Thursday, February 5, 2009

Rock 'N' Roll DeLUX! R.I.P. Erick Purkhiser

Lux Interior (Erick Lee Purkhiser) 1946 - 2009

On a music forum that I frequent my friend Craig (Fluffy) started a discussion - after the tragic news broke about Lux Interior's passing - called "Fondest memory about The Cramps", and instead of posting there, I thought that some of my recollections would be more appropriately posted at Michael Kaiser's Haus. Now, how to formulate a meaningful and respectful blog post without abusing my self-imposed keystroke limit?

I first heard The Cramps in 1985 when I was 16 on the recommendation of a record store clerk. He knew I was a Rockabilly fanatic, but was looking for - pardon the pun, here - Some New Kinda Kick. He pulled out "Gravest Hits" and asks "Have you heard The Cramps?" I took it home, plopped it on the turntable and instantly felt like I was doing something naughty as "Human Fly" pummeled out of my speakers! The liner notes couldn't express the sound contained therein more perfectly. "...and Lux Interior, the band's frontal lobe, wherein Elvis gets crossed with Vincent Price and decent folks ask, 'What hath God wrought?'" Needless to say, I was hooked! I believe "Songs The Lord Taught Us" joined that album in my collection the very next day.

In about 1987, Jason Goodman (he sure is a running theme at Michael Kaiser's Haus, ain't he?!) made me a cassette copy of "The Purple KNIF/Radio Delux" recording, and the very opening lines of "Get out your magic decoder rings boys and girls..." forever changed the way I made mix tapes and, of course, influences the way that I produce RadiOblivion. That first listen is every bit the fond memory that the initial spin of "Human Fly" is. These things also altered the sound of the band that Jason and I were in from a more traditional Rockabilly sound into a raw, primitive, seedy 50's & 60's Garage Punk blend. The world of Savage Rock 'n' Roll opened up to me in no small part because of Lux Interior and The Cramps.

Jason was friends with Candy Del Mar (The Cramps' bass player during those days), and spent some time with the band. As a result, Lux & Ivy were at a show that we played at the tiny Anti-Club in 1988 or 1989 (I can't remember). I heard that they would be there, but didn't see them... until a few songs into our set; I looked to the left side of the stage and saw them sitting there. I immediately forgot the words to the song, and was - for the first time ever - too nervous to perform! It was terrible. Under normal circumstances I don't have enough sense to get debilitating stage-fright. Not that time, though; and yet, a fond memory.

I met The Cramps at a guitar convention in Pomona, CA at about the same time as the "Look Mom, No Head" album. I saw Lux flipping through a milk-crate full of records - pulling out a couple surf albums - and walked over and starting talking... nervously. I'm a social retard in one-on-one situations; if you've ever met me you know. Unfortunately, Lux was quite shy too. Ivy came over and started to talk, and after some awkward gushing on my part I found out that they needed a drummer. I suggested my friend Quinn Millard from the Grave Diggers since he is a genius on the traps. They thought this sounded promising and Ivy asked for my phone number. A couple days later I had a message from her on my answering machine. I wrote down the number, erased the message (why?!) and called. Wrong number. I wrote down the number incorrectly AND erased the message! And, no kidding, the same exact thing happened a few days later. Why would I erase any message on my machine left by Poison Ivy? At the very least it would serve as proof-positive to my friends that it really happened. Well, I called Quinn and told him what happened, he got a hold of them and tried-out. It turns out that he was just a little too crazy on that kit, though. A fond memory in spite of myself.

The Kaisers before The Cramps' show 1997
The Kaisers before The Cramps show 1997

I saw The Cramps live four times. I believe the 1st was at the very 1st Hootenanny at Irvine Park in southern California. I can't remember what year that was; 1995? The 2nd or 3rd time I was with Super Dave - I'm pretty sure he was with me each time - and at one point Lux was climbing around the front of the stage at the monitors whilst singing, and put his hand on Dave's shoulders so Dave picked him up! Dave was walking around the front of the stage, as much as the crowd would allow, carrying Lux for most of the song! I wish I had a picture of that. Maybe Dave does. I'm sure we had at least one camera with us. How's that for a fond memory?! The last time I saw The Cramps was Halloween 1997 at the Palace in Hollywood. We took my then newly pregnant wife. During our 1st pregnancy my wife had morning sickness at night. We lasted about 3 or 4 songs. I would say that having to leave a Cramps show (that turns out to be your last - ever) after it barely started because one's wife is sick with the first of three perfect kids constitutes a FOND MEMORY, don't you?

Nothing but fond memories regarding The Cramps.

And now Lux Interior has passed on...

Rock & Roll is dead.

Long live The Cramps!


  1. Absolutely true Herr Kaiser. Nothing but fond memories of the Cramps. As sad as it is that we'll never see Lux on a stage again, the impact that he had can never be forgotten and for that I have to smile and say thank you.My heart and prayers go to Poison Ivy. I certainly hope she finds the strength she needs to get through this.

  2. What's really poignant to me is that The Cramps were OUR generation. Granted I was 7 when they were laying down tracks in their 1st recording sessions, and Lux was as old as my dad. But, they belonged to us! Perhaps that is one reason why his passing has such an effect on us. The Cramps taught us about about Rock & Roll. Wild, Primitive, Savage music!!

  3. Miguel,

    Yes, I remember all those shows as well... We met you at that Palace show.

    It's almost surreal that Lux is gone.

    Rock n Roll truly lost a LEGEND.

  4. Yeah! Ladies and Gentlemen, mi hermano Jorge "Sectmaniac" of Real Boss Hoss!!

    Was the show at the Galaxy the one that the Phantom Surfers opened?

  5. Yes. That was another great show! I remember I was just as excited to see The Phantom Surfers as I was to see The Cramps because I heard that they had a line-up change and that Russell Quan was now drumming! They did not disappoint! Remember Russell going ape-shit singing that crazed version of "The Hokey Pokey?"

    That was the night The Cramps went deep into their catalog and pulled out all the 60s garage covers and opened with 'Five Years Ahead of My Time.'

    Would have been perfect if Nick Knox was there...

  6. YES, Nick Knox!

    Oh well, it was an amazing show anyway. Mind-Boggling, really. My 1st time seeing or hearing the Phantom Surfers, too. And since The Cramps were so incredible as well it probably ranks as thee best Cramps show I attended.

    Oh, we have a lot of memories, don't we Jorge?

  7. Great stuff Michael, RIP Lux...

  8. no show stories here, but whenever i felt like people weren't appreciating what i was feeling or trying to accomplish i'd head out to the garage and crank the shit out of + garbage man + and hollar along, just knowin' that what they NEED is what i've got, as far as what they WANT, well, it's keepin'em from findin' out for themselves...

    - stick out your can -

    p.s. our garage*