The Cramps

Born Bad

 ☠Songs The Cramps Taught Us

The Cramps never defined themselves as anything other than a garage band but they are the ones who build a bridge and opened the gates that gave a second breath to an incredible amount of underground hits that would most probably have otherwise sadly sunk into oblivion. They were part of the early CBGB punk rock movement that had emerged in New York. The founding mebers and couple Lux Interior (who took his stage name from a car ad) and Poison Ivy (she was first Poison Ivy Rorschach, taking her last name from that of the inventor of the Rorschach test) helped to usher in a new wave of rockabilly acts across the world, and inadvertently created a new genre in the process. They combined the sound and style of the early country, rockabilly and garage rock acts of the ’50s and ’60s with the newly emerging punk rock attitude and style of the late ’70s. Their sound was heavily influenced by early rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll like Link Wray and Hasil Adkins, 1960s surf music acts such as The Ventures and Dick Dale, 1960s garage rock artists like The Standells, The Trashmen, The Green Fuz and The Sonics, as well as the post-glam/early punk scene from which they emerged. They also were influenced to a degree by the Ramones and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, who were an influence for their style of theatrical horror-blues.Their unique approach was labeled as “Psychobilly”, a term coined by The Cramps, although Lux Interior maintained that the term did not describe their own style, and thus a genre was born. Under the false pretence of a totally careless attitude, The Cramps had a vast expertise on timeless hits that were maybe ill adjusted when they were originally released but definitely had everything it takes to be given a whole new interpretation and become part of The Cramps’ extremely wide array of songs that would redefine punk in the US.

The Cramps feat. Bryan Gregory (bass) and Nick Knox (drums), NYC, 1979 ©Ebet Roberts

This statement is very meaningful because punk has evolved very differently in US than in the UK. UK punk came more from the evolution of rock’n’roll and became rockabilly and sometimes got a little mixed up with something else. Take The Clash for example, a good example of pure rockabilly that got gradually influenced by reggae or ska. David Bowie first act was 100% rockabilly. In the US, it came more from an ideology, a revolution more than a natural evolution, and totally took off when US punk hit the UK thanks to David Bowie who was a fan of the Velvet Underground and The Stooges even before he was known himself and invited Lou Reed and The Stooges when he made the last show of his tour for Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars (see Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell). In the United States, the Velvet Underground and the MC5 and their little brother band The Stooges, and this whole revolution was a result of the path that the Beats had opened. it’s weird that both the hippies and the punks are said to be heirs of the Beat Generation (see Beat Punks) but it was just 2 different ways to express a huge “fuck you” to the social traditions of the 50’s, a revolution that was so full on and in your face that some parents felt their teenagers needed ECT so that they would snap out of it. Lou Reed was one of these kids. In the UK, it’s the Teddy Boys and the rockabillies who drew all the hatred and the rebellion that was entrapped in the music of the first rock’n’rollers as well as everything that would be used in redefining a society that was in urgent need for a radical do-over. Let’s just forget the fact that they destroyed what could have been one of the best MC5 show when a shitload of beercans rained down on the MC5 at Wimbley Stadium… My guess would be that they simply didn’t like the space suit… Anyways that,s another subject but I just wanted to prove how much UK punk and overall music was rooted in rock’n’roll of the 50s compared to what was going in the States..

 

Poison Ivy playing her signature Gretsch guitar

That is why The Cramps were such an important band because they unified the needs and means for a change for both continent!! Playing those forgotten hits from early on, The Cramps are definitely responsable for the resurrection and the use of the rockabilly style that they covered but also gave them an incisive edge that only The Cramps possessed. Yes they were all covers but they were covered in a way that was truly incendiary, scandalous and provoking. Weirdly enough, one could say that The Cramps are in a way the proof that rock’n’roll cannot be completely dissociated from punk. Furthermore I think that the very essence of punk is found in those rebellious outsider’s from the 50’s who lived how they played, not only talking the talk but walking the walk. Lux Interior and Poison Ivy drew the inspiration straight from the well since everything they represented was 100% rooted in sex, drugs, rock’n’roll and fast cars. The Cramps take us straight back to the fire, the rebellion, the attitude, the sex and debauchery that was the way of life of the outsiders and rebellious greasers of the fifties who passed it down to the youth of the after-war who had enough of The Cleavers and the likes, they got the message loud and clear and helped keeping the fire of the rock’n’roll revolution to burn hard and bright. The chain wasn’t broken in the US since they all drank from the same water than the purest, most authentic iconic, rebellious outcast rock’n’rollers.

Shit got crazy when The Cramps decided to do a live performance for the NAPA Hostpital. On June 13, 1978, that The Cramps and The Mutants played a punk show at a mental institution. This was a performance seen by almost no one—about a dozen devoted punkers who drove up with the bands from San Francisco, and perhaps 100 or 200 patients, plus a scattering of hospital staff. See previous article published on LAN HERE! The show might have been forgotten entirely, or consigned to the realm of myth, were it not for about 20 minutes of footage of The Cramps’ set shot by a small operation called Target Video, which documented the event using an innovative Sony Portapak camera. Maybe you’ve seen the video. If so, you haven’t forgotten it.

Lux Interior (1946-2009) R.I.P

Thanks to The Cramps, all the future generations now know that punk isn’t only a new concept from The Stooges, the VU, or The Ramones, but also is part of a legacy that was passed down to us from off-the-wall rockers whom Lux and Poison Ivy brought back to life on the stage with their sweat and blood and everything they had. For sure it’s one thing we’ll never forget because they were right in our faces and because others took the path that they opened. Thanks to The Cramps, psychobilly and rockabilly are here to stay. In 1986, the first in a series of compilations entitled “Born Bad” introduced listeners to a number of bands that greatly influenced the rockabilly and psychobilly bands in the decades that followed. The first volume is often listed as “Volume One: Songs The Cramps Taught Us”, a sticker was included on the vinyl release of the first volume that read “Songs The Cramps Taught Us”, although it would not be included on any of the volumes that followed. For those of you who are interested in listening to the early rockabilly, country, rock ‘n’ roll and garage rock acts of the ’50s and ’60s that inspired The Cramps, it gets no better than this compilation. Those of you who are familiar with The Cramps will recognize these songs, as the band sought to pay tribute to the artists that inspired them by performing their own cover versions of many of the songs contained in the Born Bad series. Decades after the first volume was released, someone decided to create two bootleg volumes to expand on the originals that are not officially affiliated with the original six volumes.

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8 thoughts on “The Cramps

  1. I discovered the Cramps when I was 20, taking a biology class at a Junior College. I had a crush on this girl who sat next to me, and they were her favorite band. Naturally I was curious and went out and bought some tapes. They grew on me and years later, long after that class was over and I never saw the girl again, I saw them perform in concert. I can still sing some of their songs, or parts of them, from memory today. My all-time favorite may just be “The Human Fly”, which is just right up my alley to begin with, and a good song. And you are telling me it’s not original? I had no idea they only did covers, none at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. TBH I don’t know if ALL their songs are covers but 9-% of them for sure!! I love The Cramps too!! Loved from the very first time I heard them!! I was like wow hey stop whjatMs that sound?? And it was Human Fly.. So fuck originality..What counts is sincerity here.. Most people know the Cramps for their album Bad Music for Bad People!! My first buy was Gravest Hits. Glad you liked this post!! Had a sad birthday this year… But I think I’m getting better a little..

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I think it was quite a kool idea!! I sincerely think that people who need psychiatirc help or anyone who is ill in one way or another is in deep need of expressing themselves in one artisitc way or another, or at the very least be in contact with it.

      Liked by 1 person

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