I was saddened to hear of the death of Erick Purkhiser, better known as Lux Interior lead singer with The Cramps.
He died on Wednesday 4th February 2009, at the Glendale Memorial Hospital in Glendale, California aged 62.
A pre-existing heart condition was recorded as the cause of death.
The Cramps were formed in 1973 after Lux Interior and Kristy “Poison Ivy Rorschach” Wallace met in 1972. They subsequently married. But though The Cramps were part of the whole New York CBGBs & Max’s Kansas City punk movement they didn’t have much in common with the other bands of that time.
The Cramps’ music was a pre-goth post-punk melting pot of 1950’s rockabilly, rock n roll and 1960’s garage music, with references like Link Wray, The Sonics & The Nuggets. Other influences included sex fetishism, horror and sci-fi b-movies.
Lux Interior was a great front man. On stage he was like a wild young Iggy Pop from the dark side. In fact The Cramps were so aptly described as a night version of The B52’s by Matt Snow.
The Cramps revolved around husband and wife Lux Interior (vocals) and Poison Ivy (guitar). At the height of their success (circa 1979 – 1983) they were joined by the wonderfully cool Nick Knox on drums and alternately Bryan Gregory and Kid Congo on guitar (also of The Gun Club).
In 1979 I bought The Cramps Gravest Hits, a five track UK 12” compilation of The Cramps first two US single releases Surfin’ Bird / The Way I Walk and Human Fly/Domino on Vengeance Records, along with Lonesome Town. Except for the self-penned Human Fly, these tracks were mutilated post-punk “psychobilly” versions of garage rockabilly songs from the 1950s & 1960s. The term ‘psychobilly’ was a musical genre formed to describe the music of The Cramps and many UK bands that followed in their footsteps such as The Meteors & Guana Bats.
In 1980 The Cramps released their debut album, Songs The Lord Taught Us, and in the following year Psychedelic Jungle. The Cramps were at their most creative in this period and the albums spawned the singles Garbageman & Goo Goo Muck. The Cramps also released their best single, Drug Train, in 1980.
In 1983 they released two albums. Smell Of Female – Live at The Peppermint Lounge in New York & …Off The Bone, the first of many compilation albums.
The Cramps went on to release a further nine albums for six labels, including Flame Job in 1994 released on Creation Records and their final album, How To Make A Monster, released on Vengeance in 2004.
Their final album is a compilation of demos, rehearsals and two lives shows from Max’s Kansas City (14 January 1977) and CBGB’s (13th January 1978).
I have fond memories of The Cramps and their early period.
The only time I saw them live was sometime in the early 1980’s. They were awesome. The Hammersmith Palais was really rocking that night, and so was Lux Interior. I recall at the end of the gig he knelt down at the front of the stage, smashed an empty bottle on the speaker and began cutting his chest. There was a story the following week in the NME saying that he had been rushed to Hammersmith Hospital after the show and was stitched up. Nice!
I have just listened to The Songs The Lord Taught Us for the first time in a few years. It starts with three great tracks: TV Set, Rock On The Moon & Garbageman (see video below).
But Drug Train is still the perfect psychobilly track for me: “Come on everybody the drug train!”
Here’s a great live clip of The Cramps performing The Way I Walk from 1978 playing at free show for the patients of the California State Mental Hospital.
Lux Interior tells the mental patients “Somebody told me you people are crazy, but I’m not so sure about that. You seem to be all right to me.”
Lux Interior – rest in peace