Lux Interior Obituary And Tribute, By John Robb

‘…Well when I die don’t you bury me at all,

Just nail my bones up on the wall,

Beneath these bones let these words be seen,

"This is the bloody gears of a boppin’ machine…’

Thus sang Lux Interior on ‘Rockin’ Bones’ from the Cramps second album, the LSD laced swampy psychobilly of Psychedelic Jungle. With that song Interior, who died on Wednesday aged 62, had perfectly written his own epitaph. One of the wildest frontmen ever, Interior and delicious Poison Ivy (his wife of 37 years) were the premier couple in any kind of music with ‘Billy on the end.

Put simply: If you don’t like the Cramps you don’t get rock ‘n’ roll, it’s as simple as that.

Stunningly original, the Cramps were put together in the mid 70s after Interior picked Ivy up hitch hiking. The pair bonded over spooked psychobilly, early rock & roll, garage rock, weird psychedelic and any other music with psych in its title and added a dose of hiccoughing bizarre country and b-movie suss, creating a whole new sound that was a combination of demonic howling feedback that you could get lost in, primal drums and strange spooked surf licks topped with Interior’s amazing vocal. This was not merely gruff shouting, but a ghoulish baritone – a voice that was perfect, an Elvis from hell – John Peel once said Interior had one of the finest singing voices he had ever heard.

Live, Poison Ivy would stand rooted to the spot, scowling as she played brutally effective guitar parts. She duelled with second guitarist Bryan Gregory, a man with what looked like half a face and a switchblade scowl sneering from under a strange lank one foot long semi fringe. With underground punk legend Nick Knox on drums laying down the jungle psychobilly clomp the band were the perfect backdrop against which Interior could to play out his own unique psychodrama. The liquorice-lace thin frontman looked suitably ghoulish as he tore the stage apart with his Iggy-flavoured moves – he was simply one of the greats.

Always one of my favourite bands, I remember how terrifying Cramps early releases seemed. There was no hint of the humour that would lace their later work. Their debut Songs That The Lord Taught Us was a nightmare world of feedback-drenched oddness produced by Alex Chilton to create a psychodrama all of its own. We used to look at the band’s picture on the sleeve and wonder at how perfectly it matched the music. We wondered how you could get as fucked up and weird looking as these people. They looked like they had lived a bit – and had lived in another universe at that – but one that was as glamorous and sexy as it was dark and dangerous.

At the same time a young Morrissey must have been thinking the same, for the Cramps were fast becoming one of his muses. Other unlikely fans included Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye and his best pal Henry Rollins, both of whom were turned onto punk rock by a righteous Cramps gig in Washington DC in the late 70s. Years later the White Stripes would carry a distant echo of the Cramps voodoo-billy to the top of the charts. Every tattooed high street fifties-wardrobed wannabe you see only exist because Lux and Poison Ivy could walk it like they talked it.

They may never have been quite as scary again after that freakish debut, but the follow up Psychedelic Jungle (now with the louche Kid Congo replacing the erratic Gregory on guitar) was another genius record – splicing a genuine spirit of the maverick 50s underground with the dark side of LSD and a genius understanding of the possibilities of post punk. This threading all of so many strands of maverick music into one seamless whole made for an underrated record that still sounds utterly timeless – we urge The Reader to get hold of it now.

After this endless different line-ups would form around the perfect couple. The result was records that were less weird but never less than captivating, such as Smell Of Female. The Cramps became a bubblegum version of themselves but it was great bubblegum and with a record collection as sharply observed as Lux Interior’s there was always going to be inspiration. He was a pop culture freak who was quoting Russ Meyer before anyone else knew who he was and turning a whole generation onto the weird and wonderful backwoods music made by psychopaths with what sounded like chainsaws for guitars. Interior was a gentle softy spoken highly intelligent articulate man who was like a lanky curator of a museum stuffed full of strange shaped skulls, stranger records and even stranger ideas. He was a man who implicitly understood the purity and beauty of rock ‘n’ roll and performed it perfectly. In the super hip know-it-all 21st century it’s going to be harder and harder to find people with his genius. The genuine article has gone – Lux Interior has left the building…

Rest in peace Lux, wherever the fuck you are!

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