Revolving around the nucleus of Lux and his life partner Poison Ivy Rorschach, the Cramps took everything that was great about obscure surf and rockabilly music, combined it with their genuine love of B movies and classic horror pulp comics, imbued it all with a punk aesthetic and created a unique sound that could often only be described as swamp rock from another planet. Often imitated, never equalled. Their live shows were equally as otherworldly, an aural and visual assault on the senses that never let up throughout their 30+ years of touring – even as he hit 60, Lux was still performing with such manic energy that the sweat would literally have to be poured from out of the skin tight vinyl jumpsuits he’d often favour. One need only watch the video of the concert they performed in front of inmates at the Napa State Mental Hospital in 1978 to see what a manic and galvanising live band the Cramps were.
I am old enough to remember the day I walked into class and my English teacher, Mr Devry, told us that Elvis had died. I remember the scorching hot day I was talking on the phone to my best friend David while my mum lay on the banana lounge in the hallway to catch the breeze when the radio she was listening to came to life with the news that John Lennon had been shot dead outside his New York apartment. And I remember getting the call from my friend Simone telling me that Kiss drummer Eric Carr had finally succumbed to horrendous heart cancer and brain haemorrhages (on the same day Freddie Mercury succumbed to Aids).
As we grow older, it’s only natural that the cultural heroes of our youth start to leave us. But for some reason, the passing of Lux has hit harder than most., and I’m struggling to realise why. Maybe because I’m at an age now where I’m looking at the reality of my own mortality. Maybe it’s because, unlike people like Elvis, Lennon and Johnny Cash, the loss of Lux is likely to go unnoticed and uncared about by the vast majority of people. Or maybe it’s because his death comes during a period when many of my favourite creative minds have left us (Famous Monsters of Filmland editor Forrest J Ackerman, 1950s pin-up legend Bettie Page, Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton and cult 1960s filmmaker Ray Dennis Steckler, among others).
It’s a stinking hot day here in Melbourne, but to be honest I can barely feel the heat. I’m spending my day drinking cold Mexican beer and blasting my way through the entire Cramps discography. And while I do so I shall not only celebrate the life and work of this truly unique American artist, but I will be sending warm thoughts to Poison Ivy who has lost the love of her life, and I shall also be saying farewell to that special part of my youth that has left me forever.
I can never see there being another one like him.
Stay Sick! 1946 - 2009
John Harrison, Feb 7, 2009.
Live TV Clip of Can Your Pussy Do the Dog?: Bikini Girls With Machine Guns Video: Garbage Man Video:
Bikini Girls With Machine Guns Video:
Garbage Man Video: