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The Cramps, pt. 2
“New Kind of Kick”
On the Road and in the Studio (1981 - 1984)

The Cramps onstage at the Peppermint Lounge, NYC - 1983 or 1984. Photo by Justina Fitzpatrick.

Psychedelic Jungle got released in 1981 and it got a great reception from all parties involved. Everyone involved was like, “Oh we don’t miss Bryan Gregory" or "The Cramps made a great album." Some people thought it was a bit too clean for them, but if you listen to that now - its no clean album. I’ll tell you - it is one dirty album. We started to tour to promote our record and that was a whole other experience for me because I hadn’t played very much live with them.

The Cramps were a very spontaneous type of band live. It was all about creating an atmosphere of the wildest thing possible. Lux was the ringleader of all of that and Ivy held it down. They were some wild shows - especially the European shows. And it was in the era when (especially in the UK) where people spit on you if they liked you and so we were often covered in gob. We were really not going to back down…we were not the backing down type of band. They were some crazy magic voodoo shows and Lux did incredible things on stage that were so dangerous and crazy, from jumping off of speaker stacks, swinging a microphone with the lead so long that you thought he was going to decapitate you - but he never did. He would tie my legs together with the mic cord and drag me around the stage while I was still playing - during "Surfin' Bird" usually.

Fights would often erupt in the audience, girls clothes came off, and then Lux would be wearing them… and the audience would pull Lux in the audience and Nick would jump from behind his drum kit and jump in the fray. It was pretty wild. If something bad was happening, Ivy would snap her fingers and point and we’d have to go beat someone up. It was like being in a gang - like a juvenile delinquent band… and it was great! It was my juvenile delinquent fantasy come true.

So I guess on tour I got to know the band as people a little better - my work colleagues, my band…my gang members. And then I got to know them as people. It was a good dynamic. Lux was completely hysterical and funny all the time. He has the craziest point of view about anything and so everything turned into some crazy situation. Completely uncensored. We were out on some American tour at some roadside diner in the middle of god knows were, Arkansas or somewhere. And we were eating. Everyone was of course staring at us because we look like The Cramps - like monsters to them. And there was this really really fat woman came in - a giant middle America giant fat big ass stretch pants woman and Lux went “MAKE WAY!” really loud when she came in. She turned around to him and said, “You little punk, I’m going to crush you!” She was like a lady wrestler or something, but she went away luckily and didn’t like, punch him out. That was the kind of thing that Lux was good at.

They also recruited my friend, Bradley Field from Teenage Jesus who I stayed with and met Lydia Lunch with. He was our tour manager - and he was just a complete psycho. And so he was just as crazy. Everyone was a crazy maniac but Ivy was the cool hand in the whole operation. She was the brains she was the manager. Her and Lux wrote the songs. She was the guitar player. She was the musical director. She had the look and, like I said, she snapped her fingers and you’d jump. That’s Ivy. She’s really fun actually too. I know she wouldn’t want anyone to say that though because she’s such a cool cucumber - but I had some pretty fun times with her - especially shopping. Her and I could do some shopping. And so, she was the boss, really. She is the boss. You take one look at her and you wouldn’t argue with her either.

Nick Knox was my roommate on tour. He was a real hot head - but he was always real cool with me. I never was on the end of his hot headedness. He could be set off though - he was a real stick of dynamite. You never know what would set him off… bad service, bad hotel room, someone threw him a bad look and that would put him in a bad mood and he would snap. He was a tightly wound character. But also totally cool cucumber - and totally great drummer. Less is more! And he was the bass. He was the rock of that. And in the time I was in the band he played amazing. In my time I’ve played with drum machines and he was on time as a metronome.

We did a lot of touring for a year on and off. And we put out “The Crusher” and went back in the studio and recorded “New Kind of Kick” and “Save It”. Another one of my dying moose guitar solos. On “New Kind of Kick” we hit another psychedelic thing. That was one of my proudest guitar moment to this day. We had been doing this song live called “Five Years Ahead of My Time” it was on one of the Pebbles albums – the acid one. We had been doing that song, and what I’m playing is a bastardization of that…a weird combination of “Get Me to the World on Time” by The Electric Prunes and whatever - ”I’m in With the In-Crowd” mixed with some crazy vocals about drugs. That’s a good drugs song. And the guitar solo in that is one of my greatest moments – its actually a duo between me and Ivy. And its me playing the guitar and Ivy was switching switches like on and off faster and slower so its sounds like its going backwards and slowing down and up - and its one of the wildest sounds. I’ve never been able to recreate it, nor have I heard anyone else recreate it - this kind of magical sound.

They were really unhappy with the record company for whatever business reasons they had. They felt misunderstood by them, they felt cheated. They felt like they weren’t getting legal statements that were correct and law suits started to try to get all the correct information. And we had to put a hold on recording. So there wasn’t a quick follow up record or even the writing of songs. So we started playing live a lot to live and support ourselves. But the morale of the band started to get down. And we played a lot less frequently. I started to get a estranged from the band. I was going on with my life – and my life included doing a lot of drugs… a lot of hard drugs and hanging out with Jeffrey a lot more.

Jeffrey was at a crossroads with his band, so I was living in LA - kind of reconnecting in a way and we were getting very into free jazz and theory writing. More Burroughs and New York beat things and different writers. “Under the Volcano” became a big thing. We began reading about adventures in the Yucatan in the 1800’s. We were reading a lot and taking a lot of drugs and listening to a lot of free jazz. And this is where international music, Brazilian music... came into play. We were on a new thirst and hunger for "a new kind of kick". We were off on a different new trip. Because the thing about Jeffrey and me is that as soon as we find one thing, were off ready to find a new thing. It’s like, “Ok that’s done. We’ve done it. No need to keep doing it. We can revisit it sometimes, but its best to go on a new adventure”. Because there’s so much to know and learn and do and reinterpret. I really reconnected with Jeffrey at this point while The Cramps were still going – but teetering out as far as input.

Around this time, we thought that since it didn’t look as though we were going to record a studio album, we should record a live record. Lux and I came up with some new songs like "Exalted Potentate" and "Wighat" and "You’ve Got Good Taste." We did some cover versions like "Faster Pussycat Kill, Kill Kill”. We recorded that record and I went and did the shows and they were really good but I was still becoming estranged from the band by my own choice. They were saying “What the fuck are we doing? What do we do now? What do we do next?” So the record was kind of a way to keep the ball rolling and it turned out really great and it was really popular. The Peppermint Lounge record was kind of like I was saying - we couldn’t record a studio record any time soon because of all the legal hassle still going on, so that was the way around it they decided to come up with some new songs…and record demos. Actually Terry Graham from The Gun Club played on the demos, but didn’t end up playing live. Nick was sick and couldn’t play for a little while. That was another thing that was happening… life stuff was standing in the way.

So the idea to go to The Peppermint Lounge had a lot of historic value to The Cramps and just record a record that we could release a live album. Before it actually came out I had actually split the band. It didn’t come out right away either - another down period. I was talking to Ivy and she was like “I don’t know what were doing, I don’t know what’s going to happen.” And The Cramps were the type of people to be like, ”You’re in The Cramps and you cant play with anyone else." And I was kind of itching to record with Jeffrey and I wanted to be a musician and do different things - that whole calling. I had spent three years with The Cramps only doing The Cramps. So I asked Ivy, “What would you think if I went ahead and did something with Jeffrey?" Because we were thinking maybe I should do a solo record or a weird project. And she said that it was probably a good idea because she didn’t know what was going on with The Cramps. So, she might have just been being nice and not wanting to fire me and I gave her the out… or it was just what happened. It was quite un-dramatic. And I was on so much heroin it wouldn’t have mattered to me anyway. So, that was the end of The Cramps. Kind of like a slow descent into what to do next.

About that time, Jeffrey still had that band - again with Terry Graham. For some crazy reason he let him back in the band. And Jim Duckworth and Patricia Morrison - whom I had never played with - I’d only known her from The Bags. Jim and Terry didn’t get on the plane to Australia for the tour. So I got a phone call and I was hanging out and Jeffrey called me up from Australia and said that he was stuck there in Australia with no band - just Patricia. He said he found a drummer and another guitar player but "would you come and play?" He said he needed some boost to the bill because it was immediately known to the promoters that the band didn’t show up. So the morale was a little down. So Jeffrey did a couple of accoustic shows. He called me up and asked me to come. And I was like, "I just quit The Cramps and I'm free." So the next day I got on a plane to Australia and I was in The Gun Club again.

Continue to Kid Congo Powers Oral History Pt 5, The Gun Club 2

 © New York Night Train , 2005


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