>When it comes to music, my influences are legion, but I don’t intentionally swipe from too many people. Yet if you listen to “Garbageman” by the Cramps, the opening track off their Bad Music For Bad People record, you’ll hear singer Lux Interior croon, “Well if you can’t dig me then you can’t dig nothin’!” I love that line so much that I basically stole it for the chorus of the lyrics I wrote for the opening track on the La Bruja album from Lazerwolfs, a song called “All Together Now.”
I love the Cramps, and it bums me out that Lux died the other day. He was 62.
Hugely influential, the Cramps were never huge. I love everything about them. When I think of bands with a great image that they stuck to, I think of the Cramps. They knew what they wanted to do and they did it, regardless of what was fashionable. They weren’t great musicians and they didn’t sound that great in the sense that gearheads quibbling over the tone of every note would recognize, but they captured a level of energy and intensity that most bands can only dream of. In the liner notes to their 2004 retrospective release How to Make a Monster, it reads:
“When the two of us started the group, we were attempting to jumpstart the evolution of an original pure rock n’ roll/rhythm and blues tradition — a tradition that seemed to be all but forgotten at that time. The term ‘rock n’ roll’, a term which describes a lifestyle and sex act, as well as a type of music, had become ‘rock music’ in an apparent effort by squares to legitimize it. We knew damn well the original sow’s ear was way better. We wanted to be as shocking, sexy and original as the great culture changing rock n’ roll pioneers were during the fifties and sixties — not imitators, but the same kind of rebels that they were in their time.”
The reference to “the two of us” mean Lux and his wife, Poison Ivy Rorschach. Their relationship is what makes me so dreadfully sad about Lux dying. When I told Julia, the first thing she said was, “Oh, poor Ivy.”
The book The Cramps — A Short History of Rock n’ Roll Psychosis, by Dick Porter, tells the story of the band and Lux and Ivy’s relationship. That relationship started near Sacramento State University in 1972 when Lux (who hailed from Akron, OH) picked up a hitchhiker dressed in skintight hot pants, a young woman who would become the legendary Bikini Girl with Machine Gun. This is really one of the greatest rock n’ roll love stories ever, frankly. The two met when they were young, discovered all these great shared interests, and made their dream happen. It tells of cross country road trips to buy record collections, the weird hobbies they shared, their longtime commitment to vegetarianism, everything. This excerpt from the book tells of the passion Lux developed for vintage photography, for example:
“Between 1999 and 2002, Ivy and Lux once again retreated to their private world, to enjoy each other and their host of shared interests, only emerging for short runs of concerts when Halloween came around. It was a lifestyle that suited Lux. ‘It’s great. I can’t think of any way to improve upon it. We have a huge record collection of 78s and 45s, and we play that stuff all the time. We have a huge collection of sexploitation videotapes, like the stuff Something Weird is putting out . . . I do a lot of 3D photography. That’s a passion of mine. I watch Ivy prance around the house in fabulous sexy outfits.’
‘That evolved with Lux getting into the photography and shooting me,’ explained Ivy. ‘He requested it, really. It started with Smell of Female [a Cramps album] and at that time a friend had a 3D camera that he borrowed and then later Lux bought the camera from the guy. He has like 150 3D cameras or something now. He spends all day mounting slides and he’s just obsessive with his photography, but his main love is pin-up photography. And he mainly likes shooting me.'”
What a dream, I get all verklempt thinking about it, and it is what makes me sad because Lux was still pretty young. The book basically closes with this quote from 2004:
Asked by Steve Wildsmith of The Daily Times of Maryville, Tenn what the modern Ivy would advise her younger self, if she could meet her in some temporal twilight zone just before Lux picked her up on the highway, all those years ago, Ivy replied, ‘I’d tell her to take that ride, to not miss that ride. I’m still on a ride with Lux, and we’re still so much in love with the music and with each other.’
I’m sorry for Lux. I hope Ivy will be okay.