The Curse of the Cramps: Their Part In My (Musical) Downfall – Twice.
Above Photo: The Cramps equipment set up for a gig at Eric’s Club, Liverpool. (© Clive Shaw)
In my Punk and New Wave memoir, Bombed Out!, I mention having had the privilege of supporting US band The Cramps a few times when I played bass for two Liverpool New Wave bands: Pink Military Stand Alone and Nightmares in Wax. But it was only after I’d printed the book that I realized something significant – that the band had acted as the Four Horsemen of the Musical Apocalypse when it came to my own modest musical career.
I loved the Cramps back then. I thought they were a brilliantly original and clever band and superb live, so to be playing support for them five times was a massive privilege for me as a 17 year old still-starry eyed kid.
At the time the Cramps consisted of Lux Interior, Poison Ivy, Brian Gregory and Nick Knox.
Pink Military first supported them (two shows) on 30 June 1979, at Eric’s Club, Liverpool. They were outstanding. They were shortly bringing out their EP ‘Gravest Hits’, and were promoting it on this tour. (I’ve added a link to ‘Human Fly’ at the end of this article)
However, as things turned out, this was to be the last time I ever played live with Pink Military, as I recount in Bombed Out!.
Strike 1 to The Cramps.
Fast forward to 1980 and I was then playing bass in Pete Burns’ band Nightmares in Wax. I also detail this period in Bombed Out!
On Saturday 8 March 1980, Nightmares In Wax supported The Cramps at Eric’s and again we did two shows. Manchester band the Fall were scheduled to support them but pulled out for some reason, leaving us to fill the void.
Unfortunately, the Cramps failed to appear for the matinee performance, so we had to do an extra-long set to try to compensate for the non-appearance of the main band. It would be fair to say this didn’t go down that well with the audience, but the nighttime gig, for which they did appear, was fantastic.
In the dressing room before the gig, I had an remarkable conversation with Brian Gregory, their scary-looking but very friendly guitarist, who approached me and said:
“Hey I’ve seen you before. Didn’t you support us with another band last year?”
I was speechless. That Pink Military gig had been nine months ago. How the fuck could he possibly remember that?
But he did.
Supporting the Cramps at Eric’s that night was also a milestone for another reason – it was the last ever Saturday performance at the club and the second-to-last night the club was ever open, before it was raided by police the following week. So my playing in a band supporting the Cramps that Saturday night didn’t do Eric’s any favours either, come to think of it.
A few days later, Nightmares In Wax supported the Cramps again at the Fan Club in Leeds.
Again, this gig was superb. We sounded so professional, tight and great onstage. It remains the best gig memory of my musical career, before that career bizarrely lay in tatters only a few hours later, when I walked off from the band and never went back.
All this is vividly detailed in Bombed Out!, but I’m amused that the band we supported that night, and therefore the last band I ever supported with Nightmares In Wax, was, yet again, The Cramps.
Strike 2 to the Cramps.
Talking about that Leeds gig with my former band member Mick Reid recently, he recalled: “I remember being in the dressing room with them at the Leeds gig. The guitarist (the one with the long bit of bleached hair over one side of his face) [Brian Gregory again] was so off his head he was unable to tune his guitar, even though he had an electronic device. I had to do it for him…”
Buy a signed copy of Bombed Out! here: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/buybook.php