It’s relatively easy to find serious artists, or frivolous ones.
I appreciate art which holds both aspects in suspension, without becoming fully either. That duality is very hard to find. Tom Waits has it, of course.
However, posibly the foremost exponent of rock music which combined silliness and depth in that way was Ohio’s finest punkabilly merchants, the band fronted by the late and still-by-me-missed Mr. Lux Interior, the very wonderful: The Cramps. And as an aside, as well as being an utterly compelling guitarist, Lux’ long-time better half, Poison Ivy, always exemplified rock ‘n’ roll – that curled lip attitude she had – a coolness that will forever elude most simpering, populist performers.
They dealt with subject matters such as loss, obsession and uncertainty, but it always came presented in high-energy messing about:
– and never better than these next two early, grainy clips of the band playing a free gig at Napa State Mental Hospital in California, in 1978 (part 1 is the bottom clip, not that it makes much difference what order you view them in tbh). (Ignore the “1984” on the video btw, the gig took place in 1978.). It piqued my interest. As a kid, I too played a gig at a local mental hospital. Not just me, of course, our entire village variety troupe for some reason decided it would be a good idea to inflict us on already-disturbed people. Being very young, and stuffed full of preconceived notions about being eaten alive by crazies, I was apprehensive at first, but it was a terrific concert, easily one of the most fun events I ever performed at.
It’s worth watching. At the start, Lux says “we’ve driven 3,000 miles to see you“; and a woman shouts: “fuck you“. The depressed dudes seemed to love it though – check the hug Lux gets here below, just before another inmate picks up the mic and starts screaming into it – and it all fits 100% into the performance – in fact, initially, I hadn’t even realised it was someone other than Lux who was screaming : )
Throughout, a couple of inmates bop about, completely out of time. Very difficult thing to do, to be as consistently off the beat as that, and perhaps redolent of a life spent marching to a different beat.
This gig had the free-wheeling, crowd-on-stage-band-in-the-audience quality that all the best punk gigs had. It would never be allowed to happen today,