by The Indie Dad
On February 4, 2009 Erick Purkhiser died. If I’d read that I wouldn’t have batted an eye lid. But Erick had the alter ego Lux Interior. Erick died of a “pre-existing” heart condition (whatever the Hell that is). But Lux, well you gotta imagine someone lifted the coffin lid and plunged in a stake. And just like Dracula, Lux won’t stay dead – because every time someone hears a Cramps record it’s like the curse of the Vampire will spread.
Lux could have been known to the world as Vip Vop. “I had Vip Vop on my driver’s license and every time I got stopped by the cops they would hassle me: “Vip Vop – I oughta give you a ticket just for that!”
In terms of commitment to a pure seam of Rock & Roll The Cramps can have few equals and only The Ramones could be said to surpass them. But no-one could accuse Da brudders of being SEXY (well, maybe Dee Dee). The Cramps – the constant being Lux and Poison Ivy – are, like The Ramones…. flawless. Show me a bad Cramps song? No, you can’t. Some maybe more throw away than others but not bad. BAD maybe but not bad. They took the base elements of R&R – booze, drugs, fucking and leather, added b-movies – and kept them base. When you listen to a Cramps’ song you are lifted to a higher state of being (though getting fucked up too doesn’t hurt).
Jeez, even the titles make you feel better. “Bikini Girls With Machine Guns”, “Most Exalted Potentate Of Love”, “Aloha From Hell”, Can Your Pussy Do The Dog?” Get to the lyrics and it’s time to grin like a monkey. What’s Inside A Girl? – “There’s some things baby I just can’t swallow, Mama told me that girls are hollow”.
As well as writing some damn exciting music Lux & Ivy were archivists, delighting in collecting Rock & Roll and Exotica records. They spent a lot of time driving round thrift stores and warehouses buying unbelievable stuff, Sun label stuff for a nickel.
I took a damn long time but just managed to see The Cramps in 2006 at the Astoria. I ended up getting a ticket from e-bay as it had sold out long before I got wind of it. And the audience of the faithful was all you might hope – freaks in the best sense, a tattoo convention full of greasers and outlandish ladies in fetish gear. A smattering of uninitiated gawpers like me who knew the spectacle would be superb. Lux, then 60, was all over the stage, drinking red wine from the bottle by holding the neck in his teeth and putting his head back. Then spraying it out like a blood mist. Clearly he had arrived on our shores in a casket full of Ohio earth. “It’s good to see so many of you out on a full moon… It’s when I like to feed!”
In a very Mark Twain sidebar, Lux had been reported as dying from a heroin overdose in 1987 and so had already seen something of the reaction his death might find.
Quiet apart from a 34 year career in R&R, Lux had a 35 year partnership with his wife and co-founder Poison Ivy. That’s a Hell of a long time – and I bet it was a Hell of a time. Maybe Ivy can take some comfort from this Mark Twain quote –
“Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.”