Saturday, February 07, 2009

Obituary: Lux Interior

Lux Interior, lead singer for the punk band The Cramps, has died. He was 62.

Interior, born Erick Lee Purkhiser, started the band with Poison Ivy Rorschach (formerly Kristy Wallace) in about 1976. As Camille Dodero noted in the Village Voice on Friday, The Cramps basically had three songs that they re-wrote over and over. But who could resist songs like "Can Your Pussy Do the Dog?" and "Bend Over, I'll Drive"? Or "Jackyard Backoff"? It wasn't all juvenile sexual references -- those just make the most amusing song titles. The Cramps were a rockabilly mixture of campy pop culture references and bad horror movies. Picture Elvis crossed with Iggy Pop.

The Cramps played an infamous free show at the Napa State Mental Hospital in California in 1978. "We drove 3000 miles to play for you people," Interior says as he takes the mic. "Fuck you!" yells a patient. "Somebody told me you people are crazy," he patters. "But I'm not so sure about that. You seem to be alright to me." Watch the video below. The action starts 20 seconds in.

Henry Rollins, the former singer for Black Flag, remembered the first Cramps shows he saw in the 70s in Washington D.C.:
I grew up in Washington, D.C., in the '70s, and when punk rock came along, I realized that my ship had come in. The Cramps would come down to D.C. and I would see them play in a space about the size of your living room. It was kind of scary being in the front row. Lux would find something to swing from -- if there were ceiling tiles, they'd all be on the floor by the end of the thing. Lux would somehow find his way out of his pants and be down to a pair of bikini briefs twitching all over the floor. He's a very large man, very tall and very pale and very sweaty. They all looked so amazing. Each one could have been a movie star.
Rollins reminisced at length in an article in Saturday's Los Angeles Times.

And see also this performance of The Cramps' classic "Human Fly." About a minute and seven seconds in, he pours a can of beer into his shoe and drinks out of it. Then he kicks the shoe into the audience and starts taking his pants off.

The Cramps' best-known song may be their cover of "Fever," which appeared in the gruesome bar scene in Kathryn Bigelow's 1987 vampire movie Near Dark. Fast-forward about 6 minutes into the segment below for the song.

The band never stopped playing in more than 30 years, with Interior singing and his wife Poison Ivy on guitar. He died of a heart condition.

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