The Cramps and The Gun Club
May 5, 2008 4:10 PM   Subscribe

Give it up for The Cramps and The Gun Club. Two of the greatest bands to come out of the late 1970s/early 1980s punk scene, they (wikis here and here) shared a few things in common: guitarist Kid Congo Powers as well as a penchant for re-invigorating the raucous, carnal, primal spirit of American popular music--i.e. early garage rock and rockabilly (what the Cramps dubbed "psychobilly") and blues. Start with this screamer from The Cramps, and this blistering classic from the GC's first LP. posted by ornate insect (48 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Love The Cramps.

I saw them at the old Commodore in Vancouver, with Gorilla Gorilla (headed up by Bif Naked) fronting for them. During the concert I had my shirt ripped completely off and had to scrounge what was left behind after the concert for something to wear home.

Good times...good times... ;-D
posted by Kickstart70 at 4:18 PM on May 5, 2008

I'm gonna wear some pants like that (from the Tear It Up video) to work tomorrow!
posted by ba at 4:23 PM on May 5, 2008

posted by kuujjuarapik at 4:27 PM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

That first GC cut doesn't quite seem blistering to me. They had a great cover of "Run Through the jungle", though the live one on YouTube bites.
posted by msalt at 4:28 PM on May 5, 2008

If anyone unfamiliar w/either band is wondering which recordings to start with, I would recommend starting with the early stuff:

Cramps--Gravest Hits EP (Illegal Records/I.R.S. Records, 1979)
Cramps--Songs The Lord Taught Us (Illegal Records, 1979)
Cramps--Psychedelic Jungle (I.R.S. Records, 1981)

Gun Club--Fire of Love (Ruby/Slash 1981)
Gun Club--Miami (Animal records 1982)
Gun Club--The Las Vegas Story (1984)
posted by ornate insect at 4:29 PM on May 5, 2008

Woh...thanks for this post. Now I'm going to go home this eve and break out my old Gun Club vinyl and rock out.
posted by chupacabra at 4:30 PM on May 5, 2008

msalt--they could be hit or miss live, but I beg to differ on that first Gun Club link; granted it's a little raw and the recording is less than optimum, for me it still conveys some of their energy.
posted by ornate insect at 4:31 PM on May 5, 2008

I love The Cramps. "Songs The Lord Taught Us" is one of my favorite records, every single song absolutely screams, and the bonged-out mega-echo production by Alex Chilton is awesome. Listening to The Cramps is like reading old EC Comics while nodding out in in a door-less toilet stall in the bathroom of a sleazy bar. They are to music what John Waters is to film. Plus, Poison Ivy. Roooowwwwl! Hubba hubba!
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:32 PM on May 5, 2008

For the Love of Ivy.
posted by Sailormom at 4:36 PM on May 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

ornate insect- for a good overview of The Cramps, I'd say get the "Bad Music For Bad People" compilation, which compiles their material up to 1984. If you dig that, then go for "Songs The Lord Taught Us", then go from there.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:44 PM on May 5, 2008

DecemberBoy--yeah the "Bad Music" compilation is indeed a good start. Also recommended are the Songs the Cramps Taught Us CDs--which document (a la "Pebbles") many of the obscure garage tunes from the late 1950s and early 1960s that the Cramps were, as avid record collectors and dedicated revivalists, covering. The Cramps were in many ways the coolest cover band that ever played, since they specialized in warped and wild tunes that were unfamiliar to all but hardcore rockabilly and garage enthusiasts.
posted by ornate insect at 4:53 PM on May 5, 2008

If you find yourself in the stupidly named SoMa district in San Francisco, look for a place called Black Market Music (I think). You can purchase the old Cramps drumkit if you say the right words.

Although, come to think of it, I wouldn't advise buying anything from them -- it's mostly unwanted crap.
posted by spiderskull at 4:54 PM on May 5, 2008

from the KCP interview linked to above, this excerpt helps explain some of the Cramps/Gun Club connection:

MPP: Now you left very early on in the Gun Club's career...were you there for the recording of Fire of Love, or did you leave before that?

KCP: I left about ten minutes before they recorded it, and got headhunted by the Cramps. (laughs) When I joined them, Jeffrey was like, "Please do it, we're playing to five people!" The Cramps were big rock stars to us: they had a record out, they went on tour. It felt like a huge opportunity, like, what 20-year-old, barely playing guitar person could even join a band like that?

But I was there for most of the writing of Fire of Love and I was there for that formative period before the album, and so I still really feel a part of it, even though my actual guitar playing wasn't a part of it.

posted by ornate insect at 5:05 PM on May 5, 2008

My uncle got kicked out of a Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention concert for being on too much acid and then somehow managed to go bareback horse riding later that night- and the most amazing thing about that night was "bareback! can you believe it??"

When I told him I was going to see the cramps on halloween he said, "man, they put on one crazy show." and quickly changed the subject.
posted by Large Marge at 5:06 PM on May 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

interesting anecdote from the first Gun Club-related (info/history) linked above:

Debbie Harry (of Blondie: I hope she needs no introduction) appears, as a backing singer on various tracks on the LP ["Miami"] under the pseudonym "D.H.Lawrence Jr." JLP would regale original Gun club drummer Brad Dunning with tales of misery about his unrequited love for Debbie. He had slept on her floor throughout his parents' divorce; he was also the head of her L.A. fanclub. The Blondie reunion album No Exit contains a track about Pierce in the shape of "Under The Gun."
posted by ornate insect at 5:16 PM on May 5, 2008

And, as a related aside that deserves mention, if there's one band that came up in the mid 1980s that best possesed the spirit of the Cramps and the Gun Club, I would say that band was the Flat Duo Jets. Like the demented offspring of Hasil Adkins and Charlie Feathers, guitarist Dexter Romweber packed (packs) a manic rockabilly punch.
posted by ornate insect at 5:30 PM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Cramps yeah, why not, good shock value. I live the clip in Urgh where Poison Ivy gives Lux Interior a look of UTTER derision- one of rock's great sneers.

Gun Club? I used to love em back in the early eighties, and was lucky enough to see them in backwater Brisbane. I was having a nostalgia trip the other day and dragged our a whole lot of vinyl, and gotta say, they ain't as amazing as I remember.
posted by mattoxic at 5:31 PM on May 5, 2008

mattoxic--for me The Gun Club LPs still hold up to scrutiny: I think Fire of Love, Miami, Las Vegas Story, and even Mother Juno are all still very solid listens.
posted by ornate insect at 5:34 PM on May 5, 2008

for those who are maybe not hearing what made the GC so great, give this song a listen. Entitled "Mother of Earth" from the Miami LP, it's one of my favorites by them.
posted by ornate insect at 5:49 PM on May 5, 2008

I'm seconding Bad Music for Bad People as a great introduction to the Cramps. That's what got me introduced.

I owe them big for introducing me to Hasil Adkins, too.
posted by invitapriore at 5:49 PM on May 5, 2008

invitapriore--all hail Hasil Adkins. I had the pleasure of seeing him in Athens, GA in 1990 (Southern Culture on the Skids opened) or so.
posted by ornate insect at 5:53 PM on May 5, 2008

The Gun Club also featured - for a while - Patricia Morrison on bass. She went on to join Andrew Eldritch in the second incarnation of The Sisters of Mercy (Gift & Floodland albums), and played a rather nice femme fatale role in the noiresque film clip for This Corrosion, set in sunny Petra.

What I didn't know until now was that she went on to marry & have a kid with David Vanian of The Damned. Gothic royalty, indeed.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:15 PM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yet more stuff on The Cramps here and on The Gun Club here
posted by ornate insect at 6:24 PM on May 5, 2008

and for all you trainspotters out there, Jeffrey Lee Pierce does a great song with Die Haut on the album Head On (other guest vocalists include Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, Alan Vega of Suicide, Debbie Harry aka Blondie, Blixa Bargeld of Einsturzende Neubauten / The Bad Seeds, Anita Lane - Bad Seeds again, and Lydia Lunch of Lydia Lunch).

Headless Body in Topless Bar is also pretty good; Nick Cave's on that one, along with Mick Harvey, Kid Congo Powers & Anita Lane.

And then there's Burnin' the Ice, with Nick Cave on vocals throughout.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:29 PM on May 5, 2008

uburoivas--and for those who don't know, KCP is the connection between Cramps, Gun Club and Bad Seeds, having played with all three. Here is his website.
posted by ornate insect at 6:33 PM on May 5, 2008

I like the cramps and the gun club.
posted by brevator at 6:48 PM on May 5, 2008

Debbie Harry aka Blondie

Debbie Harry of Blondie. Blondie is the name of the band. Debbie Harry is their singer. Sorry, it's a pet peeve of mine.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:06 PM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

This multiple vinyl bootleg owning Cramps-at-the Jockey-Club-1986-we-drank-the-place-dry superannuated punk rocker says YESSSSS. BZZZzzzzz.

You know what would be cool? An interview with Lux and Ivy about Hasil.
posted by mwhybark at 7:08 PM on May 5, 2008

Oh, and I heart Dexter, too, by all means.
posted by mwhybark at 7:09 PM on May 5, 2008

And finally, I wholeheartedly endorse this list. Both bands had touring and recording interruptions circa 1983-ish that the Cramps weathered with greater success. As a result there were several compilations of Cramps material released at the time whiche were often rereleases of stuff that had come out relatively recently. Rule of thumb: pre-"Date with Elvis," you will be buying songs heard elsewhere, but (and this is the genius part) YOU CANNOT GO WRONG.

Please allow me to note that I love the Gun Club just as much as the Cramps. Yet the limited recording output - even slimmer than that of the Cramps - and the less hooky opportunities to market Mr. Pierce's remarkable vision meant I listened to it less than the Cramps back in what I'm told are the imprinting years.

Thus, the Cramps remain a crucial touchstone of my listening habits and I monthly consume entire albums whole, while I'm much more likely to mix the Gun Club into a set of old-time blues artists. I have thought about this a lot and concluded that it has much to do with the artists. Pierce was famously a problem child and it limited opportunities to record and perform. Lux and Ivy, no less aggressive as performers, were more, what's the word - settled, and that meant when they got back in the saddle they were a reliable touring and recording act, while JLP was, whaddya call it, dead.
posted by mwhybark at 7:23 PM on May 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

mwhybark--thanks for the Hasil Adkins link. In lieu of a recent GG Allin thread at MeFi, I note that this part of the link you provided compares them: "He makes GG Allin look like Merv Griffin." -Julien Nitzberg (The producer of the Wild World of Hasil Adkins and associate producer of the Dancing Outlaw)
posted by ornate insect at 7:45 PM on May 5, 2008

Haw. I'd have to dispute the comparison, but for sure the lineage is there. I'd rather have dinner with the Haze than GG any day, despite his threats regarding cranial refrigeration.
posted by mwhybark at 8:27 PM on May 5, 2008

For a bizarre, even for the Cramps, experience check out The Cramps: Live at Napa State Mental Hospital (recorded June 1978).
posted by whatever at 8:29 PM on May 5, 2008

whatever--thanks for the link; it's also linked in the post above. But it is a seminal performance.
posted by ornate insect at 8:30 PM on May 5, 2008

And of course, it's posted on YouTube.
posted by whatever at 8:31 PM on May 5, 2008

OOPS...thanks for the post, I love the Cramps.
posted by whatever at 8:36 PM on May 5, 2008

I'm a huge fan of the Cramps; among the best performances I've seen. Last time I saw them, maybe six years ago, Lux and Ivy looked incredible and blew it out with such ferocious energy and raw-ass intensity that a newbie would never guess they'd been doing it this long. True performers who have honed their craft to create an elevated experience. Please please see them live if you have a chance!
posted by theperfectcrime at 10:13 PM on May 5, 2008

Yeah, gotta love the guys even if they did almost get my entire 1984 senior class expelled in college. We hired them for our graduation party (I went to art school) and Lux topped out the end of the show by pouring a beer down the 100-year-old functioning pipe organ in the hall we had rented out.
But it was so punk, you know?
posted by memewit at 10:26 PM on May 5, 2008

I also knew Terry Graham of the Gun Club peripherally in Texas. I don't remember talking to him much about his GC and Cramps days, but I saw him last spring, and he's written a book called Punk Like Me, for which, as far as I can google at the moment, he's apparently looking for a publisher.
posted by theperfectcrime at 10:30 PM on May 5, 2008

Debbie Harry aka Blondie

Debbie Harry of Blondie. Blondie is the name of the band. Debbie Harry is their singer. Sorry, it's a pet peeve of mine.

well, if yr going to nitpick, DecemberBoy, that's why i used "aka" - also known as - because Debbie Harry is commonly also known as "Blondie"; incorrect or not, that's the way most people think of her.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:16 AM on May 6, 2008

now that i have access to youtube, it turns out my memory failed me. Dominion was the filmclip i was thinking of.

the one for This Corrosion is the kind of poxy Mad Max kind of clip that could only really have ever come out of the late 80s.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:45 AM on May 6, 2008

The Cramps make me happier the older I get. Now they make me very happy, so I must be very old. I still want to give them all a big kiss for just being great. With toungues.
posted by merocet at 6:04 AM on May 6, 2008

What a great music thread. The Cramps, Hasil, Gun Club, and Flat Duo Jets. Add Roky Erickson and Dead Moon in, and that's pretty much my favorite playlist.
posted by signalandnoise at 8:05 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

this may be the best meatafilter thread of all time.
posted by shmegegge at 10:06 AM on May 6, 2008

From the "New Record Out Now" link on the first link: You’ll actually hear a dope deal going on in the background during their third ever live gig at Max’s Kansas City!

posted by dirtdirt at 12:46 PM on May 6, 2008

For a newer band that updates the Gun Club sound, check out Gallon Drunk (also with Bad Seeds connection, through James Johnston). Their cover of Silver Apples' "Ruby" is a favorite of mine, but I don't see it on YouTube (in fact, most of the stuff on YouTube is kinda lame…).
posted by klangklangston at 1:52 PM on May 6, 2008

There are a bunch of videos from the Napa performance. I posted about it a while back, but I could swear there were more of them then.
posted by homunculus at 2:33 PM on May 6, 2008

Great post. I probably listen to the The Songs The Cramps Taught Us LPs more than The Cramps these days, so this is a good nudge to dig them out.

Also, here's an old post of mine about Kid Congo Powers, with links to the scrapbooks he kept when playing in The Cramps.
posted by jack_mo at 4:28 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

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