The wider world may not be recording February 4th 2009 as ‘the other day the music died’, but it lost a true original with the sad death of Lux Interior. As a performer, innovator, macabre showman and fetishist extraordinaire, the man who was born Erick Lee Purkhiser taught us that ridicule really is nothing to be scared of, after 35 years of fronting a band who, although widely known and loved by all sensible people, never quite got their universal dues.
I’ll never forget the night I first “discovered” The Cramps. It was winter 1983, and I was staying up watching late-night TV in my uncle’s holiday home in Lamlash Bay on the Isle of Arran – a house reputed to be haunted, according to the lazy-arsed builders who, the previous summer, had taken their time about completing its refurbishment. However implausible the stories they’d left behind, they made for a spooky night, regardless.
My viewing entertainment that night was one of those music all-nighters they used to show before MTV and its ilk began. There was the usual glut of big stars premiering their expensive promo videos, live performances and trivia. But the only truly memorable item was the item on The Cramps; a profile, interview and wonderful footage from The Peppermint Lounge. It was a period of musical awakening for the young teenage me; I’d only just seen The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle on TV, become devoted to The Damned and local heroes Orange Juice, had my life newly taken over by Manchester’s The Smiths and The Fall and now here were some American gorehounds who were about to take my musical sphere on to a whole new level.
I ‘got’ The Cramps immediately. As a fourteen-year-old, I was obsessed by the idea of forming a band and this was my new reason to try. Of course I was young and stupid and without a note in my head, but bands like Sex Pistols, The Fall and The Cramps, showed me that anyone with the requisite passion, creativity and something to say could, and probably should, form a band. The programme’s interview section, where Lux and his wife and fellow Cramps founder, Poison Ivy spoke of their passion for rock’n’roll and old horror films (another obsession of mine) was a revelation to me. Before I saw them, I didn’t know it was possible to play rock’n’roll without a bassist and still make it rock. Albums like Songs The Lord Taught Us, Psychedelic Jungle, Smell Of Female and A Date With Elvis partially defined this era of my life and became, for better or worse, part of every creative thing I did.
25 years later, I love them every bit as much. A world without Lux Interior and The Cramps in it is hard to take. Of course, there remain lots of terrible copycats (even here in Dublin, we’re not immune from bloated wannabes) but we still, and always will, have the songs The Cramps taught us.