Things are weird in the holler…teen sweat and anxiety mixed with gasoline fumes and a fear of being found out.
Always a fear…
The Cramps with their short five-song gem Gravest Hits was the soundtrack to this time for me. Gravest Hits, a compilation tape and record that came out in 1979, included their first two 45 rpm singles plus a bonus track of swamp rockabilly madness…the gravest of all!
So, in the late 1980s I was a young teen who had been playing music since I was nine years old, and that was all country songs from country’s early days to the poppy 1980s style that was coming out of NashVegas at the time. It was not feeding my pubescent soul. Then along came the Ford Country Squire that belonged to the Swiney boys’ dad, with a warblin’ noise coming out of the tape deck. Reverb garglin’ mess, it was…the tape, not the Ford! I was intrigued and hooked immediately.
I had to have this sound in my heart…. I had to have it in my hands…. I was to be one with it…. I was it, and it was me.
The car sped off down a gravel road leading into the mountains while Lux Interior belched out:
“I’m a human fly
I spell [it] F-L-Y!
I Go BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ
And it’s just becuzz.”
I too felt unhuman and something to be swatted out of existence…
The Swiney boys laughed and thought this tape was just funny, but to me it was serious business. I must find out more about this bunch of miscreants!
I started looking for the name The Cramps in every music publication I could get my hands and eyes on, all the while blaring my recent copy of the Swineys’ Cramps tape. The band showed up in Rolling Stone and in some books on rock-and-roll that I checked out at the library. There was also the name of the record’s producer, which showed up in all kinds of magazines and books – the late great Alex Chilton!!!! He was responsible for making this record sound so creepy, and oozy as an infected sore…
Alex Chilton, the man-child who sang the soulful sound of Memphis, Tennessee’s own The Box Tops in the 1960s! And as with The Box Tops, The Cramps recorded Gravest Hits at Ardent Studios in Memphis. More reverb! I’m begging you – REVERB! Even though the band was NYC-based, they chose another Memphis studio (Phillips Recording) with Chilton again at the helm for the 1980s follow-up, full-length LP Songs the Lord Taught Us.
The years have passed by, and yet this five-song EP still oozes its way into every music endeavor I write and record… Thank you, and Godspeed, Alex Chilton…rest easy, Lux Interior.
- “Human Fly”
- “The Way I Walk”
- “Surfin’ Bird”
- “Lonesome Town”
The Cramps – Gravest Hits
We all live in a world of mystery & deceit…