9 February 2009

The Cramps

Live At Napa State Mental Hospital
Target Video, 1984

It's one of the more unusual gigs captured on film. The singer, Lux Interior, shakes his body and runs up and down the steps at the front of the stage trying to get the crowd to dance. The guitarist, Byron Gregory, sneers at them while chomping on a cigarette and pausing occasionally to blow a cloud of smoke in someone's face. Poison Ivy stands off to the side, looking at the neck of her guitar, her hair puffed up and knees bent, perched on high heels as if she was ready to pounce. The footage is blurry and black and white, taken on an old hand-held camcorder that pans clumsily around the room.

It takes a while for the crowd to warm up. Near the front, at the top of the steps, a shabby man in a suit and tie begins to jog on the spot as if he was exercising. He glances over his shoulder every now and then to see what everyone else is doing. Next to him a young man in a shirt and jeans starts to double over in time to the rockabilly beat, lurching back and forth with growing momentum until he looks as if he's about to hurl his body into the drum kit. Lux drags a guy in a cowboy hat up the stairs, but he scampers back into the crowd as soon as the singer lets go of his hand.

"We're The Cramps and we're from New York City," Lux announces to the recreation room of the Napa State Mental Hospital in California, "and we drove 3000 miles to play for you." A woman somewhere at the back cuts through the cheering. "FUCK YOU!" she screams in a nasal accent. "Somebody told me you people are crazy," Lux continues, "but I'm not so sure about that." The band fire up the next song and Lux, tall and thin and dressed in black, bent over with his greasy dark hair and his deranged wide-eyed smile, pushes his face right up to a young man in a leather jacket and sings: "The way I walk is just the way I walk/ The way I talk is just the way I talk/ The way I smile is just the way I smile/ Touch me baby and I'll go home wild!"

Lux Interior died last week of a heart condition aged 60.

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