The scary legacy of The Cramps

Written by on November 3, 2023

Indubitably one of the best bands to listen to while “spooky season” commences, The Cramps provide the best soundtrack to go with the pumpkin and spiderweb décor. In 1972, Erick Purkhiser and Kristy Wallace formed the iconic psychobilly punk rock band. Later they took the stage names, Lux Interior and Poison Ivy. While they fell in love with each other, they also fell in love with the weirdness that surrounded them. In the identifiable influences of 50s rockabilly, surf rock and garage punk, The Cramps created a wave of rejuvenated freedom in the punk scene. 

Photo by Tiffany Steinke

The Cramps had a strange reverence for things that could be considered vulgar or unspeakable in society, so they made the uncomfortable something that was comfortable. With humble beginnings in Ohio, Lux and Ivy made their way to New York in 1975. They were on their way to pursue the passion they had for this newfound strange sound. 

It wasn’t long until the band fully formed with members guitarist Bryan Gregory and drummer Miriam Linna. Ivy played the guitar and with Lux on lead vocals, The Cramps begin to play in the famous punk club CBGB. The punk scene welcomed the psychobilly band with open arms and The Cramps continued to play gigs around the New York area. Soon Linna left the band and Nick Knox joined the group. 

Photo by Gordon Skene Sound Collection

With this group of four, they recorded their first singles with Big Star’s Alex Chilton as the producer. They released these with Vengeance Records label but in 1979 they were signed to I.R.S Records. Touring with The Police in Europe, The Cramps became an even bigger hit. Releasing their first album, Songs the Lord Taught Us. Gregory quit unexpectedly, and the rest of the three moved to Hollywood, California. Gun Club’s Kid Congo became the new guitarist and their second album released, Psychedelic Jungle.  

Over a lawsuit with I.R.S records, The Cramps didn’t release another album for two years but successfully came back with America’s record racks releasing, Smell of Female, in 1983. Kid Congo departed with the band but A date with Elvis, my personal favorite released in 1986. Through the search for a guitarist, they found Candy Del Mar who played on the live album Rockin n Reelin

Photo courtesy of Big Beat

Through the continuous different guitarists and drummers, The Cramps still managed to release a handful of projects such as Stay sick!, Look Mom No Head, Flamejob or Big beat from Badsville

Finally in 2001, Lux interior and Poison Ivy reissued and revived their discography on their own. Releasing unheard material, the band performed their final show in 2006 in California. A few years later, the power couple Lux and Ivy were separated following Interior’s death. 

Photo courtesy of IMDb

Songs such as “Surfin Dead,” “I Aint Nuthin But A Gorehound” or “Goo Goo Muck,” have been featured in movies and shows such as The Return of the Living Dead (1985), The Boys Next Door (1985), Near Dark (1987) and Wednesday (2022.)  

The Cramps will forever permeate the punk scene and the proud legacy of being happily unorthodox. Lux Interior and his fearless androgyny and Poison Ivy’s delve into the divine feminine pours into the style of many bands today. Hard to repeat and never replaced, The Cramps are defined as something that is forever alarmingly yet beautifully unique. 

Photo courtesy of Slugmag

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