Sad news: Lux Interior, the lanky and ghoulish singer of punk/psychobilly band the Cramps, died this week. According to news reports this morning, Lux (born Eric Lee Purkhiser) passed away on Wednesday, February 4 in Glendale, California after suffering a heart attack.
The Cramps formed in 1973 in Ohio and relocated to Manhattan just as the early punk scene there was taking shape. Lux and his guitar-playing wife Poison Ivy (both pictured here) were rockabilly revivalists with an ultra-trashy style. They dug deep into the most obscure corners of early rock 'n' roll and delivered songs with a fuzzed-out twang, a garage-rock aesthetic, and a twisted graveyard sense of humor.
I first got into the Cramps via their 1984 compilation album Bad Music for Bad People (I.R.S.), which I purchased at the old "punk" record store Prism Records on upper King Street in the mid '80s. It included tunes from the band's first three records — Gravest Hits, Songs The Lord Taught Us, and Psychedelic Jungle. The song "Human Fly" was produced by Alex Chilton (of Big Star) at Ardent Studios in Memphis in 1977. Bad Music for Bad People is the best starting point or anyone uninitiated inro the reverb-drenched rock of the Cramps.
High school friend and fellow drummer Chisolm Coleman was the first to show me actual live footage of the Cramps. He had a VHS recording from the old Night Flight music series of the 1981 concert documentary Urgh! A Music War. Lux led the way through a frightening and hilarious version of Johnny Burnette's "Tear it Up" — replete with Lux fellating the microphone, rubbing his skintight leather pants, hiccuping the lyrics, and sneering at a shocked-looking L.A. crowd.
(photo by Steve Jennings)