Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Cramps – How to Make a Monster

I’m surprised that I never managed to get this 2004 compilation of unreleased rehearsals/demos/live takes before, but be that as it may, I’m glad I finally did! Of course, I love this band and they have been highly influential in my musical leanings for decades and this is a terrific snapshot of the early years of the group and how they progressed.

Included here is the first song they ever played as a group – the bubblegum tune “Quick Joey Small” – and the one & only time Lux played guitar with the group – “Lux’s Blues”. Demos with Bryan Gregory & his sister Pam Balam (their first drummer) that Lux later quietly overdubbed lyrics show how some of the songs morphed from inception to the versions that we all know & love, including some that wouldn’t appear until their second album.

There are takes with Miriam Linna, Kid Congo, Nick Knox (natch), and the various other 80’s members of the group. Cool, seminal versions of “Five Years Ahead of My Time”, “Call of the Wighat” (studio) and a great “Hanky Panky”! “Journey to the Center of a Girl” is quite different here, “Everything Goes” would later evolve into “Bikini Girls with Machine Guns” and “All Women Are Bad” was recorded in Lux & Ivy’s apartment in Hollywood! Also, uncredited, there is a psychotic happy birthday song that L&I recorded for Nick, a radio jingle and another “Hanky Panky”!

CD 2 consists of two live sets – one at Max’s Kansas City with Miriam on drums and later at CBGB’s with Nick. Miriam has a classic, primitive style (check out her solo sections in “I’m Cramped”) but when Knox arrived, the band really gelled. I loved this line-up, though I only got to see them once, at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go in ‘79/’80. They’re obviously a lot more comfortable on stage by this point and are becoming known around town, rather than being the obscure opening act. Pretty damn great here!

This set comes with an amazing booklet written by Lux & Ivy and jam-packed with photos (did you know that Ivy worked as a dominatrix in NYC to support the band?) including one of my old ’57 Dodge Coronet in front of their Hollywood rehearsal studio – my claim to fame – hah! Anyway, every fan will want this though obviously not a place for novices to begin. They certainly are missed!