100 Greatest Songs of the 70’s #84 The Cramps – Human Fly

Released : 1978

The first time you see it the automatic reaction is that it must be a put up job, something out of the found footage locker made using deliberately primitive software. And yet, a little research confirms that this is The Cramps, performing at Napa State Mental Hospital in June 1978, for real. Filmed on a Sony Portapak rig, the idea of the show had come from San Francisco punk stalwart Howie Klein, who arranged for local outfit The Readymades to play a short free set in the name of therapy for the patients one afternoon. Except The Cramps turned up.

Amongst the chaos Lux Interior was in his element. “We’re The Cramps, and we’re from New York City, and we drove 3,000 miles to play for you people” his introduction goes, before continuing “And somebody told me you people are crazy, but I’m not so sure about that. You seem to be all right to me.” In the ensuing monochrome melee the viewer quickly comes to the realisation that scripting this with actors would be impossible and this really is a concert in a madhouse, precisely the kind of environment for which the foursome were made. Halfway through the set they played Human Fly.

If the further time went on they gradually surrendered to kitsch and their grave-robbing psychobilly was ripped off by a thousand lesser lights, at this point our (anti) heroes were at peak subversion, hanging off a tenuously connected limb of rock n’ roll’s diseased family tree. The song with it’s garotting scuzz, jungle drums and radioactive geetar shank is 140 seconds of ultra lo-fi insect worshipping perfection, just the kind of musical straitjacket you might one day have to get measured up for in case the band ever show up for a visit.

The Cramps – Live at Napa State Mental Hospital 1978 Part 1

4 Comments

    1. I was a big Cramps fan from my early teens and the existence of this tape was treated like some kind of Holy Grail. When I eventually saw the footage it was much tamer than all the far fetched rumours had led me to expect!

      Liked by 1 person

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