Boston, Massachusetts. Home of the W.A.S.P., birthplace of the baked bean, town of Town & Country. In other words, duller than doggie doo. So there I was, farting up the walls after just one lazy day in Beantown, wondering what on earth was going to entertain me for the next two weeks, wondering who could possibly live in this town and not be lobotomised out of necessity.
I picked up all the free papers I could get my hands on, (including a New Agey one some overly-cheery passerby recommended to me), and finally – lo and behold!- I found my rock’n’roll salvation – the Cramps were coming to town. Yup, back from the grave, the crypt, the hallowed halls of some cheaply-made wax torture museum: Lux Interior, on vocals; Poison Ivy, on guitar; Harry Drumdini, pounding the skins; and shiny new recruit, Chopper Franklin, on bass.
Rumour has it that the band’d been festering away on some semi-tropical dope-ridden island, sweating out the fetid sounds of their newest album: “Fiends of Dope Island”, released on their own label, Vengeance Records. And I guess Dope Island must be where Lux found his skintight, magenta, snakeskin ensemble, a present from the natives, I suppose, after all those hours spent shadow bathing together under the rocks. On a similar note, I couldn’t help wondering from what dark crevices and distant suburbs the audience in Boston came from. No doubt none of these gorgeous freaks would dare show themselves on the bright, gilt-lettering lined streets of Boston. No, these must be nocturnal creatures to have such skin, as beautifully pale and powdery as a white moth’s.
On this humid night, in the red velvet smothering upholstery of The Roxy, I positioned myself in their midst, camera in hand, like some skinny European entomologist. Then, when the music started, splat, the swarm thronged forward and I was squished like a – like a – Human Fly. All lunged forward as though the only fight that was worth fighting for was the honour of being crushed to death while Poison Ivy chugged out her rhythm guitar riffs, gazing mercilessly overhead and into the distance, underwear flashing.
I felt no pain. No, the thrill of psycho-sexual-musical energy that ran through me at that moment took me up to the ceiling. I spent the first three or four songs, looking down at my pulverised body as if it were just an insignificant piece of googoo muck. The Cramps let loose their flawless, familiar flood of B-movie-surf-a-billy-perv-a-teen-tunes.
I must say it was rather unfortunate that the audience didn’t take the advice on the back of the “Gravest Hits” E.P. to throb rather than pogo. The physical sensation was like being simultaneously humped from behind by a thousand horny puppies. Sometime during the second song, a sad mongrel positioned himself directly behind me and, with one arm extended on either side of my head, flapped his hands and mewled futilely in Poison Ivy’s direction, “Be my mama! Be my mama!” I wanted to torture him slowly and painfully.
By the time “Let’s Get Fucked Up” was being played and the band had scary-stomped, stuttered and sleazed through most of my favourites: “Human Fly”, “The Way I Walk”, “ Sunglasses After Dark”, “Domino”, and “Mule Skinner Blues”, the pain was reentering my limbs and I had to worm my way out of the male mating season.
After almost 20 years of playing and 10 albums, the basic ingredients of the Cramps remain the same. Lux lurches around, neck cordons strained like an iguana’s, makes semi-political jokes/commentary in a mocked-up Rocky Horror voice, and the whole thing gets the audience worked up into more of a frenzy than a late night science fiction double feature. It is fun. Sadly, I got the impression that much of this audience didn’t get ‘it’. Whatever ‘it’ is. What the Cramps are about, which is pretty much a mockery of all that takes itself too seriously. But then, I do remember how it was once upon a time in my suburban youth, when you heard that a so-called ‘punk’ band was coming to town, it didn’t matter if you’d ever heard of the band, it was just an excuse to get out and meet other kids who wore combat boots and get the frustration out by bashing into each other. It’s just too bad that the music media in America has made the definition of “punk” so 2-dimensional that all the pea-brained macho fucks come out to bash and plead for mama. Maybe the revivalists’ll change that.
Sadly, once I worked my way to the edges of the crowd where I could breathe, I found that the sound of the Cramps got sucked into the Roxy’s upholstery like a cow in a swamp. From here all the songs really did blur together and I even missed recognising everyone’s favourite, “Googoo Muck”. HOWEVER, I couldn’t miss the great manic stacatto encore of “Surfin’ Bird” and the endearing sight of Lux clambering agilely over the amps and hopping ghoulishly around.
Now it’s midnight and thunder and lightning rages over Berlin. As I gaze on the purple-lit cityscape, reminiscent in silhouette of those lighted black amps, I wonder what two-headed baby is being born tonight, if a teenage werewolf is on the prowl, if somewhere, somehow, more monstrous creatures are being resurrected with an electric surge, awakened from primordial sleep to ooze out into the dawn of a new world orgasm. Thanks to the Cramps.