R.I.P. Lux Interior of the Cramps

Lux Interior, frontman for psychobilly (emphasis on psycho) greats the Cramps, passed away yesterday at the age of 52 62. I dug through The Post archives and found some old reviews of the band's shows from years past to give a feel for what the live experience was like. And in case that's not good enough, there's a video clip from 1978. Oh yeah, the show was at a mental hospital. Of course.

August 24, 1979
Rockabilly, that fast-paced southern rock 'n' roll style defined by Elvis Presley in the mid-'50s, has been enjoying a revival in the '70s. New York City's Cramps don't revive it so much as send it to a mental ward for mutant experimentation.

On top of thunderous rhythms and compulsive hiccuping, the band grasps themes from voodoo, monster and sci-fi movies. The band's lead singer, Lux Interior, comes on like a spasmodic cross between Presley and Vincent Price. He defines one of rock's most fascinating personas with originals like "Human Fly," "Garbage Man" and "Teen-age Werewolf."

The Cramps, who have built a devoted following in D.C. because of their volatile performances, had the crowd at the Psyche Delly on their feet all night. Instead of slavishly imitating pure rockabilly, the band recalls the raucous primitivism and spontaneous outrageousness that is the music's spirit.

--Joseph Sasfy

(Two more reviews after the jump.)

Nov. 2, 1983
The Cramps playing flat-out come closer to embodying the exultant, illogical, redemptive powers that set rock 'n' roll apart from other forms of pop music than any American act performing today. In a set revitalized by the injection of strong, new original material, the group floored a sold-out house at the 9:30 club last night.

This extraordinary band has been taken for granted all too often. After scooping out a stylistic niche for itself nearly a decade ago -- roughed up roots blues, rockabilly and garage-punk -- Cramps has not changed appreciably since. Lead guitarist Ivy Rorschach has not gained an iota of technical finesse, purposefully flirting with incompetency to steer clear of complacency. Likewise, drummer Nick Knox and the new rhythm guitar player, his cousin Mike, kept their playing prim and primitive, a spartan but spooky backdrop. Vocalist Lux Interior, hair teased tall and proud, prowled the stage looking and sounding high, wired and wild as always.

--Howard Wuelfing

Oct. 11, 2004
They once titled an album "Stay Sick!" and a recent song "Dopefiend Boogie," but at the 9:30 club Saturday night there was no denying it:

Lux Interior and Poison Ivy Rorschach looked downright healthy. After nurturing the Cramps on a 30-year diet of primal rock stew -- from rockabilly to Screamin' Jay Hawkins and every twisted spawn in between -- chased with a penchant for greasy late-night decadence, Lux and Poison have earned the right to look wrung-out. But with former Blasters drummer Bill Bateman laying down a whip-crack beat, the Cramps slithered and strutted through a surprisingly taut 20-song show.

The leather-panted Lux was in fine voice throughout and remains remarkably lithe (most bios list him as being born in 1946), now letting only hints of his infamous self-abuse show through (he even kept his shirt on!) in the form of some well-rehearsed falls. Ivy was the night's real star, though, digging through a series of guitar riffs that shimmered, burrowed and tremoloed with muscular precision.

The set list leaned too heavily on last year's dire "Fiends of Dope Island" (with Bateman managing to make fodder like "Big Bad Witchcraft Rock" swing), but when the band waded into prime Cramps muck ("Rock on the Moon," "Primitive," "TV Set") the pyschobilly tension was beautiful. Lux and Ivy even pulled out "Lonesome Town," which they first disemboweled on 1977's "Gravest Hits," and its murky, creeping tones were the highlight of an unexpected display of Cramps staying power.

--Patrick Foster

By David Malitz |  February 5, 2009; 10:47 AM ET Appreciations
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In 1984 at a record convention someone, who I believe was a friend of the old Ripsaw Records crowd because he had a stack of Tex Rubinowitz singles too, was selling a $10 cassette bootleg of the Cramps at the Psychedelly in Bethesda in 1976!

1976!

They were doing this in Bethesda in 1976!

I didn't buy a $10 cassette of course and ever since then have regretted that move.

There is so very much that we take for granted in this world that Lux created.

I have a different 1976 bootleg where Lux reads the TV guide pointing out weird unknown horror films (Specifically "The Satan Bug") for the audience to stay up and watch. In 1976. The only person I knew who understood that kind of thing in '76 was John Waters. Junk culture was so new.

Posted by: bbcrock | February 5, 2009 12:41 PM

I have a cassette of the Cramps being interviewed on WHFS, prior to a Psyche Delly show. Gotta digitise that bastard. In the meantime, listen to the interview below. Lux even mentions a particularly poorly attended show in the DC area, where there were three folks in attendance, two drunken sailors, and one journo w/a typewriter. I could see Doc Sasfy bringing a typewriter to a show.

I've got 96 tears in 96 eyes,

DJ Tommy B

http://wfmu.org/listen.ram?show=12963

Posted by: djtommyb | February 5, 2009 1:49 PM

He was 62 not 52. Please correct your math.

Posted by: outsider8 | February 6, 2009 11:25 PM

Hey dude, there's a reason we went with "Post Rock" and not "Math Rock."

Posted by: PostRockDavid | February 9, 2009 2:28 AM

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