Rob Jones

The Cramps were a remarkable riot of rock n roll rebellion and the author Dick Porter captures the essence of this fiery furore in his literary tribute to the band. Journey to the centre of The Cramps published by Omnibus Press is an entertaining and well researched tome that delves in to the deeper recesses of an act that represent the true spirit of the psychobilly subgenre!

At the heart of the operations were Lux Interior (October 21, 1946 – February 4, 2009) and his partner of 37 years: Poison Ivy Rorschach (February 20, 1953 – present). Many other musicians came and went but this dynamic duo were The Cramps!

Their desire to scour record stores far and wide to find old gems that they could then replicate or contort in to their songs is the ultimate love of the obscure and undervalued elements of music released mostly in the 50’s and 60’s. Other forms of culture were also incorporated in to a colourful template including fashion, art, literature and underground movies. However, it was the wing of the extraordinary and underdog that attracted Lux and Ivy!

The Cramps were the real deal ‘sex, drugs and rock n roll’ combo who did not dress up to go on stage they lived the life 24 hours a day! There was no desire to polish the contents and go for the mainstream because they wanted to get seedy and dirty! As the journalist Edwin Pouncey once wrote of the Psychedelic Jungle album: ‘Once this record has got its rabid fangs under your skin, you’re infected and there’s no cure except to play it again, and again and….’.

The band could be seen as a raucous novelty act but as one time drummer Jim Scalvunos stated: ‘ Lux and Ivy took themselves and their music very, very seriously and held rockabilly, garage, the blues and other forms of music that they emulated in the utmost regard’ and he then went on to say ‘From their point of view, it was art of the most sublime order, no matter how trashy its reputation.’

Along the way a number of outsiders join the camp and this allows for some great stories and statements e.g. the Lux led account of original guitarist Bryan Gregory shines brightly amongst the references. The comical quip about Gregory who is also no longer with us unfolds as thus: ‘He worked in a nuclear weapons plant in California, but they fired him cos he was eating too much of the product’.

The Cramps kept to their principles no matter what and their love of music as both punters and performers was second to none. Nobody could disrupt their goals and The Cramps were an individual entity as both a stage and studio proposition. There is so much more to this tale –but, it is up to you to have a date with The Cramps!