Friday, February 6, 2009

RIP Lux Interior

It's taken a couple of days for Gemini Spacecraft to get around to posting the requisite obit for Lux Interior, who died Wednesday of a heart condition at age 62. I gotta say, the news bummed me out. His passing, like Bo Diddley's last summer, and Link Wray's a few years ago, seems to accelerate a sad fade-out that's already happening too fast for my money. Sure, the Cramps got plenty silly during the last 15 or so years, but I still think of Lux as a kind of walking, talking, microphone-munching human antenna, picking up signals from outer space, relaying them back to us in a form we can understand, i.e., as covers of "Strychnine," "Green Fuzz," and "All Tore Up." Many a corn-fed rube, myself included, got hipped to an entire alternate dimension thanks to him. I'll always love "Gravest Hits," "Songs the Lord Taught Us," and "LIve at the Peppermint Lounge," just as I'll always distrust anyone who doesn't keep these records around the house.

As long as we're indulging in Cramps/Lux Interior memories, my personal favorite is of a show in Pittsburgh, 1992. During the "Surfin' Bird" finale, when he'd usually peel out of that two- piece latex body condom he wore, an audience member, probably a plant, tossed some women's panties at him. So Lux stripped all the way down and tried to get into those panties. But his cue came to get back to the mic to sing the next round of poppa-oom-mow-mow before he got the draws on straight. He finished out the song, and the rest of the show, with his shlong dangling. Now that's a dedicated showman!

The above clip comes from a local Memphis TV news story on the Cramps, from when they recorded "Gravest Hits" and "Songs the Lord Taught Us" at Phillips Recording with Alex Chilton. I first saw this spot during Robert Gordon's book tour for "It Came from Memphis," in 1995. Instead of reading, Gordon showed a collection of footage he'd compiled called "Banned, Burned, and Forgotten," or something like that. How weird that this was the subject of a local news spot. And how weird to be standing there watching it nearly 20 years later, in a Borders bookstore, curious shoppers milling about while the anchor wrapped things up, announcing that the Cramps would be appearing that long gone weekend along with "the Clits."

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