In 1973 during the start of the punk movement came The Cramps, an act initially formed out of the lovebird duo of Poison Ivy Rorshach and Lux Interior. Urban legends still depict the duo meeting as Lux had picked Ivy up as hitchhiker on his way to NYC. Being one of the key New York bands in the CBGB scene, the act received huge attention by combining blues and surf rock with horrific yet campy lyrics and sleazy sex appeal. While not as aggressively bombastic as many of the early punk acts, The Cramps continued their own sexual revolution live on stage to every pierced punk’s pleasure.
Lux Interior and Poison Ivy were known for challenging gender barriers, challenging status quo, and all-the-while pushing each stage show even more over-the-top than the last. It seemed in every show from the bands inception to their most recent tour in November of 2008 that nothing was “going too far” or off-limits for them. Whether in leopard print Speedos or leather pants, Lux sweated and screamed out blues riffs with horrific themes that would delight even the most staunch horror fan. The band burned up the stage (often literally) with sexual energy and wicked wit. (Since there are no recorded instances of them ever actually setting a stage on fire, we must assume that the author doesn't literally mean literally-- they only figuratively literally burned up stages. Similarly, I don't think Lux Interior or anyone else has ever "screamed out" a blues riff. That would be similar to playing a guitar a cappella.)
Early on in my experience with the goth scene I remember picking up the albums STAY SICK and BAD MUSIC FOR BAD PEOPLE. It was easy to find the act compelling as a goth, and I had to have the later releases of LOOK MOM, NO HEAD and FLAME JOB. Their natural appeal to zombie fans and their appearance in movies like RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD quickly made them a deathrock staple for those newly initiated. (The Cramps did not actually appear in ROTLD, or even ROTFLMAO, much less any other movies "like" it. Also, I don't know what a "deathrock staple" is, but I'm pretty sure the Cramps weren't one.)
The sound of The Cramps could be described as early “pre-psychobilly”. (No, it really couldn't.) It combined the best of Chuck Berry (First I've heard of this!) and Dick Dale guitar grooves with lyrics that seemed ripped straight from a Hammer horror film. (Yes, I'll never forget Peter Cushing in "Two-Headed Sex Change," or Christopher Lee's fantastic performance in "Don't Eat Stuff Off the Sidewalk.") While the band itself denies having ever been part of the psychobilly scene, there is no doubt that almost every psycho act draws its inspiration from this lusty band. Indeed a great many early members of the goth movement found inspiration from the gender bending leopard print Speedo stage show that captivated us all. (I don't know that a pair of high heels constitutes gender bending. A gentle tweaking, perhaps.)
Recently however, Lux Interior made his last grand exit on February 4th, 2009. Passing at the age of 62 from a pre-existing heart condition, Lux leaves behind a legacy as one fantastic showman. The punk and goth scene mourns his passing as news continues to be reported about his life and his history. (History is history, not news.) What we do know, is that like the great “man in black” Johnny Cash before him, Lux and Ivy’s legacy as The Cramps will continue to live on well after Lux’s passing. (I guess that's true, but how did Johnny Cash wind up in there?)