I’m uncertain whether Goo Goo Muck: A Tribute to the Cramps offered much in the way of notice, sneaking out, as it did, at the beginning of the month and maybe possessing a best-kept-secret status similar to the venerable band themselves. It wasn’t so much that the Cramps were unheard of, but, it always struck me, that they were un-heard. Everyone had read about them and tutted about the photos, thinking them exactly the sort of pop filth that shouldn’t be thrown at our youngsters. But, give ’em a go, and they are quite the surprise. Hell, they even had to invent a genre of their own: psychobilly, and what a fine title that was. And yes, if it betrays the broad musical axis upon which they swung, that of the rudimentary buzz of rockabilly, it also shows quite what they did with it. Mind, don’t go thinking psycho short for psychedelic, not their bag at all. This was, and is, psycho in full I was a teenage axe-murderer mode.
I remember looking at the photos in the inky pages of Britain’s New Musical Express, long before getting my ears on them, in awe at the appearances of Lux Interior and Poison Ivy Rorschach, possibly not their real names. They looked mean and bad and, alone in my teenage room, I wanted to be like them. I guess “Human Fly” was the song I heard first, a no-hit single in 1978, a buzzy earworm of a song that laid its larvae deep in my brain, a recurring item on the mixtapes I made in the day, gifts to all and sundry. Doing the standard research for this piece, I was astonished to see, these two apart, the sole permanent crew, they had had twenty other (often splendidly named) members over their 43-year career. Naively I had thought the Lux, Ivy, Bryan Gregory and Nick Knox combo to have been together near for always, yet I am not totally certain they even were all in the same band at the same time, failing also to clock that Kid “Congo” Powers had also been a later member for a while. (Huh, call yourself a fan!) Active from 1976 to 2009, I guess they more blanked out than fizzled, circumstance wrapping up the band as much as any projected plan, when Lux Interior suffered a fatal aortic dissection, where your main artery from the heart splits asunder.
It is down to the L.A. based independents Cleopatra label, home of many a disparate oddball performer, from Alien Ant Farm to the mercurial Wanda Jackson, that we have to thank for Goo Goo Muck. It’s far from the first to pay tribute to this maverick band. Earlier tributes have included such titles as 2002’s Larsen 19, 2011’s Cramped, Volume 1, and 2020’s Really Bad Music for Really Bad People. However, this time around, rather than trotting out broadly facsimile versions by fanbands and acolytes, the likes of country outlaw Shooter Jennings and Jerry Lee’s little sister Linda Gail Lewis get to throw their caps in the ring.