Imagine discovering an exciting new band that was a surreal extension of Punk, that would inspire, influence and catapult you into a new musical horizon, that would continue from here to eternity. A band that would awaken your dreams,become part of your DNA and inject a heavy dose of anarchy, and poison from its visceral veins. How could it even be possible? Well, if you were a teenager in the late 70s you were in luck, as discovering The Cramps became a life-changing experience that got deep into your psyche and persuaded you to stage-dive into thicker, murkier and dirtier depths.
Well this is what happened with former Primal Scream member Martin St John, whose excursion from the gritty streets of Glasgow into the heart of the New York Club scene and plunging into Cramsville, has been documented in his latest book, “Forever Cramped”. It’s a book whose first-hand accounts of discovering The Cramps in 1979, when he was 17 years old, watching them live and enrolling into the hedonistic academy of sex, drugs and rock n roll makes a compulsive and insightful read. It was here that Martin St John took a journey down the rickety road of Rockabilly, Country, Blues, Gothabilly, Bluegrass and Garage-Punk and surfed and crashed the nocturnal waves of crepuscular California.
“In 1979 when I first came across The Cramps supporting The Police at the Glasgow Apollo, I was just a young, snotty dumb-ass punk who liked it fast and wild. Seeing The Cramps live at that very moment – right place, right time, right age – I knew in a heartbeat that they were from a totally different planet from the rest of us mere earthlings ie Crammpsville, the land of true pollinators.” (Martin St John).
For any die-hard or blood-thirsty Cramps fan, “Forever Cramped” is a great reminder of the pioneering spirit of The Cramps. Their bold, flamboyant, anti-establishment rebellion, their formidable force, their sexual prowess, their warped humour and their unhinged spontaneity. Through his youthful adventures watching The Cramps, Martin St John gives you an intimate invite into an underworld of werewolves, vampires, monsters and all things that go hump and bump in the night. Drawing upon his personal memories of The Cramps and further influences from bands such as Suicide and The Gun Club, Martin St John provides an authentic and interesting narrative, which makes you wish you could live or relive the musical experiences of the late 70s and early 80s.
Arguably the golden age for punk, post-punk and new wave music, it was through this era that The Cramps mastered their craft of stomping riffs, rhythmic swaggers, illuminate reverberates, fast tempo and repetitive choruses set the tone for the off-kilter, idiosyncratic and often sexually -charged vocals. Although the band had a frequent changing line-up, the core members, Lux Interior (Erick Purkhiser) and Poison Ivy (Kirsty Wallace), remained the founding members from all the years the band was active from 1976 until 2009.
Like a psychotic Elvis on crack, Lux was an amazing front man whose tongue in cheek rants and abstract crooning created a cartoonish caricature of conventional rock n roll. He was a force of nature, a gender-bender whose on-set chemistry and lascivious lust for Poison Ivy, (his wife and partner in crime), created a backdrop for The Cramps’ theatrical, horror-aesthetics and fetishistic antics. A talented musician in her own right, Poison Ivy played lead guitar and occasional bass and was the muse behind much of the bands lewd lyrics. With her stunning good looks, Burlesque-punk and overt sexual appeal, Poison Ivy, along with her husband Lux Interior, managed to style, shape and customise new wave punk with their unique brand of psychobilly, and define a genre of rock n roll outside traditional American music. As a band, The Cramps broke the mould, kicked down barriers, set shock waves and generally shook up the perception of punk.
So if you are a musical connoisseur, or someone who is passionate about music, than “Forever Cramped” is strongly recommended. It’s a book which captures the youthful reminisces of The Cramps during their glory days and whose appeal and influence remains Forever Cramped.
Forever Cramped by Martin St John is priced at £12.99 and available