Thursday, February 05, 2009

life is short

life is short
filled with stuff
don't know what for
ain't had enough

the cramps, "new kind of kick" (1981)

when i first heard that verse, i thought they were among the best lines ever written, without qualification. twenty-eight years later, i still do.

the human experience in four lines. so deceptively simple. so compact. sheer haiku.

i'd be surprised if it took more than a minute to actually think up and i'd be doubly surprised if any of the cramps gave it half as much thought as i have.

i wonder if lux had any idea how truly awesome that little verse is.

lux interior, dead at 62.

born erick lee purkhiser, interior started the cramps in 1972 with guitarist poison ivy (born kristy wallace, later his wife) — whom, as legend has it, he picked up as a hitchhiker in california. by 1975, they had moved to new york, where they became an integral part of the burgeoning punk scene surrounding cbgbs.

their music differed from most of the scene's other acts in that it was heavily steeped in camp, with interior's lyrics frequently drawing from schlocky b-movies, sexual kink and deceptively clever puns. (j.h. sasfy's liner notes to their debut ep memorably noted: "the cramps don't pummel and you won't pogo. they ooze; you'll throb.") sonically, the band drew from blues and rockabilly, and a key element of their sound was the trashy, dueling guitars of poison ivy and bryan gregory (and later kid congo powers), played with maximal scuzz and minimal drumming.

because of that — not to mention interior's deranged, iggy pop-inspired onstage antics and deep, sexualized singing voice (which one reviewer described as "the psychosexual werewolf / elvis hybrid from hell") — the cramps are often cited as pioneers of "psychobilly" and "horror rock," and can count bands like the black lips, the jon spencer blues explosion, the reverend horton heat, the horrors and even the white stripes as their musical progeny.

... due to their imagery, obsession with kitsch and dogged dedication to touring — they wrapped up their latest jaunt across europe and the u.s. this past november — the cramps commanded a loyal fanbase, and even earned a spot in the rock and roll hall of fame, in the form of a shattered bass drum that interior had shoved his head through.

interior was widely rumored in 1987 to have died from a heroin overdose, and his wife received flowers and funeral wreaths.

"at first i thought it was kind of funny," he told the los angeles times at the time. "but then it started to give me a creepy feeling."

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