Thursday, February 5, 2009

I Got 96 Tears in 96 Eyes

Celebrity deaths have never bothered me that much. Sure, it's sad and all, but I always felt it was sort of presumptuous for me to grieve. That belongs to people who knew them personally. And yeah, a world without Ron Asheton, 3/4 of The Ramones, Joe Strummer or Rudy Ray Moore is a sadder place, but we still have their work, which was why we cared about them in the first place.

But Lux Interior of The Cramps? I just assumed that guy would live forever.

Mining "the old, weird America" for inspiration, The Cramps combined a love of B-movies, trash culture and early rock and roll to create their own unique sound. Fuzzed-out, simple and catchy, you just can't top those early albums, especially when considering that there was no precedent for their style of sped-up rockabilly back then. Even the later albums, while not as good, would still have at least a couple good songs. And they even got to appear on 90210!

You know how you felt a little funny when you found out that Alice Cooper played golf with Bob Hope or that dude from Metallica had a gazillion dollar art collection? Lux and his longtime wife, Poison Ivy were The Cramps 24/7, still getting inspiration from the overlooked flotsam of American pop culture, living in a house that was probably second only to Forrest Ackerman's mansion in terms of coolness.

I saw the Cramps in 1989 or so. As the band warmed up, Lux came onstage in a skintight black vinyl outfit, looked the crowd over and said, "I just talked to the sheriff of Tampa. He said you all need a goooood spankin,'" then launched into one of the best shows I've ever seen. After about an hour and half, he was stripped down to high heel shoes and vinyl pants and he climbed to the top of the speakers like King Kong. Watching him humping the top of the speakers while screaming gibberish through the microphone he kept clenched in his teeth, I realized I was in the presence of the force that possessed Elvis, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, that exciting, primal beat that so worried parents and authorities in the '50s.

It was pretty strange thinking Lux and Ivy were about the age of my parents.

So while I never met the guy, a world without Lux Interior is a world a little sadder and a little squarer. This week, before doing something lame and square, close your eyes and listen really hard. Hear that faint beat? That simple, driving, aboriginal beat? That's the beat of rock and roll. Do something crazy, something cramped with it.


Scott said...

Man, I completely agree. There's something about a world without Lux in it that's just a little less cool.

Why a man like Interior has to go, and yet Keith Richards gets to live on playing crap music is beyond me.

Strangely enough, about a year ago I started singing Goo Goo Muck to my kids. They now know the whole chorus and sing along with me. Irony.

I wonder what heaven is for Lux? Lots of tight pants I guess.

Patrick Hughes said...

Unending crates of dusty old undiscovered soul and hillbilly 45s to dig through...