RIP Lux Interior — a brief appreciation

A combination of a work crunch and dealing with a new cold that’s been going around (tis the season — a few of my student workers have been hit and I’m not surprised I picked it up) means this will be only a quick check-in, but the news that Cramps lead singer and cofounder Lux Interior has passed on is a sad thing:

Lux Interior, lead singer of The Cramps, passed away this morning due to an existing heart condition at Glendale Memorial Hospital in Glendale, California at 4:30 AM PST today. Lux has been an inspiration and influence to millions of artists and fans around the world. He and wife Poison Ivy’s contributions with The Cramps have had an immeasurable impact on modern music.

The Cramps emerged from the original New York punk scene of CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, with a singular sound and iconography. Their distinct take on rockabilly and surf along with their midnight movie imagery reminded us all just how exciting, dangerous, vital and sexy rock and roll should be and has spawned entire subcultures. Lux was a fearless frontman who transformed every stage he stepped on into a place of passion, abandon, and true freedom. He is a rare icon who will be missed dearly.

I don’t have it around but there was an extensive interview with Interior and Poison Ivy in one of the volumes of Incredibly Strange Music by the Re/Search crew which pretty well summed them up as the record-collectors-gone-berserk that they were — if, as one commenter said on the ILE thread where I first heard the news, Interior’s brand of “kitsch-shock-Elvis” wasn’t for everyone, his take along with a similar kind of fusion via Alan Vega in Suicide (the latter emphasizing a decentered and crumbling technological future while the former reveled in the perceived debaucheries of the past) found a way to hotwire an approach that was already being mummified. Arguably the band ended up in their own cul de sac all too quickly after a certain point, but like their near contemporaries the Ramones in ways all that mattered was flying that flag after it was fully created.

I’ve got a few reviews up of Cramps stuff over at the All Music Guide — Songs the Lord Taught Us, Psychedelic Jungle, Bad Music For Bad People, Smell of Female and possibly a couple of others. At one point, talking about Interior’s way around this-side-of-insanity style, I said he “sounds like he’s been either dug up from a grave or a swamp” — and that was always meant as the highest praise.

Friend Chris B., after confirming the news on ILM, said after posting he was “going home to drink cheap beer and watch their clip on Urgh A Music War.” If you want to do the beer that’s up to you, but you should all at least watch this performance of “Human Fly” from said film and you’ll get a sense of what he, and the band, was all about:

“I got 96 tears…and 96 EYES!”

Great stuff still. RIP and wake up the underworld a bit for us all.

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