The world missed out on perhaps its last chance at redemption when Lux Interior died a couple of years ago. Or maybe it was saved from the snarling maw of Rock a Billy Voo Doo blood sacrifices. Anyhow, as long as it never made it to mom and pops radio station, it was a sacred event.
The Cramps were part of the early CBGB punk rock movement that had emerged in New York. 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. The Cramps are noted as influencing a number of musical styles: not only are 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.
It’s easy to write off Punk Music and all of it’s various incarnations, but what’s important to remember is what these bands were trying to do. By 1973, when what would be labeled ‘punk music’ morphed out of the New York scene, The Beatles were no more. The Stones had gone mainstream pop, and the kids coming up saw nothing but pretentiousness in the acts. They wanted to make it simple again. They wanted to put the fun back in it. The result was a whole slew of bands that were basically thumbing their collective noses at “the establishment”. Sound familiar? Bands like The Ramones, Patti Smith Group, The Stillettos, featuring Deborah Harry (who would go on to mainstream punk with Blondie), Mink DeVille, Talking Heads, The Shirts, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Fleshtones and The Cramps rose out of that scene.
Their music was based on rockabilly forms, played at varying tempos, with a minimal drum kit. 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 shtick.
Their sound was heavily influenced by early rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll like Link Wray and Hail Adkins, 1960s surf music acts such as The Ventures and Dick Dale (check out the first tune on the album, “Surfin’ Bird”), 1960s garage rock artists like The Standells, The Gants, The Trashmen, The Green Fuz and The Sonics.
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 coined by The Cramps, although Lux Interior maintained that the term did not describe their own style.
Lindsay Hutton of the fanzine The Next Big Thing and The Cramps fan club founder speaks;
"I've no idea why
The Cramps don't seem to figure in a lot of alleged histories of punk
or just plain music in general. This could be down to them being
utterly or unpigeonhole-able (is that even a word?) or just outright
ignorance. Perhaps a bit of both, but hey, let's not concern ourselves
with that. The band changed the face of culture. Period. Without
bothering 'the charts' or playing too many stadiums, their seismic
effect on everything you hold dear will be felt for all time. This
ancient knowledge -- some of their grooviest gravy -- is presented
here for your delectation and delight. So get a crack-a-lackin' with
blasting these twisted hymns morning, noon and night. And while the
ruckus is in full swing, pray to whoever might listen that Ivy will
get around to compile the ultimate document of her undulating combo in
commemoration of their services to entertainment. The bloody gears of
this here rockin' machine will be rolling way beyond the foreseeable
future. Reasons outwith anyone's control might mean that you can't see
the band anymore but no one -- no how -- will be able to make this
thing stop. Meanwhile, dig into this feast for the little ghouls that
understood all along or indeed anyone with a decent set of ears."
There it is boys and girls, join in on the rockabilly riots, break out your voodoo tool and your rockin bones. Ancient knowledge, believed lost to the world can now be yours! Dig the goo goo muck from The Crusher, twist and shout. This is uranium rock! The Cramps File Under Sacred Music: Early Singles 1978-1981
Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved