Dames, Booze, Chains and Boots
Bend Over, I’ll Drive
I Wanna Get in Your Pants
Two-Headed Sex Change
… and that’s just the song titles! I came late to The Cramps, but oh Lord, did I fall hard. What’s not to love here? unhinged psychobilly played by a flame-haired scantily clad guitar-slinging vixen and the degenerate love-child of Frankenstein, Elvis and silver pants Iggy Pop* from the cover of Raw Power. It’s a total no-brainer. I love rock and roll and I don’t mean that in the same way as metal bands occasionally shout, ‘Whoo! Rock and Roll!’ when they finish songs. I love the old-style genuinely unhinged, dangerously unrestrained, possibly communist, potentially alien, almost certainly morally corrupt sense of the word. Now you take all that gyrating, thrusting and fumbling, fuse it with some Nuggets-style garage rock, drain the resulting goo through the absolute dregs of 1960’s low-budget drive-in horror movies and run it through a silver Lurex punk filter, drip a little humour into the mix and SHERRRR-DINGGGHHH-GAAAAA! You get The Cramps and I’m just a sure-thing for their lovin’.
Look Mom No Head! from 1991 was the first Cramps LP I bought, in 2006, on a rather spiffing picture disc as it happens. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a custom chrome, leopard print, sleaze-fest of the highest order known to man.
It’s opening gambit, ‘Dames, Booze, Chains and Boots’ is near enough a manifesto for the LP as a whole, blurring the lines between autos, sex, auto-sex and sexy autos; who knows what the line ‘Surfin’ bird ‘n’ fur pie’ could possibly refer to? not me. A similar theme of moral upstanding sustains the next track, the eminently tasteful ‘Two Headed Sex Change’,
Two heads headed two ways at once
Let’s face it baby, I’m much too much
If your clams in a jam Baby, I know what to do
Two headed sex change – Two headed sex change
I’ll be there when ya need some strange
This isn’t a pose ladies and gentlemen, it’s a way of life. Lux Interior and Poison Ivy aren’t faking this, you genuinely get the impression that they lived in a fabulous world full of people having sex in the back of cars with impossibly sharp tail fins, before returning to their UFO for breakfast. You want a little sonic experimentation? check out ‘Blow Up Your Mind’ and it’s feedback solos; You want one of the world’s most blatant rewrites of ‘Louie Louie’? go for ‘I Wanna Get in Your Pants’ instead. Everyone’s a winner.
Real standouts for me are ‘Hardworkin’ Man’, a cover of the Captain Beefheart sang, Ry Cooder penned, track from the film Blue Collar, from which the Cramps have removed all the swearing, it’s not as good as the original – but then not much is. That jack hammer beat does it for me time and time again. The other real highlight and the reason I bought this is the Iggy Pop collaboration ‘Miniskirt Blues’, where Lux and Mr Osterberg get to hang out on the corner, tongues firmly in cheek and check out the passing scenery,
Well she walked up to me and said daddy what’s doing
I can tell by her smile that evil was a’brewin’
She said the name was Jezebel, Miss Jezebel Hurt
That foxy little momma in the miniskirt
Never mind hearing how lecherous this track is you can virtually see it, it’s that strong**, hell listen to it twice and you’ll be able to smell it about your person for a week. It’s also catchy as hell and very funny indeed. As is the pretty rudimentary ‘I Wanna Get in Your Pants’ (from where this post’s title has been filched), where I’m pretty sure Lux has more interest in wearing his paramour’s under garments than he ever will have in her. Sleaze doesn’t cover it.
Listening to this over and over again today has really rammed home the fact that Poison Ivy is a damn good guitarist too, which I’ve never really heard her get the credit for, she bangs out the licks and riffs with just the right amount of studied sloppiness and ‘tude. I hadn’t realized that Jim Sclavunos, ace producer and Bad Seed, was the drummer on Look Mom No Head! The bassist being a somewhat whacked-out looking gentleman by the name of Slim Chance. King of the castle though is Lux Interior himself, a man who could have sung ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ and make it sound like a filth-drenched come on.
If you’re happy to buy into their world The Cramps are offering you a lust-powered cruise straight to Hades, if not then you’re just one big S-Q-U-A-R-E, daddio. Me? shift along, bend over, I’ll drive!
*don’t ask about the act of conception, it was unlikely to have made for wholesome family friendly viewing and would have involved apparatus from the darkest depths of Hell. Groovy.
** Sinaesthesia ?