BY Mary Sands
FROM Jack Magazine #6:
Life is short, and it's filled with stuff.
Maybe it was Poison Ivy's surf guitar sound that lured me to The Cramps, or maybe it was just the fact that the band has been around forever and, true to their genuine roots in rock and roll, they have a passion that is endless and bound to some unearthly soul that only real musicians who really love music will carry to their graves. I think The Cramps have always played mainly for fun, not so much profit. This love comes out on stage.
Their onstage, live presence was a godsend to me back in October, when I went to see them with a friend at the Galaxy Theatre, during a Cramps' late-October "Halloween" California tour. I was pleasantly surprised that not only do they still look hot and play hot, but that they mesmerized the audience, not to be still but to get up and rejoice the R&R that stems from American culture at its best--the way-back and underground stuff, stemming from a lot of icons like b-movies, horror films, and Elvis.
The band's opening act, The Lords of Altamont ("a masterful mix of music, motorbikes, and mayhem"), had totally revved up the audience in that kinda style that makes you want to race some bikes or old convertibles around the desert, just like in Russ Meyer's film Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!, the theme song of which was done originally by a band called the Bostweeds and later revamped by The Cramps. The Lords lit their keyboard on fire and kept playing, and then later The Cramps came onstage and boogied the house in all their raw, concentrated sexiness that you know is deep-down skilled from years of playing, but still comes across as fun and playful.
Their set list included some of my faves and some I'd not yet heard, including at least one track off their upcoming CD, "Fiends from Dope Island," under their own label Vengeance, which is due out on April 7 (watch Mordam Records for news). Holy shit, I mean I just sat their with my friend Danny (a college student who'd never even heard of the band) and was taken down both a sentimental as well as arduous journey of all things good that have come out of music in the last half century or so. Let's put it this way, I'd never seen The Cramps in concert though I'd been a big fan for years. I am too much a hermit most times to get out and do anything, much less have someone to go with. The last time I felt this enthusiastic about getting tickets was when Dave Brubeck was playing a couple dates in Los Angeles maybe two summers ago, but I failed to get tix before those shows were sold out. So when I bought two tickets for The Cramps, it was kind of a circus running down last-minute my list of so-called friends, much less "friends" who'd wanna go see a band like The Cramps with me. Danny's just some guy I barely knew, but liked going to concerts. We got great seats on the second tier of tables above the mosh pit, and didn't move away the whole time. Drank cokes and grooved.
I'm pretty sure that the set included these songs (thanks to John Bates of Big John Bates and the Voodoo Dollz), but it's not like I was taking down precise notes:
Dames, Booze, Chains and Boots
Papa Satan Sang Louie
Big Black Witchraft Rock
It Thing Hard-On
Color Me Black
New Kinda Kick
Let's Get Fucked Up
You Got Good Taste
Wrong Way Ticket
The Cramps have been through several incarnations since the early 1970s when Lux Interior and Poison Ivy Rorsharch met and began to jam. Most recently the band includes Lux Interior (vocals), Poison Ivy (guitar), Scott "Chopper" Franklin (bass), and Harry Drumdini (drums).
I mostly like the guitar sounds that Ivy so perfectly spits out and the long low moans that Lux is famous for styling. Ivy's background influences were surf bands--and that fuzztone guitar is, to me, an accurate origin of the Cramps' sound. It's very California-like, but the band's influences are all-over American, as they've chilled in not only Sacramento but Detroit, New York City, Cleveland, Memphis, and so on and so on.
Lux and Ivy, Ventura--photo by John Gein
One thing I felt when I left the theatre was that The Cramps are still and always will be cool in my book because not only do they make good rock and roll, but true to their beliefs in music being the priority over any other whackiness that comes with the music industry, they just make awesome sounds that you can dance to or just listen to. Really, everyone at the show--with the exception of two girls in front of us who left to go make out some more and not come back, and one guy near us who was passed out--yeah, everyone was enthralled and escaped into the power that is and has always been The Cramps. Physically, the band hasn't aged in the past thirty years. I am sure that's because deep down, they're really immortal gods of R&R who will hopefully keep touring for decades to come.
Photo (Ventura) by John Gein.