Reviews Zone

Various Artists: Ambience – 63 Nuggets from The Cramps’ Record Vault (Righteous) Out now



4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)



The Cramps were a wild American rockabilly band, formed in 1976 and active until 2009. The band split after the death of lead singer Lux Interior. Their line-up changed often, with the husband and wife duo of Interior and lead guitarist, and occasional bass guitarist Poison Ivy the only permanent members. The addition of guitarist Bryan Gregory and drummer Pam Ballam resulted in the first complete lineup in April 1976.

They were part of the early CBGB punk rock movement that had emerged in New York. One of the first punk bands, and credited as one of the prime innovators of psychobilly. Their music mostly in rockabilly form, with minimal drum kit, dual guitars, usually without a bassist. The focus of their songs was camp humour, sexual double-entendre, and retro horror/sci-fi b-movie iconography.

Their sound heavily influenced by the likes of Link Wray and Hasil Adkins, 1960s surf acts such as The Ventures and Dick Dale, 1960s garage rock artists like The Standells, The Trashmen, The Green Fuz and The Sonics, as well as the post-glam/early punk scene from which they emerged. They cited Ricky Nelson as an influence, plus the Ramones and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, for their style of theatrical horror-blues.

The Cramps have influenced countless subsequent bands in the garage, punk and revival rockabilly styles, and helped create the psychobilly genre. “Psychobilly” was a term coined by The Cramps.

Lux Interior (born Erick Lee Purkhiser) and Poison Ivy (born Kristy Marlana Wallace) met in Sacramento, California in 1972. Based on their shared artistic interests and  devotion to record collecting, they decided to form The Cramps. Lux took his stage name from a car advert, and Ivy claimed to have received hers in a dream. In 1973 they moved to Akron, Ohio, and then to New York in 1975, soon entering into CBGB’s early punk scene with emerging acts like the Ramones, Patti Smith, Television, and Mink DeVille. The lineup in 1976 was Poison Ivy Rorschach, Lux Interior, Bryan Gregory (guitar), and his sister Pam “Ballam” Gregory (drums).

Digging into Lux And Ivy’s extensive record collection for this fabulously quirky two disc set, the collection features 63 tunes that apparently “scared the neighbours”. Including wild doo-wop, insane instrumentals, novelty laughter, loungecore weirdness, jiggling fools, wolf men, Tarzan, accordions and enough raucous rockabilly to scare a horse!

No-hit wonders that fetch maximum dollars in their original vinyl incarnation all gathered in one place. Selected from The Cramps’ gargantuan record collection, radio shows and interviews over the years, it’s a hi-octane romp through the best in obscure and “magnificent” wax from a great period of American music.

Remastered from the original sound sources, with sleevenotes by music writer Dave Henderson. No Cramps tracks on here though, more’s the pity. The Cramps hit the Top 40 in the UK for the first and only time with “Bikini Girls with Machine Guns” in 1990, peaking at # 35 and in the chart for three weeks. From their album “Stay Sick!” The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has on display a shattered bass drum head that Lux’s head went through during a live show.

On February 4th 2009, Lux Interior died at the Glendale Memorial Hospital after suffering an aortic dissection which, contrary to initial reports about a pre-existing condition, was “sudden, shocking and unexpected”. A pioneering band with no boundaries and many, many after them “borrowing” from their style and sound.


By Simon Redley



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