Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Cramps....Songs The Boots Taught Us.....By MondoSean

Well, Professor von Bainée’s Top 10 7” boots is a tough act to follow and I’m flattered that I’ve been asked. I don’t plan to replicate any of the stuff that appeared on the previous list – no Ohio or Miriam era demos here!

The Cramps vinyl boots were an important part of not just my Crampular education, but my rock’n’roll education in general. They provided the archaeology of the band as well as a road map for any serious excursion into the history of the Big Beat. This really was the “ancient knowledge believed lost to the world” that Mr Hutton‘s book referred to. Although, scoring a new Cramps boot from a brown-sauce-stained cardboard box on the manky, rat-shit-strewn floor of the Glasgow Barras Market in the mid-eighties was not quite as romantic as that phrase implies!

The band’s ongoing legal battle with IRS at the start of the eighties led to a drought of class A Cramps on the streets. As with everything else, nature abhors a vacuum, and soon there was illicit product being peddled from dark alleys and disreputable abodes. This illegal stuff was rawer, meaner, nastier and provided a (new kind of) kick for us teens needing some of the good stuff.

There were demos, songs we’d never heard before and wild live versions of our faves; sometimes featuring git-wranglers and tub-thumpers we never knew had tenure. And, once we were through listening to the Cramps tearing up the songs, we had to hunt down the originals. And in the dark days before the interweb, that were no easy task!
Anyway, enough blabbing, here’s…

Mondosean’s top 10 Cramps boot LPs!!!!!!!

1. Rock ’n’ Roll Monster Bash – the first boot I got and always my fave. First run of this one is a
white sleeve with artwork (ripped off from the classic Hallowe’en gig poster from Hurrah, NY on 28 October 1978) printed across the full sleeve with white labels. Second pressing is a plain white sleeve with the art photocopied onto a wraparound A3 sheet of paper with printed Turn Blue Records labels. Picked up a variant a few years ago with the art photocopied onto a (turn) blue sheet of A3.

The show captured on the LP is from the Edge, Toronto on July 18 1980 and it sounds like it was gouged into the wax with a switchblade. Yep, this one is raw and uncompromising; the sound is nasty and ain’t taking no prisoners. Recorded not long after Bryan had disapeared into the night, it features Julien H (Hechtlinger/Griensnatch/Greensnatch/Bwond) on second guitar and is the only vinyl to capture this exciting short-lived line-up. A more complete recording of the two sets contained here surfaced a few years back and it kind of makes you wish that the bootleggers would go down the super-deluxe-anniversary reissue route – a 180gm double of this for Record Store Day!
There be monsters !

Mention has got to be given to the T-shirt the LOTC did at the time with the Monster Bash design on it with luminous lettering - wore that thing ‘til it fell off me!  Same show turned up on the Stay Sick, Turn Blue boot.

Also comes in red !
2. Hot Club - The sleeve on this sucker is a nightmare! Try hunting for one that doesn’t have ring-wear, edge-wear, sticker-rips, corner-dings etc. Hell, one touch and the damn thing seems to feckin’ mark!
Packaging aside, this is one hell of a boot! Recorded at the Hot Club, Philadelphia on 10 November 1977 this boot has really good sound from a killer show featuring the classic early line-up of Lux, Ivy, Bryan and Nick. Without a doubt, the best version of Jimmy Lloyd’s Rocket in My Pocket available. There’s three versions of this one that I’m aware of and I’m not entirely sure which one is first or second pressing. All versions have the same sleeve, but one pressing has Basil Records (UK) Ltd labels, one has white labels and a third has both - white labels and separate sheet with Basil Records label stickers!

3. Tränsylvåñan Täpes MCMLXXVIII – Sometimes referred to as “The Last Record”, Tapes really earned its reputation as one of thee legendary early Cramps boots. The sleeve lists side 1 as recorded by Chris Spedding in “Dracula’s house” and the live show on side 2 as coming from the “deep Carpathian mountains”.  Actually, only three of the tracks on Side 1 were the Chris Spedding demos, the rest produced by LX Chilton in Memphis.
Uber Classic.
The record blasts off with Weekend on Mars - one of my all-time fave Cramps songs – which, criminally, never got a real studio workout. The out-take from Smell of Female was good, but paled in comparison to this monster. Also, up until the first CD release of Psychedelic Jungle twinned with Gravest Hits, this was the only place to hear Lonesome Town with Lux’s spoken word intro from Rick Nelson’s Teenage Idol.
The live side is rockin’ too: a pick of songs from a wild show at Max’s Kansas City on 10 November 1978, including the best vinyl recording of Glen Glenn’s Everybody’s Movin’ and the only vinyl version of the Big O’s Problem Child. Recordings of the full two sets from this night are out there and capture the early incarnation of the band at the top of their game. Two pressings of this one: first has a gloss finish on the sleeve and a picture of a dude in a suit on the labels. Second issue has a matt sleeve and plain grey labels.

Sounds about right to me.
4. Sex Cramps and Rock ‘n’ Roll – OK, first things first, there’s two different Cramps boots from the ’86 Spring Tour with this title, but both are from different shows. The one I’m talking about here is the Swingin’ Pig double LP release that can be found in three different versions: pink vinyl, splatter colour vinyl (thanks Miss K!) and double CD (in one of those great early GIANT CD cases).As with all Swingin’ Pig releases, the sound on this one is fantastic (FM radio) and really captures the feel of the live show. The full set is on here, and what a show! Starting with each member of the band taking to the stage one by one to add their part to a rollicking cover of Heartbreak Hotel (in the style of Buddy Love, not the King). Followed by a great showcase of tracks from Date with Elvis and some old faves. Mr Presley turns up again with a killer cover of Do the Clam from the “MGM motion picture, Girl Happy”. This is one of the few times on the tour the band didn’t mess it up either - give Rockinnreelin’ another spin if you don’t believe me! Recorded live at the Volkshaus, Zurich on 21 April 1986 and featuring Fur (Jennifer Dixon) on bass guitar. This was the first time the band had toured with a bass player and the first time we got to hear the older songs re-tooled for the band’s new sound. As the inner sleeve says “a special selection of rare material for the collector and the connoisseur. Accept no imitations”.

5. You Betta Duck – The ’84 tour was the last hurrah for the classic twin-guitar Cramps. Kid Congo had departed the band the previous year and Nick’s cousin Ike Knox (Mike Metoff) was filling in for the tour. Ike sometimes gets short shrift from Cramps fans, but this recording really shows his guitar playing to be a fine fit in the band.

G,g,g,googoo Muck
Recorded at Club Soda, Montreal on 16 May 1984, the record kicks off with the double-headed sucker punch of Shorty Long’s Devil with a Blue Dress On (played Mitch Ryder style) going straight into You Got Good Taste. There’s also an early run through of Freddie and the Hitchhikers’ Sinners which would surface many years later on Flamejob. Also of note is a prototype What’s Inside a Girl? sans-bass, “wop bop a loop a lop a lop boom bam!”
On the Alien Records label, You Betta Duck! Can be found on black, clear, blue, grey, cream, dark blue, clear blue and silver vinyl – collect ‘em all!    For the more adventurous, a hunt for the full sound board recording of this wonderful show rewards with further gems, including covers of Lonnie Allen’s You’ll Never Change Me and Andre Williams’ Bacon Fat.

6. Voodoo Rythm – On the “O. KR cds” label, Voodoo Rythm [sic] is a rare breed of boot. This baby has live stuff, demos and… a soundcheck!
Hoodoo Hoedown.
Yeah, it’s all here! Before the Blind Vision 7” boot, this was the place to hear the October ’82 demos with Terry Graham from the Gun Club on drums. Two of the tracks from the demos would turn up on the official How to Make a Monster comp in 2004, but Sinners and Thee Most Exalted Potentate of Love would remain all alone in bootleg land. Most probable reason for the latter is that the demo is clearly the first track on Smell of Female with crowd noise dubbed onto it. The soundcheck is really good fun and most probably from around the time of Smell of Female, or indeed from the Peppermint Lounge on 25/26 February 1983. The live show includes The Mad Daddy from one of the nights in February recorded for Smell, but the rest of the tracks are from CBGBs on 7 November 1982. The first boot to feature The Lowdown – basically Lux waxing lyrical over a Weekend on Mars riff - it don’t get much deeper than “Gerry Roslie said ‘hoooogh!’ and it’s better than poetry”.
This one was rejigged in ’98 by Alien Records as Persecuted Prophets with B-Movie Souls, which erroneously claimed all the live tracks to be Smell out-takes. But a fine re-boot all the same!

Idols.....Voodoo or not !
7. Voodoo Idols – To paraphrase a good friend of mine, this one really is “the tits”. Recorded live at Crazy Als, Indianapolis on 7 July 1981, this has everything you want from a live boot: great sound, great package, great songs and it’s a perfect showcase for Kid Congo’s sublime fuzz-wrangling. Highlight of the set is a raucous version of She Said, where Lux takes us on an hilarious travelogue from the Indianapolis junk yard to France (“where the people dance”). En route, he stops off in Washington DC to talk to Ron-ee, where he confesses he’s in love with Lady Di, but he’d have to “take her home every night and beat the shit out of her”. Explaining he’d never hurt any woman, but in her case, he’d make an exception!
Comes in a plain white card sleeve with a photocopied front and back glued on. Each copy is stamped, individually numbered on the back sleeve. Although usually listed as a run of 300, my copy is 455, so who knows how many exist.
Resurfaced a few years back as Psychedelic Jingles, which claimed to be pressed from the original stampers of Voodoo Idols. Although a real nice boot in its own right, the sound on Idols is far superior to that on Jingles.

Shame Bryan wasn't around for the photo !
8. Let’s Get Ugly – One of only two (that I know of) vinyl boots to include a live version of Fever (the other is Voodoo Idols), Ugly is another fantastic set featuring the Kid Congo era Cramps. Sound on this LP is incredible (FM radio quality) and worth picking up for the abundance of rare songs lurking within its grooves. Recorded live at the On Broadway Club, San Francisco on 6 November 1981. In addition to Fever, you got Paul Revere and the Raiders’ Hungry, Tommy James and the Shondells’ Hanky Panky, rare Kid-era run-throughs of What’s Behind the Mask? and Zombie Dance and the only time on vinyl for the rarely- played-live Save It. Originally appearing on the Trademark of Quality label, Ugly comes in a plain brown card sleeve with a single-sided, 12” colour card insert. The record was re-booted at the tail end of 2014 in a glossy full-printed sleeve with no label taking ownership this time round. In additon to the full show being available online, the entire set of one of their support bands that night, the Gun Club, is also out there (sadly no Panther Burns) and is a fine apetisier for the main course.

9. Booze Party – An exquisite double album set featuring my fave bass-wielding Cramp, Miss Candy del Mar. Recorded on 3 January 1989 at the Ritz in New York, this one really shows the evolution of the band between Date with Elvis and Stay Sick.
And a bottle of Bop Pills please.
A lot of the songs from the Date with Elvis tour are still in the setlist, but there’s also a lot of the new tracks from the then-unreleased follow up. Must have been wonderful to attend these shows in ’89 and hear new, unheard, original Cramps tunes getting played live for the first time. In addition to some more of the old classics getting the bass guitar make-over (Goo Goo Muck working particularly well), there’s a rare appearance of Three Aces and a Joker’s Booze Party. Side 4 features a show (and heart!) stopping end-of-the-night barage of Psychotic Reaction, The Mad Daddy, The Crusher and She Said – how many thrills can YOU take?!!!.
Everything about this LP set oozes class from the clear sound in the grooves to the sweet photos used on the sleeve. Can be got on black vinyl and peachy orange vinyl, both on the Lux Records label. Re-booted by Exile Records on CD as The Wild Wild World of the Cramps, but missing side 4.

10. Live at Harry’s – For the last one in the Top 10, we have another great sounding Kid-era boot from Larry’s (NOT Harry’s!) Hideaway, Toronto on 14 June 1982.
Harry's ? Larry's...Dixlexkia is all around us !
This one is worth tracking down for possibly the best sounding live recordings of the band ripping through The Third Bardo’s Five Years Ahead of My Time and The Standells’ Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White. First available on the Vengeance Records! Label (yeah, right!), this came in a printed white cardboard sleeve. Re-booted (aren’t they all?!) as New Kind of Kick, with no label, in a printed white cardboard sleeve (featuring art ripped off from Electric Frankenstein’s How to Make Monster LP!), as Fetischism [sic] on Ghoul-Ash Records in a nice full-colour sleeve (with an out-take from the Pussy Do the Dog shoot on the front) and Spank ‘n’ Roll, on Non Profit Productions label in a printed white cardboard sleeve.

So, what did I learn from putting together a Top 10 Cramps boots list? Right up front – there’s no better way to spend a couple of days than listening to a stack of Cramps boots! Thanks to Darren and Trash, Garage Garbage and Other Delights for giving me a reason (like I needed one!) to do so.

What a run down this is !   Big Mucho Gracias to Mr Mondo for taking the time.

Stay Sick Kiddies !


  1. Great list Sean!

    My twos cents: "Voodoo Rhytm" (sick,eheh) has been issued by Melodies Monsters, the guy to whom I bought STLTU test pressing among others.
    Also, "Booze Party" has been issued with lotsa # cover (4 I know - got).
    Strange you didn't mention "Seattle 1982".

    To follow - here's hoping: top ten best shows ever (tapes) by Miss Kizmiaz


  2. Haha monster bash t shirt. one of my favorites too

  3. Haha monster bash t shirt. one of my favorites too