Sunday, March 08, 2009

Mick Cancer remembers Lux. (Thanks to Rich Lustre and Mick for sharing this...)


Years ago, for some inexplicable reason, the late Joey Ramone instigated a “Lux is Dead” rumor, pertaining to Lux Interior, the mercurial singer for the proto-punkabilly band The Cramps. Fortunately, this questionable replication of a “Paul is Dead” type hoax was hastily dismissed as the dark joke it was.

Ironically, that day I placed a call to Lux and Poison Ivy Rorschach, Interior’s lover, alter-ego and the Cramps’ guitarist and musical architect. Lux happened to answer and upon inquiring how he was, he snorted that he was “glad to be alive”. Unaware of the circulating hysteria, I listened incredulously as Lux laughingly related the details of Joey’s goofy prank.

Sadly, the news arriving from Glendale, California on February 4th was no careless hoax. Lux, one of RocknRoll’s iconoclastic and iconic voices, was silenced. This world will never seem the same again.

It was my great fortune and privilege to meet Lux and Ivy in 1977 when Alex Chilton, whom I’d encountered a few months prior, insisted I check out The Cramps. He further suggested I introduce myself, as they were great folks.

The baptism was hair-raising. My girlfriend Alison (The) End and I couldn’t believe what we witnessed. This was primordial pandemonium played by ardent missionaries, zealots recalling the basest instincts of the madmaddaddys who had originally carved out the form. But this was no exercise in mere reverent nostalgia. No, The Cramps dug up the grave of long dormant voodoo RocknRoll, rattled its’ rockin’ bones, dressed it up in horrormovie regalia, and fed it psychedelic mushrooms. Oozing a seething, sleazy sexuality, this was the ungodly white trash progeny of Frankenstein, Barbarella, Elvis Presley and Myra Breckenridge. In doing so, the door to the future blew wide open.

It was an apocalyptic event, the most devastating performance I’d ever experienced, chock full of instantly classic songs, wicked passion, sassy style, garbageman humor, boiling brimstone and, oh yes, imminent danger. It was a definitive, life changing moment.

This was the classic Cramps, swathed in black, so pale they appeared to have never considered sunlight:

Sweet lil innocent Bryan Gregory, as street talkin’ cheetah with a head fulla cigarette smoke and hairspray, a pock-marked sneer and polka dots, crossbones and a godawful racket everywhere….

Stoic, smirking, slickbacked – the mobmod matinee idol Nick Knox sat at the drums, impervious….

Lux, a hiccupping problem child, Ricky Nelson turned leering human fly, conjuring Nervous Norvous and Iggy Stooge in a dance with Dominodomino that made the devil dizzy….

And Ivy, a backstreet bombshell, ice and fire and twang, the decadent daughter of darkness Link Wray could only pray for….

Summoning our courage, Alison and I crept backstage, tepidly announcing ourselves. And we stepped forever into the slipstream of the eternal mystery of RocknRoll. It was like we shot heroin.

And we got hooked. We became fans/friends/acolytes, especially with Lux and Ivy. Removed from stage personas, they were the kindest, hippest, most elegant humans one could hope to meet. Intelligent, creative, witty and mystical, they shared a singular uniqueness.

We went to every Crampshow, we stayed at their Cramped NYC apartment, we haunted flea markets in hope of rare records, exotic clothing and pointed shoes, we listened mesmerized as they played their vast collection of rockabilly obscurities, we watched gorehound films and later at some 4 AM eatery ordered spinach omelets.

When we determined to start our own band, the eventual Sic Kidz, The Cramps offered continual inspiration and support, became mentors, teaching us how to be a band, how to conduct a rehearsal, a sound check, how to behave, how to wear sunglasses after dark. Our odyssey began thirty years ago, opening for The Cramps at The Hot Club in Philadelphia, Lux offering the introductory benediction.

But things change. The Cramps, on the cusp of their legendary stardom, moved west. Bryan, in a fit of wayward witchery, defected in a shroud of paranoia, delusion, and the Bee Gees. Alison (The) End passed away in 1980, buried with the guitar she got from Ivy. Still, a special relationship endured for decades.

Lux rocks now in another dimension, teaching the Lord a new kinda kick. But his spirit persists. He was a natural, a true believer, a pulpit poundin’ preacher whose calling it was to deliver the serum of RocknRoll as a life force, a source of salvation and repair, an alternative to eternal damnation. His like won’t be seen soon again.

This is not Lux Interior’s obituary, nor his eulogy. It is rather a testament to a friend whose rare essence touched so many. We will miss him terribly.

And I will recall, until the day I die, the way he walked.

Michael J. Ferguson
(aka Mick Cancer)
On behalf of The Sickidz

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