Posts Tagged ‘The Cramps’

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“40 years. Lord, have mercy,” is Kid Congo Powers’ wry response to the length of his career. The genial former member of the Gun Club, the Cramps, Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds and a collaborator with just about anyone else cool, Kid Congo Powers has not slowed down since his move to Arizona. His current projects include recordings with Wolfmanhattan Project and Pink Monkey Birds, who’ve just released “Swing from the Sean Delear”, inspired by a dream about Jeffrey Lee Pierce.

The EP’s titular subject, Sean DeLear, and how Sean inspired you:

Kid Congo Powers: Sean was a great character, and a diehard culture fanatic. A rock ‘n’ roller through and through, he was the singer in a band called Glue. Lived in L.A. Always on the scene, always backstage, or I would spot him in the wings at a concert from the audience. A real Zelig. He would pop up at our shows in L.A., NYC, and last time I saw him, he showed up backstage at a Pink Monkey Birds show in London. A non-binary African American punker – part Diana Ross, part Captain Sensible, part Rodney Bingenheimer. A bright spot in the murky underground. Hard to resist. When he passed away, I thought I must capture his essence in song somehow, because I was afraid to lose it. We must hail our fallen.

If live music stages are currently gathering dust, Kid Congo Powers isn’t. A veteran of the trash rock trail going back to his first band, the Gun Club, Powers ended 2019 with the excellent Wolfmanhattan Project debut album (a trio including Mick Collins and Bob Bert), With some follow-up gigs before the whole virus mess, and now he’s back with his ongoing Pink Monkey Birds concern, dishing up a growly and gratifying four-song cycle, “Swing from the Sean Delear” (In the Red). It’s entire second side is a 14-minute long beat-jazzy meander (“He Walked In”) that was inspired by a dream Powers had where he saw his old Gun Club cohort, Jeffrey Lee Pierce. About halfway through, it snaps into a heftier groove that might get you dancing despite the smoky, spooky mood. Implorations to shake it, and doing so in a suave manner, are two of the tricks Powers has long brought to a garage scene often lacking in both traits.

Powers has refined his rousta-bouting as a member of some of the most idiosyncratic and important r’n’r bands of the turn of the century. He’s spent time in and out of the Cramps, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, the Divine Horsemen, and more. His own co-creations over the last 25 years — Congo Norvell, Knoxville Girls, Wolfmanhattan Project, and the Pink Monkey Birds – have continued to be a template refresher for young swamp-garage acts looking to gain access to the glamorously greasy backroom of the garage rock party.

Powers has been in bands since 1979. His first was The Creeping Ritual, which mutated into The Gun Club. His latest and his main gig is Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds. They are out on tour this month. The Wolfmanhattan Project, one of Powers’ other sidelines, have their first album out now. Though he and his husband moved out to Tuscon, AZ, a couple years ago, Swing from the Sean Delear doesn’t exactly sound like Kid Congo Powers is retiring. The rest of the record – two tunes of the Monkey Birds’ patented shifty beats, loose riffs, and Powers’ snarly talk-sing, and a frizzy, Stooge-ly instrumental – all make for a fine return after a five-year wait.

Kid Congo Powers has also been in The Cramps, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Congo Norvell, Knoxville Girls, Kid & Khan and The Fur Bible. He has also guested with an array of musicians: among them, Barry Adamson, Mark Eitzel, Die Haut and The Make-Up.

Powers turned 60 this year. “It’s great to be the Big 6-0,” he says. “Maybe at a young age it was a romantic notion to be dead at 30, but luckily I didn’t realise that romance. I threw that lover away.”

Powers has been spending a lot time reflecting: he has recently written his autobiography. “The working title was just going to be called ‘Kid’ because it was actually going to be a coming-of-age story, but then I realised I needed to get older and write about things people might actually be interested in.” “In The Red Records is going to put it out. It’s their first publishing effort. I’m excited because I’ve been putting out records with them for over 10 years.”

The 12 records Powers has chosen for each of his four decades as a musician. They indicate the enormous variety of his output. His picks span garage rock and minimalist Techno. “Sometimes it’s popular and in favour and has a spotlight on it,” he says of his work. “A lot of the time it goes into a dark cave. You need to try different things and accept that it’s not all going to be ‘right’ or rewarded.”

“Somehow, that doesn’t deter me. I think I’m still that very tenacious teenager I was. “Playing music is my sole source of engagement. It’s my food. I’ve been through plenty of disappointments, but I just keep working.” Of all the records he’s made, Powers says, “It’s like having children; you love them all. Some are a problem and some are good. I hope “These are all the good ones.”

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The Gun Club: The Birth, The Death and The Ghost (released 1989)

“We put that out as an artefact for archaeological reasons. This is an early version of the Gun Club, the pre-“Fire of Love” band, as low-fi as possible, just live bootleg cassette recordings. It was from a time of us discovering what we could be. This album was more of an idea than it was meant to be a great record.

“The version before the Gun Club – The Creeping Ritual – was all over the place, really skronky and messy and had reggae influences. It was super-arty and noisy, but it was the germ nucleus. It had all the influences and we were just trying to grasp at them. When Rob (Ritter) and Terry (Graham) joined, everything came into complete focus and it became a stronger band. It astonished me and Jeffrey (Lee Pierce), just as much as anyone who had seen us before.

Jeffrey would regularly bait the audience. That’s left off the album but that was Jeffrey’s thing. His whole persona from the beginning was to be really provocative and to get a reaction out of people, whatever that might be, usually their ire. It was audience participation.

“Later in the Gun Club, around the time of The Las Vegas Story, Billy Idol asked us to play at the height of his American White Wedding’/’Rebel Yell fame, when his whole audience was a lot of teenyboppers and secretaries – the MTV Generation Mk1. This was at the Long Beach Arena. The audience hated us. The more they booed, the more amazing Jeffrey was.”

“We were at the height of our powers, so we were like, ‘If you are going to boo us, we’re going to really give you something to boo about’. So we started Death Party which is like this non-stop feedback and screaming. People were pelting us with so much ephemera – plastic bottles and trash – until finally the stage-hands threw us off the stage.

The Gun Club, originally Creeping Ritual, was the first band I played in. I was only playing guitar for one year when I joined the Cramps… I never played music until Jeffrey and myself started The Gun Club. Except once in ‘77/’78, Lydia Lunch wanted to play drums in her practice space on Delancey Street, and she told me to play “Rock and Roll All Night” by Kiss on the guitar. I said I don’t know how to play guitar, and she just shouted, “Just make it up!” Best advice ever.

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The Gun Club. Walking with the Beast, (1984)

When The Gun Club was recording the Las Vegas Story LP at Ocean Way Studios in Hollywood, the producer, Jeff Eyrich, got us time during the graveyard shift (11pm to 6am in the morning). In the adjacent studio during these hours was Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac). Ry Cooder was in our studio daytimes, I believe recording the Soundtrack to the Wim Wenders’ film ‘Paris Texas’. One day I walk into the recording room and saw Jeffrey Lee Pierce pick up a blue plastic tube from the Cooder pile of junk in a corner, I think percussion instruments. He started swinging it above his head, creating a sound like high-pitched wind. Our friend Phast Phreddie walked in and picked up a green tube then me and Terry Graham picked up the yellow and pink tubes, whirling the whirleys around our heads creating quite the ominous wind storm. It looked like one of those hills with the solar power propellers spinning on them, creating psychedelic sustainable energy. Luckily Jeff Eyrich was in the control room and flipped the switch on the tape recorder. When we recorded the rest of the song Walking With The Beast Jeff said: “Play as loud as you want” so we turned the amps up to 11. Happy accidents reign supreme.

Recording with The Cramps was my first recording experience ever! The recording was for the Psychedelic Jungle album at A&M Studios in Hollywood, home of Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass. Although there were many moments to remember, like borrowing Karen Carpenter’s crash symbol for the song ‘Don’t Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk,’ it’s the cover of wild man Hasil Adkins song, She Said which is seared into my brain.

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The Cramps: The Crusher (12” single, 1981)

“The sound on this is incredible. This is The Cramps’ record I feel like I made the most contribution to. I first heard The Crusher [by Minneapolis garage band The Novas] on The Dr. Demento Show on the radio in LA. I found it on a compilation record in London and Lux (Interior) was like, ‘Let’s play that song – tonight.’ We didn’t do a rehearsal or anything. The second time we ever played it was when we recorded it, the next month or so.

“New Kind of Kick on the B-side has one of my favourite guitar solos I’ve made. How I got that sound is pretty amazing: I was doing it and Ivy was manipulating the speed on the tremolo. On Save It, I was trying my best to do the opposite of what you might expect for a wild rockabilly solo. I was trying to make it sound like it was slowed down and backwards. It sounds like beautiful music to me – like a dying whale.”

“New Kind of Kick on the B-side has one of my favourite guitar solos I’ve made. How I got that sound is pretty amazing: I was doing it and Ivy was manipulating the speed on the tremolo. On Save It, I was trying my best to do the opposite of what you might expect for a wild rockabilly solo. I was trying to make it sound like it was slowed down and backwards. It sounds like beautiful music to me – like a dying whale.” Powers: I met the Cramps when I saw them in 1978 at CBGB. I was visiting from L.A., and immediately in love. Then when they came to play in L.A. I never missed a show and became friendly. When they moved to L.A. I was already in the Gun Club, and at the urging of Bradly Field and Kristian Hoffman of the Mumps, they checked me out and, apparently, they liked my style. They were good at freak spotting.

The Cramps were fully formed long before I joined them. I saw them in 1978 in New York. I’d taken a Greyhound bus from LA and the first thing people said was, ‘You have to go see The Cramps. That is the band.’ My jaw dropped on the floor. It was the perfect rock band for me. The vision was all there. You immediately understood what it was, as baffling as it was. It was such a collision of different things you love but would never think of together: rockabilly music, Horror, B culture and this nihilistic attitude just coming out of the eyes. To see it all together, all these things just blew up the room; rooms erupted. CBGBs was full of screaming people.  A passionate bunch with a good critical mouth. Lux was like a magician often. I remember one time a new wave girl in a cheerleader skirt jumped onstage to dance with Lux, and I swear I looked just for a second at the neck of my guitar to make sure I was hitting the chord, and when I looked up the girl was still dancing the same, but just in her leotard and Lux had her cheerleader skirt on and was imitating her shimmy. How that happened so fast I will never know!.

Lux was incredibly provocative, baiting the audience, but with more finesse than Jeffrey did. The Cramps influenced the Gun Club theatrically, as well as musically. They were one of those bands like the Ramones, which created an entire world immediately upon first look or the first song you heard. You were immediately drawn into this world.

“When I joined, I already worshipped The Cramps. I was a friend of Bryan Gregory’s. Those were some pretty tall heels to slide yourself into, but I was young and tenacious. They were a sexy band and I was really into the androgynous look; Bryan’s look and personality and character were incredibly testosterone, terrifyingly male, but also very feminine at the same time. I took this to heart. That was an adjustment I had to make.

“To assimilate into The Cramps, I also had to learn to use a fuzz pedal. I don’t think I used any kind of pedal in the Gun Club, not even a distortion pedal. I just turned my amp louder. And I had to learn to play in front of more than 10 people. At that time, the Gun Club’s audience was friends and other bands and that was it.”

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Die Haut: Headless Body In Topless Bar (1988)

“Playing with Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds got me to Berlin. One of the first things that happened was to be in the Wim Wenders’ film Wings Of Desire with The Bad Seeds. Berlin was exciting.

“There was less pop culture pressure than in London. In London, you were hyper-aware of the latest flavour that was going on. I’m a very gullible person. I paid really too much attention to it and it would seep in. It somehow bothered me. Berlin seemed more artistically centred. It seemed that a lot more of the arts met more closely, like film and music, or dance and film, or performance art and rock’n’roll, because West Berlin was smaller and more isolated. It seemed very happening and artistically fertile. There were great experimental things going on. I also think I wanted to go somewhere, where I didn’t know the language.”

“I was also fleeing the Goth wave that was taking over the UK. The Batcave got me – just for a moment. It was not the intention to be in a Goth band. I thought The Fur Bible was more Swans or The Scientists or Foetus. The look got a little out of hand: the black hair and white make-up and Patricia (Morrison) – who pre-dated Goth – having her Vampira-influenced look. I think I was feeling the pressure to present some kind of image, which is unlike me. I don’t know where this insecurity came from.”. “Die Haut were interested in someone to sing who wasn’t a singer. This was when I think I started to find my voice. In The Fur Bible, I felt I didn’t find my voice. Those songs with Die Haut (You Seen Angel Jésus and My Gift To You) were very satisfying and I loved working with this band a lot. I was very nervous, but luckily they were a band that liked to rehearse a lot. I had 100% carte blanche. They gave me a track and said, ‘We had someone else singing on this and they sang it like it was Satisfaction.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t think I can sing it like Satisfaction. The music is so exciting, what you need more is a narrator.’ They were very much into that. They let me write whatever lyrics I wanted. It was good for me to exercise my lyric writing.

“One thing I take with me from my time in Berlin is that you don’t have to stick to one genre. It’s worth taking all these chances of playing all these different kinds of music. It’s all part of your cultivation. It was a very inspirational time: it was ideas on top of ideas.”

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Barry Adamson: Moss Side Story

“I’m in the “Freedom Choir” (along with Mick Harvey and Anita Lane) on two tracks, Suck On The Honey Of Love and Free at Last. Any piece of any record is part of the whole. That album is incredible. That was Barry’s first attempt at a soundtrack-style album and what an amazing success it is. I’ve very proud that he asked me to be on it. “I was a fan of Magazine and I’d known Barry for a while. Actually, I joined The Bad Seeds because Barry had left the band and Mick Harvey was going to move over to bass guitar and they needed a second guitarist. I was basically filling in when Barry’s slot was vacated. I got shoo-ed in for the Her Funeral My Trial tour.

Barry and I remained friendly, so when Barry asked us to come down to the studio, of course we wanted to do it. I also appear in two Barry Adamson videos. In The Man With The Golden Arm, I’m playing cards in a nightclub; and in Busted off The Negro Inside Me, I play a very sleazy character carrying a briefcase.”

Barry was part of that London community I was part of. Anni Hogan, Marc Almond, Dave Ball, Jim Thirlwell, Nick Cave – that was our party and it’s been an enduring party.”

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Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. From Her To Eternity for Wings Of Desire Soundtrack. Late ‘80s.

For me, this was a particularly charged session on many levels. Not only was it one of my first duties as a Bad Seed, it was my first time in the legendary Hansa Tonstudio, snuggled up against the Berlin Wall. Iggy Pop recorded ‘The Idiot’ and ‘Lust For Life’ there. David Bowie recorded ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’ there. Boney M recorded there! It was a palace full of special magic in my eyes and ears. To top it off, we were to appear, as ourselves, in the Wim Wenders film, ‘Der Himmel über Berlin’ (Wings Of Desire) in the coming days. We were laying down the playback. I love being part of movie magic. Although the song ‘From Her To Eternity’ had been previously recorded, the live version had become a beast of its own. The band at the time was Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, Thomas Wydler, Blixa Bargeld with new members, Roland Wolf and myself.

As was par for the course in 1980s Berlin underground, the studio was overflowing with artists, eccentrics, and other musicians having existential speed talks that made your brain want to explode. In this atmosphere we got the track down in no time at all; or was it all night? Anyways, it sounds great in the film. I’m proud to be a part of it all.

Nick Cave: ‘Helpless’ (From The Bridge: A Tribute to Neil Young, 1989)

“I really wanted to get this track in. It’s a beauty, a real beauty. It’s not well known and I’m very proud of it. Helpless is a beautiful Neil Young song that needed to be treated in a respectful and tender way and resist the impulse to trash it.

“It was me, Nick and Mick Harvey and Bronwyn Adams from Crime & the City Solution playing viola. Is Thomas (Wydler) from The Bad Seeds playing drums on it? I can’t remember. The slide guitar is me.”

Nick’s desire to adapt it was a step in the direction, I think, towards The Good Son. Kicking Against The Pricks had already hinted at where Nick’s musical taste lies. That’s one of the great things about Nick and Mick Harvey: they loved many different kinds of music and what people would call schmaltzy or kitsch, I don’t think Nick and Mick ever saw it that way.

“There’s something about Helpless that resonates with me. I listen to it and think, ‘Well done!’ I hardly ever think that. In this case, I’ll make an exception and pat myself on the back.”

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Congo Norvell: Abnormals Anonymous (1997)

Congo Norvell started in Los Angeles after I had left The Bad Seeds after The Good Son. I was at loose ends and a friend of mine said, ‘Oh, you need to meet this woman. Her name is Sally Norvell. She’s an amazing singer and you have something in common, she was in a Wim Wenders movie too.’ When Nastassja Kinski is working in a peep-show in that film and Harry Dean Stanton goes into the wrong room to find her, there’s this naughty nurse. The naughty nurse is Sally Norvell.”

“I went to see Sally singing jazz standards. She sang a version of Every Time We Say Goodbye that was completely devastating. So we started Congo Norvell. The AIDS crisis was in full swing and the second wave in the early 90s was hitting the artistic community; it wasn’t just restricted to the gay community. We got very involved in activism. There was the LA chapter of ACT UP. So we contributed through music, by playing benefits. So the band was born out of that. “We had some success and got signed to Priority Records, NWA’s label. They wanted to have an alternative branch. They gave us a big budget and we made an incredible album, which we put every ounce into. The promo copies got amazing reviews and suddenly the record label said, ‘We’re not putting this out.’ We had signed such a terrible deal. ‘Can’t we buy it off you?’ ‘No, no, no, no, no.’ What a bunch of LA Hollywood asshole lawyer bullshit, music business fuck-up that was. So Sally and I said, ‘That’s it, we’re leaving. We’ll move to New York and make another record.’ And that’s what we did. And that record was Abnormals Anonymous. So there’s a lot of energy behind it.”

Mark Eitzel was living in New York for a while then too. We were slightly dating. It was one of those things like, ‘We’re friends. We’re both gay men. We’re both musicians. We should be together.’ But we were much better as friends. But he came down to sing on one song but sang on several.

Abnormals Anonymous is noir-ish rock, I guess. David Lynch: there’s some tracks for you here, waiting. First and foremost, Sally is a torch singer with a very powerful voice. We were very into melodrama. Our references were films more than music. It is a record that has flown under the radar. I’m going to use my book to try to generate some kind of interest, so I can have a reason to play it out live.”

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Knoxville Girls: Knoxville Girls (1999)

Knoxville Girls was already something quite formed before I got into it. It was supposed to be [the Honeymoon Killers’] Jerry Teel’s country rock band. He had Bob Bert [Sonic Youth] and Jack Martin [Honeymoon Killers, Bottleneck Drag] in. Knoxville Girls came out of a very specific scene because Jerry ran The Funhouse recording studio on East 4th St in the East Village. Jon Spencer recorded there, early Yeah Yeah Yeahs, even Patti Smith did a song there.

“After I moved to New York, I ended up living with Jerry who had a 6th floor walk-up above the studio. So they asked me, ‘Do you want to come downstairs and play on a track on this record?’ I played some crazy rhythm guitar and I ended up playing on the whole record.

“Especially with garage-y, noisy tracks, there’s work that goes into them but it’s really alchemy, chemistry, a lot of spontaneity. I loved the sound of Knoxville Girls– crazily tinny. It’s a strange-sounding record; it’s rock’n’roll but off-kilter, very New York.”

“There was a lot going on in New York before The Strokes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I don’t think there was ever a lull. I think that’s a construct of an industry, rather than a reality. There were a lot of bands, a lot of music going on, every night of the week. Speedball Baby. Jon Spencer. Railroad Jerk. Pavement. Swans were still around. Lydia Lunch was still a force. At that time Chan Marshall was going on in Max Fish and around and there was a young band Jonathan Fire*Eater.

“The East Village then was on the turn, becoming gentrified. I first went there in the late ‘70s and that was scary. The Bowery was actually less scary, that was mostly drunks, but New York was a dangerous place then. By the late ‘90s, not so much, but it was still pretty crappy and scummy, but we were poor.

“I still think New York is scummy now, just expensive. I go to the East Village: ‘Are people really paying these prices and there are still all these potholes and there are still rats running around? What is wrong with you?’”  a new Knoxville Girls record previously unreleased stuff is due soon.

Kid and Khan: Bad English (2004)

Kid and Khan is East Village music as much as Knoxville Girls, just taking a different form. Khan is part-German, part-Turkish, part-Finnish and he was living in New York. He had a minimal Techno record store called Temple Records NYC. On Avenue C, I believe. These minimal Techno records were the garage rock of Techno.

“He was making a record and came to see an early version of The Pink Monkey Birds or some solo thing I did. He asked me to sing a song on his record, which was called No Comprendo, which had a series of singers, including me and Andre Williams, Julee Cruise and Hanin Elias from Atari Teenage Riot and Françoise Cactus from Stereo Total. I ended up going on tour with him and Julee and we even did some of the Twin Peaks songs, which was incredible for me because I was a huge fan.”

Khan was great. At a time when Techno was quite straight-faced and the minimalism was going very cold, he was doing crazy performances. He stripped down to his underwear, crawling around – he was like the Lux Interior of Techno. He was engaging, hilarious and refreshing and it made Techno have soul and art. He put a face to it and a personality.

“He was a big fan of The Cramps and we were thinking, ‘What if the Cramps were a Techno band? What would it be?’ That was our concept for making Kid and Khan. We really liked to be provocative because bringing a guitar into a Techno club was like bringing Satan. We loved the idea that people would be so upset that he was playing music with an electric guitar player. So we had this show and we made this album.”

Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds: Philosophy and Underwear (2005)

“The first Pink Monkey Birds record we made in a week. It was certainly a culmination of all those things on this list. For example, we had an electronics person – Jorge Velez – who became a really well known Italo-Disco artist called Professor Genius. I gave him his first job. He was our Eno in our Roxy Music.

“I already knew Jack Martin, the skronky guitar player from Knoxville Girls. On this album he sounds like Robert Quine in The Voidoids, which is a good thing but maybe we overdid it – our hero worship went a little overboard. Philosophy and Underwear is definitely a New York skronky statement.

“The intention was to take a lot of influence from Lou Reed’s solo records. The lyric about a ‘rent controlled apartment off Tompkins Square’ in Even Though Your Leather Is Cliché is a reference to Sally Can’t Dance: ‘She lives on St Mark’s place in a rent controlled apartment – $80 a month/She had a lots of fun.’ That kind of stuff and Coney Island Baby was what I was listening to as a teenager and always loved. Moving from LA to New York was a teenage fantasy that became a reality.”

“There’s a lot of humour and absurdity on this record: ‘What rhymes with ‘cuisine’? What rhymes with ‘cuisne’? Hmm, I know: ‘Ben Vereen!’ But it’s a really nice image, making it into a magazine article: ‘Your eyes turn over like scenes/ The pages in a magazine/ ‘Faces of Ben Vereen’/ ‘The History of French Cuisine’.

That song was used as the theme song for a French television show called Kaboul Kitchen. It’s a dark, absurd comedy about a French soldier who starts a nightclub restaurant in war-torn Kabul.”

“The Ghost on the stairs. The Vampire’s bite. Better beware there’s a full moon tonight” cackles horror show host Kid Congo Powers as he recites a ghoulish tome in Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds new video,“Spider Baby” now out on In The Red Records . Hatched in their rock n roll cauldron for the best holiday of all time, HALLOWEEN, the stunning Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds pay homage to their favorite 1967 horror cult film “Spider Baby” or “The Maddest Story Ever Told” depending on which monster you ask ! The rollicking song was used in the opening credits of the movie and sung by Lon Chaney Jr., whom (like in the lyrics) has played “Frankenstein , Dracula , and even The Mummy”. In the video Kid doubles as narrator and a mischievous pyromaniac beatnik whom crawls on all fours, sneaks in the dark and delights in fire laden hijinks. Shot and directed by artist Ryan Hill, whom also design’s the band’s album covers, he splatters blood red hues and “boos” in this psychedelic horror house! We leave you, dear reader, with some scary sage advice : “Sit around the fire with a cup of brew. A Fiend and a Werewolf on each side of you. This Cannibal orgy is strange to behold, and the maddest story ever told!”

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Pinkcourtesyphone & Kid Congo Powers: Move To Trash EP (2015)

“When I lived in Washington DC I befriended this great contemporary artist named Richard Chartier. He did a performance in DC at the Hirschhorn museum, the contemporary art museum. In the Smithsonian archive he had found a collection of tuning forks throughout he ages and he recorded all of them and then he made music out of them, a quite incredible bath of sound.

“He has an alter ego of pinkcourtesyphone which is his ‘pop’ music endeavour. I love what he does – a sort of ambient music. He’s in a very specific line of work but with a very big audience. He has his own label called LINE Records. He puts out other artists like Cosi Fanni Tutti.”

“We bonded over being fans of Amanda Lear. So we made a version of the Amanda Lear song,I Am A Photograph. I think all the music I make and all the reasons I do things is because of the person or the people – that’s how I end up making music because we like each other and because of a certain aesthetic. I’m not thinking about reputation or genre.”

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Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds: La Araña Es La Vida (2016)

“We were doing a tour for Philosophy and Underwear and that band imploded and I just started on a whole new track. Someone put me in touch with Kiki (Solis) and Ron (Miller). After five minutes playing together, we made a song up out of nowhere. Amazing. “The alchemy of people’s styles has continued. They are very in tune with my desires and they made me aware of their desires and I think that culminates with the last album, La Araña Es La Vida. I’m so pleased how well it hangs together, even though it came from very different sources.

“We couldn’t not live further away from each other: I live in Tucson, Arizona; Mark (Cisneros) lives in Washington DC; Kiki lives in St Louis, Missouri, and Ron lives in Lawrence, Kansas. We’re not in each other’s day-to-day lives, but we are so connected when we do get together to play music. We do send iPhone memos. There are ghostly ideas floating around and beats and directions.”

“Sometimes when things start to feel pigeonhole-y I want us to run in the opposite direction and they rein me in: ‘This Chicano rock thing you’re mining, it’s so great blah, blah, blah.’ Everyone brought something to La Araña Es La Vida, it’s like our Beatles record, our White Album.

“I brought in the idea of doing The Psychedelic Furs cover. I love the lyrics to We Love You. I sing with conviction. It’s another great song in the rock n roll canon about rock n roll. It was amazing that Mark was able to approximate the saxophone solo on guitar.”

The Wolfmanhattan Project: Blue Gene Stew (2019)

“I met Mick Collins some years ago at SXSW. I admired his work with The Gories and The Dirtbombs. Again, we liked each other and each other’s work, so we thought, ‘Let’s do something.’ We got Bob Bert in on it, who’s a mutual friend of ours. Larry Hardy (owner of In The Red Records) really wanted it to happen. He was a catalyst as well.

“We did several sessions. We had some songs that we thought Larry would like us to do. So we said, ‘Let’s do some songs that just we want to do.’ Mick Collins is not one to pander – nor are any of us. We recorded a ton of stuff and threw out a lot – some of it went a little too far into jamland. ‘No jamming! Improvisation – yes. But no jamming. No Blues jam!'”

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Blue Gene Stew was enjoyable. It turned out great – a weird record. Our concept was two baritone guitars, but none of us owned one. There was one in the studio. It’s a deeper guitar with a longer neck. I have no idea how to work one, so just made it all up. We figured out you could play it both ways: on some of the songs like ‘Now Now Now’ I play it like a bass and on some of the songs I play it like a regular guitar with chords. There did end up being actual guitar on the record too.

Lydia Lunch is on the album also. Mick, Bob and me are great lovers of postpunk New YorkESG, Liquid Liquid. There were No Wave ideas flying around. We were letting our freak flag fly. My favourite song is the lead track (‘Delay Is The Deadliest’) that Bob sings. Bob is a great singer I don’t know why he doesn’t do it more often. I saw him sing at a Cramps tribute – he sang Shadazz by Suicide. So good.” There is a Wolfmanhattan Project album in the can and coming out on In The Red Records, called “Summer Forever and Ever”.

Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds are on tour. Dates can be found on his website. The Wolfmanhattan Project album Blue Gene Stewis available from In The Red Records. Kid Congo Powers’ forthcoming autobiography will be published by via In The Red Records.

thanks to Louder for the words.

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Lots of new albums announced this week that is keeping us busy. Out this week the new Julien Baker album, which is very good indeed. It’s her third album ‘Little Oblivions’ shows off more of his incredible story-telling with an intimate stripped-back focus some copies in limited coloured vinyl with a free postcard available.

Very limited 7″ single fromKings Of Leon, released as a taster for the album out next week.

Beautiful new record from Lost Horizons with an excellent set of guests vocalists on limited coloured 2LP . Lost Horizons release their new album “In Quiet Moments” on Bella Union label. The album features a stellar array of musical guests including John Grant, C Duncan, Marissa Nadler, Porridge Radio, Penelope Isles, Karen Peris (the innocence mission), Tim Smith (of Midlake), Ren Harvieu and many more. With all those voices, it’s testament to its creators’ judgment that it all flows so beautifully.

This week’s Neil Young release is ‘Way Down In The Rust Bucket’, a live album from 1990, on a 4LP set and a deluxe box set.
A ‘Greatest Hits’ double album from The White Stripes is out too. The new Alice Cooper album “Detroit Stories” is worth a listen.
PJ Harvey
finally gets round to reissuing ‘Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea’. plus A ‘Demos’ edition of the labrum available for the first time too!
Stereolab
offer us a fourth instalment of their ‘Switched On’ compilations.
50th anniversary
reissue of the seminal ‘Tapestry’ album from Carole King.
4AD label reissue two early albums by The National as well an EP – ‘The National’, ‘Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers’ and ‘Cherry Tree’ all available now.

Sooo many quality reissues as usual  from PJ Harvey, Stereolab, The White Stripes Greatest Hits, The National, Deftones, Neil Young, Black Crowes, Alan Vega and the Melvins.

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Julien Baker – ” Little Oblivions “

Little Oblivions is the third studio album by Julien Baker. Recorded in Memphis, TN, the record weaves together unflinching autobiography with assimilated experience and hard-won observations from the past few years, taking Baker’s capacity for storytelling to new heights. It also marks a sonic shift, with the songwriter’s intimate piano and guitar arrangements newly enriched by bass, drums, keyboards, banjo, and mandolin with nearly all of the instruments performed by Baker.

 

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Neil Young and Crazy Horse – ” Way Down In The Rust Bucket “

Recorded on November 13th 1990 in Santa Cruz, CA, where the band were rehearsing for their upcoming Weld tour, Neil Young and Crazy Horse played a club show at The Catalyst which is now released here for the first time. The show comprised three different sets along with a 12 minute encore of Cortez The Killer and all 3 sets including that encore are brought together here in over 2 hours of music. Said to be one of the great live shows that Neil Young and Crazy Horse performed, the album includes live versions of songs from their Ragged Glory album, released just prior, along with classics from across their catalogue.

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Mt Mountain – ” Centre “

Hailing from Perth, Australia, Mt. Mountain deal in a sprawling, motorik psychedelic rock sound that journeys between tranquil, drone-like meditations and raucous, full-throttle wig-outs that’ll blow your mind as much as your speakers. Taking cues from Krautrock pioneers like Neu! and Can whilst existing in a similar world to contemporaries like Moon Duo, Kikagaku Moyo and Minami Deutsch, Mt. Mountain are formidable torchbearers of the minimal-is-maximal tradition. Musically, the band’s sound is born out of long improvised jams so naturally much of the album was recorded live to capture the band at their most freewheeling. Growing up surrounded by religion but not a follower himself, Stephen Bailey (vocals / organ / flute) describes how, thematically, much of Centre is a dissection of faith – both spiritual and secular – and his personal, often complicated relationship to it.

“The album for me, lyrically, is mostly about my experience of religion. It explores these concepts and the rules that were told to me from childhood to adulthood and my thoughts on my own connection to them. Similar themes arise between the tracks whether it be lyrically or structural, both a play on repetition and simplicity.” With a number of EPs and singles and three albums behind them – their 2016 debut Cosmos Terros, 2017’s Dust and 2018’s Golden Rise – the Perth quintet have picked up a formidable reputation in their homeland and further afield, thanks especially to their wildly all-consuming live shows. Constantly touring across Australia with each release, they’ve also shared the stage with notable down-under comrades like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and ORB, as well as a long list of international heavy-hitters including Sleep, MONO, Thee Oh Sees, Acid Mothers Temple and Moon Duo.

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Flyying Colours – ” Fantasy Country “

Australian four-piece Flyying Colours release their sophomore album; taking inspiration from the early 90s UK psych / shoegaze scene, Fantasy Country is rich in sonic texture and shimmering atmospherics with a heavy dose of melody. From the swooning, sludgy ‘Goodtimes’ and urgent noise-fest of ‘Big Mess’, to the gorgeous melodic pop of ‘OK’, Flyying Colours look to redefine noise within the context of pop music. Elsewhere, ‘It’s Real’ is perfect, summery dreampop while the crushingly loud ‘White Knuckles’ and chugging ‘Boarding Pass’ is a hazy, echo-laden spaced-out affair. Having released their critically acclaimed debut album Mindfullness in 2016, Flyying Colours have spent much of their time on the road with headline shows across the UK and Europe.

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Vapour Theories – ” Celestial Scuzz “

Vapour Theories New album from brothers John and Michael Gibbons, the guitarists from psychedelic drone legends, Bardo Pond. A “heavy ambient” instrumental masterpiece that explores the symbiotic relationship of the duo as they build and dismantle sounds on a unique ethereal trip.

A full-length follow up to Joint Chiefs from 2006, Celestial Scuzz is a monumental sound piece created from hours of jam sessions and crafted into a cohesive mind-blowing trip. The result has a heavy ambience, like Eno locked in a dark room with Sunn-O))))) rehearsing next door.

While Bardo Pond’s trajectory takes them deep into rock music’s ever-imploding sound, the brothers Gibbons surf a more ethereal and eclectic plain; from a heady and consuming space, a “sanctuary; balm for the soul.” Describing the writing process, Michael Gibbons explains it as “a kind of spiritual experience. Most of the time it leaves us stunned; the more stunned we are the better the jam.”

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Lande Hekt – ” Going To Hell “

Lande Hekt’s voice in music is one that’s socially aware yet often introspective, drawing awareness to serious issues but at the same time baring her soul. Much of Hekt’s compositions act as a personal diary of what’s going on in her life at any given time. This is evident in her discography with Muncie Girls, the band which she formed in her hometown of Exeter as a teenager and have released two critically acclaimed albums to date. This knack of combining her own experiences and feelings whilst highlighting larger socio-economic issues has carried through to her more contemplative solo material, which began life in an EP Gigantic Disappointment, self-released in 2019.

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Cloud Nothings – ” The Shadow I Remember “

For a band that resists repeating itself, picking up lessons from a decade prior is the strange route Cloud Nothings took to create their most fully-realized album. Their new record, The Shadow I Remember, marks eleven years of touring, a return to early song writing practices, and revisiting the studio where they first recorded together. In a way not previously captured, this album expertly combines the group’s pummelling, aggressive approach with singer-songwriter Dylan Baldi’s extraordinary talent for perfect pop. To document this newly realized maturity, the group returned to producer Steve Albini and his Electrical Audio studios in Chicago, where the band famously destroyed its initial reputation as a bedroom solo project with the release of 2012 album Attack on Memory.

Another throwback was Baldi’s return to constant song writing à la the early solo days, which led to the nearly 30 demos that became the 11 songs on The Shadow I Remember. Instead of sticking to a tried-but-true formula, his song writing stretched out while digging deeper into his melodic talents. “I felt like I was locked in a character,” Baldi says of becoming a reliable supplier of heavy, hook-filled rock songs. “I felt like I was playing a role and not myself. I really didn’t like that role.” More frequent writing led to the freedom in form heard on The Shadow I Remember. What he can’t do alone is get loud and play noisily, which is exactly what happened when the entire band— bassist TJ Duke, guitarist Chris Brown, and drummer Jayson Gerycz—convened.

The band had more fun in the studio than they’ve had in years, playing in their signature, pulverizing way, while also trying new things. The absurdly catchy Nothing Without You includes a first for the band: Macie Stewart of Ohmme contributes guest vocals. Elsewhere, celebrated electronic composer Brett Naucke adds subtle synthesizer parts. The songs are kept trim, mostly around the three-minute mark, while being gleefully overstuffed. Almost every musical part turns into at least two parts, with guitar and drums opening up and the bass switching gears. “That’s the goal—I want the three-minute song to be an epic,” Baldi says. “That’s the short version of the long-ass jam.”

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The Cramps – ” Psychedelic Redux “

The Cramps Another superior release from Ill Eagle Recs (They did that RnR Monster Bash and the revamped alt version of Songs The Lord Taught Us) Now…This is truly an amazing piece of vinyl, Pschedelic Jungle but not as you know it ! Looks like a lot of research and hard work has gone into this… it’s quality… From the sleeve artwork and the liner notes. Compiled from very rare sources, Demos, Rehearsals and selected live tracks. It chronicles the development of The Cramps 2nd release. Plain and simply magnificent !.

Sooo many quality reissues as usual  from PJ Harvey, Stereolab, The White Stripes Greatest Hits, The National, Deftones, Neil Young, Black Crowes, Alan Vega and the Melvins.

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The Distillers – The Distillers

Transparent Green With White And Black. To call The Distillers simply a punk band doesn’t do justice to either the band or the word “punk”. Guitarist, lyricist, and vocalist Brody Dalle uses her medium as a platform for a higher plane of visceral lyricism and independence. Few modern day-punk icons have not only embodied the genre so truthfully but also transformed the depth of what it can mean so thoroughly. Recorded in 2000, their self-titled album Distillers is a throwback to the raw, inyour-face aggression reminiscent of late 1970s / early 1980s punk. Fast and forceful cuts likeL.A. Girl, Oh, Serena, and Girlfixer are still exhilarating and inspired. In celebration of the 20th anniversary, Distillers has been remastered and is available on coloured Vinyl for the first time.

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Fountains of Wayne – ” Fountains Of Wayne “

Fountains of Wayne is one of those rare bands that digs back into what pop music is all about – good, fun tunes. Their self-titled debut studio album was released in 1996. Recorded when the band was just a duo, Chris Collingwood and the late Adam Schlesinger provided almost all the instrumentation during the recording. Schlesinger and Porter had also been members of The Belltower, and bassist Danny Weinkauf later played with Lincoln before joining They Might Be Giants. Although the songs were written over a period of years (as outlets to make each other laugh through inside jokes and references to suburban New York and New Jersey), the album was recorded in just five days. The song writing is straightforward and wonderful; nearly every song is a pop gem. The result is an innovative album – very few albums released in the 90’s are this pleasant, charming, and all-round likeable.

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PJ Harvey – ” Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea “

The fifth PJ Harvey studio album Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea. Produced by PJ Harvey with Rob Ellis and Mick Harvey, and originally released in October 2000, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea features the singles Good Fortune, A Place Called Home and This Is Love and includes a duet with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke on This Mess We’re In..

The album won the Mercury Music Prize in 2001. Reissue is faithful to the original recording and package, cutting by Jason Mitchell at Loud Mastering under the guidance of longtime PJ Harvey producer Head.

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PJ Harvey – ” Stories From The City Stories From The Sea Demos “

PJ Harvey Collection of unreleased demos of every track written for the fifth PJ Harvey studio album Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, including demos of Good Fortune, A Place Called Home and This Is Love. 
Audio has been mastered by Jason Mitchell at Loud Mastering under the guidance of longtime PJ Harvey collaborator Head. Features brand new artwork with previously unseen photos by Maria Mochnacz.

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Beachwood Sparks – ” Beachwood Sparks “

The original 2000 Sub Pop alt country masterpiece remastered replete with previously unreleased tracks. Never before issued on vinyl.

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The National – ” The National ” (Reissue)

The National Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2021, The National’s self-titled debut album of sozzled Americana is a thing of beauty, laden with heavy hints that this was a special band in the making.

Their first release, The National arrived two years after The National formed, a time when they were juggling bandlife with needing to hold down full-time jobs. And while nods to the alt. rock artists that inspired them (Pavement, Silver Jews) can be heard, so too are the beginnings of something all their own – Matt Berninger’s stunning and unexpected lyrics being pinned to melodies that stop you in your tracks.

The National marks the start point for one of the best bands of their generation with its new master helping elevate it to new levels. A great primer to a great band.

Having been remastered at Abbey Road Studios, the 2021 represses stay faithful to their original artwork while their stunning new masters help make these much-loved records sound as vital as ever, further emphasising the early signs of the sound that would go on to make them one of the fi nest and most beloved alternative bands of their generation.

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The National – ” Cherry Tree EP ” (Reissue)

Released a year before The National broke through with their third album Alligator, 2004’s Cherry Tree EP is a thrilling record which – thanks to its collection of delicate ballads and anthemic crowd-pleasers – sums up what they do best in under 30 minutes. Now a firm fan-favourite, among Cherry Tree’s seven tracks are now National classics About Today and All The Wine, plus a thrilling live version of Murder Me Rachael that reminds of the band’s fearsome early live performances. Cherry Tree can be seen as the record that marks the moment when The National had truly found themselves, a bridge from what went before to a band ready to conquer the World.

Having been remastered at Abbey Road Studios, the 2021 represses stay faithful to their original artwork while their stunning new masters help make these much-loved records sound as vital as ever, further emphasising the early signs of the sound that would go on to make them one of the fi nest and most beloved alternative bands of their generation.

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The National – ” Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers ” (Reissue)

The National’s second album, Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers (2003) proved a leap forward from 2001’s eponymous debut, showing a band adept at delivering warm embraces and gut punches in equal measure.

With word of mouth now spreading on the band, critics proved equally enthusiastic… Pitchfork in their glowing review called it a “Gorgeous train wreck” that “Lives up to its blunt title (with) Matt Berninger’s self-eff acing barbs matched by the band’s equally potent hooks,” while Uncut also became early champions saying the album was “A genuine treasure… Livid as a bruise, this is brave, desperate, beautiful music.”

No longer a secret among those that know, Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers is an important record in The National’s discography with this new remaster showing that it’s more than standing the test of time. Having been remastered at Abbey Road Studios, the 2021 represses stay faithful to their original artwork while their stunning new masters help make these much-loved records sound as vital as ever, further emphasising the early signs of the sound that would go on to make them one of the fi nest and most beloved alternative bands of their generation.

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Yumi Zouma – ” EP I “

Repress of Yumi Zouma’s debut ​EP​. Originally released in 2014, ​EP ​represents the world’s introduction to the New Zealand dream-pop band Yumi Zouma. Though the project has since grown considerably in profile, releasing their 2020 album ​Truth or Consequences​, their winsome allure remains. ​EP​ features early favourites from the band’s catalogue including “The Brae” and “Salka Gets Her Hopes Up.”

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Yumi Zouma – ” EP II “

Originally released in 2016, EP II found the New Zealand band coming into their own as songwriters, developing their “soft-focus synth-pop” (Pitchfork) with hints of electronic piano-house pulse (“Alena”) and anthemic, movie-ready choruses (“Catastrophe”). Though the project has since grown considerably in profile (in 2020 year the band released their third full-length album Truth or Consequences), their winsome allure remains.

Kid Congo, who’s played in Gun Club, The Cramps, The Bad Seeds and more, releases a new EP that’s a tribute to the late non-binary, African American singer and Los Angeles legend Sean De Lear.  It’s been a while. He’s got a new EP of groovin’ garage goodness with some songs about life, death and the slippery world of memory and dreams. Here he comes strutting on out of the desert in a pale pink linen suit just as cool as an evening breeze. Kid Congo might be dressed sharp and have things weighing on his mind but he’s not to cool to bust a move or throw some shapes. His band The Pink Monkey Birds know all about shaking their tail feathers and so “Swing From The Sean DeLear” is an infectiously funky set that’ll have you toe tappin’, head noddin’ and finger snappin’ before you even know it. 

Kicking off with the title track, ‘Sean DeLear’ is a rough and excitable stomp with some old school Iggy Pop swagger about it. The song is a remembrance and a celebration of a Los Angeles underground star. Sean DeLear was a non-binary, African American singer and scene fixture, by all accounts a force of nature and embodiment of the sort of subcultural vitality we’re all sadly missing these days, sat at home watching our screens. The band kick out the jams to keep the flame burning. Eventually ‘Sean DeLear’ wanders off into the night in search of further adventure and the tune unravels. ‘(Are You) Ready, Freddy?’ brings the full tilt rock ‘n’ roll freak out ending that it might have got. Apparently a staple of their live set it’s an overheated guitar riot, with occasional yells of the title, anchored by the pulse of its tight, elastic bassline and hectic, driving drums.

“We’re at the end of the end of privilege.” Now here’s something, Kid hasn’t gone in much on politics in the past but these have been some severely trying times for us all, ‘(I Can’t Afford) Your Shitty Dreamhouse’ is a righteous middle finger to the man. A traditional rock ‘n’ roll “fuck you” to an ugly establishment consensus of “racist, conservative… disgusting bullshit.” More than the increasingly impossible dream of a secure, affordable, home the dream house here is a particular vision of America. That sickly nostalgia for a better day that never was. I puzzled over the line “get your hair, out of my hair” but I’m now pretty sure it refers to the mysterious coiffure of the last President, whose time in office Kid seems to have sat out as a recording artist. All that fun and the tune is infectiously, unstoppably, funky into the bargain, clap your hands and chant along brothers and sisters.

The final track is an hallucinatory wonder. A loose Chicano groove that takes your hand and leads you into the dream space. There’s atmospheric flute breezing by through a kind of tough cocktail jazz. Kid pops up with an occasional spoken interlude. These concern a dream in which his friend and former Gun Club bandmate, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, wanders into his kitchen to pay a visit. Pierce has been dead 25 years but there’s no great revelation passed on or anything particularly eventful that occurs, just Kid’s warm sense of happiness in seeing his friend again that fills the whole track. About midway through the tempo picks up and the playing becomes a touch more dramatic but the magic of it is that it just kind of hangs there, a full 14 minutes worth of percolating sound without a big lyrical narrative or even really much in the way of musical development and yet it rolls by without ever dragging its feet.

It’s a joy and a surprise, which seems to be how Kid Congo felt about the dream itself. This whole EP is solid greatness, really a spirit lifting tonic. It’s good to welcome them back, the band sounding sharp and limitless. Hopefully it means a new album is out there on the not too far horizon. In the meantime this will do just fine.

“Swing From The Sean DeLear” by Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey BirdsIn The Red Records

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How do you describe a creative force like Poison Ivy? Born Kirsty Marlana Wallace and also known as Poison Ivy Rorschach, she was armed with a guitar and a strong desire for change. With her band The Cramps’ influence spanning over three decades, she led the alt-scene in New York at CBGB’s, the hallowed hall of punk which opened in 1973 by Hilly Kristal in Manhattan’s East Village. A 350-capacity venue, its intimacy was a draw for other emerging bands such as The Ramones and Patti Smith. Ultimately, Poison Ivy had big hair and even bigger dreams, she was the driving force behind shaping the alternative music scene.

Rumoured to have taken the name ‘Poison Ivy’ from a dream while at Sacramento State University, she always aligned herself as an outsider, hence chosen to wear more revealing clothes and smokey make-up. Always keen to paint her life outside of the lines, she decided to work as a dominatrix at The Victorian, leaving her former job as a waitress due to the huge difference in pay. She met Lux Interior at College in 1972, who actually took his name from a car ad. This meeting prompted the birthing of her brainchild with Interior, who also became her late husband and the lead singer of their punk-rock band, The Cramps. Despite its changing line up from its creation in April 1976, until its disbandment in 2009 due to the death of Interior, they left a legacy yet to be diminished.

The Cramps were managed by Ivy, as both a band and a gang. She was an impressively accomplished lead and rhythm guitarist, always staying true to her artistic vision. The band brought the emerging genre of psychobilly to the forefront of people’s attention. Usually referred to as a cult band, they blended rockabilly and ‘60s garage rock with punk. They used pop culture as their inspirations and were a literal project of America. They quickly gained a reputation for their unusual, rockabilly-inspired music and wild live performances. The Cramps, with Ivy, Lux, and various other guitarists, drummers, and bassists, continued to release records and perform live until the fall of 2006, enjoying some commercial success (mainly in Europe) and acquiring a strong cult following worldwide.

The rockabilly element was partly due to Ivy’s admiration for American Shawnee Rock ‘n’ Roll musician, Link Wray, who was placed by Rolling Stone as 45/100 of the greatest guitarists of all time. They even covered the “King of Rock and Roll’s” track themselves, a strong rendition of the King’s hit track, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. Early on, Ivy used a clear plexiglass Dan Armstrong guitar, then the unusual Canadian-made Bill Lewis guitar heard on the first few Cramps recordings. Since 1985 she has mostly used a 1958 Gretsch 6120 hollow-body. She uses Fender Pro Reverb amplifiers onstage, and smaller Valco and Allen amps in the studio.

Always thriving off the unusual, one of The Cramps most infamous shows was their performance at Napa State Mental Hospital. Some of their lyrics may have been regarded as being slightly near the knuckle, such as ‘Can Your Pussy Do the Dog?’, ‘All Women Are Bad’ or ‘Bikini Girls with Machine Guns’, with the latter being their sole Top 40 chart success. Also, Ivy posing as the track title also reiterated her unique persona and her tendency to step away from the norm, in a similar way to the likes of Jordan Mooney and Vivienne Westwood’s SEX.

Throughout the band’s career, they played with the idea of image and identity, after swapping their focus on B-side horror to sexual ventures. Not only were they ahead of their time with their music, image and love of horror, but the band itself was also split evenly with half men and half women, something which is still rarely seen decades later. They celebrated their relative longevity by marking their 25th anniversary with a re-issue of their post-I.R.S discography. Their last album of fresh material “Fiends of Dope Island” (2003), successfully set the band’s sound in front of the backdrop of the 21st Century.

Their last time performing as a band live may have been at House of Blues in Anaheim, California, in November 2006, but Poison Ivy and the band’s influence is yet to dwindle. They sparked the movement for horror punk and changed what people thought music should be. Poison Ivy herself acted as an inspiration for others to accept themselves as they truly were, and with her obvious guitar skills, became a role model for any girl to pick up an instrument. We can still learn a lot from one of the most underrated bands in alt-history.

The Albums:
Songs the Lord Taught Us (1980,Illegal Records)
Psychedelic Jungle (1981,I.R.S._Records)
A Date with Elvis (1986,Big Beat Records)
Stay Sick! (1990,Enigma_Records)
Look Mom No Head! (1991, Enigma)
Flamejob (1994, The Medicine Label)
Big Beat from Badsville (1997, Epitaph_Records)
Fiends of Dope Island (2003, Vengeance)

EPs
Gravest Hits (1979, Illegal)
Blues Fix (1992, Big Beat)

Live albums
Smell of Female – (live at the Peppermint Lounge) (1983, Big Beat)
RockinnReelininAucklandNewZealandXXX (1987, Vengeance)

Compilations
Off the Bone (1983, Illegal)
Bad Music for Bad People (1984, I.R.S.)
How to Make a Monster (2004, Vengeance)
The Cramps: File Under Sacred Music Early Singles 1978–1981 (2012, Munster)

If you’re interested in finding out more about Poison Ivy and The Cramps, make sure to read “Journey To The Centre of The Cramps” by Dick Porter

This 2CD compilation may well gain first prize as the longest titled album this year, its release also extends the long running USP of being in some way linked to The Cramps, but specifically the fabled record collection of Lux and Ivy; this is an arena that has been well serviced over the years by the wonderful ‘Born Bad’ series, the ‘Songs The Cramps Taught Us’ releases and also by the infamous ‘Purple Knif’ and ‘Vip Vop Tapes’, the later of which were actually put together by Lux for a radio show.

‘Good For Nothin’ Tunes’ contains 50 tracks “enthused over by Lux and Ivy”, with sleeve notes by Dave Henderson from Mojo Magazine; quite how we know these tracks were actually enthused over by either Lux or Ivy remains a mystery; Lux has been gone for over 10 yrs, and Ivy almost immediately became somewhat reclusive; so whilst actually approval from The Cramps legends is largely missing, I think we can be sure that had they heard them, they would most definitely have liked them.

“If the boogie-woogie kills me, I don’t mind dyin” hollers Tender Slim during his rockin blues opener “Don’t Cut Out On Me”, originally released as a double A-side in 1962, though was re-issued as a bootleg green vinyl 7” in 2015, Slim hailed from South Carolina and went under an array of similar names including Fender ‘Guitar’ Slim, Tender Joe Richardson, however by 2007 he was known as Deacon Richardson and releasing material entitled “We’re Still on This Mission Praising God” which suggests he’d long given up on hellfire rockabilly!

Dave Hill was the stage name of actor David Hess, who in 1956 recorded the original version of the Otis Blackwell composition “All Shook Up”, Hill provided a solid vocal delivery whilst Ray Ellis And His Orchestra delivered the driving music which was released via the Aladdin label on a 10” shellac disc (a decent copy of which would set you back at least £50) the following year the track became a worldwide #1 hit for Elvis Presley.

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Witchcraft is always a popular theme of these compilations, this one is no different; we get Betty Lavette‘Witchcraft In The Air’, a standard soul voiced stomper, Lavette had a lengthy recording career, much of her material has been subject to CD reissue on labels including Charly RecordsEartha Kitt dabbled with the spooks during ‘I’d Rather Be Burned As A Witch’ which came out in 1959 and cemented her status as the foil to the girl-next-door charms of Doris Day.

Bobby Bare‘Vampira’ is pure 50’s sexploitation set to a swing beat which includes a raunchy almost spoken word fade out, a real highlight is ‘Slave Girl’ by Ray Ethier; Ethier remains a complete unknown on the rockabilly scene despite him being lead guitarist for Ben Hewitt, he also recorded this on 7” under his own name; it’s an absolute belter, twanging guitar, slap bass and reminded me of Glen Glenn. Sadly, matters of the heart intervened, Ray fell in love with a lady by the name of Patricia June and married her. Pat telling Ray that is was either her or the guitar… he chose her!

J.J. Jackson & The Jackels provide plenty of “ooh-ahh” chanting during this hump-dancer soul tinged classic, that has recently been released by Norton Records and was included on the 2009 compilation ‘The Roots Of The Cramps’ which at least provides a genuine Lux & Ivy related link.

The Poets ‘Dead’ is a genuinely strange record, a seriously twisted doo-wop vibe complete with horror lyrics and accompanying screams and lupine howls that no doubt terrified audiences in 1959; this is a cleaned-up recording, an original of which would set you back at least £20.

Scott Engel provided this album title with his 1958 B-side to his ‘Kathleen’ single, his label clearly liked the track as they again put it on the B-side of the following years ‘Livin End’ 7”, why if they liked it so much didn’t they flip it to the A-side… I guess it matters not as a few years later Engel would change his name to Scott Walker and moved to the UK as The Walker Brothers sought success from this classic rockabilly belter to the 2014 Walker written album with Sunn O))) is one hell of a journey!!

Ronnie Dee Dawson began his recording career with ‘Action Packed’ a pure rockabilly scorcher in 1959 when he was just 20yrs old, he had however been a French horn player for his father’s dance band The Manhattan Merrymakers, quite where he picked up the middle name Dee is a mystery, he was christened Ronnie Monroe Dawson and also recorded as Snake Munroe, and The Blonde Bomber, he benefitted from the 80’s rockabilly revival and continued to tour up until his death in 2003 age just 64.

The Savoys ‘Domino’ was originally titled ‘Domino (Just For Kicks)’ and came out in summer 1959, the source clearly being Roy Orbison’s ‘Domino’ which predated it by 3yrs, these days a lawsuit would follow, how times have changed; no matter how long the world keeps spinning there is unlikely to be a track as odd as ‘Bernice (Part 1)’ by Brother Theodore, a true out there spoken word oddity, sonorous Germanic voice delivering a stream of consciousness monologue with ham B-movie scary sounds.

Disc 2 contains gems from The Del-Tones, who’s ‘Knees Shakin’ is a sultry guitar instrumental with some neat boogie-woogie piano, whilst Richie Deran ‘Girl And A Hot Rod’ is a genuine rockabilly belter as our boy believes he can satisfy his teenage angst with as the title proclaims a “girl and a hot rod” – originally released on the Pontiac label in 1960, this was Deran’s only release which is a real shame as this is the perfect blend of snare heavy rock ’n’ roll and youthfully yelped rockabilly.

Its back to the weird stuff with Glenn And Christy, their sole release being ‘Wombat Twist’ which came out on Sonic Records label in 1962, the label was based in LaGrange, Illinois though there is no information as to where either Glenn And Christy came from or even who they were; for reasons best known to them they delivered a sort of spoken word lyric over a damn fine rockin groove that features some neat guitar work.

For the really way out there stuff, few come close to Jack Paar; his track ‘Blue Wiggle’ defies description and to be polite would be described as a novelty record, the track was originally a B-side released via RCA Victor in 1958. Paar was a former radio and TV talk show host who is probably best known for being the second host of The Tonight Show. During his earlier days Paar worked at WGAR in Cleveland. By chance, he was working the night Orson Welles did his infamous War of the Worlds broadcast. Paar apparently even tried to calm down the panicked listeners by saying, “The world is not coming to an end. Trust me. When have I ever lied to you?” The A-side ‘Funny What You Learn From Women’ as also included and is equally odd as we hear Paar accompanied by a whistler detailing what he learnt from the fairer sex!

Hasil Adkins should be familiar to anyone with even a mild interest in both The Cramps and obscure primitive rock ‘n’ roll, Adkins was a self-taught one-man band. The reason for this was because when he first heard Hank Williams on the radio he didn’t know there was a band behind Hank, he mistakenly thought that Hank Williams played all the instruments, and set out to do the same; he is featured here with his debut 7” ‘She Mine’ which was credited to Hasil Adkins & His Happy Guitar when released in 1962.

The Revels ‘Dead Man’s Stroll’ appeared on the earlier Righteous “Magnificent: 62 Classics From The Cramps’ Insane Collection” so quite why its needs another outing I’m unsure.
Dave Gardner was an interesting character, he flunked out of university after a single term of input as a Baptist Minister, before becoming a comedian, though this was curtailed when arrested for dope possession and later tax evasion, some of these wilder traits are evident on his ‘Mad Witch’ single from 1957.

Charlie Feathers should also be familiar to Cramps followers, and on ‘Tongue Tied Jill’ he described said lady as “my real gone chick” on this mono recording from 1956, a genuine barn yard nascent rockabilly blast with all the appropriate yelps and hollers.

Milton Feher closes the album with ‘Walking Without Effort’ a track lifted from an album ‘Relaxing Body And Mind: The Relaxation Record’ which came out in 1962, and was marketed as a therapeutic record; Feher without any musical accompaniment narrates advice on life, love and beyond; the album came out on Folkways Records, a label that became one of the worlds largest independent labels, and is currently owned by The Smithsonian Institute. As one of the terms of that deal, the Smithsonian agreed to keep all titles in print, which they continue to do to this day under the Smithsonian Folkways banner, as such you can get a new CD of the album for under £10!!

In total you get 50 slices of madcap vinyl that includes rare B-sides, introductions to dance crazes you had never heard of, and general madness, all of which has been sourced from the best available originals then subtly remastered, its a great compilation that showcases the driven and possibly unhinged belief of some of the artists and labels that released this stuff; there is genuine passion, blood, sweat and other dubious substances within the majority of these recordings, and for that reason alone this collection should be applauded, and lets hope we have now exhausted the Cramps tie in and similar tracks are just released for their own sake in the future.

• Featuring super rare sides, howling rockabilly, juvenile delinquent anthems, a host of dance trends, plenty of haunting weirdness and lots of hi-octane rock ‘n’ roll.

• Including Eartha Kitt, Ernie K Doe, Ronnie Dawson, Bobby Bare, Scott Engel (later of The Walker Brothers), Ken Nordine and Charlie Feathers.

• Plus beatnik blues and the crazed excess of Portuguese Joe, Myron Lee And The Caddies, The Poets, Charles Senn and Mike Page’s ‘Long Black Shiny Car’.

• Along with the awesome ‘Wombat Twist’ by Glenn And Christy and Harvey Hurt’s stupendous ‘Big Dog Little Dog’ – it’s hit after hit.

The Craps 1989

Drummer Nick Knox, of the legendary psychobilly band the Cramps, passed away today (June 15th). He was 60 years of age. From the period of 1977-1991, Knox toured with the band and appeared on some of the Cramps’ most crucial recordings.

Nick Knox, drummer with the Cramps from 1977 until 1991. He was the band’s longest-serving drummer and appeared on their first four albums including 1986’s A Date With Elvis.

Knox played in the proto-punk band the Electric Eels before joining Lux Interior and Poison Ivy Rorschach in the Cramps. They were mainstays of New York’s CBGB scene alongside the Ramones, Television and others. A Date With Elvis ,the title a play on Elvis Presley’s 1959 album of the same name – was the band’s most commercially successful album. It followed 1980’s Songs the Lord Taught Us and 1981 follow-upPsychedelic Jungle. Knox appeared on their fourth release, 1990’s Stay Sick! before his departure.

Knox (whose real name was Nicholas Stephanoff) joined the NYC-via Akron, Ohio, outfit in 1977 alongside larger-than-life frontman Lux Interior, tough-chick guitarist Poison Ivy and spooky guitarist Bryan Gregory. Anybody who saw this era of the band knew that Knox’s jet-black hair and the sunglasses (at dark) framing his stoic face was another key of cool in the pioneering psycho/goth/rockabilly outfit’s chain.

In 1991, Knox left the Cramps and the music scene, returning to Garfield Heights, Ohio, and keeping an extremely low profile. In 2013, Knox appeared on Terminal, an album by Cheese Borger And The Cleveland Steamers, playing drums on three tracks. His last live performance was in 2003 with another notorious Cle-punk ensemble, the Pagans, at an event called “Ohio’s Punk Past,” curated and promoted by the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. (Pagans’ guitarist Mike Metoff is Knox’s cousin. Metoff also had a brief stint in the Cramps under the name Ike Knox.) Recently, Knox returned to the Cleveland music scene as a “senior adviser” to Archie And The Bunkers, the self-proclaimed “hi-fi organ punk” garage-rock duo. Knox would occasionally DJ at Bunkers shows alongside Miriam Linna, whom he replaced in the Cramps.

Listeners unfamiliar with the Cramps’ classic work should start with the crucial compilations Off The BoneandBad Music For Bad People. But if you want to see the real punks, you punk, here’s the band in one of their finest hours, from the 1980 movie URGH!, A Music War, throwing down “Tear It Up.” (Watch your face on the flying cymbal.)

Among those paying tribute was Miriam Linna, the Cramps’ previous drummer. In a long Facebook post during which she recalled moments from their four-decade friendship, she said she’d recently visited Knox in an intensive care unit in Cleveland. She reported that they’d reconnected in 2017, during her own illness, and made a point of speaking on the phone every day, noting, “I looked forward to the daily check up calls, and I soon realized that he needed the pep talks as well.” She added, “I thank God that Nicky was a friend of mine. He was one of the kindest, funniest, most amazing human beings ever and I was very lucky to have been in his orbit.”

Former guitarist Kid Congo Powers tweeted, “Nick Knox Coolest of the cool. R.I.P. Glad to have played to your boss Beat. Meet you on the mystery plane.”

Bad Music For Bad People is a sumptuous collection of 11 hits (“Human Fly” is represented) and B-sides that often serves as an introduction to the psychobilly legends’ swampy goo goo muck.

“Bad Music for Bad People” is the second compilation album of previously released material by the American garage punk band the Cramps. It was released in 1984 on I.R.S. Records and was seen by most fans as a cynical cash-in by the record label, following the departure of the band. Sounds, the now defunct UK music paper, gave the album a 5-star review but said, “Miles Copeland’s IRS label pick the carrion of their former label mates even cleaner by releasing a watered down version of the ...Off the Bone singles collection that was released in the UK.

The Band:

  • Lux Interior – vocals
  • Bryan Gregory – guitar
  • Kid Congo Powers – guitar
  • Poison Ivy Rorschach – guitar
  • Nick Knox – drums