Cramps front-thing Lux Interior died yesterday of heart failure. He was 60 something, depending on whose dates you believe.
The last time I saw Interior was some time in the late 1990s. He was sitting in a booth at the Arcade restaurant waiting on an early afternoon breakfast and looking as though he'd just walked off the stage. His black mascara was smeared and running down his face, making his long pale face look even more corpse-like beneath a shock of spiky dyed black hair. My wife and I, who had both grown up with Songs the Lord Taught Us, and Bad Music for Bad People, agreed that after years of trying, Interior, who'd strutted his ageless stuff at the New Daisy the night before, finally looked like an actual member of the undead.
The Cramps formed in 1973, following in the campy footsteps of rock and soul sideshows like Screaming Jay Hawkins, Screaming Lord Such, The Sonics ,and countless garage bands from the '50s and '60s that took their cues from cheaply made sci-fi films and horror comics. They mixed the transgender glam of the New York Dolls and Wayne County with the freight train rumble of Johnny Cash's Sun recordings and lots of '60s-era surf rock. Interior and his wife/band mate Poison Ivy called their music psychobilly. The style that has since been championed by Reverend Horton Heat and Southern Culture on the Skids as well as more mainstream acts like Junior Brown.
Although they broke out on the New York scene playing venues like Max's Kansas City and CBGBs The Cramps' first singles were recorded by Alex Chilton at Memphis' Ardent Studio, and their first LP Songs The Lord Taught Us was recorded by Chilton a year later at Sam Phillips' Phillips Recording Studio.
The Cramps popularized several psychotic romps penned by '50s rockabilly oddity Hasil Adkins effectively re-launching his career as a one-man band. Their pre-goth music had a darkly comic edge laced with outrageous sexual innuendo. Fewer artists have penned lyrics as hysterical as "Eyeball in My Martini," or as to the point as "bend over, I'll drive."
It's sad to think that there will never be another Lux Interior sighting at the Arcade. Well, unless the afterlife is actually like a Cramps song and we're all treated to a post-mortem performance of "Zombie Dance."
by Chris Davis