Well, it's been a spell since the last chapter here at KICKSVILLE 66, so why not re-enter Earth's atmosphere with a BANG! Stay tuned Ramone Catholics, Ramoniacs, and general sneaker-sportin' loud-sounders as more dynamite is dredged from That Seventies Box!
Well, it's been a spell since the last chapter here at KICKSVILLE 66, so why not re-enter Earth's atmosphere with a BANG! Stay tuned Ramone Catholics, Ramoniacs, and general sneaker-sportin' loud-sounders as more dynamite is dredged from That Seventies Box!
April 2010 Update: The first chapter of kicksville 66 has been published in Loops Journal, a UK music magazine.
I've reaaranged this blog to run consecutively, give or take. You're on page one. To read more, please click on subsequent chapters in the sidebar.
Erick Purkhiser, better known as Cramps leader Lux Interior, died on February 4. Long ago, and for one year, he was my friend. I was the drummer in the first Cramps lineup which played forty-odd dates over an eight month period from the first show on All Saints Night 1976 through July 13, 1977, the date of the NYC blackout. With his passing came a mess of calls asking about the early days. After years of avoiding a backward glance, I was suddenly dropped headlong into the well. A moldering box of old stuff materialized from way back of the closet, and old friends began sending in decades-old snapshots, clippings, bits of correspondence. That first year in New York was my coming of age, at least in calendar years. It was also my first year behind the traps, on the flipside of fandom. It provided a hazing that alternately galvanized and confused my head, so these few words and pictures will seem sad and funny at the same time. I hope this helps clear the cobwebs for those who care. Walking through my dreams, like the Pretty Things would say. RIP, Lux.
Stuff started seeping out of the woodwork before the paint was dry. Phone calls, remember-whens, faded pictures, a couple grainy super-8’s, old letters, a stop-by. “Lux is dead,” they’d say. “He’s gone.” So I get a call from my first big town roommate, Pam, sister of the great and also-late Bryan Gregory, and we ruminate, a shot of white light into one hell of a moldy basement, and it’s with that conversation that I begin this slow descent into a year that time forgot. Round One is shot out of the cannon, a random blast. It was a lifetime ago-- everything’s changed, and nothing’s changed. Like when you spin around real fast and stop, and you’re digging your heels in, and everything around you is a whirling blur.
I suppose it started a year earlier, while going to school in Kent, a small college town in Northeast Ohio, some 35 miles south of Cleveland and 12 miles east of Akron. In August of 1975, I wrote a teenage letter to my Detroit penpal Nikki Lorenz (future popster Nikki Corvette) that I’d made some kooky new pals on a NYC road trip with my sister Helen. “Got asked to be a drummer in an avant-gard (sic) band, they want someone who’s never touched a drum kit. These people say they’re better than anyone, truly bizarre. Tux (sic) is 29, Ivy like 26, both beautiful young college graduate Californians (!) who finally want to get a band together in the Big Apple.”That first run-in was at a small Sixth Avenue eatery called Chicken & Burger World, located right by Bigelow’s Pharmacy and a stone’s throw from Village Oldies and Discophile, where Helen and I had been trawling for records. A familiar looking tall guy with long hair and a velvet jacket had sidled over to our table to say that he’d seen us at a show at the Piccadilly Inn in Cleveland a few weeks earlier, and then he told us that he and his girlfriend Ivy (who waved from their table and then came over to say hi, a tiny lady with billowing sandy curls) in the middle of moving to New York to form a band, and that I should play drums with them. I was shocked. I told him I’d never played at all and that seemed to be a selling point. I’m guessing they had come from California to Ohio not long before that to see Lux’s family—he was originally from Stow, five miles from Kent, and I understood his family was in Akron. As he was talking, I realized that I had seen him at a Kinks show-- the Schoolboys tour- I remembered he had been wearing turquoise shoes. Subtle. We exchanged addresses and soon after I got back home to Ohio, there was a letter from Lux saying that they’d be stopping by when they came back to move their stuff to NYC. At the time, I was going to Kent State, living on Main Street in the Town House, a rather dilapidated old hotel that housed a hippy dippy health food store on the ground floor. My second floor window looked directly across to a used record shop. Conveniently, I could look directly into the store and knew all its comings and goings. The downtown area was somewhat off campus and comfortably run down. There was a greasy diner a couple blocks away, and one street over, there was a folkie dive called the Blind Owl where Brewer had supposedly met Shipley. Yes, Kent was a garden spot. Four dead students had put it on the map in 1970 and legend had it that KSU had made the Top Party School list in Playboy at some point, but you could have fooled me. One day not long after the NYC trip, Lux and Ivy did come by ye olde Town House. We started going through stacks of mags and records and talked about music and about the band they wanted to start. In retrospect, I don’t think they had a name yet, nor was Bryan Gregory was even in the picture at that time. I know they met him working in an uptown NYC record store, soon after they relocated. At the time, I had no intention of moving to New York—I was nineteen and in my senior year with vague plans to move in with my sister in Cleveland. I had become friends with a couple of musicians there, Peter Laughner and Crocus Behemoth who had an fantastic band called Rocket From The Tombs, which would soon evolve into Pere Ubu. Another fab local band was the Electric Eels – I was good pals with their lawnmower-playing leader Davie. Our small bunch of rock n’ roll fans in Kent were all old record nuts, all our spare time was spent reading magazines and fanzines, writing letters, listening to the radio, and playing records (and Seeds 8-tracks). I loved going to school, crazy as that sounds, and worked full time on campus, at the library and at the admissions office. I was a mad correspondent, scribbling (and typing on the rusty Royal manual), reams of excitable fluff to penpals wherever they would erupt. I was a card-carrying member of the Iggy Fan Club and wrote regularly to Creem, Back Door Man, Who Put The Bomp, Rock Scene, and the Purple Warp and sent fan letters to anybody who I felt deserved comment from the peanut gallery. These were the horse-and-buggy days when you got out a pen and scribbled your thoughts out on paper because you couldn’t afford long distance phone calls and the only option was sending a telegram! Much as I hate nostalgia, those stoneage days were pretty idyllic. Those teenage Midwest pals were all perfect rock n’ roll characters, great full-time fans and noisemakers. Remember these were still the days of extreme jocks on one side and goofy hippies on the other. Digging the Stooges was not a popular idea. Subsequent pen-pal letters to Nikki through 1975 have me stating that I could never in a million years live in New York, that I needed a truly shlubby city like Cleveland or Detroit. I describe seeing a dog running on a Cleveland street with a frozen rat in his mouth, with other dogs chasing him. “Only in Cleveland,” I add, with a degree of solemnity. The next New York trip, oddly enough, was with a pack of people including the future Nick Knox, to whom I would later forfeit my throne—drum throne, that is. I describe Nick to Nikki as “Nick, who looks like a Kink”. Strange, small world. I haven’t seen Nick since ’76. He was the coolest guy back then, a talented drummer who surely had to be severely dumbed down to bash moronically -- like some people we know. More about the prehistoric Ohio days in a future blog. Maybe. Hip hip!
So then, in a nutshell and on a whim, again neglecting parts of the story to keep it snappy, there was another road trip to NYC with Cleveland pals which also included James Sliman (future Run DMC/Dodi Fayed press cat), delightfully zany Babs Fraley and Wildman Stiv Bator of Frankenstein fame. We all ganged up and went to see the New York Dolls, I swear, in a shopping center on Long Island, or New Jersey, whatever— a total teenage weekend bash, Cleveland/Detroit versus the world. Somebody confirm this for me-- I know they played at Max’s on the fourth-- I still have that darn stars and stripes Dolls badge from the show, but wasn’t that demented shopping center blowout round about that same time? I’d met up with Lux and Ivy and had stayed over at their place, a small, low ceiling walkup on East 73 rd Street. A cool old jukebox took up a good chunk of the living room-- Lux said he paid a guy five bucks tocarry it up the stairs, strapped to his back! There was only one window in the apartment, facing into a back alley. There was a mess of records on shelves facing the jukebox, a walk-through bedroom with a massive old bed that took up the entire room, a tiny bathroom with a sink and shower, and a miniscule kitchenette, but it was homey, and bits of velvety Victorian style bric-a-brac decorated what was in essence, Cramps HQ. The first night, I met their soft-spoken new guitar player Bryan Gregory. The threesome had put it into first use in April, with a cool handbill (indicating a fan club—now that’s confidence for a band that existed in name only!)—it would still be still six months before the band would play live. The night of the fourth, we went to see the fireworks downtown, the four of us. The streets were packed with surging crowds, the noise level was insane, the big ships were in. It was simply as exciting as life could get for a kid from the boonies. I was in a band and I had yet to find a pair of drum sticks, let alone a job and a place to live.
Bryan’s sister Pam had arrived in NYC a couple weeks earlier, and she had filled in on rehearsals in the record store basement, just for laughs, according to Pam. Regardless, another band photo got snapped and another handbill was hatched. There’s also a great early cameo flyer of just Bryan, gazing over his shoulder. So here I was now, not knowing what I was getting into, and not knowing which end up was up on a drumstick, in with this snap-happy trio with a name, and a selection of photos, and zero experience, or musical ability for that matter. Lux handed me a brand new pair of sticks and pronounced me the world’s greatest drummer. Let’s go. Just like that. No audition, no test run, no lessons, no suggestions of what to play or how fast.
Fortunately, my pal James wanted to move to New York right away, too. We found a two bedroom (plus living room) walk up in an old tenement on East Ninth Street and plunked down a deposit. I think we got one month free with a sob story about having to go back to Ohio to wrap up loose ends. At any rate, the rent worked out to forty bucks each if we got a third roommate. Back in Cleveland, local maniac Bradley Field immediately volunteered to fill the void. Then, we got news that the Ramones and Groovies were going to be playing in Los Angeles. This was the ultimate double bill, and we decided to head to our new home in New York City via the west coast. I wrote to Purple Warp editor Tom Hosier, quoting the Ramones, “Hey daddy-o, I don’t wanna go… but whether I wanna or not, I am… going to move to the evil city itself, nooyawk… as soon as I get back from the waste coast/yeah, I leave to L.A. tomorrow… in a pale grey Valiant… I’m going to see the Ramones and my fave rave band in the whole wide world the Flamin Groovies at the Roxy Aug 11 and 12... I was in NYC for a week or so apt-hunting and found one on east ninth street in the el dumpo region of the village. There exist in said apt large cockroaches and other bugs, but otherwise, I LIKE IT. I will be living with two demented pals. I am the only normal person I know anyway. I am a nice normal one year past teenage girl and my favorite band is the Flamin Groovies. I idolize Cyril Jordan and know all the Groovies songs off by heart.” Well, that LA trip the next day did not happen, because Bradley, the driver of the grey Valiant apparently got arrested for urinating on a police officer. The next morning here’s me and James all packed and ready to head East, er, West, and our driver is in the klink, possibly for a month or more. James blew a fuse, and then stormed off to make some phone calls. He managed to rustle up local gal Tracey Lacy who could be persuaded by James to do just about anything. Just like that, Tracey was driving me and James to our new pad in New York in her convertible Karmann Ghia.
Meanwhile, Pam had come in with James and me at the Ninth Street pad- Three’s Company, lower east side version: one Lebanese photographer with a humongous pet python (which ended up escaping its cage, slithering out the window into the night) and a vast collection of photo-print silk shirts and Cuban heel shoes (and an incredible sense of humor), teeny tiny, long haired and gorgeous Pam (who we nicknamed Pam Balam – Blam- for the Groovies tune!) who missed Michigan more than I missed Ohio at the time, and me with the drumsticks and the bad perm. We were all flying by the seat of our collective pants, starting from scratch in the Snake Pit. Pam and I got jobs as lunch crowd waitresses at Brew Burger (shades of Hamburger Patti), a job that obliged us to wear horrible Danskin leotards and steer-head medallions. Those creepy waitress outfits were as far as I would ever go with “stage wear”. During that first year, I was oblivious to the fact that the band was in need of an image re-do. If anything, Bryan was the fashion icon, what with the Veronica Lake hair, the mod ties and the polka dots—it was all about his obsession with the Rolling Stones, and Brian Jones in particular (hence the moniker). I'd follow with the Stones fixation by giving myself a well-honed mop top as well. The Cramps got rehearsal space uptown and (of course) immediately got James to take some band photos. Ivy’s pride and joy was her clear Lucite Dan Armstrong guitar, just like the one Keith Richards and Cyril Jordan had, rare as sin and equally cool. Bryan played his trademark polka dot Flying V, hand detailed with round white price stickers. It may have been a knock-off, but it didn’t matter. Bryan was capable of creating the most insane snarls and shrieks out of that crazy deal. He also had a gift for moving his cigarette around his mouth with his lips and shooting it out at some poor kid in the audience. It was bizarre and terrifying but you couldn’t help but be riveted. He seemed to be constructed entirely of sinew, not an ounce of excess on his frame. That tough look from all concerned was real. Believe me, at the time, it wasn’t all nice audiences and fun loving appreciative types who “got it”. There was a lot of crap to deal with. The band got something of a rep for being hardasses, which was why Amos Poe cast the Cramps as thugs in his film THE FOREIGNER. Here’s a clip.
That’s me and Bryan upstairs at CBGB’s pouncing on the leading man. The band playing is the Erasers, I’m told. Then all four Cramps beat the heck out of the guy in the lavatory in CBGB’s basement. Now that’s method acting! I remember the first hint of theatrical getups for the group. Photographer/dancer Anya Phillips (RIP) wanted to take some studio snaps of the Cramps. She set up lights and umbrellas and then ran off, returning with some sort of rubber shirt with bones on it, dangling from a wire hanger. “Put this on,” she said to me. “Uh, no,” I said. She tried to encourage me to squeeze into the goofy get up, but nothing in the world could get me to cooperate. I may be wrong, but I think Anya was the one who first put latex and chicken bones into the Cramps itinerary. I think no-wavester Lydia Lunch ended up taking that rubber and bones creation to heart and building some kind of look around it. Some time after my departure, I recall being stunned by the transformation the Cramps had made, when they took on some kind of bondage drag identity with the makeup and high heels and all, a heavy handed nod to the Dolls at their glitziest. That first year, Bryan held sway at a record store called Musical Maze and did some foot massaging as a sideline. Lux worked at MM early on, too. When Bryan had first joined, and Pam was banging their gong, they would blast away in the basement of the store. Lux must have quit or had his hours shortened, as he would come downtown and we’d check out the record stores and junk stores, me running three steps to each of his long strides down the sidewalks. We’d do the flyering for shows, taping handbills to walk/don’t walk signs and tacking them up at the record shops. At one point, Gregg Turner at Back Door Man appointed me the East Coast Promo Gal for Zero records and it was my job to get the singles into the shops. Same with Ohio bands Pere Ubu and Devo. So we added a bit of shlepping to the record hunt jaunts. Like the Avon lady, only different. It felt like a bizarro world episode of Ozzie & Harriett, and why not, Lux was obsessed by Ricky Nelson. It was kind of weird. He loved Ricky so much, he thought he resembled him. Beautiful.
Early on, I remember waiting for the downtown Lexington Avenue train with Lux. I guess I was missing home, and told him I’d been writing to my friends back home and that maybe I should go back. He took me by the shoulders, looked be straight in the eyes, and told me YOU’RE A CRAMP NOW! YOU CAN’T GO BACK. There was a phone call home, bawling to mom, and another with my brother threatening to come and get me and bring me back. It never happened, though, and my proclamation to Nikki that I could never live in New York would fade. The band began rehearsing in earnest. I say rehearsing because there never was any practicing. From day one, it was, we’re a band, we have to make flyers and play shows. I thought this was how it was done. Since nobody really knew how to play, it was pointless trying to faithfully cover any songs that anybody would know. So, as the recipe has come undone over the years, the idea was doing original versions of gnarly, attitudinal old obscuros, things that Ivy could deliver a dangerous guitar line, that Bryan could fuzz blast away to, that I could pound around, that Lux could verbalize over with his well oiled vocal chords and seasoned imagination, stoked by hours of late night Creature Features on TV.The first set of “originals” became the first set of Greatest Hits for year one of the Cramps. You know the songs. Don’t Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk. Sunglasses After Dark. Teenage Werewolf. Human Fly. Rockin Bones. Love Me. What’s Behind The Mask. I Can’t Hardly Stand It. TV Set. I turned 21 in October. Ivy gave me a beautiful pair of hand painted Japanese slippers and a lovely old oriental musical jewelry box with pretty geisha girls who went round and round when you wound it up. Lux gave me sealed copies of Sonics Boom and Here Are The Sonics, fresh out of the crazy old record store across from the Strand Book Store. We’d been gazing at those albums in the shop a week before and I never thought I’d have anything but the beaters back at the Snake Pit. The Cramps debut was slated for the day after Halloween-- Nov. 1, 1976 at CBGB’s opening for old pal and boss- next time for that story) Stiv Bator’s new band the Dead Boys. During the eight months that followed, this first incarnation of the Cramps would play forty-some shows, most of them at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s.
When we weren’t playing, we were rehearsing, and when we weren’t rehearsing, we were out watching bands. Initally, it was all about the Ramones and the Dictators, and my admiration for them would never fade. The one drum “lesson” I ever got was from Tommy Ramone, who showed me a to hold the sticks “like this”. In Spring of 1977, Richard Robinson, the revered producer of the Flamin’ Groovies Teenage Head album, paid to take the Cramps into Bell Sound, recording eight tracks. This was stunning to me. Not in my wildest dreams could I believe that the guy who recorded my favorite band wanted to record us. I honestly felt that I was on CANDID CAMERA, that this was all a dream, or a hilarious hoax that was being played on me.
You see, the Groovies played, and will always play, a major role in my life. It was around this same time that my friend Greg Shaw from Bomp magazine passed the Flamin Groovies Fan Club presidency mantle on to me. It was a thrill, and I would soon begin to honor the title by publishing my own home spun version of the Flamin Groovies Monthly fanzine. I met all of my dearest friends through the Flamin Groovies Fan Club. Sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? But it’s true—Billy, Todd, Jim, Bernie, Alan, Gary. Anyway, when the STILL SHAKIN’ album came out in mid ’77, I was delighted that Richard gave me the first copy hot off the press, autographed. I’d started working at the Strand Bookstore on 12th and Broadway in September, and it would become my real home for years to come (save for a year-long exit in 1978 to work for Marty Thau). To this day, the Strand is better than the Taj Mahal to me. A regal place filled with ghosts and great old books.
New York was a very different place in those days. The city was nearly bankrupt, some unknown psychopath dubbed the Son of Sam was shooting disco people every couple of months, and there were no yuppies or rich kids anywhere in sight. Everybody was a scrapper. Cheap rent, quarter coffee and hard work in some capacity. The Cramps were now opening for the Ramones, getting a dollop of attention from the press. At one point, Hilly Kristal, the owner of CBGB’s, was messing with the idea of having local bands cover Rolling Stones songs (great idea!) and everybody was making dibs on tunes. I remember blowing through Off The Hook a few times, anticipating recording it, but the whole project fell through. Around the same time, we were messing with the Troggs’ Night Of The Long Grass. That still is a personal fave. God bless Reg Presley and all he stands for, crop circles and all.
Somebody get Reg on Coast To Coast AM, please! That spring, my Ohio pal Peter Laughner came to visit at the apartment above a hardware store on 12th Street and First Avenue that I was by then sharing with Miss Lydia Lunch and nutty Cleveland import Bradley Field, who was fresh out of jail in Ohio. (The pair would go on to bang a gong as Teenage Jesus and the Jerks.) Peter arrived with Lester Bangs and Richard Lloyd in tow, and we hung around listening to records and a demo Richard had just cut, solo; finally taking a cab to pick up photog Stephanie Chernikowski. It was a perfect late spring day, the windows were down and the taxi was going fast. I remember it clearly, as it was the last time I would see Peter. He phoned right before his death in June. I’ll never forget the call, in the middle of the night. Lydia, Bradley and I had been invited to some kind of fancy shmancy party and I’d fallen asleep in the living room. They’d tried to wake me up, but I was so sleepy, I told them I’d meet up with them later. The ringing phone woke me up hours later. In retrospect, it was already a call from the other side. We talked about good things happening in New York, about the Groovies fan club, and his writing, and music plans back in Ohio, about coming to New York to visit again. Of my many heroes at the time, he ranked at the very top. I learned of his passing days after the fact, when Lydia and I ran into Lester on the Bowery. LB was upset that we were out having a good time, “considering”. I had no clue what he was talking about. When he told me, I was shattered. This was unbelievable to me, it was not supposed to happen. Impossible!
Meanwhile, the Cramps were slated to play their first three night weekend stint at CBGB’s, hosting a bunch of Canadian combos. For two weeks leading to that weekender, I was numb, haunted day and night by memories of my long gone friend, without a doubt the most influential person in my short life at that time. I remembered the last phone call, turning it over and over in my head. Harsh. That’s a word we’d use all the time back then. That’s HARSH. Well, this was as harsh as it gets. Things got wildly complicated with friends and roommates. By this time, Lydia and Bradley and I had moved to Warren Street in lower Manhattan, to an abandoned, and certifiably haunted old basement shop with no hot water. This was also where the Cramps took to rehearsing. My state of mind was not good. I left Warren Street in July, having found a sixth floor walkup on 5th Street. For the first time in NYC, I had my own place. The three day Canadian weekend at CBGB’s culminated in an impromptu housewarming at my new pad, with all the Canuck bands, the Cramps, and a houseful of friends blasting records way into the night. After weeks of sadness and confusion, there had been some relief in pounding the tubs and yapping with friends. The Canadians, especially the band Teenage Head, were nuts about the Groovies and were insanely impressed that we had recorded with grand, exalted poobah Richard Robinson.
Three days later, on Wednesday night, lightning hit a Con Ed station, and then another, plunging all five boroughs of New York City into total darkness. The city went berserk for twenty-five hours running in what was dubbed the Great Blackout of 1977. I was downtown when the lights went out, with bashing and crashing from all directions, and cop cars and ambulances shrieking up and down the avenues all night long. By dawn, huge sections of the city were burned, looted, trashed. Like Pompeii, without the lava. Within hours, I would feel pretty much the same way, kind of like I’d been torched in a moldy burlap bag and left to smolder in a dumpster in the South Bronx.
You know, back in ’73 when my sister and I got back home to Ohio from England, we went to work at an automotive plant making hoods for Mack trucks. Enormous fiberglas parts would roll out of hot ovens on rail tracks and we’d grind and sand eight hours a day, sweating in goggles, masks, earplugs, protective gear, four women to a frame, hood after hood, day in, day out. I considered it a necessary hazing. A life experience. One of those deals that does doesn’t kill you, but makes you stronger. My first year in New York was a necessary hazing, too, a full-time, full-on occupation that just happened to be filled with loud music and sweaty people, day in and day out—at least the earplugs were optional. Not entirely a bad thing, not by any means. And for someone who shot out of the hopper at full-tilt, I had a relatively soft landing, thanks to fellow Groovies fans Trixie A. Balm and Shawn Brighton, who showed up at my door the proverbial morning after with a hell of a pep talk and plans for, what else, a band. I’m eternally grateful to them for their timing. But I’m also thankful for the days to Lux and Ivy and Bryan. That first year shot me into an overdrive that I’ve yet to come down from. Before the snow would blow at the end of ‘77, I would be bashing away with Nervus Rex (before their power pop alliance with Chinn and Chapman), having met my better half and instant sweetheart Billy Miller (at a record fair, natch), and would soon start a job with music biz honcho (Buddah bigwig—FLAMINGO!!!) Marty Thau at his new label, Red Star Records. Some time before the Cramps left New York, Lux and Bryan came to see the Zantees (who I’d joined straight out of Nervus Rex) at Hurrah’s, and to say goodbye. I was so happy to see them there, and remember standing on the stairs, halfway up, halfway down. It was only Lux and Bryan, and the three of us kind of just stared at each other. I felt real bad. I had that hollow break-up feeling in my throat. It was the last time I would see Bryan, and I know he heard me choke on hard tears when I hugged him goodbye and shook his ring covered hand. I remembered that hard bitten goodbye when he too fell of the masthead, a year and a half later. I got messages from him over the years, “Bryan says hi!” “Bryan asked about you!” “Bryan sends his love!” I never saw him again. I didn’t see Lux or Ivy again until 2003. It was at the Warsaw in Brooklyn. I went to say happy birthday to Ivy, as she’d hit the big five-0, a big one for the ladies. A time to celebrate with everybody you’ve ever known. On leaving, I said goodbye to Lux on the long flight of stairs from the dressing room. I stared at him the same way as I had that night with Bryan at Hurrah’s, that feel-bad choking goodbye that has to carry weight, because there are no plans to ever meet again.
Gig list / First lineup 1976-1977
Lux Interior (vocals), Ivy Rorschach (guitar), Bryan Gregory (guitar), Miriam Linna (drums)
11/1/76 CBGB, NYC W/Dead Boys (first show)
11/21/76 Max's Kansas City, NYC
11/27/76 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/Suicide and Fuse
12/17/76 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/Suicide and Jango Edwards
12/29/76 On The Rocks, NYC w/Stiletto
1/6/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/Uncle Son
1/7/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC
1/8/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC
1/9/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC
1/13/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/Kieran Liscoe Band/Stumblebunny
1/14/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/Mink Deville/Suicide
1/21/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/Blondie
1/22/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/Blondie
2/3/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/Marbles and Mumps
2/4/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/Marbles and Mumps
2/5/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/Marbles and Mumps
2/18/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/the Fast
3/20/77 CBGB, NYC w/Dead Boys
3/24/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/Suicide
3/25/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/Suicide
4/1/77 CBGB, NYC w/Ramones
4/5/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/Stilletto and the Visitors
4/13/77 My Fathers Place, Roslyn (Long Island) w/The Ramones
4/13/77 CBGB, NYC w/Come On
4/14/77 My Fathers Place, Roslyn, (Long Island) w/The Ramones
4/14/77 CBGB, NYC w/Contortions
4/15/77 CBGB, NYC w/Steel Tips
4/20/77 CBGB, NYC w/The Ramones
4/26/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/Lollipop
5/2/77 Lower Manhattan Ocean Club, New York, NY
5/13/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w The Fast
5/14/77 Max's Kansas City, NYC w/ The Fast
6/9/77 CBGB, NYC w/Ramones
6/10/77 CBGB, NYC w/ Ramones
6/11/77 CBGB's w/ Ramones
6/15/77 Village Gate w/Tuff Darts and Alex Chilton
7/7/77 CBGB, NYC w/Viletones /Diodes/Teenage Head/Boyfriends
7/8/77 CBGB, NYC w/Viletones /Diodes/Teenage Head/Boyfriends
7/9/77 CBGB, NYC w/Viletones /Diodes/Teenage Head/Boyfriends
7/10/77 CBGB, NYC w/Viletones /Diodes/Teenage Head/Boyfriends
(Thanks: Pam Balam, Michael Purkhiser, Nikki Lorenz, Charles Hall, Tom Hosier, James Sliman, Lisa Falour, James Marshall, Todd Abramson, Nila Onuferko, Lenny Kaye, Andy Shernoff, Brian Horwitz, Lindsay Hutton, Char Rau, Richard Robinson, Stephanie Chernikowski, Godlis, Roberta Bayley, and Howie Pyro. And Bhob Stewart, absolutely!)
As last night's debut entry crashed into the blogosphere establishment with minimal trauma, we feel heartened to barge further along before the night moods set in, into the year of Our Lord, 1977, appropriately known to our Far Eastern friends as the Year of the Snake. Last go round, there was mention of the first Cramps show, when the band was billed below the Dead Boys as "Special Showcase". Humor me. Check it out; it will make you smile. Double click the first CBGB's ad at the very end of the last Cramps posting. That first show was somewhat anticipated by Cleveland pals who communicated, as we all did in the analog years, via Pony Express. Today's post entry delivers some gasket-busting laughs, especially after the dark clouds rollin' in during Friday's midnight confessional. We'll be perusing some ancient teenage letters, kids, so I may as well prepare for instant blackmail. First up is some school boy stationery from Stiv Bator. The lad's marvellous sense of humor comes through in this ballyhoo preceding the first Dead Boys/Cramps double header.
Stiv was a gas. He's totally kidding in this letter so don't get excited. We were runaround pals, that's IT. So get your brain out of the bidet. Ha! Best thing I remember about him is a collage he had made of The World According to Stiv. He had gone and clipped every Rolling Stones picture out of any teen magazine he could find, and had glued the photos artistically onto a sheet of art board, along with pictures of pretty girls, and hep slogans an headlines from the daily papers. There was a pop art designy look to the thing. And I should mention that all of clip art of the Stones and girls and headlines radiated from, you guessed it, a zitty photograph of Stiv's teenage head! SB told me that it was very important for everyone to maintain a teenage complexion, which was easily accomplished, he said, with regular using peanut butter facial masque packs. The effect of plain or chunky Skippy or Jif piled onto one's face could cause a multitude of troubling teenage pimples on skin of any vintage. Funny, I've only ever known two people crazy for facial packs, and they were both guys-- Stiv with the PB and crazy Bradley, who was hooked on Queen Helene's Mint Julep facials, still available at your local cut rate drug store. (Word from Cheetah Chrome on hearing this is that Stiv already had bad skin and told the girls that he worked on zits on purpose!) Here's a letter from the legendary Babs Fraley. Bator is said to have burned her panties off on the dance floor of the Piccadilly Inn. I'm presuming he got them OFF her before he ignited the inflammable underthings. One would hope! Go Babs:
That night went very well for both bands, 714 aside! The Ohio crew was present, which had it a whole lot easier for a first timer like myself. If the Dead Boys thought there was something missing in the bass-less Cramps, they surely didn't let on. Hilly Kristal was crazy about the Dead Boys and they became regulars at CBGB's. The Cramps would play with them again in early '77.
Back in Cleveland, Stiv was a regular ring leader with the local rock n rollers, all ten of us. It was a single digit crew lead by Stiv who drove down to Youngstown when the Ramones played their first show outside of New York. We stopped by his super cool parents place on the way, Stiv's idea to say hey to the folks. Pretty remarkable. When I first got out of school and was job hunting unsuccessfully in Cleveland, he got me a job working with him at some type of semi-unscrupulous cold call service, where we phoned people up and tried to sell them tickets to the local firemen's ball. I was terrible at it, I don't think I sold a single ticket, but Stiv was selling left and right. When the Dead Boys hit New York the second time around, they pretty much took over our Snake Pit. One of the guys ended up dating Pam Blam, and then the whole gang moved in. It was officially too much when Johnny, I believe, kicked the steel front door off the hinges and fell into the kitchen covered in blood. That's when I went out for a walk and ran into an old classmate from KSU, who asked if I knew anyone who could apartment-sit for a few months while he went to South America. I took his pad without hesitation. That's the place I would share with Lydia Lunch and crazy Bradley, as he had finally gotten out of jail back in Ohio.
More found pix and letters here, this one's from 1976. I know because my hair was still blown out by an experiment in terror back in Ohio. My pal Michael, who was in the last stages of beauty school, talked me into a permanent wave which took quite a while to grow out. So don't be nasty.
Here's one snapped by Richard Robinson at his uptown pad, before we went in to Bell Sound to record. I've got another that features Ivy with a switchblade. I'll look for it. Incidentally, Richard filmed us there, too-- at his apartment, I mean, not at Bell Sound.
In '77, I needed to renew my Canadian passport so I checked into the local photo booth with my brand new haircut and Flamin Groovies badge. Nice snap but the consulate sent me away, saying my hair was too long and no campaign buttons, please!
Another big thrill for all concerned was getting a spread in Rock Scene. I'd had a letter to Wayne County published a couple years earlier, a serious inquiry about eyeliner and Dusty Springfield, two topics which to this day hog up much of my brain space. Anyway, getting a spread was too much, and the lovely and talented Stephanie Chernikowski took the snaps.
Am I sounding like Lisa Robinson yet? I really admired (still do), the action packed teen set writers like Lisa.. and Gloria Stavers before her-- these gals got paid to have fun 24 hours a day, every day. I really do still need both their autographs.
Here's a rare nice review from the Voice, from when it was still something close to "good". That would be when James Wolcott was on staff!
1976 CRAMPS DEMO LP ISHED IN SPAIN
Tomorrow's blog, we take the dog (Greyhound) back to Ohio. Seat belts, please.
One parting shot (above) from the spots and stripes brigade, and a small stash of erratic ephemera circa the year that time forgot, 1976. More as it flits to the light. In response to inquiries about the 1977 sessions at Bell Sound, there seems to be a Spanish LP around called The Cramps 1976 Demo Sessions that includes all of the songs cut by Richard Robinson-- Don't Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk, I Was A Teenage Werewolf, Sunglasses After Dark, Love Me, Domino, What's Behind The Mask, I Can't Hardly Stand It, and TV Set.
Not sure when it came out. Oddly, none of this stuff is on their homegrown retrospective How to Make A Monster. The first of the Songs We Taught The Cramps type albums was probably the one issued by an outta biz NYC record store sometime in the eighties. Enough time had passed for everyone to have forgotten I was ever in the group, and that was a pretty wonderful place to be. Then, one day I walk into a Chelsea diskery and there's this album with my face on it.
You crazed collectors out there should also know that early seventies rockabilly comps from Europe played big in spreading the sound around the 73rd Street area, particularly the landmark Collector albums that delivered genius gems like Sunglasses After Dark and Jungle Rock for the first time (Songs Cees Klop Taught The Cramps!) Those records sure didn't come into Musical Maze up where Bryan worked, but downtown trawls could net any import collection you had your heart set on. I remember buying a boot of the Johnny Burnette Trio album at Golden Disc in, yes, 1976, and Lux flipping out big time about it.
We had to hustle right back over there to land him the display copy off the wall of the shop. Cool reissues and comps were starting to blast forth at a rapid clip, really inflaming the needs of those who had to have original 45's. But you gotta say, it's the comps that could hep you to oodles of droolsome decks and got you hunting for stuff you didn't know existed.
Somebody asked about the Ocean Club date, since the venue has come to enjoy some kind of cult status. Here's the handbill for the May 2, 1977 show, held that midnight in the basement, of course. I remember Blondie was at the sparsely attended Monday night show. By that I mean the whole band. It felt strange playing in a grown up place to a bunch of sophisticated looking people. Lux made most all the flyers. He managed to work monster movie stuff into most all of them. He was super talented and very, very funny. I can't think of a better flyer for the Ocean club.
The Purple Warp sent this fuzzy polaroid taken, not at the Alex Chilton show at the Village Gate in June '77, as previously noted, but backstage at CBGB's at one of Ramones '77 shows. First time Lux wore a tie. I think he borrowed it off Bryan, who appears to have just enjoyed one of Bator's touted peanut butter facials! He was the only person I knew with tattoos. Remind me to ask Pam if he was in the Navy, like Lux. Seems like the only people with tattoos in those days were sailors and bikers.
Here's a Godlis snap. Gosh, I loved those sticks. They were glow in the dark plastic, purchased from the soon to be forever-gone Manny's Music. The sticks didn't last long but they impressed the heck out of the natives! (Me, too!)
Uh-oh. I was supposed to yap about Ohio in this go-round. Let's leave that for tomorrow or Tuesday. There are several letters that have come out of the batcave including some pretty informative missals from Bangs and Laughner that may as well come out of the dark. It's been too long. If any of this matters to anyone, then it's served a purpose. It's taken thirty odd years to come to this opening; I feel it pulling back closed with every new post. One of my dearest friends, Buffalo genius Bernie Kugel, editor of the long gone fanzine Big Star, sent me a letter I'd written him in '77 that serves as a newsletter and personal confessional. Aside from-- okay-- including-- the semi-doofus occasional literary asides, I pretty much feel the same way today, and I've held to my promise of No More Champagne. Thanks, BK, for years of kindness and friendship. Deep breath, here we go.
I'd like to wrap up the bulk of this particular Journey To Tyme so we can get onto some pressing matters, including late breakin' news about Lee Harvey Oswald, the Flamin' Groovies, Mad Mike, Frownie the delinquent brownie, Ron Haydock, Jack Starr, Charles Schmid, and umpteen obsessions from the flipside of Kicksville.