Friday, 16 January 2015

The Cramps: (Memphis news 1979)

Sadly, after 20 years of misinformation and misquotes regarding the Bryan Gregory chapter of
the Cramps, here's my one and only chance to directly express my feelings. While it's true that
Bryan didn't actually play on some of the seminal recordings that are attributed to him (he
wasn't always present for Songs the Lord Taught Us), he could be a truly charismatic live
performer when the spirit moved him - particularly in the CBGB/Max's Kansas City days, when
spirit was everywhere in the air.
He wasn't anything like the myth promoted by his record company and subsequently the
press; the real Bryan had a kooky charm the public doesn't even know about - the truth was
far stranger than fiction. He and I shared a birthday, and we met on our mutual birthday on
February 20, 1976. We were almost the same size and could fit into each other's pants and
shoes. We understood each other because we weren't the boygirl next door, and we'd both
already been through a lot and knew how to hustle tooth and nail to survive. We could be our
scary selves without horrifying each other. My fondest memory is of tripping on acid together
in Central Park that summer. We were never quite able to sustain that high.
Bryan's creative forte was more visual than sonic - when we met him, he had just moved to
New York to pursue a graphic-arts career. He loved art, jewelry making, decorating - I think it
was the visual aspects of the Cramps that appealed to him most. Lux and I had come to New
York in 1975 with a mess of songs and crude home demos and a plan to take over the world,
but I think it was mostly our exotic looks and Flying V guitar that lured Bryan to join us. When
we gave the guitar to him, he immediately decorated it with polka-dot price stickers and
painted our name in fancy script on the case, and you know what? It looked hot!
Bryan was more enigmatic and incongruous than imagination would allow. Once, in a packed
coffee shop, he pulled a switchblade on a boothful of square businessmen who were
snickering about him, but on another occasion he whined that he couldn't leave his apartment
because the neighborhood teen toughs followed him down the street teasingly singing 'Sweet
Child in the City'. A sense of adventure led him to let Lux dangle him upside down by his
ankles from a 17th-floor high-rise window "just to see what it's like", yet he despised touring
because of his fear and hatred of "foreigners". He thought rockabilly was "goofy" but said we
made it work for us "cuz you're so weird." We had a brief, intense relationship, and I don't
think any of us knew what hit us. At one time we all wanted to be in a band that people were
afraid of offstage. He was a true DMF - Detroit Motherfucker. On a soul level, the affair was
over by 1979, after we started touring and recording regularly. Without a passion for and
understanding of the fundamental forces influencing the Cramps, a combination of too much
hard work, chemical haze and backstage leeches drove him to the next bright, shiny object in
his path and a pursuit of so-called social relevance. I'll always remember the high-flyin' Bryan
that few people had the privilege to know, before he stopped being a rocker and became a
"rock star" . . . the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he rocked.

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