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Music / The Cramps

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The "classic" lineup. Left to right: Poison Ivy Rorshach, Lux Interior, Bryan Gregory, and Nick Knox.

"I've got 96 tears
and 96 eyes"
—"Human Fly"

The Cramps were an American Punk Rock band from Sacramento, California, who were one of the major innovators of garage punk and psychobilly music.

The band were formed in 1976 by the Creator Couple of Lux Interior (aka Erick Purkheiser) and his wife Poison Ivy Rorshach (aka Kristy Wallace). They quickly entered the CBGB scene in New York City, dominated by bands like The Ramones. Their first LP, Songs the Lord Taught Us, is often considered their best release.

The Cramps are remembered for their energetic live shows and their melding of punk, Garage Rock, and Rockabilly with their love of B Movies, Exploitation Films and Las Vegas trash culture.

Studio albums:

  • Songs the Lord Taught Us (1980)
  • Psychedelic Jungle (1981)
  • A Date with Elvis (1986)
  • Stay Sick! (1990)
  • Look Mom No Head! (1991)
  • Flamejob (1994)
  • Big Beat from Badsville (1997)
  • Fiends of Dope Island (2003)

Tropes the Lord Taught Us:

  • Adam and Eve Plot: "All Women Are Bad"
    Adam and Eve sitting in the wood
    Eve said "Man, I got something real good
    It's in that tree, you'll get smart fast!"
    Adam said "Sure, Satan my ass"
  • Answer Song: "Sheena's in a Goth Gang" was a follow-up to The Ramones' "Sheena is a Punk Rocker".
  • Auto Erotica: "Bend Over I'll Drive" suggests you don't actually have to stop the car to engage in this.
    Is this the way Jayne Mansfield died...?
  • Badass Boast: "Garbageman", "Elvis Fucking Christ", "Creature From The Black Leather Lagoon", "God Monster"...
    You ain't no punk, you punk! You wanna talk about the real junk?
    (...) If you can't dig me you can't dig nuthin'! Do you want the real thing or are you just talkin'?
  • Card-Carrying Villain: "Mean Machine"
  • Careful with That Axe: "Love Me", "She Said", "I Was A Teenage Werewolf".
  • Cool Shades/Sunglasses at Night: "Sunglasses After Dark" claims it's a way "to be cool in one easy lesson" - even if you can't actually see a thing.
  • Cover Version: Way too many to list. Some notable examples include including "Strychnine" (originally by The Sonics), "Surfin' Bird" (originally by The Trashmen), "The Crusher" (originally by the Novas), "Primitive" (originally by the Groupies), "Green Fuz" (originally by Green Fuz), and "Green Door" (originally by Jim Lowe).
    • The bootleg compilation Songs The Cramps Taught Us, collecting all the originals of their covers and almost-covers, runs 7 volumes.
  • Dance Sensation: "Alligator Stomp", "Cramp Stomp", "Zombie Dance", "Surfin' Dead", "Ultra Twist", "The Crusher"... Most of them don't exactly end well for the dancers.
  • Drugs Are Good: "Drug Train", "Let's Get Fucked Up", "Bop Pills"
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: "Eyeball In My Martini"
    [The doctor] said, 'You ain't crazy'
    He said, 'You ain't insane'
    'It's just you got an eyeball in ze CENTER OF YOUR BRAIN!'
  • Garage Rock: A major influence on their music.
  • Girls with Guns: "Bikini Girls With Machine Guns".
  • Goth Rock: It's debatable whether they ever really were part of the goth scene, but they are beloved by goths and were a huge influence on deathrock.
  • Happily Married: Lux and Ivy, until Lux died in 2009.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather/Dressed All in Rubber: Lux's stage outfits tended to be this.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: "Goo Goo Muck".
  • Horror
  • Intercourse with You: Too many songs to count.
  • Kids Rock: "People Ain't No Good."
  • Last-Second Word Swap: "Surfin' Dead"
    Your carburetor don't carb, gotta hammer down this
    Your generator gens but your pistons don't... work
  • A Love to Dismember: "TV Set:"
    Oh baby, I see you in my TV set
    Oh baby, I see you in my TV set
    I cut your head off and put it in my TV set
    I use your eyeballs for dials on my TV set.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: From "Mean Machine:"
    You wanna go to the devil but you don't like the flames
    "Blood On Satan's Claw" is my middle name
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: For the first ten years of their existence they didn't even have a bass player. Starting in the mid-80s, they went through eight bassists in 20 years.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: "Queen of Pain," which just happens to be a sweet love song as well.
  • Ode to Intoxication: "Drug Train", "Let's Get Fucked Up", "New Kind of Kick:"
    Energine! Barcol! Draino hot shot! Whack attack! Helium! Nitrous oxide! Formaldehyde! Some new kind of kick!
  • Puberty Superpower: "I Was a Teenage Werewolf:"
    You know, I had puberty rites
    ...And I had puberty WROOONGS!
  • Revolving Door Band: Lux and Ivy were the only consistent members.
  • Rotten Rock & Roll: Embraced with aplomb.
    I dig that goddamn rock and roll
    The kinda stuff that don't save souls
    Ain't nuthin' good about it that I know!
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: Lux Interior did a singing cameo in an episode of Spongebob Squarepants as the frontman of a parrot puppet band.
  • Shout-Out: Very frequent, in both lyrics and promo shots.
  • Spelling Song: "Bop Pills"
    B-O-P, bop, P-I-L-L-S - BOP PILLS!
  • Spoonerism: "Backyard Jackoff" contains several examples, including the title.
  • Staircase Tumble: "Naked Girl Falling Down the Stairs." And yes, it's intended as a Shout-Out to Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending A Staircase #2."
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Ivy sings co-lead in two songs: "Get Off the Road" and "Kizmiaz."
  • Stripperiffic: Ivy's stage outfits, occasionally. Lux's much more frequently.
  • Studio Chatter: One CD reissue of Songs the Lord Taught Us includes an alternate take of "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," where the intro of the song abruptly stops as Lux Interior has a lengthy argument with someone across the room. Lux's half of the argument is much easier to make out, as he's still in front of the microphone, but apparently this other person disrupted the recording in some way, greatly angering Lux:
    Lux: Man, nobody fuckin' stops the tape on The Cramps in the fuckin' studio! Now get outta here... This is costing me 80 bucks an hour, please LEAVE!
  • They Called Me Mad!: "The Most Exalted Potentate of Love:"
    Mad! You call me mad?! I who have the secret of eternal love? You call me mad?!!
  • The Unreveal: The end of "What's Behind the Mask". The audience never learns the answer, but the narrator does... and he wishes he hadn't.
  • "When I'm Gone" Song: "Rockin' Bones"
    Well, when I die don't you bury me at all
    Just nail my bones up on the wall
    Beneath these bones let these words be seen
    "This is the bloody gears of a boppin' machine"
  • Your Head A-Splode: "Blow Up Your Mind."