One of the things I’ve always admired about some of the early Washington HarDCore crew was that it was The Cramps, not The Pistols nor The Stooges nor even the Velvets, whom they professed initially set them on their respective paths of mayhem & audio destruction. They were pretty much a, if not the, major touchstone band for me as well.
Even as an early-teenage new waver, hearing “Garbageman” and “Goo Goo Muck” and especially “Human Fly” on college radio directly drew me into The Cramps’ orbit, from which I’ve never looked back. I’d then see photos of them – I’m thinking especially of the particular one you can see at the bottom of this post, from a UK “1982 Rock Yearbook” that I owned back then (and picked up for nostalgia’s sake on eBay very recently) – and just salivate over how cool they must be, and how badly I needed to see them play live.
I saw Urgh! A Music War and this jaw-dropping Cramps performance right when it hit home video (or perhaps I saw it on USA Network’s Night Flight), and I practically wept with joy. Soon thereafter, my first purchased bootlegs were Cramps bootlegs, because I already had all the legit vinyl of theirs that I could afford. People would relay these incredible stories from their live shows, with anecdotes such as the one in which Lux supposedly took a gross sneaker that someone had thrown on stage, poured half his bottle of wine into it, then guzzled the wine directly from the shoe. All this tomfoolery with sexy gum-smacker Poison Ivy laying down ferocious yet simplistic fuzztone rockabilly riffs and Nick Knox beautifully taking rock drumming back to its jungle roots.
Alas, by the time I finally got to see them live, it was my freshman year of college; A Date With Elvis had just come out, and the band played the corporate “One Step Beyond” club in Santa Clara, CA. Hey, I had fun – it was The Cramps! – but it was instantly clear I’d missed the band’s high-water mark by a good five years already. Here’s a thing I wrote about The Cramps 18 years ago, still somehow online.
That brings us to that aforementioned high-water mark; the period around the 1979 Alex Chilton “Ohio Demos” (later the All Tore Up bootleg) and right afterward, when the (inferior but still great) Songs The Lord Taught Us came out. That’s approximately when the UK magazine Zigzag deigned to interview and put The Cramps on their cover, in June 1980. It even features a killer “center-spread” of Cramps photos that I’m sure I’d have ripped out and pinned to the wall if I’d owned this issue in the early 80s. The Brits loved The Cramps; I believe the entire weirdo “psychobilly” scene of the early 80s pretty much grew directly from their barnstorming across the UK.
I’m sure we’ll talk about Zigzag more next time I pull one of their issues from my collection, but suffice to say this issue (#102), all things considered, is a corker. It’s got Chris Desjardins (yeah, Chris D.!) introducing his Los Angeles compatriots X to the entire UK in a lengthy article. There’s a lucid and funny interview with The Fall, with much love and emotion for their Dragnet LP from the magazine’s staff. #102 also includes Mikey Dread, Jah Wobble and respect & raves for current dub and reggae. Somehow there’s even a straight-up sit-down interview with Pete Townsend.
One final aside: the more I immerse myself in punk fanzines of the ‘78-’80 period, the more hovering and omnipresent the ludicrous spectre of The Clash seems to be. People just loved to debate the merits and demerits of The Clash back then. In this Zigzag, the Rude Boy film has apparently just come out, and much consternation about it is made in various parts of the magazine, from the letters section to snide remarks about it being snuck into various articles and reviews. This love/hate Clash stuff crops up in US fanzines as well at the time, but it being spread all over a London-based mag such as Zigzag shows me the inner war UK critics of the time must have been at with themselves regarding a local band that promised them so much and delivered so little. They ought’ve spent all that energy & debate picking apart the glories of The Cramps instead!
One thought on “Zigzag #102 (June 1980)”
I didn’t get my first chance to see The Cramps until after Psychedelic Jungle, I got wind that they were playing in L.A. and my then housemate Brian and I made the trip from Phoenix to see ’em. I had no expectations, no one I knew had ever seen them, I just knew I loved their records.This was the lineup with Kid Congo on second guitar. They come out and Ivy is looking hotter than I had expected, and I had pretty high expectations. Lux was in black leather pants and probably that jacket he’s wearing in the photo above, plus a red tuxedo shirt, the kind with the frills in the front, and his hair is in this huge pompadour about a foot high held up with probably two cans of Aquanet, and he was wearing women’s black high heeled pumps. They start in and they sound great, super loud and synced up like a machine doing upbeat rocking tunes, ‘The Natives Are Restless’, the crowd is going apeshit, they do a new song I’ve never heard before “This song goes out to Jeffery Lee Pierces mother, it’s called you’ve got gooooood taste!” They do about a half dozen rockers like this, then it turns sinister, they go into “Under The Wires”, and Lux is super animated, then the motherfucker just jumps into the crowd and crowd surfs and screams his head off while the band churns it out. This goes on for a while, then the roadie chick (same one who used to guard Billy Zoom’s gear), starts to reel Lux back in to the stage via the microphone chord. By the time she gets a hold of him (he’s still groaning and grunting while the band blazes ahead) and pulls him back onto the stage, the pumps are gone, the puffy red shirt is gone, the jacket is gone, the leather pants are half pulled off, the pompadour is a sweaty mess, and the next hour was pretty much like the footage from Urgh!, with him rolling around in beer, sweat, glass and blood, and it was complete mayhem. Obviously, I had never seen anything like it, and over the years, whenever they played near me again I purposely didn’t go, because I knew there was no way they could live up to that first impression. One of the best and most singular performances I’ve been lucky enough to witness.