Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The Cramps - Bad Music For Bad People
I know I’m supposed to be a champion of catalog titles, real albums that reflect the artist’s state of mind that year or their creative output for a specific period. As Bruce McCulloch so eloquently put it, “Greatest Hits albums are for housewives and little girls.” They’re also fodder for record companies who typically use them as profitable linings and contract fillers, often packaging them over and over again just to make sure they get every dime of an artist’s worth.
On some occasions, the greatest hits compilation is fine. I could, for example, totally advise you that the only Abba album you need is Gold and only the most insane of completists or devoted of Abba fan need look further.
On other occasions, the greatest hits album is so full of great material that it’s hard to dispute it, even when there are other catalog albums that are equal in importance. These types of compilations should be considered too for their ability to prompt the listener to seek out the artist’s proper catalog titles.
Bad Music For Bad People is a great example of this. It’s features The Cramps’ best songs and is so start-to-finish awesome that you’ll be looking for Songs The Lord Taught Us and other Cramps albums immediately after listening to it.
Yes, Lux Interior’s passing had me thinking about this, because for me, there is no better place to gain insight on that man’s brilliance than with this flawless compilation.
It is the Webster dictionary of “shockabilly” and the most worthy of Cramps’ compendiums in existence.
It was the mid-to-late 80’s, and I found myself in Iowa City with a friend and a few acquaintances, one of whom was French and worked at the University of Iowa at some capacity. I met him a few times prior and we had a wonderful discussion of the importance of the Eurythmics’ 1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother) album. We both agreed it was an overlooked album and the duo received unfair criticism for it.
We started at his rental house for a few drinks and he mentioned a party in his neighborhood. It was late, it was within walking distance, and it seemed like a good thing to do. I had no idea where I was or who the people were, but they seemed friendly enough.
It was more than I could say for the music that they were playing.
There was about two or three dozen people there and they showed us to the freshly tapped keg. After a fill of beer, I made my way to the living room, sat down, and was struck by the strangeness of the music playing from the stereo.
“Who’s this?” I asked a man rolling a joint.
“The Cramps” he replied.
“Bad Music For Bad People” added another guy, eagerly waiting for his friend’s handiwork to be done.
By the time it got to “She Said” the two were sharing the joint with everyone within proximity, whooping it up along with Lux.
They turned the record over and began another round on side two.
Halfway through it, the doors opened and a bunch of hippies came in. The bars had closed, and a few dozen more people came in. The hippies took of that Cramps record and put on a Byrds record. They had more weed, so I didn’t protest much, but I made a note of that record that struck my nerve before.
Start with Bad and you'll be looking for the good in the rest of The Cramps' catalog.