would jump off the Empire State building.

Ivy: Yeah, that’s what we said ...

Me: Fortunately that never happened ...

Ivy: Yeah, we’re lucky. I’m glad. I don’t want to die! (Laughs).

Since then, with their ghoulish image, white trash / John Waters / trailer park aesthetics and amphetamine-induced rockabilly thrash, The Cramps have become darlings of the hardened British music press and perhaps the ultimate cult band.

It hasn’t always been easy. They’ve never been able to keep a steady second guitarist / bassist, for example. Ivy and I go through the list: Gregory, Congo Powers (later of the Gun Club and Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds), drummer Nick’s cousin Ike, the pink Mohawked woman named Fur ...

“It’s hard to be in our band,” Ivy admits. “We are demanding, but what we’re trying to do is special. It seems like we’ve always had this one member, kind of flaky, who’s just not into the music. Anybody can be a Cramps fan, but they don’t always understand the music that influences the music that we make. They might not like Jack Scott, but they like our version of “The Way I Walk”, but we need people who like Jack Scott to be in our band. To make our music, you’ve got to take it back that far.”

I suggest how intimidated new members must be, joining such a close-knit, firmly-established band.

“That might make it harder. Maybe that is intimidating, but we try to be nice! We can be very friendly. We don’t mean to be mean!”
They’ve finally found some stability with most recent member, the luscious bubble gum-cracking brunette bassist Candy Del Mar.

“She’s been with us almost four years. We met her in Hollywood – she’s lived in the LA area all her life. We met at The Liquor Barn, this huge discount liquor store. It’s the cheapest plus the biggest selection. There’s only about two parking spots for The Liquor Barn and we were both coming from different directions and we were about to challenge each other for this spot and she said, “Oh, my God! It’s Lux and Ivy!” We’d already heard about her from someone else, a friend of ours knew Candy and said she’d be good in our band. At that time she was still in high school and we thought we’d had enough goofy people in our band! But it worked out.

“It’s the longest any of the – I hate to say fourth member – but the longest any of them have been in, the guitarist-slash-bass players.”
Ivy also feels she still hasn’t gotten the recognition she’s due as a female guitarist, co-lyricist and producer for The Cramps in the male-dominated music industry. We talk about how rare it is still for women to play guitar.

“I’ve never understood that. There’s no reason except some kind of strange Mafia thing! I’ve played since I was a little kid, eight or nine. (Guitar playing) is a creative art. In a way, it’s even a delicate thing, playing these little strings. I don’t understand why it’s seen as something you need all this brute strength for.”

Ivy describes her reverb-drenched, slashing surf guitar style as feminine.

“It’s unique. I don’t hear men playing anything similar. The girl that interviewed me yesterday for TV (MuchMusic’s Erica Ehm) said that she’d heard of this theory that girls hear differently. I’d never heard that before, so I don’t know if that’s true either ....”

I tell her Ehm has a reputation for being a ditz.

(Laughs). “I’ve been around a while, and I’ve never heard of that theory, and I usually seek out strange theories!”
A constant factor running through The Cramps’ work is their black humour and love of kitsch and horror movies, which sometimes leads to the uninitiated not taking their highly original music as seriously as they should. Up until recently, for example, there was no bass on their records.
“When we didn’t have a bas it wasn’t a radical concept to us – neither me or Bryan wanted to play bass. He mainly functioned as bass player: he played bass lines on guitar, he’d tune it down real low and play bass lines. The first record to have an actual bass line was “Surfin’ Dead.” I don’t think it’s made that big of a change. If anything, we sound more primitive (now). We were naive in the past. I think bass gives us a starker sound. We were always kind of stark and austere-sounding.”

The nineties look rosy already for The Cramps. Their legal problems with former record label IRS have been cleared up. Ivy apologises but can’t discuss the details.

“I can’t say a lot because we were involved in a lawsuit and we did get a settlement in 1983 and the terms of the settlement are that we don’t talk about it.”
They’re happy with their new record deal with Enigma (they signed the contract over the grave of Bela Lugosi), and have scored a Top 30 hit single in the UK with “Bikini Girls with Machine Guns,” a first for the band. Ivy for one is unsurprised with underground legends like The Cramps getting such commercial exposure.

“We’ve always thought of ourselves in a commercial way. We thought we were wild, but not doing anything “obscure” – it is rock’n’roll. I never understood why record companies were afraid to push wild rock’n’roll: Little Richard was wild, there’s wild stuff in the 60s. Wild rock’n’roll isn’t uncommercial necessarily. We haven’t changed anything we did to get that hit. I think it was just having the distribution, having the record available. We never had that, ever, before. Our records weren’t that easy to get.

“Our music is rebel music, but 1 % of the population is millions of people! If they can make these records available, people will come out of the woodwork to find them.”

/ The deliciously lurid video for "Creature from the Black Leather Lagoon." Once seen, that grotesque opening image of a grinning, afterbirth-covered Lux Interior being born will never be forgotten! /

A Psychobilly Freak-Out in Montreal from The Charlatan (circa 1991-1992)

Legend has it The Cramps made a suicide pact before their 1976 debut at New York punk club CBGB’s. If they flopped they would jump off the Empire State building.

Thankfully, they went on to become the beloved Addams Family / Munsters of punk and perhaps the ultimate American cult band with their amphetamine-induced, lust-charged psychobilly thrash.

Their latest release Look Mom No Head! brought the outlaw rockers to Montreal’s Le Spectrum last week. Look Mom showcases a still uncompromisingly vicious band. “Dames, Booze, Chains and Boots” confirms feral singer Lux Interior’s grasp of life’s priorities is still in order. Song titles alone (“Two-Headed Sex Change”, “I Wanna Get in Your Pants” – actually about the joys of cross-dressing – and “Bend Over I’ll Drive” are indicative of The Cramps’ lifelong preoccupations.

/ Portrait of Ivy and Lux on the back cover of Look Mom No Head! (1991). For me, this was the last truly great Cramps album /

Pre-concert songs played over Le Spectrum’s sound system – obscure 50s rockabilly, surf guitar wipe-outs, cuts from the Hairspray soundtrack, Elvis Presley’s “Crawfish”, Peggy Lee’s “Fever”, Johnny Thunders doing “She Wants to Mambo” – set the tone for the music ahead.

Sub-Pop’s rockabilly band Reverend Horton Heat gave a raucous warm-up performance climaxing in the evangelical singer’s impassioned prayer for the souls of Michael Jackson and his chimp Bubbles.

And then the black curtains parted to reveal The Cramps in their debauched, pasty-faced splendor. The ever-perverse Lux, resplendent in skin tight, genital clinging red rubber bondage wear and matching women’s spiked pumps (size 13), and a string of pearls around his neck, was reliably frenzied. He paused only to uncork and chug from several bottles of red wine, spitting the cork into the audience, and systematically destroying his microphone stand.

Casting an expressionless feline eye over her husband’s id-fuelled antics was Poison Ivy, Lux’s female equivalent. The inscrutable, beauteous hellcat guitarist snarled while abusing her whammy bar, tarted-up in a fringed black bikini, gold go-go boots and red Cleopatra wig.

Aside from original members Lux and Ivy, The Cramps have hosted a revolving rhythm section over the years. This tour witnesses the debut of new bass player Slim Chance and drummer Jim Sclavunos, who replaces long-time drummer Nick Knox. The astonishingly pretty and androgynous blond male bassist, an ideal poker-faced counterpart to Ivy, was especially well-received. Both additions played as if born to join The Cramps.

The set list drew heavily from Look Mom and 1990’s Stay Sick! Surprisingly absent were “Can Your Pussy Do the Dog?” and “Bikini Girls with Machine Guns.” However, sentimental favourites “Human Fly” and “Goo Goo Muck” warmed the hearts of those slamming in the pit. The lingering smell of vomit coming from the dance floor only added to the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, The Cramps didn’t play their new album’s biggest surprise, "The Strangeness in Me." It’s a relatively subdued slab of brooding, finger snapping Twin Peaks-style eeriness that sounds like it could wake Laura Palmer from the dead.

Lux and Ivy met in 1972, making this their 20th anniversary, putting both firmly on the wrong side of 35. Still juvenile delinquents at heart, age has only given The Cramps a conviction and authority that makes today’s decades-younger hardcore bands sound ineffectual, undisciplined and babyish by comparison.

The vibrant bad taste, rebel spirit and low-life charisma of The Cramps are as vital as ever.

/ Photo by Shawn Scallen /

Cramps: Bad Music for Bad People – Songs the Cramps Taught Us Review for Nude Magazine (2009)
Call it psychobilly, punkabilly or voodoobilly, The Cramps was the band who initiated punks into the subterranean realm of 1950s rockabilly.  Formed in 1976 by husband and wife duo Lux Interior and Poison Ivy, the black leather jacketed Addams Family of rock’s kinky, everyday- is-Halloween trash aesthetic hotwired 70s punk with primordial first generation rock’n’roll – because what were Charlie Feathers, Hasil Adkins and Link Wray but the original punks?
Proving that juvenile delinquency is a state of mind, The Cramps seemingly would have lasted forever if the cadaverous Interior hadn’t died aged 60 in February 2009. But their impact lives on. Perhaps their greatest legacy is that you can go to any rockabilly weekender and see fresh generations of The Cramps’ spiritual progeny: sullen greaser punks characterised by their black t-shirts, werewolf sideburns and tattoos.
This compilation goes back to the raw source, trawling through the original vintage songs that The Cramps gleefully tore apart, plagiarised, re-interpreted and deconstructed over their long career. While genres like tear-jerking doo wop (“Death of An Angel” by Donald Woods and The Belairs), blues (“It’s Mighty Crazy” by Lightnin’ Slim) and raunchy Rhythm &Blues (“Baby Let Me Bang Your Box” by The Bangers) are represented here, unsurprisingly the emphasis is on rockabilly.
Songs the Cramps Taught Us is a reminder how 50s rockabilly at its wildest still sounds stark, strange, threatening – almost futuristic, like science fiction. Rockabilly is a glimpse into Weird America, made by amphetamine-crazed hillbillies with names like Vern, Hank and Dwight. Take Charlie Feathers’ wracked, sensual, atmospheric and eerie “Can’t Hardly Stand It”, his hiccoughing, lecherous vocals wreathed in echo. “Her Love Rubbed Off” by Carl Perkins packs a sinister throb, while the anguished thrashing of “Love Me” by The Phantom is a frantic howl of lust, checking in at only one minute and 32 seconds.

To be fair there is no shortage of Cramps-inspired compilations of this type featuring many of the same songs (In the 1980s there were the 6 volumes of the Born Bad collection; there’s already a compilation called Songs the Cramps Taught Us, Vol. 1).  To paraphrase Mae West, though, too much of a good thing can be wonderful. The tunes compiled here are lurid stabs from the jukebox jungle, an irresistible invitation to swallow a fistful of bop pills, drag a comb through your Gene Vincent pompadour and hit the dance floor.

/ One of my all-time favourite photos of Lux and Ivy at the height of their mature, debauched beauty /


  1. I dunt nose why no butt has left ye a comment. As a dedicated Cramps lover, me thinks this be a groovy and super Cramps thingy you done here.

    Thank ye thank ye



  2. I touched lux when he was naked at city gardens as he went to the dressing room after he ripped off his one piece black suit. I patted him on the back and said, GOOD SHOW LUX ! LATER I SAW THEM IN boulder CO. And Lux looked at me and said, I recognize you ! But I blew it and didn't go introduce my self. WHAT AN IDIOT ! John Bower Morrison CO.

  3. Any idea where Candy del Mar is now?

  4. Great piece - ta very much, good sir :D

  5. My two favorite things, The Cramps and John Waters culture. Awesome.

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Auntie Christ! Yes, what better possible role models than John Waters and The Cramps?

  7. Ivy's birthday today, I believe... Wonderful interview with her, above. Thanks! What a woman; talented, intelligent, smart, sexy, beautiful, passionate; and, as the interviewer noted, gracious - she and Lux were acutely aware and appreciative of their fans, knowing that it was the fans who allowed them to continue making a living doing what they loved, and what only they could do so well. They certainly payed their fans back by pouring their all into every album and every show. Here's to Ivy, for working so hard to keep the show running; and for being the hugely talented, but largely unsung, co-creator, often overshadowed by Lux's larger-than-life persona. In a way, she played his elegantly smoldering "straight woman" on stage - my favorite thing to see in old Cramps videos: while Lux thrashes around on the floor, center stage, pants coming off and slick with sweat, Ivy casts him a glowering, sidelong glance, her lip curled like a cat catching a whiff of pheromones - as if to say, "they want you, baby, but you know you're all mine"... perfect! Same for her guitar work - perfect; and I can only imagine how much of the songwriting was Ivy's, let alone the the band's look and character. Wherever she is today, I hope it's as beautiful as she is, herself. Thanks, Ivy!

  8. Just saw the video of The Cramps on old Brit TV show The Tube performing Can Your Pussy Do The Dog. What an amazing band, love them!