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THE CRAMPS BIOGRAPHY

The Cramps roots can be traced back to 1976 when, according to legend, Erick Purkhiser picked up hitchiker Kristy Wallace in Ohio. They discovered a mutual love of old-time rock'n'roll and classic SciFi B-movie matinee fare... The rest, as they say, is history.

They soon decided to form a band. Akron Ohio was not the place for a band like The Cramps to "happen" so the couple packed on up and moved to New York City, drawn by the lure of what they read and heard was happening at a club called CBGBs... Erick took the stage name "Lux Interior" from an ad he saw describing an automobile ("Lux" as in the advertising abbrv for "Deluxe") and Kristy took the name "Poison Ivy Rorschach", from a dream she had (of course, everyone knows that a Rorschach Test is the ink blot quiz a shrink gives folks). Lux would be the singer, Ivy the guitarist. The band was soon rounded out by Bryan Gregory on guitar and Bryan's sister Pam "Balam" on drums. Pam quickly dropped out and was replaced by Miriam Linna. After recording one demo and playing a few gigs, Miriam left to join Nervous Rex. Her replacement was Electric Eels drummer Nick Knox (Nicholas Stephanoff).

Their "minimalist sound" may take some getting used to, but this is pure raw rock'n'roll. Two guitars (they only recently submitted to having a bassist) and a basic trap drum set (Bass drum, Snare and cymbal) were the only instruments. Ivy played lead guitar while Bryan (and his subsequent replacements) played highly fuzzed and distorted guitar riffs, more than making up for the lack of a bass. In New York they became cult favorites and, with Alex Chilton (of Panther Burns fame) they recorded a couple independent singles which caught the ear of Miles Copeland, who signed them to his fledgling I.R.S. Records. Those first singles and a fifth song, were released as GRAVEST HITS. The Cramps toured briefly then headed back to the studio with Alex Chilton to begin work on their first full-length LP, SONGS THE LORD TAUGHT US

Shortly after the LP SONGS THE LORD TAUGHT US was released, Bryan Gregory left the band, taking their van and most of their equipment with him. It's rumored he didn't like the direction the band was going and wanted a more modern sound and thought the lyrics should be meaningful, like The Clash. Obviously Bryan had no idea what it meant to be "Cramped." He surfaced a while later in a band called Beast, releasing three singles. They soon Dumped Gregory, moved to the UK and became Veil, vanishing after a one shot gothic LP. Gregory later worked as either a satanic minister or a porn shop vendor, depending on who you believe. (Bryan Gregory died of heart failure in January, 2001. See the IRS Memorial Page for more details). Gregory was replaced by Julien Greinsnatch, whose time with The Cramps, while limited, was forever recorded on film in URGH! A MUSIC WAR.

Gun Club's Kid Congo Powers, a longtime fan, picked up the guitar duties and the band went into the studio to record PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE. It was during this time that The Cramps started having problems with Miles Copeland and I.R.S. Records. Royalties, unapproved cover art, and lack of promised support on tour were the reputed sources of the dispute. Ultimately the case was settled out of court, but not without having a severe impact on the band. During the period of litigation they could not record (technically they were still contracted with I.R.S.) so touring became their only source of income. Because desperate fans hungered for new material, fear of bootlegging kept The Cramps from doing new material at these concerts.

Lux Interior and Poion Ivy 1 Lux Interior and Poison Ivy 2
Lux and Ivy strike some poses outside one of their favorite LA haunts. (photos by Bill Gowdy, © 1990)

Once the case was settled, The Cramps recorded a live set at New York's Peppermint Lounge which was released (on the late great Enigma Records) as the "tastefully entitled" SMELL OF FEMALE. Kid Congo then left the band (amicably) to return to Gun Club. I.R.S., either to fulfill a term of the settlement or as a final kiss-off released the psuedo-greatest hits collection BAD MUSIC FOR BAD PEOPLE.

Then a period of rotating second guitarist/bassist and rotating labels began. Guitarists/bassists who came and went included Click Mort, Ike Knox (Nick's brother), Mike Metoff (formerly of The Pagans and Nick's cousin), Fur and finally Candy Del Mar who stuck around for a while. After she left a fellow named Slim Chance assumed duties on the bass.

Nick Knox, stalwart drummer, had long suffered from vision troubles and after eye surgery left him blind in one eye, decided to leave the band and retire. He was replaced by Jim Sclavunos, and soon followed by Nicky Beat and then Harry Drumdini, arriving at the current line up of Lux, Ivy, Slim and Harry.

In 1989 The Cramps seemed to have smoothed over some of their problems with Miles and I.R.S., as they assisted in the preparation of their I.R.S. catalog for CD release. This apparent reconciliation may have only been for the sake of making sure "it was done right" for The Cramps continued to work independent of any "major label" influence. The Cramps continue to record and perform and have released many albums since leaving IRS. While this site is devoted to IRS Records exclusively, all of The Cramps recordings are worthwhile and, in humble webmaster Mr. Bill's opinion, worth seeking out and owning... Look for the aforementiond SMELL OF FEMALE, A DATE WITH ELVIS, STAY SICK, LOOK MOM NO HEAD, ROCKINNREELININAUKLANDNEWZEALND (a live concert recording), and FLAMEJOB.

In 2001, Lux and Ivy revived their Vengeance Records label and regained most of their non-I.R.S. catalog for reissue. And not only on CD -- they're also available on cool colored vinyl (which makes Mr. Bill have flashbacks to the glorious 80s)! These are readily available, provided you're in a hip location, at your local music shop. Or just use the handy Amazon links here!


THE CRAMPS I.R.S. DISCOGRAPHY

This discography will cover only THE CRAMPS' recordings for I.R.S. Records. Recordings for other labels, other recordings, solo recordings and guest appearances, may be mentioned in the biography or discography, but details can be found by visiting some of the cool links for THE CRAMPS, below...

Albums & EPs

Gravest Hits cover (black) Gravest Hits cover (red) GRAVEST HITS
IRS SP501 (Released 10 Oct 1979)

Vinyl Only
(See below for CD release as "Two-fer", in 1989)
Produced by Alex Chilton
Recorded at Ardent Studios, Memphis Tennessee, October 1977
Photography by Stephanie Chernikowski
Liner Notes by Dr. J. H. Sasfy, Professor of Rockology, American Rock'n'Roll University, Washington, D. C.


Musicians
Lux Interior Vocals
Poison Ivy Guitar
Bryan Gregory Guitar
Nick Knox Drums

Track Listing:

  1. Human Fly (Rorschach/Interior) 2:12
  2. The Way I Walk (Scott) 2:38
  3. Domino (Phillips) 3:05
  4. Surfin' Bird (Wahrer) 5:03
  5. Lonesome Town (Knight) 2:55
The Cramps' auspicious debut in the form of this delightful EP only hinted at the wonderful music to come from this unusual New York (and later Los Angeles)-based band. The EP collected their two indy singles from their own "Vengeance Records" label, and a fifth tune ("Lonesome Town"), all produced by the legendary Alex Chilton of Panther Burns fame.

The tongue-in-cheek liner notes more or less say it all: "In The Spring of 1976, The Cramps began to fester in a NYC apartment... The Cramps dove into the deepest recesses of the Rock'n'Roll Psyche for the most primal of all rhythmic impulses -- Rockabilly -- the sound of Southern Culture falling apart in a blaze of shudders and hiccups... (they) also picked and chose amongst the psychotic debris of previous rock eras -- instrumental rock, surf, psychedelia and sixties punk. And then they added the junkiest element of all -- themselves. Nick Knox , stoic drummer with the history of the big beat written in his left hand. Ivy Rorschach, voodoo guitarist with the rhythm method down as pat as her blonde beauty. Bryan Gregory, flipping cigs and fractured guitar runs at the incredulous mob. And Lux Interior, the band's frontal lobe, wherein Elvis gets crossed with Vincent Price and decent folks ask, 'What hath God wrought?'... The Cramps don't pummel and you won't pogo. They ooze, you'll throb."

The EP was released with at least two different colored covers. At first black was the most common, but over time, red became the common cover. Green and lavender covers have been reported, but Mr Bill believes these reports to be erroneous at best and wishful thinking at worst. The EP was supported by a US tour in which The Cramps opened for Buzzcocks. . Soon after that it was back to Memphis and Alex Chilton to begin working on their first full-length LP...


Songs The Lord Taught Us cover (1980 actual) Songs The Lord Taught Us cover (1979 error) SONGS THE LORD TAUGHT US
IRS SP007 (Released 1 Apr 1980)

Vinyl & CD
(CD released in 1989 with * bonus tracks)
Produced by Alex Chilton
Engineered by John Hampton
Recorded at Sam C Phillips Recording Studio, Memphis Tennessee, 1979
Mixed at Ardent Studios, Memphis and A&M Studios, Hollywood
Cover Concept The Cramps
Art & Design Carl Grasso
Photographs by David Arnoff
Product Management Jay Boberg
Mastered by Frank DeLuna
Quality Control Marv Bornstein
Additional credits for 1989 CD release:
"Twist and Shout" recorded at Present Time Records, N. Hollywood and mixed by Lux Interior & Ivy Rorschach
Tape Restoration and Mix Engineer Marc Dellorco
Prepared For CD by John Guarnieri, Ivy Rorschach and Lux Interior
Additional Photos by Simon Fowler, Anton Corbijn and Stephanie Chernikowski
Digital Remastering by Mike Reese at A&M Studios, Hollywood

Musicians:
Lux Interior Vocals
Poison Ivy Guitar
Bryan Gregory Guitar
Nick Knox Drums
Additional Musicians:
Booker C Organ on "Fever"

Track Listing:

  1. TV Set (Rorschach/Interior) 3:12
  2. Rock On The Moon (Burden) 5:03
  3. Garbageman (Rorschach/Interior) 3:28
  4. I Was A Teenage Werewolf (Rorschach/Interior) 3:03
  5. Sunglasses After Dark (Rorschach/Interior/Pullens/Wray) 3:47
  6. The Mad Daddy (Rorschach/Interior) 3:47
  7. Mystery Plane (Rorschach/Interior) 2:42
  8. Zombie Dance (Knight) 1:55
  9. What's Behind The Mask (Rorschach/Interior) 2:05
  10. Strychnine (Roshie) 2:25
  11. I'm Cramped (Rorschach/Interior/Gregory/Knox) 2:37
  12. Tear It Up (Burnette/Burnette/ Burlison) 2:32
  13. Fever (Davenport/Cooley) 4:16
    * Bonus Tracks On CD:
  14. I Was A Teenage Werewolf (With False Start) (Rorschach/Interior) 4:48
  15. Mystery Plane (Original Mix) (Rorschach/Interior) 2:40
  16. Twist And Shout (previously unreleased) (Rorschach/Interior) 2:31
  17. I'm Cramped (Original Mix) (Rorschach/Interior/Gregory/Knox) 2:35
  18. The Mad Daddy (Original Mix)(Knight) 3:16

The fine print on the spine reads: "File Under Sacred Music," a sentiment shared by devoted fans the world over. This was The Cramps second record and first full length LP. Originally slated for release in 1979, there was a printing error on the cover and it was reprinted before too many erroneous covers escaped. The 1979 "error" cover is shown at the right, above. The error lies in the incorret sequencing and the inclusion of the LP's single B-side, although the record enclosed contained the correct sequencing as reflected on the correct sleeve (which carries the copyright date of 1980)... if you manage to find one of the 1979 covers, hang on to it! Your humble webmaster has been offered a staggering sum for his copy!

Stand out tracks on this offering are "TV Set", the single cut (and rarely seen music video) "Garbageman", "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" (with its terrific lyric, "I was a teenage werewolf, braces on my fangs..."), "Sunglasses After Dark","Tear It Up"and the rock love ballad, "Fever." "Mad Daddy" is a tribute to a legendary 50's rock DJ from their native Ohio.

The 1989 CD reissue is interesting not just because SONGS THE LORD TAUGHT US finally appered on CD, but because of the slightly different versions of four of the tracks and a previously unreleased song ("Twist and Shout" which is NOT The Beatles' tune, but a Cramps original) presented as "bonus tracks." The "false start" version of "...Werewolf" alone is worth the price of the disc! You get to witness "art in action" as Lux chews out someone in the studio who has ruined a take for the last time (and cost the band valuable studio time)!


Psychedelic Jungle cover PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE
IRS SP70016 (Released 27 Mar 1981)

Vinyl & Cassette
(See below for CD release as "Two-fer", in 1989)

Produced by The Cramps
Engineered by Paul McKenna
Recorded at A&M Studios, January, 1981
Photography (front) Donna Santisi
Photography (back) Anton Corbijn

Musicians:
Lux Interior Vocals
Poison Ivy Guitar
Kid Congo Powers Guitar
Nick Knox Drums

Track Listing:

  1. Green Fuz (Dale/Alrey) 2:06
  2. Goo Goo Muck (Cook/James) 3:05
  3. Rockin' Bones (Rhodes/Carter/Nells) 2:48
  4. Voodoo Idol (Rorschach/Interior) 3:38
  5. Primitive (Groupies/Venet) 3:32
  6. Caveman (Rorschach/Interior) 3:51
  7. The Crusher (Nolan) 1:46
  8. Don't Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk (Rorschach/Interior) 2:02
  9. Can't Find My Mind (Rorschach/Interior) 2:58
  10. Jungle Hop (Tyler) 2:04
  11. The Natives Are Restless (Rorschach/Interior) 2:57
  12. Under The Wires (Rorschach/Interior) 2:43
  13. Beautiful Gardens (Rorschach/Interior) 3:56
  14. Green Door (Davie/Moore) 2:35
This was The Cramps first "post-Bryan Gregory" recording. Gregory's replacement, Kid Congo Powers (formerly of Gun Club), picks up like a real trooper and carries on more skillfully than Gregory could've ever hoped to. It is only in the arena of "stage presence" that Gregory outdid Congo! This LP was also The Cramps' first commercially accessible album. The sound is cleaner, the recording slicker, perhaps from using the fine Studios on the A&M lot. And the musicianship of the quartet is tops this go round. A single released from this LP (see "Goo Goo Muck", below) had much promise but it wouldn't be the last time lack of airplay denied The Cramps the recognition they deserved

It was shortly after this release that The Cramps' legal posturing with Miles Copeland and IRS came to a head, and there are hints on the LP of what was about to happen. In the "back-masking" of "Beautiful Gardens" Lux can be heard saying (if you take the time and have the means to play it in reverse), "If I said this in English, this record company would turn into a parking lot." Indeed. IRS is no more and parent label (at the time) A&M is merely a memory and an imprint of a bigger (and more evil) musical conglomeration... The suit was settled out of court, the terms of which have never been made public. The Cramps were not heard from for several years while the lawsuit meandered through our legal system. Fans had to depend on live venues to hear new material. And what a treasure trove of material it was!

PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE showed Lux and Ivy's continuing penchant for finding forgotten musical gems from rock's roots. While there are many "originals" here, the covers range from the obscure and forgotten ("Green Fuz", "Rockin' Bones") to the famous and infamous ("Green Door", and wrestling ballad, "The Crusher"). Excellent originals here are the "sanity-doubting" "Can't Find My Mind" and "Beautiful Gardens", the obscene phone call ditty "Under The Wires" and the "almost-a-public-service-announcement" "Don't Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk". In 1989 PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE and GRAVEST HITS were combined for CD release (See below)...


Bad Music For Bad People cover BAD MUSIC FOR BAD PEOPLE
IRS SP70042 (Released 20 Feb 1984)

Vinyl, Cassette & CD

Produced by The Cramps (except * produced by Alex Chilton)
Project Coordinator John Guarnieri
Art & Design Carl Grasso
Cover Art by Stephen Blickenstaff
Layout by Ron Scarselli
Mastered by Eddie Schreyer at Capitol

Musicians:
Lux Interior Vocals
Poison Ivy Guitar
Kid Congo Powers Guitar on +
Bryan Gregory Guitar on *
Nick Knox Drums

Track Listing:

  1. Garbageman (Rorschach/Interior) 3:28 *
  2. New Kind Of Kick (Rorschach/Interior) 3:28 +
  3. Love Me (Lott) 1:57 *
  4. I Can't Hardly Stand It (Feathers/Chastain/Huffman) 2:39 *
  5. She Said (Adkins) 3:11 +
  6. Goo Goo Muck (single mix) (Cook/James) 3:02 +
  7. Save It (Robbins/Biggs) 3:01 +
  8. Human Fly (Rorschach/Interior) 2:12 *
  9. Drug Train (Rorschach/Interior) 2:33 *
  10. TV Set (Rorschach/Interior) 3:12 *
  11. Uranium Rock (Smith) 2:24 *
Released three years after The Cramps' falling out with IRS Records, this LP may have been a result of the out-of-court settlement. Simply a collection of unreleased B-sides, single releases and favorite cuts, this is considered by many fans to be the US version of OFF THE BONE, a similar UK collection, which was released on Copeland's Illegal Records label.

At Right: The UK records that The Cramps's material on this LP came from... from left to right:
1: OFF THE BONE (note 3D cover -- glasses included!
2: the "Drug Train" single with double B-side, and
3: "The Crusher" 12" single also with double B-side...
Off The Bone UK cover 0021 UK Sleeve Crusher 12 inch cover

For the completist fan there's nothing new on this LP unless you were unable to get the US singles, and the UK 7" and 12" singles from which almost all of this material was culled: "New Kind Of Kick" and "Save It" came from the B-side of the IRS 12" single for "The Crusher" which was actually the last record The Cramps released before the legal wrangling hit its peak. "Drug Train" was the B-side of The Cramps' first IRS single and the A-side of their UK 7" single (on Illegal Records) which featured "Love Me" and "I Can't Hardly Stand It" on the B-side. "She Said" was the US B-side of "Goo Goo Muck" (and always a concert favorite as Lux seemingly never sings it the same way twice). "Garbageman", "Human Fly" and "TV Set" are practically The Cramps' standards. And "Uranium Rock" was previously available ONLY on IRS GREATEST HITS, VOLS 2 & 3.

Though all the material is available elsewhere, this is worth owning just to have all the odds and ends on one disc...


Psychedelic Jungle/Gravest Hits cover PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE/GRAVEST HITS
IRS SP70058 (Released 1989)

CD Only

Produced by The Cramps (except * produced by Alex Chilton)
Engineered by Paul McKenna (except * engineered by John Hampton)
Photographs by Stephanie Chernikowski (on CD erroneously credited to David Arnoff), Donna Santini and Anton Corbijn
Prepared for CD Release by John Guarnieri
Digitally Remastered by Mike Reese at A&M Studios, Hollywood

Musicians:
Lux Interior Vocals
Poison Ivy Guitar
Kid Congo Powers Guitar (except *)
Bryan Gregory Guitar on *
Nick Knox Drums

Track Listing:

  1. Green Fuz (Dale/Alrey) 2:06
  2. Goo Goo Muck (Cook/James) 3:05
  3. Rockin' Bones (Rhodes/Carter/Nells) 2:48
  4. Voodoo Idol (Rorschach/Interior) 3:38
  5. Primitive (Groupies/Venet) 3:32
  6. Caveman (Rorschach/Interior) 3:51
  7. The Crusher (Nolan) 1:46
  8. Don't Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk (Rorschach/Interior) 2:02
  9. Can't Find My Mind (Rorschach/Interior) 2:58
  10. Jungle Hop (Tyler) 2:04
  11. The Natives Are Restless (Rorschach/Interior) 2:57
  12. Under The Wires (Rorschach/Interior) 2:43
  13. Beautiful Gardens (Rorschach/Interior) 3:56
  14. Green Door (Davie/Moore) 2:35
  15. Human Fly (Rorschach/Interior) 2:12 *
  16. The Way I Walk (Scott) 2:38 *
  17. Domino (Phillips) 3:05 *
  18. Surfin' Bird (Wahrer) 5:03 *
  19. Lonesome Town (Knight) 2:55 *
With the various record company's scrambling to put out as much catalog on CD as possible, IRS's (former) parent label, A&M, combined many of IRS's artists' EPs and LPs to make economic sense, rather than release EPs on disc. This is one of those... Other artists given this treatment include Let's Active, R.E.M. and Buzzcocks... (You can read the record reviews for the individual EP and LP releases above.)

Singles

9014 Sleeve "Garbage Man"/"Drug Train"
IRS IR9014 (Released 1 Sep 1980)


Produced by Alex Chilton


Musicians
Lux Interior Vocals
Poison Ivy Guitar
Bryan Gregory Guitar
Nick Knox Drums

"Garbageman" was the first IRS single from The Cramps and there was an accompanying video (directed by Derek Burbridge) which received NO airplay on MTV (which we in the IRS Corner affectionately call "eMpTy Vee"). "TV Set" was a better tune, but, given the subject matter, would have had less opportunity for airplay at the time!

The B-side ("Drug Train") was a UK A-side and, depending on how you interpret the lyrics, made either a pro- or anti-drug statement: "(...how to get on board the Drug Train) You pick one leg up. You pick the other leg up. And you pick the other leg up, and you're on board the Drug Train!" Another lyric: "I saw Elvis with your mother (on the Drug Train)."

The sleeve notes on one side read, "Stay Sick, Turn Blue" and on the other, "Too Bad Your Gonna Die" (yes, with the misspelled "You're")...


9021 Sleeve "Goo Goo Muck"/"She Said"
IRS IR9021 (Released 8 May 1981)



Produced by The Cramps


Musicians:
Lux Interior Vocals
Poison Ivy Guitar
Kid Congo Powers Guitar
Nick Knox Drums

"Goo Goo Muck" deserved airplay and should've been a hit. The B-side is The Cramps' longtime concert favorite, "She Said", a cover of a Hasil Adkins tune. Before The Cramps recorded this hardly anyone knew who Hasil was. Hasil's career got a boost and the "semi-reclusive country almost-could've-been" toured and recorded again, thanks to The Cramps.

In concert, Lux never sings this the same way twice and keeps the band guessing as to how many times he's gonna say "She said..." before he rips into the chorus. A lot of fun to watch and hear live!


Compilations & Soundtracks

IRS GREATEST HITS, VOLS 2 & 3 (IRS SP70800) includes "Uranium Rock"
KILL YOUR RADIO (29696) includes "Human Fly"
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (IRS 6184) includes "Goo Goo Muck"
THESE PEOPLE ARE NUTS (IRS 82010) includes "Goo Goo Muck"
URGH! A MUSIC WAR A&M SP6019 contains a live performance of "Tear It Up"


THE CRAMPS LINKS & OTHER COOL STUFF

There are a phenominal amount of websites out there devoted to The Cramps. Unfortunately since the IRS CORNER was launched, most of the links that were featured here have gone by the wayside (including a slick, almost complete "official" Cramps page)...


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This Page Last Updated 24 October 2002
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